On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 11

Part 10: 

In the last ten Posts, we have had a quick synoptic view of the contours of the subject matter that we will be discussing in the coming days.

We touched on the efficacy as well as the infirmities of the only tool we have, namely the mind, to explore the various nuances of Narada’s teaching. We found that we are easily deceived by our sensory apparatus which shows us what is needed to be known at the moment in the interest of the preservation and perpetuation of the body-organism but it goes only to hide the absolute reality that exists out there. In other words, the sensory apparatus has no capacity to know what actually exists.

We have come to know that a lot of processes go on within our mind-brain system beyond our conscious awareness of the activities that go on inside our brain to show a world that is projected for us to see. We have also discovered that ‘things’ out there in the world lack physicality and even the “me” who we think “I am” is only a ghostly imaginary entity.

We had a brief look into the way our mind fantasizes a “me,” an “other,” and how it conceptualizes a savior, a world etc. The mind imagines that its unhappiness in the world is due to some “lacks and limitations.”   It tries to compensate for these lacks by conceiving a protecting Godhead in which those “lacks” don’t exist. Devotion is the way by which it gets connected to the God of its conceptualization and it hopes to get its wants fulfilled by deference to him. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 10

Part – 9

Modern Evolutionary Biologists are increasingly realizing that “thought” evolved its own survival tricks. Thoughts get replicated and passed on by ‘memes’ just like biological traits are propagated by ‘genes.’ A Meme is “an information pattern, held in an individual’s memory and gets copied to another individual’s memory” with variation and selection. Slogans, catchy tunes, many beliefs, culture are examples for memes.

Our mind has a tendency to forget certain things. Strangely it may also show things that were never seen previously by us. This is because somebody else’s experience infects our mind as a “meme” and we begin to believe that it was our own experience. Dr. Grant says, “An idea can parasitically infect your mind and alter your behavior.” It then causes you to tell your friends, “thus exposing them to the idea-virus.”

Thus Memes spread like viruses using human beings as carriers. In a way all our thoughts are infections. There is nothing like an original thought. The word ‘meme’ was coined by Prof. Dawkins in the late seventies. But our sages recognized the havoc memes could play thousands of years ago. Maharshi Vasishta tells in Yogavasishta the delightful story of how Sage Gadhi was confused and befuddled when his mind was infected by other’s experiences. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 9

Part – 8 

At the end of Part – 7 we made a reference to the tricks that our mind plays on us.

I think I can safely bet that all of us (unless you are yourself a magician) wonder how a magician or trickster pulls off a trick fooling us right in front of our eyes.  Magicians and tricksters take full advantage of the fact that beyond the radar of our ability to consciously detect things, our brain and mind do many things unknown to us. By a sleight of hand or carrying out an elaborate illusion, they hack into our brains with their skill.

Dr. Susana Martinez-Conde and her husband Dr. Stephen Macknik, Neuroscientists at Barrows Institute in USA have been studying the magician’s tricks for the last few years. From their work and the research of many other scientists, we are understanding much better about the way our cognitive mechanisms work in showing us the objective world we “think” we see out there.  Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 8

Part – 7  

At the end of Part – 7, we made a reference to the bag of tricks that the mind had acquired to help in the preservation and the perpetuation of the “form” of the body-organism.

Before we take up that issue for a detailed discussion, we should also make note of an important and closely related point. It is the “power” of the mind. For all practical purposes brain is after all the seat, or at the least the surrogate, of the mind.

All schools of philosophy agree on the power of the mind. The mind can do miracles. You see them all the time but you are so habituated to experiencing the miracles that you tend to overlook their immensity and astounding quality.

The faith oriented schools of philosophies exploit the ‘power of the mind’ in visualizing, securing and realizing, in the interest of the body organism, situations that are congenial to make the life of the body-organism easy, comfortable and reasonably happy. A number of techniques have been developed and refined over time to serve towards such an objective. Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 27

Part 27 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 27 looks at saMchita and prArabdha karma.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 7

Part – 6 

The Intelligent Design people and almost all religions speak about ‘Creation’ by a God accepting “The Doctrine of Creation-based perception (sRiShTi-dRiShTi-vAda).” The assumption behind this concept is that I am able to perceive a world out there because I am born into a pre-existing creation.

Biologists talk about ‘Evolution’ accepting Darwin’s Theory. The assumption behind this concept is that there exists an operational mechanism of natural selection and survival of the fittest in their struggle for perpetuation giving raise to a multiplicity of species.

Vedantins (Advaita school) consider the ‘unmanifest and unknowable something that IS or IS-not’ as an apparent cause for the ‘Illusory appearance of a world.’  It is called as the ajAti-vAda, The Doctrine says that ‘Nothing is ever born.’ It holds that an apparent creation happens when perception takes place. Continue reading

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

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