The Mystery – Part 6

Continuing this new, short series presenting the booklet by Bimal Prasad, in which he answers some ‘Rarely Asked Questions’ on Life. Primarily from the perspective of Advaita, questions addressed include the nature of happiness, consciousness, mind and ego. There is also practical guidance on meditation in the final chapter. Answers are relevant and succinct, so that many of the issues of interest to the seeker are covered.

This sixth part looks at the relationship between Consciousness, witness and ego, at the nature of the Self and reality, and asks what we mean by Self-knowledge. See the Contents List or go straight to Part 6 of the series.

The complete (electronic form) booklet may also be purchased from Amazon.

The Relevance of Kant’s Transcendental Idealism to Advaita Vedanta, Part I

This the first of a three-part series discussing the relevance of Kant’s philosophy to Advaita. Kant-CPR

Immanuel Kant published the first edition of The Critique of Pure Reason in 1781, with an extensively rewritten second edition appearing in 1787. Between those editions he also published a shorter “easier” introduction to his philosophy, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics (1783). With the later appearance of The Critique of Practical Reason (1788) and The Critique of Judgement (1790), Kant had articulated a complete system of philosophy of incredible depth and complexity, wholly original and unique in its solution to the age-old problems of reason, ethics, and logic. So great was the importance of this Prussian professor, we may justifiably think in terms of pre-Kantian and post-Kantian philosophy. Many have disagreed with his conclusions and offered refutations on one level or another, but all who have come after Kant have been required to address him. Continue reading

Reflections on Body-Mind and Liberation

shankaraThere has been much healthy debate recently on the Advaita Vision Blog about Liberation, who or what is a jnani or jivanmukta, and what it means to follow traditional Advaita. The theme of this post is that we cannot resolve such questions without first gaining a clear understanding of the body-mind and its role in the context of Liberation. What follows are some reflections inspired by a spirited discussion with Ramesam, with due credit to him for stimulating many of the thoughts below. Any errors or possible misunderstandings are entirely my fault. Or perhaps not, since “Words fall back from it.” Continue reading

Q. 374 – Ramesh

Here is a question and answer from several years ago, which addresses a topic that I avoided getting involved with publically at the time.

Q: I recently bought a book called “Final Truth” by Ramesh Balsekar. I read the book and now see it as one of the most “deep” and “philosophical” books on Advaita. But then I read Balsekar had some sex scandals and preached “do whatever you want you are not responsible” philosophy and I`m shocked. Anyway…

I saw an idea in the book and it resonated with me so much. In my opinion, It even explains (for some level) why there is Maya or why the appearances exists or why there is “creation” in the first place. (or Why there seems to be creation) The idea is this: The formless Consciousness can be experienced only through the multitude of sentient bodies with names and forms, just as light can be seen only through refracting agents. It is thus not that the multitude of names and forms exist independently of Consciousness but that Consciousness can express itself only through these forms.
 
So the other way of saying is the God or the Brahman or the Consciousness experiences himself through us. We and the universe are God looking into himself.
 
 Brihadarnyaka 2.5.19 has this verse
 
“He transformed Himself in accordance with each form; that form of His was for the sake of making Him known. The Lord on account of Maya (notions superimposed by ignorance) is perceived as manifold, for to Him are yoked ten organs, nay, hundreds of them. He is the organs; He is ten and thousands – many and infinite. That Brahman is without prior or posterior, without interior or exterior. This self, the perceiver of everything, is Brahman. This is the teaching.”
 
What do you think?  I  wanted to know if traditional Advaita accepts that idea or not.

A: As it seems with most questions I get these days, this one also revolves around the reality-appearance, paramArtha-vyavahAra question.

Who-you-really-are does not act, so cannot be ‘responsible’ in the sense that you mean here. The person, on the other hand, does act and is responsible, and gets puNya-papa as a result of those actions. It is especially the responsibility of the realized person to act in accordance with dharma – the awareness of right and wrong – since he is setting an example to others. However it is also possible that, because of insufficient prior mental preparation, an enlightened person is still attached to desires and fears. Even knowing that he is perfect and unlimited, he could still act in accordance with these feelings, which are called pratibandha-s (obstacles or impediments). These will go in time, with further nididhyAsana.

