I off and on referred in these columns to the exciting new Theory of Integrated Information developed by Porf. Giulio Tononi of Wisconsin to explain Consciousness (For example here and here). We have Dr. Tononi explaining the basic concepts behind the theory in simple words in the short Videos at the following links:
- Is Consciousness entirely physical? (8:12 min)
- Anything non-physical with the mind? (9:27 min)
A few other very interesting topics related to Consciousness are also discussed in this series of Videos hosted by Dr. R.L. Kuhn.
I am probably jumping the gun with this comment, as I haven’t had time yet to view the videos you link to. However, I’ve read in the past about Tononi’s theory and did not find it exciting or even particularly new. It appeared to me to simply be another attempt to shoe-horn consciousness into a reductionist philosophy, still rooted in the metaphysical axiom that consciousness is somehow “created” if only things become complex enough. In my view, IIT is just the “emergence from complexity” theory dressed up with some equations. None of this even begins to solve the Hard Problem posed by Chalmers.
Thanks Charles for the observations.
The “Phi” measure devised by Tononi does give the feel as you say. But you will find here that he starts with the known qualities of Consciousness (uniqueness, oneness, manifestation in and as structured forms – much like what Vedantins speak) and, like Dr. D. Hoffman, works back the math equations in terms of integrating diverse bits of information.
I think you will change your view if you watch the Videos.
I’ve viewed the videos and really enjoyed both — very stimulating discussions, thank you. I’m happy to see a neuroscientist propose a theory that takes consciousness seriously, to the extent it is finally granted primary status. However, I’m not really dissuaded from the view that Integrated Information Theory does not touch the Hard Problem. On this important point, I found Scott Aaronson’s analysis and rebuttal to be compelling:
Basically, IIT tries to solve what Aaronson calls the Pretty-Hard Problem, which is the ability to determine which physical systems are associated with consciousness and which are not. If successful, this in itself would be monumental progress in the scientific study of consciousness. It still does not address the Hard-Hard Problem though: why there should be “anything it’s like to be” anything at all, including bats, dogs, and human beings, why there should be anything like personal experience at all. Essentially, the H-H Problem boils down to how we get subjectivity out of objective matter. Tononi’s theory does not even attempt to explain why there should be anything like consciousness in the first place. So at least in that regard, it appears to fall short of being a truly comprehensive theory. I am given to understand there are other problems as well with IIT as proposed, but I’m certainly not qualified to get into the mathematics of information theory and will leave it to the experts. Also, I really don’t mean to sound wholly critical here! I do think IIT is an advance over previous theoretical approaches to understanding consciousness. It’s just that I remain somewhat skeptical that my thermostat might possess rudimentary consciousness, a conclusion that seems inescapable if one attributes consciousness to the level of Phi.
P.S. Might we not consider that neuroscientists like Tononi, Koch, and others are simply studying chidabasa? Perhaps they are studying the reflection in the mirror now, instead of focusing solely on the substrate on which the reflection appears, but they are not quite willing yet to acknowledge the Light itself?
I beg to differ.
The “AbhAsa” is with you – not with the neuroscientists like Tononi, Koch, and others. 🙂
You know very well that all these models of reflections etc. are just fictitious explanatory devices – a consequence of adhyAropa to be subsequently sublated (apavAda). shruti follows this way of teaching. The models have neither reality nor validity beyond being a tentative artifact.
Recalling Br. up 2.4.6; Ch.up, 3.14.1; IsAvAsya Up. Mantra 1 etc. etc., what IS all is brahman – that THAT only. It’s nothing but the substrate. That’s what the scientists are studying.
Incidentally, this also answers your observation that “I remain somewhat skeptical that my thermostat might possess rudimentary consciousness.”
Perhaps, it’s our human “learnt” arrogance that we think we are conscious superior beings and all that is out there is ‘inert stuff.’ ALL is Consciousnesses. Or better to say, what is IS One, only Consciousness. So everything that Is is Consciousness already – does not matter crow’s shit or a nugget of gold (remember BG: IV-24; VI-8; etc.).
Thank you for the detailed responses. I’ll try to reply in more detail when I get a chance, but please bear with me as I’m very busy with work lately — hence my lack of recent postings.
Meanwhile, I want to point out that some of my skepticism is based on the simple fact that the scientific community does not even yet have a reliable DEFINITION for consciousness, let alone an explanatory theory that does not include “here a miracle occurs” somewhere buried in its assumptions and axioms. I recall one scholarly article in the Journal of Consciousness Studies that identified 43 different definitions in usage in various articles on this topic. You yourself are using more than one meaning for “consciousness” in your responses above, conflating Consciousness as treated in Vedanta with the apparent properties of entities that have subjective experiences.
Further, I must say that I disagree it is just “learned human arrogance” to disclaim consciousness in inert matter, when there is virtually nothing about inert matter that displays any of the properties common sense would associate with consciousness. Saying that ALL is Consciousness is emphatically NOT the same thing as saying that crow shit is conscious!
I also feel that your critique of the Hard Problem is problematic, and will try to explain further when I have an opportunity to write at more length. Briefly, it is not simply another unanswerable “Why” question that sets the bar too high. It is probably true that science will never have an answer to “Why is there something rather than nothing?” But this is by no means equivalent to the scientific problem of how SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE can arise at all in objective reference frames. In a word, Tononi has not solved it … yet. 🙂
I shall eagerly await the more detailed Comments from you. It is always a pleasure for me to learn new things.
However, a quick note:
I agree that “Tononi has not solved it … yet. ”
I agree that there is no uniformly agreed definition for Consciousness in science.
I agree “to be conscious of ….. (x,y.z ….)” is different from “Consciousness” itself and that this difference might be creating some confusion.
Still I am happy that the scientific community is grappling with the problem undauntedly, thanks to Tononi and Koch (and Crick before them) who are treading new paths.
Scientific method has in its kitty proven robust “research techniques” to tackle a problem even in the absence of an a priori definition (e.g. gravity; dark matter; Ebola virus etc.).
There are certain pre-modern cultures where everything in nature is treated with equal value, respect and adoration not classifying things as sentient and insentient unlike the “modern” man (using the tool of self-serving “commonsense” – I am sure you know Dr. Einstein’s definition).
Thank you for watching the Videos. I am glad you enjoyed the “very stimulating discussions” (your words) therein.
I am unable to resist myself from reacting to the observations made by you, for I find them too provocative.
The provocation is because you have set the bar very high, in fact unreasonably far too high, in judging IIT — to satisfy you in terms of explaining the so-called “Hard problem.”
But let me first make two caveats right upfront before I comment any further. One is that I do not mean to hold a brief for IIT in general or this particular version of it. Secondly, if you read an underlying derision of mine in what I write here for the concept of “Hard problem,” I do not mean to disrespect the genius of David Chalmers.
Let me also say, though I referred to “Phi” in my first response as a concession to your remarks, we shall not get into arguing about it because neither Tononi nor Kuhn talk of that measure specifically in the two Videos referred to in my Post above, the subject of our interest now.
First about the Concept of “Hard problem”:
I genuinely feel that Chalmers has been (unnecessarily) over-rated about this concept. The Question of “Why the electro-chemical actions in a mass of wetware should generate a ‘subjective’ feel of my experience?” is one of the many many fundamental “Why?” questions.
It is nothing unique to nor it is only in the case of Consciousness that neither scientists nor philosophers have been ever able to answer the fundamental “Why?” questions. For example: Why a universe?; Why creation?; Why life; Why bilateralism?; Why water wets? Why should Hg be a liquid at NTP? etc. etc.
Even the pinnacle of “abstract thought,” Vedanta, could not answer the notorious question, “Why from One to multiplicity?” or even if we grant that it is an illusion, “Why this particular structure for that illusion, and not say a different one like a utopian model or one being free of predator-prey struggle, requirement of ‘food’ &c &c?”
So, IMHO, to set the bar at being able to successfully explain the “Hard problem” for IIT or even for neuroscience, comparatively a toddler in science, in general, is unfair.
Dr. Scott Aranson’s objections:
Thank you for the link.
I have to say that all of the math he discussed in his 2014 blog post is much beyond me and from whatever little I could make out, my observations are as below:
i) Consciousness is basically a topic that may not be amenable to be viewed from the perspective of a mind that is trained only in deterministic systems like math; one does need a lot of understanding from the unpredictability, flexibility and adaptability in the behavior of biological systems.
I go more with the anticipated response of Tononi, in the words of Aarosnon, “that it’s wrong to approach IIT like a mathematician; instead one needs to start “from the inside,” with the phenomenology of consciousness, and only then try to build general theories that can be tested against counterexamples.”
ii) Aaronson proceeds in his analysis with the pre-set assumption that “By definition, I’d say, a “scientific explanation” means a causal lever: that is, some aspect of reality that you could toggle in order to turn the thing you’re trying to explain on or off.”
To assume that it is logical to say that everything should have a cause itself is illogical. More so in bio systems. For example, why do you whistle when you are in an open enchanting, exhilarating pleasant environment?)
Moreover, he himself admits that “because of the very nature of explanations, there can’t be an explanation (scientific or otherwise) for why there’s something rather than nothing.”
iii) Even simpler ever-day things in centuries-old physics like ‘what is charge?’ ‘what is mass?’ ‘what is force’ etc. could not be answered in absolute terms (i.e. not in terms of effects) so far. A theory of Consciousness may take more time.
As we know “Consciousness” has been a taboo field for science until a couple of decades ago. It will surely take time for the concepts, models, instruments and the technology to develop before we get a viable theory to talk about.
The rest of the development of the theory is a matter of detail, (like the critique of Aaronson) — the normal process of development in any field of science for a theory to get proposed, tested and verified by the peers in the field through its predictive power or other criteria.
While it may be true as Aaronson points out “having a large Φ-value is certainly not a sufficient condition for consciousness, or even for the appearance of consciousness. As a consequence, Φ can’t possibly capture the essence of what makes a physical system conscious, or even of what makes a system look conscious to external observers.”
However, I have a hope, a confidence, in the method of unbiased “Scientific Inquiry.”
Hence, what I feel exciting about IIT is, quoting Aaronson again, “I regard IIT as a serious, honorable attempt to grapple with the Pretty-Hard Problem of Consciousness: something concrete enough to move the discussion forward.”
For the benefit of general Vedanta-oriented readers of this column, I would like to post a few lines in case they have been hesitant to watch the Videos under reference:
Dr. Tononi opens with the statement that “If we are not able to get Consciousness experience out of matter, and if we have to go the other way around, [we have to begin with looking into] what are the essential properties of Consciousness?” He goes about listing five parameters. And notice how similar are they to what Advaita Vedanta holds:
1. Consciousness Exists (Beingness)
2. Experience is structured (finiteness of objects seen)
3. Every experience is information (the observed objects have attributes)
4. Experience is integrated (indivisible Oneness)
5. Exclusion – uniquely experienced by me right here and now (I-Am-Alone).
He calls it as “maximally irreducible constraining indivisble structure.” It’s a single experience in a multi-dimensional qualia-space and that is what he describes as the “shape” of experience (shape is AkAra – the spacetime field of entirety).
He adds “that shape” is identical to Consciousness – not a surrogate.
So what is, in its entirety, without breaking, the Infinity is Consciousness.
P.S. Sorry for the length of the Comments
As promised, I am replying again in more depth on the topic of Hard Problem as proposed by David Chalmers. I did absorb your caveats and understand that you were not being derisive toward Chalmers, or that you necessarily believe that Tononi’s IIT is “the answer” to the problem of consciousness. However, we do seem to differ in our respective views on the Hard Problem, so this will be the main focus of my reply, which must inevitably include some remarks on Scott Aaronson’s analysis – as this touches on the HP as well.
You say that I have set the bar too high in judging IIT against its handling of the Hard Problem, and you would certainly then be in good company! The Hard Problem is not uniformly accepted by all the working scientists and medical professionals who are currently researching consciousness. However, a majority have found it to be useful for evaluating proposed theories of consciousness, and I would certainly agree with this consensus position. But let me say also that I am certainly not in full agreement with everything Chalmers has proposed.
I have carefully read Daniel Dennett’s criticisms of Chalmers’ work, as well as Chalmers responses to those attacks, although I must say it was quite some years ago and I’m sure you are very much more up-to-date on current papers and research than me! But I doubt the logical arguments have shifted very much since then, so I will simply say that I found Chalmers logic more compelling than that of his critics, at least with respect to the Hard Problem. His critics dismiss the problem as mostly an illusion that will dissolve upon further research progress.
Chalmers and those who take his position (Thomas Nagel, etc.) reply that his opponents are simply ignoring the enormous difficulty posed by the mere existence of a *subjective aspect of experience*. It is not like we are talking about a physical order at one level (molecules of water, say), yielding the property of liquidity at another physical level (a lake or ocean, etc.). It is that they are trying to say that vastly different orders of reality are IDENTICAL, that subjective and objective levels of reality are *literally the same thing*. The main point of the Hard Problem is that subjective experience does not *logically reduce* to physical substrates, however complex. Chalmers was taking a stand against the wide array of physicalist theories of consciousness, which I will crudely lump together by calling them Psycho-Neural Identity theories (PNI).
PNI theories all proceed from the root axiom that consciousness, including self-awareness and mind as it exists in humans, is *identical* with the processes occurring inside the brain. According to this view, my experience of seeing a red rose just “is” the brain’s neurons firing in a unique pattern. There are many variants, including Stuart Hameroff’s proposals for quantum effects in the microtubules accounting for consciousness rather than at the neuronal level, etc., but all PNI theories are physicalist through and through.
