Three Q&As in Quora

Three Q/As from QUORA (on brain, philosophy, QM, NDE, consciousness)

1. How does the brain understand philosophy?

M. The brain… understanding philosophy? My reply to this is similar to the one I gave recently to another question and which was based on Socrates’ answer to an observation that someone was making. The man saw a pool of water being stirred by a stick held by a man and said that the stick was stirring the water. To which Socrates replied: ‘Is it the stick, or the man moving the stick?’ (Which one is the real agent – the material, or the instrumental cause, in Aristotelian terms?).

Equally, is it the brain, or the mind which ‘moves’ the brain which moves the stick which stirs the water?

Is it the brain, or the mind which (using the brain as an instrument) understands philosophy? Actually, it is consciousness (as a substrate) using the mind using the brain… Consciousness itself does not do anything Continue reading

Fear from wild creatures – 2

pic2 for AVPart -1

Fear can be caused by a perceived threat which could be either from within the body-mind or from a source external to the body. The source of fear itself and consequently the type of fear can be either real or imaginary. We shall, however, not consider the issues related to the nature of the source causing the fear in this essay. We shall treat fear as a ‘signaling mechanism.’ Viewed thus, ‘fear’ includes all its other manifestations and variations like  anger, hatred, disgust, anxiety, revenge etc. The signal itself appears as tightening of muscles, fastness of breath, heaviness in the heart area, slowness of digestive processes, dilation of pupils of the eye, contortion in the facial muscles, perspiration and so on. Depending on the intensity of the threat, the flux of thoughts may alter and even the sense of a ‘separate self’ may disappear.

A point to be remembered is that, though all such reactions are commonly attributed to the source, the perceived source itself is not the cause. It is in the way one’s body-mind are programmed to react. Suppose you sweat on mistakenly seeing a rope as a snake in semi-darkness. The unreal snake in the rope has actually nothing to do with the way your body has reacted. Continue reading

Fear from wild creatures – 1

scared “I understand the Advaita teaching that everything is One only without a second, but I am always afraid of dogs and monkeys which are common in my place. Moreover, I also have a fear of snakes etc. as I live in a forest area.

Everything is brahman and therefore, ‘fear’ is also brahman.  Though my mind is convinced by the logic of Advaita, why do I suffer from various fears?”

If there is a perception of fear, it automatically implies that there is a ‘me’ as the ‘subject,’ the finite perceiver and there is the ‘other,’ an object, separated from ‘me.’  (For this analysis, we define an ‘object’ as anything that is perceived. Hence ‘fear’ is also an object). This in turn implies that I ignored my ‘Dimensionlessness’ (anantatva) and assumed finiteness to myself.

It is true that on the full understanding of the Oneness of “Whatever-That-IS,” there is no scope for any sort of ‘fear.’ After all, if all is One, and there is no second, where and who is the other to be afraid of?

We have a recent real-life example for this in the 35th Pontiff of Sringeri, Shri Abhinava Vidyatheertha Swami. He found a big cobra snake coiled around his neck when he was meditating in a remote forest area. He told his Successor: Continue reading

Adi Shankara

lamp and grassMost people (or at least those who visit this website!) will be aware that the dates for Shankara’s birth and death are a trifle hazy. It is generally assumed that he lived around the ninth century A.D. and had a fairly short life, dying at around the age of 32. Fewer people will know, however, that one of the principal Maths – namely that at Sringeri – actually has his date of birth as 44 BCE. And 509–477 BCE are the dates based on records from other Maths!

In fact, there are endless discussions in the academic world over details such as these. The sort of argument that is used takes a quotation from some writing attributed to Shankara, in which another person, place or quotation is used. If the date of that cited material is known, then it can be concluded that Shankara must have been living at a time later than this. (Such arguments enable the BCE dates to be discounted.) Unfortunately, in most cases, the dates of the cited person or place are not known either! Basically, Indians in the past have not been particularly good at recording their historical events. Plus, enlightened sages are not in the slightest bit interested in having their name associated with any recorded words or in having anyone record their biographies. Continue reading

Tattvabodha – Part 9

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart 9 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 9 looks at the makeup of the subtle body, its functions and purpose, from one birth to the next.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

Q.379 – Practice, Enlightenment and Reincarnation

Q: My understanding is that the purpose of spiritual practice is to purify the intellect so that it ‘reflects’ Consciousness without distortion. This enables the mind to recognize the delusion caused by ahaMkAra. This would mean that ‘enlightenment’ is a function of the mind. Is this correct?

