How elevating and expanding of consciousness are dissimilar and similar

Elevating our consciousness refers to our becoming conscious of higher realities beyond the material realities we are usually conscious of. It means becoming conscious of spiritual realities, including the highest spiritual reality, Krishna. In contrast with such elevation, expansion of consciousness refers to the spreading of our consciousness horizontally, wherein we become more conscious of others’ needs, even if those needs are material. 

If our consciousness is neither elevated nor expanded, we tend to be extremely self-centered, seeking immediate pleasures, even if those harm others or harm us spiritually. In contrast with such shrunk consciousness is broadened consciousness, whereby we do things that benefit us and others holistically: materially and spiritually.

Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita integrates both elevation and expansion of consciousness in a progressive hierarchy for broadening of consciousness. In four successive verses, it provides three levels for elevating our consciousness (12.08-10) and one for expanding it (12.11). It’s best if we can be spontaneously absorbed in Krishna (12.08). If that’s beyond us, we can conscientiously concentrate on Krishna by disciplined devotional practices (12.09). If that too is beyond us, we can strive to work for Krishna — this implies that even if we can’t offer our internals to Krishna, we can at least offer him some of our externals (12.10). If, somehow, we can’t connect with Krishna at any level, we can at least work selflessly, for some noble cause (12.11). 

Thus, Gita wisdom conveys that expanding and elevating of consciousness are dissimilar in the specifics of how they broaden our consciousness, but are similar in that both can contribute to the shared purpose of broadening our consciousness. 

One-sentence summary:

Even if we can’t elevate our consciousness spiritually, we can still expand it selflessly — both contribute to a healthy broadening of our consciousness. 

Think it over: 

  • How are elevating and expanding of consciousness dissimilar?
  • How are elevating and expanding of consciousness similar?
  • How does the Gita integrate elevating and expanding consciousness in one progression? 


12.11: If, however, you are unable to work in this consciousness of Me, then try to act giving up all results of your work and try to be self-situated. 


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