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This article is about consciousness. For the old chess game, see chaturanga. For the four-player game, see chaturaji.

In Hindu philosophy, turiya (Sanskrit: तुरीय, meaning "the fourth") or caturiya, chaturtha, is pure consciousness. It is the background that underlies and transcends the three common states of consciousness of waking consciousness, dreaming, and dreamless sleep.[web 1][web 2] It is also indicated as the fourth stage of any Brahmin's life, typically Sanyasa.[1]

Mandukya Upanishad[edit]

Main article: Mandukya Upanishad

Turiya is introduced in the Mandukya Upanishad. The Mandukya Upanishad is the shortest of the Upanishads. It is in prose, consisting of twelve verses expounding the mystic syllable Aum, the three psychological states of waking, dreaming and sleeping, and the transcendent fourth state of illumination.

Verse VII of the Mandukya Upanishad describes Turiya:

Turiya is not that which is conscious of the inner (subjective) world, nor that which is conscious of the outer (objective) world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness. It is not simple consciousness nor is It unconsciousness. It is unperceived, unrelated, incomprehensible, uninferable, unthinkable and indescribable. The essence of the Consciousness manifesting as the self in the three states, It is the cessation of all phenomena; It is all peace, all bliss and non—dual. This is what is known as the Fourth (Turiya). This is Atman and this has to be realized.[web 3]

Turiya is not a state. It is the background on which dreaming and waking arise and disappear. It is another term to describe pure awareness, which is also called nirvikalpa,[web 4] without conceptualisation. The insight during meditation of Turiya is known as amātra, the 'immeasurable' or 'measureless' in the Mandukya Upanishad, being synonymous to samādhi in Yoga terminology.[2]

Understanding of Turiya[edit]

Advaita Vedanta[edit]

Main article: Advaita Vedanta


Main article: Gaudapada

Gaudapada (ca. 7th century) was an early guru in the Advaita Vedanta. He is traditionally said to have been the grand-guru of the great teacher Adi Shankara,[3] one of the most important figures in Hindu philosophy. He is believed to be the founder of Shri Gaudapadacharya Math, and the author or compiler[4] of the Māṇḍukya Kārikā.

Gaudapada wrote or compiled[4] the Māṇḍukya Kārikā, also known as the Gauḍapāda Kārikā and as the Āgama Śāstra.[note 1] The Māṇḍukya Kārikā is a commentary in verse form on the Mandukya Upanishad, one of the shortest but most profound Upanishads, or mystical Vedas, consisting of just 13 prose sentences. In Shankara's time it was considered to be a Śruti, but not particularly important.[5] In later periods it acquired a higher status, and eventually it was regarded as expressing the essence of the Upanisad philosophy.[5]

The Māṇḍukya Kārikā is the earliest extent systematic treatise on Advaita Vedānta,[6] though it is not the oldest work to present Advaita views,[7] nor the only pre-Sankara work with the same type of teachings.[7]

Gaudapada deals with perception, idealism, causality, truth, and reality. The fourth state (turīya avasthā) corresponds to silence as the other three correspond to AUM. It is the substratum of the other three states. It is referred to as atyanta-shunyata (absolute emptiness).[8]

In the fourth state of consciousness, turiya, the mind is not simply withdrawn from the objects, but becomes one with Brahman. In both deep sleep and transcendental consciousness there is no consciousness of objects but the objective consciousness is present in an unmanifested 'seed' form in deep sleep, while it is transcended in turīya. Specifically, if one identifies the wordless state with turīya and meditates, one realizes the true self and 'there is no return to the sphere of empirical life'.[9] From the fact that many Buddhist terms are used in explaining the fourth state, such as Śūnyatā or emptiness, it is clear that this commentary was written in an era when the concepts of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā school of Mahayana Buddhism were influential and renowned.[8]


Adi Shankara described, on the basis of the ideas propounded in the Mandukya Upanishad, the three states of consciousness, namely waking (jågrata), dreaming (svapna), and deep sleep (susupti),[web 5][web 6] which correspond to the three bodies:[10]