If you want to evaluate a particular version of PNI, then you have to do experiments and conduct research into the “neural correlates of consciousness,” and thus begins the elusive search for a map of the brain that will yield true knowledge of qualia and subjective experience. I believe Chalmers point was that this approach will never work, simply because the root axiom is wrong.
Getting back to his critics, Dennett, the Churchlands, Hacker, and others all seem to be *deflationists* in their approach to consciousness. The deflationary approach takes the view that what we are calling “consciousness” is basically an illusion, and nothing more than what is going on in the brain, and further that it is the brain itself that produces said consciousness. Chalmers’ critics are all PNI theorists, in other words. As I said, I’m years behind in reading the latest arguments in consciousness studies, so I’m sure you will be quick to point out to me any recent exceptions — but I’m confident that you would be hard-pressed to find a Chalmers critic in professional or scientific circles who is not also a physicalist in their view of consciousness.
RV: So, IMHO, to set the bar at being able to successfully explain the “Hard problem” for IIT or even for neuroscience, comparatively a toddler in science, in general, is unfair.
Here I must respectfully disagree. I don’t feel it’s unfair at all to level criticism at IIT in relation to the Hard Problem. The theory boldly purports to be a calculus of consciousness, a tool for determining the extent to which various physical systems display the properties of consciousness, and based on the extent to which integrated information occurs within those systems. It is a theory built on the axiom that consciousness is somehow related to the informational density or complexity within a physical substrate, even if this is not explicitly so stated.
The Hard Problem is relevant because it attacks this axiom at its root. It is not just one of the unanswerable WHY questions as you say. It is a HOW question. If the theory cannot actually explain the mechanism involved, cannot explain HOW a subjective experience comes to be generated via physical processes, and further, successfully PREDICT that it MUST happen if the requisite conditions are met, then it cannot claim to “explain” consciousness. In my estimation, Tononi’s theory therefore does not yet account for our own everyday experience of subjectivity. And I feel it is valid to point out this limitation. There is no justification other than *correlation* (which does not equal causation!) for adopting the view that “integrated information” is somehow equivalent to subjective conscious experience.
Moving to Scott Aaronson’s rebuttal, and quoting some of your original commentary for context:
RV: i) Consciousness is basically a topic that may not be amenable to be viewed from the perspective of a mind that is trained only in deterministic systems like math; one does need a lot of understanding from the unpredictability, flexibility and adaptability in the behavior of biological systems.
I hope I am mistaken, but it seems as though you are dismissing Aaronson’s critique merely on the basis that he is a computer scientist!
RV: I go more with the anticipated response of Tononi, in the words of Aarosnon, “that it’s wrong to approach IIT like a mathematician; instead one needs to start “from the inside,” with the phenomenology of consciousness, and only then try to build general theories that can be tested against counterexamples.”
I think Tononi is spot-on to take this position of starting “from the inside.” As I noted in my earlier comment, IIT does represent an advance over earlier approaches.
RV: ii) Aaronson proceeds in his analysis with the pre-set assumption that “By definition, I’d say, a “scientific explanation” means a causal lever: that is, some aspect of reality that you could toggle in order to turn the thing you’re trying to explain on or off.”
This seems to me a reasonable approximation to what is needed for a “scientific explanation.” Another way of saying the same thing is that the variables need to be isolated and controlled in order to study the one factor we are most interested in, so we can see what affects what (or not). Our theory has to account for the outputs of this manipulation of variables.
RV: To assume that it is logical to say that everything should have a cause itself is illogical. More so in bio systems. For example, why do you whistle when you are in an open enchanting, exhilarating pleasant environment?)
I don’t know, since I don’t tend to whistle in such environments. 🙂 But if I did, I would probably say that the chain of causation involved in my whistling is very much more complex than could be sketched succinctly like an easier case, such as whether a falling tree branch caused that dent in my car’s roof.
RV: Moreover, he himself admits that “because of the very nature of explanations, there can’t be an explanation (scientific or otherwise) for why there’s something rather than nothing.”
Certainly, there can be no explanation why something exists rather than nothing. Any good scientist would readily admit this.
RV: iii) Even simpler ever-day things in centuries-old physics like ‘what is charge?’ ‘what is mass?’ ‘what is force’ etc. could not be answered in absolute terms (i.e. not in terms of effects) so far. A theory of Consciousness may take more time.
Yes, I agree, and that is one reason I think it’s premature to accept that “integrated information” equates to consciousness. I am totally in favor of scientific research into the problem of consciousness. It’s just that I have read about dozens of such theories over the past 25 years, with none of them having really solved it yet in a way that can be measured and tested, or did not seem to “explain away” consciousness rather than actually explaining it. So the debates and arguments continue, as they should, since all new theories must withstand the test of challenge by skeptics.
RV: As we know “Consciousnesses” has been a taboo field for science until a couple of decades ago. It will surely take time for the concepts, models, instruments and the technology to develop before we get a viable theory to talk about.
I’m in complete agreement with you here. In the past quarter-century there has been an explosion of consciousness research which I hope will only continue apace. I remember taking a psychology course in college in the early 1980s, and the discussion on consciousness at that time was woefully inadequate — still mostly about the experiments of the behaviorists like Skinner. Then all of a sudden it became acceptable to write papers on the subject of consciousness acknowledging that it actually exists! Now there is so much research being conducted that it’s difficult to keep up with all the new findings.
To be clear, like you I am an avid fan of the method of unbiased scientific inquiry, but I’m trying to be cautious in accepting any of these new theories if they don’t offer any explanation on how mental states reduce to physical substrates or processes. So far they are all limited to exploring various *markers* for consciousness. As I noted previously, this in itself is an immensely valuable project, and I fully support research along these lines. I’m not “against” Tononi at all, merely critical in a rather mild sort of way that the claims for IIT seem to outpace the evidence for their support. I personally think that IIT will eventually fade as have so many other theories of consciousness, but I am no expert and acknowledge that I might be proven wrong in the future. Until then, I prefer to err on the side of skepticism. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.
RV: Hence, what I feel exciting about IIT is, quoting Aaronson again, “I regard IIT as a serious, honorable attempt to grapple with the Pretty-Hard Problem of Consciousness: something concrete enough to move the discussion forward.”
I agree that it’s a serious and honorable attempt to grapple with the problem of consciousness, but since you are quoting Aaronson, I think it relevant to also cite the last paragraph of his blog post:
“But let me end on a positive note. In my opinion, the fact that Integrated Information Theory is wrong—demonstrably wrong, for reasons that go to its core—puts it in something like the top 2% of all mathematical theories of consciousness ever proposed. Almost all competing theories of consciousness, it seems to me, have been so vague, fluffy, and malleable that they can only aspire to wrongness.”
RV: He calls it as “maximally irreducible constraining indivisble structure.” It’s a single experience in a multi-dimensional qualia-space and that is what he describes as the “shape” of expereince (shape is AkAra – the spacetime field of entirety).
In the video, Tononi refers to his use of the word “shape” as “the best metaphor.” I agree that it’s a lovely metaphor, but it’s also a potentially misleading one. As he notes, he’s not talking about any sort of shape similar to what we see around us, but rather a complex mathematical shape in qualia space (whatever that is). The image I had in listening to him was more of the contour map of a shifting terrain that can be sliced at intervals and analyzed as a unique shape in topographical terms. And while this is a really cool image (!), it still doesn’t have a thing to do with how we get self-awareness out of the wet goo that is our brains.
RV: He adds “that shape” is identical to Consciousness – not a surrogate.
Hence my main problem with IIT. If Tononi is saying that this qualia-space shape “just is” identical to conscious experience, then he is saying the exact same thing other physicalists have said, only without granting primary status to the brain. He’s not exactly a PNI theorist, but still perilously close to it, having replaced the underpinning of physical stuff like atoms, molecules, and neurons with the theoretical space of integrated information, and then claiming that this somehow yields subjective conscious experience. As I said, there is no justification for this leap other than an apparent correlation. But as we know A being associated with B does not mean that A has caused B. So the problem is that the theory still looks like that old physics cartoon with equations on one side of the board, more equations on the other side of the board, and in the middle, “Here a miracle occurs.” 🙂
What follows is a recent, shortened, debate in Quora which I read – I must say – with some sort of cavalier attitude (Sp. ‘displicente’) for what it may have of value:
Would human and super-human level AI be necessarily endowed with consciousness? Quora
Chris Nicholson, co-founder of skymind.io | co-creator of deeplearning4j.org
(100 Views • Chris is a Most Viewed Writer in Artificial Intelligence.)
No. Intelligence and consciousness are quite distinct. AI already performs at a human or superhuman level on narrow problems such as image recognition or chess, but that doesn’t make it conscious. I highly recommend reading anything by or about Christof Koch of the Allen Institute as a place to start understanding the differences between intelligence, which does something smart, and consciousness, which exhibits an awareness of itself: A Neuroscientist’s Radical Theory of How Networks Become Conscious
Integrated Information Theory has been dealt with by Scott Aaronson and convincingly found severely lacking: http://www.scottaaronson.com/blo… . While I don’t disagree that consciousness is likely an emergent phenomenon of a complicated computational system with certain characteristics, what I am after in this question is whether one could achieve human-level AI across the board without triggering emergence of consciousness .
I think what Scott said was that IIT might be necessary but not sufficient for establishing consciousness. But in any case, Koch is good at talking about the differences between intelligence and consciousness, regardless of what you think of IIT. I think to answer your question, we’d have to agree on what we mean by intelligence and consciousness. I’m sure there are ways to define the former that necessitate the latter. I think you can define consciousness as self-awareness. So in code that would involve representing the program itself symbolically and creating dependencies between that self-representation and whatever might affect its operations, an external awareness that might include goal-oriented activity. So maybe general RL, I don’t know. I’m just spitballing like everybody else.
Yes, exactly, very much in agreement with your points! And, yes, there is a question whether the computational features that you describe + plus sufficient complexity, integrated information or whatnot + sufficient computational power would somehow by necessity give rise to self-awareness in the machine, to the point of “you prick it and it hurts”. But it also seems possible that all of the features above would be enough to create an AI that for all intents and purposes goes about solving toughest mental tasks,creating art and making amazing scientific breakthroughs, but that still lacks self-awareness.
Of course, another question would be how to test this. So, again, circling back to Scott Aaronson’s points in the blog post I mentioned in my comment to Glyn Williams (http://www.scottaaronson.com/blo… ), it seems like clonability and reversibility of classical computation may give rise to weird paradoxes that seem counter-intuitive to our understanding of consciousness (e.g., can a giant look-up table encoding a classical computation be conscious?) Which makes him speculate that the unique features of consciousness might be irreversible and unclonable computations. If this is true, then it might be possible to achieve true AI without it being self-aware.
Sorry to be a luddite, but I would point us back to Brhdaranyaka Upanishad’s “how can one know that by which all this is known?”
The import of Vedanta, that I have taken away, is a deep introversion into oneself, and a detachment from external objects – drk drysa viveka.
To quote Suresvara’s Naiskarmya Siddhi:
2.97,98: Because the whole play of empirical cognition, with its objects, rests on not-being-awake to-the-Self, it follows that the Self can never be an object of empirical cognition. An effect cannot “go beyond” its material cause and acquire a basis in something to which it is in now way related.
So we say: intellect, body and external objects – all these can be known mediately (through empirical cognition). But since the Self is already the Self, through what could knowledge of it be mediated in any way.
For they (intellect, body and external objects) are not themselves of the nature of consciousness, and that which is not itself of the nature of consciousness is conditioned by mere delusion.
I would suggest that the consciousness that is being ‘modelled’ by the scientists is not That which Vedanta refers to but rather the superimposed jiva / intellect. ‘That’ of Vedanta, the ‘pure consciousness’, is that of deep sleep – without any ‘experience’ which necessitates duality. Nisargadatta talked of the Absolute (pure consciousness) as that which witnesses the coming and going of (bodily) consciousness.
The point made by you is undoubtedly an important one.
IMHO, it touches on the very innards of the concepts involved, be it scientific research or karma in general, because I can visualize the question raised by you here can broadly be subsumed under the general “Head” of a deliberation on ‘vastu tantra vs. kartru tantra’ itself.
Expectedly, the positions taken by different individuals / experts will differ and one can debate the issue until the cows come home without any resolution.
Therefore, please permit me to say that one may take it up in a separate thread for detailed discussion. Of course, my reply to Charles on Sep 9, 2016 at 21:25 (https://www.advaita-vision.org/is-consciousness-entirely-physical/#comment-6155 ) does contain a hint on why scientific investigation is not irrelevant, though maybe tangentially. After all, we should remember that shAstra (jnAna kANDa) does not make any injunctions, and all action (investigative or otherwise) without a narrow sense of a ‘me’ as the agent (at the moment of that action) would qualify to be “action in inaction.” Further, I expressed my ‘feel’ about what could possibly constitute the “consciousness” that science investigates in slide # 46 in my Post on ‘dhyAna and samAdhi’ (https://www.advaita-vision.org/dhyana-and-samadhi/ )
I take it that you haven’t read Bernadette Roberts book ‘What Is Self?’ and her very thorough description of the ‘journey’. It would be very difficult for me to summarize what she has to say about consciousness, self, both big and small ‘s’, and ego. For me, she has extended the discussion much further than most and possibly beyond the teachings of Advaita.
