QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Awareness & Consciousness
What is awareness?
The ability to experience things is awareness. Without awareness there will be no perception. Although used inter-changeably (and at times confused) with consciousness, awareness is term used when consciousness is universal and not yet identified with an individual being/object. Awareness is unlimited, undivided and universal consciousness.
What is consciousness?
When awareness gets limited onto an individual being it is called consciousness. In a way it is limited, individual awareness. It is the feeling of being an “entity” that we get as soon as we wake up, even before thoughts grab us. It is the screen on which we perceive the world through our senses. Every soul is surrounded by its own consciousness.
Are there different levels of consciousness in human beings?
Although in truth consciousness is one, it seems to be different in wakeful state, sleep with dreams and dreamless sleep.
Is the consciousness of animals and humans different?
Yes. In animals the consciousness is rudimentary. It helps the animal perceive and protect itself. Humans have evolved in all aspects. Humans are aware of their consciousness. Consciousness can watch consciousness in humans. This probably does not occur in animals. Only humans have the ability to transcend limited consciousness and merge with universal consciousness (Awareness)
What is ego?
Ego is one of the first “thoughts” that a human perceives. It is often called the “I” thought. As soon as it arises, it creates a separate identity for the human being. As soon as it arises, the human being experiences himself/herself to be unique and separate from the surroundings.
Why does ego develop?
Why it develops is still a mystery. But it occurs because the limited consciousness starts to identify with the “I” thought and not with the unlimited, universal awareness. At the core, ego is needed for the protection and preservation of an individual’s body and mind.
Is ego good or bad for spiritual development?
Ego has wrongly been given a bad name, especially by psychiatrists. Without ego we will not even respond to our name! As pointed out earlier ego is needed for preservation of the human being. Instead of categorising it as good or bad one could say that if excessive and strong, it can be an impediment for spiritual development.
Being aware of our ego at every instance is one the most important pre-requisites for spiritual development. In the initial stages of spiritual development ego is needed to move towards divinity. However when the process of spiritual transformation (through various methods/processes) progresses, the ego slowly diminishes. Eventually the ego becomes insignificant. In a small minority it vanishes completely. These are the true enlightened souls.
What is its impact on human life?
In day to day human life, although in truth souls meet souls, consciousness meets consciousness; the ego blinds us to that fact. Ego meeting ego makes us forget our oneness. It often is the basis of all the momentary sadness and happiness that we go through every day.
What is desire?
Desire is a form of energy that a human being possesses. It is one of the most potent forms of energy. Desire is needed for any movement/action to occur. Without desire nothing will be fulfilled.
Is it wrong to have desires?
It is not at all wrong to have desires. In a way it is almost impossible to be without desires. Even the greatest of Bhakthas have desire. The yearning to be one with god is also a desire! The ultimate stage in the spiritual path may be desire free but, until that stage is reached desire will accompany human beings.
How does one manage desires?
The first thing is to be aware of desires. One cannot neglect them or force them away. The next thing to do is to analyse whether the desire that you have is lower desire or higher desire. Lower desires although momentarily cause personal satisfaction, is short lived and eventually hurts you. A higher desire lightens your heart and often benefits people other than you. Greed, lust etc. are lower desires. Desire to love; give, help etc. are higher forms of desire. The next practical thing to do is to replace lower desires with higher desires. Over a period of time with meditation, contemplation and satsang, desires themselves fall away (called vairagya).
What is death?
To answer this we need to know what birth is. Birth is process by which life force (prana) and individual consciousness (chita) pervades the body. Death on the other hand is the process by which prana (life force) leaves the body, the individual consciousness merges with universal consciousness and the body decays.
How do we deal with death?
The fear of death is due to the uncertainty. The fear is because, the ego which has so far attached itself to our body, mind and the world in front, wants status quo. Truth is that, if there is one certainty that is of death. Whatever is born will die. This is one of the most important universal laws.
If a person becomes aware of what is born, what dies and what happens after death, this fear will subside. This however is not easy and is probably one of the most important aims of any spiritual path. An guru/enlightened master by various means is able to help a seeker discern the truth and remove the fear of death.
What is the relationship between life and death?
Life and death are two rooms beside each other interconnected by two doors. This allows for free movement of souls in and out. To pull away from this never ending cycle is the back-bone of spirituality. The minute we start on our path, we already on the way to find a way out of this cycle.