On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 8

Part – 7  

At the end of Part – 7, we made a reference to the bag of tricks that the mind had acquired to help in the preservation and the perpetuation of the “form” of the body-organism.

Before we take up that issue for a detailed discussion, we should also make note of an important and closely related point. It is the “power” of the mind. For all practical purposes brain is after all the seat, or at the least the surrogate, of the mind.

All schools of philosophy agree on the power of the mind. The mind can do miracles. You see them all the time but you are so habituated to experiencing the miracles that you tend to overlook their immensity and astounding quality.

The faith oriented schools of philosophies exploit the ‘power of the mind’ in visualizing, securing and realizing, in the interest of the body organism, situations that are congenial to make the life of the body-organism easy, comfortable and reasonably happy. A number of techniques have been developed and refined over time to serve towards such an objective. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 7

Part – 6 

The Intelligent Design people and almost all religions speak about ‘Creation’ by a God accepting “The Doctrine of Creation-based perception (sRiShTi-dRiShTi-vAda).” The assumption behind this concept is that I am able to perceive a world out there because I am born into a pre-existing creation.

Biologists talk about ‘Evolution’ accepting Darwin’s Theory. The assumption behind this concept is that there exists an operational mechanism of natural selection and survival of the fittest in their struggle for perpetuation giving raise to a multiplicity of species.

Vedantins (Advaita school) consider the ‘unmanifest and unknowable something that IS or IS-not’ as an apparent cause for the ‘Illusory appearance of a world.’  It is called as the ajAti-vAda, The Doctrine says that ‘Nothing is ever born.’ It holds that an apparent creation happens when perception takes place. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 6

Part – 5  

We ought to know first what really real Reality is in order to find it. To say so does not make sense either. If we knew the Reality already, what’s the purpose of this struggle?

Obviously, we don’t know the Reality. Still, we can say what reality cannot be.

Vedanta gives us a working definition for reality:

त्रिकाल अबाधितं सत्यम्

Meaning: The Truth is that which exists the same in all three periods of time (past, present and future).  (Not a good definition, but let’s stay with it for now).

Truth should not keep changing from man to man, place to place and time to time. If it is so highly variable, there can never be anything that can be said to be a Reality.

But before proceeding further we have to be aware of one more quality of the mind, the tool with which we investigate. Our mind has a tendency to reify or deify. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 5

Part – 4 

We have been assessing the reliability of our sensory apparatus – the mind plus the five sensory organs – in the last two Posts. We already discovered that they do not show what exactly exists out there. They may show non-existing things to be existing but we slavishly believe in what they show to us. Let us examine this issue one more time so that you will be free of doubt.

Undoubtedly a chocolate tastes sweet and a hammer dropped on our foot hurts. We find things hot or cold, tall or short, light or heavy and so on. But do these qualities rest within the objects seen out there or do our senses project them on to something which lies there? Is there truly an inherent solidity and physicality to the objects we perceive in our awake state? We seldom ever brood over this issue. Let us do a small experiment to know whether the solid looking stuff we see around really exists or not. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 4

Part – 3 

At the end of Part – 2, we raised the question “Who am I?” At the end of Part – 3, we introduced the concept of personality in place of “I.”

If I ask you “Who are you?” you may say your name. You may continue, “My parents are … … and I was born on August 15.” You may add, “I am an engineer / a doctor / a carpenter / a driver / an expert / etc.” If you feel patriotic, you may say, “I am an Indian, an American, a Mongolian etc.”

But have you noticed one thing? All the above aspects, which you claim to be “you,” are actually told by somebody else. Your name, parentage or your expertise are all just what you “learnt” and accepted. None of them are known directly by you from your experiencing. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 3

Part – 2  

We ended the Part – 2 with the questions, “Who exactly am “I”?; and “Is my “mind” the proper and the most efficient instrument for the job I am putting it to?”

Any good workman first examines the efficiency, sensitivity and efficacy of his tools, before using them, for, as experience shows, there could be an unaccounted “instrumental error” that can creep into the conclusions we draw. In a modern laboratory of scientific investigations, calibration of the error from various sources including the tools used is a standard practice.

