Science and Vedanta (Part 1)

P1030138_tonemapped-1Part 1 of a 3-part essay by Dr. K. Sadananda, AchArya at Chinmaya Mission, Washington.

Science is Objective

The word science is derived from the root ‘scire’, meaning to know. Hence science really means knowledge which reveals a fact or truth. In Sanskrit, ‘vid’ means to know, and ‘veda’ means knowledge. Combining these two statements we can say that Veda means science. Vedanta means that which reveals the ultimate knowledge or absolute truth. From this, it follows that Vedanta is the ultimate science. This is not a fanatical statement but a statement of fact, as in ‘Light travels at 299,792,458 m / s’. This is not an opinion or belief but just plain fact, whether one believes it or not. We will examine here why Vedanta is the science of absolute.

Epistemologically, the word ‘knowledge’ without a qualifier, cannot be defined. The qualifier objectifies the knowledge as in ‘knowledge of Chemistry’ or ‘knowledge of Physics’, etc. It is always knowledge of something. It can be knowledge of the physical or phenomenal world, or knowledge of some subtle entities such as emotions, thoughts, intellectual concepts, etc. The former can be considered as the knowledge of gross entities that can be known via sense input, while the latter can be called the knowledge of subtle entities and can be known without the need of any sense input, or can be inferred indirectly from the sense input. Continue reading

Awareness of Self

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs you know, it is difficult to assess what another person ‘experiences’. It is also difficult to equate various words that might or might not mean the same thing to one person or everyone. Not sure if this is possible. Probably not. So, the following is not the gospel. I could be mad, mistaken, and a fool. Being foolish is not the worst thing. Feel free to call me names like Martin does.

For me, the word awareness has to constitute both subject and object. Someone or thing is aware. It is a function of the human being. We all have it and it is functioning right now. For me, all awareness functions within the context of self and consciousness, self and consciousness being virtually the same thing. I am talking about what constitutes self, not about self’s true nature. Self’s true nature has to be devoid of self completely and therefore out of the realm of all consciousness. Thus, it is also devoid of awareness as this is a function of our human nature, not our true nature. Normal death erases all experience and awareness but not our true nature.

Our human efforts can only concern itself with our human nature and that lasts maybe 70-90 years. To know thyself is a human endeavor that involves using observation. How else can we understand anything? Mind is involved to be sure. Everything we know is reflected in the mind. But this doesn’t seem to be the case with our true nature. Our true nature is not a reflection of our human life. No human faculty can know its true nature, only the human nature can be known. The only way we can ‘know’ our true nature is through the ending of this separate self that we call ‘me’, ‘I’, etc. And, it is not possible for our human nature to bring an end to itself. From what I have read of the sages, conversations I have had with sages (of course, the ones I think are sages!), it happens in a blink of an eye. You are simply swept away. It is a revelation, not an attainment. It is not a result. There are no levels of attainment, only levels of self. No true self. The body may remain, but no person inhabits it. True nature and human nature are not compatible. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too, as the saying goes.  To know the self is to forget the self. But forgetting the self is not erasing it from memory. It’s erased from your whole being.

As others have said our own existence is common to us all. By observing this sense of existence, me, self, being it, breathing it, living it, you by-pass all the mental analysis and duality that most are involved with. The sense of problem is relieved and a kind of centeredness that focuses this observation can be felt and deepened. This centeredness is a  gateway that our true nature reveals itself through and brings an end to all forms of self.

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Who Slept Well – Part 4

This is the final part of the series from AchArya Sadananda, (only edited by myself).

