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 →
So 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 →
Ānanda is of two types): ātmā ānanda and koṣa ānanda (we will retain the word ānanda without translation because it loses its expressiveness in translation). We need to understand the difference between these two types of ānanda before entering into the enquiry.
Ātmā ānanda means fullness – the very nature of one’s own self. Every individual’s intrinsic nature (svarūpam) is ānanda. Vedānta says: you are happiness, because you are fullness. Just as heat is the intrinsic, inseparable property of fire, so too happiness or fullness is the real nature of the individual. Continue reading →
When I went to a school, I asked the Children what are they in the school for? Someone said “to study”. I asked “Study for what?” “So that we can pass the examination with good marks” pat came the reply. “Why should you score good marks in the exams?” “So that we can get a good job?” “Why do we need a good job?” “So that we can earn a lot.” “Why do we need to earn a lot?” “So that we can buy things that we want.” “Why do we need to buy things that we want?” “So that I can be happy.”
What if you are Happiness here and now? What if Happiness is your Svarūpam? Please pause to think about the profundity of this possibility…..
Svarūpam, the word means one’s intrinsic nature. Like even heat and light are the intrinsic nature of fire.
Ānanda – it is a nuetral state; it is neither Happiness nor Sadness. It is neither bliss, for ignorance can be bliss. Ānanda is a state of equilibrium when one is at peace with oneself and the world.
We can logically arrive at Ānanda as our Svarūpam. How? Let’s analyze.
Q: ‘Experiential’, seemingly, is becoming a stumbling block in current discussions within spirituality and non-duality. There are the ‘experiential’, usually ‘anti-intellectual’ types (who deprecate ‘merely intellectual’, or ‘conceptual’ approaches), and those who defend the proper use of mind and the intellect, without denying the validity of experience.
Would it be possible, though, to dispense with either of the two concepts: ‘knowledge’ and ‘experience’?; they appear to overlap, practically being synonyms and, indeed, one can say “I know pain in the belly”, or, “I know such and such emotion”, “I know (I am acquainted with) life”, etc., without resorting to the word ‘experience’ – the word ‘acquaint’, conveniently, is derived from the Latin via old French: cognoscere, gnoscere. The other alternative would be to dispense with the word ‘knowledge’ and use instead ‘real’/'unreal’, ‘reality’, which is, precisely, sat/asat in sanskrit – and expressions using these terms are quite frequent, as everybody… realizes (‘is cognizant with’, then, would have to be ruled out). Just today I wrote in a comment that true understanding is an experience, but now I have my doubts. Ultimately, certainly, the only Experiencer/Knower is brahman/atman (though he remains ever unmoved). 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 →
Khajuraho and Kamasutra fire the fancy of any foreign tourist to India. Add Spirituality and the heady mix becomes a killer app for seekers of quick-fix salvation for paying a visit to India! Biologically sex evolved as reproductive mechanism to possibly capture advantageous heritable genetic traits from a partner. Only humans and a few animals like bonobos and dolphins indulge in recreational sex. Sex is closely tied to sensory perceptions and lies within the realms of the mind. Salvation transcends both senses and mind. “Rajneesh, the ‘horse’s mouth’ concerning the topic of enlightenment for Westerners for many years,” regrets James Swartz, “wedded two largely incompatible concepts, sense enjoyment and enlightenment.” One may lose ‘self identity’ and get enwrapped in an inexplicable joy in either as Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (IV-iii-21) says. But the bliss of enlightenment and the pleasure of sensual gratification are totally different. Our brains show it up all!
Human brain is a mass of interlinked neurons piled up in three layers. At bottom is the most primitive brain common to all animals. Continue reading →
Questioner:“I am Brahman” is the simple and straightforward message of Advaita. Brahman is synonymous with Beingness, Consciousness and Happiness. If I = Happiness, I should be always happy, should never be depressed. But I am overcome by the feelings of unhappiness, I get depressed. How come?
Well, the answer is “You” (I) can never not be Happy.
Out of Beingness – Consciousness – Happiness, the first two are self-evident. We do not require an external proof to tell me that I exist or that I am conscious. Can you ever say “I am not here” or “I am not conscious”? You have to be there and be present to say, “I am not here.” Similarly, I have to be conscious to say, “I am not conscious.”
In the same way, “I” can never ever be other than Happiness.
What is then the “feel” of unhappiness or depression that arises?
The “feel” cannot be “I” nor can it belong to “I”. That “feel” must obviously be something other than “I”. That is to say that such a feeling cannot be real because Brahman is the only “thing” that is Real. If the feeling is not real, it has to be an imaginary thing for, “I” would never say: “I am unhappy.”
But a Ramesam or a Tom or Dick do “feel” unhappy and say: “I am unhappy; I feel depressed. I am suffering.”