So let us first find out what is mind, the only tool we have at our disposal, what is its nature, and what are its characteristics. We should be aware of the errors it may introduce and thereby bias the conclusions. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 2

Part – 1

Towards the end of NBS Part – 1, we had seen that the very presence of another is a cause for fear —  that is to say that the presence of an additional creature other than a ‘me’, in general, is a ‘challenge’ to my own existence. We then asked the question: “But suppose the second entity is a Savior, a Protector, a Godhead?”

That is a very comforting thought. It helps to calm the agitated, perturbed, worried mind. It feels soothing. Yes, comforting.

The idea of a Savior, a loving caring Godhead, gives me a confidence that there is someone out there to look after ‘me’, to take care of my interests, and to see that things work forever in ‘my’ favor.

And suppose, in that Savior, I pack all those qualities that I do not have —  in order to make good for my shortcomings, my weaknesses, my frailties, my infirmities, then I will have a colossal strength at my back. I can rest without a worry. I can sleep peacefully. So let me think of a Super-human, omniscient, omnipotent, Lord as my Protector. Continue reading

On Narada Bhakti Sutras – 1

  Mind is the only tool we have as human beings to investigate and inquire into what is, if anything is, beyond the physical world of objects which we know from our direct perception (pratyaksha pramANa) using the five sensory organs. We want to know “That” which supports this solid looking world and the animate and inanimate creatures populating it. The “driver” for such an enquiry could just be an inborn curiosity or a desire to attain unswerving freedom from unhappiness.

As a matter of fact, we are already accustomed to use our ‘mind,’ without being ever even aware of doing so, for ensuring ‘security,’ which we believe gives us happiness. We have been able to detect certain “patterns” in the world. One is that all things are always changing. As a measure of this change, we ‘invented’ time. So time dimension or factor in the world is known to us only through the mind. Continue reading

Overview of Western Philosophy – Part 13

(Read Part 12 of the series.)

Utilitarianism

When deciding whether an action should be deemed good or bad (as opposed to whether it is something we ourselves want to do), people will sometimes try to calculate whether the result will benefit the majority. This principle was expressed in the 18th Century by Francis Hutcheson: ‘That action is best which procures the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers’. It is effectively the opposite of what Kant was saying. Whereas he insisted that it was the motive alone that determined whether an act should be deemed to be ‘good’ and that we should act from a sense of duty, Hutcheson was claiming that motives were ultimately irrelevant, it was the outcome alone that mattered.

Two philosophers in particular were responsible for developing and propagating these ideas and thereby influencing many people’s attitude towards morality. The first was Jeremy Bentham, who is generally regarded as the originator of so-called ‘Utilitarianism’, which says that conduct is right or wrong according to its tendency to produce favourable or unfavourable consequences for the people who are affected by it. It was given this name because actions are judged on the basis of their ‘utility’ or usefulness in bringing about good, or benefit of some kind as opposed to evil or unhappiness. Continue reading

Overview of Western Philosophy – Part 12

(Read Part 11 of the series.)

Marx and Nietzsche

Marxism

As noted earlier, Hegel’s philosophy was very influential with Marx, whose ideas are the basis of the intellectual foundation of Communism. In particular, he accepted Hegel’s concept of reality as an ongoing dialectic process, which could be monitored through a study of history, and which would continue to evolve until there were no further internal contradictions needing resolution. Not until this was achieved would true freedom and fulfilment be possible for man. He believed that the sort of society that would bring this about would be one in which individuals acted together rather than independently. Marx did not however agree with Hegel’s concept of a spiritual ‘Absolute’. Any form of religious belief or pursuit was seen as an attempt to escape from the meaninglessness that life had become.

He believed that matter, in the sense of man’s relation to it, was the driving force behind progress, and this meant that subjects such as the production and distribution of goods, and the economics of this, became extremely important. Thus he would have argued that socialism was simply the point that had been reached in the process of evolution, not something that he was specifically advocating, though his personal commitment to the ‘revolution’ is apparent in his writing. But all of this is a matter of politics and was advocated at the expense of ethical considerations. Continue reading