Self-Realization through Yoga Meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra

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Hard Problem of Consciousness

Not a Problem for Yoga

Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati 


The question of the hard problem of consciousness started with a 1994 talk by David Chalmers in Tucson, Arizona, and has been widely discussed and written about since then. The gist of the hard problem of consciousness is that main stream science has not yet figured out how humans can have subjective awareness. It is not my intent here to try to replicate the many descriptions of the hard problem of consciousness by people far more qualified to explain the issue. Some links are below to help you start to explore this if the subject is new to you.

The point of this short article is to briefly introduce the idea that the yogis have been exploring consciousness for thousands of years and find no "hard problem of consciousness." At the heart of the difference between the views of science and scientists and the views of yoga and yogis is that science and scientists see consciousness primarily as somehow emerging out of the chemistry of the physical brain, whereas yoga and the yogis see consciousness as independent of the brain, although operating outward through the physical instrument of brain.


Google search on the "hard problem of consciousness" (at least 70,000 entries)

Wikipedia on the Hard Problem of Consciousness 

"The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining how and why we have qualia or phenomenal experiences—how sensations acquire characteristics, such as colors and tastes."

YouTube by David Chalmers on the Hard Problem of Consciousness

“Right now you have a movie playing inside your head,” says philosopher David Chalmers. It’s an amazing movie, with 3D, smell, taste, touch, a sense of body, pain, hunger, emotions, memories, and a constant voice-over narrative. “At the heart of this movie is you, experiencing this, directly. This movie is your stream of consciousness, experience of the mind and the world.”
This is one of the fundamental aspects of existence, Chalmers says: “There’s nothing we know about more directly…. but at the same time it’s the most mysterious phenomenon in the universe.” What is the difference between us and robots? Nobody knows the answers.
For much of 20th century, Chalmers says, an idea that there could be no scientific study of consciousness held sway: Psychologists studied objective facts about behavior, neuroscientists studied the material of the brain. About 20 years ago that started to change. Prominent scientists like Francis Crick  and Roger Penrose started saying: Now is the time to attack this problem. “This has been wonderful, and great, but also has limitations.” Principally, the work so far has been a search for correlations between areas in the brain and conscious states. As he says, “This is still a science of correlations, not explanations.”
Chalmers believes the questions answered so far — mainly, about what parts of the brain do which bits of processing — are the “easy” (in comparison) problems. The hard problem is why is it that all that processing should be accompanied by this movie at all.

Internet Encyclopedia of Consciousness on the Hard Problem of Consciousness 

"The hard problem of consciousness is the problem of explaining why any physical state is conscious rather than nonconscious.  It is the problem of explaining why there is “something it is like” for a subject in conscious experience, why conscious mental states “light up” and directly appear to the subject.  The usual methods of science involve explanation of functional, dynamical, and structural properties—explanation of what a thing does, how it changes over time, and how it is put together.  But even after we have explained the functional, dynamical, and structural properties of the conscious mind, we can still meaningfully ask the question: Why is it conscious?"

Why can't the world's great minds solve the mystery of consciousness?


YOGA AND CONSCIOUSNESS: The thousands of years history of yoga has been primarily about the exploration of consciousness.

YOGA AND PHYSICAL EXERCISE: The view that yoga is about physical exercise is a fairly recent innovation. That is not the orientation of yoga used in this article. I do not wish to argue the point with anybody. However, those who see yoga as being about physical fitness are not likely to understand anything at all about the points being suggested here.

YOGA AND RELIGION: The view the yoga is about religion is simply wrong. When the net of religion was cast over the world in the recent few hundred years, yoga was caught in that net and incorrectly seen as being part of religion rather than as the exploration of consciousness that it really is. Those who think yoga is religion are not likely to understand anything at all about the points being suggested here. 

CONSCIOUSNESS MOVES OUTWARD: The basic principle of yoga is that consciousness moves outward through what may be called levels, layers, or stages of manifestation. One of the later aspects of this manifesting process is as consciousness operates outward through the physical body, brain, and the central nervous system. Thus, the hard problem of consciousness simply does not exist.

Those major levels of manifestation are consciousness (Atman) moving outward through three general levels known as prajna, taijasa, vaishvanara, the last one of which includes the physical body and brain.

MANDUKYA UPANISHAD: There is a twelve verse text which outlines this manifesting process. That text is the Mandukya Upanishad, and is about consciousness, not a religion text. Here are the twelve verses of Mandukya Upanishad.

OUR TRADITION: Our tradition is a purely meditative tradition of the Himalayas and is not linked with any religion. From the perspective of our tradition, the levels of consciousness are universal, and are to be explored by each person in his or her own direct experience. Our thousands of years old tradition is most recently exemplified by Swami Rama, who was my own personal guide in these principles and practices. Here are links to some video lectures by Swami Rama which will explain the true nature of yoga and the levels of consciousness in the Mandukya Upanishad. They are rather lengthy, but if any of this page has caught your attention, will be very insightful for you in seeing this perspective that the hard problem of consciousness is not a problem for yoga.





This site is devoted to presenting the ancient Self-Realization path of the Tradition of the Himalayan masters in simple, understandable and beneficial ways, while not compromising quality or depth. The goal of our sadhana or practices is the highest Joy that comes from the Realization in direct experience of the center of consciousness, the Self, the Atman or Purusha, which is one and the same with the Absolute Reality. This Self-Realization comes through Yoga meditation of the Yoga Sutras, the contemplative insight of Advaita Vedanta, and the intense devotion of Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra, the three of which complement one another like fingers on a hand. We employ the classical approaches of Raja, Jnana, Karma, and Bhakti Yoga, as well as Hatha, Kriya, Kundalini, Laya, Mantra, Nada, Siddha, and Tantra Yoga. Meditation, contemplation, mantra and prayer finally converge into a unified force directed towards the final stage, piercing the pearl of wisdom called bindu, leading to the Absolute.