Dissociating Consciousness from the world? Possible? If so how?

Sri Gurubhyo Namaha.

This is an extract from Swami ParamArthAnandAji’s lectures on MAndUkya Upanishad with Sri GaudapAdAchAryA’s kArikA. The question being explored in this discussion is

Now how can Consciousness dissociate from these three avasthAs (states), the waking state (JAgrat), the dream state (Swapna) and the deep-dreamless sleep state (Sushupti)? Can Consciousness dissociate from them at all, and if it can disassociate, how?

Most of the text here is verbatim from Swamiji’s talk. Some words are rearranged and edited to make the article more presentable. Errors if any are mine. A few words have been added by me in brackets […] to help in getting the context.

– Prasad


I, the consciousness principle itself, is called Vishwa, Taijasa and PrAjna when I am associated with waker’s world (waking state), dreamer’s world (dream state), and sleeper’s world (sleeping state), respectively. These three, Vishwa, Taijasa, and PrAjna, are caused by my association with particular states, they are association-based statuses; just as one and the same person is called father, son, and husband, based on his relationship with three different people. Each of them is therefore only a relational status. Nobody is an absolute son, or absolute father or absolute husband. All these are relational statuses. Similarly vishwa, taijasa, prAjna, are relational statuses. When the relations are kept away, then the person cannot be called father, son, or husband. We say he is a human being, a person. Similarly the Upanishad says Consciousness from its own standpoint, without relating to any one of these three worlds, dissociated from the three worlds or avasthAs is called TurIyam. The natural state of Consciousness is TurIyam. Literally it means “fourth”, because the previous three are relational statuses, and compared to them this is the fourth non-relational status. And therefore the Consciousness the Observer dissociated from these three is called TurIyam.

Now how can Consciousness dissociate from these three avasthAs, waker’s world, dreamer’s world, and sleeper’s world? Can Consciousness dissociate at all, and if it can disassociate, how? This question we shall explore.

Now physically speaking, Consciousness can never physically separate itself from jAgrat prapancha, svapna prapancha or sushupti prapancha. Consciousness cannot be physically separate from any object. The reason is that Consciousness being all pervading can never be away from anything. Our physical body can get away from this hall, for the physical body is a limited entity; therefore now there is association, and at the end of the class there is disassociation. Two finite entities can have association and dissociation. When one of the entities is all pervading, dissociation is not possible, just as space cannot get dissociated from anything; because where will poor space go? Space cannot say “I don’t like you, I don’t want to come in contact with you, I will get away”, because Space is all pervading. Space cannot separate itself from the body, and vice-versa also, the body cannot separate itself from space. Thus Consciousness cannot physically separate from any object.

Can Consciousness experientially separate itself from the external world? Superficially speaking, Consciousness can experientially disassociate, just as we do in deep-sleep state. Because in the deep-sleep state, experientially we have withdrawn from the external world, we have withdrawn from the physical body, the mind and also thoughts; therefore in the sleep state, we are able to experientially dissociate. And similarly in Yogic Samadhi also, a meditator in nirvIkalpaka samAdhi, he is able to experientially dissociate from world and thoughts. But there are two problems. One is, even though I experientially dissociate, it is not actual dissociation because everything is still potentially there [in the form of kAraNa sharIra]. In fact, actually I have not dissociated from anything; it appears to be dissociation, but actually I have not dissociated from the body, because everything is in potential state. And that is the reason the dissociation is only temporary dissociation. Once the Samadhi state is over, again the association comes. Therefore experiential dissociation is also not really possible, even though seemingly there seems to be dissociation.

Now the question is – Can the Consciousness dissociate from the world to become TurIyam? Physically it is not possible, experientially it is not possible. Now is it possible at all is the question. VedAntA says it is possible. It is possible to get dissociated from the world, not physically, not experientially, but in some other way. The jnAni is accomplishing that alone, by separating himself from the world in an ingenious different method, the jnAni claims that I am TurIyam, dissociated from the waker’s world, the dreamer’s world, the sleeper’s world; “I am not vishwa, taijasa or prAjnA, I am Turiyam”, the jnAni declares so by dissociating from the world in an ingenious manner.

