Untimely Meditations

Prashant Sharma psharma at BUPHY.BU.EDU
Sun Apr 26 00:44:03 CDT 1998

Parisi & Watson wrote:

> A short time ago, I attempted to point out that the facts as we know
> them about the human condition can be construed to support either the
> Advaita Vedanta philosophy or the typical Western view. Anything that we
> know, we know only by virtue of the fact that it has entered human
> consciousness in some way, so in a sense, we are unable to prove that a
> world exists without consciousness. Consciousness can be said to be the
> starting point of epistemology: I am; all else follows from this, and is
> at least partially inference. The sense of self awareness that we have
> gives us the impression that it must be separate from both the body and
> the mind, since it can observe both. I take care of 'my' body, I train
> 'my' mind, I observe 'my' feelings and thoughts, and so on.

> The problem, at least for me, is that all of these things remain true

> and are not undermined in any way even in the Western view. Even if the

> physical world is the fundamental reality and consciousness exists only
> as a biological function, not only do they all remain, but they
> correspond to what we would expect. We still know things only by
> perceiving them and bringing them into our conscious minds. We still
> know first that 'I am,' and branch out from there to other forms of
> knowledge. We know that our senses can be distorted in various ways or
> removed completely, and yet the sense of self remains as long as we are
> capable of consciousness. We know that the conscious mind can observe
> its own contents and, when it is idle, can just observe itself. None of
> these considerations present a serious challenge to the Western view in
> any way that I can see.

    I am curious to know how the western view interprets the state of being
when there is *no* distinction between the observer and the observed. When
even the notion of *I am* is not there for an individual.

> The response always is that Vedanta is not established by mere dry
> reasoning, but by a proper intellectual orientation filled out by
> spiritual practice and direct personal experience. But now we seem to be
> saying also that, since our sense of I-am already is the Self, self
> realiztion is not so much a new experience as the same old experiences
> with a new attitude.

    If by self-realization you mean the same as "moksha" then it is *not*
an attitude, nor simply an experience but a state of being.  If you
appreciate the fact that what ever we experience is in the realm of our
knowledge (which is why experiences have to be given words to describe
them) then "moksha" is not in the realm of our knowledge.   Which is the
reason for the scriptures to insist that it cannot even be described in
words.  The fact that western view point never gives importance to anything
that is outside the realm of human knowledge implies that it is forced to
interpret this state of being  as some new biological method of
functioning, thereby denying the importance of *advaita* as the substratum
of life as we know it.

> We have a sense of bliss and freedom, of being
> without limitations or any vulnerability. We have the perception that we
> do not actually do anything or suffer anything, because action and
> suffering pertain to individuals, and we no longer have the feeling of
> being identified with a separate ego. We still see the external world
> through 'our' eyes, we are still directly privy only to 'our' thoughts,
> etc. but the experience is dramatically different because we no longer
> identify ourselves with these things. And how do we come to have this
> remarkable attitude and the experiences that it brings with it? We have
> it as the result of an intensive program of self indoctrination in the
> sorts of ideas mentioned above, combined with extensive practice in
> disassociating our awareness from our minds, bodies, desires, fears and
> so on. But nothing in either the ideas or the experiences is
> inconsistent with the Western view.

    This whole thing is inconsistent.  One suffers and yet  intellectually
reasons that one does notsuffer.  Isn't this inconsistent?

> >From there, other troublesome questions begin to assert themselves:
> Because I feel that I am not tied to a separate ego/mind/body and that I
> have merged with an infinite ocean of bliss, does this necessarily mean
> that I actually have? In other words, does having a direct sense or
> feeling of something mean that it actually is the case? Could any
> imaginable feeling, mode of experience, or state of consciousness ever
> count as evidence that my body (or better, the physical organism that I
> am) is irrelevant to my existence? It could, but only if, for example, I
> saw my body either destroyed or dead beyond any recall (as opposed to
> 'dead' and then revived). These extremes seem necessary in order to make
> the case, but in resorting to them, we become like Christians who
> promise that all will be revealed after death. I'm having problems
> seeing any considerations, any reasoning, or even any experience by a
> living, breathing person that can meaningfully undermine the Western
> view. Right now I have the feeling that Vedanta is slipping through my
> fingers like water.

      I don't know if you realise that there is no "you" when there is no
ego/mind/body.   The way one functions is what is this ego/mind/body
complex.  When one is aspiring for "moksha" he is asserting that he will
discard all that he is, all his relationships, everything that the world
knows him to be.  That is why it is so difficult even to be an aspirant for
"moksha".  The requirements (and you will find them stated in Adi
SankrAchArya 's works) are indeed extreme.  Infact I will not even get a
10% grade on that quiz if I were to take it, and although it is highly
presumptuous to speak about others, it is unlikely that many people on this
list would score a 100%.  And indeed one has to die in order to achieve
moksha (it has been described by sages as akin to physical death), with the
difference that there is *no* rebirth.  The "I" is dead once and for all
and whatever remains (necessarily being the substratum on which the "I"
existed) is immortal.

Prashant Sharma.

>From  Sat Apr 25 18:53:27 1998
Message-Id: <SAT.25.APR.1998.185327.0530.>
Date: Sat, 25 Apr 1998 18:53:27 +0530
Reply-To: kamal at homeindia.com
To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Kamal Kothari <kamal at HOMEINDIA.COM>
Organization: Oriental Corporate Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
Subject: Re: ADVAITA-L Digest - 18 Apr 1998 to 19 Apr 1998
Comments: To: "Advaita (non-duality) with reverence" <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
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Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM> wrote :

> I
> suggest in the order 1) Atma bodha of shrI sha.nkara, 2) dR^ik dR^ishhya
> viveka of shrI vidyAraNya and then more intense texts like 3)
> vivekachUDAmaNi of shrI sha.nkara. There is an excellent two volume
> commentary on the daxiNAmUrti stotra by shrI Subbaramaiya, a disciple of
> HH abhinava vidyAtIrtha, the previous head of the Sringeri Mutt. This
> can be consulted after getting a background from the other 3 texts.

Can you throw some more light on this statement? I have just posted a
request to ravi for assistance on which order should I take up study of
Sankaracharya's teachings.

Regards,   Kamal

Kamal Kothari
Oriental Corporate Consultants Pvt. Ltd.
Tel : +91-22-2831756
E-Mail : kamal at homeindia.com    http://www.homeindia.com
"Let's teach ourselves that honourable stop, not to outsport discretion"
(Shakespeare in "Othello")

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