Srinivas Sista sista at ECN.PURDUE.EDU
Wed Sep 2 08:37:06 CDT 1998

Nanda Chandran wrote:
> I took a look at the thesaurus. Consciousness is equated with all these
> words : awareness, mindfulness, cognizance, knowledge. And AFAIK, none
> of these words can be explained without a subject and an object.
> So please explain the difference between consciousness and being
> conscious.
> But it should be noted that I didn't deny the existence of the Atman in
> my posting. But just that consciousness cannot be equated with the
> Atman.

There is a stage when we have to move over from dictionaries and thesauri
to a more detailed study of the concepts involved. Try finding definitions
of complicated mathematical or physics concepts in an english dictionary
and you will see what I mean.

What we find in a dictionary is a definition for "being conscious".
This is quite an apparent concept. Where as "consciousness" is exclusively
the contribution of the vedanta(also probably zen but that is irrelevant).
It is not apparent. The method for arriving at it is through negation of
everything that is known. There is no simple verbal definition for it. For
lack of a corresponding word in english, consciousness is loosely used.
However, one should be careful when using it. It is in this sense that the
word consciousness is used by people who study texts of advaita in
english(imo). Greg gave a reasonable description in another post, however
we should keep in mind the limitations of descriptive definitions.

Finally, terminology is very important before we undertake the study of
any deep subject. Going to a dictionary to get concepts clarified is not
adequate even if we are studying english literature.

Srinivas Sista.

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