What is the method? We say that method is pure knowledge or understanding. We can effect a dissociation without doing anything, by sheer understanding. Now the question is, what type of understanding? VedAntA answers the understanding is – I, the conscious principle, is the observer, the entire world is the observed world. In the MAndUkya Upanishad, the observer and the observed are given a special status. This is the uniqueness of MAndUkya. In all other Upanishads, we said KAraNam satyam, KAryam mithyA, that is the principle we applied [meaning – The Cause of Jagat, i.e., Consciousness or Brahman, is Absolute Reality or Satyam; the Effect, the World or Jagat, is Conditional Reality or MithyA]. In MAndUkya, the principle is “I, the observer am Satyam, and all that is observed or experienced, including the waker’s (or dreamer’s or sleeper’s) body or world, is mithyA. So “I the Consciousness am Satyam, the world is MithyA”. Once you understand that one is Satyam and the other is MithyA, VedAntA asks the question – Can Satyam and MithyA get associated? They can be together, but can they get associated at all?. What is our answer? MithyA can never get associated with Satyam, it can never touch Satyam, even though it is on the Satyam. Just as the movie which is running on the screen can never ever touch the screen. The movie-river cannot wet the screen, the movie-fire cannot burn the screen. Even though the screen and movie are together, they can never have an association. The association is only a seeming, apparent association, and not an actual association. Similarly, I the Consciousness am never associated with any avasthA at any time. Because of my ignorance, there is a seeming association. Once the ignorance is gone, I claim – I am never connected to jAgrat avasthA, I am never connected to swapnAvasthA [or sushupti avasthA], the connection is only a seeming connection. The moment I understand the association is seeming, it is as good as not there. Therefore I am seemingly Vishwah, seemingly Taijasah, seemingly prAjnah, but I have no actual sambandha, relationship, with jAgrat sharIram or prapancha, or with swapna sharIram or prapancha. In Sanskrit, we use a famous expression, “asangohi ayam purushah” – AtmA doesn’t have any sangam; connection, relation, or any sambandha. The moment I know that my association is seeming, the whole job is over. After knowledge, I am always TurIyam, playing the role of vishwa, taijasa, prAjna.. And even when playing the role of vishwa, taijasa, prAjna, I continue to be TurIyam, because the roles do not touch me at any time. And, a powerful example is given by SureshwarAchAryA in his Naishkarmya Siddhi.

Imagine there is a bowl of water contained in a transparent glass bowl. Imagine there is a straight rod partially dipped in water. When the rod comes in association with water, the rod becomes bent. One can see one line above the surface, and under the surface the rod is bent. So it is a straight rod or a bent rod? I experience a bent rod. And this bend came because the rod was dipped in the water. And I ask the people experiencing the bent rod – “How do you straighten the rod?”. 99% of the people say, when the rod is underwater it is bent, when it is taken out it is straight. Thus to straighten the rod, it has to be taken out of the water, upon which it will become straight. But 1%, intelligent people like you, will say – “You need not take the rod out to straighten the rod. Straightening of the rod is not required, because the rod has not really become bent, it only appears bent. Even when I experience a bent rod, through my wisdom I say, it is a straight rod, always. Experiencing a bent rod, I can declare that the rod is straight rod all the time. What did I do to the rod? I did not do anything, I only applied my wisdom. What is the wisdom? – “Seeming bend is not real bend”. Similarly, Consciousness is TurIyam when? All the time. But in the waking state, people say it becomes vishwa; but the wise-man says, during the waking state, TurIyam doesn’t become vishwa, but TurIyam appears as vishwa. Thus in the waking state, people will say I am the waker, but for the wise-man, I am seeming vishwah, but I continue to be TurIyam all the time; during dream state, I am seeming taijasa, but I continue to be Turiyam all the time; similarly in the deep-sleep state. Therefore, becoming TurIyam is by understanding that I need not become TurIyam, because I was always TurIyam. I appear as Vishwa, taijasa and prAjna, and it is a fun. Only when I appear as the waker, dreamer, and sleeper, I can play the role of teacher, you can play the role of students, we can have all the drama, only when we play the role of vishwa. Thus, let us play the roles very well, but let us remember – “I was, I am, and I will always be Turiyam, not connected or associated with anything; for I am Satyam and everything else is mithyA”.



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