“Our contemplative maps of the journey come to an end with the discovery the true self and its oneness with the divine. This unitive state, known by various terms in different traditions, follows the falling away or transcendence of the ego (self center) and entails a radical change or transformation of consciousness. Beyond this, however, our maps don’t go. But this unitive or transcendental state is not the end of the journey. It may be the end of the ego-self, but by no means is it the end of the self, either the true self or the phenomenal self. For this, we have much further to go.”
She is describing Self realization and the attendant falling away of the ego, the so-called Atman and its oneness with the divine, Brahman. This state of pure consciousness is thought to be immutable, and within its realm, it is. But in her own discovery, consciousness and all its experiences both of god and self and experience itself, dropped away into what she describes as the ‘no-self event”. She describes consciousness as “the medium for knowing what is NOT itself. If we take away self or consciousness, not only is there no self or subject, but there is no medium for experiencing anything else that exists. This is why, confronted with the possibility of its own extinction, consciousness sees nothing beyond, and why, without consciousness, there could be no experiences of the divine or experience of self AS the divine. The falling away of consciousness opens a totally new and unsuspected dimension of existence, one that can never be experienced by consciousness because its dimension is beyond the boundaries and potential of consciousness or the psyche. This is why the falling away of self or consciousness is the only true death experience man will ever know. Short of this, every notion we have of death is not it.”
This also corresponds to what UG termed his ‘calamity’. It is also related to what the Buddha said at the time of his own enlightenment, and I quote,
“House builder! I behold thee now.
Again a house thou shalt not build;
The ridge-pole is split
All thy rafters are broken now,
My mind, its elements are dissolved,
The end of cravings has attained”
The keyword for her was ridge-pole, the seemingly divine center, god in Christian terms, Atman in Hindu terms, and perhaps emptiness or Buddha nature in Buddhist terms.
So, Ramesam, how can we corral consciousness with any of our tools if consciousness is everything we experience? The experience itself is consciousness. And how can we corroborate anyone’s ‘discovery’ that may vary with traditional statements or throw further light on them? Can you say that she is wrong or mistaken in her view? Certainly it’s possible to misinterpret things, but how will we know?
Thank you for the elaborate Comment.
The preamble you opened your remarks with is beautiful, and the questions at the end are quite pointed. So thanks again.
Before I answer the questions, let me make a few general observations:
(i) I was off-put by the voluminous nature and too much of a Christian terminology I am not familiar with in reading BR’s ‘What Is Self?’ I did though, peruse quickly through the book.
The impression I carry in brief is that she talks of the same things that Advaita has been teaching for millennia (perhaps she too says so in the book but admits her being unaware of it); she struggles in expressing her understanding because of a lack of proper Christian religion conforming words; the book could have been much more concise.
Because of the persuasive way you write about the book here, I perhaps should make another go at reading it. But then, I have lost the pdf of the book.
May I therefore request you to e-mail a copy of the pdf please.
(ii) Going even by the short but very clearly articulated essence and quotes from her book by you, I see that what she says is EXACTLY what Advaita speaks about and what ALMOST ALL OF THE INTERLOCUTORS HERE have been talking about. I see NO DIFFERENCE at all except for the terminology and semantics.
It amazes me how a man of your intelligence could miss this fact of similitude, and refuse to see beyond UG-isque and Roberts-ish verbalization.
(iii) I re-write below the quote from BR that you mentioned, replacing her words with the equivalent terms that Vedanta uses. I challenge if anyone can find even an iota of difference!
Our contemplative maps of the journey come to an end with the discovery the true Self and Its Oneness with the Supreme (brahman). This unitive state, known by various terms in different traditions, follows the falling away or transcendence of the chidAbhAsa (I-consciousness or ego) or ahaMkAra (= self center) and entails a radical change or transformation of mind. Beyond this, however, our maps don’t go. But this unitive or transcendental state is not the end of the journey. It may be the end of the ego-self (referred to as enlightenment in Vedanta), but by no means is it the end of the self, either the true Self or the phenomenal self (chidAbhAsa). For this, we have much further to go (in order to be in an UNBROKEN abidance in brahman termed jnAna niShTha or sthita prajna).
Can you tell me even a single place where Vedanta talks differently?
(iv) Please replace everywhere the word “consciousness” in the paragraph of yours following her quote with the word “mind” (that Vedantins prefer to use) and you would have learnt all the Vedanta-speak.
I have no quarrel at all with anything said there in.
[The Sanskrit word “Atman” is used by different authors to mean different things in different contexts. It is a bit difficult to wrap one’s mind around it. ‘God’ is another loaded word with lot of baggage around it and hence I prefer to avoid these two words as much as possible.]
Coming to the Questions posed by you:
Q: [H]ow can we corral consciousness with any of our tools if consciousness is everything we experience?
RV: I presume that the question is about Consciousness (brahman) with capital “C” and not ‘consciousness’ which maybe roughly taken as a faculty of the mind.
I do not think that the purpose of scientific investigation is, as far as I understand, to “corral” or capture Consciousness in a test tube or petri dish.
Science has been able to establish clearly that the “self” that each one of us generally think we have is a fragile confabulation, a non-existing entity, learnt as a useful tool for survival. Though science does not know, as yet, how it gets engendered, one can compare its genesis to that of Ehrenstein’s Bright Disc or Kanisza Triangle (See for example my review at: https://www.advaita-vision.org/book-review-the-self-illusion/ )
The main purpose of any scientific search is to know and understand the Truth without any pre-conceived notions, biases, and prejudices.
Advaita Vedanta calls the “sense of self” to be a mithya, and is unequivocal (so also BR in your own words) about what the “nature” of that Final Truth is. However, science has yet to arrive there. There could be many false steps, many missed steps, and tottered steps on its way to this final discovery. But let us not second-guess or foreclose the scientific investigation. It’s an upanishad where the last word is not yet written, as I am not tired of repeating.
Q: The experience itself is consciousness. And how can we corroborate anyone’s ‘discovery’ that may vary with traditional statements or throw further light on them?
RV: As you know, the scientific method was predominated by or rather became a victim of the Cartesian dichotomy until about (and even after) the beginning of last century. It is only in recent decades that the scientific discoveries revealed the equivalence of matter and energy, and unified the three forces of nature, while the fourth is still playing a truant. Yet the difficulty of demarcating the observer and the observed in unambiguous terms, the illusory nature of space-time as physical entities has been established in science. So modern scientific method is just about learning to breaking those centuries old shackles of Descartes and investigating both the mind and consciousness.
Neuroscience has already understood that there is undoubtedly a “disconnect” between perception and reality. As a biological organism, we perceive what is “needed to know” at the moment for survival value and never the “whole” of whatever-is-there, the Reality.
Physics is proving that being an observer within a given domain, you are not privileged to see beyond that domain and that much of what is taken to be physically existent (including gravity) may after all be nothing more than an illusion.
If you are an unbiased observer, you can see the similarity of the statements above and what Vedanta talks about. So my appeal is that we should not prejudge issues and condemn the investigatory approach of the scientific method.
Q: Can you say that she is wrong or mistaken in her view?
RV: As I already said, I fail to see any difference between what BR says and what Advaita teaches (if one is not hung up on specific semantics/terminology).
Q: Certainly it’s possible to misinterpret things, but how will we know?
RV: As they say in economics, a bad coin will ultimately find its own limits. We will definitely know the Truth because, as Shankara explains in his commentary at BG II-16, you are inherently, yourself the Truth. The understanding or “knowing” happens intuitively when it is im-mediated, or using your words, when ” there is no medium for experiencing anything else that exists.”
I, too, was off-put by the abstract referencing of Christian terminology, much the same as I am off-put by Vedanta’s terminology. But, she is a Christian, and she is addressing Christian issues as well as referencing her own ‘journey’. I would recommend a re-reading, not a perusing, of Part I and Part II. In it, she lays out her view quite thoroughly and continually makes distinctions between ‘ego-death’ and the ‘no-self event’, both being transformative, but having its fulfillment in the latter.
Your substitution of Sanskrit terms in your response are appreciated. On an intellectual level and as a ‘map’, there is no way that you or I can be sure that BR is only saying the same thing as Advaita. I would hope that only through one’s own transformation could we corroborate anything anyone says about all this. I still see differences which you say I stubbornly adhere to. This stubbornness may or may not be based on the words of UG and BR. I could turn the table on you and say the same. I am not equating myself with the Buddha, but from what I’ve read, there are some Advaitins who feel the Buddha was wrong.
One of the more interesting things BR says about the ‘Unitive State’ (Self Realization), is that it takes years and years of living this before one sees that it is still a state of mind with the experience of oneness, sat chit ananda. This also falls away in the ‘no self event’. A perusal of her writings, will undoubtedly miss many salient points. But it is clear to me that only living these experiences could clarify any misunderstandings that may arise either in language or depth of transformation of an individual.
As for the scientific part of this discussion, I still fail to see how this approach ‘transforms’ the so-called ‘individual’. UG claims that the sense of self is nothing more than physical sensations that mind interprets and clusters into an ‘entity’, a ‘someone’, and that stores these images/memories and are linked to each other. Science seems to be approaching this area in the same way but it is not having any effect on the observer by un-linking these thoughts. Will they develop a pill to unlink this activity so we can experience what UG says happened to him?
Thanks again, Anon.
A: “I still see differences …”
R: Please do spell them out giving the exact quotes from BR. Then only we can discuss further in relation to what Advaita says. Otherwise it is too vague a statement to comment.
A: “… … which you say I stubbornly adhere to.”
R: I don’t think I said “stubborn.” I only appealed to you to be unstuck from adherence to the words of only certain authors.
A: “I could turn the table on you and say the same.”
R: You may. But that would be unfounded. 🙂
A: I am not equating myself with the Buddha, but from what I’ve read, there are some Advaitins who feel the Buddha was wrong.
R: Someones’s feelings or prejudices and any issues related to “–isms” (i.e. religions) can be avoided, if our focus is on the Ultimate Truth, which is irrefutable, is beyond mind and beyond ‘concepts.’
A: “As for the scientific part of this discussion, I still fail to see how this approach ‘transforms’ the so-called ‘individual’ ”
R: Could the words of the UGs, BRs, etc. ‘transform’ all individuals?
If any single mantra were to have worked, so many teachings would not have arisen at all. Why to grudge then the scientific approach?
A: “Will they develop a pill to unlink this activity … …?”
R: Have you not heard of Real-time fMRI, Real time Neural feedback, TCM, etc.? And the emerging field of Neurotheology?
[There are already in the market peddlers of Spiritual Technologies (partly based on half truths), Ken Wilber and so on just for your info – not that I certify them in anyway.]
But my position is, as I stated earlier, “… we should not prejudge issues and condemn the investigatory approach of the scientific method.”
I am not begrudging the scientists their investigation or anyone else. The only way to come to some understanding of oneself is through investigation. I’ve always said that all these approaches are just means to focus the attention and then they are dropped. I just hope these scientists you speak of are examining their own interior lives and not just going to work each day.
According to UG, lol, hearing a dog bark is enough to ‘un-link’ one thought from another and trigger this explosion of self, the very same event as the Buddha describing the destruction of the ridge pole and the house collapsing. So, to answer your question whether UG’s words or another’s words are enough to transform the listener, it is said that it depends on the state of the listener. The Buddha held up a flower in front of his congregation. Only Mahakasyapa understood.
I’m afraid you are going to have to do your own homework on BR. I just wanted to open this door to what she has discovered. Hers is not a theoretical knowledge or an intellectual understanding. She has been through the fire, Ramesam. And, as I said before regarding UG, meeting someone like him is a rare event that can never be explained, understood, or brushed off with positive or negative comments.
I am writing my views just because we discussed some of it and you feel it may be useful.. But over all it may not add much more to interesting discussions you have had with Charles..
That indeed covers quite a bit.
Also my views may be a bit naive as I have not kept much updated with biology-research developments on consciousness etc.
1. Relationship with advaita school’s model of universe :
(I call it model/ axiomatic theory of universe, basically all models or theories are only approximations to universe (or unique existence) .. one has to assume that a theory can only help in understanding better, it can not be a complete description of reality)…
If one studies with in advaita school’s model of universe consciousness is essentially the same as unique existence -brahman (or sakshi chaitanya).
The hope that via physical parameters or information via physical experiments, one may be able to decide whether sakshi chaitanya of an entity (manifestation) is jagrut or sushupt (or does not exist at all-as one assumes often with “nonliving entities”, I prefer to use word sushupt rather than nonexistence), I feel is a bit far fetched.
it also may result in some contradiction or infinite regress.
For example it is not too hard to logically deduce that any event does not change any aspect of brahman.
I feel this itself should be enough to assume that what Tononi etc. are considering consciousness is very different from advaita consciousness (brahman or sakshi chaitanya ).. even if one makes some concession and think of say the so called chidbhasa (jiva chaitanya .. though you do not like to consider it, but I see no harm .. as long as it does not lead to any contradictions), I feel the problem remains the same. If one considers chidbhasa -in the advaita theory one assumes that final information is encoded with sakshi chaitanya and still it does not change any thing (in say “data base” of sakshi chaitanya .. its “timelessness” essentially implies that information has been “always” with it).
I feel in a lot of western analysis description of consciousness and mind (antahakarana ) is mingled together. Many aspects which they consider as consciousness are essentially considered in Indian school’s model as mind’s activity.
