Soul Sessions by CreativeMind

Swami Tyagananda on Exploring Consciousness and Mind

May 21, 2024 Debra Berndt Maldonado and Robert Maldonado PhD Life Coach Training and Personal Transformation Experts Season 8 Episode 211
Swami Tyagananda on Exploring Consciousness and Mind
Soul Sessions by CreativeMind
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Soul Sessions by CreativeMind
Swami Tyagananda on Exploring Consciousness and Mind
May 21, 2024 Season 8 Episode 211
Debra Berndt Maldonado and Robert Maldonado PhD Life Coach Training and Personal Transformation Experts

We are so thrilled to have Swami Tyagananda, a revered monk of the Ramakrishna Order and scholar, join us on Soul Sessions!

 Through the lens of Vendantic philosophy and modern psychology, Dr. Rob and Swami Tyagananda explore consciousness and the mind. Listen to this episode for insightful discussions on:

  • The difficulties in getting rid of the ego mind and what to do
  • The nature of suffering of how to transcend it
  • Do we live in a simulation and is there a collective unconscious?
  • Advice for Westerners to shift into a consciousness paradigm

Stay in touch with Swami Tyagananda and his work with the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society, Boston and on Facebook.


Interested in Jungian Life Coach Training? Download your free program brochure:

Stay Connected with Debra and Dr. Rob:
Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | Facebook | |

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

We are so thrilled to have Swami Tyagananda, a revered monk of the Ramakrishna Order and scholar, join us on Soul Sessions!

 Through the lens of Vendantic philosophy and modern psychology, Dr. Rob and Swami Tyagananda explore consciousness and the mind. Listen to this episode for insightful discussions on:

  • The difficulties in getting rid of the ego mind and what to do
  • The nature of suffering of how to transcend it
  • Do we live in a simulation and is there a collective unconscious?
  • Advice for Westerners to shift into a consciousness paradigm

Stay in touch with Swami Tyagananda and his work with the Ramakrishna Vedanta Society, Boston and on Facebook.


Interested in Jungian Life Coach Training? Download your free program brochure:

Stay Connected with Debra and Dr. Rob:
Instagram | LinkedIn | YouTube | Facebook | |

Debra Maldonado  00:00

Welcome to CreativeMind Soul Sessions with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado, founders of CreativeMind. Explore personal growth with us through Jungian psychology, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience in a deep, practical way. Let's begin.

Robert Maldonado  00:24

Welcome to Soul Sessions. I'm here with Swami Tyagananda. Swami Tyagananda is a monk of the Ramakrishna order, he’s the head of the Vedanta society in Boston, and also the Hindu chaplain at MIT and Harvard. He's written, translated, and edited over 12 books, including a manual on karma yoga, Walking the Walk, Knowing the Knower, a manual on gyana yoga, among other books. Welcome to the show, Swami Tyagananda. Great to have you here.

Swami Tyagananda  01:09

Very happy to be with you.

Robert Maldonado  01:11

Maybe we could start with a little introduction. Can you tell us a little bit about your journey towards becoming a monk of the Ramakrishna order?

Swami Tyagananda  01:23

When I was about nine or ten years old, my mother brought me little booklets containing quotations from Swami Vivekananda’s teachings. English is not my first language, I don't know how much I understood what I read, but somehow I liked his personality, I kept on reading. As I grew older, in my teenage years, when I was 13-14-15, I took up some of his bigger books. By the time I was in my freshman year in college, I had finished reading all of the nine volumes of his complete works. I got to the monastery of the Ramakrishna for the first time, I was probably 17. That was the time I actually met with a monk of the order. I was very impressed with looking at this monastery and the monks, I wanted to join the monastery right away. I was still a legally a minor, so they didn't allow me. They said “You're in college, finish your degree.” I joined up immediately the very next day after my exams ended for my graduation, then I joined the order. It was pretty young. It seemed to be a pretty smooth journey. I was lucky, there weren't any conflicts of “Should I do this, should I do that?”, none of that really happened. There was a lot of opposition from the family, not because they thought I was doing something bad. But in Hinduism, if you become a monk, it's almost like losing a child, you're no longer part of the family, you don't carry the family name. It was the opposition. It took a while for them to reconcile to the idea that the eldest son has left. I was a very obedient son. Until that point, whatever my parents asked me to do, I had done. My first act of disobedience was that they wanted me to return home, and I said “Other than this, you can ask me to do anything.” It worked out. It took a few years but then they were totally reconciled. In fact, they were very happy and proud of the life I had chosen. It all ended well.