  • The first state is that of waking consciousness, in which we are aware of our daily world. "It is described as outward-knowing (bahish-prajnya), gross (sthula) and universal (vaishvanara)".[web 6] This is the gross body.
  • The second state is that of the dreaming mind. "It is described as inward-knowing (antah-prajnya), subtle (pravivikta) and burning (taijasa)".[web 6] This is the subtle body.
  • The third state is the state of deep sleep. In this state, the underlying ground of consciousness is undistracted. "[T]he Lord of all (sarv’-eshvara), the knower of all (sarva-jnya), the inner controller (antar-yami), the source of all (yonih sarvasya), the origin and dissolution of created things (prabhav’-apyayau hi bhutanam)".[web 6] This is the causal body.

In the waking consciousness there is a sense of 'I' (self identity) and awareness of thoughts. In the sleep/dream state there is no or little sense of 'I' but there are thoughts and awareness of thoughts. Waking and dreaming are not true experiences of Reality and truth, because of their dualistic natures of subject and object, self and not-self, ego and non-ego.

In dreamless sleep, one is not conscious of external or internal objects, and there is no awareness of thoughts or 'I'. This does not mean that consciousness is not present there. It is like saying 'I see nothing.' The recognition that nothing is what I 'see'. So also in dreamless sleep, one is not conscious of anything and the very fact that this statement is true proves the existence of consciousness during deep sleep.


Vishishtadvaita Vedanta (literally "Advaita with uniqueness/qualifications"). It is a school of Vedanta philosophy which believes in all diversity subsuming to an underlying unity. Ramanuja, the main proponent of Visishtadvaita philosophy contends that the Prasthana Traya ("The three courses") i.e. Upanişads, Bhagavad Gītā, and Brahma Sūtras are to be interpreted in way that shows this unity in diversity, for any other way would violate their consistency.

Turiya represents consciousness free from material influence. The idea is that consciousness, of which the atman is constituted, exists in our wakeful state of material experience, as it continues during sleep. In sleep we dream and experience the mental realm, whereas during our waking state the physical plane has more bearing on our lives.

Upon awakening from deep dreamless sleep, one remembers existing in that condition. This is evidenced by the common expression, 'I slept well!' One cannot remember something one has no experience of.

Thus, in deep sleep when intelligence is transformed by tamo guna, the self continues to exist, as it does when intelligence is transformed by rajo guna during the dream condition and during the wakeful condition when intellect is transformed by sattva guna. The self is independent of the body and mind. If the physical and mental realms were to shut down, the self would continue to exist. This we know from our experience in deep sleep. Realizing this involves entering the turiya.

Kashmir Shaivism[edit]

Main article: Kashmir Shaivism

Kashmir Shaivism is a school of Śaivism consisting of Trika, the three goddesses Parā, Parāparā and Aparā, and its philosophical articulation in Pratyabhijña, a branch of Kashmir Shaivism.[11] It is described by Abhinavagupta[note 2]as "paradvaita", meaning "the supreme and absolute non-dualism".[web 7]

The philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism can be seen in contrast to Shankara's Advaita.[12] Advaita Vedanta holds that Brahman is inactive (niṣkriya) and the phenomenal world is an illusion (māyā). In Kashmir Shaivisim, all things are a manifestation of the Universal Consciousness, Chit or Brahman.[13][14] Kashmir Shaivisim sees the phenomenal world (Śakti) as real: it exists, and has its being in Consciousness (Chit).[15]

The goal of Kashmir Shaivism is to merge in Shiva or Universal Consciousness, or realise one's already existing identity with Shiva, by means of wisdom, yoga and grace.[16][17]

Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta[edit]

Vasugupta (860–925) was the author of the famous Shiva Sutras of Vasugupta. The Shiva Sutras are a collection of seventy-seven aphorisms that form the foundation of Kashmir Shaivism. The Shiva Sutras and the ensuing school of Kashmir Shaivism are a Tantric or Agamic tradition. The Tantrics saw themselves as independent of the Vedic mainstream schools of thought and practice, and as beyond the rules that had been put in place by them.

