Should I stop enquiring???????

ripplesShould I stop enquiring???????

Vijay Pargaonkar

(मुञ्डकोपनिषत्) MundakaUpanishat 3-2-9

“Anyone who knows that supreme Brahman becomes Brahman indeed……….”


My search for Brahman started with aparokshAnubhUti (supposedly written by Shankaracharya) where it is stated that knowledge of liberation is obtained through enquiry. It then goes on to explain what constitutes enquiry:                                                               (अपरोक्षानुभूती) aparokshaAnubhUti (Shloka #11 & #12) (translation by Vimuktananda)

“Knowledge is not brought about by any other means than Vichara (Enquiry), just as an object is nowhere perceived (seen) without the help of light”.

“Who am I? How is this (world) created? Who is its creator? Of what material is this (world) made? This is the way of that Vichara (Enquiry)”. Continue reading

Science vs. Philosophy – Part II

Y – I can not parse your meaning, i.e. I have no idea what you are trying to say.

Still have no idea what you are trying to say.

X – What I’m trying to say is to point at core insights within Eastern philosophy (Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism), particularly in advaita Vedanta – but also in Christianity and Islam in their highest metaphysical conceptions. If you are not interested in any of this, that’s alright.

Actually, whatever science – and its highfaluting ‘scientific method’ – is is shot through with difficulties and controversies, including the sacrosanct falsifiability principle (or dogma). Just read the Wickipedia article on this (and on rationality, etc.) and the respective positions of Khun, I. Lakatos, and P. Feyerabend among others. You must know something about all this already if you are scientifically inclined.

Y – What “core insights”?  There is nothing insightful about making up unevidenced tosh, anyone can do it and each piece of tosh has exactly equal validity, none.

And with regard to your ludicrous and unfounded “criticism” of the scientific method, I have one response, yea shall know them by their fruits.

Continue reading

Revision of ‘Review of article on Shankara’ – part 4

Under the section ‘Tarka vs Sruti’ the more or less unconscious devise (upadhi) of removing the subject from the ‘picture’ aimed at understanding the world is broached, and the author (RB) quotes E. Schrödinger in that connection: “It became inherent in any attempt to form a picture of the objective world such as the Ionians made”. And so, “…the desire for understanding the world through our imperfect sensory knowledge invariably leads to certain, frequently overlooked, assumptions”.

It is curious that the first sleight of hand – by ‘primordial man’, the demiurge of mythology and Platonic philosophy – consisted in carrying out a scission within reality so that subject and object would emerge in opposition to each other: God and man (the Garden of Eden), the One and the many. A second scission was done by philosophical, or ‘thinking’, man, by removing the human subject altogether – provisionally, for the Ionian ‘physiologoi’ knew what they were doing, though, it is related, Thales of Miletus fell once into a ditch while absorbed looking at the firmament’s stars in utter wonder. Certainly, this device – or both combined – made possible all the empirical sciences, literature, art, and everything we know about the world. If there were no division or separation (no adhyasa and it’s attending ‘names and forms’), there would be no ‘world’. Allusion was made to this parallel mythological account previously, as well as to the kind of ignorance that became knowledge (with small case). Continue reading

Why two lifestyles don’t mean two paths (2/2)

iStock_000017914736XSmallIt might seem difficult to accept the Vedāntic assertion that knowledge is the one and only direct path to mokṣa. It might be difficult for some to accept that meditation isn’t a direct path to mokṣa, that yoga isn’t a direct path to mokṣa, that living a devotional lifestyle with prayer and hymns and attending temple / mosque / church isn’t a direct path to mokṣa. Too much has been invested in following these practices. So hearing that knowledge alone is what ultimately frees one from self-ignorance is something that raises resistance, because what’s meant by ‘knowledge’ is usually misunderstood. ‘The path of knowledge’ is seen as a dry undertaking that is suitable only for scholarly types, characterised by the need to understand Sanskrit, to follow convoluted arguments and study countless obscure texts. Continue reading

Logical enquiry into ‘Who I am’ (4/4)

who am I 4We 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

Logical enquiry into ‘Who I am’ (3/4)

Who I am 3When we analysed the world of objects in the waking state we came to the understanding that our experience of the variety of objects is due to the variety of corresponding mental impressions (covered in Part 2 of this series). If there isn’t a mental impression ‘this is a pot’ then, despite fully-functioning senses, the pot will be as good as non-existent. The perception of ‘is-ness’ is the single, unchanging common thread in all our worldly experiences. This perception is given the name, ‘consciousness’.