I feel even Tononi’s ideas are also not so clear about what exactly one means by consciousness or conscious expereince.
In his videos (links given by you ) he seems to be a bit more clear about it than in his papers with mathematical definitions.
At least he has clear idea that “consciousness” (or what he calls shape) is not in the universe – “built by our sense perceptions and mind etc.” (or even in space time universe).
Incidentally compared to him I found another chat on the same link
with Dr. Julia Mossbridge much more interesting.
If your article was more about her views, what their group does, it would have been much closer to consciousness as we understand in advaita model.
May be you should consider writing article on their group’s work.
She practically was firm about consciousness being the basic starting unit of universe (though the anchor tried hard to deflect her from this position) and every thing else “coming” from it ..that is practically same as ideas in advaita school’s model.
2. About Tononi’s work and its extension in blog of Scot Aranoson
My views perhaps are more closer to what Charles says .. in some aspects they coincide with your views.
Tononi’s work I also find interesting..Though I agree with Aaronson and Charles that there is no chance that they can be any time near to solving Hard problem. I feel they are not even any where near to studying even consciousness independent of mind, sense perceptions. They seem to be essentially studying what Charles calls PNI.
Though neglecting this part that they are wrong about claiming too much (compared to them I feel Julia’s ideas are much more clearer) .. their work might be interesting.
Formalizing even theories for PNI (that is what it seems Toloni is doing)
is a very good idea.
I think Aaronson’s idea of restricting the study to at least trying focus on pretty hard problem is a very good suggestion. Though I also doubt that current methods of Toloni of using that function phi is a right path. But Toloni surely has insight.
I am surprised that you did not like Aaronson’s blog (practically a research paper).. I think if you leave aside your reservations about his being mathematician .. you might see a lot of value in it.
(Incidentally your remark about mathematician or computer science also is a bit off track. Your idea of mathematics or computer science is not very exact. Mathematics (computer science included) is basically just a language. One makes in it only statements -which are beyond doubt true .. or in other words it makes basically only hypothetically true statement. The statements made have very little to do with logic (one actually tries to build insight by seeing the “geometry” via axioms generally) .. though often final products are presented in logical formal language just as adi shankarachrya’s school also preferred to do that for advaita model of universe. Mathematical language can be used for any thing, biology included -once axioms are clearer, the language is suitable for almost any subject .Just as sanskrit is developed language suitable for ancient Indian philosophical ideas, today’s science has mathematics playing quite a bit similar role. Actually ancient Indians also saw this beauty. They developed not only sanskrit to express their ideas about models of universe, they also developed mathematical language similarly ideas like infinity, shunya (it is not same as zero) etc. ).. they developed very exact definitions.
If you look carefully Aaronson’s paper, you may see that should be really considered, a very good extension of Toloni’s work.
He does the following in his this article
1. He describes in much simpler language the function phi and much more clearly.
2. He rightly changes focus from Hard problem to Pretty Hard problem.
3. He shows by an example that the function phi in its current form is not very suitable by practically showing that it is NP hard problem in computation and also by showing that one can easily construct examples for which it practically reaches infinity while it should have been near zero
4. In fact this example in a way also suggests that developing a proper measure for even pretty hard problem may not be without ambiguity..
Main effect of what he does is that he shows that even though humans may not be able to create a conscious entity (except for giving birth to a child .. if that is considered just human work?) but they have enough strength to create “zombies” which may have much larger any attribute, you try to associate with their consciousness than any group of humans even together might have ..
(Incidentally I do not see much reason for Aronson’s sentiment that “consciousness measure” for a group of humans should be no bigger than individuals).
Hi Charles and Navin,
Thank you both for your detailed and thoughtful interventions.
Welcome to Navin.
[For the info of others who do not know, Navin is a Professor of Mathematics at the prestigious Mumbai IIT, though as he also admits, not of IIT (playing the pun on IIT as Aaronson did !) :)]
My interest in IIT is purely from an Advaita perspective. For, it reminds me of the important shruti mantra:
पराञ्चि खानि व्यतृणत्स्वयम्भूस्तस्मात्पराङ् पश्यति नान्तरात्मन् ।
कश्चिद्धीरः प्रत्यगात्मानमैक्षदावृत्तचक्षुरमृतत्वमिच्छन् ॥ — II-iv-1, katha upanishad
Meaning: The Self-existent One pierced the apertures outward. Therefore, one looks out, and not into oneself. One some wise man in search of immortality, turned his sight inward, self-controlled and heroic.
Before I amplify on the above, a couple of caveats and clarifications:
Let me at the outset assure you that I do not stand here in defense of IIT.
Moreover, as you and other readers may have noted, Dr. Tononi replied within a week to the objections of Aaronson (See: Why Scott should stare at a blank wall and reconsider (or, the conscious grid)) to which Scott had given a rejoinder. And so on the arguments are going on to the present with one blogger using his choicest expletives on Aaronson as recent as last month. I believe, you agree that we don’t have to tread that field here (once more) at this site.
I appreciate and admire the review of the theory that both of you presented from a scientific angle as peers in the related fields. But at the same time, I like to bring out the weak-links lurking behind some of the fundas within the conventions of such an analysis, particularly from the viewpoint of Advaita.
Secondly, I should clear certain unintended impression that seems to have crept in regarding my view on Math. Charles hinted about it and Navin said that “… your remark about mathematician or computer science also is a bit off track. Your idea of mathematics or computer science is not very exact.”
I am certain Navin, does not mean it, but I have to clarify so that even a shadow of doubt will not linger in the mind of a casual reader about my position. I regard Math as a powerful tool for application in any field of science or linguistics. Mathematicians are highly sharp and quick in grasping diverse issues. Consequently they quickly acclimatize themselves in any field of research work. They can extend the boundaries of thought beyond the common imagination.
All that said, is it not a fact that, leaving apart at the cutting edge level of research, the normal education in academic institutions in Math goes to train the mind to handle systems as deterministic (or stochastic at the most) models? An unexpected value popping up in the equations of say some complex functions, like an improbable mutation, a bolt from the blue, is usually a sign of error. A Mathematician considers them as red flags of warning. But for a bioscientist, such values are (again usually) doorways for new avenues of exploration, a happy celebration.
A point, p(x(i),y(i)), for a mathematician, lies definitively at the intersection of the off-sets on the X and Y axes in a bivariate coordinate system. The X-Y domain pre-exists p(i) which is a creature within the 2-D space, something like the common worldview that I am born into a pre-existing world under the sRRiShTi-dRRiShTi vAda. But does an average student get trained to see the possibility that the 2-D domain of X and Y can be an acausal derivative of and lie within a multidimensional space, with both the point of origin and the X-Y axes emerging as arbitrary projections of p(i)? In other words, instead of the point being defined by the off-sets on X and Y, it is the point that comes first by shedding its multidimensional nature reducing itself to 2-D, creating the entire domain of X-Y including the range of values that X and Y can assume? This sort of a counter-intuitive worldview is more easily accepted by a mind which is not oriented to be very deterministic or firmly believes in cause-effect controls.
I may also mention here one more thing about Math in general — a point made by Navin that Math is akin to a language and it is highly amenable for precise expression. He wins the argument on this easily with hands down. As he says, it is applicable to all fields of science. But again, from an Advaita perspective, that Math being language-like is a disadvantage. We know any language is by nature dualistic in structure and therefore, falls within the regime of the mind. As Advaitins, we would like to transcend mind and hence arguments based on Math as the medium, in spite of its power of more accurate prediction as far as a dualistic world is concerned, becomes a burden.
(To Continue …)
Thanks for so quick reply. Nice comment. I am eager to know your views further.
I somehow feel, as I wrote in my comment earlier also that it will be a mistake to consider Aronson’s work as some kind of fight between him and Tononi etc. or biologists and computer science -AI people.
Way, I see is that it is a simplification of some of ideas of Tononi and and very good extension of Tononi’s work. Tononi’s later remarks I read (thanks for the info), even though he also seems a but unhappy at Aaronson’s blog but he has taken it in right spirit and is trying to explain , why measures he has defined still hold good.
(by the way in my last comment I wrote wrong spelling of Tononi
-there seems to be no way to edit one’s already published comment on this site ?)
I also read Aaronson’s further discussion on it. Did you see his discussion with David Chalmer, in his new article?. That is quite interesting.
What David suggests, as one extra assumption may surely help a little.
What I like about Tononi’s ideas is his clear statement “one starts from the axioms of phenomenology, and derives postulates about possible physical mechanisms. This is the exact opposite of what is usually done: consider physical mechanisms, whether brains or expander graphs, and wonder how they could possibly generate experience”
It is much closer to advaita school’s idea that “consciousness (sakshi chaitanya )” is the starting point in any expereince
(it is also in advaita an “end point” and “only point” .. but that is another matter..time being let us restrict to empirical universe ).
What I see in this is at least the model of expereince -in accordance with some advaita group’s idea (actually I think most of them) that mind is basically material and it is “light (order) of consciousness,” which enables us to have any expereince.
Shloka you have written in above comment also seem to imply the same.
But over all even in these new discussions, what is clear is that what Tononi’s group is considering as consciousness is essentially what Charles calls “PNI” systems. For example Tononi states at one place “we know that our own consciousness depends on certain brain structures (the cortex) ..”
Their idea of consciousness is still too far from what we consider as consciousness (sakshi chaitanya or brahaman”).
Also in most of these discussions (there are some exceptions but over all generally) the distinction between mind and consciousness seems to be blurred.
I still feel the same, that Tononi’s ideas need to be modified quite a bit, for even a serious study PNI Systems. (compared to him as I said in last comment I find Julia much more clearer).
What seems to be clear is that Tononi’s idea about 2D space being quite conscious is influenced more by their study of effect (image) a 2D space makes on eye or brain. It is quite possible that the said this effect on brain/eye is conscious (in advaita model even that will have sushupt chaitanya) .. But there seems to be no reason really given by them, why that should imply that 2D space it self should be conscious and not 1D space (as Aaronson also points out).
Tononi’s group basically seems to be more interested in studying this effect on brain/eye rather than actual 2D space (if at all there is any such thing).
A lot of confusion might get reduced if they first formalize basic theory properly, just for these effects on brain. Only after that they study the philosophical aspect -its relationship with actual space. It is quite possible that measures they want to define (phi etc.) may be different for effects and actual space which they consider as the one causing the effect.
It’s interesting that even though they say, they want to go to from phenomenology to mechanism of physical space, they end up in defending their ideas more about these mechanisms. There is very little discussion about their ideas about phenomenology by it self.
About some other aspects you mentioned..
I do not know exactly what normal education teaches now a days
but your idea as what a bioscientist “considers as doorways of new avenues of exploration, a happy celebration” is exactly the same as what a mathematician will also consider as “doorways of new avenues, exploration..”
Mathematics is not developed by urge to have “deterministic systems” but rather from the unknown sudden spurt (mathematicians call them conjectures –in spiritualism it is bhakti to sudden vision about truth ), only end products may be deterministic. determinismis actually generated by these spurts. It is not a starting point, it is final result. That (determinism) is more because in mathematics one formally makes only statements which are beyond doubt true.. (hypothetical statements that if such and such things are assumed to be true than this is also true..). But these statements are driven not via logic or urge to be deterministic, rather via urge to roam around in unknown and vague and form images shapes etc.
So for example there is nothing like physical “point” in mathematics.
In mathematics the intersection of x and y axis lines (or lines parallel to them ) is just an intersection of two lines, it has nothing to do with physical point (a physical point is generally considered just undefined.. or just a notation that this intersection you call as a point). But ideas about bunch of such intersections (shapes geometrical insights) is arrived at by those sudden spurts or what you call doorways.
Strictly speaking what we consider in physics routinely as 3-dimensional space of ours (4 dimensional if you include time also ), and assumption that we know them well, is only a very recent phenomena.
It is actually assumed so strongly, that famous mathematician Poincare had once said some thing like this- There is no reason to assume that space of our sense perceptions etc. is 3-4-dimensional space but this belief in physics is so strong that even if some day, it is found out that space may not be so, they will try to modify the arguments, observations to fit it into 3-dimensional space. I tend to agree with Poincare.
Even a simple look at the fact that one can not really write down decimal expansions of real numbers, will imply that what we tend to think of as 3-4 dimensional space –it is actually infinite dimensional, if one tries to really look into it subject to our capacity of mind, sense organs etc. They are really spaces for us, over rational numbers.
I consider all subjects essentially the same, including philosophy, science (mathematics, biology included), spiritualism, philosophy, commerce liberal arts etc. etc., so rarely I get into this or that- is better. I admire insight of Indians who almost 5000 years back classified quite exactly tools for study into 4 classes
shravna (hearing.. includes reading, watching movies, simulations etc. ), manana (anlaysis, causal tracing etc.), dhyana (focused meditation), and nididhyasana (right apprehension, intense meditation). I think, still almost all tools for studies fall into these classes. All subjects have the same goal -to discover and identify with truth (in some context) and the same tools. Hence they are essentially the same. Only focus here and there in different times space may be shifted. One can not really draw a clear boundary that I will use only this this this in my study.
If you see Tononi’s initial papers and discussions, they are also practically just mathematics. The difference of course lies in that Tononi is trying to use his biological insight to formulate the exact language/model suitable for these studies.
While Aaronson is using his insight into geometry, AI and formalism to simplify what Tononi formulates and to describe limitations, it might have and possibility of going beyond those limits.
Such collaborations are not new. The study if “tree of life” in biology for example today is done quite a bit in similar fashion.
They should be considered mutual studies to get the Toloni’s work further.
A proper insight in both styles is needed. Biology today is one of most challenging fields, earlier people did not understand basics so well but recent developments have opened a possibility to understand make a much more clearer vision. It does require some expertise in all basic fields physics chemistry, mathematics (including computer science), even social science (quite unlike Physics or Mathematics, where a lot of work can be done without going into details of other fields.
Two aspects which I find very interesting in these discussions and extensions of Tononi’s work
1. The distinction between Mind and consciousness is a bit blurred in quite a bit of western studies. These studies may reduce that confusion.
2. Aaronson’s work suggests the possibility that given any attribute and its measure (for consciousness..really speaking time being it ) humans could create sort of zombies ) for which measure may be much larger than that for humans .. shows that task to formalize even PNI’s will have a lot of difficulty.
From SSSS – How to recognise the method of Vedanta.
And lastly, that the Highest Reality and goal taught by the Upanishads transcends all concepts and verbal symbols, is revealed by the following text :
“That from which all words fall back along with the mind unable to reach It, one knowing that bliss of Brahman, is not afraid of anything whatever.” Tai., 2-9.
The senses and concepts are no doubt the means of knowing the objective phenomena of this world, but the knower in general being the pre-supposition of all the processes of knowing, must be granted to be self-evident and can never be thought of in any way as desiderating some ‘means’ of knowing Him. Now the fundamental doctrine of Vedanta is that this Self as the universal Knower who Intuits everything is essentially Brahman, and, as such, altogether transcends the sphere of empirical knowledge, the sphere which comprehends the distinctions of the knower, means of knowledge and the object of knowledge. It is a radical error therefore which assails each one of us when we assume that we are individual knowers endowed with intellect and other means of knowledge which enable us to know objects. It is to dispel this inherent error, that the Upanishads employ the unique method known as the Adhyaropa-Apavada, where word-symbols used need not directly denote the Self or Brahman but only serve to suggest what is not really characteristic of It, while the human mind naturally takes it to be such.
Brahman as the witnessing principle in us all, being of the very nature of consciousness, needs no extraneous means to know it. it has to be intuited by the self in itself as something devoid of all determining features, as the all in reality.
The character in the dream is deriving models, by which to see the dreamer / substratum. Vedanta tells us that the character is itself an illusion. So there cannot logically be any empirical method by which the substratum can be seen. The character has to go, for the substratum to prevail.
[Continuing from my earlier Comment at 01:50 on Sep 15, 2016.]
Dear Charles, Navin and Venkat,
Thanks very much to the second Comment by Navin and the Quotes from SSSS by Venkat, a lot of stuff that I wanted to write about here has become unnecessary.
Navin has taken the trouble to clarify a number of issues regarding the outlook on Math from a researcher’s perspective. As I said in my response to Charles, it is always a pleasure learning new things and I am very grateful to Navin for his time and also to our other colleagues who pointed out certain lack in my understanding. I stand benefited in closing the gap from these illuminating interventions, be it Math or other things.
Martin brought up the connected matters of Intelligence and AI. Maybe we will have an opportunity to discuss them in relation to Consciousness separately.
What remains is that I still owe an explanation why I think that IIT is a promising avenue to further explore, notwithstanding the problems and ambiguities pointed out by all of you and the experts in the field.
As you must be knowing, there was a brain storming conference exclusively on IIT at the end of last year with the participation of all the star researchers in this area (including Aaronson). I trust the active bench-level workers in IIT will notice and take care of the infirmities.
A very good overall view of the theory is presented by Koch and Tononi in Mar 2015 (available at: http://rstb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/370/1668/20140167). The well-known physicist Max Tegmark published two months ago a paper in which he says:
“Although there is still no consensus on necessary and sufficient conditions for a physical system to be conscious, there is broad agreement that it needs to be able to store and process information in a way that is somehow integrated, not consisting of nearly independent parts. As emphasized by Tononi, it must be impossible to decompose a conscious system into nearly independent parts — otherwise these parts would feel like two separate conscious entities. While integration as a necessary condition for consciousness is rather uncontroversial, IIT goes further and makes the bold and controversial claim that it is also a sufficient condition for consciousness, using an elaborate mathematical integration definition.”
(See here: http://arxiv.org/pdf/1601.02626.pdf%20jul%202016.pdf)
Koch and Tononi explained the rationale of their approach as follows in the paper cited above:
“Some philosophers have claimed that the problem of explaining how matter can give rise to consciousness may forever elude us, dubbing it the Hard problem. Indeed, as long as one starts from the brain and asks how it could possibly give rise to experience—in effect trying to ‘distill’ mind out of matter, the problem may be not only hard, but almost impossible to solve. But things may be less hard if one takes the opposite approach: start from consciousness itself, by identifying its essential properties, and then ask what kinds of physical mechanisms could possibly account for them. This is the approach taken by integrated information theory (IIT), an evolving formal and quantitative framework that provides a principled account for what it takes for consciousness to arise, offers a parsimonious explanation for the empirical evidence, makes testable predictions and permits inferences and extrapolations.”
I may here point out that IIT is able to answer better some of the issues like: the mind-body problem, the explanatory gap, the binding problem, and the problem of objectively detecting consciousness. So judging its validity mainly on the philosopher’s concept of “Hard Problem” is a bit harsh.
Further, the very concept of “Hard Problem” is an anathema from an Advaita perspective. The hard problem is based on substance-dualism at its core. It assumes that “I,” the observer, possesses the “ghost” Consciousness which enables me “to be conscious of” an “object” external and removed from “me.” Thus it makes it necessary for the existence of many “entities” – the Observer, the observed and the process of being conscious and the “inexplicable” ghost consciousness possessed by “I” and therefore, arguing that there remains a need to explain how Consciousness is engendered.
Advaita sees unity in all these – the observer is non-different from the observed which two are actually the creatures within and of observing.
So “observing” or “knowing” is the primary and only entity as per Advaita. Therefore, the so-called hardness of having to explain non-existing entities becomes irrelevant. This is the reason I feel uncomfortable with the concept of “Hard Problem.”
Referring to the bivariate graph in my previous comment, in Advaita we do not see a point ‘p’ (kshetrajna) to be distinct and different from the domain or field (kshetra). We see an identity in subject-object.
The hardness becomes softness and eventually completely disappears depending on our approach. It is very germane to recall at this juncture the commentary of Swami Krishnananda of The Divine Life Society on the Katha Upanishad mantra I quoted in my previous Comment:
” Consciousness drifts away in space and time; this is creation. The scriptures tell us that there have been stages of descent of consciousness. Just as a stone thrown into the middle of the still waters of a lake creates waves deep in the center, and becomes weak in the periphery, the Original Will of ishvara becomes weaker and weaker as it goes through the human beings, the animal and vegetable kingdoms and becomes finally arrested of all its outgoing tendencies when it reaches inanimate matter. We, as waves produced by the momentum of ishvara-sankalpa, are in one of the conditions of descent. Because of this, we are compelled to go outward, not inward. If this drifting is allowed to go uncontrolled, we go to realms lower than human. But if it is checked and allowed to know its consciousness, it may try to recede rather than proceed, and become the ripple beholding its bottom, which is the substance of all waves.”
The IIT seems to me to follow that sort of an approach. Moreover, the initial properties the IIT identifies Consciousness with are also in conformity with Advaitic understanding as I have remarked in my Comment in reply to Charles. Undoubtedly, there is further refining and tweaking required. Scientists will in the future surely go about in sharpening the theory and the concepts, if necessary, even by dumping IIT!
Before I conclude, I would like to add a few lines regarding the issue of “mind” raised by Navin. As he would be knowing, ‘mind’ is not an alien entity in Advaita. The simplest expression in Advaita is that Consciousness in movement (vibration) is mind. So mind is within, of and non-separate from Consciousness.
I shall close my Note here with another of katha quote:
मनसैवेदमाप्तव्यं नेह नानास्ति किञ्चन । — II-iv-11, katha up
Meaning: With your mind alone you must understand it— there is here no diversity at all!
[P.S.: Re: J. Mossbridge: I read about her concepts quite some time ago. My impression was that her terminology (the ‘unconscious vs. conscious) etc. was not much in conformity with Advaita. I will have to refresh my memory. Sorry.]
Hopefully, you received the pdf of Ms. Roberts’ book that I emailed you. Talking about it, made me pick it up again. It is not a book of maxims or srutis. It is her personal and detailed account of her own process of transformation.
Because our ‘sticking’ point is Consciousness and what Advaita tradition defines it as, as well as Self Realization and the transcendence of ego as the ultimate realization, BR’s experience is seemingly at odds with this. It is not at odds with realization of the Self and ego transcendence, which she describes as being only the first part of this transformative process, but not its end. She also goes on to say that this second event, which she terms the ‘no-self’ event is not described in any of the traditional scriptures or accounts of the transformative process. For some reason, it is lost. It is alluded to, as in the Buddha’s description of the ridge pole and collapsing house, but no tradition elaborates on this in their literature. The first description of this ‘event’ I’ve ever come across was in the discussions with UG. Both he and JK cautioned against ‘authority’, claiming the possibility that the traditions may be wrong in their claims. With UG, the physical description of how this event left him is groundbreaking. It is the first description of how someone functions in this state, in a language we can all understand, of how it is to live without a self. BR furthers this with the elaboration of each state, particulars, and a description of how she lives in this state. There is no ‘All is One’ maxim that one is asked to believe or follow. No real vs unreal.
I quote from her introduction: “This is saying that our competed journey consists of two very different endings: first, the falling away of the ego or self-center, and second, the much later falling away of the true self and divine-center (and consequently the phenomenal self)….Nowhere does our contemplative literature make this specific distinction; instead, it speaks of only one major movement or ending, which ending is always indicative of a unitive state no matter how variously it has been described. The final event, however, is the falling away of the unitive state; in fact, the whole purpose of the unitive state or stage is bring us to the final no-unitive state or no-self event. It is imperative, then, to make a clear distinction between first getting to the egoless unitive state and from here going forward to the eventual falling away of this same egoless unitive state.
The true no-self event or falling away of the unitive state is bound to alter our traditional maps and paradigms of the journey. It only pushes our previous boundaries by presenting us with a totally new view of self or consciousness, but it necessitates a change in our usual perspective and understanding of the completed journey. The major change is that the unitive state of oneness is no longer regarded as the ultimate goal, but instead is seen as the midpoint of the passage and a state that moves on to a more final end. This means that a long portion of the journey, between arriving at the unitive state and its eventual falling away, must now be accounted for. It means that the subtle, largely unconscious movement between the beginning and end of the unitive state has yet to be considered and described.”
Ramesam, I haven’t seen any reference to this in Advaitic tradition. To say Brahman is the ultimate Truth, and then posit Atman as being identical to Brahman and Self Realization is its proof, doesn’t add up to me. There is some disconnect here that is not accounted for. But, it is not only Advaitic tradition that omits this, it’s every tradition. It’s not that someone can’t discover this for themselves, but it seems to me that the discovery has to be ‘outside’ of the traditions and that accounts for the berating that people like UG and BR get for their seeming ‘break’ with traditions. They are not at odds with the traditions, they have transcended them as you and everyone else will at some point. UG once told me that each time someone comes into this state, they go further than the last one. It is Life, Living beyond this dimension and who knows what that means.
Thank you for the copy of BR’s book, “What is Self?”
I received it and shared with a few friends. I wanted to write to you after being able to read diligently at least some pages specifically on the matter of our discussion. Sorry, I could not do so as yet because several other things have been going on that have not allowed the sort of attention and focus which I wanted to devote to the issue.
Understandably, I can give my “own” feel only after I re-read the book. I shall definitely come back with my “understanding” of it at my earliest.
In response to some of the things you expressed in your Comment above, I may be allowed to say here that:
i) I do not really fit into the definition of a “traditional” student of Advaita.
ii) Many of the so-called “Heads” of maTha-s (monasteries/Ashrams/Gurukulams etc.) who claim themselves to be “traditional” in peddling their Advaita-ware, IMHO, strictly are not traditional if the guru-shiShya (teacher-disciple) lineage is compared against the standards and conventions observed by Sringeri Math.
iii) In view of (ii) above, it is difficult for me to accept when you say: “I haven’t seen any reference to this in Advaitic tradition.”
iv) While I may not be able to speak with any authority from a “traditional” POV, it does not at all look to me that BR is talking with reference to ancient Indian Adviata literature when she says: “Nowhere does our contemplative literature make this specific distinction; instead, it speaks of only one major movement or ending, which ending is always indicative of a unitive state no matter how variously it has been described.”
v) To my limited knowledge, it is only UG who spoke of some endocrinal or other related consequential changes in the gross body after total falling of the ego-self. But we do have descriptions of how a body which housed formerly an ego-based self but not anymore behaves and conducts itself in the world.
vi) The statement of RB that “… … the much later falling away of the true self and divine-center (and consequently the phenomenal self) …” DOES NOT make much sense to me.
In what way she is differentiating ego (self-center), true self (divine center) both of which fall away and then what is this phenomenal self which falls away as a consequence?
