This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

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Vedantic approach to consciousness: Some metaphysical background

Vladimir Iatsenko — Auroville.

Vedanta throughout its numerous texts deals with a notion of consciousness in a particular way. It doesn’t employ a purely metaphysical method but rather a method of psychological inquiry, speaking about Brahman not abstractly but concretely, in terms of experience. It developed a particular kind of metaphysics on this basis. In Vedanta the cognitive faculties: to see, to think, to hear, to speak, to feel and to touch, were seen as main functions of consciousness. Brahman in Taittiriya Upanishad is described as “annam pranam chakshush shrotram mano vacamiti”. We also find that these faculties correspond not only to our ordinary senses, but to their higher prototypes, which were perceived and spoken by the Vedic Rishis. Modern Psychology identifies the three major streams of cognition: seeing, hearing and touch. These are the three basic accesses through which we perceive the reality. Similarly in Vedanta there are these principle faculties. Mind and seeing are related to rupam, form, as the expression of the aspect of power, whereas word and hearing to nama, name, as the expression of the aspect of knowledge, which constitute the phenomenon of consciousness within manifestation as annam, matter, animated by prana. According to Vedanta, seeing and hearing are perceptive faculties, whereas mind and word are their active counterparts. These four are manifested in Life and Matter. Beyond these functions there is one consciousness, which is the aim of Vedantic enquiry. It is interesting to see how this approach involves the researcher objectively and subjectively and makes him the centre and the field of this research. It is concrete and direct. It affirms the working of a Higher Consciousness in us.

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