A Conscious Existence 

by | Mar 15, 2022

I have always regarded well mavericks, who are described as unorthodox or independent-minded persons. They keep coming in every age, as if to puncture the balloons flying high in their times, and to point out the limited shelf-life of every dogma. Not all mavericks become prophets and philosophers, but they do serve their purpose of “grounding” the people around them from their mental voyages, into the reality of their existence. 

George Ivanovich Gurdjieff (1866-1949) was born in Armenia, then a part of the Russian Empire. He rightly observed that most humans do not live consciously, and their minds are mostly not focused on their surroundings. Even their thinking is diffused and instead of following a logical train, their minds keep wandering without purpose, like a rudderless ship drifting in the ocean, or a monkey jumping from one branch to another in a grove.

Gurdjieff described such people, which means most people, as living in a state of “waking sleep”. He wondered if it was possible to awaken them to a higher state of consciousness so that they could achieve the full human potential. Gurdjieff observed that there were three methods in vogue living in astute poverty, overcoming emotions through ardor, and developing one’s inner being at the cost of undervaluing one’s body and emotions. He called these ways as those of the fakir, monk, and yogi and reasoned that these could be followed/adopted while doing one’s normal work in this world. 

This was not an original idea, but an innovative rendering of the desireless work (निष्काम कर्म) advocated in the Bhagavad Gita, and the Buddhist method of mindfulness (स्मृत्युपस्थान). Kabir (1398-1518) promoted the Nath Sampradaya’s yogic exercises for raising the “Kundalini”, while pursuing one’s livelihood in this world. But Kabir’s message was lost, suffering a language barrier, and never reached beyond a part of north India. 

Gurdjieff called his method to access a higher level of consciousness without asceticism as the “Fourth Way”. Nature operates upon every individual and to be conscious of these forces, and live following them, rather than be tossed over by them, is the essence of the method. Gurdjieff created an enneagram of nine numbers bound together “as a system”, describing the man-nature interaction. 

The Bolivian philosopher, Óscar Ichazo (1931-2020), took the enneagram’s idea forward as a human potential movement. I got introduced to the enneagram (pronounced as any-aa- gram) through a book of the American teacher, Don Richard Riso (1946-2012), on the Enneagram of Personality, published in 1987. Following the book, I saw myself as a Personality of type 2 of the nine, and the description of how it functions, and malfunctions, was most useful. 

The realization that we are a spirit in the body is fundamental. This spirit is both, unique and universal. The unique part, inseparable from the universal part, forms the ground for our awareness, and is called consciousness. But it is a small part of our unique consciousness, which was called ‘personal unconscious’ by Carl Jung and it exists, as if floating, over the collective unconscious that envelops everything that exists. This is, perhaps, what Adi Shankaracharya meant by Advait Brahman.

Carl Jung brilliantly called the conscious idea of “I” as Persona, which is like a mask we wear living in society, and our “autobiography”. Our reality is our unconscious which carries at least three inherited psychic energy patterns that Jung called archetypes, namely, the Shadow, the Anima/Animus, and the Unique Spirit, which Jung called the ‘Self’ and that Hindus call the Embodied Soul (जीवात्मा). Then, there is the collective unconscious that carries information on our ancestors, and the history of our race. 

Shadow is that part of our psyche – our thoughts and feelings that we have been hiding from others for a hundred reasons. Anima is the female personality of a man and animus is the male personality of a woman. After all, both genders differ by the absence or presence of just one chromosome and everything else is the same. When husband and wife fight, anyone can see their hidden anima/ animus performing at its best.   

Jung declares the purpose of life as bringing our unconscious into the conscious and doing whatever is to be done. In this situation, the unconscious supports you and life starts rolling out as a spectacular success. If this is not done, in the famous words of Jung, your personal unconscious ‘drags’ you through this world, as your ‘fate’, like a hunter drags its killed prey. The process of integrating the personal unconscious into the conscious starts with the Shadow, followed by the Anima/ Animus and finally, manifesting the Self in this world. 

Look at any famous performer in this world – leaders, sportspersons, businesspersons, artists, scientists, poets, writers etc. They are all manifesting their selves and their fame is due to the support of the collective unconscious. The enneagram sidesteps the philosophical and scientific jargon and delivers deep insights in a child’s play manner, according to your type, 1 to 9, and what happens to you when you start degenerating in life. This awareness is, indeed, most valuable to avoid setbacks and failures, and prevent disasters.  

