Belief

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Belief can be a dangerous thing, as Galileo discovered to his dismay early in the 17th century, when he was denounced to the Inquisition because of his claim that the earth went around the sun and not vice versa. Unfortunately for him, the Catholic Church was committed to the opposite belief so he never stood a chance. Nowadays, of course, we know better and happily acknowledge that Galileo was correct, despite the fact that everyone still talks about sunrise and sunset!

(Although I did not have it in mind when I began this blog, I should mention here in case anyone is not already familiar with it, that this is a frequently encountered metaphor for the change that occurs upon self-realization. Just as we recognize the truth of heliocentricity, yet still talk as if the Sun revolved around the Earth, so the realized man still acts as though he lives in a dualistic world, even though he now knows that everything is Brahman.) Continue reading

Q. 367 – shraddhA – Is it necessary?

Q. I come from an atheistic upbringing, and in addition I have studied a good chunk of modern Western philosophy and science, and such a position has become my “default mode”. A day came a couple years back where I found myself in a deep existential crisis (one that is most certainly still ongoing), and so I looked for a spiritual path that could reconcile what I knew of philosophy/science with spirituality. Advaita seemed to be the one that not only fit the bill the best, but also resonated with me the most. But on this path, I find myself constantly slipping into the habits of thought that I am used to. I try to cling to the pieces that don’t fit neatly into the materialist story, but I’m very much aware that I’m hanging on to them because I’m worried, not because I have a strong belief in their truth. If there is a teaching that goes against the grain of most scientific thought, even slightly, I tell myself I must discard it – “otherwise you’re just fooling yourself”, I say.

I notice this thought process, and it’s disturbing to me. I want to be open to what Advaita has to offer, but it’s incredibly tough – I worry often that a spiritual path of any kind is not possible for someone like me. I have a good deal of mumukshutva, but no shraddha. Can someone without shraddha somehow gain it? How necessary is it? And how can I break through my old habits of thinking, and gain that faith that there’s something more than just this body? Continue reading

The Carpenters Story

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACarpenter’s Malady and Cognitive Consonance –
Rajarajeswari Srinivasan

I would like to start this discussion,with a Tamil verse ascribed to an ancient scripture called ‘Thirumanthiram’ attributed to ‘Thirumular’, considered a yogi who came from the north of India to the south. It is said that this work, consisting of more than 3000 verses formed the basis for the Saiva Siddhantha that developed in Tamilnadu. Only the verse has been taken from the text. A story has been added by me, for explanation.

There was a carpenter in a village, who specialized in making wooden toys. He had a son aged four. One day, the carpenter took his son to the temple. The little boy took a strong liking to the temple elephant and wanted to take it home. The carpenter convinced the adamant boy that it was not possible. But over the next few days he made a wooden elephant of reasonable size using a high quality wood and gifted it to his son. By this time, the child had forgotten his passion for the live elephant, and was very happy to possess a toy elephant and started playing with it, imagining it to be a real one. The carpenter’s father who was watching everything, said in Tamil, “marathai marraithathu maamadha yaanai” (“மரத்தை மறைத்தது மாமத யானை”), meaning, ‘the elephant (image) masks the wood’, i.e., “the elephant is perceived and not the wood”. Continue reading

There are no beliefs here

I’ve heard that in the sage, everything happens spontaneously.

Yes. And do you want to know what else? In everyone, everything happens spontaneously. In you, everything happens spontaneously.

I don’t experience it like that.

Exactly. That’s the difference.

Do you believe that the Understanding can happen to anyone?

I don’t believe anything.

What?

There are no beliefs here.

That’s an extraordinary statement.

Not at all. It’s really quite simple. You either know something or you don’t. If you know something, you don’t have to believe it’s true or have faith that it’s true; you know it beyond doubt, it simply is, and there’s no belief involved. On the other hand if you don’t know something, the honest thing is to simply say you don’t know. But of course there are many psychological and political and social reason why people can’t admit, even to themselves, that they don’t know something, so they create a belief; which is essentially saying that you don’t really know something is true, but you’re going to pretend you do. It’s all activity in the dream. There’s really only one thing which is not of the dream, only one thing that can be known, and that is the basic consciousness, “I Am.” Everything else is just a concept, a construct of mind in the dream, something “I don’t know.” Everything.

Okay, but can this Understanding happen to anyone, any body/mind?

Of course.

Could it happen to me?

No, of course not. That’s the difference. But it could happen in the case of the body/mind organism which at the moment you think is you, and then there would be the understanding that there never was a ‘you,’ a ‘me’ for anything to happen to, and that who You are is the Consciousness in which all this appears to happen. The Understanding and the belief in a ‘me’ are mutually exclusive: if one is there the other will not be.

From ‘Perfect Brilliant Stillness’, David Carse, Non-Duality Press, ISBN: 954779282.
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Translating Vedantic terms to Western seekers – Faith, God, Sin

599985_web_R_B_by_Dieter Schütz_pixelio.deThe following is blog I posted in 2011 when I was a blogger of Advaita Academy. As all of the addressed terms concern our topic of the month “belief” I am publishing it here again (with small alterations):

Faith

The word faith carries two meanings: trust and belief.

When I trust in something I meet it with confidence; even without knowing its exact nature, I assume that it will not harm me, rather that it will be beneficial to me when I expose myself to it.

When I believe in something I meet it with a conviction to be existent; I also may not know its exact nature but there is not necessarily an assumption involved that it will be beneficial to me.

Trust invites devotion – devote what? Time, energy, other resources. Devotion to what? To something assumed to be benevolent.

