Part 11 of the serialization of the presentation (compiled by R. B. Athreya from the lectures given by Swami Paramarthananda) of upadesha sAhasrI. This is the prakaraNa grantha which is agreed by most experts to have been written by Shankara himself and is an elaborate unfoldment of the essence of Advaita.
One enduring misconception about enlightenment is that there are different ‘paths’ for different temperaments. This is not supported by Śaṅkara’s vision. Below the argument for the single ‘path’ is presented.
1. All problems of life are due to an erroneous assumption about who one is. The solution to the problems of life, therefore, lies in correcting this erroneous assumption. Advaitins in the Śaṅkara tradition would agree with this.
2. Common observation supported by scripture shows that, when one’s aim is split, the goal is unlikely to be reached. So for seekers who are split between an avowed desire for self-knowledge and ‘compelling’ ties to the world in the form of emotional entanglements to people and places, unfulfilled duties, ambitions and the like, attaining the goal of self-knowledge is unlikely – their minds being impure (i.e. distorted by subjective likes and dislikes) or unsteady (unable to remain single-pointed for any length of time). The compelling pull of likes and dislikes that arise from duties and entanglements and ambitions is known as mala. And the flickering of the mind from one worldly demand to the other is called vikshepa. Continue reading
Part 13 of the New Book Serialization!
Vasishta tells the dreamer a story about a woman who rediscovers a lost child but requires proof, illustrating the demands of our intellect for proof regarding the truth.
Under the section ‘Tarka vs Sruti’, the more or less unconscious devise (upadhi) of removing the subject from the ‘picture’ aimed at understanding the world, is broached, and the author (RB) quotes E. Schrödinger in that connection: “It became inherent in any attempt to form a picture of the objective world such as the Ionians made”. And so, “…the desire for understanding the world through our imperfect sensory knowledge invariably leads to certain, frequently overlooked, assumptions”.
It is curious that the first sleight of hand – by ‘primordial man’, the demiurge of mythology or Platonic philosophy – consisted in making a scission within reality so that subject and object would emerge in opposition to each other: God and man (the Garden of Eden), and then making a second scission (by imaginative surgery), thus removing the human subject altogether (provisionally! – for the Ionian ‘physiologoi’ knew what they were doing, though, it is related, Thales of Miletus fell once into a ditch while absorbed looking at the firmament’s stars in utter wonder). Certainly, this device – or both combined – made possible all the empirical sciences, literature, art, and everything we know ‘about’ the world. No division or separation (no adhyasa and its attending ‘names and forms’), no world. Allusion was made to this (mythological) result or outcome previously, as well as to the kind of ignorance that became knowledge (with small case). Continue reading
We don’t ever see or experience a ‘world.’
Our capacity to detect anything is confined to a limited bandwidth of certain characteristics (in a so called world) using our sensory organs:
Eyes → light, colors, shapes, distances, sizes
Ears → sounds, distance
Skin → heat, pressure, itch, softness, roughness
Nose → smells
Tongue → taste
Mind (?) → time, imagining (thinking)
[Note: 1. The normally held view about our senses as given above is valid only in a broad way. Modern scientific research shows that quite a bit of collaborative overlap exists in their actual functioning. For example, eyes and skin also have a role in hearing; nose and ears (and even lungs) assist the tongue in tasting etc. Embodiment takes place from multi-sensory input. 2. Notice that we are not endowed with any sensory organ to detect 'time.']
The Universe is overwhelmingly empty!
Up in the heavens, galaxies are interspersed by huge empty spaces. Matter constitutes less than one percent of the universe – about one atom in ten cubic meters of space. Within an atom too, there is more empty space than substance. If the atom is magnified to the size of a football stadium, matter (nucleus) in it will be no bigger than a golf ball, the remaining space being just emptiness. However, many ancient Indian scriptures hold that there is energy aplenty in space. Physicists unhesitatingly agree. Evidence for energy in empty space comes both from Cosmology that deals with the astronomical objects of huge proportions and Quantum Physics which studies atomic- and subatomic-sized particles.
