The Nature of Consciousness from the perspective of Eastern Philosophy
Just as the Bible and the Koran form the basis of Christian and Muslim beliefs, the Vedas ( literally means Books of Knowledge ) written by several saints and sages going back over 10,000 years ago, form the basis of Hinduism. The knowledge contained in the Vedas is collectively known as Vedanta.
Vedanta acknowledges the fact that all human beings come in this world with different personalities. The common thread which runs through each of these personalities is “Consciousness”. The consciousness can simply be understood as Energy. In fact, it is this energy that enlivens the three factors of the human personality. These are: the physical aspect, (body), the emotional or psychological aspect ( mind) and the thinking or rational aspect( intellect). To understand the relationship between the Consciousness, the body, emotions and thought aspect we can consider consciousness as the electrical energy that energizes the circuit of body, emotions and thought which, by themselves, are inert.
Our daily interaction in the world is based on what the mind, through its senses, sees, hears, feels or desires. Because the world around us is constantly changing, our mind is also in a constant state of flux. This is the source of emotional turbulence. Twenty five hundred years ago, Buddha recognized this and based his teachings on the control of the mind.
So how can we manage this turbulence? The answer is meditation through mindfulness. One of the ways of doing it is to sit comfortably and observe our breath going in and out. One can substitute anything else as the anchor point of one’s meditation such as total darkness, the sounds of nature etc. Thus the busy mind has something to do and does not go into its default settings of the past regrets and anxieties of the future. The trick is to be alert to the wanderings of the mind. As soon as you realize that it is wandering, immediately bring it back to the anchor point.
To summarize, the real us is the Consciousness which is pure, stable, eternal and unchanging. It is in a constant state of equanimity and balance. However, through ignorance, we identify ourselves with the Body and Mind (which are both always changing) and thus face the world of change and experience suffering and turbulence. Inner spiritual journey starts with “taming” the mind. We can achieve this by regular meditation. Over a period of time of regular meditation, we develop this inner tranquility and equanimity which is our real Self. This is what the great spiritual masters have been advocating.