Shankara’s Direct Path Method

 Shankara spells out the most Direct Path method of Self-realization on a here and now basis in his short treatise, aparokShAnubhUti. He explains very lucidly in simple words, through the 144 verses of this text, the means to have the direct experience of brahman. He boldly declares right up front the unreality of the three entities, jIva-jagat-Ishwara, the model commonly used in teaching Advaita. He avers that ‘action’ (karma) or worship (upAsana) cannot deliver liberation. However, he says an intense yearning for liberation (mumukshatva) has to be present in a seeker.

Shankara’s Direct Path has nothing to do with the changing or manipulating the external world or one’s own body-mind system. It is all about how the world is perceived. The three possible worldviews are: Continue reading

Two questions (relationships & eternity)

1) How is one’s self related to other selves.

This can be seen from two perspectives: 1) lower or empirical, and 2) higher or spiritual (I try to avoid the word ‘metaphysical’). I am not going to consider what Christianity or Islam hold about any of these two perspectives, only the non-duality of Advaita Vedanta (Buddhism does not contemplate individual existence per se). According to the Advaitic tradition the individual self (jiva) can be considered as a reflection of the higher Self and then his/her faculties (basically memory, mind, and sense of self) as well as all bodies are separate and individual – this pertains to ordinary, transactional life. This is the realm of ignorance (avidya). Continue reading

The Pull and Push Factors – Part 1/2

 The Pull factor:

We have from kaTha upaniShad:

नायमात्मा प्रवचनेन लभ्यो मेधया बहुना श्रुतेन   —  I-ii-23,  kaTha upa

Meaning:   Atman (brahman) cannot be attained by the study of the Vedas, or by intelligence, or by much hearing of sacred books.

Shankara’s special treatises too make that point abundantly clear declaring:

स्नानेन दानेन प्राणायमशतेन वा      —    verse 13, vivekacUDAmaNi

Meaning: Neither sacred baths nor any amount of charity nor even hundreds of breathing exercises can give us the knowledge about Self.

अविरोधितया कर्म नाविद्यां विनिवर्तयेत् |      —               verse 3, Atmabodha

Meaning: Any action cannot destroy ignorance, for action is not a negator of ignorance. Continue reading

Q.440 Is advaita provable?

Q: Is advaita provable, in the Western, scientific, empirical sense of the word? I guess part of the attraction for me is that it seems to be (along with some other Eastern thought systems) a methodical and thorough exploration of consciousness; consciousness being something (along with death) that Western culture can’t even define let alone explain and explore. Or is my thinking mistaken?

A: Who would prove what? Science is intrinsically empirical and could never say anything about the nature of reality. There are a couple of articles that you should read to clarify this. One by myself is in four parts, beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/science-and-the-nature-of-absolute-reality-part-1/ and one by AchArya Sadananda in three parts, beginning https://www.advaita-vision.org/science-and-vedanta-part-1/. Nevertheless, Advaita’s explanation of the nature of Consciousness is not contrary to reason or to Western science and philosophy. See my book ‘A-U-M’ for this.

If you are comfortable with the language and ‘explanations’ of modern physics, try Amanda Gefter’s book ’Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn’. (I must confess I found this a bit hard-going at times!) This shows that the ‘frontiers’ of science are now beginning to think along  lines not altogether too distant from the Vedantic scriptures!

Q.439 Universe is Consciousness

Q: Is the following summary correct? The universe is pure consciousness (nondual) – one big mass of it – that manifests (at least, in the illusory sense) as separate forms, objects or organisms. The reason(s) it does this are ultimately unknowable, but speculations include out of playfulness, to know itself, or due to boredom.

A: There is only Consciousness so, yes, you can regard the universe as Consciousness also. But don’t think of it as a ‘mass’, since that would imply a ‘lump’ of it existing in something else, and there is nothing else.

An interim teaching is that brahman ‘manifests’, and the ‘reasons’ for this are sometimes given as lIlA etc. But brahman does not do anything, need anything, know anything etc. That would be duality, wouldn’t it? Strictly speaking, if you are considering this, those qualities have to be applied to Ishvara – saguNa brahman; not brahman – nirguNa. At the level of the empirical world, you have to allow the existence of Ishvara. How you think of this is up to you. If you are happy with the concept of a God, that is fine. If not, think of it as the nexus of laws that govern how the universe operates. In reality (absolute), Ishvara as well as universe and jIva is only Consciousness/brahman. In reality, there has never been any creation. Continue reading

Question on Atman and suffering

Does Advaita Vedanta acknowledge the existential reality of suffering and non-suffering occurring in Atman even after the spiritual liberation, or suffering becomes impossible in Atman after the spiritual realization?

https://www.quora.com/Does-Advaita-Vedanta-acknowledge-the-existential-reality-of-suffering-and-non-suffering-occurring-in-Atman-even-after-the-spiritual-liberation-or-suffering-becomes-impossible-in-Atman-after-the-spiritual-realization/answer/Alberto-Mart%C3%ADn-2

‘The existential reality of suffering and non-suffering… in Atman’? You write ‘suffering and non-suffering’, which makes no sense, as written, in the case of the highest principle, Atman (Atman-brahman or the Self) – there cannot be suffering in the Self, only non-suffering. Further, the way the question is written… ‘existential reality’, implies that you have in mind ordinary or worldy experience, but this confuses the issue, since ‘suffering and non-suffering’ cannot be ascribed to either the Self or the (empirical) self (jivatman- seen as individual and separate). Indeed, it is the lot of the self (ego or mind) to be immersed in a sea of difficulties and troubles – opposite ‘realities’ or experiences – but here it is suffering (samsara) what charterizes the life of an ordinary jiva — not ‘non-suffering’.