Deep-Sleep State

When we go into the deep sleep state, we start withdrawing each of the kosha-s, one by one, with the desire or thought of going to sleep. The ‘I want to sleep’ thought forms the contents of the vij~nAnamaya kosha or the intellect, when it goes to sleep or when it goes into an unmanifested state.  In the process of sleeping, there is a withdrawal of each of the grosser kosha-s into the subtler ones: annamayakosha to prANamayakosha, prANamaya to manomaya, manomaya to vij~nAnamaya.  At the time of sleep, the vij~nAnamaya or intellectual sheath becomes unmanifested with all the kosha-s as part of its ingredients, but in undifferentiated form. That unmanifested state of the intellectual sheath with all its constituent kosha-s is now called Anandamayakosha, since there is absence of any discriminative thoughts and associated relationships, other than the homogeneous thought of ignorance or avidya. This is referred to as avidya vRitti.  It is, in a sense, an experience involving the knowledge of the absence of anything and everything.  Hence the Mandukya (mantra 5) says – na ki~nchana kAmam kAmayate – there is absence of desire for any object, since there is no perception or recognition of any particular object of any kind in that unmanifested state. Continue reading

Who Slept Well – part 3

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAExperiencer of the Deep-Sleep-State

As noted in Part 2, we have three experiences in the deep-sleep state: 1. I exist, since I say I slept well; 2. I have the knowledge of homogeneous ignorance, since I say I did not know anything; 3. I was happy or I did not experience the pains of BMI, since I am not conscious of the BMI or any duality. The question remains: if the mind is not there, then who experiences these and who recollects these experiences on waking up, since the experiencer and the recollector have to be one and the same? These appear to be puzzling questions that need to be addressed. Who is going to provide the answer to this – a sleeper or a waker? For this, scripture alone becomes a pramAna, or means of knowledge, since the mind that uses logic cannot provide the answers. No objective tools can be used or would be valid to analyze the deep sleep state, since all objective entities (apart from ignorance) are absent in that state. Hence, objective scientists also have no tools available for investigation. These aspects have to be clear even when we are studying the opinions of other philosophers such as Shree Atmananda-ji , unless these opinions are shruti based. Continue reading

How Vedanta Works

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow words work in Vedanta
(based on essays from Sw. Dayananda and Ramji)

by Tan

Vedanta is a means of self knowledge through words called shabda pramANa.

It is able to give you direct knowledge of your eternal nature through words. In spiritual circles this will be generally criticized with the argument that the eternal self, enlightenment, the absolute, Brahman, the Tao or whatever you want to call it, is beyond words and indescribable. Therefore the conclusion is that it is impossible to get direct knowledge and know your “real” self through words. Continue reading

Who Slept Well – part 2

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the second of a four-part article by Acharya Sadananda of Chinmaya Mission Washington (edited by myself) clarifying the nature of the deep-sleep state and addressing a number of problems which frequently cause confusion in seekers.

When I enter into a pitch dark room I cannot see the presence of any object there as it is too dark. I need a light to illumine the objects. In a pitch dark room, the existence or non-existence of any object cannot be established; they may be there or they may not. In essence, their existence becomes indeterminate or anirvachanIyam. On the other hand, I can see that the room is pitch dark and understand that it is because of this that I do not see the presence or absence of any object. Darkness envelops both the known and the unknown.  However, I do not need a light to see the darkness.  In addition, I know that I am there even when the room is pitch dark.  I do not need a light to know that I am there. I am a self existent entity and therefore a self revealing entity, and hence I do not need any pramANa to know that I am present in the dark room. It is similar to saying that I do not need a light in order to see another light.  Being a conscious-existent entity, I am also a self-revealing entity or self-luminous entity or I am aprameyam, not an object of knowledge for which a pramANa is required. In addition, my presence as a self-luminous or self-conscious entity is required to illumine any other object – tasya bhAsA sarvam idam vibhUti; it is by that light of consciousness alone that all objects get revealed. Therefore, the light of consciousness that I am can illumine the darkness as well as the light that opposes the darkness.  Thus I am the light of lights, since I light the lights and darkness too – jyotir jyotiH. Therefore, I say that I see it is pitch dark which is covering the existence as well the absence of all objects. Continue reading

Who Slept Well?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the first of a four-part article by Acharya Sadananda of Chinmaya Mission Washington (edited by myself) clarifying the nature of the deep-sleep state and addressing a number of problems which frequently cause confusion in seekers.