Robert Maldonado  03:44

Could you give us a sense for us— I've never been to India myself, probably most of our listeners have not visited either — what position does something like the Ramakrishna order hold in Indian society?

Swami Tyagananda  04:01

It is a much respected organization. There isn't any doubt in the minds of the people about the authenticity of the teachings that they have and the lives led by not only the monastic community of the order, but also the lay following, which numbers in millions in India. Now that we have centers all over the world, outside India as well, increasing number of people are attracted by the teachings of Vedanta, even if not everyone may personally identify as a Hindu or as a follower of Ramakrishna but the teachings have somehow captured the imagination of people.

Robert Maldonado  04:50

Certainly here, in the US, many of my friends admire this philosophy tremendously because of its rigorous discipline, its emphasis on the truth. It seems to be very open also to questioning and to a more philosophical perspective.

Swami Tyagananda  05:16

Also because it's not just a matter of believing in something, or acknowledging something as true, it can be verified by people themselves. It's something that’s verifiable is something people really appreciate.

Robert Maldonado  05:33

My training is in psychology, Jungian psychology in particular, we train coaches in Jungian psychology, we're also doing leadership training with the same model. Often, we come across these questions of consciousness, like “what is the mind?” What is it that we're working with when we're talking about the mind? In Vedanta, there's a particular way of seeing the mind that isn’t necessarily the way we see it in the West. In the West, we think about the mind almost as synonymous with consciousness or awareness. Whereas there's a little bit of difference in the way Vedanta formulates it. Can you explain what is the difference between consciousness and the human mind?

Swami Tyagananda  06:23

One way to think about it is, first of all, about the way the word “consciousness” gets used in Vedanta itself, because oftentimes, when we use the word “consciousness” in a common conversation, we usually expect some object to come after consciousness, I'm conscious of a tree, I'm conscious of a table in front of me, I'm conscious of a person. When in Vedanta, they use the word “consciousness” primarily in the sense of consciousness itself, without requiring an object. It's true that consciousness is needed for the knowledge of anything, but consciousness doesn't depend on an object. An object gets to human through consciousness. But the consciousness can still be without the object being present, a little bit like light in some ways. We need light to see objects. In darkness, we can't see things. We don't see light itself, we only see the objects illumined by light. Consciousness is the base of all our perceptions and knowledge in the world. But how often are we conscious of the consciousness itself? That’s the first thing that I’d like to emphasize in the word “consciousness”, meaning consciousness as independent of everything. Its relationship with mind would be, the mind is seen in many schools of Vedantic thought as a limitation. Consciousness itself is unbounded, undivided, only if something goes wrong with that apparent infinitude of consciousness that these limitations get superimposed upon it. A more gross super imposition is clearly the body. But a more subtle limitation is the mind and that the body and mind appear conscious to us. In Vedanta, they emphasize that the consciousness doesn't belong either to the body, or to the mind. The consciousness itself with the spirit is the soul that is percolating through the body and mind. In that sense, both body and mind are seen as material as opposed to consciousness, which is the non-material part of the entity.

Robert Maldonado  08:57

I've heard it explained like if you have a cellphone, that would be the mind, because it's the one that computes and does the calculations. The electricity that charges it up would be consciousness or the the awareness that animates the mind. Would there be an apt description of it?

Swami Tyagananda  09:22

In one sense, yes. The word “animates” could be a little bit confusing because there is prana, the life force, the vitality within us. Animating the mind in the sense of something that infuses life into it, that itself I wouldn't equate with consciousness because consciousness and life may often go together. But life or life force itself is in Vedantic metaphysic. It's also a part of the material. Consciousness and life are two different things in Vedantic thought.

Robert Maldonado  10:07

The pure awareness, the pure consciousness, is it aware of itself?

