A new book announcement with extracts from our regular contributor – Martin.
Original questioner, a Doctor, training in psychiatry: What does the brain do after we die, how long does it stay conscious?
A (Marcus Geduld, Shakespearean director, computer programmer, teacher, writer, likes dinosaurs.) Answered Nov 24, 2014 : Nothing happens to it. It’s dead. ‘Switched off.’ That’s basically the definition of death—when your brain totally stops functioning. This question is kind of like asking how long a radio keeps on playing when it’s switched off.Continue reading
1. If upon the death of a jivan-mukta person, the subtle body dissolves and the person does not have go through the cycle of birth and death, this would imply that my sole motivation for attaining enlightenment should be the liberation of the subtle body that resides inside this gross body (since that is what suffers from one birth to another). Does this not in some way refute the idea of realising myself as the supreme consciousness bliss?
2. How is it that law of karma stops to act only on an enlightened being when in essence we are all liberated from the beginning?
3. On living while following the path of karma yoga, how do I decide what actually is the right thing to do in one’s life assuming I don’t have any desires? What Arjuna did in those days was the traditional work assigned to kshatriyas but in present day, since there is no acceptance of the traditional caste system, how do I come to decide what I should do? As a karma yogi has no desires, does all for the Lord, but the problem is coming to know what is to be done and that too, without any desire or attachment. What occupation should be taken or should one retire as a monk?Continue reading
Q: Lord krishna advises Arjuna that Anatma alone is killed. Can meat eaters extend the argument to their killing for food?
A: Matter is anAtma and is inert. It depends for its existence on Brahman.
All life forms manifest Consciousness to some degree. Man is unique in having an intellect that ‘reflects’ Consciousness, enabling self-awareness.
Everything is brahman, being just name and form. Nothing is ever born in reality. Nothing can be ‘killed’ in the sense of destroying Consciousness, which is eternal and unchanging. It is only anAtma that can change its form but it cannot be destroyed either (c.f. conservation of mass-energy).
Within the context of that understanding, therefore, it is a question of ethics, custom, upbringing and so on that dictates one’s attitude to the ‘right to life’ of the various species. Man has to eat to maintain the body and everything that is eaten for that purpose either is or has been alive.
The topic of ahiMsA is key to Jain and Buddhist philosophies. It is not a particular issue in Advaita. Its mention in the Gita is probably rather due to its significance for Yoga philosophy.
Dennis made the following observations in a Comment at another thread @ 17:52 on Dec 23, 2020.
You have also misunderstood Shankara’s commentary on Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 2.4.13. What it is saying is that when the body-mind of a j~nAnI dies, the chidAbhAsa consciousness dies with it, since there is no longer a mind to reflect the ‘original’ Consciousness. It does not say anything at all about the world disappearing or about the individual j~nAnI in any way disappearing prior to death of the body. The chidAbhAsa for the j~nAnI will continue until death. The world will continue to be seen by that j~nAnI even though it is now known to be mithyA.
I am afraid that the view expressed by Dennis above lacks shruti and bhAShya support. Perhaps, it resembles the confusion that Maitreyi had when she listened to her husband, Sage Yajnavalkya, at 2.4.12, brihadAraNyaka. Continue reading
15. jIva and jagat are Notional (Contd):
When Arjuna laments at the prospect of killing his loved ones in the war, Krishna tells him, “It was not that I was not existing before nor will I stop existing in the future.” That means there is no beginning or end, nor do the birth and death exist. Life is merely a transitional form that arises in between the unreal appearance of birth and death. Since birth and death are unreal, we (as the Self) are already liberated.
न त्वेवाहं जातु नासं न त्वं नेमे जनाधिपा |
न चैव न भविष्याम: सर्वे वयमत: परम् || — 2:12, Bhagavad-Gita.
[Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you, nor all these kings; nor in the future shall any of us cease to be.]
In the very next verse, Krishna, however, says: Continue reading
13. The Logical Fallacy of Infinite Regress:
While explicating further on the question of “Whose is avidyA (Ignorance)?” Shankara points out that the contention “I am ignorant” is a logical fallacy which would lead one to an infinite regress.
