by Swami Krishnananda
Yesterday we observed that the human individual is a microcosmic specimen of the entire creative process of the cosmos. The layers, or degrees of reality, that constitute the universe are also to be found in the human individual in the form of the koshas, or the sheaths, as they are called: the physical, vital, mental, intellectual and the causal. These are known in the Sanskrit language as annamaya kosha, pranamaya kosha, manomaya kosha, vijnanamaya kosha and anandamaya kosha. These are the five layers of objectivity which, in a gradational form, externalise consciousness. The grosser the sheath, the greater is the force of externality, so that when consciousness enters the physical body, we are totally material in our outlook, physical in our understanding and assessment of values, intensely body-conscious, and know nothing of ourselves except this body. It is only when we go inward that we have access to the subtler layers of our personality, not otherwise.
The Taittiriya Upanishad deals with this subject of the five layers, known as the koshas; and the Mandukya Upanishad, which is another important Upanishad, sometimes considered as the most important, deals with the very same koshas in a different way – namely, by way of the elucidation of the involvement of consciousness in these koshas. The five koshas have been classified into three groups: the physical, the subtle and the causal. In the waking state in which we are now, for instance, the physical body is intensely operative and we always think in terms of the physical body, physical objects and physical sensations.
This physical sensation is absent in the state of dream, but three of the koshas operate in dream. All the five are operative in the waking condition, concentrating their action mostly on the physical body. The physical body is not operative in the dream state, but the vital, the mental and the intellectual sheaths are active. The prana is there, the mind is there, and the intellect is there, in a diminished intensity. We breathe, we think and we understand in the state of dream. That means the prana, manas and buddhi are all active in the state of dream minus the physical element – namely, the body consciousness. In the state of deep sleep, none of these are active. Neither the body is operative there, nor the mind, nor the intellect, nor is there any consciousness that we are even breathing. The consciousness is withdrawn entirely from all the sheaths – physical, vital, mental and intellectual. There is only one sheath operating in the state of sleep. That is the causal sheath – the anandamaya kosha, as it is called in Sanskrit.
In the waking condition, the senses are physically and materially very active. The Mandukya Upanishad tells us that in the waking state we enjoy, we experience and we contact things in nineteen ways. Consciousness has nineteen mouths through which it eats the food of objective experience. What are these nineteen mouths? They are the five senses of knowledge: seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching. With these five sensations we come in contact with things in the world outside and enjoy them with the actions and reactions produced by means of such sensory contact. These five mentioned are called senses of knowledge, or jnana indriyas. They are so called because they give us some sort of knowledge of either sight or sound or taste or smell or touch.
Apart from these five senses of knowledge, there are five organs of action. They do not give us any independent knowledge, but they act. The hand that grasps is one organ of action; the speech that articulates words is another organ of action; the feet that cause locomotion or movement are also organs of action; the generative organ and the excretory organ are also two of the active elements, or organs of action. They act, but they do not give any new knowledge. Whatever idea, knowledge, experience, etc., we may have through any one of these organs of action comes through the sensations already mentioned – namely, the jnana indriyas. Even when the organs of action act and we are conscious that they are acting, this consciousness is available only through the jnana indriyas and not separately through the organs of action. They do not give additional knowledge. It looks as if we have some sensation even through the organs of action, but actually it is not so. The sensation, the experience of the actions of the karma indriyas, as they are called, arises on account of the simultaneous action of the jnana indriyas, or senses of knowledge. So these five senses of knowledge and five organs of action make ten mouths of consciousness.
There are five pranas. The prana, or the vital energy in us, operates in five ways. When we breathe out, expel the breath, the prana is active. When we breathe in, when we inhale the breath, the apana is active. The vyana is the third form of the operation of this energy. It causes circulation of blood and makes us feel a sensation of liveliness in every part of the body. The operative action of the bloodstream is pushed onwards in a circular fashion throughout the body by the action of a particular function of prana called vyana. There is another action of the prana, which is udana. It causes the swallowing of food. When we put food in the mouth, it goes inside through the epiglottis and it is pushed down by the action of a prana called udana. Udana has also certain other functions to perform; it takes us to deep sleep. Our jiva consciousness, our individualised consciousness, is pushed into a state of somnolence. That also is the work of udana. Udana also has a third function to perform, namely, the separation of the vital body from the physical body at the time of death. Three actions, three performances are attributed to udana. The fifth prana, samana, operates through the navel region and causes the digestion of food. It creates heat in the stomach and in the navel region, causing the gastric juices to operate, and so we feel appetite. Hunger is created, and food is digested by the action of samana. Thus there are five pranas: prana, apana, vyana, udana and samana. Five senses of knowledge, five organs of action and five pranas make fifteen ways in which we contact things.
There are four functions of the psychic organ. The internal psyche, which is generally called manas – or mind, in ordinary language – has four functions. In Sanskrit these four functions are designated as manas, buddhi, ahamkara and chitta. Manas is ordinary, indeterminate thinking – just being aware that something is there. That is the work of the mind; that is manas. Buddhi determines, decides and logically comes to the conclusion that something is such and such a thing. That is another aspect of the operation of the psyche – buddhi, or intellect. The third form of the mind is ego, ahamkara, affirmation, assertion. "I know that there is some object in front of me and I also know that I know. I know that I am existing as this so-and-so." This kind of affirmation attributed to one's own individuality is the work of ahamkara, known as egoism. The subsconscious action, memory, etc., are called the chitta, which is the fourth function. Thus, manas, buddhi, ahamkara and chitta are the four basic functions of the internal organ, the psychological organ.
