A discussion on a definition of consciousness came up in another forum. The author was surprised to discover that at a Nonduality conference, most couldn’t or were unwilling to define consciousness. They could say profound things about it but not define it. He also found attendees didn’t think there was a definition and that many think we can’t or shouldn’t define it. He went on to offer a definition of “Observerless Limitless Beingness”.
I responded with some feedback on the topic, edited slightly here for context.
One of the dynamics of the awakening process is that we recognize ourselves as consciousness. But because we are it, it is difficult to define. Like trying to understand what your head looks like without a mirror. We’re immersed in it. Also, within consciousness itself, it is experienced as limitless being. Thus there is no sense of it’s fundamental nature or origins. It appears as eternal and boundless.
The key is, we don’t know it’s origins so don’t know it’s fundamental components. Thus it becomes awkward to define.
But we know from science that there can be infinities within infinities. And it turns out consciousness (I use it interchangeably with awareness here) does have an origin. The Sanskrit word is Brahman, though that’s often used for things like simple presence as well. And it’s true that everything is Brahman.
The key is there is a stage of the development of nonduality where one transcends Atman/ consciousness into Brahman. The Vedas call this the Great Awakening and this process is the primary subject of the Brahma Sutras. (although this is not widely understood)
In this process, you discover the origins of consciousness and thus it becomes much easier to define. Having the ultimate in abstraction make sense to others is another matter.
I raise the point because your definition won’t hold up to this. Consciousness is limitless but only to itself. It actually has an “outside edge” so to speak. Also Being/existence is an effect of self-aware consciousness. It requires an observer. No observer, no beingness.
Consciousness is the effect of 2 “qualities” of Brahman – a tendency to alertness and a tendency to liveliness. Liveliness stirs alertness into awareness and awareness flows. This is called Saguna Brahman in the Vedas, Brahman with qualities.
The effect is the 3 aspects of consciousness – the development of observer, of the process of observation (flow), and the object of observation aka creation. Liveliness initiates all of it.
Together you have infinite consciousness, aware of itself both globally (atman) and at every point within itself (as all forms and life). We might call that “Observed Limitless Beingness” I adjusted the first word because it is self-aware globally as well, even if we’re not aware of that yet.
I also wrote about the subject a couple of years ago in a magazine article. My understanding has matured further on the topic with articles like this. I would write a bit better conclusion to the magazine article now, but it would remain profoundly abstract.
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