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  • Writer's pictureAditi Shrivastava

Shiva and the Fourth State of Transcendental Consciousness

Shiva, the deity of eternal silence and transcendental consciousness, is central to Vedic philosophy. His essence transcends the bounds of time and space, representing existence's eternal and unchanging aspect. Described as 'ajanma' or never born, Shiva epitomizes continuity—a timeless presence that forms the very fabric of creation.

Shiva and the fourth state of consciousness

In Vedic scriptures, particularly in the Mandukya Upanishad, Shiva is depicted as

"Shivam Shantam Advaitam Chaturtham Manyante, sa Atma sa vigyaya,"

...emphasizing his identity with silence, non-duality and the fourth state of consciousness. This portrayal underscores the concept of Shiva as the embodiment of a pure being beyond the conventional states of waking, dreaming, and sleeping.

The conventional states of consciousness experienced in everyday life—waking, dreaming, and sleeping—are characterized by distinct mental and physiological activity patterns. In the waking state, individuals actively engage in worldly pursuits, with both the mind and body vigilant and responsive. Conversely, the sleeping state is marked by profound restfulness, devoid of conscious awareness. The dreaming state presents a unique blend of consciousness and rest, where the mind conjures up a variety of experiences, often influenced by subconscious thoughts and emotions.


However, beyond these three states lies the fourth state of Transcendental Consciousness—a realm of expanded awareness where the mind and body are simultaneously rested and awake. This state, often described as "Restful Alertness," embodies the essence of Shiva's nature—serene yet dynamic, silent yet all-encompassing. It represents a profound state of inner stillness, where the boundaries of individuality dissolve, and one experiences a sense of unity with the universe.


The concept of Shiva as the embodiment of transcendental consciousness is not limited to Vedic philosophy; it finds resonance in various spiritual traditions and mystical teachings. In the Advaita Vedanta tradition, for instance, Shiva symbolizes the ultimate reality—beyond the dualities of existence and non-existence, form and formlessness. Similarly, in Tibetan Buddhism, Shiva's attributes of silence and non-duality are reflected in the concept of emptiness (shunyata), which denotes the ultimate nature of reality.


The celebration of Mahashivratri, the great night of Shiva, holds profound significance in the Indic Knowledge Tradition. It is a time for devotees to immerse themselves in meditation, prayer, and introspection, seeking to experience the transcendental consciousness embodied by Shiva. Through rituals, fasting, and meditation practices, devotees endeavour to transcend the limitations of ordinary consciousness and connect with the divine essence within.


As described in ancient scriptures, the experience of Shiva's meditative state transcends mere intellectual understanding—it is an experiential reality that can be accessed through dedicated spiritual practices. One such practice is Transcendental Meditation, popularized by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, which enables individuals to effortlessly transcend the active thinking process and experience the silent depths of consciousness. Through regular practice, practitioners report profound inner peace, clarity, and bliss—directly reflecting Shiva's timeless presence.


Mahashivratri, therefore, reminds us of the limitless potential inherent within each individual—the potential to transcend ordinary states of consciousness and awaken to the divine reality that permeates all of creation. It celebrates the eternal silence and boundless consciousness at the heart of existence—an invitation to journey inward and discover the infinite depths of one's own being.

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