Unconsciousness is a state of consciousness – not an absence of consciousness
People who undergo near-death experiences (NDEs) sometimes report that they perceived, from an out-of-body perspective, things that happened while they were medically unconscious. Occasionally, they even give astonishingly precise information such as the conversations among the surgical staff – information they couldn’t have known by normal means. Such veridical reports beg the question: how were these people conscious when they were unconscious?
Gita wisdom explains that unconsciousness is a state of consciousness.
The Bhagavad-gita (02.17) indicates that consciousness is the energy of our spiritual essence – the soul. This energy radiates through the body, enabling us to be aware of our surroundings and of ourselves.
Our consciousness goes through four states depending on how far it extends outwards from the soul. When consciousness extends through the subtle body to the gross body, that state is our standard wakeful state, known as jagruti. When consciousness extends only till the subtle body, that state, called svapna, is the state of normal sleep. When consciousness doesn’t extend even up to the subtle body, that state is called sushupti, deep dreamless sleep. When consciousness gets redirected to the spiritual level, that state is called samadhi, spiritual trance.
NDEs occur at the svapna level of consciousness. The trauma of NDEs causes the soul along with the subtle body to temporarily separate from the gross body. Because the consciousness of near-death experiencers no longer extends to their physical body, they report their own surgery from an onlooker’s perspective, not the operated’s perspective – they see themselves being cut, yet don’t feel pain.
Veridical NDEs comprise persuasive scientific evidence for the Gita teaching that our consciousness comes from a non-physical source. What some near-death experiencers perceive briefly – that we are more than our bodies – we all can realize clearly by raising our consciousness according to the Gita’s yoga teachings.
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