There is no room for ignorance in the age of the Internet. Google the word “enneagram” and you have before you a great light, which is all that one needs to navigate through the world.  In 2005, I read in The Inner Journey Home, written by Kuwaiti American A. H. Almaas (b. 1944), that in the darkness, you will stumble upon the furniture and hurt yourself in your own house. The point is to have light and live with awareness. 

I conclude with the words in the book mentioned above (Ed. 2004, p. 82), “There is neither destination nor source, but merely the flow outward of the arising of experience as a continuous flowing fountain of conscious presence. The fountain effect is a sensation, a feeling, an impression of flowing. The streaming fountain is a bubbling stream of experiences, where the bubbles and eddies are the forms, experience is taking… The water emerges out from nowhere; an experience was not there, and now it is there, while the flow is always present.” 

That life is ephemeral, transitory and that we all will die is, indeed, good news. See yourself in the becoming of every moment. Throw away the burden of knowing the reason for everything and guessing the results. Why not enjoy the flow, instead of counting the bubbles and eddies in the fountain and the stream? It is sufficient to live through experiences rather perceptively. Understanding ourselves and others and the wholeness of the entire creation will make your life, if not happier, then less hurting, but surely fuller. And like a flower blossoming out of a bud, you will flourish by “becoming” yourself. 

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19 Comments

  1. Thank you for enlightening with a scholarly blog, Prof Tiwariji !

    Your insight into the important aspects of life is superb !!

  2. Sir, I specifically like the line “the burden of knowing the reason for everything and building expectation on the outcomes”. In short I feel this is where we get blinded to our very existence, which is to navigate through the journey of life with what is presented and making the best of what we get and forever be grateful for what we have. Thank you Sir for reiterating these profound facts in a simple manner.

  3. Excellent blog Sir. I can see a shift in your blogs from outer to the inner world in the last few months and I welcome it. It is indeed true as anyone can notice that a thought enters our mind, and then another one replaces it. It is a very fast process, of which we are hardly aware. But if you train your concentration ability, by practice, it will help you become more conscious of your thoughts and of their coming and going.

    As you gain more control of your thoughts, fewer thoughts would pass through your mind per minute. Under these conditions, you become aware of intervals between thoughts. This might be just a second or a split second of quietude when there are no thoughts in the mind, just silence and pure awareness. This is a time of non-identification with anything. We just exist, not as this or that, but only as pure existence, pure awareness. Thank you for making us aware of these very important aspects of living.

  4. Only जगत्‌पिताजगदम्बा existence is conscious. Rest one’s is determind as explained by Sushruta as आहाराचारचेष्टाभिर्यादृशीभि: समन्वितौ | स्त्रीपुंसौ समुपेयातां तयो: पुत्रोऽपि तादृश: || (सु.शा.२.४६) . It’s all done & scripted before the birth. After that just keep flowing. He/She will take care accordingly. कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते……….फलेशु भगवत्‌ चरण ।
    One can see the genetic intellectual link between SUDHANSHU SHEKHAR TIWARI and आदरणीय Arun Tiwari jee, the Tau ji of Sudhanshu ji. जय हो |

  5. Dear Sir, ‘Auliya (औलिया)’ is the word for the kind of thinkers you mentioned. Kabir, Guru Nanak were auliya…who did not care about dogmas and spoke about inner self. You come in the ‘shreni (श्रेणी)’ of living ‘auliya’. Namaskar.

  6. As pointed out in the blog, most of our thoughts and actions are on autopilot. Our habits, routines, impulses, and reactions carry us through our lives, so we don’t have to stop and think about it every time we go through the routines like taking a bath or driving a car. Movements hote rahate hain!

    The blog points out the problem when we forget we are on autopilot. Because when we are not even aware of our own habits, routines, impulses, and reactions, then we no longer control them—they control us. But how do we know? I feel confused about what you should do in waking hours, low on energy, and disturbed sleep are tell-tale signs.

    Instead of setting things right, there is a tendency to go for distraction in our attempt to transport our minds to some other time or place or world where it can be safe and insulated from the pain of day-to-day life. People watching games, reality shows, obsession about sports-event on TV, and even religious activities are exactly that. Thank you Tauji for pointing it out.