I wish to express my appreciation to Pujya Sastriji and Shree Subbuji for directing me to the Panchadashi Ch.11, where the deep-sleep aspects are discussed extensively by Shree Vidyaranya.  This article is in response to a question posed by a sincere seeker in a private mail. His question focused on the following:  Who is the experiencer, knower, and the recollector of the deep-sleep state, when the mind is not there? In essence, who slept well and knows that he slept well and is now recollecting that information when he is awake.  This response to the question is based on my understanding of the 11th Chapter, together with a private communication from Shree Sastriji the post to Advaitin by Shree Subbuji.

In searching for answers, I came across the article by Shree Ananda Wood on the topic of Shree Atmananda Krishna Menon’s understanding of the deep sleep state. Given the fact that all descriptions of the deep-sleep state are necessarily from the vantage point of the waking state, we can only rely for analysis on 1) shaastra pramANa and 2) those experiences that are universally common.  The problems with Shree Atmanandaji’s interpretation of the deep–sleep state are noted at the end, since there are many people that I see on Facebook, as well as elsewhere, who follow Atmanandaji writings relating to deep sleep state. Continue reading

Some Thoughts and Questions on Free Will

From: Peregrinus the Nihilist

I finished reading your five-part series on free will yesterday evening, after several sittings over dinner. It was an interesting and informative presentation indeed. The question of free will has occupied my mind for some years now. In fact, one of the things that drew me to Advaita Vedanta was its position on free will — it seems that more than a few of the arguments closely resemble my own.

Reading your case against free will in HOW TO MEET YOURSELF (pages 170-174), I was struck at how similar it was to the one made roughly 80 years ago by the 20th century English scholar Joseph McCabe. I think the passage is worth quoting in full, as you might find it interesting:

“When you say that you are free to choose—say, between the train and the surface car, or between the movies and the theater—you are using rather ambiguous language. All common speech for expressing mental experiences is loose and ambiguous. You have the two alternatives—movies or theater—in your mind. You hover between them. You do not feel any compulsion to choose one or the other. Then you deliberately say to yourself—not realizing that you have thereby proved the spirituality of the soul, which has made apologists perspire for centuries—‘I choose Norma Talmadge.’ Continue reading

The Book of Undoing

Details of a new book by Fred Davis (Awakening Clarity website)

fred_davis

This book has arisen from Direct Pointing sessions that I’ve had with clients around the world.  These deceptively simple inquiries and dialogues work.  Men and women who have studied Nonduality for decades, both in and out of structured traditions, without experiencing even the first authentic glimpse of themselves have come to recognize their true nature during these talks.  Some of them have been glimpses, and others remain ongoing.  Still others, who were confounded by oscillation when we began to talk, have moved from there into stable Nondual awareness.  And of course there are a few people who’ve reported no change at all; such is the way of it. Continue reading

Haldane Philosophy

Here is a short poem, contributed by Ananda Wood (a direct disciple of Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon) and inspired by the book Philosophy of a Biologist by J.S. Haldane.

Here is what he says to introduce the poem:

I recently came across a book by J.S. Haldane, called Philosophy of a Biologist. I found it interesting because of its approach through reflective enquiry. In particular, I was interested by Haldane’s account of Western Philosophy from Descartes and Spinoza onward.

In particular, Haldane discusses philosophical questions progressively: in relation to Physical Science (Ch. I), Biology (Ch. II), Psychology (Ch. III), Religion (Ch. IV). And he concludes with a short chapter called Retrospect, where he approaches God as the inmost spirit of a universal personality. This is done in much the same way as the purusha-prakriti duality is used by Shri Shankara to investigate beyond all “knower-known” or “subject-object” duality.

This led me to write a piece of verse called Scientific enquiry: which tries somehow to summarize Haldane’s line of investigation. Continue reading