NDM: R.D. Laing said “True sanity entails in one way or another the dissolution of the normal ego, that false self competently adjusted to our alienated social reality… and through this death a rebirth and the eventual re-establishment of a new kind of ego-functioning, the ego now being the servant of the divine, no longer its betrayer.”
In the west, when this happens it is referred to as when an ego collapses, fragments, or disintegrates and when the shadow and archetypal contents flood in from the personal and collective unconscious causing psychosis, or a psychotic break from reality.
In the east, its considered Self-realization or God-realization, seeing the face of God, Shiva and so on?
How do you make the distinction between a psychotic break like this here and a satori or awakening experience?
Ramesam Vemuri: Any of the psychological phenomena, hallucinations, lack of control, inability to filter diverse and dissonant signals coming to the brain (schizophrenia) are all related to the activity of the mind. So also visions etc. These have a clear signature in the brain. Orgasmic or epiphany states are also clearly seen in the activity of different cortical regions (see: Pleasure of Sex vs. Bliss of Self in Brain Scans, Religion Demystified, 2008, p: 86-88).
In contrast, Advaita is about when the activity of the mind is zeroed.
As per the metaphor provided by the sages, still wind is brahman. Moving wind is world. Movement is work done. It is energy expensive. Still wind is Consciousness. Movement is mind. Still mind is Consciousness. When mind is still, the cognizer, what is cognized and the process of cognition become one. It is interesting to see the scan of such a brain. This has got to be different from epiphany.
NDM. Do you think it is wise for someone to make self evaluations, self assessments, self enlightenment claims and assertions, with it being thoroughly questioned, tested, investigated by someone who knows the ropes, has been there and done that so to speak?
Ramesam Vemuri: To make self-evaluation and self-assessment is advised in Advaita. Because he is still conscious of a ‘self’ within him to do it.
But not claims and assertions of self-enlightenment! A claim to do so is an oxymoron. The very loss of ‘self’ is enlightenment. Who or what is there to make a claim then?
An external agent, as we have already discussed, can at the best provide some pointers as and when a question is raised by that specific individual. It is up to the individual to see the “moon” in the direction of the finger.
NDM; Is entrusting someone’s eternal soul just as important as entrusting someone’s mind or physical body to a doctor for an operation? I ask this since there are many snake oil salesman out there, masquerading as gurus?
Ramesam Vemuri: Is there an “eternal soul” that you possess? And does that “eternal soul”, if any, need a fixing?
Or are all such beliefs the marketing of the snake oil salesman?
NDM; How should someone make a decision like this?
Ramesam Vemuri: If you are going by the metaphor of handing over your body-mind to some doctor: A “You” sitting here do not surrender to other “something” there in Non-dualism. If you and the other are two distinct entities to be related by ‘surrendering’, it is dualism. Jivanmukti does not exist in dualistic philosophies.
NDM; How do you know if a guru is legitimate or not if they do not belong to some kind of tradition and have been thoroughly tested by their own teacher? For example, I could even say I was a guru, anyone can make this claim?
Ramesam Vemuri: This is an age-old question, much discussed even in the Indian scriptures too. There are innumerable schools of thoughts and equally highly competent individuals in each line. The advice we find in the scriptures is that a seeker should explore what appeals best for him, find a knowledgeable man in that line and discuss with him in detail. The seeker then may adopt the method of approach that resonates with his heart. If, by chance, he finds later on that that particular teacher was a fake, he should leave that teacher and find another. There need not be any feelings of regret or guilt, for what he needed at that time perhaps was just that – what he got!
Some sages suggest that the Guru need not be a fully realized person to communicate the teaching. In fact, Shankara says that some of the Jivanmuktas may not even teach because they do not find an ‘other’ to impart knowledge.
After all, it is only Consciousness making all the appearances – what difference does it make whether it is a small wave, a large one, one that crashed midway or aborted even before the swell? A small wave or a big one, a guru or a disciple, a fake or genuine one – everything arises when I begin to cognize them and assign a reality to them. A separate individual making efforts, trying to change, seeking, running after something is a fantasy. There is nothing else other than what is, there is no other. And that ‘what is’ acquires the name of the world when ‘you’ separate yourself as a remote ‘viewer’ and begin to see the world. If you are not conscious of a ‘you’ watching the world, no ‘you’ is created. What is not created need not have to change.
NDM: Do you think some sort of guru test could be devised, to measure the gurus knowledge about enlightenment, as well as teaching it?
Ramesam Vemuri: The sort of industrial mass scale manufacturing model of assembly line production, quality tests, setting standards with tolerance ranges, franchising the technology for replication may be inapplicable to Advaita, its core message being there is only One, no other.
Having said that, I would also like to point out, as already expressed in Part –I of our discussion, it will be interesting to investigate if a ‘footprint’ of the absence of doership, universal care, Deep Sleep with Awareness (Yoganidra) and such other “Markers” can be found in the ‘brain’ of a Jivanmukta. Maybe someday an organization will take up this research work!