  7. Self-awakening
    Means
    God-flowering
    In and through me.

  8. Sir, thank you for the wonderful blog on living consciously. My understanding of living consciously is about taking control of our life, about thinking about our decisions rather than making them without thought, about having a life that we want rather than settling for the one that befalls us. A life lived of choice is a life of conscious action. A life lived of chance is a life of unconscious creation.

    The practice of fasting enhances consciousness most significantly. Most of the time we are eating by the clock and not out of the feeling of hunger. Fasting, once in a week for about 8 hours, makes one conscious of the feeling of hunger. There is a trend that we must eat only when blood sugar drops, which is noninvasive and is displayed by a watch-like gadget. It is indeed a wonderful idea but needs validation. Thank you once again for helping us with much needed wisdom.

  9. Dear Sir, This is a very interesting blog. My understanding after reading the blog is that being “conscious” is about bringing awareness to every aspect of your life — inside and out. We can consciously evaluate each area of life, such as our health, finances, relationships, fun, our environment, and our spirituality.

    We can be conscious of our thoughts and beliefs that are shaping our lives. Beliefs about ourselves, others, politics, the media, and the world. Beliefs about what is good and what is bad. Thoughts that are true or untrue. We can be conscious of our choices. What do you say “yes” to? What do you say “no” to?

    We can be conscious about setting goals and influencing the quality of our lives. What are my dreams? What am I really committed to? Who do I want to spend time with? Am I moving toward my goals? We can be conscious of our authentic selves. Our strengths, weaknesses, and personality tendencies. Our desires. Our level of happiness. Our passions.

    We can be conscious during activities – talking, eating, working out, cleaning, driving, cooking, showering, walking the dog, or reading. In fact, we can be conscious of being conscious. Noticing when we are “present to life” or “checked out.” When all our senses are engaged, or when we are numb.

    And thank you commenter Deep Joshiji for decoding the beautiful picture.

  10. Dear Prof. Tiwari, Thank you for your recent blog, which required repeat reads to comprehend. My reaction to some of the points in the blog is as follows:

    1. Unorthodox and independent persons always keep on coming in every age. They do provide alternate choices of dogmas. However, only some are taken seriously whereas others are ignored. All religions akin to Hinduism were led by great people (unorthodox and independent) of their time. The same is true for other religions. The recent example of such people is Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. However, in hard-core basic sciences, the truth is based on facts. And, there is only one interpretation of facts. Any other interpretation would be a play of words.

    2. Gurdjieff reported three methods in vogue in his time, ‘fakir’, ‘monk’ and ‘yogi’ to raise the level of consciousness to a higher level. I do not know if ‘fakir’ (living in astute poverty) can help to raise the level of consciousness. If helplessness is akin to consciousness, it is a different matter.

    3. The Fourth Way of Gurdjieff to raise the level of consciousness is similar to the famous equation of genetics – P (phenotype) = G (genotype) + E (environment) + G x E (interaction). If G is in harmony with E, the outcome will be a harmonious synergized product. In the case of human beings, the product could be human behavior and conduct in harmony with nature. An organized, harmonious and benevolent E can mask the ill effects of G (inheritance).

    4. A human body is the vehicle of soul. This is a fundamental dogma. Each soul is unique as well as universal. For a happy soul, a happy and healthy body is required.

    5. On conscious and unconscious, my take is as follows: Unconscious is real self, accumulating experiences and desires (good or bad) over time. Conscious is superimposed over unconscious incorporating social, moral and religious restrictions. Conscious is artificial. Warm regards.

  11. Dear Sir, Thank you for sharing the blog, very well explained about life and its existence. Inner awakeness is very important for a productive life, in darkness we may get hurt by our own thought process. Constant positive thought processes and efforts in the right direction make things happen for the sole purpose of our existence in this universe. Thank you once again for sharing your blogs, it helps me enlighten my path forward,

  12. First, how I take up reading Professor Arun Tiwari’s blog. The narratives reveal a beautiful learning pattern. Engaging and often personalised interconnected stories lead us to profound yet simplified observations. So, my usual way is to read the blog one para at a time. The next one is connected. Lastly, don’t just read but write the concluding para in my notebook. —forcing me slowly to digest the theme’s sagacity. Re-reading in the reverse order is easy—all the dots then join.

    The blog continues to inspire me and many others. In quantitative terms, learning a couple of new words and a few new perspectives that lead to valuable reads are additional gifts.
    Understanding ourselves is an important theme. Thank you, Professor Tiwari.

