Consciousness is an ancient topic. It is the topic of the Rishis. However, recently the world is interested in this topic, because the world wants to overcome miseries and worries and it is paving the path through Consciousness. Different philosophies have different ideas about Consciousness and different people have different ideas about Consciousness. In my view, from the ancient times only Advaita Vedanta has a clear view about Consciousness. Other philosophies search for Consciousness. One cannot search for Consciousness because it is our existence itself. Consciousness is not different from us. It is our existence itself and we cannot deny it. If we deny it then it means we are negating our own existence.
Different paths like bhakti yog, karma yog etc can erase the unwanted residues in our mind and make the mind pure so that it is easy for a person to realize Reality. If Consciousness is different from us like the body or brain then we can observe it; but Consciousness is our existence and we can only exist in it. Existing in that state we can observe different objects. Consciousness is the fundamental reality of this Universe. One cannot further reduce it or break it like matter.
Consciousness interacts with the world through the body and mind. Consciousness closely attaches with the body and mind and at that time it takes a form and it has emotions according to the impressions in the mind. Consciousness which is non dual, when it passes through different set of impressions it appears like different individuals. By practicing any yog if we separate the mind from the Consciousness, then we can realize our self as Consciousness. Now we imagine ourselves to be the body and mind complex. If we practice to distance the mind from us then we will realize our existence as pure, powerful and Universal Consciousness.
If I say Consciousness is our existence, then we impose different colours for the Consciousness; it is because we know ourselves as always existing in different states of emotions. Different states of emotions are the product of the mind. They are the result of our past karmas. The mind and the karmic impressions in it are inert. Mind becomes active only when it is closely attached with the Consciousness. If the Consciousness attaches with the mind, which is our current state, then we experience the whole world. If Consciousness separates from the mind then there will be no external or internal experiences except the experience of the existence itself. It is a state beyond description.
According to Advaita Vedanta, this state can be experienced by intellectual understanding and contemplation, which in vedantic terms known as Shravana ( hearing), Manana (reasoning) and nidithyasana (deep contemplation).
Experiencing the mind is our false identity. However, it is absolutely needed for the transactional world. Existence, Pure Consciousness or Brahman is our true identity. Pure Consciousness has no emotions, feelings, karmas or any God. It does not see any difference in anything in this Universe. That is why in nirvana shatakam, Sri Adi Sankaracharya said, ‘I am not the buddhi or mind or ego or prana or body. I have no desires, nor need dharma, artha or even Moksha (liberation). I am not attached to sins or virtues. I need no mantra, guru or sastra. I do not have parents, I do not fear death because I am not born in a womb, I am eternal. I am eternal, all pervading, I do not need liberation because I am already liberated – Shivoham, shivoham, shivoham’.
Consciousness is our true identity. We are that pure universal existence bounded by a mind and body. We operate with a false identity with a form and name and we have decided our duties by doing different karmas. However in reality we are Brahman, Pure Consciousness. The teaching of Advaita Vedanta is to make one realize this true state.