Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? IV


70. Lot has been said so far; false allegations and baseless surmises were brought to light; statements factually incorrect were exposed; citations substantiating certain statements were shown to be out of context and in some cases self-defeating; statements attributed to Swamiji, but not found in the originals were discovered; incomplete and incorrect understanding of not only Śan@kara and Swamiji but also the views of traditionalists were enumerated; quotations made partially and out context were pointed out; issues raised, even though extraneous to the admitted scope were reviewed; withholding of complete facts and resort to partial reporting were singled out; how finding fault in Swamiji amounts to finding fault in Śan@kara was shown; translations not faithful to the original were pointed out; self-contradictory statements were laid bare; most important of all, how not a single ground of Swamiji against the tenability of Mūlāvidyā is controverted, was shown; however, what is yet to be shown is the final outcome of the question – fidelity to Śan@kara, admitted to be the main focus of M’s paper. In this regard attention of readers is drawn to the following statements of M. Continue reading

Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? III


  1. ‘The Mu¯ la¯vidya¯ Controversy Among Advaita Veda¯ntins: was S ´ an_ kara Himself Responsible?’ S. K. A. Murthi (critical of SSS and supporting Martha Doherty)

(From Introduction)

The concept of ignorance, known as avidya¯, is central to the position of Advaita

Veda¯nta. S ´ a _ nkara gives an exposition about the nature of avidya¯ in his introduction to the Brahmasu¯ tras—the introductory section of his Brahmasu¯trabha¯s:ya is traditionally known as Adhya¯sa-bha¯s: ya.1 The bha¯s:ya (commentary) of S ´ a _nkara was further commented upon by the Advaita scholars with the intention of strengthening the viewpoints of Advaita, particularly on the doctrine of avidya¯. Continue reading

Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? ll

Claim against Swamiji (SSS)
 Big fuss on whether avidya =mAyA
·           Swamiji does not like tarka or reasoning
·           Swamiji does not admit of avidyA in deep sleep
·           Swamiji does not endorse prakarana works, as he says they are not written by Shankara
·           Swamiji claims no role for bhakti in the advaita tradition
·           Swamiji does not accept that an enlightened soul may still suffer the consequences of past deeds
·           Swamiji advocates learning from books only, and being self taught without a teacher
·           Swamiji overuses the phrase adhyAropa-apavAda giving the impression it his discovery
·           Swamiji is not of the tradition
·           Swamiji claims he is right and everyone else is wrong

Continue reading

Mulavidya – Real or Unreal? – I


As S.K. Ramachandra Rao relates in his Introduction to Sw. Satchidanandendra’s book ‘Salient Features of Shankara’s Vedanta’ ( a translation of ‘Shankara-Vedanta-Prakriye’ in Kannada language), the Swami decided to find out for himself what the real tradition of Shankara and the latter’s contributions to it had been, since he had suspected for some time that the former had been misrepresented by later advaitins. This desire took form in the way of a monograph he wrote in Sanscrit in 1929 with the title of ‘Mulavidya -nirasa. ‘He applied himself diligently to repeated study of Shankara’s works (Bhashyas on the three Prasthanas) for several years to convince himself that the sub-commentaries (of Vacaspaty Misra and Padmapada) had not done justice to the great master… It was in the year 1920, a year after his wife passed away, that he felt called upon to take this as a mission in his life’. Continue reading

Consciousness and neuro-science

Discussion from Quora

(Different from above) Prof. Donald Hoffman – The Case Against Reality .

A professor of cognitive science argues that the world is nothing like the one we experience through our senses.

Evolution has shaped us with perceptions that allow us to survive. They guide adaptive behaviors. But part of that involves hiding from us the stuff we don’t need to know. And that’s pretty much all of reality, whatever reality might be.

Snakes and trains, like the particles of physics, have no objective, observer-independent features

Gefter: I suspect they’re reacting to things like Roger Penrose and Stuart Hameroff’s model, where you still have a physical brain, it’s still sitting in space, but supposedly it’s performing some quantum feat. In contrast, you’re saying, “Look, quantum mechanics is telling us that we have to question the very notions of ‘physical things’ sitting in ‘space.’” Continue reading

Three Q&As in Quora

Three Q/As from QUORA (on brain, philosophy, QM, NDE, consciousness)

1. How does the brain understand philosophy?

M. The brain… understanding philosophy? My reply to this is similar to the one I gave recently to another question and which was based on Socrates’ answer to an observation that someone was making. The man saw a pool of water being stirred by a stick held by a man and said that the stick was stirring the water. To which Socrates replied: ‘Is it the stick, or the man moving the stick?’ (Which one is the real agent – the material, or the instrumental cause, in Aristotelian terms?).

Equally, is it the brain, or the mind which ‘moves’ the brain which moves the stick which stirs the water?