It has to be assumed that this was the position regarding Ramesh, as far as the ‘scandals’ are concerned. However, if it was the case that he was actually preaching “do whatever you want you are not responsible”, as you say, then this is not a clear presentation of the truth of the situation and should be condemned.

Regarding your second point about the ‘purpose’ for the seeming creation, this does not hold water either. There can be no meaningful attribution of purpose at all. Purpose implies some sort of deficiency in brahman, which is a contradiction. Experience of any sort is a limitation, so cannot be applied to brahman. Best just to think of everything as name and form, including the ignorance and the experience; the experienced and the experiencer. But, as an imaginative way of thinking about it, God looking into himself is fine, as long as you don’t take it literally.

Q. 373 – Ego, soul and mithyAtva

Q: For the last few years I have been trying to develop a manuscript detailing a working model which marriages the teachings of Advaita Vedanta with contemporary research on NDE or “Near Death Experience” and similar fields of inquiry. There are several questions I have, but for now I will only bother you with one: Is it possible the Atman does possess a “spiritual ego”?

 Clearly the culprit for the ignorance of our real self as the Self is the wrongful identification with the body-mind. Shankara explains the identification with the kosha-s perpetuates the illusion, which is nothing more than a superimposition of the kosha(s) on brahman helped by mAyA.

 The way I see it, our greatest enemy is the ego, the human ego. This ego comes from the mind and is maintained alive by desires. But I have many reasons to suspect there is also a “spiritual ego” present in the Atman, which similarly perpetuates the ignorance of the wrongful identification by the so-called discarnate “spirit soul”.

 The metaphor I have used is this: there is an actor in the “spiritual world” (the Atman) which wrongfully identifies with a spiritual ego preventing it from realizing brahman. This actor goes through an induced amnesia, after agreeing to play the role of a character in the Grand Stage of the world. This is the incarnation stage. The human ego is the combination of the spiritual ego – which carries the saMskAra-s and the vAsanA-s – plus particular influences on the personality traits caused by internal factors such as the brain/mind of the new body, as well as external factors such as family, society, education, etc. This is the embodied Atman as the jIva. Continue reading

Q. 372 – Superimposition and Memory

Q: What is the relationship between memory and superimposition (adhyAsa)? In the metaphor of rope and snake, we say that we fail to see the snake clearly, because of inadequate light – there is partial knowledge and partial ignorance. When we superimpose a snake on the rope, we are drawing on fear and memory. We must have seen a snake (or image of one in a film or book) before in order to be able to mistake the rope for one. Similarly, we mistake brahman for the body and the world etc.

 But what about a baby or someone who has no memory as a result of brain damage? Is there still superimposition in this case?

Responses from Ted, Venkat, Ramesam, Martin, Sitara and Dennis

A (Ted): We have to bear in mind that the example of a rope being mistaken for a snake is an analogy, and as is the case with any analogy, the example is imperfect. In the example, the snake image is based on a previous experience of the mistaken perceiver.

 In terms of mistaking the body-mind-sense complex as well as the innumerable other objects that constitute the manifest universe for Brahman, however, we are dealing with something a little bit different. Whereas in order to mistake the rope for a snake, one must have previously seen a snake, the projection of the apparent reality (i.e., the manifest universe in both its subtle and gross aspects) is not based on experiential memory, but rather results from the mind’s ability to recognize the “cosmic blueprints” that abide in dormant form in the Macrocosmic Causal Body, which is personified as Isvara, and are made manifest through the conditioning that maya upadhi, the limiting adjunct of causal matter, puts upon Brahman. That is, the mind is an instrument that is designed or a mechanism that is “programmed” to recognize these forms and, thus, is able to discern their apparent existence within the cosmic soup of pure potentiality (i.e., the unmanifest realm or “mind of God,” if you will) from the data it receives via the perceptive instruments/organs. Continue reading

Q. 368 – vAsanA-s

Q: Do vAsanA-s belong to the causal body or the subtle body?  

