Vedanta and Hard Problem of Consciousness

Science regards matter as the most fundamental entity and that life is also a product of matter. Life is represented by breath. There is a saying that till breath is there, there is life. Breath is one of the five Pranas (vital forces). Pranas are insentient. That life is a product of matter is accepted by Vedanta also. As regards consciousness, the prevalent scientific view is that it is an epiphenomenon, that is to say, consciousness arises in a complex organism. In other words, it is also a product of matter. This view is confronted by what is called the Hard Problem of Consciousness. Science says that consciousness and therefore firsthand experience are produced by the brain. David Chalmer differs and says that subjective experience is not an outcome of the firing of neurons in the brain. This is the hard problem of consciousness. Hard Problem of Consciousness – David Chalmers (

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Q. 549 – Consciousness is all there is

A: But it is not Consciousness that is thinking about these things, is it? You are confusing absolute reality (which is Consciousness right now and there is no second thing etc.) with the obvious (to perception) world and thoughts that are in front of you (the jīva) right now. It is the apparent dichotomy between these that has to be rationalized by the mind, with the help of Advaita. Again, the concept of cidābhāsa is helpful here.

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Q.546 – Mind and Soul

A: There is nothing OTHER THAN Consciousness in reality. (‘Beyond’ implies that there are other things.) Consciousness is the foreground as well as the background! It is the mind that grieves when it thinks that ‘I am the body’. Consciousness never ‘does’ anything at all (including thinking).

A: There is no universe in reality; there is ONLY Consciousness (Brahman). Please do not ask why there is the appearance of a universe, when there is only Brahman. Advaita does not really have an answer for this. The j~nAnI still sees a world but knows that it is Brahman. It is the mind that perceives ‘form’ and gives this a ‘name’.

Bhagavad Gita (Topic-wise) Pt 19

Part 18

Part 20

6 Moksha
6-1 Preparation
6-2 Jnana, Jnani, and Jnana-Phala
6-2-5-3: 13(1 to 11)
Arjuna asks Sri Krishna to explain six terms, namely, Prakriti, Purusha, Kshetra, Kshetrajna, Jnana, and Jneyam. They can be reduced to three. Prakriti and Kshetra are the same and represent the material universe. It is a field of experience. Purusha, Kshetrajna, and Jneyam are the same and represent the consciousness principle. Sri Krishna explains that the body is Kshetra and the knower of Kshetra is Kshetrajna. The physical body is like a field because karma requires a field for performance. In this sense, the mind and external world are also fields. Their common features are that they are made of matter and inert in themselves and further that they are subject to change and decay. A knower of Kshetra is Kshetrajna. The knower is the consciousness principle. Hence Kshetrajna is the consciousness principle.

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‘Tipping Point’ in Advaita Vedanta

Question:  “I’m curious what is the ‘Tipping Point’ in the Advaita philosophy.”
Just as it is easier to say what the Self is apophatically, perhaps, the “Tipping point in Advaita” too can be expressed only by stating what it cannot be!

4.4.5, BU clearly establishes how everything, including objects, actions, interactions, thoughts, emotions, feelings etc. etc., in short our entire ‘perceptual knowledgebase’ gleaned from the time-space-causational world we are familiar with and live in, is merely upahita caitanya (conditioned Consciousness). Continue reading

Fear of annihilation

A (Martin): I have made a life-long search for the meaning and reality of ‘myself’ and the world.

Apart from the advice (and different diagnoses) given by others, I am thinking of something else, which has a psychological as well as a philosophical side to it. It is not just fear of death but self-annihilation, an emptiness or void where there is no longer an experience of selfhood or continuity (“What if I don’t wake up?”).

This can become an obsession – an existential angst – one of the worst kind. A sensitive child may (I experienced it) entertain the idea of nothingness, including that of *me/myself*, that is, my very personal, intimate consciousness not existing or vanishing into nothingness. It may or may not be associated with the thought “Why is there something (a world) rather than nothing?”.

