What is the relationship between unconsciousness and awareness?

Acharya Prashant
8 min readJan 29, 2023

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

“I have no body. I have no distinctive traits. Neither do I have a cause. I have no fourth state. One who is rooted in oneself is called a jivanmukta.”

~ Ashtavakra Gita

Question: What is the relationship between the unconscious and awareness? Does the unconscious dissolve in awareness?

Acharya Prashant (AP): Only thought gives meaning to thought, right? Even when you are thinking, you require somebody to give meaning to that thinking. Have you not wondered after waking up from a dream, what was the dream all about?

Listener 1 (L1): Yes.

AP: Yes. Now, what is happening? What was the dream? A thought. And now what is thought trying to do?

L1: It’s trying to analyze that.

AP: It’s trying to analyze that. Are you getting it?

Many a time it happens that you just can’t make sense of the dream. Absolutely absurd — Buildings are flying, and crows are swimming. Now, what the hell?

Who is this who is trying to give sense to the thought, to the dream?

L1: The mind.

AP: That which is the reservoir of memory. In your memory, you have never seen a case where buildings are flying. So, this thought which is trying to interpret will say it’s absurd, right? So, there can be two kinds of thoughts, one which appears as having meaning, which appears as proper to thought itself. Appear to whom? To thought itself. And the second, which simply does not come in the domain of this thought because memory has no way of validating them. The second is more or less the subconscious.

The subconscious constantly keeps on doing things, it is a store of this and that — experiences, that, this, right? But because it is coming from a place a little far away in time, memory may not be able to recall from where is the thought coming. It may not be able to give a meaningful interpretation to that thought, or sometimes, it may not be able to even realize that…