Part 10 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 10 looks at the five organs of perception and the six means of acquiring knowledge.
There is a hyperlinked Contents List, which is updated as each new part is published.
Q: In advaita, we use the recall of a “good deep sleep” as a very important argument for proving continued presence of awareness… the question is, how does this recall happen? We have a process in advaita by which ‘the presence of a pot is known’. How is deep sleep known? Or – How is the fact that one slept well, recalled?
A (Dhanya): When I was a child, there was a TV show I liked to watch. It was called ‘You Are There.’ As I recall, the show depicted a famous scene from history, and then ‘you’ (meaning in this case the narrator), magically showed up in the scene and got to ask the historical figures all sorts of questions. (I guess I should Google it to make sure I recall the details of the show correctly). Anyway, I do remember that I enjoyed the show, and often these days recall the title, because one could ask oneself the question, ‘How is anything known?’ and the answer would be because ‘You are There!’ The whole point of deep sleep in the teachings of Vedanta is to is highlight ‘You are There’ Your nature is consciousness, i.e. that by which anything is known. The absence of any thing is also known. Thus one can recall the fact that one slept well. Why? Because You are There.Continue reading →
An objective scientist provides a narrow definition for science as that which pertains only to the objectifiable entities using the objective tools. For example, he says that the existence of God cannot be scientifically established as His existence cannot be proved. Obviously the proof that a scientist is looking for is perceptibility, using objective tools of investigation which themselves are limited to only objectifiable entities. He presumes that God is also an object that can be precisely defined in order to differentiate Him from the rest of the objects in the universe, and is therefore quantifiable using perceptual data. If an object cannot be established by using his objective tools, then he asserts that any assumption of its existence becomes blind belief or at the most speculative.
No object can establish its own existence, since it is not a conscious entity. A chair does not say ‘I exist’; a conscious entity has to establish its existence. A scientist, who dismisses the existence of God, since it cannot be proved using his objective tools, takes his own existence for granted without questioning it. He cannot establish his own existence or that he is a conscious entity using the same objective tools that he is using to establish the existence of God. The reason is that he, as a subject knower, cannot be known since he cannot objectify the subject knower. He knows that he exists and that he is conscious entity, without even questioning the validity of his assertions. Continue reading →
Part 11 of the serialization of the presentation (compiled by R. B. Athreya from the lectures given by Swami Paramarthananda) of upadeshasAhasrI. This is the prakaraNa grantha which is agreed by most experts to have been written by Shankara himself and is an elaborate unfoldment of the essence of Advaita.
Our capacity to detect anything is confined to a limited bandwidth of certain characteristics (in a so-called world) using our sensory organs:
Eyes → light, colors, shapes, distances, sizes
Ears → sounds, distance
Skin → heat, pressure, itch, softness, roughness
Nose → smells
Tongue → taste
Mind (?) → time, imagining (thinking)
[Note: 1. The normally held view about our senses as given above is valid only in a broad way. Modern scientific research shows that quite a bit of collaborative overlap exists in their actual functioning. For example, eyes and skin also have a role in hearing; nose and ears (and even lungs) assist the tongue in tasting etc. Embodiment takes place from multi-sensory input.
2. Notice that we are not endowed with any sensory organ to detect ‘time.’]
Up in the heavens, galaxies are interspersed by huge empty spaces. Matter constitutes less than one percent of the universe – about one atom in ten cubic meters of space. Within an atom too, there is more empty space than substance. If the atom is magnified to the size of a football stadium, matter (nucleus) in it will be no bigger than a golf ball, the remaining space being just emptiness. However, many ancient Indian scriptures hold that there is energy aplenty in space. Physicists unhesitatingly agree. Evidence for energy in empty space comes both from Cosmology that deals with the astronomical objects of huge proportions and Quantum Physics which studies atomic- and subatomic-sized particles.
You are certain of your toothbrush being in the bathroom when you walk in there after a good night’s sleep. You have no doubt, the water comes to a boil in two minutes in the microwave for the delicious morning cuppa. You are pretty sure how long it takes you to drive to the office. That is all true. But the particles that constitute you or your toothbrush are not predictable with that sort of certitude where they will be at any given time or when they appear at a given place!
Quantum Physics studies how the tiny particles like electrons, protons and atoms that constitute everything behave. Quantum Physics sobers us down quite a bit when it is a question of being sure of things. It teaches us not to be so definite and deterministic. It comes out with mind-bending mathematics and unbelievable concepts almost bordering Vedanta. Dr. Niels Bohr, a giant among Quantum Physicists, famously said: “Anyone who is not shocked (by the concepts of Quantum Physics) has not understood it.”
For all that, Quantum Physics is not an esoteric theory. It comes with redoubtable experimental back up and unfailing proof. Continue reading →
Quantum Physics is the science of small particles. The strange and counter-intuitive phenomena it predicts often leave us stunned. It says that if two particles were together once, they never lose their connectedness even after they get separated. Each particle readjusts itself in response to any change in the state of its counterpart which might even be several millions of miles away. The readjustment is instantaneous and happens without any sort of messaging link between them. So if you met Dr. Singh once, you can never escape from getting affected by what happens to him, even if you run away to another galaxy!
“What?! ……. Sleeping? ……. No, he is in his office and very much awake.”
Dr. Singh’s Assistant, though a bit bewildered, sounded very confident in his replies. But I remained unconvinced.
If the probability of Dr. Singh being in New York is zero, and his being present in Delhi is one hundred percent, there must be some probability of his being in London in-between! Further, his Assistant asserts that Dr. Singh is awake. How does he know Singh’s state so definitely without actually seeing him? Don’t think that I lost my wits or I am an over the top Vedantin.
Q: How do you explain two enlightened people (in the advaitic sense) that have different teachings? For instance, I think someone like Greg Goode and Swami Dayananda would disagree on many things despite both arguably being enlightened. For example let’s take Greg’s essay on idealism (http://www.advaita.org.uk/discourses/teachers/idealism_greg.htm).
I don’t think Swami Dayananda-ji will agree with the core position that an object doesn’t exist unless perceived. In fact I have asked Swami Tadatmananda this question (in the form of ‘does a rock exist before someone sees it?’) and he answered in the traditional sense saying that it does. From your point of view does this still fall under the umbrella of differences in teaching style? I also believe we could get a debate between the two on the topic of Ishvara and freewill. Continue reading →