According to the Shiva Sutras, Turiya is the fourth state of consciousness beyond the states of waking, dreaming and deep sleep. Turiya strings together those three states. It is the Metaphysical Consciousness distinct from the psychological or empirical self. It is the Saksi or witnessing consciousness. And it is the transcendental Self.

According to Swami Shankarananda,

To find the Divine in the midst of the ordinary is turiya in the Shaivite sense of the word.[18]


Main article: Siddha

In the Hindu philosophy of Kashmir Shaivism (Hindu tantra), siddha refers to a Siddha Guru who can by way of Shaktipat initiate disciples into Yoga. A Siddham in Tamil means "one who is accomplished" and refers to perfected masters who, according to Hindu belief, have transcended the ahamkara (ego or I-maker), have subdued their minds to be subservient to their Awareness, and have transformed their bodies (composed mainly of dense Rajotama gunas) into a different kind of body dominated by sattva. This is usually accomplished only by persistent meditation.

In the Siddha System, the word turiya is not used to describe the fourth state of consciousness.[web 8] The Siddha Literature just mentions it to be the fourth state. The four states of consciousness as described in Siddha are:

  1. Nenavu or the wakeful state
  2. Kanavu or the dreaming state
  3. Sudhubdi or the Unsconscious sleep
  4. Thoongamal Thoongi Sukam pookuvathu, the conscious sleep state, or sleepless sleep full of bliss. This is the highest of the four primary states of consciousness.

This state has been described as a state achieved by meditation. The Siddha Turiya Meditation is a much coveted state of the consciousness and could be attained through sadhana, transmission through the eyes of master [web 9] etc. This consciousness takes one to the state of sleepless sleep, or the ‘zero’ point — where polarities collapse, duality dissolves, and the self dissolves into the infinite. It will allow you to let go of yourself, to trust your soul, and to experience the ultimate.[web 10][


Main article: Vaishnavism

Vaishnavism is one of the major branches of Hinduism along with Shaivism, Smartism, and Shaktism. It is focused on the veneration of Vishnu. Vaishnavites, or the followers of the Supreme Lord Vishnu, lead a way of life promoting differentiated monotheism, which gives importance to Lord Vishnu and His ten incarnations.

The Bhagavata Purana, verse 11.15.16 describes Bhagavan as turiyakhye (the fourth).[web 11]

The Bhagavad Gita, verse 7.3[web 12] defines turiya as:

Within the material world the Lord appears as the three Visnus (gunas). The original form of the Lord is another form still. He is beyond material nature and thus known as the fourth."[web 13]

Gaudiya Vaishnavism[edit]

Main article: Gaudiya Vaishnavism

Gaudiya Vaishnavism (also known as "Chaitanya Vaishnavism"), is a Vaishnava spiritual movement founded by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486–1534) in India in the 16th century. "Gaudiya" refers to the Gauḍa region (present day Bengal/Bangladesh) with Vaishnavism meaning "the worship of the monotheistic Deity or Supreme Personality of Godhead, often addressed as Krishna, Narayana or Vishnu". Its philosophical basis is primarily that of the Bhagavad Gita and Bhagavata Purana, as well as other Puranic scriptures and Upanishads such as the Isha Upanishad, Gopala Tapani Upanishad, and Kali Santarana Upanishad.[web 14]

The Gaudiya Vedantins are interested in turyatitah gopala.[note 3] This is the fifth dimension in which one comes face to face with Gopala Krishna in Braj (Vraja Dhama), from adhoksaja to aprakrta, or from God consciousness to Krishna consciousness. Turyatitah (also spelled turyatita, turya-titah, turiyatita, or turiya-titah) is the experience of the ultimate reality:

The fourth dimension, turiya, is the ground of our existence and the goal of all transcendentalists. For the Vedanta philosophers it is perceived variously, either as undifferentiated consciousness or a relationship with the divine. Regarding the latter, Gaudiya Vedanta concludes that love is greater than ourselves, and it is the greatest aspect of God, one that he himself is motivated by. For them, the nondual consciousness of Vedanta philosophy is realized when we know that we do not belong to ourselves, what to speak of anything belonging to us. If there is any time at which we can accurately say that something belongs to us, it is when, having given ourselves in love to God, we can say that 'he is ours'."[web 15]

God and the finite souls are related:

This is the Krsna (Krishna) conception of Godhead, one in which God appears not as God, nor finite souls as finite souls. Both interrelate intimately as lover and beloved, Krsna and his gopis, beyond any sense of each others' ontological reality, yet beyond the material illusion as well. This dimension of love of Godhead is thus justifiably termed by the Gaudiya Vaisnavas as the fifth dimension, turiya-titah, the dimension of the soul's Soul."[19]

The turyatita state of consciousness is reflected in the Sanskrit poem, the Gita Govinda by Jayadeva, and Jiva Gosvami elaborated on this state in the Sandarbhas.[20]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nakamura notes that there are contradictions in doctrine between the four chapters.[4]
  2. ^ Abhinavgupta (between 10th – 11th century AD) who summarized the view points of all previous thinkers and presented the philosophy in a logical way along with his own thoughts in his treatise Tantraloka.[web 7]
  3. ^ Lord Gopala beyond fourth dimension, Gopala Tapani Upanishad 2.96


Published references[edit]

  1. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 81. 
  2. ^ Goldberg, Ellen (2002). Ardhanarishvara: The Lord who is Half Woman, p. 85
  3. ^ Potter 1981, p. 103.
  4. ^ a b c Nakamura 2004, p. 308.
  5. ^ a b Nakamura 2004, p. 280.
  6. ^ Sharma 1997, p. 239.
  7. ^ a b Nakamura 2004, p. 211.
  8. ^ a b Nakamura 2004, p. 285.
  9. ^ Nikhilananda 1974.
  10. ^ Wilber 2000, p. 132.
  11. ^ Flood, Gavin. D. 2006. The Tantric Body. P.56,62,63,66,68,146
  12. ^ Consciousness is Everything, The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism, Swami Shankarananda pp. 56-59
  13. ^ Pratyãbhijñahṛdayam, Jaideva Singh, Moltilal Banarsidass, 2008 p.24-26
  14. ^ The Doctrine of Vibration: An Analysis of Doctrines and Practices of Kashmir Shaivism, By Mark S. G. Dyczkowski, p.44
  15. ^ Ksemaraja, trans. by Jaidev Singh, Spanda Karikas: The Divine Creative Pulsation, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, p.119
  16. ^ Mishra, K. Kashmir Saivism, The Central Philosophy of Tantrism, pp. 330-334
  17. ^ Vijnanabhairava verse 109, dh 85, trans. by Jaidev Singh, p.98
  18. ^ Shankarananda 2006, p. 200.
  19. ^ Swami B.V. Tripurari. Entering The Fifth Dimension. 
  20. ^ Swami B.V. Tripurari. Jiva Goswami's Tattva-Sandarbha: Sacred India's Philosophy of Ecstasy. 



  • Nakamura, Hajime (2004), A History of Early Vedanta Philosophy. Part Two, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Nikhilananda, Swami (1974), Mandukyopanishad with Gaudapada’s Karika and Sankara’s Commentary, Mysore: Shri Ramakrishna Ashrama 
  • Potter, Karl. H. (1981), Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies: Advaita Vedānta up to Śaṃkara and his pupils, Volume 3, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0310-8 
  • Shankarananda, Swami (2006), The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism: Consciousness Is Everything, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers Private Limited 
  • Sharma, C. (1997), A Critical Survey of Indian Philosophy, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, ISBN 81-208-0365-5 
  • Wilber, Ken (2000), Integral Psychology, Shambhala Publications 

External links[edit]