levels of consciousness
Relationship between Levels of Consciousness (LOC) and rasa shaktipat transmission
I have talked on this page about how RASA Shaktipat can facilitate spiritual awakening. But how exactly RASA does so? RASA does that by increasing the level of consciousness (LOC) of the seeker. This is how RASA Shaktipat and LOC are related.
So what is this "Levels of Consciousness"?
Levels of Consciousness (LOC) and the Essence of one’s being
All major nondual traditions point out that our ego/mind is not our ultimate essence. Our essence is something that is transcendental and yet as immanent as the veins on our eyes. The highest divinity, call it as God/Pure being/Self/Brahman or the Absolute, manifests itself as our essence, the core of our very being. This is who we really are. This is our inner core, the aspect of our existence that remain unperturbed no matter what circumstances we are going through in our lives.
Even though we all share this basic essence or purity, we are generally not aware of it. We don't feel really connected to our basic essence even though we are basically “it”.
There is something changeless, motionless, immovable, rock-like, unassailable; a solid
mass of pure being-consciousness-bliss. I am never out of it. Nothing can take me out of it, no torture, no calamity.
Why does this happen?
Because we are clouded by our own perceptions.
Our perceptions are, in return, shaped by our levels of consciousness.
The idea that there are different levels of consciousness comes from the fact that we all tend to perceive and interpret the reality in a different way. Our mode of perception of reality closely aligns with whatever level of consciousness we are at in a given moment.
The lower the LOC, the more disconnected we feel from our essence. The higher the LOC, the freer and more connected we feel with our essence. The highest LOC represents our uninterrupted connection with our essence or core, which many nondual traditions call it enlightenment.
Here is a video of Ananda Devi (the life and teaching partner of my Guru, Ramaji) explaining about LOCs:
How Levels of Consciousness (LOC) Map came into existence
The LOC scale is a map of spiritual awakening based on numerical values. The highest state (which is the state of living in nonduality) in this map is expressed as 1000. Ramaji originally came up with this map and wrote a great book on this LOC map. The book, fittingly named as 1000, is all about LOC map. He had provided two versions of his LOC map in his book - one is complete and another one is a condensed version. I am providing links for both versions below, so that you may check them out if you wish.
Ramaji’s own word on LOC (From his book 1000)
It is important to note that the model or Map of Awakening that makes up the majority of this book was not my starting point. My original purpose was simply to assess and record the LOCs of some well-known modern spiritual teachers in order to satisfy my own curiosity about them.
After I had recorded the LOCs of several hundred spiritual teachers, I happened to notice that the results were bunched together. The teachers at different main LOC ranges or stages (600s, 700s, 800s, 900s, 1000) had noticeable similarities. These similarities included patterns in teaching content, style of teaching and reputation (evidence of misconduct or not).
In broad terms, the ascent begins at LOC 500 with the emergence of pure spirituality. In practice, the effective range where the attainment of enlightenment is a strong possibility begins at LOC 560 and goes up to LOC 585 (rarely, to LOC 589).
Rising upwards in LOC is based on a simple premise. As the mind falls away, the person rises higher and higher in LOC. When pure "no mind" is attained, this corresponds to LOC 1000.
Unique characteristics of different levels of consciousness
Each major LOC ranges (e.g. LOC 600 – 699, 700 – 799) is characterized by a unique spiritual realization and a unique spiritual perception of the world. In other words, people stabilized in a particular LOC range exhibit particular kind of spiritual realization and worldview that is the domain of that LOC range. In addition, a person at a lower LOC doesn’t internalize spiritual realization or understanding of the worldview that belongs to higher LOC. You can effectively say that Levels of Consciousness is really all about Levels of Perception.
For example: people at LOC 600 - 699 have realized the emptiness of their ego or individual self. However, people stabilized at LOC 600 to 699 usually have no idea about the Cosmic Consciousness that usually manifests in LOC 700 – 799 range. This is because at LOC 600 – 699 range, the experience of Cosmic Consciousness will not arise in the seeker’s mind, even if the seeker has a very good intellectual grasp of what’s going to happen in LOC 700 range.
You may have an intellectual understanding of what "skydiving" feels like, you may have even seen such performance many times on the tv, but until you experience it yourself, you will never know how skydiving really feels. In a similar manner, realization of higher LOC will not crystallize in the seeker’s consciousness as long as he belongs to a lower LOC.
A slightly altered version of Ramaji’s original LOC Map
Below you can find a modified version of Ramaji's original LOC Map. I mostly kept Ramaji’s map as it is. However, as you can, the modified LOC Map starts with LOC 600. I believe LOC 600 to LOC 1000 is the most important part of Ramaji's original LOC map. In addition, seekers do not really stabilize in authentic nondual awakening before LOC 600. Therefore, in my version of the map, I have put much emphasis on LOC 600 - 1000.