If this is so, it would seem to mean that any ‘benefits’ gained from enlightenment would only apply to this body-mind, in this life. Is this so?

Scriptures indicate that one may have to undergo many lives before gaining mokSha, and suggest that fruits of previous lives accumulate to enable this. But, if enlightenment is an event in this mind, how can previous lives be of any benefit? Is there something in the mind that is ‘carried over’ into future births?

A (Ramesam): The most fundamental aspect of Advaita teaching is that an individual (jIva) is non-different from the Supreme Self (brahman). It follows, therefore, from this that a seeker is already of the nature of ever pure, all-knowing and liberated entity. As Gaudapada explains in his kArikA on mANDUkya Upanishad, by Its own freedom, brahman takes the form of an individual (and the world) and there is neither a creation nor liberation, neither a seeker nor something to be sought. Continue reading

Vedanta the Solution – Part 23

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VEDĀNTA the solution to our fundamental problem by D. Venugopal

Part 23 begins the chapter on ‘Analysis of the subject in its three states of experience’. This first part looks at the three aspects of the body-mind-sense complex – the causal, subtle and gross bodies.

There is a complete Contents List, to which links are added as each new part appears.

Tattvabodha – Part 8

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPart 8 of the commentary by Dr. VIshnu Bapat on Shankara’s Tattvabodha.This is a key work which introduces all of the key concepts of Advaita in a systematic manner.

The commentary is based upon those by several other authors, together with the audio lectures of Swami Paramarthananda. It includes word-by-word breakdown of the Sanskrit shloka-s so should be of interest to everyone, from complete beginners to advanced students.

Part 8 looks at the makeup of the gross body, its functions and purpose, and the modifications that it undergoes.

There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.

Q. 375 – Conditions affecting next life

Q: I agree that Reincarnation, the next life, isn’t real. But it’s as real as this life…and, for most of us, this life seems pretty real, even if we know better.

And, as we all know, very, very few people are going to achieve Enlightenment (Liberation, Realization, Moksha) in this lifetime.

For the above 2 reasons, I suggest that Reincarnation is a reasonable thing to be concerned about and to ask a question about. That’s what this question is about. I’ll speak of Reincarnation as if it’s as real as this life seems.

 It’s been said that one’s next incarnation depends greatly on one’s thoughts and state in their last moments of this life. I hope that isn’t true, because no one can know what condition they’ll be in when they’re dying. I mean, we aren’t always in the best of condition when we die, are we.

 A person, at death, might be delirious, or heavily sedated at a hospital. What then? How does that affect that person’s next life?

 Has there been discussion, from theory, regarding how this life—and, in particular, a person’s condition in the last moments of this life–affect that person’s next life?

Responses from , Sitara, Venkat and Dennis Continue reading

Q. 373 – Ego, soul and mithyAtva

Q: For the last few years I have been trying to develop a manuscript detailing a working model which marriages the teachings of Advaita Vedanta with contemporary research on NDE or “Near Death Experience” and similar fields of inquiry. There are several questions I have, but for now I will only bother you with one: Is it possible the Atman does possess a “spiritual ego”?

 Clearly the culprit for the ignorance of our real self as the Self is the wrongful identification with the body-mind. Shankara explains the identification with the kosha-s perpetuates the illusion, which is nothing more than a superimposition of the kosha(s) on brahman helped by mAyA.

 The way I see it, our greatest enemy is the ego, the human ego. This ego comes from the mind and is maintained alive by desires. But I have many reasons to suspect there is also a “spiritual ego” present in the Atman, which similarly perpetuates the ignorance of the wrongful identification by the so-called discarnate “spirit soul”.

 The metaphor I have used is this: there is an actor in the “spiritual world” (the Atman) which wrongfully identifies with a spiritual ego preventing it from realizing brahman. This actor goes through an induced amnesia, after agreeing to play the role of a character in the Grand Stage of the world. This is the incarnation stage. The human ego is the combination of the spiritual ego – which carries the saMskAra-s and the vAsanA-s – plus particular influences on the personality traits caused by internal factors such as the brain/mind of the new body, as well as external factors such as family, society, education, etc. This is the embodied Atman as the jIva. Continue reading