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Vedic Wisdom and Evolution of Consciousness By Tina Sadhwani
Friday, January 28th, 2011 | Posted by Editor
Vedic Wisdom and Evolution of Consciousness
By Tina Sadhwani
Vedic Evolution of Consciousness and Enlightenment
In the Rig Veda there are 5 hymns constituting an important dialogue between Lord Indra and Sage Agastya that reflects the significance of traversing the evolutionary path of consciousness, that seems to serve as a crucial pre-requisite to understanding the true nature of the Supreme Absolute Reality (God).
The verses exemplify how sage Agastya, by the sheer force of his thoughts is breaking through the barriers of his mind, reaching the realm of God without first being developed as a fully functional being in all his levels of consciousness. The eagerness to experience God gets the better of sage Agastya and his senses and he refuses to progressively surrender to the stepping stone (which in this case refers to Lord Indra) in his quest for God. At this point, sage Agastya gets pushed back by Indra who does not allow him to proceed to the realm of God.
Indra says-that which is beyond time and space (God) cannot be known by that which is in time and space (Agastya and other mortals like us).
Indra goes on to explain that it is the progressive transcendence (of ego-consciousness) through divine activities that will take a mortal towards the immortal truth. Sage Agastya thenceforth realizes his folly, surrenders his will to Indra and goes on to execute his mandated activities through Indra.
One of the obvious implications that can be drawn from the verses is that the sense of “I” that we adorn and the identification with our ego-consciousness is often what prevents us from experiencing the Divine. That would also probably explain why meditation, yoga, etc. are delineated as paths in Hinduism to achieve that distance and ‘dis-identification’ from the ego-centric self. One could however, question the whole point or practical significance of transcending the ego-bound self, to which it can be reasoned that detachment (the kind that Lord Krishna expounds in the Gita) would actually entail a greater sense of involvement and participation in life’s experiences without being shaken or affected by them. It would imply a sense of free-experiencing that is unimpeded by our conditioned beliefs, emotions, memories, reactions, etc. enabling us to understand things from a larger frame of reference.
Modern psychology and cognitive science is only now exploring the frontiers of consciousness (exemplified in Vedanta) and its impact on human life and behaviour. Current researches (Joel Krueger) in the field also indicate that transcending of the personalized ego often leads to a unified mode of awareness and “That a scholar acquires a new insight, or a moralist a new motive, or an artist a new imagination, or a religious figure a new awakening, are all based upon a disclosure of this kind of unity in consciousness” which is only made possible by that ego transcendence.
Levels of Consciousness
Sri Aurobindo (scholar of the Vedas) was one of the first pioneers in the field of consciousness studies. His work was further compounded by researcher Ken Wilber who (based on Aurobindo’s Vedic insights and Piaget’s Cognitive Development) established the ‘ten levels of consciousness’ that humans had to develop through, re-affirming the fact that psychological and spiritual development go hand in hand; that we can’t have one without the other.
According to the Vedic template reflected in the Taittiriya Upanishad there are five sheaths of existence/being- 1) Anna-maya kosa (physical), 2) Prana-maya kosa (vital), 3) Mano-maya kosa (mental), 4) Vijnana-maya kosa (intellectual) and 5) Ananda-maya kosa (bliss).
The ten levels of consciousness derived from this template are:
1) The Sensoriphysical- reflecting the realm of matter, sensation and perception.
2) Phantasmic-Emotional- the emotional-sexual level (seat of libido and instincts)
3) Representational mind- level of concepts and symbols, fantasy, ego-centric thinking.
4) Rule/role mind- thinking in terms of concrete things and events.
5) Formal-reflexive mind- the level of reflective, abstract thinking and introspection.
6) Vision-logic- the level of synthesis and integration.