Two things to keep in mind:
1. The jump from lower LOC to higher LOC is upward but not necessarily sequential. For example: Seekers can jump from LOC 600 to LOC 800, skipping LOC 700 stage alltogether. Seekers may not need to transverse every nook and cranny of LOC Map in order to realize the Self.
2. Unlike LOC 600 to LOC 999, LOC 1000 is NOT a “state”. It’s a way of being and a way of life. At LOC 1000, you start living your life based on your realization of the Absolute.
Descriptions of Important LOC (levels of consciousness)
LOC 600 - 699
Realization of “No ego-self” (no permanent or perpetual ego-self) and authentic detachment from thoughts: In LOC 600 range, the seeker realizes that he is not the “doer” or performer of an activity, because there is no permanent entity that’s doing something in the first place. All of our thoughts, emotions etc. are happening spontaneously. There is “no-self” that is doing something.
People at this stage view enlightenment as a negation of their individual ego-self. Since our sense of individuality is nothing but a bundle of data comprised of thoughts, sensation, beliefs, imaginations, emotions etc., and since these bundles of data comes and goes all the time (e.g. they are not static), there is no fixed ego-self. Moreover, if the seeker can watch his thoughts, it means he is not his thoughts. If he can watch his emotions, it means he is not his emotions etc. This realization led people to go into LOC 600.
The Seeker at this stage attained a state of what Ramaji calls it as “Non-doership”. Because of the detachment of thoughts and negation of personal self, the seeker feels he is not a “doer” or an agent of his own actions. Just like his thoughts, his actions (or inaction) are happening spontaneously. If he is coming from religious background, he may think God is doing all his activities through him. Either way, the seeker will relinquish his agency of action or sense of doership at this stage, even if he is not consciously not aware of it. Therefore, at this stage, it is easier to practice "Karma Yoga" (the path of action without attachment to the result) as prescribed by Krishna in Bhagavad Gita.
What makes this realization partial or incomplete: even if the seeker negates his ego and stabilized in the understanding that he has no ego-self; he still can’t get rid of his ego-self this way. The ego-self can only be destroyed when it is sucked into (literally) or transformed by the seeker’s Pure Self (which is his True Self, the big “I”, the Pure thought free beingness).
Also, at LOC 600 range, the seeker doesn’t experience any kind of “oneness”. He only experiences “emptiness” of his individual self. Objects (other people, the world etc.) of his individual experiences still appear as solid and separate from his self.
LOC 700 - 799
Realization of “Cosmic self”: In LOC 700 range, the seeker’s consciousness seems to expand to such an extent that he feels he is “one” with everything, e.g. he is one with the universe. Everything that is part of his experiences seems to be happening within him, like how a tv program appears within a TV. His sense of self has now expanded. He no longer feels “contracted” or feels that his consciousness is encased within his physical body.
People at this stage view enlightenment as some sort of cosmic “Oneness” with everything. Alternatively, they feel themselves to be some sort of pure presence that pervades everything. Many feel their sense of self has become boundaryless.
What makes this realization partial or incomplete: The subject – object duality still presents at this stage. If the seeker is one with everything, that means there is a subject (the seeker) that feels oneness with everything else (object). The seeker’s ego-self is still alive and kicking at this stage, because subject & object duality is a function of his ego-self.
LOC 800 - 899
Feeling Nondual Devotion to Supreme Being (God): In LOC 800 range, a deep level of surrender and devotion to the divine is being felt by the seeker. The seeker wants to love God for no reasons. He loves God for the sake of it. He surrenders his personal will to God and let “thy will be done”.
People at this stage realize that their attempt to get rid of their ego or achieve enlightenment is nigh impossible without the grace of the divine. So they decide to open themselves up to the higher power. At this stage, the seeker realizes what Ramana Maharsi said long ago: “It’s by God’s grace that you think of God” (talk 29).
This is more of a transitory stage. The Seeker abides in this stage to recognize and welcome the help of higher power into his life. With the help of higher power, the seeker will be able to transcend even this stage very quickly. Note: You may or may not face Dark night of the soul at this particular stage.
What makes this realization partial or incomplete: While devotion to God or higher power is a great way to remove obstacle on the path of enlightenment, ultimately, this is still not a nondual realization because a still subtle distinction exists between the devotee and his object of devotion. Some people get stuck at this level because the ecstasy of this transcendental love feels very life affirming and even better than any kind of “oneness” experience felt during LOC 700 range. People from certain religious backgrounds, where devotion and surrender to divine is being seen as the ultimate goal, can get stuck at this level. As Ramakrishna aptly said “The devotee of God wants to eat sugar, and not become sugar.”
