Katha upanishad verse I.2.23

Charles Wikner WIKNER at NACDH4.NAC.AC.ZA
Tue Apr 15 02:43:05 CDT 1997

On the persistent sub-thread about non-volition, Gummurulu Murthy wrote:

> On Wed, 9 Apr 1997, Vidyasankar Sundaresan wrote:
> > On Wed, 9 Apr 1997, Gummuluru Murthy wrote:
> > > But, isn't lethargy a property of the mind only ? Even the buddhi
> > > (the intellect) is not touched by it, let alone the Atman, the Lord of the
> > > chariot.
> > >
> > > I define lethargy as the disinclination of the mind to apply to the task
> > > at hand. Body has nothing to do with it and it simply follows. For even
> > > the most "lethargic" person has an active mind. If the buddhi is pure,
> > > the concept of lethargy vainshes.
> > >
> > > Thus, I submit that the argument that acceptance of non-volition would
> > > lead to lethargy does not hold.
> >
> > Not so. What is the entity that accepts non-volition? It is not the Atman,
> > because there is nothing for the Atman to accept or reject.
> The entity that accepts non-volition is the jeeva.

The jeeva is the mutual superimposition of the Self and the non-Self:
it is the phenomenal or empirical ego.

The ego loves the idea of non-volition because that implies that
there is no choice, no chooser, things just happen.  It is a
marvellous cop-out!  The ego can do as it pleases -- mark that,
it can do whatever it desires -- and (here is the attraction)
without taking responsibility for the consequences of its actions.

Isn't that appealing?  It's so simple!

Now let a whole society (say USA) put this philosophy into practice,
and what is the result?  Since things just happen, there will be no
need for laws; since there is no responsibility, you can dispense
with the police and the courts.  Where things just happen without any
responsibility, the whole concept of justice is superfluous.  Does
this sound like an attractive society to live in?

Now enlarge the view to the whole of mankind: there would be no
dharma, no karma, no sa.mskaara; there would be no place for
morality, or religion, or philosophy.  It is all arbitrary;
it just happens.  Still sound attractive to the ego?

It might go well while it is you that is doing as you please, but it
may not be so pleasant when you are on the receiving end of others'
"non-volitional" activities.  To get around this inconvenience, you
need the world to behave lawfully while you brush up on your charisma:
then you convince a bunch of dimwits to serve you (non-volitionally
of course), and to supply you with mansions and Rolls Royces (also
non-volitionally).  Lacking any volition of their own, these fools
are free to be your slaves.

That sounds a bit more attractive, doesn't it?  Freedom at last!

But to return to some semblance of sanity: so long as there is
not-Self, there is ego; and where there is ego, there is volition.
(Or, if you prefer, where there is prak.rti, there is rajas.)

Gummurulu continues, using the chariot analogy of Katha 1.3.3--4:

> We regard the reins as simply an extension of the charioteer. If the
> charioteer (buddhi) is pure and dharmic, proper controls will be extended
> through the reins(mind) on the horses (sense organs) and the journey will
> be according to the objective of the dharmic buddhi.

If it is pure and dharmic (that's a big `if'), AND the mind and senses
have been thoroughly trained (see Katha 1.3.5--9).

> If the buddhi is not dharmic, proper control of the horses cannot be
> applied by the reins, and the journey would be aimless wandering. This
> could be interpreted as partly lethargy by the other travellers.

Or selfishness, or egotism, or irresponsibility, or childishness.

> Acceptance of non-volition by the jeeva is a dharmic concept.

Surely non-volition and dharma are contradictory?

> In this, mind is always under control of the buddhi.

How can there be control without volition?

> Lethargy is a description given by the fellow travellers to the individual
> whom they think is not applying oneself to the task. They see a "task" for
> this individual and the improper or inappropriate application of the mind
> of this individual to the task.

The fellow travellers will judge according to their own values --
generally by how much dust you raise.  The real task is discriminating
between the Master of the chariot (the Self) and all the rest -- so long
as the Master associates with something else, there will be the "enjoyer",
the ego (Katha 1.3.4).

> It has a meaning only in a vyavahaaric
> sense. At other levels, these "tasks" gradually fade out.

The concept of non-volition is pure poison at the vyaavahaarika level;
it does, however, have a useful explanatory function at the praatibhaasika
level.  Consider someone having a particularly intense "spiritual experience"
(for lack of a better phrase) so that the effects of the altered state of
consciousness run on for days and weeks afterwards, with the senses operating
at such a fine level that one can for example, see the inside of things,
i.e. the surfaces which limit the physical senses, are quite transparent;
when there is direct perception that there is no solid physical world at
all, that it is just a trick of the light, then praatibhaasika descriptions
are resorted to, and "non-volition" is simply a statement of the obvious.

However, on returning to the vyaavahaarika level, the praatibhaasika
descriptions revert to theory (i.e. they are not directly perceived),
and concepts such as non-volition must be abandoned as inapropriate.
Sadly, it can easily happen that the ego claims the experience as a
mark of its spiritual development, and thereby stores up great trouble
for the future: one effect of this claiming is to cling to a concept,
such as non-volition, as a core belief.  You need not accept my word
on this, just examine earlier posts on this thread, and you will find
the admission that non-volition is a _belief_ that is based on a _past_
spiritual experience.

My original post on this thread included a quote from the Gita 18:20--22
on the types of knowledge; bear with me as it is repeated in the words
of Shri Purohit Swami:

  20  That knowledge which sees the One Indestructible in all beings,
      the One Indivisible in all separate lives, may be truly called
      Pure Knowledge.

  21  The knowledge which thinks of the manifold existence in all beings
      as separate -- that comes from Passion.

  22  But that which clings blindly to one idea as if it were all,
      without logic, truth or insight, that has its origin in Darkness.

"Clings blindly to one idea ...."  Now examine past posts on this thread.

> I would be most grateful for any corrections in the use of this analogy
> or the concept.

May we simply cease speculating about non-volition and return to
the original purpose of the thread, namely the elucidation of the
apaurushheya words of your own Self, the Master of the chariot?
Those words are at least reasonable, and worth understanding.

Regards, Charles.

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