You are certain of your toothbrush being in the bathroom when you walk in there after a good night’s sleep. You have no doubt, the water comes to a boil in two minutes in the microwave for the delicious morning cuppa. You are pretty sure how long it takes you to drive to the office. That is all true. But the particles that constitute you or your toothbrush are not predictable with that sort of certitude where they will be at any given time or when they appear at a given place!
Quantum Physics studies how the tiny particles like electrons, protons and atoms that constitute everything behave. Quantum Physics sobers us down quite a bit when it is a question of being sure of things. It teaches us not to be so definite and deterministic. It comes out with mind-bending mathematics and unbelievable concepts almost bordering Vedanta. Dr. Niels Bohr, a giant among Quantum Physicists, famously said: “Anyone who is not shocked (by the concepts of Quantum Physics) has not understood it.”
For all that, Quantum Physics is not an esoteric theory. It comes with redoubtable experimental back up and unfailing proof. Continue reading
भवन्तु सद्दर्शन् साधनानि परस्य नामाकृतिभिः सपर्याः ।
सद्वस्तुनि प्राप्त तदात्म भावा निष्ठैव सद् दर्शनमित्यवेहि ॥ —१०
सद्दर्शन् साधनानि = means to vision of truth; परस्य = of the absolute; सपर्याः = worship;
नामाकृतिभिः = with names and forms; भवन्तु = let them be; सद्वस्तुनि = in reality; प्राप्त
तदात्म भावा = where abidance is as – ‘It is Me’; निष्ठैव = clear abidance alone; सद्
दर्शनमित्यवेहि = know as the vision of truth.
Let the worship of names and forms of the absolute, be means to the vision of truth. Know that, as the vision of truth where the abidance is abidance as – ‘It is Me’.
The scriptures have given out many methodologies for one to arrive at the truth. There is a synthesis between religion and philosophy; so much so that, for a lay man; philosophy is difficult (next to impossible) to be digested without religion. Religion as an independent dogma does nothing in the spiritual growth of a person. A person will remain the same insecure, ignorant mortal if he does not mature religiously as thought progresses.
To suit the needs of all people who are not ready for a dose of metaphysics, we have karma yoga and upAsana. One is engaged in activities and uses the very same activities to purify the mind and gain focus. Continue reading
We started this enquiry into identity by employing a simple piece of logic: you cannot be what you observe. From this point of view, the things we normally take ourselves to be, starting with the body, were systematically discounted because they turn out to be objects of perception, as covered in the first three parts of this series. Despite this reasoning, the tendency to believe our identity with the amalgam of body, senses and mind tends to remains very powerful: we continue to believe that we are these individuals bound by skin, with an experiential history and an instinctive, habitual mindset through which ‘I’ filter the world.
Identity with the body is evidenced by the vast cosmetic surgery industry today. People feel better with fewer wrinkles, larger breasts, drug-induced libido, less fat, etc. That’s the extreme end, but coming closer to the average person, we think of ourselves as too tall, too short, too hot or cold. If the body is in pain, we say: I am in pain. We really do mean ‘I’ when we say: I am hot, cold, ugly, beautiful, too short, too fat, too old. By employing the incontrovertible logic of ‘I cannot be what I can observe’, it does not take long for us to realise that the body is an object of perception: ‘I’ can experience my body using my five senses. We then ask: Who is observing the body? Continue reading
Quantum Physics is the science of small particles. The strange and counter-intuitive phenomena it predicts often leave us stunned. It says that if two particles were together once, they never lose their connectedness even after they get separated. Each particle readjusts itself in response to any change in the state of its counterpart which might even be several millions of miles away. The readjustment is instantaneous and happens without any sort of messaging link between them. So if you met Dr. Singh once, you can never escape from getting affected by what happens to him, even if you run away to another galaxy!
Unconvincing? Do not blame yourself. Continue reading