Hence we have five senses of knowledge, five organs of action, five pranas and four operations of the psyche, totalling nineteen. Consciousness grasps objects from outside through these mouths. We feel secure and happy because all these nineteen aspects are acting at the same time, in some form or other, with more or less emphasis. Any one of the nineteen can act at any time under special given conditions. Inasmuch as any one can act at any time, it is virtually saying that all are acting at the same time. Therefore, we are actively, objectively conscious through the nineteen operative media of the individual consciousness in the waking condition. We are aware of this vast world of sensory perception, and we go on contacting these objects of the world through these media.
In this connection, it is also mentioned that we can conceive this form of perception in a cosmic way. Cosmic-consciousness can be conceived to be operative in this manner in a cosmic waking condition. Just as we are individually conscious of objects in this waking condition of ours, in a similar manner we can conceive that the Universal consciousness is awake to the world of daylight. The whole universe is the object of the consciousness of a consciousness, in a manner similar to an individualised, circumscribed world becoming the object of our individual consciousness in the waking state. The terms for this waking state are jagrat-avastha, jagrat-sthana. For instance, 'visva' is the word used to designate consciousness in the waking, individualised state. Our consciousness, the jiva tattva, this individuality of ours during this moment of waking, is called visva. And, this very waking world of universal expanse in space and time, animated by a universal consciousness, is called vaisvanara or virat. 'Virat' is the word sometimes used. There is a consciousness pervading all things, as we know already. If this consciousness – which is universal and is hidden behind all things – is to be aware of the whole cosmos as we perceive in our waking condition, that cosmic, waking awareness of the whole universe may be regarded as virat tattva, Cosmic-consciousness of the whole physical world – the entire cosmos of physicality.
We have heard that Sri Krishna manifested the viratsvarupa before Arjuna. In the Purusha Sukta also, we have some sort of description in which the Cosmic Being is conceived as animating the whole physical cosmos. We have to understand here that the physical cosmos is not merely this earth, but is all the layers of externality – which are computerised, as it were, into fourteen categories, known in Sanskrit as bhulok, bhuvarlok, svarlok, maharlok, janalok, tapolok and satyalok. The whole cosmos, in all the levels of its manifestation, is at once an object of the awareness of this Cosmic Being. Such an awakened waking state, as it were, of the Cosmic-consciousness is virat – known also as vaisvanara in the language of the Upanishads. Individually, the microcosmic aspect of this virat is visva, your own or my own waking experience as it is available just now, for instance.
Hence, through nineteen mouths we experience objects of the world in this waking condition. We can conceive, for our own intellectual satisfaction, that the universe also operates in this manner. And God-consciousness, imagined to be operating through this waking condition everywhere, is an expanded form of our individualised consciousness. While we in our waking state know only certain things, God as the Universal Consciousness knows all things at the same time. This is, briefly, a description of the consciousness involved in the waking state. The total physical perception – in which the consciousness is involved – is the objective world of the waking state of consciousness.
In the dream state something else happens. The actual physical world – which is seen, contacted through the sense organs in the waking state – is absent, but it looks as if it is present even in the dream state due to an action of the mind. Without the assistance of the gross senses and of the organs of action which are active in the waking condition, the mind alone concocts, imagines, projects a world of its own and we see a world in dream. We exist there, in the dream, in the same manner as we exist in the waking state. We can see ourselves now seated here in the waking state; in a similar way, we can see ourselves seeing certain things in the dream state also. There is a 'dream me' in the same way as there is a 'waking me'. There is also a dream world. We see all sorts of things in the waking state – mountains, rivers, sun, moon, stars, and all kinds of people. We can see all that in the dream world also. There is space, time and externality in dream, as there is in the waking state. The difference between the waking and the dream is that the mind has created the entire world of external cognition and perception of its own accord without the assistance of externally existing physical objects or physical sensations.
In dream also there are nineteen mouths operating. We have dream eyes, dream ears, a dream nose, a dream tongue that tastes, dream touch and dream legs, dream hands, dream organs of every kind. In dream we run with legs; we eat a good meal in dream. We can even live and die – even that experience is possible in dream. One can feel that one is born or one can feel that one is dead; one can observe one's own cremation in dream. All kinds of fantastic things can be experienced in dream. A new world is projected by the mind. Space, time, causation, objects, people, all blessed things are in the dream world because the psyche is operating through the vital energy, the mind and the intellect in a diminished form – not in an active way. The only difference is that the physical body is not there as an object of awareness. People sometimes sleep with their mouths open; if a few particles of sugar are put on the tongue of a sleeping man, he will not taste it because his mind is withdrawn.
The mind is the main operative organ that causes the sensations of seeing, hearing, tasting, etc. Even the ego is very active in dream. If somebody calls us – either in dream or deep sleep – by a name that is not ours, we will not listen to it; we will not wake up. If John is sleeping and he is called Jacob, he will not wake up. John must be summoned only as John. That is, the ego is so very intensely identified with this particular name-form complex that it is active even there, in the submerged condition of dream and sleep. So the nineteen mouths of the waking condition are psychologically projected by the mind in the dreaming state also. There also we have all these experiences, every blessed thing, as we have in the waking state.