Advaitam and Science

OM, Purnamata purnamitam purnat purnamutachyate, purnasya purnamataye purnamevavasishyate – Bri.Up V.i.1


                                                                         THREE STATES OF A PERSON

Human life revolves around the three states, which are very important to realise the truth. The three states are Jagrat, which is the waking state, Swapna, which is the dream state, Sushupti, which is the deep sleep state.  These three states exists in the super conscious state(which is referred as the fourth state) called Turiya.  A normal person’s life is a combination of the three states, and he is not aware of the fourth state, Turiya.  Philosophy limits its analysis with the waking state.  But vedanta analyses the three states, to realise the truth.

Mandukya Upanisad, which is one of the 101 principle Upanisads, analyses the three states from the stand point of the supreme consciousness, Atman.  Mandukya Upanisad is a part of Atharva Veda, and it contains twelve verses.  Mandukya Upanisad says that only the self (Atman) is real and the creation is an illusion.  But for a layman, the creation is reality, and he is not aware of the Atman.  This can be explained by an example of a Sea and its waves.  A wave emerges from the sea, sustained by the sea for a few minutes, it again merges with the sea.  Like this, many waves arise consecutively.  Only in the deep sea, a person can realise the real power of the sea.  A person in the deep sea is not aware of the changes in the waves.  He realises that, the waves are only on the surface of the sea and is due to the inherent qualities of the sea.  The waves appear and disappear.  They are temporary  and are an appearance of the sea.  A person in the deep sea is not concerned about the appearance of the sea.  Similarly, each being is compared to a wave, it emerges, sustains and merges in Atman. Each being is an appearance of the Atman. They appear, exists for a period of time, and again merges with the Atman. The omnipresent being is the non-dual Atman. The appearances shed their qualities, disappear and merges in the Atman.

Mandukya  upanisad analyses the manifestation from the standpoint  of the omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent Atman.  A person has to introspect himself to realise the Atman.  Atman cannot be sensed; it can only be realised.  Mandukya Upanisad helps a person to analyse his own nature, and the three states, through which he operates.

Advaita philosophy finds no difference between the absolute and the relative, because relative reality is the projection of the absolute, and is used to understand the absolute.  This concept emphasises that, everything is absolute, and the relative also is viewed as absolute.  This does not mean, that Advaitam makes a person immune to material world.  Advaitam never negates the world, because it believes that, if Brahman* exists, then the world also exists.  Advaitam makes a person enjoy and experience the life in the correct sense and it helps us to adjust psychologically in the material world.  Advaitam makes a person more matured and confident.  When the reality is realised, ignorance fades away.

Moreover, it is the right of any human being to know his own nature, and the nature of the world.  What else is the real credibility of a human birth? Else, a person will be only using his five senses, that even animals use them, sometimes in a better way.  Only human birth has the capability to analyse and realise the truth.  Gaining quality knowledge is the real gain of this precious birth.  Leading a life as an ascetic, family person or a professional is not important.  The knowledge of truth makes a difference in a person’s attitude towards the world.  When Vedanta is viewed from the relative standpoint, it is full of concepts, but, when viewed from the standpoint of truth, the reality of the concepts is realised.  A Yogi describes the manifestation as,

” There is nothing inexplicable about this materialisation.  The whole cosmos is a projected thought of the creator.  The heavy clod of the earth,     floating in space, is a dream of God’s.  He made all things, out of His mind, even as man in his dream consciousness reproduces and  vivifies  a creation with its creatures.

The lord first formed the earth as an idea.  He quickened it, atomic energy and then matter came into being.  He coordinated earth atoms into a solid sphere.  All its molecules are held together by the will of God.  When He withdraws His will, all earth atoms will be transformed into energy.  Atomic energy will return to its source: consciousness.  The earth idea will disappear from objectivity.

The substance of a dream is held in materialization by the subconscious thought of the dreamer.  When that cohesive thought is withdrawn in wakefulness, the dream and its elements dissolve.  A man closes his eyes and erects a dream creation, which, on awakening, he effortlessly dematerializes.  He follows the divine archetypal pattern.  Similarly, when he awakens in cosmic consciousness, he effortlessly dematerializes the illusion of a cosmic-dream universe.”*1

The appearance and disappearance of the objects are the combination and disintegration of atoms and energies. Only the consciousness is omnipresent.  The omnipresent consciousness can be analysed by reasoning, from the three states, which is common to any person.  The three states, waking, dream and deep sleep have their own experiences and merge with the underlying state of the three states called Turiya.

In the waking state, which is also called as visva, a person experiences the world out of ignorance and attachment.  In this state a person interacts with the world.  A person’s region of operation is the outside world.  He enjoys the objects and assumes this state as reality.  Nothing is more real to a person in this state, except the creation.  A person gathers experience as impressions in this state.  This is explained in Mandukya Upanisad as “visva always experiences the gross(objects)”.  The universe is same to all the beings, but their way of interacting differs according to the individual’s impressions.  In the waking state, a person is aware of the external objects, other than himself.  He interacts with the world with his five organs of action, five organs of perception, the five aspects of vital breath(prana), the mind, intellect and ego.  With these a person experiences the world and gathers impressions.

The next state is the dream state; and it is also called taijasa.  In this state, a person is conscious or aware of the impressions left by the waking state.  A person experiences the gathered impressions, which form their own world by connecting different impressions.  There are no gross objects in this state.  Different impressions connect together to form a perfect story, and the person thinks that it is reality, till the person slips to the waking state.  The objects and situations in this state are formed by impressions(vasanas).  The dream experience is called the experience of the subtle, because no gross objects are involved in it.  The self,  Atman dreams with its own light.