Swami Tyagananda  10:17

Just like we need light to see objects, but we don't need another light to see the first light. It helps us be conscious of other things but it also is conscious of itself.

Robert Maldonado  10:30

In the relationship between this pure consciousness and the mind, the experiences that we have in our individual minds, are those imprinted or held within consciousness, or is consciousness separate from those experiences?

Swami Tyagananda  10:50

It’s seen as separate. They’re held within what we call the mind.

Robert Maldonado  10:54

Do those experiences that we have as individuals survive the death of the body?

Swami Tyagananda  11:03

Yes, because according to the thought, the Vedantic understanding of what happens after life is that death really is only death of the gross body. The subtle part of a being, which is what the mind is, and of course, the mind is a very generic term, the way they use it is what they call the subtle body. The subtle body includes the mind, the intellect, the prana, the vital force, the whole thing. It’s a whole package, all the mental impressions generated through all our actions and thinking, the residue of all the karma that people have done, the results of which are yet to be experienced. This whole package survives death.

Robert Maldonado  11:49

Is that the part that is reborn?

Swami Tyagananda  11:52

Yes. But it’s really acquiring a full body. When the subtle part acquires one more covering, a gross covering over it, that we call the rebirth.

Robert Maldonado  12:05

Jung was, the way I think of it, trying to develop a Western yoga in a sense. He studied Eastern philosophy and was very interested in that. He was trying to develop a Western yoga that we could use, but for the Western mind, in an active way. One of the principles he formulated was this idea that our personality, our persona, as he calls it, was really just a mask. We were like actors playing a role in society, that wasn't really our true selves. Is there a correlation in Vedanta to that?

Swami Tyagananda  12:53

I totally identify with that way of thinking. The body is one mask, the mind is another mask. The goal of life, so to speak, would be unmasking, removing all the masks and just being. Sometimes we stress so much about doing things, and the Vedantic thought is more about just being. The more we do, the further away we go from who we are, in some sense. The way they look at it is that the whole process of creation, if you see creation as a movement from one to many, is that one has at least apparently become the many. If we have to go back to being who we originally are, then it's a return journey, or reverse turning from the many to the one. If it’s becoming that has brought the many, then it's really a reverse, it's an anti creation. You stop becoming bigger, becoming involves being other than who you are. The idea isn’t so much that we have to become infinite or become consciousness. That's what we already are. We have now become somebody else. We stop being somebody else. To that extent, even to think of ourselves as body mind beings is at one level, that's the honest way to see who we are, but at a deeper level, so long as we remain identified with these coverings or these masks, we remain alienated from our true self. But at some point, we have to stop thinking of ourselves as just physical beings or even psychological beings for that matter, to go to the truth which is beyond them both.


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Robert Maldonado  15:58

One of the things we've noticed is that the philosophy is fairly direct and simple. But for people to execute that and to be able to achieve that, it appears very difficult. For all of us, it's difficult. Why is that so difficult for us to let go of this identification with the persona, or the ego mind, or the limited mind?

Swami Tyagananda  16:26

There are two statements in the Upanishads, where the Vedantic wisdom is enshrined, that appear mutually contradictory. There is one statement that has been given in several different ways in the books, that the ultimate reality, my own true being is beyond the reach of the mind, beyond the reach of the senses, beyond the reach of any of these things. Then there is one other passage in a different Upanishad, which says that the ultimate reality, the truth can be known only with the help of the mind. Of course, then the commentators come in and say “How do you reconcile these two statements?” What they say is it’s beyond the reach of a mind that’s clouded, mind that isn’t transparent, that isn’t clear, but is within the reach of the mind that’s purified. The word “purity” often gets used in religious language. It is a mind that has become transparent and clear. The more a person is able to live with some values, some principles, these are the ways of removing that foggy, cloudy state of mind, the more we’re able to see things clearly, it is through that transparent, clear, honest, truthful mind that one is able to then get a glimpse of one's own true nature. It’s the mind that’ll help us transcend the mind.