If that strikes a chord – and it is a question of temperament and inclination – there is an answer, which can be obtained at the end of a lengthy, arduous journey: ‘Know thyself’, as it was written on the frontispiece of the oracle of Delphos in ancient Greece. After a lifelong search, I found the most complete, satisfying answer in Advaita Vedanta. According to this philosophy or discipline, deep sleep is the most blessed state short of full awakening – that is, awakening from the ‘darkness’ of the awake state and its narrow ego-centered vision, shot through with doubt and suffering.

Q.541 Knowledge in the Vedas

A (Martin): I’d say the Vedas contain the most fundamental and ‘advanced’ knowledge there is, though usually portrayed in the form of paradox (analogy, metaphor, story, etc.), so that one has to crack the code in order to find the wealth hidden in them. That knowledge is not like empirical science, which is cumulative and provisional, and which could be said to be somehow contained in it, even if in embryonic or potential form.

The knowledge inherent in the Vedas is metaphysical rather than mystical. According to it there is one and only reality: consciousness (Brahman, or the Absolute), which pervades the whole universe; it is immanent in it as well as transcendent… “the smallest of the small, the largest of the large”. It cannot be measured or understood by the mind, for which it is ineffable, but it is that by which the mind comprehends… it cannot be expressed in words but by which the tongue speaks… it is eye of the eye, ear of the ear, mind of the mind, as expressed in the Upanishads.

Modern physics is having a hard time trying to explain away what consciousness is in terms of physical phenomena (neuronal activity in the brain), but consciousness is not an irreducible phenomenon or datum; it is reality itself or a name or symbol for reality – since the referent of the symbol is unfathomable – everything being comprehended in it (theories, doubts, projections, emotions, things, thoughts, intelligence, observer and observed, you and I). For the Vedas reality is one, and present physics is trying to find out in which way it is so (‘theory of everything’, ‘unifying theory…’). Not all physicists are reductionist, some of them having seemingly mutated into philosophers with an understanding of the core of Vedic teachings.

“sadyomukti” (Instant Liberation) – 2/3

Part – 1

2.  ‘sadyomukti‘ in Shankara bhAShya:

Shankara tells us at over a score of places in his bhAShya-s that brahman by Its very intrinsic nature is:

नित्यशुद्धबुद्धमुक्तस्वभाव:  |  — Shankara in his commentaries at BSB; BGB; BUB; muNDaka B; mANDUkya B; &c.

Meaning: By nature eternal, pure, intelligent and free.

What we are in essence being non-different from brahman, we are also ever “free.” But, unfortunately, lacking a sense of ‘discrimination,’ as Shankara explains in his Intro (called ‘adhyAsa bhAShya’) to the Vedanta sUtra-s, we mix up what is “Real” with the “unreal.” As a result, we feel we are “bound and limited.” In addition, we take it for granted that we are, by birth, bound within a beginningless and apparently endless nescience. However, having received instruction from a compassionate teacher (vide 6.14.2, chAn.U,), and working diligently with discrimination, we shed our imaginary shackles and figuratively attain our natural freedom. Continue reading

Q.540 Following Bhakti Yoga

A: There are two main points here.

First, since you are asking a question about Advaita, you must appreciate that, in reality there is only Brahman, or Consciousness. From the empirical standpoint, of course, you see a dualistic world with other people etc. and, from this point of view, it is not unreasonable to speak of a god, or gods. But anything to do with this empirical point of view has to be provisional only. It all has to be acknowledged as simply name and form of that non-dual reality eventually. That ‘acknowledgement’, and the firm belief that it is true, is what we call ‘enlightenment’.

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I am the Light

A (Matin): Realization of witness consciousness is not brought about by anything or ‘anybody’. Consciousness does not perform any function, and there is nothing beyond or other than it. Finally, however, only intuition can nudge one towards it.

I am the Witness-Self; I am the basis of all experience; I am the light that that makes experience possible. – Yoga Vasishta.