The third state is the deep sleep state and it is also called  prajna.   In this state, consciousness is withdrawn from the mind.  It is very close to Turiya, but not exactly the Turiya state.  The consciousness does not go to the external(objects) or to the  internal(mind).  It stays in the original state and enjoys peace.  Impressions or thoughts are not present in this state.  It is a state without duality.  Duality is the creation of the mind.  Sri Adishankara explains this state as anandamaya, because “it is endowed with an abundance of bliss.  But this is not bliss itself, because it is not bliss infinite”.  In the deep sleep state, the diversities disappear, but, there is no knowledge.

Turiya state is the underlying state of the above three states namely visva, taijasa and prajna.  It is the state of consciousness.  The three states emerge from the Turiya state.  The consciousness remains in the conscious state.  It is the consciousness which experiences the three states.  The experiences cannot exist without the experiencer.  Consciousness is not seperate from the universe.  In fact, it is the witness of all the states, in all beings.

Mandukya Upanisad says that “consciousness is the lord of all; this is the knower of all; this is the controller within; this is the source of all; and this is that from which all things originate and in which they finally disappear”(verse 6).  “Turiya is not that which is conscious of the internal(subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the External(objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass all sentiency, nor that which is simple consciousness, nor that which is insentient.  It is unseen by any sense organ, nor related to anything, incomprehensible(by the mind), uninferable, unthinkable, indescribable, essentially of the nature of consciousness constituting the self alone, negation of all phenomena, the peaceful, all bliss and the non-dual.  That is what is known as the fourth(Turiya). This is the Atman and it has to be realised”(verse 7).  (consciousness is the nearest English word used for Turiya).  Atman cannot be explained by words.  It is a pure being above all thoughts and words.  We can infer from this, that Turiya state is distinct from the three states(visva, taijasa, prajna), but it is not separate from the three states.  Atman is the experiencer of the three states, but it is not disturbed by the experiences of the three states.  It is the Atman(consciousness), which experiences the external world in the waking state, it experiences its own imagination in the dream state, it withdraws from duality and remains peaceful in the deep sleep state.  In the three states, it never loses its own nature, but it experiences its own nature in the Turiya state.

From the standpoint of absolute reality, the external objects are produced by avidya(ignorance), due to the different mental states.  External objects are  dependent on the mind, and the mind is dependent on the absolute.  Atman, experiences the external world, through the mind. Experiences in the dream state appear as real, as in the waking state.  The only difference is that, the dream experience depends on the impressions, whereas, waking experience depends on the organs of the body, sense organs, external objects etc.  Both the states experience duality.  Only in the waking state, we are aware that, there are two other states, dream and deep sleep. In the dream state, we are not aware of the waking and deep sleep state. Similarly, in the deep sleep state, we are not aware of the waking and the dream state.

Duality disappear in the deep sleep and Turiya states.  The experiences appear in the waking and dream states, and disappear in the deep sleep and Turiya states.  This implies that, the dual experiences(experience of the world) are not permanent.  Deep sleep state is close to bliss, but not bliss, because in this state, there is no knowledge about the reality.  A non-dual nature alone will not liberate a person.  Only the knowledge about the reality, will liberate a person.  Else, liberation would have been attained by deep sleep, swoon, coma state etc.  In Turiya state, which is the state of pure consciousness, even the seed knowledge of the external world is absent.  But, in deep sleep state, the seed knowledge of the external world, which is responsible for the waking state, is present.  Only this seed knowledge, wakes a person from deep sleep.  Turiya is not a separate state.  It subsists in the three states, though not given attention.  It is distinct from the three states because of its unique nature.

Turiya implies that the non-dual experience(experience of Atman) is permanent. Without Atman(consciousness) a person will not be able to feel the different states.  A person is conscious of his external experiences, conscious of his dreams, conscious of his deep sleep; It is common to all and no person can deny this.  Finally, when he becomes conscious of his consciousness, the three other states disappear.  So, Atman (consciousness) exists in all states and beyond.  This point is further made clear in Bhagavad Gita.  The reality of the self(Atman), and the unreality of the manifested beings are explained in Bhagavad Gita as “self(Atman) is not born, nor does it ever die; after having been, it again ceases not to be; unborn, eternal, changeless and ancient.  It is not killed when the body is killed”. Bh.Gita 2,20.  “Beings are unmanifested in their beginning, manifested in their middle state, O Arjuna, and unmanifested again in their end, what is there to greive about?”. Bh.Gita 2,28.

From the analyses of the three states, we infer that, the appearance of the manifested universe is considered as temporary; and the changeless self(Atman), which is the cause of the manifested universe, is permanent.  Mind which causes duality always changes and is not permanent.  When the ignorance is removed, truth is revealed.  A person’s individuality revolves around the three states(visva, Taijasa, prajna).  When the three states are observed and analysed, the subsisting pure state, Turiya, which is our real state is revealed.

The scared scriptures can guide us to come out of duality(which is temporary) and helps us to realise our original nature.  It is our perspective and understanding which help us to realise the reality.

*Brahman –   Advaita philosophy refers to the self(Atman), supreme consciousness as Brahman.


Mandukya Upanisad,  Calcutta,  Advaita Ashrama,  2000.

S.Radhakrishnan,  The principal Upanisads,  Noida,  Harpercollins publishers,  2011.

*1  Paramahansa Yogananda,  Autobiography of a Yogi,  Kolkata,  Yogoda satsanga society of India,  2011.












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