Most of you might know according to Upanishads, there are the four fundamental states (4 states of consciousness) that a Jiva goes through...

  • Waking (conscious),
  • Dreaming (Unconscious),
  • Deep sleep (Subconscious) and
  • Turiya (consciousness /Absolute)

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The first 3 states are what are experienced by us as living beings and able to differentiate wakefulness from sleep and dream. The 4th state (Turiya) is the consciousness of Brahman, which is simply experienced through yoga.

My Question:

  • Where does these four states of consciousness occurs in an individual?
  • What do you mean by where? Do you mean where in the body, or what? – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 16 '15 at 19:29
  • 1
    Your last sentance: " The 4th state (Turiya) is the consciousness of Brahman, which is simply experienced through yoga. " This is little bit conficting.. Here is a link where Swami Sarvapriyanada has described what does Turiya mean : youtube.com/watch?v=eGKFTUuJppU plz watch it fully. – Palak Darji Apr 17 '15 at 13:03
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    good question. Who is it that sleeps? Who is it that is awake? Who dreams? Find that out. That will give clear reflection of Turiya. Turiya is not a separate state of consciousness. It is the superset. Everything comes within Turiya. Turiya is indescribable and is not individual. It is santam, sivam, advaitam, it is neither conscious not unconscious. it is beyond everything. – Sai Apr 17 '15 at 15:40

By occurring in an individual I assume you mean where in the physical body do these states occur. There seems to be some confusion as to terms. So lets be exact. Please see my answer to this question - Where does a Soul attach to the Body?

The ‘Soul’ when seen from universal standpoint is often referred to as the Atman. The Soul when seen from an individual standpoint is often referred to as the atman (small 'a' denotes the Atman in the individual). The individual jiva is Pure Consciousness limited by the upadhi of the vijnanamayakosa. It is also said to be the reflection of Pure Consciousness. “...(the individual soul) is intelligence itself.” (Brahma Sutras 2.8.18) The Brahma Sutras (2.8.19-22.) say that it is ‘atomic’ in size. It is said to reside in the cave of the heart (Brahma Sutras 2.8.24) - “He sees the Person dwelling in the heart who is supreme, higher than the individual souls” (Prasna Upanishad V.5., see also Chhandogya Upanishad VIII. i. 1-5.). The heart is interpreted to mean the buddhi, the intellect. The cave being the innermost part. See also Brahma Sutras 1.3.12-13 and 2.8.18-50. “Though all-pervading,...It is manifest in the buddhi…” (Atmabodha 16.)

Now the Jiva (the individual soul) identifies itself with the subtle body and the physical body, the annamayakosa. The subtle body consists of the pranamayakosa, the manomayakosa, and the vijnanamayakosa. The jiva does not move around the body. The vast majority of people, people who have not practiced yoga for some time, cannot distinguish between the different kosas. They perceive them all as one. So when it is said that the jiva is residing in a particular place in the physical body, it means that the jiva is identifying itself with that physical location at that particular time - but it does not move. The different kosas of the subtle body are each enclosed within the gross body, and not at a particular location within the gross body. This is why they are called sheaths.

In his Introduction to Sankara's Saundarya-Lahari, Swami Tapasyananda says:

Whether these Yogic nerves are to be identified with what are known to the anatomist as the afferent and the efferent nerves and the Central Canalis is a moot question. It is better to conceive them as psychic factors relating to the subtle body and having some correspondence with their physical counterparts.

So the three states of consciousness, waking, dream, and dreamless sleep all occur in the subtle body, although there is 'some correspondence' of the manommayakosa and the vijanamayakosa to the physical brain.

Now the fourth state, Turiya, is not experienced by the jiva. The Turiya is Brahman. When the jiva reaches the fourth state which may be said to have 'some correspondence' to the top of the head, the jiva is destroyed - all that remains is Brahman.


These are the four states of consciousness that exist as they are and a jiva experiences them one after another in a cyclic manner. Just like a person experiences the changing seasons around him, he experiences the first three states almost daily cyclically. But to experience the turiya state a jiva has to raise his consciousness in the waking state, the only state where any action is possible.

Like to perceive and experience things external and internal organs are required, to perceive these states the mind is required. So these states of consciousness occur in the mind of a jiva. These states are nothing but reflections of different states of consciousness on the mind (antahkarana). So the Paingala Upanishad says:

antaḥkaraṇapratibimbitacaitanyaṃ yattadevāvasthātrayabhāgbhavati
- Consciousness being reflected on the antahkarana becomes the three states.

And to be more specific, Adi Sankaracharya says it is in the vijnanamaya kosha (intellectual sheath) that the different states happen:

अस्यैव विज्ञानमयस्य जाग्रतस्वप्नाद्यवस्थाः सुखःदुखःभोगः [Vivk. Chd. - 187]
- The states like waking, dreaming, etc. and the expereience of happiness and distress belong to this intellectual sheath.

When the consciousness reflected is of the waking state the jiva perceives the world and other worlds through senses organs and also through buddhi, chitta, ahankara. But when it is of the sleeping state only chitta is functioning and all other organs at rest. And in the turiya state there is experience of only one consciousness and nothing else.

Regarding the location of the jiva in the body during these states the Brahma Upanishad sayas:

netrasthaṃ jāgrataṃ vidyātkaṇṭhe svapnaṃ vinirdiṣet
suṣuptaṃ hṛdayasthaṃ tu turīyaṃ mūrdhni saṃsthitam

Know that in the waking state the jiva is situated in the eye, in the throat in the dreaming state, in the heart in the sleeping state and at the top of the head in the turiya state.

However, this doesn't mean that the jiva exists only in those locations in the four states. It means the jiva primarily resides at those locations during the corresponding states and from there it pervades the whole body. For example, the jiva dwells between the eyebrows in the waking state and from there pervades the whole body (tatra bhrūmadhyaṃ gato jīva āpādamastakaṃ vyāpya - Paingala Up.) like light pervades all the room irrespective of where the bulb is located.

  • Where does the "tatra bhrūmadhyaṃ..." quote come from? And wherever it comes from, does the same text also say that in the other three states, the jiva pervades the whole body? – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 17 '15 at 3:15

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