The higher levels are 7) Psychic, 8 ) Subtle (level of soul), 9) Causal (level of spirit) and 10) Non-dual (Brahman-Atman)
Our centre of gravity is said to rest in a certain level on that spectrum and our thoughts and actions are defined by that level of functioning. Evolution of consciousness then requires a shift to higher levels. Wilber believes that the majority of humankind is still operating on the Mental, or Egoic, level, while only a few have attained higher spiritual consciousness. Consequently it’s important to note that if an individual has spiritual experiences but his consciousness has only developed to the level of the ‘rep’ mind (level 3) for instance then he won’t be able to understand that spiritual experience in a broad way and won’t be able to integrate it. On the contrary he is more likely to distort the experience for people tend to interpret their religious/spiritual experience according to the level of mental development they are at. This does not imply that there are different levels of God, but that there are different levels of interpretation. The person at the highest levels of consciousness will have a more integrated and holistic understanding of the Supreme Reality.
It’s also interesting to note that those who are at the ‘earlier stages of development’ often tend to think that “their truth is the only truth” as they lack the ability to integrate alternate perspectives. To explain the tangible effects of this phenomenon, Swami Vivekananda once said “Whenever a prophet got into the super-conscious state by heightening his emotional nature, he brought away from it not only some truths, but some fanaticism also, some superstition which injured the world as much as the greatness of the teaching helped.”
Eminent author Ram Swarup also explains that even though a person has spiritual experiences, if he has not transcended his ego then his connection with the Divine will be distorted and filtered through his immature mind and his resulting beliefs and actions will prove to be very destructive, as can be witnessed from the history of imperial movements and regimes. He claims that this happens “because they mix spiritual truth and ego together, which is a very dangerous and volatile combination… as nectar mixed with poison becomes poison”.
The prevalent culture also stands as testimony to this phenomenon that is now witnessing the spread of myriad psuedo visionaries with the messiah complex.
It stands to reason then that without the anchor of integrated development a person can be in danger of falling prey to the lower nature of his self which perpetuates various forms of dysfunctions from a simple lack of objectivity to extreme fanaticism.
Researcher Prem Sabhlok also asserts “The ancient, medieval and modern history of India as well as of the world has confirmed that with material knowledge based on sense experiences and intellectual reasons and arguments alone, any search for God had always led to fanaticism, fundamentalism, communal tension, destruction of the temples, gurudwaras, churches, etc. of the same God and even has been cause of wars between the nations. With material knowledge, the same God appears different to various sections of the people.”
This suggests that it is often imperative for a super-conscious spiritual experience to be supported by a corresponding heightened psychological development. More importantly, it indicates that material knowledge without spiritual growth can be counterproductive as there is something crucial missing in human awareness that causes us to fall victim to all sorts of delusions and distortions. Vedas refers to this as ‘avidya’-ignorance and goes on to explain how we need to reach a certain stage in consciousness for this avidya to dissolve.
Evolution of Consciousness and Enlightenment
As we progress to higher levels of development on that scale our consciousnesses expands. “So the more narrow, fragmented and restricted our mode of consciousness,” says Wilber, “the more prone we will be to experiencing psychological disorders or distortions. And the more expanded and heightened our level of consciousness, the more scope we will have for self-actualization and enlightenment. Therefore… enlightenment in this context implies an expansion of consciousness from the isolated, alienated individual to a kind of global cosmic consciousness.” It then overall alludes to a progressive expansion from parts of the psyche (persona) to the psyche (ego) to the environment (ecological) and finally to the universe-manifest and unmanifest (Brahman).
While it is often reiterated that there is only one indivisible, all-pervading and immanent reality (Brahman), Vedic metaphysics makes it clear that it is only at the stage of “Turiya” (highest level of superconsciousness) that a person experientially discerns and understands this One Supreme Reality (God) in all its magnitude and the vehement effect of Maya -the cosmic illusion then dissolves.
So contrary to Darwin’s theory of evolution and according to Vedic scriptures, one form of species does not evolve into another, rather it is the soul that evolves through the various levels of consciousness and this transition is not so much biological as much as it is spiritual.
Aurobindo declares, “Man is a transitional being. He is not final. The step from man to superman is the next approaching achievement in the earth’s evolution. It is inevitable because it is at once the intention of the inner spirit and the logic of Nature’s process.”
