Friday, November 27, 2015


In the last post we asked “If the mind is not conscious, how is it that we have conscious experiences in our lives?” The answer is that “appearance of consciousness” (called Chidabhasa in Sanskrit) happens because of the underlying Consciousness which produces a reflection in the mind, the memory of the living being. 

Vedanta explains “appearance of consciousness” by means of the following analogy: When sun light falls in a pot containing water, the light is reflected by the water creating an image of the sun. The image has some brightness but its origin is in the sun light and not in the pot nor in the water. If the pot is broken, water is scattered, the reflection is gone but the sun and his rays are all still there. In this analogy, a living being is a body with a mind and similar to a pot containing water; the mind is like water and the body is like the pot. The consciousness appearing in a living being is like the image of the sun in water. If there is more than one pot with water, images of the sun appear in all the different pots.The Supreme knower, Consciousness, who manifests Himself as consciousness of each individual living being is like the sun light; there are no distinctions in sun light, it is all one but the reflections are many and distinct. The quality of reflection varies with the quality of water, for example, if the water moves the reflection shakes; if the water is muddy then the reflection is not as bright. Just as there is no reflection in an empty pot, there is no appearance of consciousness in lifeless matter but only in living beings because they have minds. Again, just as the water needs a pot to hold it, and the reflection is gone if the pot is broken, the mind cannot exhibit the apparently conscious behavior after the death of the physical body.

Chidabhasa -appearance of consciousness (in living beings because they have both body and mind unlike lifeless matter where there is no interaction of the body with a mind)


We will add some more detail to how Vedanta answers the "hard problem of consciousness" in later posts.  For example, we will talk about how PI (although not conscious by itself) is created by the brain.


  1. The influx of the Supreme Consciousness into the various receptacles sounds very much like theism.

    Does that inflowing Consciousness make a difference to the behavior of the living beings? Or not? That is: does consciousness make a practical difference to their abilities?

    1. Electric current flowing through a light bulb makes it glow and deliver light. The same current makes an electric fan rotate its wheel and cause movement in the surrounding air. When the power is off both of them do not work; without the power they cannot work. So, the bulb and the fan are able to perform different tasks but the ability is activated so to speak, by the current. This is what upanishads say "the mind and senses are able to perform their respective functions willed and initiated by Consciousness and without It, the senses and the mind cannot function" as mentioned in my earlier post. Thus different human beings have different talents but they are able to function in the way they do because of the underlying Supreme Consciousness.

    2. That sounds good.
      It must mean that Consciousness is a power to bestow powers on other things (the vessels). The Consciousness, therefore, must be more than pure awareness, and also have power and love as well as illumination.

      It is also reassuring to hear that both the vessels and Consciousness exist, and that the vessels are not just an illusion.

    3. You brought up a good point. We consider dreams as "not real" or in a way, illusions. A dream is real when you are dreaming. It is not real once you wake up. So, it is not that the dream never existed but there is a time when it exists and a time when it does not exist. This is the nature of what we normally call conscious experience. It is fragmented. We know somethings and do not know others; we know them at one time and do not know them at other times. In reality, all this is possible because of the underlying Consciousness which knows everything everywhere all the time; well that is what Vedanta says. They say that all that happens in the world happens like the images in a movie which appear on the screen, the screen being the Consciousness. When we watch the movie, we almost never see the screen without which there cannot be a show. This not being able to see that there is a screen behind (of course strictly speaking, we know it but this is only an example) is called illusion. Again, the pictures go away, once the movie is over but the screen remains. In other words, the inability to see the permanent and unchanging support for the ever changing world is briefly represented by the word illusion. It is true that the screen exists and the pictures also exist over the screen when the movie is running.