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Question: Acharya Ji, what is consciousness? Is it possible to purify consciousness? How to bring about a change in consciousness? Is consciousness an object?
Acharya Prashant(AP): Show me consciousness devoid of content. Thought is consciousness. Show me thought devoid of content. Tell me that you are thinking about nothing. When you think, don’t you think about an object? So, is there thought without object? Try thinking object-lessly.
So, consciousness is nothing but it’s own content. Consciousness is nothing, but it’s own content. (Holding a glass of water) Once I was talking to an audience, so I showed this glass of water. I said, “You see, these are the contents of your consciousness, and these have been poured into the consciousness from outside.”
So a wise girl got up from the audience, and said, “If all the content can be poured out, would I have a clean and empty consciousness?” I said, “No. To have a clean and empty consciousness, you have to throw away the glass as well.”
You cannot have the glass and not have anything in it. So when the water goes out, the air rushes in.
You cannot have anything called ’empty consciousness’.
‘Empty consciousness’ is – ‘no-consciousness’.
Consciousness does not like a vacuum.
Because consciousness is objective, therefore like the objective world, it abhors vacuum.
Whenever you have a very low pressure area, you know what happens. It tries to suck in anything and everything, from everywhere, and it does not differentiate. Whatsoever can be sucked in, would be sucked in.
If there is a very low pressure zone, and you go close to it, you too would be sucked in. That is consciousness. Consciousness and it’s contents are inseparable. I know, some Teachers have talked of consciousness without content; that is a euphemism. That’s a way of addressing ‘zero consciousness’, or ‘no-consciousness’.
There is no point talking so much about consciousness, because consciousness is conditioned. Even if you bathe, teach, and decorate a slave, he won’t become the master. Why are you so busy talking about the slave? Why are you so busy attending to, and glorifying, and investigating about the slave?
If the slave troubles you, the trick lies in going to the Master. And once you are with the Master, the slave will fall in line on his own.
And that’s where the intellectuals are missing the point, the psychologists are missing the point, they too talk of consciousness. The psychologists, the intellectuals, even the neurologists – they all talk of consciousness; and they are busy looking at nothing but the consciousness. The slave is behaving erratically – a mean slave who has come to acquire bad manners. And what are all the intellectuals and psychologists doing? They are trying to teach the slave a few good manners.
What does the Mystic do? He ignores the slave. The Mystic has nothing to do with the slave, he goes right to the Master. And once you are with the Master, one look of the Master is enough to discipline the slave. That’s the trick the intellectuals have been missing.
All psychologists keep talking of mind and consciousness; what they don’t talk of is, the Lord. They are so afraid. Truth and Mysticism are an anathema to them. They would say, “Let’s limit ourselves to the mind.” So, what happens in the mind? And who would understand that?
If the mind were smart enough to understand itself, and it’s rubbish, why would it stay engaged in rubbish? But you don’t see this obvious fact. You want the mind to understand the mind knowing fully well that, that which you want to understand, is stupid, and that is why you want to understand it.
Had it been functioning properly, would you have felt a need to investigate what is going on? So you want to test a malfunctioning machine, using the same malfunctioning machine. The car is junk, the engine has collapsed, and you want to drive the car to the service station in the next city. You want to get the car repaired, using the services of the car itself. It is so non-sensical.
But then, intellectuals face a very acute dilemma. They are compulsive-avoiders of all Mysticism. It harasses their ego to accept that there is the unknowable. And the unknowable, is at the commanding heights. They would rather self-destruct, than devote the self.
You see, man is more terrified of psychological death, than physical death.
And the psychological life, is the life of the ego.
The ego says, “I can accept anything and everything, except Mysticism.” That’s the mark of the stupid man. To him, everything exists, except Him. All else is a possibility. The unknowable one is not a possibility.
He says, “I am very open-minded. I am very liberal. I am a liberal.” But, he is greatly illiberal. Because he does not want to consider the possibility that, That, and That alone exists. In some sense, the open-minded community is the most narrow-minded one. There minds are so narrow, that nothing broad, nothing Immense can gain entry into it. Only little things find their way to these little minds.
Are you getting it?
(Addressing the questioner) Even in this question, Dori, where is Surrender? Where is Devotion? These things that you are asking, cannot be grasped intellectually. Why don’t you see that intellect is such an incapacitated organ? A child’s little finger. And you want to move the mountains.
You are determined. You have been exercising the finger regularly. It’s a very muscular finger now. The Himalayas are shivering.
Question 2: Do you use the concept of ‘consciousness’ as analogous to mind.
AP: Yes, broadly. States of consciousness, happenings in consciousness, are the states of mind and happenings in mind.
Right? Or, as Awareness.
The foundation of consciousness is Awareness.
Pure consciousness, which is ‘zero consciousness’ is – Awareness.
However, that does not mean that to be aware, you have to give up on consciousness. No.
Being aware implies – not identifying with consciousness.
So, the stupid consciousness is busy with it’s own little matters. And where are you? An arm’s length away. That’s Awareness. It’s always a choice – to abide in Awareness, or to fool around in the domain of consciousness.
And the domain of consciousness will keep existing, as long as the body is there. You cannot drain consciousness of it’s contents. You cannot just take the vessel, and pour out the contents it has.
Question 3: How far back does the seat of Truth lie?
AP: Awareness and Truth, are one. So, not very far back; just one step behind. Just one step behind. You are standing on the edge of the cliff, behind you is an abyss. Just one step behind.
Close your eyes, and take a step backwards.
Taking that one step backwards, is therefore so impossible to most people, because the every dimension changes. You can take innumerable steps forward, and the dimension remains the same. But behind, is an abyss. That one step will not allow you to remain the one you are.
The Earth will change, the very physics will change. Your very station will change. You will change. That’s why, that one step is the most difficult thing in the world. And the Saints, therefore, have gone on wondering that why is the Lord so inaccessible, when he is always so close-by.
Now you see why He is so inaccessible?
Where is He?
Just one step behind.
But you are standing on the edge of the cliff, and your eyes are always looking at the ground, not at the abyss.
However, you are instinctively aware that there is no ground behind you.
So taking that one step backwards is impossibly difficult.
However, you can keep taking a lot of steps forward, because nothing changes there. You are on the terrain, and the terrain does not change – whether you move left, or right, or forward.
But if you move backwards, everything changes.
Watch the session video: Consciousness is just physical || Acharya Prashant (2018) The transcription has been edited for clarity.
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