Who am I ? Towards a science of Consciousness

Towards a Science of Consciousness

by Sushanta Banerjee


Wow! We have made “great progress in science and technology, but advanced very little in the social sciences. Modern psychology is based (mostly) on rats. Consequently, are we surprised that we find ourselves in a rat race?,” and the Seminar Hall at the IIT resounded with silence.


An IIT hosting a talk on the subject of “consciousness” – What a revolutionary departure. The hallowed halls of my beloved alma mater that I had thought were avowedly dedicated to the study and manipulation of objects, was hosting a talk that acknowledged the existence of consciousness.


The speaker was Dr. Matthijs Cornelissen, a medical professional of Dutch origin and a respected member of the Indian Psychology Institute at Auroville, Puducherry.


The central proposition of the 70 minute talk was a compelling argument to expand the education and acculturation practices to include an understanding of ourselves as human beings – as individual units of consciousness enfolded in a universal consciousness.


Current practices are “locked on” almost exclusively to objects and the means of acquiring and exploiting these.  Our thinking, trained mainly to deal with objects –begins to first treat others and then ourselves as objects for exploitation.  Is it then surprising that chit funds become cheat funds, bankers turn robbers, some administrators fill their own pockets at cost to the common man, and that a bus driver and his cohorts squeeze the life out of a young woman, seeing it as a great “opportunity” to exploit a perceived object, her body ?


The time has surely come for a change.  Many firmly believe that attention towards expanding the awareness of consciousness (the essence and life principle) and its study will alter the present situation, in which the unforeseeable, unintended consequences of object centric “progress” are looming perilously large.


The field has been at the center stage of Eastern thought, but since sources are chiefly in the Asian languages, it has not become mainstream. However, of late, it has been drawing the attention of numerous western thinkers as well.


At the essence of the field lie two simple propositions that Sri Aurobindo and his follows had developed and expounded: “I am aware of the fact that I am aware”, and enquiries following the questions “Who am I?  Who are we?”


Is it not time to wonder as to what influence or agency do we have on our thoughts, or do they have an independent existence and thereby power over our actions?  Becoming aware of this dimension is foundational in the study of consciousness.


All proponents of this field have a central point of agreement: that we must, as a society, turn at least one eye to our inner world.  Here consciousness is not a moral principle raising guilt and damnation. It is the inner life principle – a departure from the laws that govern objects. An object centric world will inevitably be subject to the laws of entropy.


I came out feeling grateful to IITD, and to Dr Cornelissen for a lovely, thought-provoking conversation. May there be many more.

The article has been written with contributions from Vinit Taneja (IITD 1979).

For those interested in exploring further, you could begin by browsing the Aurobindo Ashram website and their Libraries – one is situated opposite IITD on Aurobindo Marg.

An comprehensive PDF document is available for free download: “A Course in Consciousness” by Stanley Sobottka, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA 22904-4714. [Link] 

The original material is available through sources such as the Bhagvad Gita, Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras etc. YouTube has an extensive catalog of  of videos and lectures pertaining to the topic, such as those given by Swami Ram.

The author of this article is Sushanta Banerjee, IITD (Mech) 1970. He runs a Behavioral Science Consulting firm, and has also taught at IIM, Ahmedabad.



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  1. Phillip JainMay 15, 2013 at 9:05 pmReply

    Meanwhile …
    Robots are invading our consciousness … serving as slaves till singularity makes THEM conscious.

    Sort of like the little yellow chinaman who is likely to go from slave to superpower having americans work as nannies the moment countries directly buy oil in Euro/Yuan/Yen/Rupee and USD loses its print-ability. Recently Airbus was begging on bended knees and folded hands to please buy our planes dear china, we will even transfer manufacturing knowhow to you ..

    Sadly Indians as coolies by 2050 the way the inefficient Indian Govt is managing R&D and IP and Indians in blind-faith pay billions in gold to Ganjoo sadhus/Tirupatis while youth unemployment skyrockets to 25-40%, and real estate appreciation goes to 80L/flat in crappy Tier3 cities as Courts are not able to enforce eviction of tenants, many of these remain vacant.

    RoboService – Rhoomba vacuums, polishes hardwood floors all while you sleep
    – – personal robots controlled by smartphones
    RoboCars – Google cars ..
    RoboCops, UAVs – – even High Schoolers are making UAVs
    3D Printers – you can download and print a gun that can fire 10+ shots/barrell

  2. Ashok DeobhaktaMay 25, 2013 at 5:42 pmReply

    Great article. It provides link to exhaustive material on: ‘Course in Consciousness’. It must be really fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Anup BaglaOctober 26, 2013 at 5:02 pmReply

    Towards a science within / of Consciousness …

    Can we have a science …within or …of consciousness?



    No sub-consciousness /or uncosciousness, which is figment of human imagination / mind,
    On the basis of purity / quality and state of awakening.


    From one whole mind or consciousness, universal – creative source – all individual consciousness are derived and after they come into being / existence as entity / being, they go through their life cycle depending upon their characteristics, purity and quality etc.
    Universal or whole consciousness (MIND) has the intelligence of it’s own, which is the true creative intelligence (purest and brightest) as integrel property of it’s spiritual aspect (make up).


    Individual consciousness as entity / being, although they are part of whole (universal consciousness), they have individual purpose /role play under the larger direction or design plan of world / universal manifestation.

    We, as, players have limited – or – to the extent gifted, based on the evolutionary aspect – part to play in relation (vis-a-vis) to other individual consciousness, all of them together forming a cohesive, universal whole, as expressed in manifestation of world drama stage.

    At consciousness level, which is the quantum space operating through the whole Universe at a given moment, we are all united in one consciousness from where we draw our energy for operating at individual levels. The energy of entropy also comes from the same source. Therefore we can be aware of thought activity in our neighborhood surrounding environment at this higher consciousness level and even at distant past or future space-time events.

    At our individual consciousness / understanding, energy level by living in our waking or sleeping state, we create program and work according to that program in our individual mind. Our individual consciousness united with one whole / supreme consciousness gives
    the feeling of oneness as one wave in the sea.
    Thus, the entire Universal / cosmic consciousness is ever existing phenomenon with it’s creative intelligence potentially present in it’s subtle core of substance within the consciousness.

    This ever – existing consciousness is the common denominator at the un-manifest level of all manifest activity. It is ever in vibration within it’s subtle core where combustion and renewal of the intelligent vibratory substance / wavelets is constantly taking place, under some invisible cosmic design principle / direction. Therefore it is a self- sustaining chain process – a larger self, which is the only TRUTH we know of.

  4. Surendra DhirJanuary 4, 2014 at 3:03 amReply

    — interesting stuff. To continue:

    Within the realm of individual and cosmic consciousness, it is both challenging and rebellious to raise the question “why am I” as precursor to “who am I”?

    While “who am I” seemingly relates to the characterization of an awareness that in all likelihood exists, the “why am I” questions its very existence. Once the “why am I” is convincingly addressed, “who am I” becomes a meaningful objective to contemplate about.

    Why did the creator create awareness, the window of perception of physical and metaphysical? Within the dichotomy of whether the universe as we perceive it is created by a superior being or is the result of an evolution, the “why am I” remains a gripping query.

    While discovering “who am I” is like an unending sport with few rules for individual or cosmic awareness, tackling “why am I” leads to a vacuum.

    So there —-.

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