Part 11 of the serialization of the presentation (compiled by R. B. Athreya from the lectures given by Swami Paramarthananda) of upadesha sAhasrI. This is the prakaraNa grantha which is agreed by most experts to have been written by Shankara himself and is an elaborate unfoldment of the essence of Advaita.
We don’t ever see or experience a ‘world.’
Our capacity to detect anything is confined to a limited bandwidth of certain characteristics (in a so called world) using our sensory organs:
Eyes → light, colors, shapes, distances, sizes
Ears → sounds, distance
Skin → heat, pressure, itch, softness, roughness
Nose → smells
Tongue → taste
Mind (?) → time, imagining (thinking)
[Note: 1. The normally held view about our senses as given above is valid only in a broad way. Modern scientific research shows that quite a bit of collaborative overlap exists in their actual functioning. For example, eyes and skin also have a role in hearing; nose and ears (and even lungs) assist the tongue in tasting etc. Embodiment takes place from multi-sensory input. 2. Notice that we are not endowed with any sensory organ to detect 'time.']
We started this enquiry into identity by employing a simple piece of logic: you cannot be what you observe. From this point of view, the things we normally take ourselves to be, starting with the body, were systematically discounted because they turn out to be objects of perception, as covered in the first three parts of this series. Despite this reasoning, the tendency to believe our identity with the amalgam of body, senses and mind tends to remains very powerful: we continue to believe that we are these individuals bound by skin, with an experiential history and an instinctive, habitual mindset through which ‘I’ filter the world.
Identity with the body is evidenced by the vast cosmetic surgery industry today. People feel better with fewer wrinkles, larger breasts, drug-induced libido, less fat, etc. That’s the extreme end, but coming closer to the average person, we think of ourselves as too tall, too short, too hot or cold. If the body is in pain, we say: I am in pain. We really do mean ‘I’ when we say: I am hot, cold, ugly, beautiful, too short, too fat, too old. By employing the incontrovertible logic of ‘I cannot be what I can observe’, it does not take long for us to realise that the body is an object of perception: ‘I’ can experience my body using my five senses. We then ask: Who is observing the body? Continue reading
Q: While I’m drawn to the apparent peace that sages such as Ramana Maharshi seemed to enjoy, I feel I’m failing to grasp something.
Advaita seems, sometimes, to be totally nihilistic and bleak (although I accept that this would not constitute an argument against its veracity).
It’s all very well to say that the ‘self’ can’t die but this seems (from my perhaps benighted viewpoint) to be playing with semantics.
If, with ‘my’ death, comes only oblivion such as in deepest sleep /anaesthesia, where is the comfort or meaning in this knowledge? The end of my small ‘I’ would seem to be, in effect, the end of everything since, without my consciousness to perceive it, how can anything be said to exist?
Does one take comfort from the fact that other apparent ‘I’s continue to experience within the one reality? It may be that my existence is only apparent and that, whether it is followed by oblivion is irrelevant – but it doesn’t feel like that from where I’m sitting! Continue reading
In the first part of this enquiry we saw how, by discriminating between the seer and what’s seen, we arrive at the understanding that ‘I’, the seer, am not the body, not the sense powers, not the thinking faculty, not even a combination of all of them. They are all objects of my perception and I am the perceiving subject. And I, the subject, cannot be what I can perceive as an object. In this logical way we arrived, step-by-step, at a final ‘knower’, which is given the name ‘pure consciousness’. This pure consciousness is what remains after thoughts, (which are the subtlest objects of perception), have been dismissed as the ultimate ‘I’. We know there’s something there but it is still a bit hazy. We now need to test the robustness of our new working conclusion that this ‘pure consciousness’ is the ‘I’ we are searching for and sharpen the understanding.
For this we need to understand the nature of consciousness and its relationship, if any, with ‘I’. A question might arise at this point: If ‘I’ is the pure consciousness that remains in the absence of vṛtti-s (thoughts), and no cognition is possible without vṛtti-s, then how can I ever know what I am? How do we go further with this enquiry if there are no thoughts? Continue reading
This Post responds to the Comments of 18th April made by Suka.
(Suka’s Comment in blue and my response in black).
S: Mithya is defined as sadasadbhyām vilakṣaṇam – meaning it cannot be categorically classified as truth or false. Mithya is vyāvahārika, experientially efficient, substantially unreal.
R: vyAvahArika and prAtibhAsika fall under mithya. Both vyAvahArika and prAtibhAsika are experienced in their respective spheres, and both derive their reality based on the Reality of the immutable substratum. Dr. Mani Dravid Shastri also suggests in his lectures on adhyAsabhAshya that, “mithya can be divided into two categories, namely vyAvahArika or empirical and prAtibhAsika or illusory.”
S: The argument tat pot is an illusion does not hold water, because pot does hold water.
R: “Holding water” too is as much an illusion as pot or water!!
This Post is once again in continuation to the discussions on my earlier Posts.
I shall try to answer the questions and clarify on some of the conceptual issues raised by our esteemed Colleague Suka in his Comments of the 15th of April.
That we have to necessarily use words to express ourselves is pretty obvious. But the words come with their own baggage especially when we use them in contexts that are non-quotidian and are hence liable to be understood or misunderstood in unintended terms. Therefore, it looks to me that I should begin with clarifying the meaning of some of the words, and many a time, this by itself, will have the potential to resolve some of the pending confusion.
Suka observed, inter alia, in his comments of the 15th April:
I) “Traditionalists (do not) consider neither māṇḍūkya bhāṣya nor vivekacūḍāmaṇi as authentic works of śaṅkara for this very reason.” [I guess “do not” is a typo.] Continue reading
If our valued Readers are interested, I propose to start a New Series of Posts on some of the latest Scientific advances that could be of interest to our Community of Advaita Thinkers and Philosophers. These Posts will be infrequent and in the form of simple “Alerts” on the current research findings. What gets reported by me will obviously be constrained by at least two of my own limitations:
(i) The conscious and or unconscious ‘filtering mechanism’ exercised by my mind in selection of the topics; and
(ii) What research papers happen to come to my notice.
For the present, here is a sample Post to show how I propose to structure this venture taking selections from the works published during the last couple of weeks:
[If Dennis agrees and if there is sufficient interest, we may continue and improve upon this idea. Readers may like to send their views to Dennis (in confidence, if desired).] Continue reading
Here is Part 5 – the concluding part – of a new, short series on the Mandukya Upanishad, from James Swartz. This post addresses the nature of turIya and contains a verse translation of the Upanishad.
Part 12 of the New Book Serialization!
The Dreamer asks Vasishtha about the usefulness of mind control and samAdhi and the value of yoga siddhi-s.