1. Indra: It is not now, nor is It tomorrow; who knoweth that which is Supreme and Wonderful? It has motion and action in the consciousness of another, but when It is approached by the thought, It vanishes.
2. Agastya: Why dost thou seek to smite us, O Indra? The Maruts are thy brothers. By them accomplish perfection; slay us not in our struggle.
3. Indra: Why, O my brother Agastya, art thou my friend, yet settest thy thought beyond me? For well do I know how to us thou willest not to give thy mind.
4. Indra: Let them make ready the altar, let them set Agni in blaze in front. It is there, the awakening of the consciousness to Immortality. Let us two extend for thee thy effective sacrifice.
5. Agastya: O Lord of substance over all substances of being, thou art the master in force! O Lord of Love over the powers of love, thou art the strongest to hold in status! Do thou, O lndra, agree with the Maruts, then enjoy the offerings in the ordered method of the Truth.
-Rig Veda – Book 1 – Verse 170 – Hymns CLXX (1 – 5)
-Taittriya Upanishad-Sri Aurobindo (1956) The Secret of the Veda
-Ram Swarup (1980) The word as revelation: Names of Gods.
-Vivekananda: Complete Works, Vol.1, Raja Yoga, Ch.7: “Dhyana and Samadhi”
-Ken Wilber (1977) Spectrum of Consciousness
-Prem Sabhlok- Glimpses of Vedic Metaphysics
-Joel Krueger (2007) The Varieties of Pure Experience: William James and Kitaro Nishida on Consciousness and Embodiment
-Jean Piaget- Cognitive Development
The Vedic God: An Evolutionary Journey
Foundations of Vedic Science & Mysticism
The Shape of the Ultimate Reality
Tags: Agastya, consciousness, Darwins theory, ego, enlightenment, evolution, Hinduism, Indra, Prem Sabhlok, psychology, rig veda, spiritual wisdom, Spirituality, Sri Aurobindo, Upanishad, Vedas, Vedic, wisdom
5 Responses for “Vedic Wisdom and Evolution of Consciousness”
swiss d says:
January 31, 2011 at 9:39 pm
Thank you for sharing it ! Very nice, Tina
Dr. O. P. Sudrania says:
February 1, 2011 at 3:45 pm
Tina, a good post but could you have elaborated the five hymns from Rig Veda both in Sanskrit as well as their English translation for the wider people to learn the depth of the rid Veda. It would stimulate and generate more interest in the Vedic studies for their betterment; just a thing I kept looking for as I desperately read your entire column. Secondly you could have also elaborated on its significance as related to Patanjali Yoga Sutra just epitomically.
Dr. O. P. Sudrania
Piaget Watches says:
February 1, 2011 at 5:17 pm
Many thanks for sharing this information..It was an incredible examine.
February 2, 2011 at 7:39 pm
Keep the faith, my Internet friend; You are a first-class writer and deserve to be heard.
Robert E. Wilkinson says:
February 3, 2011 at 4:47 pm
To her credit, Tina Sadhwani has taken on an important and complex subject, the Evolution of Consciousness. Being an able scholar she has attempted to draw together many threads which she then weaves into a compelling mental synthesis under the banner of a Vedic Enlightenment. And while many of her observations are valid, others require a deeper clarification especially her treatment of Sri Aurobindo. In her article Ms. Sadhwani describes Sri Aurobindo as a ‘scholar of the Veda’, a title which he would most vehemently reject as evidenced by his own comments on the matter. “As the Veda had passed from the sage to the priest, wrote Sri Aurobindo, so now it began to pass from the hands of the priest into the hands of the scholar. And in that keeping it suffered the last mutilation of its sense and the last diminution of its true dignity and sanctity.” Unfortunately this mutilation continues on today in the writings on many well known scholars who believe that they can pierce the mystery of the Veda without the requisite Yogic sadhana. One scholar in particular, who Ms. Sadhwani erroneously claims to have ‘further compounded Sri Aurobindo’s discoveries, is the Transpersonal psychologist Ken Wilber. Like Ms. Sadhwani, Wilber weaves a mesmerizing synthesis of mystical and religious lore into a linear model of human development crowned with a superconscious Transcendence of the mundane world. But according to Sri Aurobindo’s teachings, nothing could be farther from the truth. Any serious student of Sri Aurobindo’s life and yoga must acknowledge that his work represents a radical departure from all previous spiritual paths. It challenges thousands of years of traditional wisdom that regards a transcendence of the physical world to be the highest possible