There is a state of consciousness that is beyond all flavours, undertones and stories. A non-dual, non-polarity position – a pure state of consciousness, pure beingness. Following I describe four particular experiences where my sense perception entered a kind of zero point field. While in the middle of ‘worldly market places’ I switched to trance like states, yet, I was fully awake and aware.
These episodes, together with what I experienced thereafter over the years, kept confirming that existence or totality has no judgements and no preferences. Opinions, beliefs, likes and dislikes are really a part of human life in this planetary realm. Humans have judgements and all, but existence per se has none of it.
A few years ago I asked a popular India-based guru during a satsang session about his perspective on a ‘no temperature/no smell’ experience I once had (as described below), whether he could see any benefit in having had them. Though he confirmed my state of Turīya, he denied any benefits. I found this interesting because to me, those experiences were of tremendous value. More about this in “Annotation” at teh end of this post.
: Dubai 2008 – Noise has no sound :
It was Thursday evening, I had left my meditation group in the old part of the city (Bur Dubai) and stopped on the way home (Dubai Marina) in a supermarket of one of the shopping malls. Many professionals were on the way home and must have had the same idea because hordes of people pushed themselves through the aisles. It was a huge supermarket and apart from the individuals in office wear, there were also couples and families with children. Given the additional non-stop background music and various loudspeaker announcements, it was a vivid scene with a significant noise level. The hubbub continued around the checkout desk, where I was queuing with at least ten other parties in front of me. I turned inwards, withdrew my senses and just wanted to get done with the shopping and go home. When suddenly something clicked in me, lifting me into another realm. Still seeing what was happening around me and somewhat hearing what was going on, nevertheless the whole noise was empty of sound within a millisecond! There I was, standing in line with the shopping cart in front of me, looking and listening, looking and listening, but I couldn’t hear anything. There was absolute silence in me. Like a vacuum. Without shock, without agitation, without judgement. Just calm, collected beingness. Nothing could have shaken me in this state. I was alive, yet outside of it all. It was a deliciously peaceful and noise-free experience, which carried me through the payment process and the traffic back home. I simply was. No more, no less.
: Puttaparthi 2009 – Cold has no temperature :
Sathya Sai Baba was still alive. He seemed quite fragile though and I wanted to meet him before he’d leave his body. So I arrived in the small city of Puttaparthi, North of Bangalore. My original plan was to stay outside Sai Baba’s ashram, “comfortably” in the apartment of a distant acquaintance. This turned out to be inappropriate though and I moved into a hotel right opposite the ashram. Perfect, so I thought. Shortly after my shift, I kept bumping into an Indian lady, a doctor from Canada. We got on really well and one evening after dinner in the ashram she recommended that I leave the hotel and stay like her in the ashram. She explained that I could dive much deeper into the protected, dedicated retreat space if I stopped shifting between the worlds (inside and outside the ashram). I loved the atmosphere of Prasanthi Nilayam and said Yes, why not? The next morning I checked out at the hotel. And after my registration at the ashram’s guest house I got “my” room: an 8-bed room with shared bath and running cold water! Sigh. Sharing a room with so many is one thing I was not keen to do, but cold water for two weeks I found really off-putting! My mood was down. Especially when I discovered that cold water actually meant ice cold water. Morning, noon and night, when showering, washing hair and brushing teeth. Oh well, I decided to make the best out of it. And then, something quite unexpected happened. One of the following mornings while having a shower something in me switched. All of a sudden my awareness was totally intense, present and free of thoughts. And I perceived the cold shower only as water, as something wet. There was no more any temperature to it. I remember well how I stood in the shower and could hardly believe that on the one hand, my temperature sensitivity was off and on the other hand, I was awake and aware. My observation was: cold water is just water. Pure water. There was only the texture, the liquidity and wetness, not the temperature anymore. My mind could hardly grasp the reality of this experience of consciousness. I was in a zero-point field, between or beyond the sensations of hot and cold. This state of beingness kept me fascinated for the rest of the day. During my next shower however, the water was cold again (nothing is permanent!).
