Consciousness and Existence

Admin Angol, YOGA


The two most important days in your life are the day you are born

and the day you find out why.”

Mark Twain

According to materialistic thinking, existence determines consciousness. Modern science says that we are nothing more that chemical elements. By certain combinations of those elements we are able to experience our own existence. The famous philosopher Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” meaning that the experience of his thoughts and consciousness is evidence of his existence. In other words, the use of our consciousness is the consequence of our existence, or our consciousness is determined by our existence. According to modern science, consciousness is nothing but a series of electrical impulses in the complex network of our nervous system which allow us to produce conceptions, create thoughts, and speak them to others. Is our life really that much? Are our emotions and consciousness merely networks of electrical discharges and stimuli? Combinations of chemical elements?

If we think a little about our lives and ourselves, we can see that our consciousness determines how we experience reality around us. What is happiness for one can be the source of suffering for another. The Vedas, or the ancient books of knowledge, say ātmavān manyate jagat: “everyone thinks of others according to his own position.” In other words, everyone sees the world according to one’s own consciousness, or assesses the world based on one’s own thoughts, experiences, and perceptions.

The material world is called prakṛti in Sanskrit. Another meaning of prakṛti is “machine,” because the material nature works mechanically. This mechanical manifestation is experienced by our senses. The image we have of the world is actually an internal conception that meets our desires, value system, past experiences, or our state of consciousness. We don’t see the world with our eyes—the eye is merely a mechanical tool which passes visual information to our consciousness. Actually we see the world with our consciousness, or we process the information transmitted by our senses according to our own receptivity. A thermometer does not tell us if it is hot or cold, it only shows what the temperature is. Our consciousness will decide if it is cold or warm for us. It is the same with information gained by experience of the senses: our consciousness assesses that information according to its best knowledge. A child may think the aeroplane flying in the sky is a bird that flies by itself; however, an adult with proper knowledge knows that it is a machiner weighing several tons that flies by the power of petrol-burning engines.

Understanding and realising the world without illusion depends on the state of our consciousness and the perfection of our knowledge. When we think we are identical with our material body, it means that our sensual experience doesn’t depend on real knowledge, and our consciousness is covered by illusion. We have to get to know our true self and live a life which serves our original, spiritual nature. The philosophy of the Vedas is actually psychology because it speaks about how the soul can get free from the illusion of bodily consciousness, from the prison of material existence. The word “psyche” means soul; “-logy” is a suffix from the Greek word “logos, meaning knowledge or science.

So psychology is nothing more than knowing the original nature of the soul. Without this knowledge the potential for a happy and rich life disappears, because in the reality experienced with our material consciousness we always meet suffering. Unfortunately the original goal and essence of psychology have receded: universities don’t teach people who they actually are, only what they should become. Śrīla Prabhupāda draws our attention to the importance of knowing our original spiritual nature: “If we accept the Vedic conclusion as stated in the Bhagavad-gītā (antavanta ime dehāḥ) that these material bodies are perishable in due course of time (nityasyoktāḥ śarīriṇaḥ) but that the soul is eternal, then we must remember always that the body is like a dress; therefore why lament the changing of a dress? The material body has no factual existence in relation to the eternal soul. It is something like a dream. In a dream we may think of flying in the sky or sitting on a chariot as a king, but when we wake up we can see that we are neither in the sky nor seated on the chariot. The Vedic wisdom encourages self-realization on the basis of the nonexistence of the material body.” (Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam 7.2.37, purport)

The state of our consciousness depends on the perfection of our knowledge. Obtaining the answer for the great questions of life is our responsibility.

The world is more than you would think! Perfect your knowledge, elevate your consciousness, and experience your original spiritual self!

Gurūttama Dāsa