By Rudra Shivananda
It may be useful for the spiritual seeker if we explore a model of consciousness that I use because it is closely correlated with yogic experience. This model differentiates between brain, mind and consciousness in a practical way for spiritual evolution.
Scientists are still in the process of understanding the functions of the human brain but for our purpose, it is sufficient to use our general knowledge that the brain is a physical organ that collects and processes external stimuli via the five senses. It is also a memory unit storing a record of our physical experiences. The brain is a part of our physical body.
However, in yoga we experience additional “bodies” of subtler material, which we call the energy, emotional, mental and causal bodies, forming a 5-body construct. The mind is a vehicle by which we experience all these bodies. It is not my intention to prove the existence of mind separate from the brain functions – philosophers and neural scientists will be doing that, but to understand it better so that it can be helpful for our spiritual journey.
In this model, the mind is multilevel, from the lowest level dealing with the physical world of the five senses, to higher levels dealing with the reality even beyond the causal level.
At each mind-level the total content of the mind at any moment of time forms the world that can be experienced – what I call the mindscape. That which experiences is called consciousness. The level of one’s consciousness is dependent on the level of mindscape that is functioning and can be experienced. The level of consciousness is limited by the mindscape – the total available data and concepts attributed to that particular reality. Ordinary consciousness functions through the lowest human mindscape of the gross physical world of the five senses.
The process of yoga evolves consciousness by enabling it to rise past the different mindscape limitations so that it can experience higher and higher dimensions of realities. At any moment, one’s field of consciousness is the mindscape of the mental plane that one is attached to. Each field of consciousness must be mastered before one can proceed to the next. Sometimes, this process can take years and sometimes, it happens rapidly, depending on the overall spiritual practice through many lifetimes leading to a particular moment of time.
At each level of consciousness, we first differentiate all aspects of that particular mindscape. Next, we strive to understand the relationship between the various parts. Then we realize the unity between the various parts of the mindscape. Finally, there arises a realization of one’s Self and the mindscape is absorbed – subject and object become one. This four-fold process is repeated at each level of consciousness.
Although one may have experienced higher levels of consciousness, we must reverse back down to the human mindscape to interact with our friends and fellow seekers. It is not possible to provide details of the higher mindscapes due to the limitations of the lower mindscapes – only metaphors and hints can be explored. That is why we must be steadfast in our practice, because an effective spiritual path is the only means to experience the wisdom and reality of higher mindscapes.