Belief demands submission – submit what? Any convictions, insights, reasoning or intuitions that contradict the belief. Submission to what? To something assumed to exist.

Shraddha is one of the nine virtues that should be cultivated by an aspirant to Advaita Vedanta, i.e. shraddha is considered to be one of the most essential traits someone should own when embarking on the journey to discover his/her own true Self. Usually shraddha is translated as “faith”.

Now, in the context of Advaita Vedanta it seems to be crucial that shraddha as faith is explained, understood and associated with trust and devotion, not with belief and submission of one’s own reasoning capacities. This is especially important when addressing Western seekers.

Why?

Continue reading

Belief – a dangerous thing

Belief can be a dangerous thing, as Galileo discovered to his dismay early in the 17th century, when he was denounced to the Inquisition because of his claim that the earth went around the sun and not vice versa. Unfortunately for him, the Catholic Church was committed to the opposite belief so he never stood a chance. Nowadays, of course, we know better and happily acknowledge that Galileo was correct, despite the fact that everyone still talks about sunrise and sunset!

(Incidentally, this is a frequently encountered metaphor for the change that occurs upon self-realization. Just as we recognize the truth of heliocentricity, yet still talk as if the Sun revolved around the Earth, so the realized man still acts as though he lives in a dualistic world, even though he now knows that everything is Brahman.)

Belief is so often treated by the believer as if it were true knowledge, instead of simply a strongly (and often wrongly!) held opinion. We really ought to know better, given the history of such mistaken, scientific views as the theories of phlogiston and ether. If the most brilliant scientists can be wrong, so can we! Continue reading

Q. 362 – Knowledge and Belief

Q: What does it take to become God-realized? Is it simply to accept that I am brahman,or to really believe I am brahman, or to really, really believe I am brahman, etc? I understand that to have knowledge of something does not automatically transform me. I believe that in order to really know something one has to assimilate and implement the teaching. I know I am already That, but then, how can I ensure the attainment of mokSha in order to stop the illusion of saMsAra

A (Dennis): Knowledge, according to Western philosophy (I think) occurs when you believe something and that belief is both justified (by experience and reason) and true. In order to become Self-realized (I don’t know what you mean by ‘God-realized), you have to subject the ideas of Advaita to doubt and questioning and repetition and consideration etc until such time as your beliefs become knowledge.

I had an experience about 25 years ago which provided me with a powerful illustration of how different knowledge is from belief.  You will have to bear with me as it takes a little while (and two diagrams!) to explain.

101_1 I used to attend philosophy lectures at a school called SES, which holds its talks in rented buildings scattered about the country. At this time, they were held in a house on a circular avenue as in the first image on the left. I always approached along the road at the top, turned left into the avenue and then clockwise to the school. On leaving, I always returned the same way – anti-clockwise, then right and right.

Then, one night, for some reason, I carried on in the same, clockwise direction and then turned left, and then right at the main road as usual. Except that I suddenly hit some traffic lights that had not been there before and I realized that I was somewhere completely different! I quickly recognized where I was and took corrective action but I was completely mystified as to how I had got there.

I puzzled over this for some time, wondering if I had had some sort of mental blackout or been so involved in thinking about what we had been talking about that I hadn’t been paying attention and went the wrong way for some reason.

101_2And then, at some point, the explanation came to me and I knew beyond any doubt what must have happened, even though I had not looked at a map or spoken with anyone about it. The actual layout of the avenue had to be as shown in the second diagram. And so it was of course. But the point is that, when the answer came to me, it came as certainty, not as some working hypothesis or plausible explanation. (Apologies for poor quality of diagrams – I did them on my tablet using software I haven’t used before.)

So this is the certainty for which you are looking. It comes of itself when your mind is ready. You simply know that there is no other answer, even though you cannot look at a map to check your conclusion. If you have the belief already, you have presumably had sufficient shravaNa. You now need to give yourself more manana and nididhyAsana.

Vedas – A body of knowledge or belief?

Vedas are primary/independent pramāṇa (means of knowledge) as regards the truth of oneself, for, all other means of knowledge are about the object, and not the subject. Holding it as such with an open-mind, pending discovery/assimilation of its revelation, is called śraddhā, loosely translated as belief.

A relevant xtract from Swami Paramarthananda lectures…

“We continue to accept the validity of the eyes inspite of occasional optical illusions. Similarly we have to accept the validity of the Veda, in-spite of certain seeming aberrations in certain portions of the Veda. If we reject the eyes because of occasional optical illusions, we are the losers. Similarly, if we reject the Veda because of certain seeming aberrations, we are the losers”.

Topic of the Month – Belief

The topic for Aug 2014 is belief.

People believe all sorts of things. Over time, these may prove to be true but all too frequently are found to be false. Are we ever ‘justified’ in believing? There is clearly some overlap with the Advaitin’s concept of shraddhA, faith, here!

Here is a quote I used in ‘Book of One’: A belief is not merely an idea the mind possesses; it is an idea that possesses the mind. Robert Bolton

Please submit your quotes, short extracts or personal blogs on this topic!

Pramāṇam – 2

A quick recap of keys points from the previous article.

1. pramāṇam the word means, “Means of Knowledge”; it should be anadhigata – non-contradictible, abhādita – non-negatable and hitārtha bodhakam – says what is good for the Humans.

veda2. pramāṇam is of 2 types – pratyakṣam – direct, obtained by using the 5 senses; anumānādi – indirect, based on the direct but using reason. Both these pramāṇams are nitya parokṣa, and operate on everything other than the subject.

3. Knowledge is vastutantram – as the Object, so the Knowledge; and Knowledge will take place even if there is no intention on the part of the Knower since there is no will involved.

Continue reading