Robert Maldonado  18:02

Even in neuroscience, now we understand that our perceptions aren’t really giving us a true picture of what the world is, or what's really out there. It's more reflecting our own assumptions of what we believe to be out there. It's reflecting that back to us. But of course, we take it as “I'm perceiving some objective reality out there because I'm seeing it, I'm experiencing it.” But we know our senses are designed to give us more the subjective experience of our own conditioning.

Swami Tyagananda  18:42

Even to go out with the assumption that there is something out there.

Robert Maldonado  18:47

In Vedanta, what is out there? What is considered to be the absolute reality?

Swami Tyagananda  18:55

Absolutely, there is nothing out there. The point is, we’re using the word “out” as if there is something in. When we use these divisions, we need to ask “out of what and inside what?” We’re thinking of something like “This is in and everything outside is out.” But this itself, the reality of this itself is being questioned. All the reality of the material world itself is being questioned. There is nothing out there and there is really nothing in there. It simply is, “is-ness”.

Robert Maldonado  19:36

Which reminds me, I was reading your book Knowing the Knower, you mentioned that there's different world views. For example, in the West, we use the materialistic worldview as our basis for science and everything we do, but the Upanishads were written from a very different worldview perspective. It was the idea that everything is consciousness. When we read them from the materialistic perspective, we're missing the point, aren't we? We have to shift our mind and understand that they're talking about a very different paradigm of everything rising in consciousness and being consciousness.

Swami Tyagananda  20:26

I think it also goes with what we find depends on what questions we ask. I tend to think that in some world views, clearly we’re experiencing this world. A question would be “What is this world? Why am I seeing it?” This is one line of questioning about the world, why we see it, how we see it, why we see it the way that we see it. But in the Upanishads, they take a different line of questioning. Before even asking what this world is and what I’m seeing, they say “Who is this person that’s seeing it? Because it is I that certify whether this world exists or not, or what the nature of the world is.” The first question is who the certifying authority is. Because we’re asking questions about either the subjective side of things or the objective side of things, different world views emerge from that.

Robert Maldonado  21:30

In current consciousness studies, a question has been coming up whether we're living in a simulation, either somebody else is making it or perhaps of our own making. This reminds me of the concept of Maya that’s mentioned in the Upanishads. How do you see it? Is that the right approach we should be taking? Should be we be questioning whether we’re in a simulation? Or is that taking us off the track?

Swami Tyagananda  22:08

That's an interesting way to look at it and may yield some insights. The way I find helpful personally is thinking in terms of our dream experience, what the status of the dreams we see is. I know that in psychology, there's a lot of thought given to the meaning and interpretation of dreams, and that’s great value. But one of the question philosophically we can ask is what is the status of dreams? What is the reality when I see a dream and I see myself doing things in my dream? Because the real me is asleep. This dream means doing all kinds of things. It's helpful to know and try to understand and make sense of what the dream is doing. But all of that thing is going to vanish when the sleeping me wakes up in the morning. In that sense, I don't know. Would you call dreams a simulation? Is that the word?

Robert Maldonado  23:18

It's a kind of a mental simulation. We're experiencing a stage created, generated by our mind.

Swami Tyagananda  23:28

I really like this whole idea of simulation because it shows one thing. Just because I'm experiencing something, just because something appears as real, it’s not necessarily real. Because at least in our dream experience, the only reality is me who is asleep. Dreams are possible only when I sleep. One of the ways we can understand sleep is I forget who I am. Because if I lie in bed, turning and twisting, I'm still aware of who I am, I'm still aware of where I am. But at some point, suddenly a veil comes over me. I no longer know who I am, I no longer know where I am. That’s a precondition for dreams to begin. If we look upon this world as a whole experience, as a simulation, it's easy to correlate it with our sleep and dream experience and say “I have probably forgotten who I am.” If I am this infinite consciousness — I know this sounds bizarre, that's what Maya would be — what if this infinite consciousness fell asleep and started dreaming? Because dreams show us something very related to but different from the reality. This consciousness, which has now fallen asleep and forgotten that it's infinite, in the dream now has become this finite conscious being with a body and mind. I like the idea.

