Three stages of existence

Adiguru Prakriti outlines the three stages of existence‒Experiencing, Knowing, and Being‒and the two events that separate them, Enlightenment and Self-realization.

Three stages of existence title=Three stages of existence

By Adiguru Prakriti


This article is reprinted from Being Shiva.

Experiencing, Knowing and Being are three stages of existence: Three stages where we exist, three planes where we exist, three levels of consciousness as we exist, three reflections of THAT.

Experiencing is the gross reflection of THAT, Knowing is the subtle reflection of THAT, Being is the causal reflection of THAT. These are also the three stages of waking consciousness, deep sleep consciousness, and consciousness of the fourth state which is called turiya, the beyond. These are also the three Hindu gods Brahma, Vishnu, and Mahesh (Shiva).

From the Tantra perspective, the Experiencer belongs to the three lower chakras, the Knower belongs to the upper three chakras, and Being is the seventh chakra where Shakti is in union with Shiva.

These three stages correspond to the spiritual path: we are born as an Experiencer; with Enlightenment that dies and we live as a Knower; then with Self-realization even Knowing dies and we live as Being. So these three stages have two events in between, Enlightenment and Self-realization. The net result of living as a Being is LIBERATION.

1. Experiencing

Imagine one day you wake up and realize that your senses are missing. You can’t taste anything; it makes no difference what you’re eating; the delicacies you once savored, no matter how carefully cooked, are nothing like they were; nothing tastes like it used to. You notice you don’t feel or understand touching anymore; the moments that you once cherished have no life left in them – all are gone! You have no idea what you’re doing now or what this body is. While taking a shower, the feel of soap, foam, and aroma of essential oils are gone. The body feels distant and alien as if it’s a mere statue of clay. You realize nothing smells distinct anymore; all scents and non-scents are nonsense. From a sensical being you suddenly became a nonsensical one.

Pardon me, I am at loss of words here to describe the dilemma of Enlightenment that I had to face. All words seem similar to me now; language has lost it’s format, structure, and meaning for me. I didn’t know what Enlightenment is: what it does to the body, to the senses, to the emotions, to the Being that we are or who we think we were, and I was freaked out for a couple of months. I fought real hard to bring it back somehow, and discovering what was gone became a game for me, although at that time it didn’t feel like a good thing. For a sensitive, artistic, poetic, creative kind of person, loss of the senses wasn't a good thing. And I had no one to explain what had happened, to tell me whether it was normal or abnormal.

For two months I felt sad and grumpy because of all that was lost, even though there was always a deep knowing that everything was okay. As time went on, as a result of Enlightenment, I became more distant from my body, from the physical/gross part of existence, and this helped. But still at times I wished I could bring back that part for a couple of hours somehow – how cool would that be? (Laughing.)

I didn’t have words to explain my situation until one day my knowledgeable friend Arathi said, “The experiencer is missing.” It hit me real hard. Oh, so my senses are okay, they work, it’s just that the mental faculty, the personality, which was earlier experiencing through these senses, is no more. It’s dead. That made perfect sense to me. Thanks to the words that Arathi gave me, I was able to let it go. I learned to live without experiencing. There was bliss in every moment without experiencing anything, so why fight for what is no longer part of my existence? So I laughed and made peace with it.

Slowly from a picky eater and sophisticated cook I turned into someone who can eat anything without trying to modify it, define it, or categorize it. I used to be a person who wouldn’t eat food that lacks proper salt, and I turned into somebody who never adds salt even if it’s completely missing. Slowly I started having less and less interest in cooking, as nothing in me was looking for more experiences through taste. Food became something that I eat only to keep the body going; I saw no other point in the domain of taste.

Slowly I turned into somebody who doesn’t want her body touched. It felt alien, or you can say I couldn’t feel it; I didn’t see any point to it. Here in the US, ladies usually hug when they meet, but I lost the inclination to do that. I would say hi and bye without touching. Except for occasionally hugging a child or patting someone on their shoulders, I didn’t see any purpose to the domain of touch.

Slowly from a super music lover who could listen to music 24/7, I became someone who never turned music on despite having a huge collection of Hindi music, English songs, spiritual music, mantras, binaural beats, solfeggio tones, this and that. There was perfect silence in my existence. Music or no music, it made no difference to me. Sounds became scattered when I heard them. For a few days I couldn’t hear properly and music felt like nothing but noise. Instead the sound of OM/AUM was prominent in me. I couldn’t localize it, but it felt as if it was coming from the heart center. It made me go into trance-like states for few days, and then I got adjusted to it. Silence has a sound of its own, words of its own, notes and symphonies of its own.

