Two questions answered in Quora

Is soul different from consciousness?

I agree with the responders here that equate both concepts – soul and consciousness – which in themselves are just pointers to what is real/reality. Reality can only be one, not multiple; thus, to make a distinction between soul and consciousness, or between spirit and matter, God and the world (or ‘I’), experience and knowledge  – or between Brahman and Atman – is either provisional (an intermediate doctrine or teaching) or confusing and limiting.

Another polarity which is ultimately unreal (only verbal or conceptual) from an unitary or metaphysical perspective is singularity/multiplicity. Language has its rights, but in this rarefied realm I would also equate spirituality with metaphysics, knowing full well the risks or misunderstandings that it can lead to.

Life is difficult. Life is tough. Life is full of problems, challenges, obstacles and struggles. How do you feel about it? Do you like it? How can such a life ever be enjoyable or motivating? Why would anyone want to live if this is how life is?

This is a leading question, expecting, that is, that one will tend to agree with the questioner… ‘True, life is so hard…’ Before calling such question, or statement in question form, a platitude, one would wonder what his/her age is in order to help in assessing the sincerity and opportunity of the question – very young, mature, old?

Many of the answers given may or may not satisfy the questioner, but, before I might attempt an answer myself, I would have to ask a number of questions – apart from the age – so as to avoid embarking in a long essay on such complicated or difficult question – not something in black or white, yes or no. For example, what is the life-experience and/or background of the person asking, or what is it that motivated such question. None of the responders could object to what I just wrote… did they all forget to ask these elementary questions prior to attempting an answer?


One thought on “Two questions answered in Quora

  1. Dear Martin,

    With respect to your second question, I would both agree and disagree with your response.

    I’d agree in the sense that until you step into someone’s skin, and understand their life experiences / thoughts / feelings, there is no meaningful way to answer the question posed. However, clearly no one can actually step into someone’s skin; consequently is this a question that can be answered by another anyway? Surely it can only be answered by each individual for themselves.

    I’d disagree (about the need to know the questioner’s experience) in the sense that Buddha observed in a most general way, from a position of opulence and a loving family, that life is indeed suffering. If one is at all sensitive, as Buddha was, not just to one’s own condition, but also to that of others, the inescapable conclusion is that life is full of suffering and sorrow.

    And from there, you either follow an extroverted path of escapism, into the acquisition of power, wealth, consumption, and the latest fad of ‘life experiences’ and ‘self-actualisation’, which is what 99% of people do, and that can only perpetuate the suffering of oneself and others.

    Or the introverted path of the Buddha, trying to discern why and what this life, and the me that lives it. The Socratic ‘unexamined life is not worth living’.

    As a parentheses, you also have the folk in the middle – who seem to be quite content pursuing the enjoyment of desires and life experiences in the vyavahara realm, but always, they proclaim, in the knowledge of the paramarthika satya; and so presumably helping them shield their eyes from the very real suffering around them. A bit like a Steve Jobs, who was a zen monk, but was also by all accounts a rather vicious, accumulative individual who cared very little for his workers.

    Surely the question is too important to duck through asking for contextual background. Surely the only answer to the questioner is to find out for oneself the cause of suffering – both of the world and of the individual – and thence to go about unraveling the Gordian knot that binds us.

    Best wishes,

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