Modern physics is searching for a unitary field of consciousness to explain the coherence of the laws of nature. Such a universal consciousness is proposed as existing behind all time, space and energy. It is the ultimate frontier of knowledge.
Vedic teachings have long taught us how to discover such a unitary field of consciousness within us as our true Self behind body and mind. Knowing that Self one transcends all sorrow and gains immortality as the Upanishads eloquently state. Knowing our inner consciousness is the highest goal of life and the ultimate power of transformation.
Consciousness as the Foundation of Vedic Counseling and Education
Vedic knowledge is based upon a recognition of the primacy of consciousness as the foundation of the individual and the universe, which mirror each other, and teaches us how to access it from various angles. The primary factor in all Ayurvedic healing, Yoga and Vedanta is Consciousness.
Consciousness is the ultimate healing power behind all healing practices. Whatever we give our awareness to, we direct our prana and our positive mental energy to, which naturally promotes healing. The very Vedic term for therapy or chikitsa means the “application of consciousness.” Care-giving is first of all applying our consciousness for the good of others. If our consciousness is developed, we will have the intelligence to provide right guidance and effective treatment.
Vedic counseling is the art of teaching consciousness, sharing the tools to develop it in our own life and action. Consciousness is the ultimate power of counseling, guidance, and inspiration. The first step in Vedic counseling is to teach the client how to access a deeper consciousness as the means of inner change. We must recognize that our true nature is the light of consciousness, while body and mind are but instruments of its expression that it inherently transcends.
Ayurveda promotes consciousness as a healing factor, starting with a recommendation of a conscious lifestyle, which implies a life of awareness based upon meditation. We need to be conscious of what we eat and drink, how we relate to our environment, how we exercise, what we take in through our senses, our work, expression and associations. We must consciously adjust our lives to our individual constitution and the movement of time at daily and seasonal levels, as well as our own aging process.
Consciousness is the inner doctor, through which we can gain control of our own health and well-being in a lasting manner. Whatever therapy we offer, whether diet, herbs or massage, must be imparted with a conscious awareness in order to be truly effective. The client must be made aware of how each recommendation works in order to truly benefit from it.
Yoga and the Power of Consciousness
Consciousness is the essence of all Yoga, which is a science for the evolution of consciousness. Consciousness is the very Purusha or higher Self that is the foundation and goal of all Yoga practices. Yoga introduces consciousness into how we move, breathe, sense, feel, think and respond.
Yoga begins with the Yamas and Niyamas as principles or conscious living, regarding all life as sacred and taking karmic responsibility for all our actions. If we do not follow yogic values in our daily lives, then Yoga practice has little value.
All yoga practices work to increase consciousness and aid in its expansion at various levels.
Asana is rooted in being conscious of our bodies and creating a posture that sustains our awareness and frees us from pain and tension.
Pranayama does not mean merely working with the breath but becoming conscious of the breath, turning the breath into a power of transforming awareness. Witnessing the breath is an important form of pranayama, through which both mind and prana can be calmed. Mind and prana are rooted in consciousness and are empowered by it.
Pratyahara does not mean shutting down the senses but bringing consciousness into the senses by linking our outer senses with an inner awareness – for example, joining the outer eye with the inner eye or the outer ear with an inner power of listening. If we use our senses in a contemplative manner, rather than for self-indulgence, they carry our awareness within. Then our senses link us to the intelligence in nature and allow our consciousness to shine forth.
Dharana or concentration means developing the power of attention to give greater energy to our consciousness. Concentration increases the power of consciousness by focusing its energy. Developing this unitary power of consciousness is the key to all yogic states of higher awareness.
Dhyana or meditation is sustaining the power of consciousness behind all mental activities, resting our awareness within. This means to reflect consciousness rather than get caught up in judgments or opinions about what we see, living in the field of consciousness, not merely limited to body and mind.
Samadhi is the state of unity consciousness, which holds the highest peace, contentment and bliss. This supreme state of consciousness is the ultimate Yoga practice, in which all afflictions come to an end. Pure consciousness is the ultimate samadhi in which there is no subject or object, no word or idea, name or form to bind the mind.
Mantra is the prime tool for developing consciousness, using the power of cosmic sound vibration, from which consciousness creates and sustains body and mind. Mantras are seed powers of consciousness, through which consciousness can renew itself and move us to a higher level. The more consciousness we give to the mantra, the more energized the mantra becomes, and the more a force of integration and wellbeing. Mantra Yoga is an empowering of consciousness through steady focused awareness. It is relevant to all aspects of Yoga.
A Vedic Understanding of Consciousness
Our level or type of awareness fluctuates during the different phases of our lives, according to shifting internal and external factors. Yet we seldom understand the true nature and extent of our consciousness or how it interfaces with, supports and transcends body and mind. We live at the surface of consciousness and are unaware of its unbounded depths.
In modern medicine we identify brain, mind and consciousness. We regard mind as a function of the brain, and consciousness as a function of the mind. How brain chemistry can produce the miracle of consciousness defies logic, yet it is taken for granted.
In Vedic thought, brain, mind and consciousness are three related but different factors. Consciousness or chit is the light of awareness that is universal. Mind or manas/chitta is embodied consciousness. Brain is the physical vehicle of the mind. Consciousness can function even without mind or brain. It is an all-pervasive universal principle like space. It is the space behind space and the light behind light.
Consciousness is very real, palpable and powerful. It is the presence of awareness in which we live, out of which body and mind function by a fraction of its power. Consciousness is always present in the background for us to discover, and to bring wonder into all that we do. We live in an ocean of consciousness.
To access true Consciousness requires that we turn our awareness within. The spiritual heart or hridaya is the seat of consciousness, the core of our being. There dwells the immortal flame, the fire of consciousness, the supreme Agni. All Vedic practices serve to develop that inner Agni which holds the powers of purification, transformation and transcendence. We should cultivate that flame of consciousness (Chidagni) as our primary aspiration, and we will become immortal.
By Dr. David Frawley (Acharya Vamadeva Shastri)