LOC 900 - 999
On the verge of full illumination: In LOC 900 range, the seeker possesses a nearly complete nondual understanding. However, the seeker is still veiled by some sorts of subtle duality. This veil mostly manifested as an unwillingness to embrace the world as it is, or keeping some distance from “worldly things”. To the seeker, the world still exists, because he either doesn't want to fully engage the world, or he is simply clinging to the tranquil inner peace that manifests within him at this stage.
What makes this realization partial or incomplete: Although the seeker starts to exhibits many characteristics of a fully realized being, he is still inhibited by the fear of dealing with this complex world. He is like a recluse monk who is enlightened but sees no value of this world. There is still a subtle wanting to see the world according to the seeker’s own belief system. This subtle mental filter keeps the seeker into duality even at LOC 900.
Realization of the “Absolute” (The Self / Pure “I”/ Primordial Consciousness): At LOC 1000, the seeker has finally realized his true Self, which is called the Absolute / the Pure “I” or Primordial consciousness. This is the end of seeking and the beginning of just beingness.
At LOC 1000, the seeker’s individual consciousness or ego consciousness completely submerges into Primordial Consciousness, the Pure being. The seeking consciousness is now gone. The seeker is now gone! All that remains is the Absolute (The Self / Pure “I”/ Primordial Consciousness)
To some extent, the seeker’s quest for enlightenment is actually a quest for finding himself. It’s about answering the question - who he really is. At LOC 1000, he finds his answer.
At this stage, he realizes that he is nothing but Self or Primordial Consciousness.
At this stage, he also realizes that everything is an emanation of Primordial consciousness.
At this stage, all kinds of separateness have been dropped. At this stage, even the notion of “oneness” is also dropped. Oneness implies a union of subject and object. LOC 1000 is not a state of oneness, since the realizer realizes that all there is and all there ever will be is the “Absolute” (the Self).
“As the rivers flowing east and west
Merge in the sea and become one with it,
Forgetting they were ever separate streams,
So do all creatures lose their separateness
When they merge at last into pure Being.
There is nothing that does not come from him.
Of everything he is the inmost Self.”
From Chandogya Upanishad, translated by Eknath Easwaran
Comparison between Various Spiritual Maps
How does the Levels of Consciousness (LOC) map compare with against other well known maps of awakening? Again, Ramaji provided an extensive commentary on the similarities and differences of the LOC map and other maps of awakening in his book 1000. It appears that there are more similarities between these maps than differences. According to Ramaji, "The degree of their agreement is remarkable. The differences appear more to be an emphasis of what is considered most important within that tradition. Their fundamental agreement suggests that they have in common a universal spiritual map."
I took the liberty to summarize Ramaji's discussion on various spiritual maps to a table. As you will see, the similarities between them is indeed quite fascinating.
A detailed description of each of these spiritual maps is out of the scope of this web page, however, I have discussed some of them in my blog. For example, I discussed the stages of spiritual awakening found in Varaha Upanishad here. I also wrote a blog post about 7 stages of spiritual awakening in Sufism here.
Last but not least: LOC Map and the three types of ignorance or impurities in Kashmir Shaivism
I hold Kashmir Shaivism very close to my heart. Kashmir Shaivism is a nondual tradition akin to Advaita Vendanta, but there are few differences in their philosophy. I am not a lineage holder of Kashmir Shaivism nor have I ever been formally initiated into this tradition. However, I deeply resonate with the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism because my spiritual realization is kind of inline with the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism.
Kashmir Shaivism has a bewildering number of models available in its philosophical system. Because I like Kashmir Shaivism very much, I would like to discuss just one of the many models in that system and will explain how LOC Map is related to this model.
In Kashmir Shaivism, it is said that our state of “unenlightenment” is caused by three impurities (called māla). These three impurities are basically manifested within us as faulty perception of reality. These impurities are called Anava mala, Mayiya mala and Karma Mala.
1. Anava Mala: Feeling of separateness from the divine - feeling that I am an individual who is totally separate from the highest being.
2. Mayiya Mala: Feeling of living in duality - feeling that I am (the subject) totally different from others (the objects). This is the classic subject – object duality problem. It can be summed as such: I am totally distinct from the object I perceive.
3. Karma Mala: Feeling of the “doership” - feeling that one is the doer or one is agent and owner of his own actions.
According to Kashmir Shaivism, amongst three malas, Anava Mala is the primary one, as it gives birth to other two. (Mayiya Mala and Karma Mala).
In terms of LOC map, as the seeker starts ascending through higher levels of consciousness, he starts to cast away the impurities slowly. Ultimately, after stabilizing at LOC 1000, he eventually dissolves the primary Anava mala.