I do not mean to judge her, but I do have to understand her terminology and word-meanings before I can comment in relation to Advaitic understanding.
vii) It is true that the scriptures devote a large amount of space in teaching about “dropping” of the ego-self (mis-identification of the real “Me” which is indescribable, Infinite, formless, featureless with the finite mutable body), they do point out ALSO to something much beyond it. But they do know, at that stage, there is no “person” left there to talk to nor a specific “thing” to be spoken about. It is left in “Silence” (which does not mean the absence of sound) – an UTTER inexpressibility. Whatever is the ‘residuum’ at that stage That “IS.” Nothing to be said, none to say, none to hear.
Venkat already talked about it.
viii) Talking of UG, I happened to know who apparently got transformed by his dialogs. I will be fortunate to be able to post her story at my Blog (if she does not withdraw it in the meanwhile) on the 23rd of this month. Please take a look.
Thanks for your reply, Ramesam. I found her writings helped clarify some things for me about my present experience. To say I experience what she has gone through would be untrue in my case. I don’t think she or UG would expect anyone to agree or understand what she has put forth except as a ‘map’ which she says she is ‘extending’. While all of this is conceptual and cannot be verified without undergoing this transformative process, she is very clear about what she is writing about.
If you are a Buddhist, you will adhere to those teachings, a Jew to theirs, etc. To me, it is not inconceivable that she may describe something that has been glossed over by all of them except maybe in the oral traditions.
I would be most interested in reading what you propose to put on your blog later this month.
Hi Anon and Other Friends who may be interested,
The publication of the Blog Post by Elena who was inspired by UG has been advanced. The Link is:
Your Comments are most welcome but please post them at that site only (and not at AV, thanks).
Just to reply back
“why I think that IIT is a promising avenue to further explore, notwithstanding the problems and ambiguities pointed out by all of you and the experts in the field.”
Oh! I agree with you completely. It has just now too many gapsn.. but I feel it is going to see a lot of activity for some time. Particularly impressive is their idea of
starting from consciousness .. that reverse direction is so close to advaita ideas.
Thanks for links..
About other aspects you mentioned
“mind is within, of and non-separate from Consciousness”
yes of course but really speaking is it not true that nothing is separate from consciousness (in accordance with advaita model of universe).
At the same time it may be difficult to overlook the fact that Chaitanya (consciousness ) is only in one existence -consciousness (barhman ) it self.
Still the quote you give via Swami Krishnannda has interesting view point, temporarily useful ..
going via descent .. from brahaman to huamans.. to animals … etc. etc.
I also like this ancient approach many had described in India.
If IIT evolves further in right directions, it is quite possible such viewpoint also may become natural for them.
About Mossbridge I donot know much, you may be better informed..I only saw that video.
I should have added there — after all in fact there is only one existence..
uniformity one has to keep in mind always while discussing these aspects.
For a man who doesn’t believe in concepts or for any path that anyone can follow, you seem to have managed to accumulate a lot of concepts and a two stage path which is ‘imperative to make distinction between’.
The ridiculousness of talking about the “imperative” of transcending the unitive state and achieving the falling away of the “true” self [if the self is “true” how can it fall away?] and going on to describe living in such a transcendental state, is self-evident. That is why in advaita, the final teaching is in silence.
As for no one has described this map before, why do you think advaita means not two, rather than “oneness”. Worth recalling perhaps the most important verse in all of advaita:
“There is neither dissolution, nor birth; neither anyone in bondage, nor any aspirant for wisdom; neither can there be anyone who seeks after liberation nor any liberated as such. This alone is the supreme truth”
Even in the Ch’an text of Seng-Tsan, it is written:
“Although all dualities come from the one,
Do not be attached even to this one”.
As I’ve said before, this is a subject very difficult to talk about. Our belief systems run very deep, yours and mine. The terminology itself is not the experience and is not capable of translating what actually takes place in the transformative process, itself throwing up more images. Even the term Silence will not convey that state to a mind that is still a comparative one. The only way you or I could know if what BR says about her own experience is to live our own. Because ego-death is something that you talk about a lot, BR’s writings should have some things you should consider. It would be helpful to you to have read her book, which I’m sure Ramesam will send to you, in order to get a real sense of what she went through and trying to convey.
In traditional literature, both Indian and others, there is reference to the no-self state, but it is not described and pointed at as the transcendence of ego and duality is. The Unitive State, Advaita, is what is talked about. That is no small change and represents a profound passage. Someone talking and describing what is possible and inevitable after this, should be no surprise if you consider that everything in the universe is a movement with no static state that is recognizable. At this point, I don’t think you’ve grasped what she is putting forth. She stated at the very beginning that what she puts forth extends the ‘map’. Why should this not be possible? The True Self, in her view, and others, is a deception at a very subtle level that continues a duality that is created by the Self. In her case, it took years to see this and was shocked that it was so. Better to read it in her own words.
Thank you for the book. Some observations.
1) I’ve got through the first 100 pages, and found it repetitive, confused and confusing. It brings very little clarity to the discussion. Take for example:
“Beyond consciousness, the ultimate Truth of the divine is that it is neither
immanent (within anything) nor transcendent (beyond anything), but IS
everything that eternally exists [so it IS a unitive state then?]. What the divine is NOT, however, is the structure, function or energy of anything. The energy that is consciousness or self is but one of many functions of matter, which function is not divine.”
What? Lots of words / concepts in there for you to throw out Anon!
2) Her ego death is very much the western conception of ego, but the ‘I am’ or ‘I-thought’ of advaita always went beyond this anyway. She also talks about the continued attenuation of the sense of self after the first stage, through selfless giving that ends in the second stage. But that is just niskama karma of advaita – desireless action – which is preparatory to receiving the final knowledge.
3) Her ‘true’ death experience is not different from how Ramana and Nisargadatta allude to it.
4) Her no-self state she describes as no experiencer, no experienced and no experiencing. Yes but, that is evident is advaita as well – most clearly in the three states analysis, and specifically that of deep sleep, which is equated with Brahman.
5) What is the point of her ‘map’? Anon, to date, you have been railing against any path, any map, any concepts that advaita talks about. And yet you hold up BR as a beacon . . . of concepts and of a path. So is this just sectarianism on your part – to say your belief and models are greater than ours?
6) How can BR be so certain that this two stage process is what everyone has to go through? Just because she went through such a process, what gives her the omniscience to say that everyone else will have to go through the same process / experiences?
7) What are you / she trying to achieve out of this? Is it to belittle others that they haven’t gone beyond the first stage yet (let alone reached the first stage yet), or don’t have the full realisation?
8) And if there is really no-self, why does laying out a map matter? Why is it that you want a map of how enlightenment may or may not happen? Who cares?
The last point touches on something that has been bugging me as I was reading BR, and on conversations with Anon. All of their writings are framed in the sense of achieving something that isn’t there today. Of going further. This seems to me to be very much a flaw of the western psyche – a need to achieve, to get somewhere. Whereas advaita is about letting everything go, surrender. If there really is no self, what is there to achieve, and what does it matter if you do or don’t?
In one giant leap, a “spiritual heroine” leaps beyond Advaita and captures the highest summit of spirituality (sorry, Reality) in the name of the establishment.
There always is, and always has been, a ready market for well told stories. The trick is to appear reluctant to say anything and allow the audience to draw you out against your own wishes.
This subtle and cunning exhibitionism, having “experiences” that confer authenticity on one’s pronouncements, is the most effective path to mind-share (or market share) in the Advaitosphere.
If the “phenomenon” (use the passive voice, I am not the agent!!!) of what “happened” is kept in public view until the hagiographers take over, the brand is firmly established.
And so these spiritual heroes and heroines come and go and human suffering increases at an increasing rate.
Oh, I know the answer to that one: It is all illusion; there is no one suffering, realize that first.
One further point, building upon the previous points. BR’s map has no soteriological value whatsoever. If anything it is inimical to that as it sets up a daunting series of concepts of ego, true self, feeling self, knowing self, divine self, and of what the two stages need to look and feel like. So this is already conditioning an expectation in the mind.
By contrast, if you read Sankara, SSSS, JK, Ramana or Nisargadatta, they all simply point out that the ‘I’ is illusory, and then ask you to find out for yourself, through the five sheaths analysis, the 3 states analysis, and ultimately through deep introspection. How you do this introspection is by doing, by experimentation, not through any step-wise process that is written down. And there are no snapshots of any experiences that you might have; instead you are advised, to discard and ignore any such blissful from the very beginning.
Taking from Ramesam and Venkat…Sorry, but I cannot be enthused about reading Bernadette Robert’s book after seeing that she says things that are simply not true (to which Ramesam as pointed), particularly that (I quote): ‘Nowhere does our contemplative literature make this specific distinction; instead, it speaks of only one major movement or ending, which ending is always indicative of a unitive state no matter how variously it has been described. The final event, however, is the falling away of the unitive state; in fact, the whole purpose of the unitive state or stage is bring us to the final no-unitive state or no-self event. It is imperative, then, to make a clear distinction between first getting to the egoless unitive state and from here going forward to the eventual falling away of this same egoless unitive state.’
It may be true that no other writers, philosophies, and mystics have classified the two ascending steps in the way she has done, but that is not to say that no one else has reached the very end, that is, realise the TRUTH, which coincides with the state of egolessness (or ‘no-self event’ as she calls it). Her route has obviously been a personal one, but so can also be said of every seeker’s route, whether it arrives or not at the end of it; they are all meant to finally arrive to ‘Rome’, and it cannot be that BR (or JK, or UG) have been the first ones (it would be ridiculous to think that).
Concerning other, alternative, routes or Ways (traditions, teachers, etc.), as a student of AV (learning with Sitara) wrote: ‘And in there I got triggered by this one sentence, which seem to confirm something I’ve written about or hinted at before in a few times before: “So the missing ingredient is understanding”… enlightenment was supposed to mean leaving behind the very precious selves that we were so busy working on all the time… [Advaita Vedanta] not only describes clearly that this is about not just waking up (where most writers sort of keep hovering up to) but also about enlightenment itself, and the very process how to get there. In detail, described, and also, how to not get there, what is blocking you from doing so!!!… It is so weird to find out how unintentionally so many people are so incredibly mislead, believing this or that, and that. Me included. As we hang on the lips of those who do point to pointing, as we celebrate some of the great pointers to pointing.”’ https://www.advaita-vision.org/an-ode-to-vedantic-teaching/
UNDERSTANDING – Is it different from or secondary to experience, transformative or not? Can there be an ‘experience’ (insight, revelation, in other words) that does not coincide with or include at least a glimpse of the truth/reality? If one would only take the time to read parsimoniously Gaudapada’s karikas together with Dennis’ book, I think it would be sufficient to gain as much understanding (and personal transformation) as one can get.
(Extracted from AUM): ‘We have to use concepts that are later retracted in order to bring about an understanding of the nature of reality. Gaudapada admits that even the ‘bottom line’ statements regarding ultimate reality, such as that ‘no one has ever been born’, have to be dropped. It is simply not possible to speak about brahman [The absolute!]… for example, we say that brahman is ‘changeless’ but from the standpoint of the absolute reality, there is no such thing as ‘change’, so that the word ‘changeless’ is meaningless. All words, even such ones as ‘Consciousness’, ‘real’, ‘eternal’, become redundant (Note this Anon! and, BTW, Advaita is not, or not just, the Unitive State, it is non-duality)… there are no concepts in paramartha… Once Self-knowledge has been gained, what is seen is no different but is now known to be non-dual… ‘
Martin, I like the last paragraph you quote from AUM. I couldn’t agree more.
Regarding what BR has put forth and the criticisms that you and others have put forth, I really have nothing to say to it. Not that you and others are right or wrong, but I have no problem with BR’s statements as a means to use concepts to describe what she says has happened to her. I am not her defender or follower as I am not UG’s, either. Whatever the so called ‘Path’ is, it is not going to be the same for anyone. We can put forth any kind of a map and claim whatever we want. This holds for tradition as well as present tense. What cannot be accounted for is the personal transformation that individuals have undergone for millenia, no two being identical. In the words of JK, it is a pathless path. There is no authority, which means that each of us will have to work it out for ourselves.
One last thing I want to say. Again, the time I spent with UG, left me with a very strong sense of him walking the walk. I have never had the slightest doubt enter my mind that he was different than he described, neither crazy, a charlatan, or someone that was in some mystical state. Yet he didn’t use the words of traditions to describe what happened to him. He did say that the words could only mislead people about the nature of reality or man. So, I see it happening right here, people adhering to one terminology and having problems with other views that don’t coincide with theirs. But, there you have it. The view is the problem. The view is the word, the idea, the concept, the image maker, the sense of the seer. That is all that is going on. To be taken out of all of that is a rare thing.
“So, I see it happening right here, people adhering to one terminology and having problems with other views that don’t coincide with theirs. But, there you have it. The view is the problem.”
Actually, that is just blatant hypocrisy. BR has taken the line that her writing about her experience is unique in spiritual literature, and that her map is taking us further beyond what anything has been written so far. You have asserted the same thing in your sanctimonious interjections on this site, stating that X and Y are unrealised and just parroting words. Cleary she and you are the ones that have problems with other views, and seem to have an omniscient ability to see the path and to see who is realised or not.
“To be taken out of all of that is a rare thing.”
I’m sure you are a rare thing. Isn’t it time that you kept your rareness to yourself?
