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What is Consciousness?
by Swami Krishnananda

(Darshan given during 1993)

A visitor: Swamiji, may I ask you a question? What is consciousness?

Swamiji: Now, who is speaking to me? That is consciousness. It is consciousness that is speaking to me because the person who seems to be apparently speaking may be there, and yet there may be no consciousness – for instance, with a corpse, a dead body. It is exactly like the living body, but it does not speak because it is having no consciousness. So the person who sees, speaks, hears, performs any action, is really the consciousness; and the organs, which apparently perform this function of seeing, hearing, speaking, etc., are only instruments of this consciousness. The intelligence that is behind every activity, the awareness that prompts every action, the feeling that you exist, the consciousness that you are – that indescribable illumination that is inside everything, that is regarded as consciousness. Anything that is aware is consciousness. It cannot be described by anybody because there is no second to consciousness.

Consciousness is all things; therefore, no one can say what is consciousness. Consciousness includes that very thing which asks this question, so nobody can raise a question of this kind; and there is no question of an answer also, because consciousness raises the question and consciousness gives the answer, and everything is consciousness. The whole universe is a drama played by consciousness. As it is universally present, we call it Almighty-consciousness. In religious parlance, we call it God-consciousness. And it is the final reality; therefore, we call it Absolute-consciousness. It is always there; therefore, we call it Eternal consciousness. It is endless; therefore, we call it Infinite consciousness. It is perfection; therefore, we call it Bliss and happiness. That alone is, finally.

So consciousness is putting the question, consciousness is giving the answer, and the process of speaking also is consciousness only operating. That is why I said it is a big drama played by itself as the doer, the deed, and the process of doing. All these are processes of one being only, known as consciousness. This is the answer to your question.

Another visitor: Swamiji, I couldn’t understand well. Consciousness has no connection to the mind, or is it just connected to the soul?

Swamiji: When consciousness is concentrated in a particular spatialised point and appears to be functioning independently, as it were, from one spatial point only, that isolated functioning of consciousness is called 'mind’. There is no mind outside consciousness. It is a localised, finititised consciousness, centralised in a particular spot as a pressure in one place only, at one time. It is consciousness only operating. Instead of its being universally operating, it is locally operating. Locally operating consciousness is mind, and universal mind is consciousness. It is one and the same thing operating in two different ways – phenomenally on the one hand and noumenally on the other side. As I mentioned, everything is a play of consciousness.