You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘turiya’ tag.

“That which is not present in deep dreamless sleep is not real.” -Sri Ramana Maharshi

The profundity of the above quotation cannot be fully unpacked in a simple blog post. However, I would like to use the quote as a pointer for the subject of this post.

The path to awakening brings lots of interesting experiences, particularly in the realm of states of consciousness. It would appear that the human mind (and perhaps other non-human minds) are stratified or layered. Through concentration, it is possible to access a wide range of experiences. Some are blissful, some are dull. Some are in the realm of dreams, others of the void. Many states are rather enticing, which is why so many great sages (including Ramana Maharshi) have warned against getting too caught up in them.

So, when Ramana refers to “deep dreamless sleep,” he’s pointing to a state of consciousness. In traditional Vedanta philosophy, there are three primary states of consciousness: gross/waking, subtle/dreaming, and causal/deep dreamless sleep. We are warned that the states themselves are not “real,” due to their changing nature. These states come and go. And although the state of deep dreamless sleep feels like freedom, it isn’t. It isn’t freedom because there’s no way to stay there. Clinging to any state will keep one immersed in sticky, murky delusion.

That’s not to say that states of consciousness do not have a place on the path to awakening. Quite the contrary, actually. For, it is in accessing these states that we discover that which exists in them all; or rather, that which is the essence of them all. In Vedanta, they call this the turiya, or the fourth state, which isn’t really a state at all. Turiya is the Witness – the aspect of reality which cognizes experience of the three basic states. And really, the only way we can really recognize that which persists through all three basic states is to access them all consciously. That’s why we meditate. And the Witness just so happens to be the cognizant aspect of the source.

Recognizing the Witness is not the end of the game. As I mentioned in a post on tracing back the radiance, recognizing the source is only the beginning. We must then trace it back. In so doing, the seeming separation between the Witness and the three states is seen through completely, and one eventually achieves Self-realization. Ramana called this awakened state of affairs turiyatita – that which beyond the fourth state, beyond the Witness.

Any way you look at it, awakening is not a state that you learn to hang out in. Recognize the essence of every state, trace it back, and awaken.