When we analysed our dream state experience we realised that the same observation holds true for the dream universe as for the universe we encounter when awake. This experience gives an added dimension to our understanding of consciousness: not only is it the one, unchanging basis of the varied, changing objects (gross and subtle), but now we see that it is also continuous through the changing states of experience. The ‘I’ that is awake is the same ‘I’ that dreamt: ‘I am awake, I had a dream’. Continue reading

Logical enquiry into ‘Who I am’ (1/4)

maskAt some time or other in every person’s life the question of identity arises in some form or other. For most people, the answer seems pretty obvious: I am a unique human being, a man/woman, in this body, with these parents, these siblings, and these ideas. I am defined by my wealth, my social class, my education, my tastes, my network of contacts, my race. I am shaped by my biology, my physiology, my psychology. Anything beyond this is ‘philosophy’, and one thing I am not is a philosopher!

If, however, people knew the life-changing value in finding the true answer to the question, ‘Who am I?’ they might be prepared to dig a bit deeper for that truth. Vedānta gives us a very good reason to pursue the question. It says that because we do not know the truth of who we are, we take ourselves to be an amalgam of the body and mind (thus pretty much confirming the majority view). The inevitable consequence of identifying with something that is as changeable, limited and vulnerable as the body and mind, is that ‘I’ is also taken to be changeable, limited and vulnerable. And it consumes a whole life of sweat and slog in trying to build up adequate self-protection. Continue reading

Discovering oneself: Part 2/2

creationSo how do we know how Brahman is? The teacher says that each object of experience has 5 aspects: asti, bhāti, priyam, rūpam, nāma. Asti = ‘is’. You know the meaning of the word ‘cat’, but not pay attention to the meaning of the word ‘is’, which means ‘isness’, which means ‘existence’. When you say ‘cat is’ you mean that the existence of the cat is. Any object of experience you can name is.

Existence is the intrinsic nature of Brahman, the Reality. In what form is Brahman? Continue reading

Discovering oneself: Part 1/2

Samsāra, this life of limitations, this life of transmigration, is because of the lack of discriminative knowledge of what Self is and what it is not. That ignorance is caused by the covering power of māyā, which covers internally and externally: internally it covers the discrimination between the seer and the seen, and externally it covers discrimination between the Reality and the creation.

Internally, delusion causes error such as: ‘I am insecure, dependent, unhappy, limited, etc.’ These wrong notions are caused by lack of discriminative knowledge at the individual level. Externally it takes the form: ‘this universe is the source of happiness, it is responsible for my unhappiness, I am dependent on the universe, the universe will give me security, etc.’ (The universe includes friends, relatives, property etc).

One’s notion about the self (internal) is wrong and notion about the universe (external) is also wrong. Every human being makes this common error. These erroneous notions are caused by lack of discriminative knowledge. We do not have discrimination regarding what is absolutely true and what is ‘as though’ true in the universe, hence we have a wrong notion about the universe. Continue reading

Puruṣārtha-niścaya, the beginning of the beginning

fernglasWhat is puruṣārtha-niścaya? Of the two words, niścaya has a close English equivalent: certainty, conviction, unshakable clarity. So puruṣārtha-niścaya mean ‘doubt-free clarity and unshakable certainty’ about puruṣārtha. So what is this thing one has no doubt about?

Puruṣārtha is a compound made up of two words: puruṣa and artha. Puruṣa also has a close English equivalent: ‘person’, ‘human being’ (albeit with a lot behind it that reminds us of the true scale of what is indicated by the word – see footnote at the end).

Thus, so far, we have arrived at this meaning: ‘unshakable certainty about human artha’.

Artha is the last word that needs unpacking. Normally translated as ‘wealth’ or ‘meaning’, here it should be read as ‘aim or purpose’.

Puruṣārtha is the purpose of the human life. And puruṣārtha-niścaya is total clarity about what this purpose is – about what defines human life and drives human activity. Continue reading