Beyond Karma

Prashant Sharma psharma at BUPHY.BU.EDU
Fri Mar 20 14:30:22 CST 1998

On Thu, 19 Mar 1998, Jonathan Bricklin wrote:

> Prasant Sharma writes:
> >The view that I am talking about is related to the fatalistic
> >philosophy  according to which the statement that there is no freedom of
> >action (or free will), means that there is  no way of acting except
> >through the help of the knowledge that is passed on to an individual.
> >However, that doesnot mean that the individual is devoid of freedom of
> >choosing between known alternatives.  And since the individual is itself
> >existing because of knowledge, it is he who makes this choice. This is the
> >"free will" that I don't see being denied as long as the individual is
> >there.
> I'm sorry.  I am gaining no knowledge from your use of the word
> "knowledge."

I am sorry for not clarifying things.  Let me try and put things in the
perspective I see them in, and in so doing give them meaning.
If you think of an individual's brain as a computer, knowledge is the data
in its hard disk. It is the stuff that has been put in there. There is
thus, nothing that one can call his own. There are no thoughts that we can
call our own, because there is actually no thinker there. What *we* create
(which is attributed to *our* creativity) is an act achieved through trial
and error.  Infact there are no spontaneous (generated by this computer)
thoughts either, because one can never suceed in taking oneself away and
seeing a thought arise.  Which is why what we see (in such an attempt) is
just a thought about that thought (which one is attempting to see).
        So when we look at something, or hear something, the sensory
perceptions do not tell us anything about the thing out there. what
actually happens is translation of the perception in terms of the
"knowledge" that is already there. So there is  actually a seperation that
happens between the stimulus and the response, which is atually one
unitary movement, because of knowledge. We maintain this seperation and so
keep this non-existing identity. This is not something that we do on
purpose, or that we can do away with through any effort of ours. But this
is just in the nature of things. So we constantly use our memory (exercise
our brain), in sleep as well as when awake, to maintain our identity:
continuity of thought.
In this framework there is really nothing new happening.  Because all our
experiences are interpreted in terms of whatever is in there.  It is like
there are seven colours and you interpret everything else in terms of
combinations of them.

> >       There is no meaning to "sense of " individuality all by
> >itself, when there is no individual without the "knowledge of" his
> >individuality.
> The word "knowledge" is recognizable here, I think, so I'll take a shot at
> a response.  You have what you believe to be knowledge of a distinct body
> self.  Yet you also have further knowledge or access to further knowledge
> that IN FACT this distinct body is just like everything else in the
> manifest universe:  a bunch of dancing quarks and leptons.  The distinction
> between your hand and the air that surrounds it is a function of  the
> limited magnification of your eyesight.  Free will is even easier to topple
> from its status as "knowledge"--and, as Benjamin Libet showed, with less
> powerful machinery.  A physiologist at the University of California, he
> found a way to record the onset of electrical energy in the brain that
> immediately preceded a muscle movement.  He then devised an experiment
> comparing the precise moment the electrical energy was initiated to the
> precise moment that a subject was conscious of having initiated or "willed"
> it. If we accept that the "willed" thought, like all thoughts, arises, that
> it is "somehow given" to consciousness, it follows that it would have a
> formation of its own prior to the added-on sense of being our own personal
> thought.*  And that is what Libet found:  "Some neuronal activity
> associated with the eventual performance of the act has started well before
> any (recallable) conscious initiation or intervention is possible.  This
> leads to the conclusion that cerebral initiation even of a spontaneous
> voluntary act of the kind studied here can and usually does begin
> *unconsciously*."

        True, I never said that the brain is the originator of things.
What I am saying is the following.  There is always a space between
perception and memory (this phenomenon is what I called "maya").
Perception is very quick (essentially the speed of light, albeit not that
in vacuum), memory is much slower (reading from the hard drive takes
time). However, we have no abilityto put memory in the background and
allow these perceptions to go on in the way that they arise. The moment
recognition (or naming) happens, the being comes into existence.  The
knowledge about the past starts operating before the senses can move on to
 anything else. Therefore I said that there is no individual without

> >        By this I mean the fact that there is no way of seperating an
> >individual from another except through the knowledge which is common to
> >both.
> I had thought that Buddhas and other enlightened beings were in possession
> of an uncommon knowledge, and that it is this very uncommonness that
> separated them from the unenlightened.
        "Moksha" is freedom from the clutches of "maya". You never acquire
"moksha" because it is not an experience and thus not in the sphere of
"knowledge".  Thus it can never be known.  We are *always* enlightened,
but shall *never* "know" of this ("BrahmAn" is always present but never
known, always on the verge of knowledge, but forever eluding its
Thus, there is NO special "knowledge" that any realized person has or can
have. For us (full of knowledge) his being (which we percieve) has great
importance (because it is something that we have *never* experienced
before, it lies in a space which is complementary to where *we* live in)
but can never give us "knowledge" of how to make it to that abode. In
short the story is that there is nothing to do, and yet so much to be
done. "Will" is just this desire to go on searching.  Even that is
programmed in to us perhaps. But the "why" of "knowledge" is in the realm
of "Ishvara".


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