Prasanthi Nilayam Ashram, Puttaparthi
: Tiruvannamalai 2010 – Stench has no smell :
After my trip in the Himalayas of Northern India I was inexplicably pulled to travel South to Tiruvannamalai. I followed my intuition and amongst wonderful experiences around the sacred mountain of Arunachala, one story stands out. Having completed the Pradakshina (circumbulation) of Mount Arunachala, various temple tours (e.g. Adi Annamalai and Arunachala Temple) and ashram visits (Sri Seshadri Swamigal and Ramana Maharshi Samadhi), I wanted to climb up Arunachala and meditate in Virupaksha Cave (a grotto named after the renowned 13th century saint Virupaksha Deva and the spot where Ramana Maharshi had spent many years). Apart from a breathtaking trek and stunning views from the plateaus of Mount Arunachal, there was another breathtaking experience: when I sat down in Virupaksha Cave, I noticed a nasty, almost disgusting smell. This strong unpleasant odour was super distractive and limited my natural, deep breath considerably. It wasn’t clear to me what caused the stench, but one thing seemed certain: it was anchored in the floor and the walls. I was disappointed and pondered “Have I come here for nothing? Is this smell really going to prevent me from meditating? What do I do now?” My diary entry:
“I sat down in a corner of the little cave, away from the entrance. While directing my awareness away from the bad smell towards the actual atmosphere, I entered an inner space in which I felt fire and earth (groundedness) as well as very fresh air space (ether). I can’t describe it. I felt heat and the centre of existence as something very deep, dense and focused and at the same time I sensed the purity and freshness of lofty mountain tops and beyond. Quite a stretch! Nevertheless, it all felt light, serene and somewhat mature (grown up?). And amidst all the odours in the cave I was perceiving a kind of non-smelling purity. An essence which was present as a core (molecule? atom?) within all smells as pure air or prana. A fresh clean energy extract, which also seemed to defy the bad smell. I marvelled at this – moved but unshaken.”
Inspired and grateful I left this special location.
Virupaksha Cave, Mount Arunachala
: Mumbai 2010 – Physical body has no matter :
It happened during the event with a young and at the time unknown, still humble Indian master who had crossed my path. Together with a few others, I belonged to his team of initiates, who provided energy transfers to participants during a meditation event in Mumbai. As corny as it may sound, after having received the energy transfer through him, the ‘me’ dissolved. What felt like divine essence melted into all of my cells. Although it was very powerful – triggering spontaneous tears and hefty heart beats – I was also immediately enveloped by the finest, gentlest energies. I felt as if I had been opened to the universe. In fact, given the infinite amount of serenity and love that streamed through me, I could have embraced the whole cosmos. In this state, I began to move amongst the guests. I experienced absolute timelessness and peace. But also strong energy waves and crystal-clear consciousness when I moved from one person to another to share the transfer. My expanded perception made me realise who had a more receptive constitution and who did not. I was in a glorious, mind-blowing state. After the mediation and satsang, I was still high on energy. I kind of swam in light to the dinner buffet. While holding a plate with delicacies and popping a piece into my mouth, I suddenly had this flash:
“What am I doing? Why am I feeding this body? This mass of energy. What’s the point in eating, putting food into this body? There is no form. There is no body! There is no direction. There is just infinite space.” I had the impression that food would easily drop to the floor if I placed it in my mouth. “Something is here, but it seems just some kind of cloud, maybe a conglomerate of denser energy of which the “I” believes it is located. Why eating? Why talking? And still, something in this cloud is breathing, looking, laughing, talking. What is it that is existing?” I asked and immediately received the answer from my own self: “Pure presence and silence. Presence that is laughing, looking, loving.”
Timeless stillness and infinite consciousness
In pure consciousness there are no judgements, no expectations, no fears, no agitations. There is no sound, no temperature, no smell, no matter. It goes beyond human logic, 5-sense perception and physical mechanics. And through its embodiment in present moment awareness, insights and inspiring impulses of the cosmic powers can flow through us.
::: Annotation :::
Some time after the above experiences and the initially mentioned guru’s (unsatisfactory!) answer, just by chance, I came across the following.