Robert Maldonado  25:02

The thing I see is often some of the technological people, or the technicians, project this idea that there might be alien civilizations, manipulating the simulation, creating the video game for us. But I prefer more the explanation from the Upanishads, that it's an organic awareness that is the foundation of the universe in which we’re then experiencing the simulation.

Swami Tyagananda  25:36

I think anything involving aliens, or even just the multiplicity, every philosophy starts with some assumptions, which themselves aren’t proved. All these things about aliens start with the assumption that there is this world out there, there are these beings out there. Then we try to find an answer. The Upanishad approach has been: the only thing that we can be absolutely certain about is our own existence. It’ll be a logical fallacy to question “I don't know whether I exist or not”, that can't be done. But the question of existence of anything other than me is open to debate. I could be hallucinating, I could be imagining, but I can’t be imagining my own existence. Therefore, that's the only unquestioned part. The Upanishads start with that, something that we can be absolutely sure about.

Robert Maldonado  26:40

My early training was in clinical psychology. I had a very direct experience of human suffering. What does Vedants say about the nature of our human experience and why we suffer so much?

Swami Tyagananda  26:56

As the Buddha pointed out, life is suffering. On a superficial level, most people would say life is a mixture of joy and sorrow, there are moments we feel happy, there are things of unhappiness. But in Buddha's thought, he was a prince, he didn't lack anything before he renounced and became a monk. But he didn't say that life is filled with joy and sorrow. He said it's suffering. Gita speaks about the world as a joyless place. This seems to be a rather pessimistic descriptions about the world. But considering that these descriptions were given by people who today we see as enlightened beings, we need to ask what exactly they meant by it. One way to think about it in terms of— I'm not using the word in a very rigorous philosophical sense, but an existential sorrow, in the sense that there is certain suffering inseparable from the very existence as human beings. As human beings, we have a body, we have a mind, no matter how much organic food we eat, how much exercise we take, illness is something nobody can say that I’ll never fall ill, or I’ll never have illness. The body is a great machine, but not the perfect machine. It's an extremely complicated machine, but it does fails now and then. We can fix it, but it fails. Eventually, it's not immortal yet, whatever the medical science might say. But at some time, that is a reality. The body is going to fail at times. Same with regard to the mind. It’s great to have a healthy mind. But again, the stress, anxiety, and worry, all these things do seem to be inbuilt into the mind. The causes that could cause suffering are inbuilt into this body mind mechanism. There is such a thing as an existential sorrow connected to it. But I think most people are really busy, not with this existential form of it, although that’s at the root of all they're suffering, but clearly the other things that are around: poverty, homelessness, abuse. These are real things, but at the foundation of it is that suffering is really inbuilt into the system. If this all sounds too depressing, I can balance it by saying we could also say there is such a thing as an existential bliss or existential joy. That’d be identifying with the spirit that in the pure infinite consciousness, there isn’t even a trace of suffering. If suffering is inbuilt into anything that is material and that is limited, then it’s completely absent in that which is infinite and free from the breakdowns that we might have at the physical and psychological level. In that sense, suffering is unavoidable. But there is a way to go beyond it.

Robert Maldonado  30:09

It's built into the human condition, taking a body and being alive.

Swami Tyagananda  30:20

Every living being’s condition, not just human. It's true with regard to animals as well.

Robert Maldonado  30:25

The teachings of Vedanta then are saying there is a way out of this predicament. It’s to remember your true nature, or that you’re this pure awareness that is the true essence of you.

Swami Tyagananda  30:44

If we’ve gotten into a mess, the way to get out is the way we came in. If we identify the problem as forgetfulness of my true nature, the only way out would be remembering my true nature. Forgetfulness is what makes me ignorant of who I am. The only way then to get out would be to have knowledge of who I am. Now, that knowledge can be an intellectual knowledge, we read books on it, we have some intellectual understanding and conviction, but merely intellectual knowledge for this isn’t enough. It has to be an experiential knowledge. It's not just that I read and I'm intellectually convinced that I am this infinite consciousness. But the same certitude with which I see that I don't have any doubt I'm a human being, I don't need to read any book to know that I'm a human being. With the same certitude, if I know I am this infinite being, I'm just consciousness, that doesn't mean that the world should necessarily disappear. For me, I don't think seeing the world of multiplicity itself is a problem. But seeing it as independent, having an independent reality of its own, that's a problem. The Upanishads say that enlightened beings don't just disappear when they become enlightened, they still continue to be, but something has changed inside. Something has changed inside, so the world has changed for them. What they see outside is different from what the rest of us see outside.

