On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 4

Part – 3 

At the end of Part – 2, we raised the question “Who am I?” At the end of Part – 3, we introduced the concept of personality in place of “I.”

If I ask you “Who are you?” you may say your name. You may continue, “My parents are … … and I was born on August 15.” You may add, “I am an engineer / a doctor / a carpenter / a driver / an expert / etc.” If you feel patriotic, you may say, “I am an Indian, an American, a Mongolian etc.”

But have you noticed one thing? All the above aspects, which you claim to be “you,” are actually told by somebody else. Your name, parentage or your expertise are all just what you “learnt” and accepted. None of them are known directly by you from your experiencing.

Or suppose, you say, “I am young / I am old / I am an angry person / I have no ego / I am a happy go lucky guy / I am six feet tall / I am heavy / I am thin / I am dark / I am fair / I like blue / I like sweets etc.” Well, those characteristics may have been known by yourself, still they do not describe really what you are. For example, you have not been six feet tall right from the day you were born, you are not 24/7 angry, you are not always happy. But you ‘know’ you are the same ‘you’ at 5, 10, 30, 60, or 80 years.

In effect what ‘you think you are,’ is a bunch of beliefs – either told by somebody or some changing traits observed by you. All of that is – autobiographical information. If you lose that information as it happens in deep sleep or is forgotten as it happens several times at night during your dreaming, you are not anymore that specific person you claim to be at those times!

With a little bit of serious thinking, you may add: “No, I have a never changing ‘self.’ This sense of ‘self as me’ gives me:

Continuity – for who I am from yesterday to today to tomorrow;

Coherence – for my actions, reactions and experiences;

Ownership – for my body organs and other possessions; and

Doership – for my decisions and deeds.

Well, where exactly is this ‘self’ of yours located? You may quote the shruti,

अङ्गुष्ठमात्रः पुरुषोऽन्तरात्मा सदा जनानां हृदये संनिविष्टः kaThopaniShad, II-vi-17.

Meaning: Purusha of the size of a thumb, the inner Self, is ever seated in the heart of all living beings.

Okay, I will just tell you a real case in my own knowledge. I will not comment more. A close relative of mine in his mid-forties has been living for the last one and half years between life and death. A few weeks ago, his heart was removed and replaced by the heart of a 20 odd year old Western boy who died in an accident. My relative is doing excellent ever since the heart transplant. He went back to his job. No one could notice even an iota of difference in the ‘continuity, coherence, ownership or doership’ in his ‘self.’ He is the same person with the same level of expertise and the same type of personality as before the surgery!

[Note: We shall return to the issue of “heart” mentioned in the various Upanishads in greater detail in another post later on.]

Next, you may argue that your ‘self’ is in your head. After all, there is a saying:

सर्वस्य गात्रस्य शिरः प्रधानं

Meaning: Of all the organs, head is the supreme.

But we have plenty of Neuroscientific evidence to show clearly that there is no identifiable entity we can call ‘self’ or a ‘spot’ for self in the brain.

Moreover, your sense of ‘self’ is highly fragile and can be easily altered by manipulating your perceptual information about your body. Suppose you don’t get any sensory input at all into your brain. Then you do not even think you have a self or a body. It happens to you all the time in your deep sleep.

Still amazing is the fact that you assume you see a ‘self,’ a ‘me,’ whereas there is actually none! And here the Neuroscientific findings and what Advaita says perfectly match. The sense of self is an ILLUSION. (:

How does it happen? How come you see and feel something to be present even though it is absent?

Google for the words Kanizsa triangles or Ehrenstein’s disk. You will know how you see different shaped bodies even though there is no entity with that shape. On the top of it, you see that non-existing object to be brighter too compared to its surroundings. Or watch the Video on “mithya and brahman – 1.”  You will find that not only 2-D diagrams, you see 3-D objects also though they are not really there.

Your sense of ‘self’ is thus an imaginary construct emerging out of the surroundings.

Does that mean that our own senses and mind deceive us?

Don’t they show what is out there?

In case you get a doubt why I am getting into all this Science and muck here and what it has to do with Narada Bhakti Sutras, well, my answer is as follows:

When Narada approached and requested Sanatkumara to take him as his (Sanatkumara’s) disciple, the teacher enquired about Narada’s qualifications. Narada replied to him:

ऋग्वेदं भगवोऽध्येमि यजुर्वेदꣳ सामवेदमाथर्वणं चतुर्थमितिहासपुराणं पञ्चमं वेदानां वेदं पित्र्यꣳ राशिं दैवं निधिं वाकोवाक्यमेकायनं देवविद्यां ब्रह्मविद्यां भूतविद्यां क्षत्त्रविद्यां नक्षत्रविद्याꣳ सर्पदेवजनविद्यामेतद्भगवोऽध्येमि   — chAndogya, VII – i – 2.

Meaning: ‘Revered sir, I know the Rig-Veda, the Yajur-Veda, the Sama-Veda and the Atharvanas the fourth, the Itihasa-Purana as the fifth, grammar, the rules for the worship of the ancestors, mathematics, the science of portents, the science of treasures, logic, the science of ethics, etymology, the ancillary knowledge of the Vedas, the physical sciences, the science of war, the science of the stars, the science related to serpents, and the fine arts – all this I know, revered sir.’ (Translation: Swami Swahananda).

I think we should know at least a small fraction of what all Narada studied so that we can understand the level from which he is speaking to us.
(To continue …. Part – 5)