On self-realization what is eliminated, or, rather, disappears of its own, is psychological suffering – once and for all. No one is mentioning here physical pain, which is a foregone conclusion, as acknowledged by all spiritual traditions – no one more word about this.

One could say more about the cause of suffering by relating it to mind, when the latter (or the ego) is given some reality of its own instead of realizing that it is an illusory superimposition on the Self – all this being an essential doctrine of Advaita Vedanta.

Q.438 Could a computer become enlightened?

Q: Will an ‘upload’ be capable of giving mokSha to a computer? By ‘upload’ I am referring to the Science Fiction concept of scanning the contents of a human brain down to the quantum level, and then simulating that complex entity in a virtual environment. Ray Kurzweil is a key proponent who claims this will be possible sometime within the next few decades.

A: The mind is rather more than just data, and more than processing-software running on brain hardware. Although all these things are ultimately Consciousness alone, there has to be something there to reflect the light of Consciousness in order for a thing actually to become conscious. And it has to do this very well indeed before it can become self-conscious. And it has to do it brilliantly in order to gain mokSha! I don’t think uploads satisfy these criteria!

Q: I agree with your answer, but I suppose the answer will depend largely on the assumptions one makes in thinking through the problem. Can reflected consciousness arise in a silicon-based entity? Or only carbon-based creatures like ourselves? It’s actually a pretty stimulating question, and it touches on the ‘hard problem’ as defined by David Chalmers, etc. If you ever do get around to reading his book, he has an interesting thought experiment on the principle of organizational invariance, where neurons are one-by-one replaced with silicon equivalents. At what point does consciousness (which here would only be reflected) disappear in this process? Not asking for an answer from you – just wanted to mention this aspect of the question.

A: You are still assuming that consciousness relates to the gross body – replacing carbon with silicon. The mind is the subtle body in Advaita. Having said that, I see no reason why there should not be silicon-based life forms associated with subtle bodies elsewhere in the universe…

Q: Good point, thanks. It makes me wonder though, if the mind is the subtle body and doesn’t relate to the gross body/brain, then why is the subtle body affected at all when the brain becomes physically damaged? I was thinking in terms of reflected consciousness arising in the ‘mirror’ that consisted of gross + subtle body.

A: Good point, too. I guess the metaphor of computers does come into play here, the mind needing the hardware of the brain in order to manifest (better word than function, since it retains the autonomy of the subtle body, which is supposed to migrate to a new body after the death of the existing one).

Two Q&As in Quora

What is the difference between truly understanding/integrating a truth and the thinking mind coming to a conclusion that this truth is true?

The second part of the question – ‘the thinking mind coming to a conclusion’ is reminiscent of Plato’s notion of ‘true opinion’ and his showing how that is not a conclusive proof of something being real. Also sometimes the allegation is made that ‘(just) intellectual knowledge’ falls short of the truth, which is true. Depending on the area of knowledge – of every and any area – intellectual understanding is a first and necessary step. On the other hand, ‘truth’ and ‘certainty’ are slippery concepts. It cannot be a matter of degree, can it?

In the final analysis we have to rest on what you say at the beginning of your question: ‘understanding-integrating a truth’; that is the key, and it is based on maturity (not only intellectual maturity, whatever this may mean) and experience: that is what *integrates*. The right term for me is ‘knowledge-experience’, itself based on feeling and intuition (what used to be called ‘truth of the heart’). IOW, you make your bet and plunge in head first, as it were. By themselves, neither science nor philosophy has the final answers, mandatory and irreplaceable as they are. It is only long experience and deep thought, persistent reflection on the subject at hand, which gives certifying certainty. Ask a good cobbler or carpenter…

How can we prove people have consciousness if you are not the person?

Saying ‘have consciousness’ is a non-starter – you are already lost, confused . We do not have consciousness, we ARE consciousness; in the same way, we don’t have humanity, we ARE humanity – humanity is us, consciousness is us; these two are not adjectives, but substantival, standing by themselves. Consciousness and Existence are the same (category, let us say). These two are metaphysical principles, and as such they are indefinable and inseparable. IOW, everything is based on, is a consequence of, or in essence IS existence-consciousness, including sticks and stones. That is the essence of all life, everything else being a derivative or extension – or appearance: phenomenon. The objective world is an extension or ‘appearance’ of consciousness, because reality is ONE.