Collective Consciousness

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

There was a question: Will the entire human civilization be united into one consciousness once the individual ego disappears? There are many theories. It has been said that after some time when evolution has taken place the human consciousness will become one collective cosmic consciousness. This idea has been mooted by many prophets and many siddhas of our time including Sri Aurobindo.

Kaala chakra

Looking at the history of humanity this may happen for humanity is evolving at a conscious level. In each generation there is some development in the behaviour of the brain and in the behaviour of the mind. Whether this development is positive or negative is for the future to tell. Every generation breaks one barrier which exists in the brain and mind. Therefore, the idea of evolution is true. However, evolution is not uniform, it is varied.

By the time one becomes ripe another seed is being planted, by the time that seed becomes a tree and ripens another seed has been planted. This is the continuity of kaala chakra, the wheel of time. If one wants everybody to be the same then kaala chakra will have to stop at some time to allow everybody to come to the same point of evolution. This is not possible. According to physics, leave alone spirituality, time, space and object are the eternal elements that cannot be altered.

With the idea of kaala chakra, time and the continuation and transformation of matter, there is evolution, growth and development, yet it is individual and not collective development. Collective development happens in society due to the social structure, while spiritual development happens individually, as everybody has a different evolution of mind and is at a different level of expression and sentiment.

Stages of growth

According to the yogic perspective the journey of evolution is an onward process. The concept of kundalini yoga and the chakras states that human consciousness is stable at mooladhara chakra, which is the lowest centre, though it is the highest centre or the sahasrara of the animal kingdom. That is the theory of kundalini yoga.

There are seven psychic centres in the human dimension, beyond the human dimension there are seven lokas, and below the human dimension there are the seven patalas. In total there are twenty-one stages of growth, development and evolution.

When an individual is in the lower stages, the chakras are known as patala. Patala is not something subterranean and underground. Just as chakra represents a dimension of human existence, patala represents the dimension of an instinctive life experience, not human, more like the life of an animal. Animals are not intellectuals; they are instinctive beings and their range of evolution is from the first level of patala to the seventh level of patala. The highest level of patala, of the lower centres, is the mooladhara chakra, which is like sahasrara for animals.

The intellectual journey, the manushi or human journey begins when one comes to the mooladhara level. Here the intellect opens up, and one realizes that 'I exist', 'this is me', 'this is my body', 'this is my identity'. The individual becomes grounded in the world, grounded in identity. Then there is evolution from mooladhara to swadhisthana to manipura to anahata and the other chakras which represent the various behaviours of mind.

Towards becoming a siddha

Sri Swami Satyananda said that in Swami Sivananda he saw the effulgence of two qualities: love and compassion. "I have never seen Christ, but seeing Swami Sivananda, my guru, and what he represents, what he expresses, I can believe that Christ did exist, for Christ also represents the qualities of love and compassion."

If the qualities of love and compassion are seen effulgent in the lives of siddhas, it means that their anahata chakra is unconditionally opened. It means that a yogi has the ability to transcend the lower chakras and establish himself in the higher chakras where the higher qualities of life can be expressed more spontaneously.

Similarly, there are other siddhas who establish themselves in higher centres. It is a state of consciousness, an altered state of consciousness, where the perspective of life and the world changes and a new appreciation emerges.

Once sahasrara is attained, there are seven more levels above. When one reaches sahasrara one becomes a siddha. The journey to deva tattwa starts at that point. In the manushi, or the human dimension, one can reach up to the level of a siddha. The scriptures have defined three aspects of human growth or human evolution: the first is mastery over the senses, the second is mastery over the intellect, and the third is mastery over the emotions.

Mastery over two levels

When a child is born, the baby spends the first few years of life learning how to master the senses. The baby begins to crawl, the baby begins to hold something, the baby begins to identify something, the baby begins to like something, the baby begins to respond to stimulation.

The first thing that happens in life is mastery over the senses. From knowing nothing one becomes master of the senses and that is a natural spontaneous process. One does not have to learn it. Parents nowadays may aid that process by giving a chair with wheels so that the child can sit on it or walk around without falling. However, the first mastery in human life is mastery over the senses. When mastery over the senses is attained, then the process of acquiring knowledge, acquiring experience and developing intellectually begins.

In modern society, when the child knows how to walk he is put in pre-kinder, kindergarten and school. Gradually the child is prepared to develop the aspect of intellect and through education, shiksha, the intellect is developed. Human evolution has come to these two levels of mastery.

The dictate of vasanas

The third level, the emotions, has not been mastered yet. The day that human beings learn how to master emotions is the day when the purpose in this human life is complete. The mastery of emotions is critical for the evolution and growth of consciousness. After all, the emotions that people express in life are guided by restrictive conditions known as vasanas. Vasanas are restrictive conditions which colour the mind, which give a different identity to the mind. If a negative vasana is there a saint can become a sinner, and if a positive vasana is there a sinner can become a saint.

Vasana means the drive to gain something, to achieve something, to become something. It is the iccha, the desire, the need to be recognized, the need to be identified as somebody special who can do something, who has an identity. The aspects of self-respect and self-esteem represent the human vasana. Vasana is not only limited to prosperity, wealth and beauty. This is only an external aspect of vasana, whereas the inner aspect of vasana is the creation and generation of the idea, 'I need, I desire'. Is there an actual need and desire? Or is that a vasana for self-gratification?

Vasanas colour the sentiments and emotions and therefore one expresses the negative traits in life such as competitiveness, aggression, violence, disrespect, disorder, pulling the leg of somebody to rise to the top, envy, jealousy, greed. These negative traits are the results of vasanas affecting the emotions. Everyone lives by the dictate of these vasanas. It does not take long for a person to become jealous of somebody, or to have the feeling of competitiveness with somebody, or to be irritated and angry. These are the natural conditions that colour everyone's emotions.

Challenge of the twenty-first century

The management of emotions is the third aspect of human life according to the scriptures. Before the beginning of this century, Sri Swami Satyananda proclaimed that the twenty-first century will be the century of bhakti. This bhakti is not devotion; it is the transformation, the sublimation of the gross human emotions into something pure, transcendental and pious. He said, "We have worked to develop our IQ, and a system has been created for learning and education. There is an awareness of where education is lacking and what is needed to fill that vacuum. In the same manner this awareness will come in regard to emotions."

Emotional management will become the subject of this century, not mind management. Mind management was the subject of the last century. Systems of education developed as many experiments took place over the last one hundred years. Many systems of education were changed from time to time to suit the needs of society. Even today the system of education is continuously evolving and more specialization and specific understanding of a subject take place. There is an emphasis and a growth in the intellectual understanding and interaction in regard to knowledge and society. A human being interacts with knowledge and a human being interacts with society. Just as this trend and stage has evolved over a period of time, now in this century human beings will work with their emotions.

Scientists, psychologists, psychoanalysts, psychiatrists and thinkers of today are saying that the disruptions in human life, the social and family life, happen due to emotional incompatibility. There can be intellectual incompatibility, yet if there is no emotional compatibility relationships fail.

This is the trend for society now: manage, sublimate, transform and qualitatively improve human emotions. This century is the age of emotions, the age of bhakti, not in the form of devotion but in the form of sublimating the gross, destructive and restrictive emotions into better human emotions, not demonic emotions.

What people say about collective consciousness is science fiction that can only be seen in films like Star Trek. As human beings we have to live our own independent and individual destiny. In society there will be collective development and growth, whereas in each individual it will be individual growth. Therefore, to imagine that we shall all be the same in the future is quite a distant reality, at least today.

—27 July 2014, Swabhoomi Rangamanch, Kolkata, India