Dharma and other principles of life

Why doesn’t philosophy take into account non-western theories of justice?

There are two notions that are intimately involved and interconnected on this topic (justice) as seen from the Eastern perspective: 1) Dharma (Law), and 2) Ishvara or the creating and controlling aspect of God or the absolute reality. I will not cover here Confucianism or the far East – only India.

The notion of DHARMA is paramount in the Eastern philosophical-religious traditions alluded to above and is used in many combinations of words. The main meaning is ‘law’ or ‘order’ as it exists in the universe. Rather than man-made, it is a divine ordinance or, alternately, a cosmological law that maintains all things in equilibrium; as such, it cannot be far distant from the Western idea of justice (‘law and order’ and all its derivations and conditionings). It is a universal law from which nothing can deviate (literally, ‘what holds together’), whether it is in the social, the individual, or the moral realms. 

Continue reading

The Consolations of Bodhayana’s Sutras

It is now almost three weeks since I lost my father. A massive cardiac arrest took him within seconds of him even realizing that anything was wrong with his heart; there are things good and bad about such a passing (although in a deeper sense it is all good): the death is completely painless, but leaves you and those close and near to you in a situation that Hamlet the King so brilliantly defines in Hamlet.

Cut off even in the blossoms of my sin,
Unhousel’d, disappointed, unanel’d,
No reckoning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head: Continue reading

Overview of Western Philosophy – Part 18

Note that this is the Concluding part

(Read Part 17 of the series.)

Nowadays, there are still large numbers of people who, even if they do not entirely accept all of the claims made by their religion and no longer recognize it as an authority for their everyday behavior, nevertheless pay lip service. And sentiments such as ‘love thy neighbor as thyself’ do seem to contain great wisdom, finding a balance between the two extremes given above.

But with all of our values no longer ‘supplied’ by religion, people have been forced to develop them for themselves. In the absence of expert guidance, the principal influence now tends to be the media and we have such ridiculous situations as the cinema’s cult of the anti-hero. It is now normal for films to conclude with the thief in some luxurious setting surrounded by money and women and no sign whatsoever of justice or retribution. It is acceptable for the individual to triumph over the perceived constraints of society, including its laws. And it is far more usual for the governments, police and similar bodies to be portrayed as corrupt, with ‘hidden agendas’ and secret conspiracies against you and me. And we have been brainwashed into cynically believing this to be normal.  Continue reading

Q. 382 – Art and Vedanta

Q: As an artist and casual reader of advaita-vedanta, I wanted to ask about advaita-vedanta’s opinion on Art (be it music, painting, dance etc.).

Generally speaking, we can classify art into broadly 2 categories – sentimental art and non-sentimental art. But, as a practitioner of the former and a student of the latter (I had strict classical music training), I almost think of myself as being ‘attracted’ to art – as in, there is this sense of desire to create music. Personally, I have been advised by several elders to continue producing and practicing music. But does this go against the advice of advaita-vedanta? Am I acting on desires? Will art get artists permanently stuck in the cycle of samsara?

I ask this question because – There are so many Slokas, mantras, verses (sam-veda) that are musical… so it seems like music is encouraged by the vedas and the upanishads. But at the same time, it seems like a thing of desire. This confusion needs to be cleared!

Responses from Martin, Charles, Ted and Dennis Continue reading

Q. 374 – Ramesh

Here is a question and answer from several years ago, which addresses a topic that I avoided getting involved with publically at the time.

Q: I recently bought a book called “Final Truth” by Ramesh Balsekar. I read the book and now see it as one of the most “deep” and “philosophical” books on Advaita. But then I read Balsekar had some sex scandals and preached “do whatever you want you are not responsible” philosophy and I`m shocked. Anyway…

I saw an idea in the book and it resonated with me so much. In my opinion, It even explains (for some level) why there is Maya or why the appearances exists or why there is “creation” in the first place. (or Why there seems to be creation) The idea is this: The formless Consciousness can be experienced only through the multitude of sentient bodies with names and forms, just as light can be seen only through refracting agents. It is thus not that the multitude of names and forms exist independently of Consciousness but that Consciousness can express itself only through these forms.
 
So the other way of saying is the God or the Brahman or the Consciousness experiences himself through us. We and the universe are God looking into himself.
 
 Brihadarnyaka 2.5.19 has this verse
 
“He transformed Himself in accordance with each form; that form of His was for the sake of making Him known. The Lord on account of Maya (notions superimposed by ignorance) is perceived as manifold, for to Him are yoked ten organs, nay, hundreds of them. He is the organs; He is ten and thousands – many and infinite. That Brahman is without prior or posterior, without interior or exterior. This self, the perceiver of everything, is Brahman. This is the teaching.”
 
What do you think?  I  wanted to know if traditional Advaita accepts that idea or not.

A: As it seems with most questions I get these days, this one also revolves around the reality-appearance, paramArtha-vyavahAra question.