Why are you so upset about all of this? What is it that bothers you so much that you are willing to lash out at others and basically condemn them? It is you who have always been the parrot of others, quoting freely, the words of scriptures and individuals who you hold in high regard. What happened to all of your background of studying JK and the freedom from authority that he spoke of? What happened to your abidance in That? You are as guilty of everything you’ve accused me of and more. Why not have a look at that instead of your map which you are worshiping above all else. The fact that you won’t/can’t come clean about your own state or experience of being nothing more than what you’ve read about speaks volumes, no pun intended, and is in fact the state of us all, except some rare exceptions. Why can’t you join us in the boat? Why do you want to escape what you are, your own experience. This is what IS for you, at present, not I am That. It is possible to step off this merry-go-round. I invite you to step off it and be present. Is that sanctimonious or just plain realistic?
It is with much temerity that I venture to comment on this thread. Especially since I have not yet even finished reading all the posts! I was on holiday last week so unable to read any, and have so much else to do at present I don’t know when I will.
Suffice to say I am much impressed by the discussion and honoured that it should be taking place on the site. Many thanks to Ramesam for initiating it (even though it is Charles’ responses that I agree with).
What prompts me to write now is my having just read the quote from Tegmark: ““Although there is still no consensus on necessary and sufficient conditions for a physical system to be conscious…”
It has always seemed to me that this is the crux of the problem – namely the confusion between awareness and consciousness, just like Nisargadatta! If, in the quote above, one replaces the word ‘conscious’ by ‘aware’, this seems to me to be what science is investigating and arguing about. One ought to say that it is Consciousness that enables the mind to be aware. Or, if people insist on using the word ‘conscious’ to refer to the mind’s self-awareness, then we should say ‘it is brahman that enables the mind to be conscious’. Of course, scientists would never accept the latter wording, since it sounds to them like some sort of religion…
It is we who have to thank you for creating the scope for a variety of discussions to happen at the AV Web pages observing robust and healthy standards of openness.
Please also permit me to very briefly observe two points in connection with your thoughtful comments:
1. Regarding the quote of Prof. Teg mark: Scientific investigation, as a Chemist you will surely be knowing, does not require a scientist to physically handle in a touchy-feely sense the “substance” she is investigating nor does she need to have a priori a clear definition of the “substance” under her investigation. The classic example of the discovery of Helium in the Sun proves those two aspects.
Or take the case of the two engineers who did not initially know anything about CMB, but landed a Nobel Prize in confirming its presence.
If a scientist investigates, say, moonlight she will certainly come to know eventually that it actually is Sunlight.
Therefore, Science need not have upfront an accepted definition for consciousness before “inquiring” into it. Nor is it necessary that, as I said, to “capture it in a test tube or grow it in a Petri dish.”
2. Reg: “‘it is brahman that enables the mind to be conscious’. Of course, scientists would never accept the latter wording, since it sounds to them like some sort of religion…”
That may be true. The words used by scientists could be very different in order to avoid any unnecessary baggage those words could carry. But it would surely be the scientists FIRST rather than the monotheists or monotheistic religions or the general public who will admit to the scientific fact or the Truth.
History proves it. We know the case of Galileo. Or recall the words that were attributed to a Bishop’s wife on receiving the information that Charles Darwin was claiming that human beings were descended from monkeys: “Let us hope it is not true; but, if it is true, let us hope it will not become generally known.”
Or in more recent times, we have a galaxy of physicists like E. Schrodinger, Wagner, Einstein, Oppenheimer and so on who sowed their inclination towards the Advaitic thought.
When both Katha (II,iv,11) and also Brih. (Iv.iv.19) Upanishads tell us so unambiguously that नेहनानास्ति किञ्चन (there is no multiplicity here), does it matter what “form” of the substance is investigated? Are not all forms brahman? So whether it is a poet on the curvy flows of a streamlet , or a painter on a sheet of canvas, a sculptor on a stone or a scientist in his lab – they are all singing the same song.
Therefore, I humbly submit that we stay open to what the scientific findings will be with regard to Consciousness in the future – may be tomorrow or the next century.
Points very well made – I can’t argue with them!
I do remain open to scientific thought. As you know, I recently expressed surprise and approval for the sorts of ideas ‘on the edge of the tongue’ so to speak in Amanda Gefter’s book.
I guess it is just that they seem to be taking an awfully long time to make the leap – Consciousness is subjective. And this means not objective! And this equates to immaterial – not matter. So, despite all of the looking in places obvious or not so obvious, they are never going to find it ‘out there’.
Sort of related to this discussion, again UG’s insistence on the physicality of transformation, and implication that the state of the body/mind has its roots in how the cells are presently constructed and functioning:
UG: “Me, or the ‘I’ cannot stay here because of the complete change in the physiological structure inside, so the cells are also functioning differently.
In your case, the cells are formidable and they don’t want to change. You don’t want to change. You want continuity and that is the mind. A collection of such individuals is a collection of nations and a collection of nations is the world and it doesn’t want to change. Continuity and change are two opposing things. Here there is a change every moment. Every moment you are different to me. You are changing every moment and if I have to draw or paint a picture of you, I’ll have to do it again and again.
Questioner: It is the moment that does not exist in time and space!
UG: That’s what I am saying. So how can I catch you and put you on the canvas. No particular moment is important; rather, every moment is important because there is nothing here that holds on to a particular moment.
This is not a mental state. This is not an experience at all. It is not beyond the mind; it is just not of the mind. The sense function that way moment to moment and there is no interpreter there. This is a physiological phenomenon and so it is physically impossible for me to live an any other way except from moment to moment. My interest is to make you see how the thought structure is functioning and why it cannot understand anything that is not a part of it.
To be what you are is the thing. But you don’t know what you are and you are always trying to be something else. That is the problem. But when the search comes to an end, what is there is what is. And that will destroy the structure to the very marrow of your bones and ‘you’ as you will be finished. And you will know that there is no self, no soul, no beyond…nothing. There’ll be just living from moment to moment and this is a pure and simple physical and physiological thing.”
You seem to bring back the discussion right on to the spot – the title of the post!
It is not clear to me by quoting UG or by your own words saying: “the state of the body/mind has its roots in how the cells are presently constructed and functioning,” you mean to imply that there is a causal relationship between the change in the physical body cells and the “realization” of Oneness or not. If you meant to say there is, I do not understand why you asked me in your earlier comment as to ” how can we corral consciousness with any of our tools.” I am certain that there are quite a number of tools in our scientific kit (and more will be in future) to investigate the changes in cells.
Secondly, I want to refer you to the three articles I posted here at AV (Starting at: https://www.advaita-vision.org/living-in-the-moment-eternally-1/ ). You were disagreeing with any scientific approach in your comments.
But please listen to the 1967 dialogs of UG at the Video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aiHTO_pAA10&feature=youtu.be
UG clearly talks about living in the moment WITHOUT an iota of ‘memory’ interpreting the “percept” at about 33:5 min or so in the above Video. Again he talked about there being no ’emotional’ color at about 45 min in the Video.
I discussed the neurological examples of patients in the three articles living precisely without ‘memory’ (due to loss of or damage to the hyppocampus) and ’emotion’ (loss of or damage to the amygdala). The only difference between those patients and UG appears to be that UG could recall into service the memory/emotion if and when wanted, whereas the patients could not.
Irrespective of what the findings at present state from those studies are, it does indicate to me to be a good way to pursue the scientific investigation. But your views are not in line with it as can be seen from your comments on the three articles.
What exactly do you want to tell us?
I’m not exactly sure what we are talking about anymore, but let me try to address what you are asking me.
You are saying: “it is not clear to me by quoting UG or by your own words saying: “the state of the body/mind has its roots in how the cells are presently constructed and functioning,” you mean to imply that there is a causal relationship between the change in the physical body cells and the “realization” of Oneness or not. If you meant to say there is, I do not understand why you asked me in your earlier comment as to ” how can we corral consciousness with any of our tools.” I am certain that there are quite a number of tools in our scientific kit (and more will be in future) to investigate the changes in cells.”
The ‘Calamity’ that UG described was what he called a ‘mutation’, a radical change in the cellular construction of his body. It left him functioning in a completely different way which he called ‘the natural state’. It was devoid of any realizations other than the disappearance of what we call our ‘self’. With this disappearance, all thinking about Oneness, Brahman, God, and anything other than the pure sensory functioning of the body also disappeared. His attention was fully in the moment with no ‘interpretation of the sensations and impulses of the body’ to separate him out of this present experience. No need for any words to describe to himself what was happening. No more conversation with himself. No carry-over from one moment to the next, each being completely new and not linked to the past. According to him, this can only happen through this mutation. It is not of the mind, as he says.
All scientific investigation is of the mind. That is not a problem and has its uses. What science can investigate and put its finger on is this phenomenal world and how it is interconnected. What it can’t investigate is philosophical and religious beliefs, ideas, concepts, etc. But, what UG is describing about the way he lives is not ‘of the mind’. It is a sort of ‘new’ man, a human being who is not burdened by its past, neither the individual or collective past. It has been wiped clean and ‘order’ has been restored to the body. This order has restored the thinking process to what it was created for, factual communication, not exploitation and speculation. Memory is intact but now functions without cravings and the desire for repetition. There is no person there, just factual memory.
Most people who are involved with philosophy or religion engage it because they want to live in a more connected way to life. They want to feel like they understand who they are and what is going on in themselves and the world. But, UG discovered that all of this pursuit, this seeking of knowledge/understanding, was the very reason that he felt separate and apart from the flow of life. In one moment, his mind saw that he was deceiving himself. This led to his Calamity.
If we expect to be Observers of ourselves, whether scientifically or more personally, how can we expect to really enter into this moment? To me, you cannot do it and expect your life to continue in the way it has conceived of itself before that moment.
I would suggest that the great sages who transmitted the Upanishads, and Gaudapada and Sankara were not in any way interested in creation theories – whether that be of the universe, or of how consciousness may arise out of matter. Perhaps they understood that one could always come up with conceptual models that could not be proved. Ultimately even metaphysical solipsism (eka jiva vada) cannot be proved or falsified.
Therefore advaita is not focused on speculation about creation theories. It has many models to suit the listener. Its focus is about informing the seeker that the cause of his suffering (and that of the world) is in his wrong perception of being a separate individual that needs to grab for himself. And so its soteriological value is in weening the seeker off that wrong view, to the intuitive understanding (JK said ‘you need to feel it in your bones’) that he is not a separate body/mind/ego, he is the saksi thereof.
So I would suggest that getting caught up in (‘external’) scientific models and drawing parallels to advaita is missing the pointer – which is to either surrender all to happenstance and/or to observe oneself carefully everyone minute of the day to see the reality (or not) of the ego.
Scientific models can never provide any such route to advaita-jnana. We are at a stage of civilisation where we have over-adulated science and technology, at the expense of humanity and compassion. We have a world that is striking in its polarity between the minority that is rich and technologically endowed, and the poor, the destitute, the refugees. We are rapidly heading into unprecedented levels of economic inequality, state corruption at the hands of big business, aggrandisement and fraud of the financial service sector, climate change and state surveillance / militarisation / perpetual war to ensure the maintenance of privilege. All of which has been aided and abetted (albeit unwittingly and amorally) by science – which Einstein regretted in his involvement in the Manhattan project,
Indeed, science – and scientific research – can only serve the purposes of an elite agenda – since it cannot get funding any other way. Look at how psychological / behavioural research gets it applications – for instance in manipulating thoughts / desires / fears from consumerism to politics. (See Necessary Illusions or Manufacturing Consent, by Noam Chomsky). Or how biomedical research is focused on the diseases of the rich world.
As a species we need to stop fetishising science, progress, growth, success, if we are to have a chance of not accelerating off the precipice, and of living at peace. It may be that we are too late. In the 1970s, scientists built a model ;-), called Limits to Growth, which predicted that by the early part of the 21st century, we will face existential challenges in terms of escalating temperatures, resource shortages, soil erosion and lack of water. We are there now.
The lessons of karma-yoga, detachment, renunciation, non-separation, mouna are more desperately needed than science.
I strongly agree with the sentiments in your post above.
Science is all about “how” questions.
A “why” question cannot be answered but must be dissolved, IMHO. Eg, why suffering?
On the stupidity and venality of scientists, look no further than Stephen Hawkins’ article today in the guardian:
So, he concedes that humanity faces an existential crises. His solution? To join a wet fantasy of billionaires, who through their greed and exploitation, have caused the crises that we face today, to do space travel and colonisation, leaving behind the problems of the world and the suffering of the billions. Fortunately, the ‘best’ of humanity would be on such a space craft, and they truly deserve each other.
Now that is maya. That is self-centredness. And that is why science has no transformational value at all.
I fully agree with your thoughtful full-throated plea for a change in the behavioral pattern of the Homo sapiens considering the socio-economic and geo-political situation they managed to bring on themselves by rushing hastily towards the downstream extension of the technological and applied aspects of scientific research for “development” (whatever the word ‘development’ may mean).
If you come back for a sec to the principal issue I am positing, you will notice that it is about inquiring or investigating into the “Ultimate Truth (or Reality),” which is Universal and not personal, through the principle of “scientific method” – a kind of open theoretical blue sky research. This has nothing to do with harvesting “benefits” from the tentative findings of scientific research for economic, social or political gains.
Let me respond briefly, keeping the above in mind, to the seven paras in your Comment, seriatim.
Para 1. “I would suggest ……. falsified.”
R: I agree. However, I do not know if ‘metaphysical solipsism’ fully captures what ‘eka jIva vAda’ teaches.
Para 2. “Therefore advaita ……. thereof.”
R: I agree in general.