Slowly from a beauty lover who would endlessly clean and decorate the house, I turned into someone who is fine whichever way my surroundings were – not that I didn’t clean the house, but my eyes lost the look. Or the one who used to look through my eyes was lost, was dead. Instead my eyes focused just anywhere without blinking, like a constant-stare-into-nowhere kind of thing. Looking at people felt like direct contact with their souls, with their essence. Vision became peripheral for few days, then adjusted itself or maybe I got used to it. There was no difference between looking at a tree or flower or human being. All was one, all the same.

Slowly from a person who would regularly smudge the house with sage, incense sticks, hawan samagri, and camphor, I became someone who didn’t see any point in doing that. Everywhere is heavenly as is; I didn’t need to do anything to make it that way. I had been very fond of aroma candles, essential oils, and perfumes; I forgot all that slowly.

Finally that is what is meant by the “Experiencer is no more.”

From the day we are born, the mind starts running outward using the senses, creating the world of perception and developing a personality which is nothing but a total sum of all sense-perception. As children we touch anything and everything: rocks, flowers, dead bees, even fire. Based on perception the mind creates a personality which has its own likes and dislikes, its own partial, filtered world where the real world, where the way things really are, is mostly hidden or absent. Second touch or sight of anything will always be through filters, will always be in the comparison of the memory of the first touch or sight or smell or taste. It seems as though the “next” experience always depends on the “previous” one or gets filtered through it. We stop experiencing life the way it is because data gets recorded by mind in the form of memory, and judgment comes out of that. After growing up we judge things to be “good” or “bad” but they aren’t necessarily that way; our judgments are only opinions that our minds create based on previous experiences.

It doesn't take many experiences to become judgmental or strongly opinionated, and this is what a personality is in us, which plays in us. We stop living the day we stop being open to life the way it is. At times sense-pleasure and displeasure become so strong that they start driving us, solidifying that personality even more. That’s when we lose control over our senses and minds and become slaves instead. That personality becomes a strong ego which then forces us to recreate those experiences. It could be something as simple as partying all night until 5:00 a.m., as that personality’s definition of fun is just that. Or it could be cleaning your house to the point of madness, as that personality’s definition of cleanliness has become an obsession. Or it could be talking endlessly without listening, as that personality’s way of being someone is by talking all the time. Or being always in defensive mode, as that personality believes it is always being offended or attacked.

At some point we need to stop and examine this personality that mind has created ‒ examine all the memories and the opinions based on them ‒ and see how much rubbish we harbor that prevents us from living, from experiencing life the way it is. Otherwise we relive those memories, relive the past, over and over again. Having lived the past with person xyz, we live it again in the future with person abc. The drama continues, replays itself, similar things happen again and again, and we wonder why. Once you analyse the personality, maybe you will realize that the definition of fun isn’t only partying until 5:00 a.m. Cleanliness shouldn’t stop others around you from living life the way it is. Listening without the urge to respond is very important in comparison to being a chatterbox. People aren’t “offending you;” they may simply be expressing themselves or trying to talk to you about something simple.

Senses are not the culprit. Senses are fine; they help us see, feel, touch, smell, and taste this beautiful world and save us from danger; but excessive reliance on them, mental personification of them, turns us into their slaves. Mind plays an important role in recording, translating the sense-perceptions and defining them into various categories of good, bad, usual, normal, etc. Someday just give up the role of the mind, that personality, and live with your senses as if they have been given to you for the first time, as if you are using them for the first time like a child does, and if any mental, memory-based judgment comes out from the mind, discard it and see how it feels to live in this world. See how beautiful it is to have what we have been given. You may wonder why you need to do that. Because you are “suffering” your own “perception” of the personal world of your mental/egoistic personality. There is no suffering outside that little world of that personality. Open your eyes and see for yourself.

With Enlightenment, when I say the Experiencer is no more, it doesn’t mean I lost the senses. Senses are still there working normally as they should. I mean that memory-based personality created by the mind is dead. So every sense-perception now is new, and since that personality is dead, no new experience is being recorded as a memory, so next time when I see, touch, or smell the same thing again, no comparison comes out, no judgment or opinion comes out. As I live within this world the way it is, I live in NOW, in REALITY, beyond DUALITY of good/bad, beautiful/ugly, good smell, bad one, tasty/horrible etc. All likes and dislikes are gone. It’s not that I have forgotten what I used to like or dislike, but there is no personality within to access those sections of my memory except occasionally when it should be that way. As with deleted computer files which remain on the hard disk ‒ only the references to them are really deleted ‒ the old likes and dislikes are still there but no longer seen.

This knowing and understanding of the missing Experiencer came to me with Enlightenment.

The domain, the story, of the experiencer doesn’t stop there. It goes all the way to being in relationship with others and with ourselves, out of body experiences, astral travels and trying to wander in different dimensions, Shambhala, Shangri-La, Kundalini, energy, celestial beings, angels, demons, and just anything and everything. Until a personality is alive within us, life is nothing but a series of filtered, less real experiences. Look carefully, that personality changes over time and takes many faces and forms. The earthly plane and human body/life is the domain of the Experiencer and it keeps on creating many stories over the course of a lifetime.