न च ज्ञातुः अविद्यायाश्च सम्बन्धस्य यः ग्रहीता, ज्ञानं च अन्यत् तद्विषयं सम्भवति ; अनवस्थाप्राप्तेः । न च ज्ञातुः अविद्यायाश्च सम्बन्धस्य यः ग्रहीता, ज्ञानं च अन्यत् तद्विषयं सम्भवति ; अनवस्थाप्राप्तेः । यदि ज्ञात्रापि ज्ञेयसम्बन्धो ज्ञायते, अन्यः ज्ञाता कल्प्यः स्यात् , तस्यापि अन्यः, तस्यापि अन्यः इति अनवस्था अपरिहार्या । यदि पुनः अविद्या ज्ञेया, अन्यद्वा ज्ञेयं ज्ञेयमेव । तथा ज्ञातापि ज्ञातैव, न ज्ञेयं भवति । यदा च एवम् , अविद्यादुःखित्वाद्यैः न ज्ञातुः क्षेत्रज्ञस्य किञ्चित् दुष्यति ॥
“How can you perceive the relation between the Self and avidyA? It is not indeed possible for you to perceive your Self as related to avidyA, at the same moment (that your Self cognizes avidyA); for, the cognizer (Self) acts at the moment as the percipient of avidyA. (The Self cannot be both the perceiver and the perceived at the same time). Continue reading
What we have are clearly two entities. They are the kShetra, the field comprising all that which is the knowable, and the kShetrjna, who is the Knower. If ignorance and misery were to be the inherent properties of the Self, it amounts to say that Self perceives Itself because the Self is able to know them (the misery and nescience). That obviously is an absurd position, “since one and the same thing cannot be both the agent and the object of an action.” Whatever is perceived, as for example form and color, cannot be a property of the perceiver.
Likewise, it is the Self that perceives joys and sorrows. They cannot perceive themselves. They are objects to the Self; they are not the Self. For the Self to perceive these, they must be different from the Self. Only then can they be experienced. If the object is totally identified with the Self (me), it cannot be perceived anymore. It itself becomes the Self.
Hence it is incorrect to say that “nescience and misery and the like are the attributes and specific properties of kShhetrajna.” Continue reading
8. Self is never in Bondage (Contd.):
Shankara is very categorical in his observation that “Very rare is the person who attains discriminating wisdom. The ignorant don’t follow the man of Wisdom, because of their attachments and evil passions which necessarily lead to action.” He regrets that such people resort to even black magic. He adds that “Therefore, samsAra is only based on avidyA and exists only for the ignorant man who sees the world as it appears to him. Neither avidyA nor its effect pertains to Kshetrajna, pure and simple.”
9. A Man of Erudition (paNDita) vs. A Scholar:
Shankara says that, not only many of the common people, even some of the scholars (Experts in shAstra-s) fail to understand the essential message of the scripture. Proud of their knowledge in the Vedic rituals, they think that they are the doers (with a strong sense of a “me”) and believe they will attain great merit (as “mine”) in this life-time so that they can reap the fruits of their meritorious actions in the next world. They perceive their body, life-force, senses, and mind, but are unable to grasp their innermost Self (pratyagAtmA) which is the actual witness to all that they perceive. If they are able to recognize their inner Self, they will easily cognize the Supreme Self (paramAtmA) that is present everywhere and in everything. They will come to realize that their inner Self is not different from the Supreme Self. As the Gita says,
विद्याविनयसम्पन्ने ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि |
शुनि चैव श्वपाके च पण्डिता: समदर्शिन: || — 5.18, Bhagavad-Gita. Continue reading
7. Self is The Knower of All Experiences:
Any feelings, like joys or sorrows, that we experience are not what we are. They are experienced by us. Everything is known by that one no-thing thing which is the Knower (Knowingness). It is we who experience even birth and death. After all, death does not experience its death, nor does birth experience its birth. Whatever experiences the birth and death cannot Itself be born. Nor can it die. Once we are able to clearly discriminate and understand this truth, we will stop identifying ourselves with the wrong entities like the body. Knowing clearly who we are, and abiding as that Knowledge is liberation from ignorance. Liberation is not something that we attain in some heavenly abode, a remote Vaikunta or Kailasha. Nor it is to be attained sometime in the future. It is right here and right now.
There is no separate self within us waiting to be liberated. Liberation is our very nature. Joys and sorrows are not our nature. That which comes (Agama) and goes (apAya) is not what we are. That which we perceive is not us. We perceive a thing only if it is different from us. What is inherent to us, what we are, namely the Self, cannot be perceived, nor is It something we can add on to nor can be gotten rid of. We are It, space-like, all-pervasive, formless, and blemishless. Continue reading