This blog is an attempt to discuss the essential philosophy of Advaita Vedanta in a scientific, philosophical and "traditional-religion"-agnostic point of view.

Super-consciousness and Nirvana

Awareness beyond the state of waking, beyond the plane of Maya, where the individual consciousness merges with the universal consciousness is the state of super-consciousness. The delusion of you and not-you disappears. This really is not a "state" anyone gets into but a plane of realizing the delusion of relative existence. And for the sake of simplicity of grasping the concepts, we can use the terms "rise", "super-consciousness", "different planes of awareness", etc.

Rising to the state of super-consciousness

This "rise" is just a shift in awareness or consciousness out of the waking state. Nobody can teach you how you can rise to the plane of super-consciousness. Knowledge is trapped within the system; it is not beyond the system of Maya. Just like knowledge acquired in your dream does not provide the escape velocity for you to exit that system of dream, it's not knowledge that will shift your awareness from the waking state to the state beyond.

The term Vedanta literally means End of Veda or End of Knowledge. It indicates at the onset, in its name itself, the basis of what to expect – it clearly indicates that the journey is to a place where knowledge can’t get to. It’s where knowledge ends and the higher inquiry begins. This is not to undermine the power of knowledge for without knowledge there is no progress, no evolution. And though this move from Maya to the plane of super-consciousness cannot be taught, knowledge can bring you to a state from which you can make the giant leap of realization. Without the knowledge you don’t have the fuel to thrust yourself.

Now we all know there are ways for us to wake up at a particular time if we want to. We can train our mind to move from the sleeping state to the waking state at a particular time. (Anyone who travels a lot and does not trust the hotel wake-up calls knows this). This automatic waking up is not based on what you dream but this is based on your mind being trained beyond the realm of your dream; it’s your mind trained in the waking state. Similarly moving from the plane of the waking state to the plane of super-consciousness cannot happen by being trapped in the activities of the waking state.

In fact the way to rise to this state is not by gaining anything but by losing the "avidya" or the delusion. The state consists only of "pure consciousness" with no trace of individuality. Of course these are mere words for us people/beings that have not yet experienced that state. For us this is simply a theory with no way to corroborate other than to simply believe these claims. It’s just like other axiomatic theories that are presented by science, philosophy as well as various religions. But since the current study is the study of Vedanta, let us proceed by focusing on this theory...

According to Vedantic philosophers, the only way to escape Maya and realize the state of super-consciousness is the disciplined approach of going against the very fabric of Maya, the very fabric of Nature - the contention and struggle to build and develop the individual self. Go against your urge to develop your individuality that separates you from “not-you” – work towards loosing that individuality. That is also the true beginning of religion.

From a practical perspective, Vedanta provides two ways to achieve this - the "positive" way and the "negative" way. (I use the terms positive and negative very loosely.)
  • The positive way is the path of universal love. Here you love every being as it were your own, as your own self. You loose your individuality by identifying yourself in every thing that is not-you. The distinction between you and not-you blurs and finally disappears.
  • The negative way is the path of Samadhi where you stop all your thoughts. The Upanishads use the term neti neti (na-iti na-iti literally meaning "not this, not this"). The idea being that if you stop all your thoughts then you become something that does not have any thoughts and hence no actions and hence no attributes. You loose your individuality. You become not-you.
Essentially the goal is to realize a state where there is not clear distinction between you and the not-you. And to get to that you need to have some idea of what the not-you is and that too in the waking state. How you define the not-you is up to your individual perception (of course, the goal being to loose this perception in the end!). Some define that “extravertishly” as the universal love, some define that emotionally as the all encompassing Social God – and in most cases one particular version of this Social God, some try the “introvertial” way of the Samadhi and yet others may find their own paths.
Nirvana
Those who realize this super-conscious state may come back to the waking state but with a renewed understanding. Understanding of the System they are now in - the True Understanding! They talk about immortality because they truly understand what mortality really means. This state where the state of super-conscious has been experienced is called Nirvana.