International Forum for NeoVedantins

Altered State of Consciousness: Samadhi


This thesis deals with the state specific "Altered State of Consciousness: Samadhi" in the light of the life of Sri Ramakrishna. It is mostly speculative and hypothetical as far as explanations are concerned. An attempt is made to theorize the study based on the present day knowledge of medical biology, neurology, and psychology. Help is taken from the various authoritative books on the life of Sri Ramakrishna.

We are sure of one thing, though: That the incidents and the events described in the life of Sri Ramakrishna are all authentic, reliable, and well documented.

The basic difference in approach is regarding the concept of consciousness. While it is generally believed that consciousness is a product of brain-mind complex, we have stuck to the definition given in various Upanishads. That is, consciousness is 'the eternal subject, the only existence, and the only one Reality.' The same consciousness percolates through the varied structural arrangement of brain-mind complex and is perceived as many-fold. As a glass would reflect the same light in various ways and degrees depending upon its characteristics, so does the brain-mind complex reflect the consciousness in various ways.

Light appears coloured through a coloured glass, dull and diffuse through a semitransparent one, distorted through the broken glass, altered through the prism, and concentrated and pointed through the convex glass. In the same way, consciousness appears as human consciousness, or tree, or animal, or insentient consciousness as expressed by peculiar structure and arrangement of the material form.

Further, in human beings, depending on the refinement of mind, consciousness may appear as narrow selfishness to broad unselfish attitude. The mind may be able to perceive finer or subtler realities. Such states are called as Altered States of Consciousness. The alteration in the state of consciousness may be brought about by the functional or structural change in the brain, which in turn, can be induced by drugs, dreams, hypnosis, sleep, or spiritual practices -sadhana. (We are mainly concerned here with the state brought about by the last method.) The study of altered state of consciousness is a science in itself in so far as it studies the data of a state of changed perception.

The question is whether it is desirable to have such changed state of consciousness? From the life of Sri Ramakrishna, it is found that the desirability of 'samadhi' as the altered state lies in that it makes the individual (and thereby, the community as a whole) selfless, ethical, value oriented, and divine. Love, compassion, altruism, and freedom from slavish clinging to senses is the positive outcome. Stress, anxiety, worry, and tensions have no place, then, in individual, national and international life.

Whether it is possible to develop such a group or a race is another point in question. It is a question of evolutionary progress. Should nature be allowed to take its own prolonged course to effect these changes, or whether it is possible for us to defy nature and attempt to become the 'trusty' of future evolution is a million dollar question. If the persons who fulfill the criteria and qualify to express the higher state of value system agree, accept, and attempt to follow this 'trusteeship', the average mind may follow these 'shreshtha persons'. Lord Krishna says in Gita (III. 21):

"As the competent person with the authority and qualification of knowledge behaves, so do the individuals or social group will follow him; whatever is established as an ideal by that great person, the same is put in the practice by others."

The reader is requested to think, analyze, ponder over and critically judge this thesis from this angle. Here the question of 'socio-politico-economical' aspect will come into consideration. However, it will be an altogether different topic for another thesis.

Continued next part...
C S Shah

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