attainment. In an epochal reversal of direction, Sri Aurobindo and his line have presented humanity with a New Way, an entirely new direction that foresees the possibility of a material union with the Divine, one that takes us into the core of this world of matter and the innermost mysteries of time. In his 1915 letter to the Mother, Sri Aurobindo discusses this new creation which derives from, ‘… the union of the “Earth” of the Veda with the divine Principle, an earth which is said to be above our earth, that is to say, the physical being and consciousness of which the world and the body are only images’. The principal feature that unites these two realms within a single Integral Vision is a New System of Measure, a non-speculative formula that reveals the utter perfection of a Supramental Consciousness as it deploys itself on the Earth. In order for us to perceive the workings of this new consciousness, one that unites the Spiritual and Physical in a seamless view, the Mother commanded that we abandon the old paths in their entirety. She insisted that there could be absolutely NO MIXTURE with the partial and incomplete teachings of the past that might contaminate the new way. What we see instead, from scholars like Ken Wilber claiming to be carrying on Sri Aurobindo’s vision and message, is a complete misrepresentation of his work in favor of a piecemeal synthesis of ancient teachings cobbled together under the arrogant misnomer, ‘evolutionary enlightenment’. While Wilber’s new ‘Brand’ claims to be the path of the future, it does not offer a greater more integral and all encompassing knowledge nor does it provide the means of a functional integration of the Spiritual and Material planes. It is merely speculative philosophy.
In his ‘Secret of the Veda’, Sri Aurobindo revealed that the great rahasya of the Veda, its most Supreme mystery, was a journey in Time through the Year and its Twelve months, the central figure of the Rig Veda, around which the Sacrifice is conducted. In his commentaries on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, one of India’s oldest and most profound metaphysical texts, Sri Aurobindo explains the importance of this eternal principle:
” … The [image of the] horse is a physical figure representing like an algebraical symbol, an unknown quantity of force and speed. (Time is its breath, the year is its body, the seasons its limbs, the months and the fortnights its joints, the days and nights its feet.) From the imagery it is evident that this force, this speed, is something universal. Time in its period is the Self of the Horse Sacrificial, so not Matter but Time, is the body of this force of the material universe… Space then, is the flesh constituting materially this body of Time which the sage attributes to his Horse of the worlds, by movement in Space its periods are shaped and determined. Hence the real power, the fundamental greatness of the Horse is not the material world, not the magnitudes of Space, but the magnitudes of Time… for Time is that mysterious condition of universal mind which alone makes the ordering of the universe in Space possible.” Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads; ‘The Great Aranyaka’, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Press, 1971
According to Sri Aurobindo, Time is the real Secret of the Veda and it is the indispensable basis of a Rig Vedic Yoga which leads to ‘Swar’ the Vedic Truth-Consciousness. It is the final integrating feature of a Supramental Gnosis.
I applaud Ms. Sadhwani’s efforts on behalf of a greater understanding of the Vedas but I would also encourage her to move beyond Wilber’s piecemeal evolutionary synthesis which in no way approaches the Rishi’s deeper cosmological truths. As Sri Aurobindo wrote:
‘The perfect truth of the Veda, where it is now hidden, can only be recovered by the same means by which it was originally possessed. Revelation and experience are the doors of the Spirit. It cannot be attained either by logical reasoning or by scholastic investigation… [Sanskrit text]…”Not by explanation of texts nor by much learning”, “not by logic is this realisation attainable.” Logical reasoning and scholastic research can only be aids useful for confirming to the intellect what has already been acquired by revelation and spiritual experience. This limitation, this necessity are the inexorable results of the very nature of Veda.’ Sri Aurobindo, The Life Divine, Chapter II, as found in Sri Aurobindo’s notebooks.
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