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From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Avasthā-traya literally means ‘three states of consciousness’.

Works of Vedānta based primarily on the teachings of the Upaniṣads, recognize three ‘avasthās’ or states of consciousness with which we are all familiar :

  1. Jāgrat - waking state - In the jāgrad avasthā both the sense-organs and the mind are active.
  2. Svapna - Dream state - In the svapna-avasthā only mind, impelled by the latent impression of the waking experience and the latent impressions of past lives are active.
  3. Suṣupti - Deep-sleep state - In the suṣupti- avasthā, even the mind is at rest.

In all these three states there is always a ‘witness,’ called ‘sākṣi-caitanya,’ who is ever present as an observer and experiences the effects of these states. He is the ātman or the Self.

Since he is, apparently, the ‘fourth’ (as opposed to the three states) he is called the ‘turiya’ (= the fourth). It is not considered as a state of consciousness but counted as consciousness itself. An analysis of the three states of consciousness leading to the establishment of the ātman through reasoning, is called ‘avasthā-traya-viveka’ or ‘avasthā-traya- vivecana.’ This subject has been dealt with in detail in the Māndukya Upanisad and the Kārikās.[1]


  1. Gauḍapāda (A. D. 780)
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore