Q.410 Teaching the blind

Q: How do you teach Advaita to a blind person ? I am talking about a person who has been blind since birth, who has no vision of external reality/unreality. The adhyAsa bhAShya talks about superimposing the subject and the objects. But both subject and object are not perceived by a person who has been blind since birth. All that he/she would be aware of is taste, smell, sound, sensations. How would you proceed with such a candidate ? The theory of negating the superimposed almost fails for such a person, for he/she cannot ‘see’ or ‘perceive’ what is superimposed !

 I am not saying the avasthA traya is not a good way to start here, the avasthA traya prakriyA holds good for even a blind person. That is, your dream is just like your waking state. But the problem is, there is no perception in either dreams, waking or deep sleep for such a person. Here’s a video that confirms that people who are blind since birth don’t see anything in their dreams : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XpUW9pm9wxs.

If you’re a jIvanmukta, I request you to close your eyes and then tell me if you can still get established in the self, you’d understand how difficult this is !

Thanks for any and all inputs on this subject.

Note: I am aware that Atman is beyond perception, but to know one has gone beyond perception is easy when one still sees and not when he doesn’t see. It’s just the same for a blind man. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 6

Part – 5  

We ought to know first what really real Reality is in order to find it. To say so does not make sense either. If we knew the Reality already, what’s the purpose of this struggle?

Obviously, we don’t know the Reality. Still, we can say what reality cannot be.

Vedanta gives us a working definition for reality:

त्रिकाल अबाधितं सत्यम्

Meaning: The Truth is that which exists the same in all three periods of time (past, present and future).  (Not a good definition, but let’s stay with it for now).

Truth should not keep changing from man to man, place to place and time to time. If it is so highly variable, there can never be anything that can be said to be a Reality.

But before proceeding further we have to be aware of one more quality of the mind, the tool with which we investigate. Our mind has a tendency to reify or deify. Continue reading

adhyAsa (part 5)

Notes on Shankara’s examination of the nature of ‘Error’ in the introduction to the brahmasUtra.

Read Part 4 of the series

Proofs for adhyAsa  
There are two shruti-based pramANa-s for adhyAsa , the first is ‘postulated’ and the second ‘inferred’.

The first takes an observed fact – for example I wake up one morning and find the road outside is flooded – and postulates an explanation for this – e.g. heavy rain occurred whilst I slept. Since I slept soundly, I have no direct knowledge of any rain but, without such a supposition, I have no reasonable way to explain the observed phenomenon. Other ‘unreasonable’ explanations may be put forward but the one suggested is the most plausible to the rational mind. In order to justify an improbable explanation, the more plausible must first be discredited. Since the observed fact can only be explained in this way, the explanation becomes a pramANa or valid means of knowledge. This pramANa is ‘perception-based’. as opposed to ‘shruti-based’. Shankara’s concept of adhyAsa is in fact a shruti-based ‘postulate’ since there is no mention of the subject in the veda-s themselves and it is in this way that it becomes a valid knowledge in its own right.

Just as this principle can be used to explain the flooded streets, shruti-based postulates can be used to explain that the ideas that we are mortal, doers and enjoyers are all due to error. For example, the kaThopaniShad (II.19) says ‘If the slayer thinks that he slays or if the slain thinks that he is slain, both of these know not. For It (the Self) neither slays nor is It slain.’ Also the gItA (V. 8) tells us that one who knows the truth understands that we do not act. We are not ‘doers’ or ‘killers’ or ‘killed’. Therefore, any statement such as ‘I am a doer’ or ‘I am an enjoyer’ must be an error, from shruti (and smR^iti) based postulate. Continue reading

Shirley Now

When I was a little girl, in summer camp, there was a game we play called, “The Wonder Ball.” I really enjoyed this game.

We would stand in a circle, and pass a large ball to the next person while singing this song:

“The wonder ball, goes round and round,
to pass it quickly you are bound.
If you’re the one to hold it last,
the game for you is Shirley Past.
You Are Out!” Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 5

Part – 4 

We have been assessing the reliability of our sensory apparatus – the mind plus the five sensory organs – in the last two Posts. We already discovered that they do not show what exactly exists out there. They may show non-existing things to be existing but we slavishly believe in what they show to us. Let us examine this issue one more time so that you will be free of doubt.

Undoubtedly a chocolate tastes sweet and a hammer dropped on our foot hurts. We find things hot or cold, tall or short, light or heavy and so on. But do these qualities rest within the objects seen out there or do our senses project them on to something which lies there? Is there truly an inherent solidity and physicality to the objects we perceive in our awake state? We seldom ever brood over this issue. Let us do a small experiment to know whether the solid looking stuff we see around really exists or not. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 4

Part – 3 

At the end of Part – 2, we raised the question “Who am I?” At the end of Part – 3, we introduced the concept of personality in place of “I.”

If I ask you “Who are you?” you may say your name. You may continue, “My parents are … … and I was born on August 15.” You may add, “I am an engineer / a doctor / a carpenter / a driver / an expert / etc.” If you feel patriotic, you may say, “I am an Indian, an American, a Mongolian etc.”

But have you noticed one thing? All the above aspects, which you claim to be “you,” are actually told by somebody else. Your name, parentage or your expertise are all just what you “learnt” and accepted. None of them are known directly by you from your experiencing. Continue reading

Q.409 Materialism and Consciousness

Q: Regarding Gaudapada Karika 4.28, what is the best argument you are aware of against the materialist position that consciousness is an emergent phenomenon?   In particular do you think it is inherently illogical to say that consciousness can arise from the inert?

More generally, is it the position of Vedanta that the materialist position is inherently illogical/impossible or simply that it is incorrect because it is contrary to scripture?

A (Dennis): Schopenhauer said that Materialism is “the philosophy of the subject who forgets to take account of himself.” And this really sums up my own view of the situation with respect to Science and its so-called ‘hard problem’. Science is forever trying to discover how consciousness can ‘arise’ from matter and never even considers the possibility that matter might actually be name and form of Consciousness. I.e. Consciousness does not arise from matter, matter (as it were) arises from Consciousness. They view the topic ‘back to front’ because they ignore the significance of the observer. And this is despite their past realisation that the observer cannot be ignored in quantum mechanics, for example.

The term used in the scriptures for the materialist is lokAyata (worldly wise) or Charvaka, after the philosopher of that name who is associated with these beliefs. (They have also been called mAmsa-mImAMsaka-s or ‘flesh philosophers’ because of their belief that we should aim to maximise pleasure in life.) The beliefs are also associated with the god bRRihaspatI and Shankara has sarcastically used this term in a derogatory sense to refer to ‘intellectuals’ who play the role of disputant in his commentaries. Continue reading



X. Belief is not the same as knowledge or understanding. Concepts and ideas are not reality itself – they are pointers to reality (a ‘finger pointing at the moon’); they are things of the mind to begin with, but it is un-logical to think or say that any one of them has, or can have, no contact with reality – directly or indirectly.

Y. We never really grasp what these teachings are talking about except in our conditioned mind. Continue reading