Turiya: The fourth dimension of being : The Tribune India

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Spiritually speaking : DR Satish k kapoor

Turiya: The fourth dimension of being

Consciousness is not chimerical, or a conceptual abstraction, but a vital principle of existence.



Consciousness is not chimerical, or a conceptual abstraction, but a vital principle of existence. There are four states of human consciousness – waking

(jagarita), dream (svapna), deep-sleep (sushupti) and the transcendental (turiya). While the first three states

(avasthatraya), respectively called vaishvanara, taijasa and prajna (Mandukya Upanishad 2), are ‘mere appearances’, and subject to modification, the turiya or the fourth (chaturtham), is changeless and abiding, since it is the ultimate reality – the all-pervasive source of everything. In a higher sense, turiya is not a separate realm as it is the self itself, possessed of all the four quarters (chatushpat).

Consciousness, in the waking state, is associated with gross body (sthula sharira); in the dream state, with subtle body (sukshma sharira), and in the deep-sleep state, with causal body (karana sharira). All the three are experienced in the waking state, which relates to things external. The deep-sleep state has in it the seeds of the first two. However, consciousness alternates generally between the waking state and the dream state. Spiritual seekers ponder over turiya alone.

The Mandukya Upanishad ( verse 8) correlates physical consciousness with the syllable AUM (Om). A represents the waking state; U, the sleeping state, and M, the deep sleep state. The waking state is outward-knowing (bahish prajna). It cannot fully grasp the Absolute truth, as senses and the intellect have their limitations. The dream state is inward-knowing (antah-prajna) but it leaves the consciousness foggy and turbid. Both the conditions eclipse in deep sleep. ‘The part less Om is turiya.’(Mandukya Upanishad 12). It is beyond measure (a-matrah), and possessed of infinite dimensions (Gaudapada’s Karika 29).

Turiya is mahamauna, the great cosmic silence that cannot be fully defined but is subject to experience. It is self luminous, self existent, and the substrata of the physical states of human experience. It is sakshi, the witnessing consciousness. Sakshi is the true nature of the individual soul (jiva) as described in the four mahavakyas, ‘great utterances’, of the Upanishads : ‘That Thou Art’ (tattvamasi -Chhandogya Upanishad,1.4.10); ‘Consciousness is Brahman’ (prajanam brahma- Aitreya Upanishad, 5.3); ‘I am Brahman’( aham brahmasmi- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10); ‘This self is Brahman’ (ayamatma brahma- Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.5.19).

Turiya is the ascension of consciousness from phenomena to noumena. It is rising above the duality of name and form, and identifying with the causa prima of existence. The Mandukya Upanishad explains the concept of turiya thus- ‘Not inwardly cognitive, not outwardly cognitive, not both-wise cognitive, not a cognition-mass, not cognitive, not non-cognitive, unseen, with which there can be no dealing, ungraspable, having no distinctive mark, non-thinkable, that cannot be designated the essence of the assurance of which is the state of being, one with the self, the cessation of development, tranquil, benign, without a second (a-dvaita)– such they think is the fourth I). He is the Self. He should be discerned.’

Turiyavastha, ‘ realm of turiya’, can be attained by absorption in the contemplation of one’s real Self. As the spiritual aspirant (sadhaka) moves from spatial and temporal consciousness of the little self to transcendent consciousness of the Absolute, by mystic practices and grace of god, the divine light of bliss radiates from his being. In mystical terms, he dies while living, and becomes liberated in life (jivanamukta). Says Sri Guru Granth Sahib ( shalok M 2, page 139) :‘Seeing without eyes, hearing without ears, walking without feet,working without hands, speaking without tongue, thus dying while living. In this way, O Nanak, do thou reach the Lord by knowing His will.’

Turiya takes one beyond the realm of time and space, and ruptures the cycle of birth and death. In the turiyatita state, when spiritual perfection is at its apogee, and consciousnesses rises to domains unknown, the conscious, sub-conscious and deep-sleep levels are overstepped and synthesized into a self effulgent unit. The individual soul (jiva) obtains eternity (nityatva), immutability

(avikaratva) and completeness (purnatva) by dropping the sense of ‘I’ and ‘mine’. It becomes conscious of the divine presence in everything, and perceives the infinite in the finite, the eternal in the evanescent, the one in many.

The jivanamukta is free from encumbrances of karma, as these cannot tether his soul anymore. Yet he survives in the physical body till his prarabdha karma- accumulated actions which have begun to bear fruit - are exhausted. Some, however, feel that the law of retributive justice does not apply to realised souls whose previous sins are also destroyed while attaining the turiya state.

(Dr Satish K Kapoor, former British Council Scholar and former Registrar, DAV University, is a noted author, educationist, historian and spiritualist based in Jalandhar city)

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