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 →
Q: I have seen from articles and questions on your website that Brahman cannot ‘know’ or ‘do’ anything; that it (as if) acts and knows only through the body-mind of the jIva. What I would like to know is: why would anyone want to become enlightened if this means the end of rebirth, and ‘becoming’ one with Brahman? OK, this may mean the end of suffering but does it not also mean the end of enjoyment? If ‘I’ (even though this is only a reflection in the mind) cease to exist (when the body-mind finally ceases to exist) on the death of the enlightened person, then there is no more experiencing of any kind for me as that person, and none for the Brahman that I (as it were) become.
You will perhaps say that, as Brahman, I will still experience through all the other body-minds but this does not sound like enlightenment to me! And don’t I do that already anyway since there is only Brahman? In which case what is the meaning (and point) of enlightenment? Continue reading →
The dreamer asks the dream-Sage Vasishta about the planes of existence after death and about escape from all planes (kaivalya mokSha). He goes on to enquire as to how his own dream creation can be teaching him.
We travelled the depths of Non-duality in Part 2/3.
As Jeff would put it, “I am realized, you are not” is a silly game. There’s no one – none – that’s not Brahman. You are already realized! So relax.
And let’s know what the brainy brain-scientists say consciousness is.
What consciousness is and how the brain produces it (if it does), is still one of the great challenges to science. Until a few decades ago, science was averse to dabble into this subject for lack of adequate investigative tools (both conceptual and instrumental). “Today consciousness research has become a passion for many scientists.”
But what is consciousness? It’s like asking what life is or what energy is. You know it when you see it. We say that “a brain that is fully awake and constructing experiences is fully conscious.” The thalamus, a sort of hub located deep in the brain for information flows from the senses to the upper reaches of the brain is crucial for consciousness. A person turns into a vegetative state if the thalamus is damaged or the information flows are inhibited. This does not mean that thalamus produces consciousness; it may just show that one is conscious – much like a thermometer which doesn’t actually make the heat, but tells you how hot it is.
Dr.Giulio Tononi of the University of Wisconsin–Madison and his colleagues are studying
States of consciousness (After L. Saunders, 2012)
brains that are deeply asleep, under anesthesia or in comas to understand consciousness. As shown in the figure at the right, “awareness typically tracks with wakefulness — especially in normal states of consciousness. People in coma or under general anesthesia score low on both measures, appearing asleep with no signs of awareness. Sometimes, wakefulness and awareness become uncoupled, Continue reading →
Before going into a consideration of Deep Sleep, once again a small detour.
Dennis raised in an e-mail the question of Sleepwalking. Where would it fit in the Model?
Some people amble around in sleep and even hurt themselves. A few persons could commit heinous crimes in the state of somnambulism. A well-known case is that of Kenneth Park in 1987 when he strangulated his father-in-law and killed his mother-in-law. However, he was let out by the court on the ground that he was sleepwalking when he harmed and killed people. A similar case of acquittal also occurred in 1846. Apparently the body of the sleepwalkers is active but the mind seems to be asleep.
Neuroscientifically speaking, in the case of sleepwalking, the motor cortex of the brain is functional whereas the frontal lobe vested with executive functions is at rest. This means that a part of the mind (that propels the body to act) is active while the part responsible for reasoning and self-control is asleep. Continue reading →
Recently there was an interesting question about the disappearance of ‘me’ when a patient is administered anesthesia in preparation for a major surgery. It is quite intriguing where the missing ‘self’ has gone when under anesthesia (Q. 313).
Peter, Sitara and Dennis answered the question very ably explaining the Vedantic philosophy behind the various states of consciousness (as we usually understand the term). The false concept of the sense of a separate ‘self’ we think we possess and the reality of an eternal Self; the misunderstanding that arises if we take the word Consciousness to mean the same in psychology (& medicine) and Advaita; the possible existence of multiple ‘minds’ which derive their illumination from an unchanging, everlasting, self-effulgent One Brahman were dealt with by them. Hardly can anything be added to their clear exposition made from the stance of Non-duality beyond saying a word of our appreciation and gratefulness to them.
I would like to use this opportunity, if I may, to bring to the notice of a wider audience an approach I developed in 2004 relating the state of our alertness to our body-mind system in order to understand who we really are. We shall also in the process examine what are Deep Sleep and Death and what is the condition of the brain under different states, including awake, dream, deep sleep, death, coma, anesthesia etc.
Most seekers who have investigated the teaching of Ramana to even a small extent will be aware of the concept of manonAsha. This is often presented as the idea that enlightenment is synonymous with the ‘death of the mind’. And indeed this is its literal meaning. Consequently, some writers claim that, following enlightenment, the j~nAnI literally no longer has a mind. This goes along with similar ideas such as that, for the j~nAnI, the world literally no longer exists.
This way of thinking is unfortunate. Shankara himself emphasised that we should not discount either our experience or reason, when it comes to interpreting the scriptures. And, speaking for myself, whenever I have encountered writings on Advaita which significantly contradicted my perception of what seemed to be ‘reasonable’, they have always proved to be misguided or incomplete, if not plain wrong. Continue reading →
Q. I’ve been thinking about death for a long while and last night something came to me that I wanted to share with you. It’s not so much a question, though. Rather, I’m just wondering whether my thinking is ‘on the right lines’.
Ok, imagine a dead body lying in a coffin. Let’s say that this person lying there is called John Doe. Many people would believe that now John Doe is dead, something would have left the body, that this ‘John Doe’ identity is no longer there. My thinking from what I’ve learned about Vedanta so far, is that this ‘John Doe’ was probably never there as was perceived in the first place. Continue reading →
Advaita Vedanta looks at death from 3 angles: as death of the gross body, death of the subtle body and no-death. All of us agree that the gross body dies, meaning that with death its present form is gone for good. It goes back to its basic components, in vedantic terms “to the elements”, which then take the shape of different forms: ash, earth, plants, worms etc.
In Christianity there is the belief of „resurrection in flesh“ which is supposed to happen for the virtuous ones after the last judgment day – although hardly anybody seems to take this seriously anymore, at least in Europe. In increasing numbers, people have taken to a sober viewpoint, basing their existence entirely on matter and considering themselves as merely flesh. For them there is only gross body, even what Vedanta calls subtle body functions – i.e. sense perceptions or thoughts or feelings – are believed to be operations of the gross body, nerves and brain in action. Continue reading →