Robert Maldonado  32:22

The obstacles to that realization is simply our own forgetfulness, our attachment to things as separate from us, thinking that if I obtain things from the outside or from the world, or the objects of the world, they're going to fill me with happiness, or protect me somehow from that suffering.

Swami Tyagananda  32:47

If I'm infinite, then there can be only one infinite, there can’t be two infinities. I'm the only being that exists. If I forget that, the sense of completeness that I have, I suddenly begin to forget myself, then I begin to feel that I'm incomplete in some way. Then the rest of our life is somehow to fill that hole we feel inside, I must complete it in some way. All the desires we have is with the idea that somehow if I get this, if I only get this thing, I'm going to be fine. We keep on filling. I think it was Houston Smith who said, and I believe somebody actually said that even before him, but I read it in Houston Smith's book. He said that there is a God-shaped hole in our heart, people try to fill it up with all sorts of things, and it never really fits in. That's the idea, the sense of incompleteness that makes me desire things. The only way that hankering desire for external objects and things will disappear is when I feel complete. To some extent, you can see, when we’re fast asleep, when we’re not even dreaming, in that state of deep sleep, we are very close to a sense of completeness. In that state of deep sleep, there is no stress, there is no anger, there is no hatred, we’re just fine. Except that we’re completely ignorant. If a stupid person goes to sleep, the next morning the person is still stupid. What we want is the experience of deep sleep, but in a full state of consciousness.

Robert Maldonado  34:31

That's possible through meditation, through higher knowledge.

Swami Tyagananda  34:38

Not just meditation, anything that helps me go back to my true nature. That will include selfless activity, doing everything. None of us can live without doing things. If we must do things, can I do it selflessly, without calculating my self interest? That's what karma yoga is all about. That's what Walking The Walk that I wrote is really about. How can we do our work without it becoming a stressful activity? Can it be a source of my freedom rather than a source of bondage? We can do it through using our willpower in the external world to the work we do. We can use willpower in the internal world through our contemplative activity, we can use our power of emotions and feelings, purify them, direct them to a higher goal. The mystics who followed the path of devotion, the love of God would be that. Then there is the faculty of reasoning that we all have, purifying and applying that would be a path of philosophical inquiry.

Robert Maldonado  35:51

I have to ask because this question often comes up with our students. Why is the world in such turmoil? What should we make of it? What should be our response to this chaos or the apparent chaos that we see in the world?

Swami Tyagananda  36:12

One obvious thing, which is clear that we must try to do the best we can, is to try to help as many people around us as much as possible. But if we can do that selflessly, not just calculating what I’m going to get out of this, otherwise, I become part of the problem. But to the extent I'm able to do it selflessly and lead an honest life myself. If I become a good, honest, truthful person, I've at least helped the world in that one person who could have been a potential fraud maybe. First, I need to become good myself to the extent that I can help others. Now, one caveat here, I think it could be a difference of opinions among different people about this, is that would there ever be a time when the world will be completely free from all its evils and everything is going to be fine, sunshine, harmony, and peace? Personally, I tend to be skeptical about that. We’ve been around for millions of years. If something were possible, it probably would have happened long back. If we look at history, we see that the essential nature of the world hasn’t really changed. We have iPhones now, we didn't have them earlier. In some superficial ways the world has clearly changed. But essentially, the polarities that existed, that is love, but there is also hatred, anger, suspicion, goodness, the friendships, enmity, all these things have been around for generations, they seem to be around all the time. Swami Vivekananda, who was one of the more recent interpreters of Vedanta, he is the founder of the order to which I belong, said that the world is like a dog's tail. Every generation of reformers tries to straighten it. Yet again, it curls up. Reformers are doing a great job. But I think if we can do that in a selfless way, we may not be able to change the world totally and permanently, but we can change ourselves. One example that comes to my mind is if a hungry person comes to me and says “I'm hungry,” and I say “Here is food,” I feed the hungry. I have helped the world, so to speak, in some way, one hungry person. Giving that person food, I have solved the problem of hunger in one person for the next six or eight hours. But after that, this person is going to be hungry again, I haven't solved the problem totally. But if I have helped this person in a completely selfless way, without expecting anything, not even gratitude, then that selfless activity will bring some clarity and purity in my heart. That purity isn’t for only eight hours. This person will feel hungry again after eight hours, but I have gained something permanent. In some sense, in helping the world and doing it well, we’re primarily helping ourselves. I'm skeptical whether the world outside may ever change its true nature. I'm sorry if I sound very depressive.