  13. Excellent message with a surprise of seeing a picture of Shakuntala, painted by maestro Raja Ravi Varma. As you chose to leave it to the readers of the blog to identify the picture by not naming it, I feel I must do it.

    Shakuntala is a unique creation of Kalidasa. She is the daughter of sage Vishwamitra and Menaka. She lives in the hermitage of the sage Kanva. Kalidasa presents her as an embodiment of innate chastity, beauty, grace, Indian womanhood, patience, and sacrifice. She is simple and innocent and got pregnant by the visiting king Dushyanta.

    One day, lost in her thoughts, Shakuntala fails to welcome Durvasa Rishi upon his arrival, and he curses her by bewitching Dushyanta into forgetting her existence. Shakuntala is not reunited until their son Bharata is born and found by the king playing with lion cubs.

    Sometimes I feel we are indeed cursed to live an unconscious life of material consumption and pastime watching television. Thank you for poking us out of this trance.

  14. A nice thoughtful picture spear heading ‘A conscious Existence.’

    From time unforgettable mavericks have existed and left a mark on people in and around them. They have been fearful, damaging at times yet have generated enough of followers to leave an unmistakable trail. Though mavericks, there does exist an unconscious power which shows the path to their ardent followers and believers soothing their frittered minds.

    Conscious and Unconscious minds, I agree collectively form and describe a person. Which of the pan on the weighing scale is down quantifies the strength, awareness and positivism of an individual’s personality. The ideal situation logically is when the fulcrum is dot in the center… the ideal situation. You’re quoting Carl Jung – the conscious idea of “I” as ones autobiography as presented to the world and those which we have been hiding, covering and camouflaging as our unconscious reality is a nice ensemble. Unconscious coming and supporting the conscious at times for life to roll on brilliantly is yet again very well depicted by you. Intriguing though, it is to know more about the chromosome which differs Anima from Animus?

    Your concluding paragraph – an advice to enjoy the flow of conscious and unconscious mind instead of counting the positivity and the negativity surely lets you live life. Experience life, enjoy and have the best of it. You only live once so why not kick the butt and make merry. Be yourself, stay contended and let the fulcrum of life remain upright.

  15. Sir, The mind should never think that it is in any way independent of God.

    मच्चित्त: सर्वदुर्गाणि मत्प्रसादात्तरिष्यसि |
    अथ चेत्वमहङ्कारान्न श्रोष्यसि विनङ्क्ष्यसि ||

    By always remembering me (त्वम् मत्-चित्तः सन्); all obstacles you shall overcome by my grace (सर्व-दुर्गाणि मत्-प्रसादात् तरिष्यसि); But if you due to pride do not listen (अथ त्वम् अहंकारात् न श्रोष्यसि चेत्) you will perish (विनङ्क्ष्यसि ). (Shrimad Bhagavad Gita 10.58).

  16. Dear sir, This blog conveys a simple and profound message. For me the most important take is “Throw away the burden of knowing the reason for everything and guessing the results. Why not enjoy the flow, instead of counting the bubbles and eddies in the fountain and the stream?”

    Instead of counting on what went wrong and what went right, just go with the flow and be true to yourself.
    How to get over those baggages of right and wrong, successes and failures is a matter of personal approach of each individual. But the fact is that there is no other way than to overcome those.

    Thank you once again sir for a blog of profound message.

  17. Adi Sankara whom you have quoted had told that the mind is like a monkey jumping from tree to tree – rather randomly,
    The monkey has never been a predator for had it been it would concentrate on how to capture the prey – A bad example though, it shows the importance of understanding one self, find out the purposefulness of this birth, living in the present, be mindful of the each and every one of our actions… I understand that if one practices ‘pranayama’ we achieve that state of being able to calm the mind, perform all the dharmic duties and finally attain the state of bliss. Examples brought out by you are good, and I would take the liberty of sharing them with like minded friends
    Till then, let God bless us all.

  18. Thank you Arun ji. Very well written. My take away is to enjoy the flow outward and live through experiences to become my self.

  19. Dear Prof, Thank you for your consistent reminder about the need to live consciously and purposefully.

    You raise fundamental questions about human existence – we are not simply physical beings. We are spiritual beings as well.

    In my 62 years, I join you and many others in attesting to inner harmony being achieved when the spiritual being takes command of our physical beings.

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