When does self-effulgence become apparent?

Q. In the context of Third mind, I have a question--Consciousness is said to be self effulgent (swayam prakasa). So, I have been wondering, which stage of expansion/contraction of Consciousness is self-effulgent?

A. Self-effulgence can be understood in two ways.

One is that self-effulgence means consciousness needs no other support to know, to understand, to recognize, to exist. Its knowingness or intelligence is self-sustained and not dependent on anything else. That self-sustained intelligence is the effulgence in which which anything and everything else is recognized.

The second way is that self-effulgence is the light of consciousness. Here the attention is more on the literal light which is the essential nature of the body and world once we go beyond the layers of matter. We see this light depicted in photos of great people—the halo of light surrounding their heads or bodies. Their experience is also that—light is their nature, ever-shining, and this light itself self-modifies as the layers of matter.

These two understandings are aspects of the same same-effulgent consciousness. Consciousness proper (I am not speaking of my or your consciousness as individuals here) is independent, not relying on anything for its existence, and is of the nature of existence, indivisibility, intelligence, and illumination. This is the total meaning of self-effulgence.

The First Mind cannot recognize self-effulgence because of the wall of identity that has densified and constricted it. It cannot see beyond this wall, therefore it cleaves experience and projects a “world out there outside of me” and a private world “within me.” It cannot recognize the rest of itself, and cannot recognize what the wall is made of that is obstructing its vision.

As the wall of misconceptions, unexamined beliefs, and repressed emotions starts to shake loose, moments of lightness are experienced, both as new in-sights and as the literal experience of light. This is the boundary of the First and Second Minds.

The First Mind may not give value to these moments of lightness because there is no accepted framework for understanding the undivided nature of light. It may seem to be some strange subjective experience that is not noteworthy. As the wall crumbles, lightness increasingly streams in, and as the locus of identity delocalizes, lightness increasingly streams from within. Here, the vedantic pointer ayam atma brahmah becomes useful: my own self (light) is the universal self (light).

When a scientist tries to understand the nature of the world, they begin by mastering the external world. They will ultimately conceptually encounter the universal reality, brahman, though they will of course have a different term for it. When a scientist tries to understand herself using the laboratory of her mind, she will ultimately encounter her own self, atman. Neither journey is complete.

The first scientist has to include herself in the picture, and to do this she will have to reconcile the universal brahman with the apparently personal atman. The second scientist has to include the universe in the picture, and to do this she will have to reconcile the apparently personal atman with the universal brahman. Only then is the recognition complete and the mind established as the Second Mind configuration.

Self-effulgence is the nature consciousness. The Second Mind configuration allows the sustained recognition of its nature.

antar jyoti bahir jyoti (within is light, without is light)

pratyak jyoti paraparaha (the innermost light, beyond the beyond)

jyotir jyoti swayam jyotihi (the light of lights, one’s own light)

atma jyoti shivosmyaham (the light of the self, that auspiciousness i am)

-Adi Sankara, brahma jnanavali

Anoop Kumar, MD, MM is board certified in Emergency Medicine and holds a Master’s degree in Management with a focus in Health Leadership. He practices in the Washington, DC metro area, where he also leads meditation gatherings for clinicians. He is the author of Michelangelo’s Medicine and the upcoming book Is This a Dream? He tweets @DrAnoopKumar. Join our next podcast.