2. Knowing

With Enlightenment, the Experiencer died in me and a Knower was born. This Knower was in perfect knowing of what has happened to me, what is happening to the body, senses, and emotions, who is enlightened, what is reality, what is duality/maya/relative reality, and a lot, lot more. This Knower was the warehouse of Cosmic Wisdom and I could access whatever, whenever.

This Knower was beyond time and space and was perfect Awareness, Pure Consciousness itself, performing the function of knowing. It was always aware of events, lessons that were pending for me to learn, how to learn them, what to do, and what not to do.

We always have this Knower within us which knows the TRUTH, which in fact is the TRUTH itself. At a smaller scale we call it intuition or gut feeling. But this small-scale knower is not as functional or directly perceived as the Knower that becomes evident after Enlightenment because the pre-Enlightenment Experiencer makes so much noise all the time and eats up all the space of our existence. It is always telling us, “I experienced this, now what next, what next, what next?” When that Experiencer/personality died, the Knower became my Existence or the plane where I existed.

Life changed completely as I saw and understood from this plane; nothing was the same. The first gift (boon) and challenge (curse) (yes, they existed simultaneously) that I had to deal with was that whomever I talked with, I could clearly see through them. Their personality, their whole existence, was bare naked in front of me, and when I said something it did not make any sense for them, as their perception was still through their personality, their mind/ego. When I tried to tell them about themselves, they had no way to understand it, perceive it, or see it. I became an oddball and made a fool out of myself.

The personality/Experiencer died in me, so the Knower was living and communicating in the world of people whose personality was very strong and alive. How to deal with all that? Who is there in me to deal with all that? I had no one who could explain to me how to live from this plane of Knowing. Ultimately after a few months I had to stop talking to people as much as possible. This wasn’t too hard for me since I lived life as an introvert. Still it was painful to recognize that so many people do not see the Truth, do not see the Reality. A desire arose to help them, help as many as possible, help the loved ones, and help everyone.

But the point is, everyone has this Knower within. It’s just that their personality/Experiencer is hiding it, closing the door of Cosmic Wisdom, the TRUTH. But maybe they haven’t experienced enough, haven’t had enough pain to cause renunciation in their minds. After all not all lemons are ripe on the tree the same day, which is perfectly fine. Some will ripen today, some tomorrow or the day after, but every lemon will ripen eventually, one way or the other. That’s the final outcome. There is no other way it can be.

So I made peace with the Knower within me and with the world around me. But then came an inquisitiveness to know what else exists. How many dimensions? What is the TRUTH? How vast is this relative reality, this Maya? But since the Experiencer was dead, I couldn’t think of experiencing anything. Instead whatever I wanted to know started coming to me as a deep knowing within, until I realized that there is no limit. This creation, Maya, is endless and can appear to be whichever way one looks at it. It can take a gazillion forms and shapes. Just as there is no limit to experiencing ‒ one could go on and on forever until infinity ‒ in the same way there is no end to knowing. The Knower in me stopped trying to consume infinity. Not that it’s not possible, it is, since the Knower is in the domain of pure consciousness, in the domain of ultimate creation, but what is the point? Why pursue that endless task? Why waste so much time? When we go to buy clothes, we don't try on all the clothes in the store. In a similar way, when liberation is the goal, why waste time?

Now this is the major lesson to learn here, that human experiences and human knowing could go on forever, so somewhere we have to draw a line and realize that it’s enough. We can’t let experiences and knowing distract us from our goal of Liberation. No more fooling around while we have a healthy human body.

Finally I was ready to give up this Knower. Too much knowing didn’t help me much because the personality was dead already, so I wasn’t trying to know anything to impress anyone or to reveal the universe to this world, or to create some sort of “Super Knowa (Knower) Personality” within. The world that I was living in and the people around me stayed the same; my knowing made no difference to my life or anyone else’s life. I realized it’s better and safer to not know everything! It’s easier to live a little ignorant.

Then came the time when I looked up to the sky and said “I am ready.” Without knowing what came next, without knowing what it would bring, without knowing that I was asking for DEATH, complete ANNIHILATION.

The Knower in me didn’t make any effort to know anything anymore!

3. Being

After the death of the Experiencer, when the Knower was ready to die, there came Self-realization. This time the Knower died and a Being was born, or more accurately a Being was revealed; it had been there forever, but was concealed behind the noise of the Experiencer and Knower.

