On Consciousness

Greater Kashmir

A treat, already selling like sanitizer in the times of Corona, sanitizes the pathological environment created by puffed up ego holding consciousness in siege. The first book of its kind from Kashmir on a difficult but vital topic by self-taught mystic scholar that any 8th grader can grasp.

“In the beginning was consciousness.” Chit or Consciousness is, so to speak, the ultimate ground and end of all that is. The study or enquiry concerning consciousness is the first and the last enquiry concerning first and last ends of man. It is the science of consciousness that explains all the weird, mysterious, miraculous things that rationalism often dismisses without hearing. The sum and substance or objective of great art and poetry is development/universalization of consciousness. Man is, so to speak, consciousness. And God is the universal consciousness that lights up the world. The world is a projection of consciousness.  So are heaven and hell. Religions are means of excavating the treasure of consciousness. Mysticism is its fragrance. The science of miracles, dreams, visions, clairvoyance and healing all involve consciousness. The book I Am Consciousness by self-taught mystic scholar M. A Kawoosa is an attempt to explain key theoretical and practical questions we encounter in life including its meaning and destiny besides possible key to extraordinary claims made by mystics and prophets in as simple terms as possible. 

The book resurrects the hitherto largely neglected or obfuscated core of Kashmiri Sufi poets. The author has embarked on adventurous interpretative translations/explications of many an important selection of Kashmiri Sufi poets seeking to achieve the basic aim of communicating the core conceptions involved without much attention to literary and other symbolic devices. The book succeeds in giving a new voice to the Kashmiri Sufi poets, making them more accessible for modern readership which is otherwise put off by what is perceived to be obscure, involved, mythological language and occasionally evasive symbolism and arcane, densely allusive language.

The author has been able to distil certain abstruse debates on consciousness in an accessible idiom. He has been able to present the key teaching of certain mystical traditions and religious teachings of Islam in terms of their relationship to consciousness. The author does not claim to be original but he does possess the knack of presenting in a refreshingly novel way certain teachings of prophets, saints and sages as constituting a unity. As he puts it on behalf of all of them:

“The primary lesson to be picked up in life is to keep your consciousness, which gives rise to mind, in as a pristine and pure form as it was given to us by birth and not allow it to be conditioned. But, unfortunately, it gets conditioned right from the time you are born through nurture and environment.  A Hadith says that we are all born on our consciousness (Fitra) and it is our parents (nurture) that makes us Jews, Christians or polytheists. Consciousness needs to be purified or cleaned, for it to be an excellent predator of the sins that try to enter into it. You can start the process of cleaning your consciousness at anytime in life and it will never be too late because the processes of purification may be arduous but it is highly rewarding in the end.”

This appropriates key teaching of world traditions regarding repentance and inward discipline and cultivation of virtues without invoking technical jargon that alienates a significant section of people.

The author has especially emphasized affirmative transcendence of traditions including Sufism and  Kashmir  Shaivism. To illustrate: 

“The consciousness opens up as a formless conscious space, when freed from its exclusive occupation with the forms. You cannot seek and find it. The space opens up many times in you even in a day, without you noticing it. All of a sudden, you come across a smiling child and you are mesmerized for a moment; you are lost in a gushing stream of water, looking at snowfall; a torrential downpour of a few seconds; the sight of a fully bloomed tulip garden; sitting at peace with yourself; absorbed in some artistic work; the bliss of listening to a mystic poetry (sufiana kalam) of Shams Faqir rendered by  Rashid Hafiz and  best of all, doing  a kind act.”

The author has avoided niceties of academic debates keeping in view requirements of average reader. However, even advanced scholars of Sufism or consciousness studies would occasionally glean a gem of insight illuminating many a point. 

The author alerts us to the danger of downplaying the role of religion or form in the name of spirituality or supraformal religiosity in much of New Age Spirituality. He is critical of feel good or “all is okay” spirituality that has been sold to many eager for spiritual diet. Without leaving the rigor of rational argumentation and scientific precision, it forcefully presents shariah conscious Sufi approach without getting involved in finer theological quibbles..

To quote the author: 

“The answer lies in addressing your consciousness before entering into the moment or meditation. If you have stabbed a person in anger, you cannot run into meditation or ‘Now’ to find peace. First you have to go through a process of purification that initially led you to anger and its consequent fallout. It looks intriguing to me that some spiritual teachers take you direct to the concept of being present in the moment, without even looking at the state of consciousness one is operating at. They sometimes call it a ‘direct path’ that does away with going through a rigorous, lifelong purification process. The underlying idea is to train your mind to sink into itself by coming out of its usual clutter, till it is pure self i-e., consciousness. When you are used to remain in that condition, you are truly in meditation.”

Questioning the belief of many who get interested in spiritualism asserting that enlightenment awaits them shortly after some lessons in meditation and assume that enlightenment is constituted by some light shining on them or getting into some ecstatic state, the author states “… they want to see some star like object shinning through their forehead or far off in the horizon during meditation. Many people seem frustrated not finding such stars even when meditating for months. This is not what it is. This is not what your consciousness wants you to get at. This is not the real or the good purpose of life.” Instead, for the authentic traditions tracing themselves to the original source in prophets/sages of first order, the enlightenment means that “whatever you do day in day out, moment to moment, is driven and empowered by the pure energy of your consciousness and not by the waywardness and cunningness of your mind. It is this intelligence that radiates the energy of love, joy, peace, compassion, beauty, and creativity that is outside the domain of your mind.” And more pointedly:

“…just sitting in meditation or bringing yourself in the Now and a ‘presence’ mode, will take you nowhere. Such practices are just band aids on the wounds of consciousness. What if you come to realize that all you did in your life was focused on materiality that turned out to be futile and produced no peace for you at the end  but only pain. Mere realization, unless turned into a practice of living the material world through the light of enlightened state of consciousness, will have served no purpose.”

Distilling the technical debates about necessity or otherwise of finding a Master, distinction of states and stations in Sufism and complex relationship between exoteric and the esoteric aspects or sciences, the author offers his no non-sense evaluation thus:

“Similarly, those of the spiritual teachers who advocate accessing consciousness through a process of presence and calming your mind also make it look simple. The shift in consciousness from the egoistic to soul consciousness will only begin when there is a real transformation at the soul level, which means that your soul qualities emerge in you and take over your beastly self. In order that your soul qualities emerge in you would require a certain guidance – a spiritual trigger that necessitates treading a path of consciousness.. fear of God called ‘Taqwa’ in Sufi language.”

Indeed, the Way is a serious business and demands whole of one’s life or commitment.

Insightful analysis of divine names in relation to consciousness, critique of certain prevalent quasi-mystical cults that make experiencing of certain states a commodity to be bragged about or dabble with drugs and other shortcuts to transcendence without concomitant work on the recalcitrant self, plea for more rational occasionally bordering on rather problematic demythologizing interpretation of Sufi poetry that has been a source of endless debate amongst disciples of Kashmiri Sufis, meditations on commonly occurring psychological and existential issues and careful engagement with self understanding of Islamic tradition all constitute an attempt to take mysticism from cloistered secretive mystifying spaces to streets and laboratories for freer discussion and investigation mark this work by a self taught student of mysticism. His is a pleasant and provocative company worth our time.