For me the “focus of Advaita” is more on investigating questions like “Who am I?”; “What is this world around?” (for example, see Shankara on aitareya I-iii-11, aparoksha 12, bhajagovindam 23 etc. etc.).
The ridding of ‘sorrow’ is a corollary downstream benefit but not the main objective for Advaita like in say Buddhism which focuses on ‘dukha.’
Para 3. “So I would suggest ……. of the ego.”
R: I have to disagree. The discussion is not on ‘getting caught up’ with a scientific model – here it is IIT.
The discussion is whether the IIT model is good enough the way that has the potential to take the scientific investigation to find the Ultimate Truth (Consciousness or brahman) which the ancient Sages found through “Self-inquiry (Atma vicAra).”
Paras 4 and 5. “Scientific models can never provide any such route to advaita-jnana. We are at a stage ……… of the rich world.”
R: I do not know if we are at a definitive stage as yet to affirm the opening sentence of yours at Para 4.
The issues raised in the rest of the para are double edged. Any simplistic view will be unfair.
Para 6. “As a species …… are there now.”
R: If I remember right, the report on the limits of growth is sponsored by the Club of Rome (mainly a bunch of (pessimistic (?)) economists, world leaders etc) with socio-political considerations in the wake of the sudden and steep raise of oil prices. I think there was a response to it from the Stockholm Inst. discussing ‘futurology’ of the world.
Should we discuss those matters in the context of Advaitic Self-inquiry?
Let me hasten to add that our intention is NOT definitely “fetishizing” science.
It is to examine if the “scientific method” of inquiry will lead to the same understanding that the Sages of the yore arrived at. If you ask why this approach, my answer is available, in a way, in the slides # 57 and # 58 in the PPt titled “Inquiry in Science and Vedanta” at my Blog.
Para 7. “The lessons …. than science.”
R: Clearly, what is the “need” of the hour depends on the objective. So we go back to the question: what exactly is the objective of Self-inquiry?
As per Advaita, ‘morality’ is a consequence of the final *experiential understanding* of Advaitic Oneness. It is not an externally imposed and cultivated or feigned behavior.
In our search for knowledge, in our acquisitive desires, we are losing love, we are blunting the feeling for beauty, the sensitivity to cruelty; we are becoming more and more specialized and less and less integrated. Wisdom cannot be replaced by knowledge, and no amount of explanation, no accumulation of facts will free man from suffering. Knowledge is necessary, science has its place; but if the mind and heart are suffocated by knowledge, and if the cause of suffering is explained away, life becomes vain and meaningless. And is this not what is happening to most of us? Our education is making us more and more shallow; it is not helping us to uncover the deeper layers of our being, and our lives are increasingly disharmonious and empty.
“The discussion is whether the IIT model is good enough the way that has the potential to take the scientific investigation to find the Ultimate Truth (Consciousness or brahman) which the ancient Sages found through “Self-inquiry (Atma vicar)”
What is the Ultimate Truth? Surely only that you are not what you take yourself to be (a body-mind separate from the rest), but that you are the consciousness that witnesses all this. That is not that difficult to assimilate. Or indeed to rationalise through some logical thinking, or understanding of quite basic science – that we are all made up of the same building blocks.
However most scientists, despite understanding that we are of the same nature, are not free in the sense that vedanta aspires for us. Because knowledge has not transformed those scientists in any meaningful way.
So, I would suggest, that self-enquiry, atma vichara – and indeed the fourfold qualifications – are meant not for an intellectual understanding of truth, but to bring about a transformation as a result of that truth. Someone, perhaps Nisargadatta, said the path is also the goal – hence the renunciation, the detachment, the naiskama karma that is enjoined as a means of purification, is also the way jnanis live (vide Gaudapada and Sankara).
“Who cares whether there is a heaven or a hell, who cares if there is a soul or not, who cares if there is an unchangeable or not? Here is the world, and it is full of misery. Go out into it as Buddha did and struggle to lessen it or die in the attempt. Forget yourselves; this is the first lesson to be learnt.”
“You will be struck dumb to find your presence everywhere in the world of soul and matter. You will find the whole sentient and insentient world as your own Self. Then you can’t help treating all with the same kindness as you show toward yourself. This is indeed practical Vedanta. Do you understand me? Brahman is one, but is at the same time appearing to us as many, on the relative plane.”
– Swami Vivekananda
“The only test of a philosopher is this: is he able to sympathise with every other man who is suffering? Is he always trying to better the mental and material conditions of others? Such a test is clearly an implication of practical activity.”
“The goal of Vedanta is to see the other man’s sufferings as your own. Because in dream all the scenes and all the people are made of the same essence as yourself, they are as real as you are. Do not treat other people as mere ideas but your own self as real. If they are ideas, so are you. If you are real, so are they. Hence you must feel for them all just what you feel for yourself.”
– V S Iyer
“You must find your own way. Unless you find it yourself, it will not be your own way and will take you nowhere. Earnestly live your truth as you have found it, act on the little you have understood. It is earnestness that will take you through, not cleverness – your own or another’s.”
“The name and form of the spiritually enlightened Saint experiences the pangs and sorrows of life, but not their sting. He is neither moved nor perturbed by the pleasures and pains, nor the profits and losses of the world. He is thus in a position to direct others. His behavior is guided exclusively by the sense of justice.”
There is nothing to dispute about the quotes you have given or their import.
I find, however, some subtle difference in my understanding of a few of the terms from what you said. You defined the “Ultimate Truth” to be “you are the consciousness that witnesses all this.” To me to be the “Witness-Consciousness (sAkshIcaitanya)” is only halfway house. Advaita takes the seeker further – “I am all that IS” and then to just “Isness.”
The second is in the idea that “we are all made up of the same building blocks” – perhaps coming out of a popular story of a Swami Ji illustrating the concept by stripping a flower into its parts. I think I already explained elsewhere the flaw behind that sort of a concept of a fundamental ‘building block.’ So I shall not repeat here.
The third, perchance the most serious difference, is when you say: “Because knowledge has not transformed those scientists in any meaningful way.”
Why pick only on Scientists as a class? Are any of the other groups, the so-called zealots of various philosophies any better in their “understanding of the Ultimate Truth”? Or even consider the many Advaitins who at the drop of a hat can recite mantras on the internet fora – are they any better in knowing the “Ultimate Truth”?
Before concluding, I may also submit that one need not defile the ‘intellectual understanding.’ ‘shruti’ herself says that mind is the cause for bondage and liberation (Atmabindu, maitri up).
katha up (vide my quote earlier) also says that we have to approach via the mind only. After all, the sense of a separate self arises as per Advaita at the level of buddhi (intellect). So it is there that we have to get rid of it. Otherwise, “liberation” is already ‘sidha’ not a ‘sAdhya’ vastu. That is the reason the path itself is taken as the goal. As BG exemplifies, the guide (the charioteer) is the goal (krishna).
In your last paragraph you say: “Before concluding, I may also submit that one need not defile the ‘intellectual understanding.’ ‘shruti’ herself says that mind is the cause for bondage and liberation (Atmabindu, maitri up).
katha up (vide my quote earlier) also says that we have to approach via the mind only. After all, the sense of a separate self arises as per Advaita at the level of buddhi (intellect). So it is there that we have to get rid of it.”
There is certainly room for interpretation of what you have just said. I agree that we have no other way to approach except for mind. If you interpret mind to be the thought structure, and located in the head, then you fall short in describing the nature of self and the extent of its influence. If you are using your intellect to describe this, then why doesn’t the sense of self simply end? In fact, why would you want to get rid of it if indeed all arisings are Brahman? Is it not the same mind that is trying to slay itself? It is not necessary. You can’t cut off your nose to spite your face. Advaita may allude to this somewhere, but you as an interpreter of it, which you are trying to be, is above your pay grade. 🙂 Mine, too.
If you go further as UG did, he discovered that the sense of a separate self was embedded into his cellular structure, a genetic ‘memory’ that is involuntary and only ends with what he called the Calamity, a so-called death and transfiguration of the body. This was similarly found to be the case with BR if you’d managed to read the book I sent you. Both make it clear that this is not through the mind that this takes place.
UG: “This is not a mental state. This is not an experience at all. It is not beyond the mind; it is just not of the mind. The senses function that way moment to moment and there is no interpreter there. This is a physiological phenomenon and so it is physically impossible for me to live in any other way except from moment to moment. My interest is to make you see how the thought structure is functioning and why it cannot understand anything that is not a part of it.”
You caught me on the wrong foot! 😉
I was a bit ‘slack’ in my use of the word ‘mind.’
Perhaps a portion of the blame goes to the way the language is.
Making my sentences too technically correct would have made the entire stuff very awkward and unreadable. As you are aware, the English word ‘mind’ is a sort of omnibus term which has many colors to it. Vedanta students know by habit (or instinct) the meaning depending on the context. The word mind in Vedanta could mean:
i – iv). any of the four of the standard components of ‘antah karaNa’ (I-consciouness), viz. thoughts – counter-thoughts; memory; intellect and ego.
v). the current single thought.
vi). the entire apparent world.
vii) the thoughts/images and bodily sensations.
Almost all scriptures to my knowledge utilize this freedom to use the equivalent Sanskrit words almost interchangeably.
To clarify what I meant on the points made by you:
1. “If you interpret mind to be the thought structure, and located in the head,…”
No, I do not. In Vedanta mind is not something in or by or of the brain.
2. “…. then why doesn’t the sense of self simply end?”
The standard answer in tradition is that it is due to ‘mAyA’ which makes you ‘ignorant’ of the Truth by ‘veiling’ the Truth and further confounding it by ‘projecting’ a false picture.
For one who believes in the ‘karma theory,’ the answer is that it is so because of ‘prArabdha (the play of destiny that has already commenced).
The Absolute position is that the ‘separate self’ is really non-existent and is merely an ‘imagination.’ Something that is not really there does not have to end (like the pink elephant below your bed). The seeker just has to appreciate the Truth in his heart, mind and every cell (figuratively speaking) to cross that imagination.
3. “… why would you want to get rid of it if indeed all arisings are Brahman?”
You can’t, strictly speaking, get rid of what is not there.
It is just a concession of language.
You just ‘drop’ your mistaken belief of possessing a separate self which you call your own.
4. “Is it not the same mind that is trying to slay itself?”
Yes / No.
The standard Vedanta metaphor to explain this is fire igniting a faggot. The “fire” that burns the wood, burns itself too after the log is totally burnt. The fire does not survive the log.
So also, a mind ignited by the fire of True Knowledge is consumed by the Knowledge and after that the Knowledge too is destroyed.
5. “… as an interpreter of it, which you are trying to be, is above your pay grade.”
Hope I have justified my ‘salary,’ by complicating enough the things now, if there is anyone paying me ! 🙂
6. “If you go further as UG did, he discovered that the sense of a separate self was embedded into his cellular structure …”
It is a crucial point that can form, if established firmly, the basis for undertaking scientific research into the cellular mechanisms that can facilitate / catalyze the process of “calamity” (whatever that is).
7. “… if you’d managed to read the book I sent you.”
Yes, I am struggling with it.
I sympathized with your views on Advaita, under the presumption that the knowledge you acquired on Advaita was from her book.
What she seems to project there as Advaita does not make sense to me.
I began highlighting her sentences which are deviations from or misunderstanding of Advaita and found I highlighted entire pages and pages. Then I gave up.
I did not understand why she was so much bent upon comparing her own ‘experience’ in terms of what, in her poor understanding, “Hinduism” says (or what Carl Jung said) and trying to prove that the so-called “Hinduism,” which she learnt from secondary or tertiary sources, is wrong.
I trust you know that Hinduism (more a religion) is not all Advaita.
Her references (see p: 166/257 in the book) for her entire study on the ancient Indian philosophy were just three books, including one on Indian Psychology, a book on Early Vedanta, and a book on Consciousness ! So abysmally inadequate.
I could not believe this is her third book and yet so poorly written.
My nearest encounter with BR was at SAND – 15. She conducted some pricey workshops on her philosophy – Luckily, I was not tempted to waste my money. Some even expressed candidly that she was at SAND for promoting her Catholic faith.
I hope one day I will be able to come back after I read the book completely. I have yet to find that excitement you speak so much about her book.
8. ““This is not a mental state. This is not an experience at all. It is not beyond the mind; it is just not of the mind. ….”
What you quote from UG is exactly what Advaita tells us. When the mind (the sense of a separate self) ends, obviously, what is being talked about is “not of the mind” nor can be talked about as “beyond the mind.”
8. ““This is not a mental state. This is not an experience at all. It is not beyond the mind; it is just not of the mind. ….”
What you quote from UG is exactly what Advaita tells us. When the mind (the sense of a separate self) ends, obviously, what is being talked about is “not of the mind” nor can be talked about as “beyond the mind.”
If the above is true and it is your own experience, why do you continually compare everything to what Advaita says? I am not dismissing Advaita, just questioning the endless naming and comparisons that you engage in. Somehow, you feel the need to do this, but this is exactly what the above quote deals with. I have continually pointed out that the engagement of conceptual thought doesn’t lead to the goal of Advaita or any other model. Understanding that you are chasing shadows and thinking about thinking is the beginning of intelligence and the loosening of the noose of duality. It is an immediate recognition that changes your action. The absence of anything real being present in this above activity is seen directly. This is a ‘basic step’ to being present in the moment. In this moment, there is a kind of perfection as it is. This is to be discovered and lived in your deepest being.