Awareness determines quality of response

Post By: Published on: December 19, 2016 Reading time: 6 minutes

What is the relationship between situational awareness (prajñā) and change?

  • Firstly, stress is experienced when there is change as it disturbs the state of balance or homeostasis; in us or others.
  • Consequently, there is stress and change in awareness levels until a fresh state of balance is reached.
  • Importantly, the old level of awareness is never be re-established even after the situation has been resolved.
  • As a result, this resets our conditioning and consequently, the variables which govern our state of homeostasis.

How is situational awareness impacted by conditioning (dharma)?

  • First, stimulus enters through the senses and is compared with our conditioning or dharma.
  • Next, change impacts our sense of Self (asmitā) at 2 levels;
    • our awareness in the situation (vijñāna) and
    • awareness of the change to our self by the situation (jñāna).
  • As a result, there changes our conditioning or dharma and the loop begins again.
  • This constant weave of conditioning (svadharma) and behaviour (svabhāva) is called personality (svatantra).

Example: We all watch movies. Whenever we go with friends or family, each person has a different view on how the movie was, whether he liked it, which his or her favourite character was and why. This is because; the movie impacts each of our svadharmas differently. This happens in difficult situations also, which is why, the impact of stress on each of us is different, which makes it very personal.

How stress impacts us can be gauged from the impact the stimulus has on the hierarchy of needs as propounded by Abraham Maslow as explained in an earlier blog. Safety and security issues generally take priority over social issues.

Anecdotes, experiences and situations to help understand awareness… 

Assume the following events occur simultaneously – the landlord serves you with an eviction notice, your child suddenly develops fever, the cooking stove breaks down, your neighbour complains that your dog bit her cat, your favourite dress disappears and finally a wild-looking man, breaks into the house and threatens you with a gun.

Until the wild-looking man is diffused, you will never be able to do anything else. The man affects your safety and he is completely out of your control. After he leaves, you will try to get the child to the doctor. However, the car is required for this, so you will try to fix that. The child is a responsibility, it has no control over its ill-health and potentially affects your feeling of security. Finally, you would try to diffuse the neighbour because it affects your social needs, before leaving for the doctor. Everything else would be tackled later.


When we in multiple situations, we try to prioritise. Imagine if in the example above, the parent was to mix up priorities and start searching for the missing dress. There would be chaos and confusion, if not disaster.

It is the here and now requirement that grabs precedence. Our ability to remain in the present and be able to recognize the priority of reality is key to our ability to manage stress.

The best way to deal with change is to manage the experience as it unfolds. Once the coping action is managed in accordance with our conditioning or svadharma, there is an experience of harmony or homeostasis which is a feeling of peace or shanti.

What are the factors that affect situational awareness or prajñā?

  • Will: The drive to affect the outcome in our favour.
  • Genetic: These are the situation handling tools that we are born with.
  • Conditioning: Environmental, culture, school background, home, etc., determines our ability to handle various situations.
  • Classification: By nature, some situations are more difficult to manage than others.

Example: The death of a close relative is more difficult to handle than an argument at a traffic signal. War is more difficult to handle than the discomfort like missing a meal or your favourite dish.

  • Health: The current Physical, Intellectual and Emotional state determines the quality of our reactions.
  • Risk taking: The ability to start an activity without a clear idea of the possible outcome differs between people.
  • Self Esteem: Fear of failure, confidence, domain knowledge, personal support system and previous experience impact awareness.

What is the measure of progress in situational awareness?

There are four levels of awareness (prajñā) in the path of situational awareness.

  • Jāgrat (wakeful or transactional state) – Cognition in our situation. 
  • Swapna (conceptual or dream state) – The audio and visual aspects of a situation which stay with us.
  • Suṣupti (formless state) – when awareness reaches a state where form is not required to support existence, also known as formless or nirrupa state. This is also the state where a person is completely in the present. This state is called sthithaprajñā by Sri Krishna in Chapter 2 of Srimad Bhagavad-Geeta.
  • Turīya (state where no guṇa exists nirguṇa state). Clearly, the turīya state is meant for mystics and not for daily application.

Awareness matrix.

The three states will manifest as shown in the matrix. These are nine combinations of awareness which can be evaluated in a matrix shown above. The first name decides which level predominates.

An example of awareness.

(Wikipedia extract) Rosa Parks, an African America boarded a bus on 1 December 1955, in Montgomery, USA. She paid her fare and sat in the first row of seats reserved for blacks. As the bus travelled along, all the white-only seats in the bus filled up. At one stop, several white passengers boarded.

Since 1900, Montgomery had a city ordinance segregating passengers by race. Conductors could assign seats to accomplish this. Therefore, the bus driver, seeing that the front of the bus had filled and that two or three whites were standing, demanded that Rosa Parks and other black people give up their seats. Rosa Parks refused. The driver called the police.

Thereafter, Rosa Parks was arrested and jailed for not giving up her seat.

  • Firstly, what were the changes to Rosa Parks state of awareness in the above situation?
  • Importantly, does fear have a role in situational awareness?
  • Additionally, what were the fears that might have been experienced by Rosa Parks?

Points to ponder on awareness.

Internal Tags: Dharma (conditioning), Stress and situational Awareness, Stress and prana

External Tags: Consciousness

  • How close is the concept of Situational Awareness with Theory of Relativity?
  • How does mass, time, light and space affect Situational Awareness?
  • Can one assess progress in his or her awareness levels? How?
  • Why is it so difficult to remain in the present? How can one improve one’s awareness of the present?
  • How receptive are you to change?
  • Do you often get impatient when the other person takes time to understand your point of view?
  • Prioritisation – how do you prioritise when you are stressed?
  • How do enhance your awareness and your coping actions.

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