Is it the brain, or the mind which (using the brain as an instrument) understands philosophy? Actually, it is consciousness (as a substrate) using the mind using the brain… Consciousness itself does not do anything Continue reading

The ego, the ‘soul’ and metaphysics – 6th and final part

It was made clear at the beginning of this essay that what we mean by the “ego” (the “personality”), it being no more than a delusion, a false image or projection, cannot be a subject, except in a dream -and is itself a “dream”. We described the fight of the “ego” in its efforts at reaffirmation as an “unholy war”. That it is obviously the soul, the person, who is the subject of the delusion, the “dream” ; his/her’s the “holy war”, the suffering and the required effort towards reawakening (is not life itself a dream? –it is so for “fallen man”). The soul’s, the person’s destiny – and this is conditional according to the monotheistic religions – is to finally be “reabsorbed”, united or reintegrated , and thus liberated. Liberated not from itself (its Self!) by itself , not even from life, but from a false image of itself and of life (“the world”) due to ignorance (avidya).

It is thus through ignorance, passion and attachment, that individual man (non-gender term) has “become” an “ego”, a “dreamer”, until, or unless, he wakes up. Existence itself is a ‘becoming’, not ‘being’, according to Plato and all traditional thinking. This subject is otherwise inexhaustible, and here we may remember the saying of Râbi’a quoted at the beginning, as well as the utterances of so many other sages and mystics. Continue reading

‘Ego’, self, and metaphysics – Part V

From these considerations it may be seen that the boundaries between the normal and the abnormal, psychology and spirituality, medicine and metaphysics are not so well defined after all; they are not so (separate and apart) in principle, despite the attempts of modern Western science at so dividing and separating them. Our age is one in which empiricism, along with individualism and humanism (these last two almost equivalent, interchangeable terms), its ideological or philosophical underpinnings, still holds sway, although perhaps in its last, declining, phase. Continue reading

‘ego’, self, and metaphysics – Part lV

In the Buddhist perspective, the ego or self as ordinarily considered in Western traditions (i.e., as soul or person), is a non-self, actually a non-entity (anatta). Hence the suffering, which stems from an experience -ultimately illusory- of separation and vulnerability.

Here we have to consider two things. First, according to Mahayana Buddhism, Adi-Buddha, equivalent to Dharmakaya – the highest metaphysical, or divine, level – represents that unique Being or Divine ‘State’, pervading all manifestation as Buddha-nature; and second, the notion of the Self (Atman, derived from the Hindu Vedanta) is not only compatible with that view, but also with that of the Spirit in Christianity and in Islam.

As to the soul (metaphysics and theology), though intrinsically perfect or whole in itself (one could add: in ‘primordial man’ –the purusha or Hiranyagarbha of Hinduism)- it experiences imperfection, self-limitation, anxiety and doubt in its state of (aparent) separation -the ‘fallen state’. Being, not just potentially, a ‘focal point of the Universe’, yet it becomes, through ignorance and self-will, the subject of illusions, attachments, and passions which lead to that predicament. Its condition is thus ambivalent; it can orient itself upwards (or towards the centre) – to ‘holiness’ and integration – or downwards, pulled by its ‘lower nature’ (nafs in its lower stages, according to Sufism). The end result will be either self-denial, or self-assertion; self-giving, or ego-centeredness. Inevitably, this latter tendency, based on ignorance, can only lead to an unwanted result: dispersal, disintegration, and suffering. Alas!, on the whole, if not in principle, psychiatry is not interested in this distinction or dichotomy; but let not anything else be said about this at this point.

From the viewpoint of advaita vedanta, all of what is described in this paragraph – and what follows – pertains to the empirical, relative (ontological and epistemological) level: mithya (or vyavahara), in other words. Continue reading

The ontological status of concepts in Plato and Shankara

Concerning the theory of Forms or Ideas in Plato – and by extension that of perception – we can find an interesting parallel in the account given by Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta. The Idea of ‘the Good’ (the supreme Idea in Platonic metaphysics) would correspond to the highest ontological principle in advaita: Atman-Brahma; in fact, there is only one ontological principle, one primary, or ultimate, reality, in both philosophers.* Objects of external perception are illusory in both accounts. In Plato they are only images (ikones) of Ideas, which alone are real, whereas in Shankara these objects are also just representations in the mind, phenomena, and described as ‘names and forms’. For example, ‘pot’ is just a name, its underlying ‘substance’ being only clay (this is only an analogy or illustration, since there is no talk of substance in Shankara’s philosophy). There are no objects, and no world, having a separate (objective!) existence, the only reality being Atman-Brahman.

* This makes of Plato a non-dualist, which is contrary to the commonly-held idea that he was a dualist, due to the emphasis given throughout the ages to his doctrine of the two Worlds, Intelligible and Phenomenal (or ‘World of Appearances’).

Tom McFarlane (writing in Quora): ‘What concepts really are is a philosophical question about their ontological status. The answer will depend upon the philosophy you adopt. A materialist would regard concepts as ultimately reducible to the functioning of the material brain, while an idealist would regard concepts (and matter) as ultimately reducible to mind or consciousness.

The most famous idealist account of concepts was given by Plato in his theory of forms. According to Plato, a concept (or form) is a general abstract pattern that has various sensory objects as specific instantiations. The concept of a tree, for example, is an abstract idea that makes it possible for us to experience trees, as such. Without the concept of a tree, we may have experiences of images but they are not recognized as being an experience of a tree without the concept of a tree. In Plato’s view, the concept of the tree is more fundamental than any particular tree because the concept is a necessary precondition for trees to exist as objects of experience. Plato called the experiences of trees as instantiations of the concept of a tree. For more discussion, see What is a form in Plato’s metaphysical theory?’