When Being’s existence was revealed, or when I became a Being, I understood that the Experiencer and Knower did not die but instead are merged within me, within the Being that I am, but they are not personal to me, or there is no personality attached to them anymore. They are the Cosmic Experiencer and Cosmic Knower merged within the Being, who is a Cosmos in one’s Self, or the Creation/Manifestation in the Unified Whole. Since there is no personality attached to them, their functions are not driven through my personal will. They function at Divine’s will or cosmic will. Personal will, personality, personal mind, everything that has “person” as a prefix is replaced with “Cosmos” and “Cosmic”. I truly became a human being, a Being in human form. It was blissful that finally I did become what I was born as, a human being. Now you may laugh at it, as it may not sound that profound. People try to become astronauts, scientists, political leaders, CEOs, and writers, and here I was busy trying to become a human being or trying to be human.

Life at this stage becomes truly spontaneous. There are no varying states anymore. Bliss or peace doesn’t come or go, it’s just there always as stark naked reality. There is no Knower functioning at a separate individualistic level keeping track of Prakriti’s life, Prakriti’s states, enlightenment, Self-realization, liberation, or anything else. Separate Prakriti (me) doesn’t exist any longer. It’s all merged, it’s all integrated. Prakriti cannot be centralized or localized to this body (my body) or this costume of personality that it functions through.

Now was the time to just be ‒ be anything, everything or nothing at the same time. Merely by looking, this Being could be what it is looking at. At this level, Experience, Experiencer, and Experiencing are merged; Knower, Knowing, Knowable are merged; there is no segregation, it all functions as ONE. Then who and what is there to Experience, to Know? What could be Experienced, or Known? Who will be playing the roles of Experiencer or Knower?

This whole Creation doesn’t exist in a segregated fashion. It’s all integrated, it’s all ONE, and at the same time it’s decentralized. There is no you, no me, no relationship in between. I am you, you are me, and we are us, or we are either you or me. And this is the naked TRUTH that I became.

As wonderful as this truth was, then came total appreciation, love, and devotion for the way Creation exists, for its segregated-ness, for its diversity, for its humungous ability to diversify, reflect in a gazillion ways, for eyes to be able to see the beauty in ugliness, for the sense of touch to be able to feel flowers and thorns alike, for the sense of taste to be able to feel sweetness in all bitterness, for hearing the Laughter in all the angry shouting and yelling, feeling the joy behind all sorrows and tears. That just left me speechless for some time, as if I was struck with a thunderbolt. I could not speak a word about all this. I could only shed tears in this simple understanding and revelation of the Existence. It was simple but profound at the same time, and that’s when I lost all words that I could ever use to explain this to anyone.

Everything around me is the same, people, places, events, and I feel so joyful in crying with others in their pain. I can see the beauty and joy of hidden fears, anger, sorrow, and pain, and I am totally in LOVE with all this, in love with the Human-ness of Being Human. Who could create something so brilliant, so profound, yet so simple and diversified? We are the Creation and Creators, Immortals; we were never born and will never die.

Living life as a Being in the human body form is a very deep, blissful, peaceful experience in itself and I love to live it. It is also the most powerful plane to exist on, as anything can be Created that helps this Existence or Creation in anyway. The whole Universe is my playground now.

I no longer feel the peace or bliss. I am the peace, I am the silence, I am the bliss. I am Sat, Chit, Ananda!

Sat: Truth.
Chit: Pure consciousness.
Ananda: Bliss (a state beyond happiness and unhappiness).

Flowing as the river, being its water,

flowing as the wind, playing with trees,

like blowing leaves,

being earth while looking at it,

Being whatever just by looking at it,

the joy of being cannot be described in words,

it’s poetic, it’s romantic, it’s agape.

I am in love with this whole Universe!

A spirit dances in me now, a celebration that goes on and on day and night, every moment.

Now I wonder, no wonder I spent thousands of years just for this earthly human experience…


There is love in your anger,

there is love in your tears,

all your flaws are fabulous,

those painful moments are amulets,

those innocent names and games of love

emotions weave the poetry of life…

those sleepless nights were amazing,

That Silence and moon, and moonlight bathing,

when I lay there waiting,

for dawn to break,

only to realize, I am no more…

Is this the end, or the beginning, or beyond, I don't know now...

Just be!

Be the Beginning, or Be the End,

Be the rain, or Be the sand,

Be as you please…

Just be!

The Experiencer died in me after Enlightenment, the Knower of my own living, life, my own existence died after Self-realization. All that is left now is this Being who/what just IS. It’s beyond light and dark, it’s NOTHING!, it just IS. I don’t know how else to explain this to anyone, can this ever be explained?

Peace and Bliss is what IS :-)

This article was originally published on Unified Whole (now Being Shiva) on June 7, 2016. Copyright © 2016 Adiguru Prakriti. Used by permission.

Adiguru Prakriti is a software architect and single mother of a teenage boy. Since Self-realization she helps people transform and walk their spiritual journeys. She lives in Melbourne, Australia.

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This page was first published on June 22, 2016, last revised on January 18, 2023, and last republished on January 19, 2023.



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