Overview of Western Philosophy – Part 12

(Read Part 11 of the series.)

Marx and Nietzsche


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

Q. 356 – Signs Along the Way

Q: I’m firmly convinced that nothing outside myself can give lasting fulfillment, I have acquired quite a facility for playing the piano and am still improving that skill, and when I do make an improvement it’s usually after a long period of practice until the next breakthrough ad infinitum, I’m in a fulfilling relationship with my girlfriend and I have a great job at a pharmacy, I’m in good health as well, but beneath it all is this sense it will eventually change and I ask myself is this it? All my needs are met but I still feel incomplete. I have good karma and predominantly sattvic tendencies, so how will I know I’m making progress on my path? Are there certain objective milestones that I will definitely notice and be like ok I’m closer to realizing who I am? You said the mind needs to be receptive and mostly controlled but I just wish there were more specific instructions.

Answers are provided by: Ted, Martin, Sitara, Ramesam, and Dennis.

A (Ted): The way you will know that you are making progress on the path is that your penchant for wanting things – be they tangible objects, money, relationships, power, prestige, achievements, particular physical or psychological states of being, spiritual experiences, or whatever – will diminish. 

 Vedanta says that all desires fall into four basic categories.  The first three are security (artha), pleasure (kama), and virtue (dharma).  From the description you offer, it sounds like your life is rife with objective phenomena that fit into all three categories.  Your good health and great job offer security, your facility for playing the piano and the fulfilling relationship you enjoy with your girlfriend provide pleasure, and your good karma and predominately sattvic tendencies bespeak a virtuous character.  Still, you remain unfulfilled.  This, according to Vedanta, is as it should be – or rather as it is – at least for the person who still believes lasting peace and happiness can be had through the acquisition and enjoyment of objects. Continue reading

Repetition of practices (Q. 316)

Q: I can see that whatever is seen cannot possibly be me, the seer, the perceiver. The perceiver cannot be perceived because it is perceiving. That seems really obvious and clear (usually, not always, don’t need to claim any more than is really the truth at present.)
Whatever practices, meditations I’ve ever done always end up at the same place: I come back to I/me, the perceiver. Whatever experiences of bliss, ecstasy, I’ve had always end up going away. I come back to: I, the perceiver. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t care whether some bliss state occurs because I know it won’t last, and, ha, it took many years of going through the same thing over and over again. I’d have that bliss state, or whatever we might want to call it, try to hold on to it, be disappointed when it went away and then “work”
to get it back again!!! Seems absurd now…
…the question is: I guess I continue to understand that I can’t be what I perceive, whether outwardly, in the world, or inwardly, persona maybe….just continue to come back to “I” perceiving all this? There is no particular joy in this or happiness, in the sense that I know all these experiences don’t last. But there seems to be some bed-rock perceiver which doesn’t go away except in deep, dreamless sleep…As I’m writing this I think again that I really need a teacher, but don’t see that happening anytime soon. In the mean time….books, being the perceiver and not the perceived…I guess!!! Thanks. Continue reading

Spiritual progress and the j~nAnI

Much of the Brahma Sutra can be extremely tedious. In particular the fourth section of the third chapter is really only of interest to the pUrva mImAMsaka, since it discusses the finer points of various rituals prescribed in the Upanishads. I have to confess that, when listening to this in the talks of Swami Paramarthananda, I eventually had to give up and move onto chapter 4! Only to discover that the first few adhikaraNa-s of chapter 4 really ought to have been included in the previous section!

But I persevered and am very pleased that I did so. It does so often happen that, in the midst of some particularly sleep-inducing material, something really interesting crops up! And verse 4.1.2 is no exception. This topic is discussing the practice of shravaNa, manana, and nididhyAsana (i.e. j~nAna yoga, Atma vichAra etc) and, in particular, whether this needs to be done once only or repeatedly. But the interesting aspect dealt with by Swami Paramarthananda relates to the spiritual path in general. Continue reading

Spiritual Progress (Q. 305)

Q: What are some indicators of progress on the spiritual journey? Is witnessing consciousness an indicator of progress? (Oct. 2010)

A: Most people actually don’t go along with the idea of ‘gradual’ progress. The enlightenment ‘event’ if you like (akhaNDAkAra vRRitti) is rather a catastrophic reorientation of the mind (in the mathematical sense of course, rather than the emotive!)

The progress indicators are rather in terms of mental preparation, as in sAdhana chatuShTaya sampatti. We notice that we are less prone to emotional disturbance, avoid emotional reactions, see issues more clearly and make right decisions without selfish motive and so on. And maybe we have increasingly frequent glimpses of the unity and increasing conviction of the truth of the teaching. If, by ‘witnessing consciousness’ you mean seeing what is going on around you with a dispassionate eye, yes – that, too.