A wise man once asked a king “Who are you?” The king started replying “I am King ABC of Kingdom XYZ”. The wise man said “I am not asking you your name or that of your kingdom. Who are YOU?” The king started to answer again “I am ABC, son of XYZ…” The wise man said “I am not asking you your lineage. Who are YOU?” The king made another attempt “I am someone who protects my kingdom and likes to….” The wise man interrupted again “I am not asking you what you do or like. Who are YOU?” Now, the king went into deep thought.
When we are in a dream, we are completely living the episode that we are in, can see and feel it as if real. In that state, we experience the dream world. Only when we move into the waking state, we experience the waking world and call the earlier state a dream. Then we say that this current state is the reality. There is a third state that we experience – that of deep sleep, the non-REM phase of sleep in which we are completely blank. In that state, we are neither awake nor dreaming but in a state of blankness of sleep. That’s the state which we refer to when we say that we slept like a log. This often happens when we are completely exhausted. There is a fourth state called the ‘turiya’, ‘turiyam’ or ‘chaturtham’ as referred to in the seventh mantra of the Mandukya Upanishad of Atharva Veda.
Say we have a table, chair and bench all made of wood. We may call it by different names, but essentially it is wood. We can change the form or state of that wood to make it a table or chair or bench. Despite that, the essential element “wood” stays unchanged. “Wood” is not the same as table or chair or bench but still within each of those. Even though it is within these three forms or states, it is apart from these forms or states. Similarly, our bodies change in our lifetime from that of an infant to teenager to adult to elderly. Our minds and thoughts change constantly over our lifetime. However, our “consciousness” does not change. Our three states of dreamer, waker and blankless in sleep come and go but the “consciousness” stays in all the three. When a Mom hears her baby cry, even when she is fast asleep, there is something that makes her get up and attend to her child. So that state of “consciousness” remains irrespective of her sleep or waking state.
Let us imagine a Station Master standing at a train station and watching the trains come and go. A passenger train arrives. People get down from the train and others get into the train. Then the train moves on. He continues to stand and watch. Then a goods train arrives. Not much activity happens on the station. Just a few people get off. He continues to stand and watch. Then there is no train that comes and stops on the station for a long time. He still continues to stand and watch. This Station Master is the “Consciousness”. The trains come and go, the activities happen or not happen but he continues to watch unaffected.
This “consciousness” is the real “I”. It cannot be accessed by the five senses. It cannot be used. It cannot be grasped. It cannot be inferred. It cannot be thought about. It cannot be named. It just has to be realised. Reality is “consciousness”. I am in search of the real “I”. Are you too?