7 Stages Of Spiritual Awakening According To Varaha Upanishad
Updated: Apr 19, 2019
Just like the feeling of love, the feeling of spiritual awakening or enlightenment is innately hard to define. Any combination of words cannot portray the exact feeling that one encounters when his consciousness awakens. However, over a course of time, many great spiritual leaders have tried to define the term, so as to help those on the path of enlightenment.
Some definitions state that spiritual awakening means complete dissolution of one's identity in a manner that there is no trace of ego left in the awakened person. It is thus, a purging process that clears your energy of any damage of your past life and of all the dust that is restricting your soul from getting completely healed. As a result, you return to your true divinity – aligned, connected and clear.
Many of my readers knows that I use levels of consciousness (LOC) Map to measure the awakened state of my students. This is a map of consciousness that measure the stages of spiritual awakening in numerical terms. For example, levels of consciousness at 1000 (LOC 1000 in short) means self-realization in LOC map.
There are many other maps of spirituality. Each of these spiritual maps tried to identify the stages of spiritual awakening. These kinds of map can be found in the tradition of zen, sufism and Buddhism. The concept is so wide that it even finds mention in various Hinduism texts, such as Varaha Upanishad. I have already compared the similarities between Levels of consciousness(LOC) map and other spiritual maps found in various spiritual traditions in a table here. You can also see this table below:
Today, I am going to briefly describe the stages of spiritual of awakening described in Varaha Upanishad.
Varaha Upanishad And The Stages Of Spiritual Awakening
Image Credit: Wikipedia
Varaha Upanishad in Hinduism is one of 20 Yoga Upanishads and one of the 32 Krishna Yajurveda Upanishads, composed between a period of 13th and 16th centuries CE. It consists of a discussion between Vishnu and the sage Ribhu in five different chapters. The discussion topics include the relationship between self (individual soul) and Brahman (ultimate reality); subjects of Tattvas; stages of spiritual awakening, the characteristics of Jivanmukta; and finally, Yoga - goals and methods.
The fourth chapter of this Upanishad highlights useful information on spiritual awakening and its different stages through a conversation between Sage Ribhu and Nidaga, his disciple. One day Nidaga asked Sage Ribhu to describe Jivanmukti (often referred to as an inner sense of freedom while living). It was then when Sage Ribhu described the 7 stages of spiritual awakening, as described below -
These stages are also known as the seven Jnana Bhumikas. Jnana means knowledge of Self. Bhumikas means stages. Therefore, these seven stages constitute seven stages of knowing the True Self.
1. Subheccha or Pure Desire to know the truth
Subhecccha means pure desire to know the ultimate truth. It is this pure desire that washes out the mind of the person with the waters of discrimination. There will be indifference and lack of attraction towards the sensual objects in this stage. In simple words, Subheccha is achieved once the followings are achieved:
When a spiritual seeker starts understanding the difference between permanent and impermanent or real and unreal, then this stage is achieved. Something is real if it cannot change its form. Only the Self (Brahman) is said to be real and permanent, according to the Vedas. On the other hand, something is unreal if it's subject to decay. This is why all the materialistic things in the world are said to be unrealistic.
Dispassion or vairagya is a stage where the seeker tends to lose interest in temporary things. One who is a vairagi, is not attached to the materialistic things of the world, nor does he experience any kind of attachment towards people.
Shatsampat refers to the stage where the spiritual seeker achieves mastery over his six senses - taste, smell, hear, see, touch and intuition. When a person achieves mastery over his senses, he stops reacting to the senses experienced.
This is the final stage of Subheccha, wherein the spiritual seeker has the willingness to achieve Moksha. He simply wants to be liberated from the vicious circle of life and death.
2. Vichara or Self-Inquiry
At this stage, the spiritual seeker has a deep desire to find the right teaching and information. The seeker in this stage wants to attain Moksha and is constantly concerned about how to get there. He also reflects on his present and past life to find the potential answers.
3. Tanumanasi or unraveling of the mind
At this stage, the seeker attains a threadlike state of mind, cultivating indifference to objects. It is said that if the seeker dies at this stage, he remains in heaven and reincarnates on earth as a Jnani. Jnani means the one who knows Jnana, where else Jnana means knowledge of Self
4. Sattvapati (Getting in contact with Pure Energy)
Sattvapati literally means husband of “Sattva”. What is “Sattva”? Sattva is the higher and purer qualities of mind. Our mind constantly oscillates between three modes of existence (tendencies, qualities, attributes). They are sattva, raja and tama. Sattva represents the higher modes of the mind. Therefore, sattvapati literally means getting married with the higher modes of mind. A husband often gets influenced by his wife. In the same way, the one who becomes sattvapati is now getting influenced by the higher aspect of his mind.
At this stage, all vasanas or desire get destroyed to the root and the world looks like a dream, as in the svapana state. All the things are looked upon with an equal eye. Further, at this level, the purified Chitta (which is indifferent to sensual objects) is said to rest on Atman.
Asamshakti refers to inner power to achieve complete detachment from the worldly objects. This is where the seeker experiences Ananda Svarupa - Eternal Bliss of Brahman.
6. Padarth Bhawna
This stage helps the seeker see the truth beyond maya, i.e. the spiritual seeker is able to see the reality behind everything. He realizes that the soul is the real self. Hence, he gains the knowledge to see an animal in place of a leather bag, a tree in place of a table etc. The seeker engages in actions only when others impel him to do so.
Also known as the state of superconsciousness, this state is Moksha in very simple terms. The spiritual seeker is divested of all the vasanas and is completely free from the ideas of being and non-being, difference and non-difference. At this stage, he has achieved jivanmukti or enlightenment while being alive.
So, according to the fourth chapter of Varaha Upanishad, these are the major stages of Jivanmukti or spiritual awakening. The Upanishad explains that a person is the seeker of liberation in the first three stages, he knows Brahman in the fourth stage, becomes a great knower, extreme knower and most extreme knower of Brahman in the fifth, sixth and seventh stage respectively.
I have published a follow-up article of this one, where I have discussed 7 Major Stages Of Spiritual Awakening that can be found in Sufism. You may want to check that article out if you want know the similarities between Sufi map of spiritual awakening and levels of consciousness (LOC) map.