The 5 States of Awareness
In Tantra Yoga, depending on how awake or sleepy we are, there are 4 states of Awareness. The fifth state is a state of awareness that has to be cultivated: in other words, one has to practice hard to discover it. And unless you actually achieve the 5th State of awareness, it’s enough for now to believe that it exists. More about the 5th later in this article, but – for now – let’s assume it exists because the ancient tantric texts say it does.
Of the five states of awareness, four are manifested through different waves of an EEG (electroencephalogram). Our states of wakefulness/sleepiness corresponded to certain types of EEG waves as follows:
1. Wakeful State
This is the state of awareness that we experience when we are awake. Beta waves of the EEG machine are associated with this state and these are low amplitude waves having high frequency (more than 14 cycles per second). One can say that we are most excitable in our wakeful state, because we are active physically and mentally.
Many Tantra Masters have called this the most un-awakened state because we go about our daily chores and everyday life like automatons. In this state, our mind immediately latches on to any object in the physical world and manipulates it or somehow engages with it. For obvious reasons, this is necessary if we need to get anything done. We need to engage with daily life objects and situations to do our work or to conduct our business. Because these tasks are often simple, there is often no need to think twice about them.
The Tantra Masters who condemn this state of awareness may not have needed to work. Perhaps they were wealthy or lived like beggars, so they didn’t have to work to earn their daily bread. This may have left them with more than enough time to engage in meditation and other so-called spiritual activities, but Tantra is for the householder yogi. The householder yogi works to earn his living, he has responsibilities that he fulfills, he has mundane pleasures that he engages in, and he makes time for his yoga asanas, and his tantric meditation. (Please note that I’m using “he” in the neuter gender.) Therefore, while this state of awareness is considered the “most un-awakened” state, it is an extremely necessary and important part of our life.
However, sometimes we eat like automatons and that is not good. Whether we choose to talk while having our meals or watch TV while eating, this form of behavior is truly the state of awareness of an automaton.
2. Relaxed State
When we are not engaged in intense physical or mental activity, we are in the Relaxed State. Alpha waves of the EEG correspond to this state of awareness and they have frequencies ranging from 8 to 13 cycles per second. Some types of meditation - that help you relax and de-stress – enable you to get into this state of awareness. I mention only “some types of meditation” because there are other types that can excite you.
For obvious reasons, many Yogis and Buddhist monks manage to stay in this state of awareness even when they are engaged in physical activity. This takes a lot of practice and is similar to the state of athletes whose blood pressure is lower than even healthy people. A normal reading is 120/80 but athletes can show a measurement of 115/75 and even 110/70. When I don’t eat pork, my reading drops down to 115/by 75 :)
3. The Dream State
All these states of awareness are continuous, so before entering the sleep and dream you will notice a hypnotic state. This is easily experienced if you remind yourself to notice it. Your thoughts become a bit nonsensical and you may also hear voices/sounds or feel sensations that are completely imaginary but feel real. These sounds/sensations are called hypnagogic hallucinations. Don’t be frightened by the word “hallucinations” – it is completely normal and you will feel this when you are falling asleep. This is a transitory state between the Relaxed State and the Dream State.
Theta waves are associated with this state and they have a frequency of 4 to 7 cycles per second. From the frequency, it should be clear that lower frequencies are indicative of lower mental activity. This doesn’t necessarily mean diminished mental capacity! On the contrary, it implies greater focus and greater concentration.
Some drugs slow mental processes or at least make us feel as if everything is happening very slowly. Our sensory perceptions are also heightened. With a lot of practice, Tantra can help you achieve this state without drugs. Not surprisingly, many tantriks today want to achieve these exalted mental states through shortcuts, and so they resort to drugs. Their success is short-lived and the physical damage caused due to drug usage is obvious!
4. Deep Sleep State
Delta waves are associated with this state of awareness; they have high amplitudes and frequencies below 4 cycles per second. This state is complete unawareness in the physical sense and is the diametric opposite of the Wakeful State. Complete “relaxation” - in the true sense of the word – is achieved in this state. There are no dreams, and if Shavasana is practiced with diligence, then one can come close to achieving this state.
They say that some Buddhist monks have achieved this state of complete relaxation - even in their wakeful state – after 20 years of practice. If you focused on the former half of the sentence, then you are doomed. I have to ask: “Don’t you have anything better to do? You are going to give up everything, sit in meditation for 20 hours a day, simply to achieve this state when you are awake?!” Tantra is against this!
Tantra condemns such Buddhist monks to the same extent as it condemns the ganja smoking sadhus.
You want to achieve Delta waves?! Get a good night’s rest! Tantra offers many techniques of exercise, daily work, food habits, meditation, and the like to ensure that you get a good night’s sleep. You don’t have to resort to such stupid extremes! Remember, the tantrik is a householder yogi. He/she does not shun worldly pleasure and social/domestic responsibility to achieve some stupid delta waves! You can experience the same by simple tantric practices.
5. Permeating All Four States
Beyond the Fourth State of Awareness and simultaneously within each state of awareness resides the Fifth State. This state is something that does not lie on a scale but one can say, “… is the scale itself.” It does not make sense if you don’t experience it, and, because it’s in the domain of the Occult, it remains indescribable.
But it can be understood in the following manner: scientists have always used a methodology called “hypothesis forming” to prove or disprove something and to discover something. For example, Satyendra Nath Bose hypothesized the existence of certain sub-atomic particles, and years later they were discovered. These particles were named after Bose as bosons.
Similarly, it is my view that the ancient Tantra Masters postulated the existence of different types of consciousnesses and awareness. If that state of mind couldn’t be discovered then – through sheer training – it was invented. The mind was twisted, strained, tortured or relaxed, stilled, quieted, calmed to invent a different state of awareness. That is how Tantra works! If the expanded consciousness is as infinite as space, then there is no limit to altering or raising one’s consciousness.
The Fifth State of Awareness or the Zero Level of Tattva are milestones on the tantric journey!