Robert Maldonado  39:32

It make sense, because if we look at the worldview from the perspective that there is only one being, one person, then it's about doing our work, that's the best we can do. In Jungian psychology, he had an idea that there must be, as far as the apparent reality anyway, the way the world appears to us, there are different cultures. These different cultures always seem to play out same patterns, there's these archetypal patterns, as he calls them. Is there anything in the philosophy of Vedanta that corresponds to that, that explains if there’s this collective unconscious per se?

Swami Tyagananda  40:21

Not that I'm aware of. The Vedanta doesn't seem to have any problem with other schools of thought, other ways of thinking that are able to shed light on how the multiplicity functions. But Vedantic original texts themselves don't bother too much about the world. Ultimately, that's fine, it doesn't really exist anyway. They're more concerned about the one who is experiencing. They don't get into argument with those who try to explain the world to the extent it helps people transcend their limitations in some way. Every way of thinking, every worldview is precious, because it’s helping people get out of their shells and find deeper meaning and become better. All of those things have a value.

Robert Maldonado  41:19

There is a correlation to the unconscious mind in Western psychology, in Vedanta, these unconscious hindrances to enlightenment.

Swami Tyagananda  41:36

The mental impressions, in Sanskrit they call it samskara, are in the unconscious part of the mind, it's a mental basement. Western psychology has done a lot more, shed a lot more light on the unconscious and the conscious. That's why Eastern and Western psychology can be very complimentary in that way, they join hands. In Eastern, specifically Hindu psychology, the starting point itself is considered a healthy mind. In order for one to go to this infinite consciousness, one can't go anywhere close to even thinking about it, conceptualizing it, unless you have a reasonably healthy mind. In the Vedic times, they saw that the student going to the teacher’s place and the training received at the teacher’s place, that and the power of holy company would take care of the angularities of the mind. We don't find much discussion about abnormal psychology or our unconscious. That's something very well developed in Western psychology. These two approaches and two focuses together can give us a more wholesome idea about both the mind, the unconscious, the conscious, and the superconscious, if you like.

Robert Maldonado  43:16

One of the things we notice is that the philosophical tenants of Vedanta are so profound and so true, they make sense in a philosophical way, they’re powerful. When we introduce these ideas to people, it makes sense to them, but the application, taking them into practice, making them a part of their life is difficult for them because Jung says that there's going to be a resistance to change from within the mind, the ego wants to stay with over identification with the persona and its limitations, it considers this knowledge a threat to the status quo that it creates for itself.

Swami Tyagananda  44:14

We have developed a comfort zone about our self understanding of “this is who I am.” Anything that tries to shake that understanding, I can imagine that will be very disturbing.

Robert Maldonado  44:28

His work includes integration of the shadow. The shadow is identified as anything that we push away, that we say “I never want to be that. I need to run away from that and push it away.” He says it doesn’t go anywhere except into the unconscious mind. Then it's projected outward, we see it in the apparent reality as they're not the bad one, but those people are bad. It's a reflection of our own shadow. Until you integrate that shadow, you can't see what's really there, that absolute reality. You won't be able to see it because you're caught up in that duality of me against them, me against the world.