In the subtle body camp I got a response from one of Swami Dayananda’s senior students saying that the causal body is pure ignorance with no attributes and that vAsanA-s “definitely belong to the subtle body”.   In addition, from my own quick review of some of Shankara’s basic works I can find no passage that says the causal body is anything but “avidyA” and find no mention of the term “ vAsanA-s ” anywhere.

In the causal body camp I have James Schwartz and multiple pieces of Chinmayananda literature.   In fact I have seen them equate vAsanA-s to avidyA by pointing out that avidyA and vAsanA-s are both caused by the guNa-s.

Can you help with this one?   What is going on here?  Btw, as an interesting side note, in Swami Dayananda’s extensive Gita course-books the word “ vAsanA-s ” does not appear once.

Answers from Ramesam, Ted, Martin and Dennis. Continue reading

Q. 366 – Self-knowledge – should we bother?

Q: At the end of the day, what does knowledge of self give us ?

It does not help answer the burning question of why the appearance/dream/mAyA that we are experiencing as humans or animals exists.

(I am not clear on this one but..) It appears that even though one attains knowledge of self in one janma, he/she can actually become a cockroach in the next due to karmic effect, i.e. we are not really liberated from the birth-death cycle.

The only benefit I do see in a janma where one attains knowledge of self is that such a person might lead a life devoid of misery in the mind as they sail through good and bad times (although they may still experience physical pain).

A (Sitara): In Advaita Vedanta we ask the question “who or what is the true Self” because we trust (in the scriptures and/or statements of those who claim to have answered this question for themselves) that the true Self is one without a second, meaning the true Self is all there is. So knowledge of the true Self, i.e. Self-realization, equals the realization that the perceived world is nothing but the Self alone. As to why it is perceived as world and not as the Self there are many answers within Advaita Vedanta and in Sri Atmanandaji’s Direct Path. I cannot sum them up in a few sentences, as they belong to an extended teaching methodology. I recommend, for a taste, to watch an interview with Greg Goode.) Continue reading

Science and Vedanta (Part 1)

P1030138_tonemapped-1Part 1 of a 3-part essay by Dr. K. Sadananda, AchArya at Chinmaya Mission, Washington.

Science is Objective

The word science is derived from the root ‘scire’, meaning to know. Hence science really means knowledge which reveals a fact or truth. In Sanskrit, ‘vid’ means to know, and ‘veda’ means knowledge. Combining these two statements we can say that Veda means science. Vedanta means that which reveals the ultimate knowledge or absolute truth. From this, it follows that Vedanta is the ultimate science. This is not a fanatical statement but a statement of fact, as in ‘Light travels at 299,792,458 m / s’. This is not an opinion or belief but just plain fact, whether one believes it or not. We will examine here why Vedanta is the science of absolute.

Epistemologically, the word ‘knowledge’ without a qualifier, cannot be defined. The qualifier objectifies the knowledge as in ‘knowledge of Chemistry’ or ‘knowledge of Physics’, etc. It is always knowledge of something. It can be knowledge of the physical or phenomenal world, or knowledge of some subtle entities such as emotions, thoughts, intellectual concepts, etc. The former can be considered as the knowledge of gross entities that can be known via sense input, while the latter can be called the knowledge of subtle entities and can be known without the need of any sense input, or can be inferred indirectly from the sense input. Continue reading

Q.360 – Suffering

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAQ: I have tried several spiritual paths and I was always stopped in my search by this question: How do we explain suffering?. Why does all pervading, partless, actionless Consciousness create, allow, dream of Auschwitz? Surely Consciousness could do better than this?

Answers are provided by: Ted, Martin, and Sitara. For answers by Dennis, see Q.24 and Q.33 and Q.62 and Q.120 and Q.294.

A (Ted): Your question is certainly understandable. It is the same question just about everybody has at an early stage in their spiritual understanding. It is based on a fundamental erroneous assumption we make about the nature of reality due to the conditioning we receive either directly from religion or indirectly from the religious beliefs that undergird the generally accepted perception of reality that informs the society.

 Our mistaken assumption is that awareness is an anthropomorphic (i.e. human-like) entity who has some overarching personal agenda and is orchestrating—or at least overseeing—the activities and events transpiring in the world with a vested interest in their nature and results. But this is not the nature of awareness. Continue reading