What Is That Consciousness
- What is that consciousness, which is expressed in each
living act of mind and body? It is the knowing of that
self which is present always, throughout experience.
That's what self truly is, in each one of us, beneath
our different personalities. It is that self which does
not part with anyone, not even for a moment. Its knowing
is no physical or mental act, which self starts doing
at some time and stops doing later on. Consciousness is
not a put on act that later can be taken off. Instead, it
is the very being of the self, exactly what self always is.
In truth, the self is consciousness, whose very being is
to know. It knows itself, shining by its own light. All
appearances are known by their reflection of its
self-illumination. We know them only when they come
into attention, where they are lit by consciousness.
But then, how can that consciousness be known?
Consciousness is not an object that is known. Instead, it
is just that which knows. It is thus known in identity,
as one's own self, by realizing one's own true identity
with it. That is the only way in which it can be known.
As a matter of ingrained habit, we think of consciousness as
an activity of body, sense and mind. Hence what we take for consciousness appears confused with a great complexity of
physical and sensual and mental actions.
In every one of us, consciousness is actually experienced
in the singular, as one's own self. But when a person looks
through mind and body, at a world that seems outside, it
there appears that consciousness is different and changing -
in different persons, different creatures and their varied
faculties. Or, if a person looks through mind alone, into
the mental process of conception, it then appears that
consciousness is made up from a passing sequence of
perceptions, thoughts and feelings.
Thus, in itself, consciousness is quite distinct from
the differing and changing appearances that we habitually
confuse with it. As it is experienced directly, at the
inmost core of each individual's experience, it is pure
self - utterly impersonal and impartial, beyond all difference
and change. That is the inmost, undeniable experience that
we share in common, deep within each one of us. Yet, very
strangely, that undeniable experience is ignored and somehow
covered up, by the vast majority of people in the world.
It gets ignored because of a confusion that mixes self
with body, sense and mind. For this produces a mistaken
show of physical and sensual and mental actions, which are deceptively confused with the clear and unaffected light of consciousness. As people identify themselves with different
bodies and with changing minds, they mistake themselves as
jivas or persons, who are disparate and uncertain mixtures,
made up of knowing self confused with improperly known objects.
Such persons take an ignorantly made-up stand, upon divided
and uncertain ground, built artificially from alien things. Accordingly, experiences seem partial and appear divided by
our personalities, as people get unhappily conflicted in
their seeming selves.
But where confusion ceases, as in deep sleep or in moments
of impartial clarity, there personality dissolves and self
stands on its own, shining by itself as happiness and peace.
Thus, pure happiness and unaffected peace can be seen to
shine out in deep sleep, as manifesting aspects of the self's
by Ananda Wood, a disciple of the sage
Atmananda Krishna Menon (1883 - 1959)