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The Mandukya Upanishad

Bridging the gap between the spontaneous and ecstatic mysticism of the early Upanishads and the systematic metaphysics of Advaitic Vedanta was the short but influential late Upanishad, the Mandukya Upanishad, which refers to four states of consciousness, four aspects of being - waking or gross, dreaming or subtle, dreamless sleep or very subtle, and the Fourth which is the Absolute or Self (Atman), these being related to each of the three letters of the important Indian mantra AUM, with the fourth principle representing silence (the Unmanifest)

The relevant part of this short text runs as follows:

2. ...This self (Atman) is Brahman.  This same self has four quarters.
3. The first quarter is vaishvanara, whose sphere is the waking state [jagarat, the world], who cognises (prajna) external objects...
4. The second quarter is taijasa, whose sphere is the dream (svapna) state, who cognises (prajna) internal objects...
5. ...The third quarter is prajna, whose sphere is deep sleep (sushupta), who has become one, who is verily a mass of cognition (prajna), who is full of bliss and who enjoys bliss, whose face is thought.
6. This is the lord of all, this is the knower of all, this is the inner controller; this is the source of all; this is the beginning and end of beings.
7.  (Turiya is) not that which cognises the internal, not that which cognises the external, not that which cognises both of them, not a mass of cognition, not cognitive, not non-cognitive.  Unseen, incapable of being spoken of, ungraspable, without any distinctive marks, unthinkable, unnameable, the essence of the knowledge of the one self, that into which the world is resolved, the peaceful, the benign, the non-dual, such, they think is the fourth (Turiya) quater.  He is the self (Atman); He is to be known.
[S. Radhakrishnan (transl.), The Principle Upanishads, pp.695-698  (London, George Allen & Unwin Ltd, 1953)]

In this Upanishad the four quarters are four aspects of the one Reality: the four-fold classification of existence into the objective, subjective, consciousness, and transcendent-Absolute, states of consciousness.  So Turiya is the Transcendent Absolute Reality, the Atman.  Prajna here refers to the cosmic dimension of bliss, consciousness, causal body) which is identified with God (Ishwara).  The other two quarters, Taijasa and Vishva or Vaishvanara, represent the inner and outer, subtle and gross, psychic and physical, dimensions of the Individual being.  The word Taijasa actually means "bright" or "fiery"  [Larson, Classical Samkhya, p.185]; compare this with the Indian term for the gods: devas or "shining ones"

Note that it is not the highest but the second highest principle, Prajna or Cognitive consciousness, which is identified with God or the Creator - "the lord of all,...the source of all; the beginning and end of beings".  This is actually an emanationist idea; in that Emanationism assumes the First Principle or Absolute to be too transcendent to be actually involved in Creation.  It is also in keeping with the Indian Vedantic tradition, which sees the cosmic godhead as inferior to the Absolute: inasmuch as you can access the Absolute in the essence of your own being (the Atman), you transcend even the Gods, for you become their self as well.  Thus the Vedantic monist Shankara sees the Jiva or individual soul, and Ishwara or God, as both equally non-absolute manifestations of the one Reality, Brahman.


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