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 →
[The latter part of the article requires a bit of mathematical (or at least arithmetic) orientation in the reader. If you know the addition, 1 + 1, that is enough. Otherwise, it could prove slightly boring!]
We shall tackle now the question of how we wake up to be what (we think) we were before we went to bed.
I said in my previous argument that our waking up to a new morning and into an awake state is comparable to another cycle of creation. So I suggest we examine how creation itself takes place.
From a scientific perspective, creation seems to be happening from ‘nothingness’ and dissolving back into nothing. Vedantins prefer to call nothingness as ‘Beingness’ simply because even ‘nothingness’ has to ‘Be.’
If we go by what Quantum Physics tells us, what we may refer to as ‘nothingness’ is not just emptiness. There is an enormous amount of energy in ‘Emptiness.’ Physicists have been able to measure this energy of empty space.
The energy within the empty space of the nucleus of an atom is the main reason for the weight of the nucleus (and hence of the matter we are all). The energy of the emptiness within the intergalactic space is the reason for the expanding universe causing the colossal and mighty galaxies to recede from one another at speeds exceeding the speed of light. This vast energy is the result of constant creation and annihilation of virtual particles smaller than sub-atomic particles. Thus creation-dissolution is an ongoing unstoppable roiling and boiling process from emptiness to emptiness within emptiness!
Here is a short poem, contributed by Ananda Wood (a direct disciple of Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon) and inspired by the book Philosophy of a Biologist by J.S. Haldane.
Here is what he says to introduce the poem:
I recently came across a book by J.S. Haldane, called Philosophy of a Biologist. I found it interesting because of its approach through reflective enquiry. In particular, I was interested by Haldane’s account of Western Philosophy from Descartes and Spinoza onward.
In particular, Haldane discusses philosophical questions progressively: in relation to Physical Science (Ch. I), Biology (Ch. II), Psychology (Ch. III), Religion (Ch. IV). And he concludes with a short chapter called Retrospect, where he approaches God as the inmost spirit of a universal personality. This is done in much the same way as the purusha-prakriti duality is used by Shri Shankara to investigate beyond all “knower-known” or “subject-object” duality.
This led me to write a piece of verse called Scientific enquiry: which tries somehow to summarize Haldane’s line of investigation. Continue reading →
We featured an extract from this book by Dr. Raju Chidambaram back in July. I have since read (some of!) the book and written this review. I emailed the review to Dr. Chidambaram and he has written a reply, which follows the review.
Advaita seekers in the West want to find out whether it is true that they are neither body nor mind, but in truth are one, eternal, free and all-pervasive. Most of all they are interested in the answer to the question: „Who or what am I?“ They do not really care what the world is.
But once the true import of the understanding that I am all-pervasive and One dawns, then we can no longer ignore the question about what appears to be a second thing: What about the world?
The knowledge that I am limitless in time and space (one and all-pervasive) is incomplete if no explanation is included in it of that ‘which somehow is also there’. My true nature is non-dual – but body/mind, other living beings, the ocean, the continents, space, objects and possible subtle beings – what about all that? After all this is pure duality, isn’t it! If the mind does not find an adequate explanation for it, a feeling of incompleteness of the Self-knowledge of non-duality is likely to persist. Continue reading →
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 →
[A few friends asked me about Moksha to be explained in simple words without any mystifying scriptural references, quotations and citations. This is what I wrote to them.
The points are made accordingly with no hyperbole, no mystique but merely as barebones facts without any frills – bibliographic references, supporting evidence etc. for the sake of brevity. I thought of sharing it here so that it can be corrected / sharpened in expression and improved in an overall way. ]
There is nothing mysterious about it. It goads the spirit of inquiry in us.
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.
Q: I recently had an experience that leaves me baffled. I have read your books, the sections on deep sleep consciousness, and it does not seem to match. The incident occurred when I will was given anaesthesia for hip replacement surgery. I went from eyes open in the operating room to who eyes open in the recovery room without any sensation in between at all. The experience was seamless and continuous from one consciousness to another. Time was absolutely absent. There was no reflection possible on the three-hour interlude. There was no interlude. There was no feeling of having slept well or otherwise.
This experience has left me with a problem. This was the nonexistence of any kind of consciousness, even in retrospect It seems neither the small self or the real self existed at all. Please comment. Continue reading →