Who-you-really-are does not act, so cannot be ‘responsible’ in the sense that you mean here. The person, on the other hand, does act and is responsible, and gets puNya-papa as a result of those actions. It is especially the responsibility of the realized person to act in accordance with dharma – the awareness of right and wrong – since he is setting an example to others. However it is also possible that, because of insufficient prior mental preparation, an enlightened person is still attached to desires and fears. Even knowing that he is perfect and unlimited, he could still act in accordance with these feelings, which are called pratibandha-s (obstacles or impediments). These will go in time, with further nididhyAsana.

It has to be assumed that this was the position regarding Ramesh, as far as the ‘scandals’ are concerned. However, if it was the case that he was actually preaching “do whatever you want you are not responsible”, as you say, then this is not a clear presentation of the truth of the situation and should be condemned.

Regarding your second point about the ‘purpose’ for the seeming creation, this does not hold water either. There can be no meaningful attribution of purpose at all. Purpose implies some sort of deficiency in brahman, which is a contradiction. Experience of any sort is a limitation, so cannot be applied to brahman. Best just to think of everything as name and form, including the ignorance and the experience; the experienced and the experiencer. But, as an imaginative way of thinking about it, God looking into himself is fine, as long as you don’t take it literally.

Knowledge, Action and Liberation

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMost readers will be aware of the Brahmasutras – the third ‘leg’ of the prasthAna traya (the threefold set of scriptures that constitute the authority for Advaita – and some will even have read them! And you may also know that the first, famous sutra is athAto brahma jij~nAsA – Now, therefore, an enquiry into Brahman. It is the claim that Brahman forms the subject matter of Vedanta and has to be enquired into if we are to gain Self-knowledge.

The author of the Brahmasutras is said to be vyAsa, also known as bAdarAyaNa and the purport of the work is to summarize, in an extremely abbreviated form, the philosophy of vedAnta, showing how this naturally derives from the (last portion of) Vedas. (Of course, this does not mean a summary of Advaita. Others have written commentaries on the Brahmasutras and shown how it is commensurate with the philosophies of dvaita and vishiShTAdvaita.)

What fewer readers will know is that there is a similar (much longer) work, called the pUrva mImAMsA sUtra-s, written by the ‘father’ of pUrva mImAMsA philosophy, Jaimini. And, surely not coincidentally, the first sutra in this work is athAto dharma jij~nAsA – Now, therefore, an enquiry into dharma. This makes the claim that dharma forms the subject matter of the Vedas and has to be enquired into if we are to gain liberation from saMsAra. The word ‘dharma’ is often translated as ‘duty’ and the meaning of this word relates to what we ought to be doing with our lives. Their claim is that knowledge is useless, since it cannot produce any benefit. They utilize only the first part of the Vedas – the karma kANDa – believing that only actions can achieve anything and that, consequently, we must assiduously follow the injunctions, rituals and meditations prescribed there in order to attain liberation at some point in the future.

Continue reading

Topic of the Month – dharma

DSCN1402The topic for the month of January 2015 is –

dharma: righteousness; merit; religious duty; religion; law; a goal of life (puruShArtha); medium of motion (Jainism); scriptural texts (Buddhism); quality (Buddhism); cause (Buddhism); religious teaching (Buddhism); unsubstantial and soulless (Buddhism); (from the verb-root dhRRi = “to uphold, to establish, to support”)

  1. Literally it means “what holds together” and thus it is the basis of all order, whether social or moral. As an ethical or moral value, it is the instrumental value to liberation (except for the mImAMsaka who considers it the supreme value).
  2. varNa Ashrama-dharma is one’s specific duty.
  3. sanAtana-dharma is the eternal religion.
  4. sva-dharma is one’s own individual duty.
  5. According to the mImAMsA school, it is what is enjoined in the Veda. It is religious duty, the performance thereof bringing merit and its neglect bringing demerit.
  6. Generally dharma is twofold: sAdhAraNa-dharma, which is common to everyone, and varNa Ashrama –dharma, which is specific to each class and stage of life.

From: A Concise Dictionary of Indian Philosophy (New & Revised Edition) Sanskrit Terms Defined in English, John Grimes, Indica Books. ISBN: 8186569804
Buy from Amazon US, Buy from Amazon UK

Q.360 – Suffering

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAQ: I have tried several spiritual paths and I was always stopped in my search by this question: How do we explain suffering?. Why does all pervading, partless, actionless Consciousness create, allow, dream of Auschwitz? Surely Consciousness could do better than this?

Answers are provided by: Ted, Martin, and Sitara. For answers by Dennis, see Q.24 and Q.33 and Q.62 and Q.120 and Q.294.

A (Ted): Your question is certainly understandable. It is the same question just about everybody has at an early stage in their spiritual understanding. It is based on a fundamental erroneous assumption we make about the nature of reality due to the conditioning we receive either directly from religion or indirectly from the religious beliefs that undergird the generally accepted perception of reality that informs the society.

 Our mistaken assumption is that awareness is an anthropomorphic (i.e. human-like) entity who has some overarching personal agenda and is orchestrating—or at least overseeing—the activities and events transpiring in the world with a vested interest in their nature and results. But this is not the nature of awareness. Continue reading