Swami Tyagananda  45:22

In raja yoga, patanjali yoga sutras, when they speak about conscious and unconscious, one of the ways they try to think about it is whether we can extend the space of the conscious. One of the visualizations is that at present— you’ll probably know more about this, this isn’t my field of study. But if we think about the mind as a container, it’d seem that the unconscious is a much bigger part than the conscious. So long as there are parts of my being in the unconscious of which I myself am not aware, it is very difficult to bring about self transcendence needed to experience one's own infinitude as pure consciousness. One way would be, how can I extend my conscious mind? I try to visualize it as taking a flashlight and going into my mental basement to try and find out what I have inside. Someone, most of whose mind has become conscious, has a better chance at self transcendence than trying to go and find answers to the problem of existence with me being completely unaware of what's there within me.

Robert Maldonado  46:47

It’s purification in that you're bringing light, or awareness, into the unconscious. You're purifying it by saying “It's part of me, what's the problem? It's no big deal. It's my conditioning around past experiences.” That acceptance seems to resolve the conflict. What advice do you have for people like ourselves, who are living in the Western materialistic paradigm, but try to make a shift into more of a consciousness paradigm, so that we can work at resolving the current issues of society to the best that we can, perhaps, like you said, by working on ourselves, by looking at our own ego and working in that way. What recommendations do you have for us as far as working towards this state of liberation?

Swami Tyagananda  47:59

Moksha, freedom as a goal won’t become real to us until we actually experience bondage inside. Who wants freedom? If we already begin with the premise that we’re a free society, we’re free people, and clearly, we do enjoy a lot more freedom than people in many other parts of the world, but if we feel we are already free, then moksha as an ideal wouldn't make sense to us. A precondition for moksha to become real would be to feel a sense of bondage. The way I see it is that the best for any of us would be to look within and ask ourselves “What do I really want?” Because sometimes people feel they have to be religious, or have to be spiritual because everyone's doing it. I should meditate because everyone is meditating. It's pointless. I must ask: what do I really want and then what do I need to do to get what I want? That's how I see it. Moksha for most people isn’t a real goal because they don't feel like they are bound inside there. Many people feel they're already free. One book I’d recommend, which I found beneficial, is Erich Fromm’s An Escape From Freedom. One very insightful observation he makes is that people like the idea of seeking freedom or being free, but most people don't really want freedom. Because freedom includes the freedom to fail. Freedom includes responsibility. If I’m free to do what I want, I become responsible for whatever the consequences are. But most people are very childish in some ways. Anything goes wrong, it’s this person who did it, that person, it's the government, it's this. We’re ready to point fingers. That's not the sense of freedom. Freedom would include responsibility. Sometimes we have to consider “Do I really want to be free? Then I can blame no one. The only person to blame would be me because I'm free.”

Robert Maldonado  50:27

It entails the ultimate responsibility. You alluded to this, which is really interesting, that perhaps we need both psychologies. We need the Western psychology for the individual mind to be able to transform itself to where we’re ready to receive higher knowledge, and we need the Eastern philosophy, especially the non-dual Vedanta, to give us a way to understand higher consciousness, or what that consciousness is.

Swami Tyagananda  51:05

I look upon both Western psychology and Eastern psychology as very complementary to one another.

Robert Maldonado  51:12

The world, Jung talks about it, always appears to be working in opposites. But they're complementary. They're like two sides of the same coin. It's just appearing as oppositional. Swami Tyagananda, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us. Please come back when you have a chance, you have an open invitation. It’s very enlightening to talk to you.

Swami Tyagananda  51:45

Thank you. I learned as much from this conversation, thank you very much for giving me a chance to be with you.

Robert Maldonado  51:52

We'll see you soon.

OUTRO  51:58

Thank you for joining us. Don't forget to subscribe to CreativeMind Soul Sessions. Join us next week as we explore another deep topic where you can consciously create your life with CreativeMind Soul Sessions. See you next time.

Introduction with Swami Tygananda
Difference between consciousness and the human mind
Do our individual experience survive the death of the body?
The Persona as a mask - correlation between Jungian Psychology and the Vedanta
Why is it so difficult to get rid of the ego mind?
What is considered absolute reality in the Vedanta?
Are we living in a simulation?
Why do we suffer so much?
Why is the world in such turmoil? What should we do about the chaos?
Is there a collective unconscious?
Advice for Westerners to shift into a consciousness paradigm