Q.469 Consciousness versus consciousness

Q: Consciousness (capital C) is brahman is ineffable. consciousness (lowercase c) is the state of being aware (of something). These are fundamentally different ‘things’ … they really have nothing to do with each other. They might as well be called x and Y instead of x and X.

What am I missing here? What justifies consciousness and Consciousness being portrayed (linguistically, in any case) as the same thing except for the capitalization? How is consciousness similar to Consciousness? 

Or is it as simple as: What we call consciousness is <whatever happens to arise mentally when> Consciousness reflects off the mind? In other words: There is no consciousness per se, there is only reflected Consciousness in ALL its forms? The feel of consciousness … qualia, presence, what it is like to be a particular mind-body at a particular moment.

How is this *feel* similar to Consciousness? If they are utterly dissimilar, why use the same root word with different spellings?

A: Interesting questions, although I think maybe you are making more of this than is really there.

Firstly, Consciousness and consciousness have to be the same in reality, since there is only Consciousness. How can you say they have nothing to do with each other? In the light analogy I used [If you look at the analogy of light, the light reflected off a mirror is still light, still photons of electromagnetic radiation, even though the mirror itself is not the originator of those photons.], the reflected photons are the same photons, not newly originated imitations. We call the reflected Consciousness ‘consciousness’ but it is still only ever Consciousness. The reason that we want to differentiate is to explain aspects such as why Consciousness manifests differently in different minds. You could say that a clear, disciplined mind ‘reflects’ Consciousness much more ‘brightly’ than a dull, identified mind, in a similar way to a clean mirror reflecting light much more brightly than a dirty one.

You say to begin with that “consciousness (lowercase c) is the state of being aware (of something)”. But it is Consciousness that enables us to be aware of anything. When Consciousness enlivens the mind, we just happen to call it ‘being conscious’. Your statement “There is no consciousness per se, there is only reflected Consciousness in ALL its forms?” is one way of putting it.

The ‘feel’ of being conscious is one aspect of the mind’s response to the reflection of Consciousness. There is no ‘feel’ under anesthesia, for example, because there is no reflection taking place since the mind is inactive.

2 thoughts on “Q.469 Consciousness versus consciousness

  1. Verse 8 of Drg Drsya Vivek talks inter-alia about reflected consciousness.
    There is mind-body complex. Advaita claims that our true nature is Pure Consciousness (PC) and not the mind-body duo. PC is self-luminous and it illumines the mind-body complex. The illumination is by the very presence of Pure Consciousness and therefore Pure Consciousness is often referred to as witness ( sAkshi). Mind belongs to the category of subtle body which is itself inert. The Pure Consciousness is reflected in the mind and Reflected Consciousness ( ChidAbhAshA) illumines the mind and mind becomes conscious. The gross body borrows consciousness from the mind and becomes sentient. In relation to Reflected Consciousness (RC), Pure Consciousness is Original Consciousness (OC). Thus there are OC, RC, mind and body.
    Verse 8 of Drg Drsya Vivek explains that the mind has intimate relationship with RC, body and OC. The relationship between mind and RC is natural because as long as mind, the reflecting medium, is there, OC is reflected and there is RC. This relationship cannot be destroyed. In fact such destruction is not necessary for Self-realization. Vedanta holds that subtle body survives the death and transmigrates and there is rebirth because of prArabdha. It is explained in the verse 8 that the relationship of mind with body is because of prArabdha and is co-existent with prArabdha. There ought to be no relationship between mind and OC because OC is reality of higher order compared to mind. However, because of ignorance, OC gets identified with mind. All the actions of mind are attributed to OC, the sAkshi, and our true nature of sAkshi takes a backseat. This identification comes to an end on Self-realization

  2. Hi Bimal,

    Useful explanations here. I would agree with most of what you say. But I would say that the gross body is always inert. It does not have the property of being able to reflect Consciousness. The mind, too, is inert but does have that property so that it seems to be independently conscious as a result of reflecting Consciousness. So it is not the body that is sentient. The senses send ‘messages’ to the brain where the ‘mind’ ‘senses’ (interprets) them by virtue of the Consciousness reflected there.

    Also, you cannot really say that OC is the witness. Consciousness does not ‘do’ anything – it is akartA, abhoktA. I don’t personally like the sAkshi concept at all as it seems to add an unnecessary extra level of potential confusion!

    Best wishes,

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