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

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

What is Death – Part 2

In the case of the human being, is death – whatever meaning we give to it – an ending, a transformation (in psychological terms), a recombination of parts (physics and biology), or a transfiguration, such as what is called reincarnation, transmigration  or metempsychosis (religious tradition)? Is it terminal, or a new beginning, a renewal – in someone of the senses enumerated above?

Or is death simply illusory? In the restricted sense we are now having in view (related to a human being), what is the meaning of ‘death’ – a question which, whether it has a precise answer or not, must have been asked countless times, at least ever since one or more individuals started to ask these kinds of questions, that is, to philosophize? It is frequently said that according to Plato philosophy begins in wonder. With such a broad view or approach of the problem we can appreciate how many possible answers, or rather areas of research and inquire are open to ourselves. We saw that, whether a (“short-lived”) event or a (gradual) process,  death can be defined in simple terms in what concerns the body, in fact the body of any organism, as was stated in Part 1. Going beyond this, and entering directly into the realm of philosophy – the philosophy of Vedanta in particular – the problem is also simplified by just saying that the only ‘things’ that ‘die’, or are annihilated, are forms, phenomena, which are impermanent. Essence or substance, being changeless, does not die. Continue reading