Turiya is the state of liberation, where according to the Advaita school, one experiences the infinite (ananta) and non-different (advaita/abheda), that is free from the dualistic experience, the state in which ajativada, non-origination, is apprehended.
– Chandradhar Sharma
Turiya is all-seeing, ever and always.
“The self-realized individual does not perform any rituals or rites, nor chant mantras, discriminate against or for others, and is beyond the Turiya state of consciousness. In the Paramahamsa state, he is devoted to non-dualism, is always soul-driven, is Brahman and Om.”
– T. M. P. Mahadevan
Turiya is unaware of duality. Not conditioned by cause and effect. Therefore, false perceptions or misperceptions of reality that result from nonapprehension are not possible in Turiya. Turiya is like the sun, ever luminous: it consists of light and is opposed to the darkness that characterises prajna. Turiya is the effulgent and all-pervasive source of objects. It is beyond ignorance. It is at once sarvadrk, the seer of everything that there is, as well as teh witness of everything that exists. It exists in all beings, and is called teh seer of everything. Turiya is the nondual witness and is by nature pure consciousness itself. There is not even the potentiality of duality, and no darkness. There is nothing besides Turiya. Therefore is is never associated with causal conditions that may result from non apprehension of reality. Accordingly, nonapprehension as well as misapprehension of reality are not possible in Turiya.
– Bina Gupta in The Disinterested Witness: A Fragment of Advaita Vedānta Phenomenology
Those who have experienced the Turiya stage of self-consciousness have reached the pure awareness of their own non-dual self as one with everyone and everything, for them the knowledge, the knower, the known becomes one, they are the Jivanmukta.
– Michael Comans in The Method of Early Advaita Vedanta: A Study of Gaudapada, Sankara, Suresvara and Padmapada
Ramana Maharshi called this awakened state of affairs turiyatita – that which beyond the fourth state, beyond the witness. The traditional view is that Turiya is the non-dual, unconditioned consciousness (e.g. see Guadapada). Sri Ramana refers to it as pure consciousness.
Turiya means that which is the fourth. The experiencers (jIva-s) of the three states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep, known as vishva, taijasa and praj~nA, who wander successively in these three states, are not the Self. It is with the object of making this clear, namely that the Self is that which is different from them and which is the witness of these states, that it is called the fourth (turIya). When this is known, the three experiencers disappear and the idea that the Self is a witness, that it is the fourth, also disappears. That is why the Self is described as beyond the fourth (turyatita).
– Ramana Maharshi, Spiritual Instruction no. 8
One of the earliest mentions of Turiya, in the Hindu scriptures, occurs in verse 5.14.3 of the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The idea is also discussed in other early Upanishads. The insight during meditation of Turiya is also known as amātra, the ‘immeasurable’ or ‘measureless’ in the Mandukya Upanishad, being synonymous to samādhi in Yoga terminology.
Mandukya Karika, verse 1.29:
अमात्रो’नन्तमात्रश्च द्वैतस्योपशमः शिवः ।
ओंकारो विदितो येन स मुनिर्नेतरो जनः ॥ २९ ॥
amātro’nantamātraśca dvaitasyopaśamaḥ śivaḥ |
oṃkāro vidito yena sa munirnetaro janaḥ || 29 ||
One who has known Aum which is soundless and of infinite sounds and which is ever-peaceful on account of negation of duality is the (real) sage and none other.
Shankara Bhashyam (Adi Sankaracharya’s commentary):
Amātra 1 or soundless Aum signifies Turīya. Mātrā means “measure”; that which has infinite measure or magnitude is called Anantamātra. That is to say, it is not possible to determine its extension or measure by pointing to this or that. It is ever-peaceful on account of its being the negation of all duality. He who knows Aum, as explained above, is the (real) sage because he has realised the nature of the Supreme Reality. No2 one else, though he may be an expert in the knowledge of the Scriptures, is a sage.
Swami Anandagiri (glossary):
1 Amātra—It is because there is no sound or part beyond the AUM, i.e., the soundless and partless quarter (Amātra) is not indicated by any letter.
2 No, etc.—Book-learning without the direct realisation of Truth is of no value.