hbdave hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN
Tue Mar 26 00:44:29 CST 2002

Shrinivas Gadkari wrote:

> Namaste Shri Dave,
> I am picking up the discussion that we
> had regarding the brain.
> 1. Your postings wherein you refer to
> the brain and brain activity seem to paint
> the following picture:
> Consider the view point of classical physics
> (that is, non-quantum physics). Universe was
> born out of big bang about 10-12 billion years
> ago. Some 4 billion years ago earth was formed
> and some 1 billion years ago first life forms
> emerged. (Excuse me if I am a little off on numbers
> here). Now what is life ? In this viewpoint, life
> can be considered to be a highly ordered structure
> which characterizes the super complex network of
> tiny signals passing through the system of an
> organism. Now if we look at the most evolved
> organism namely man and focus on his nervous
> system, it may be possible to approximately
> model it as a super neural network. What you
> said in many of your postings was that koshas,
> chitta, manas etc are levels within an ordered
> structure that this network represents.
> If we take this model, then laws of physics are
> the ULTIMATE laws that govern the universe
> including the consciousness itself. Also in this
> picture consciousness does not transcend matter.

Are laws of physics finalized?
Is there not talk of consciousness getting into
Quantum Mechanics?

> 2. However, the ajativada posting paints a picture
> where all that exist are spiritual entities like
> consciousness, maya, mind (for the current discussion
> let us keep ourselves open to a choice of language
> where we speak as if Brahman has parts). Now as
> far as I understand, in this picture physical
> matter is only an image projected by maya/prakriti.
> Needless to say that then the whole physical plane
> including body, brain nerves are only images.
> I do not quite see how you would reconcile these
> two views. (Feel free to use high level descriptions,
> I have a good background in electrical engineering,
> signal processing, computer science, physics etc.).

Thanks for asking these challenging questions.
I have tried to give a "first-cut" answer in the
attached note.

This note may be only a begining of deeper and
more crystalized study, who knows? and I am
definitely not the last word.

Also, I find the questions of general interest, so
even though you have initiated this as a personal
communication, can I have your permission to
send the Q/A to Advaita List?  This is especially
because I believe that Advaita Vedanta is nearest
to modern science and if in future there is going
to be a meeting place of "religion" and "science"
it will be via Advaita Vedant.
Anticipating your permission I am posting this
to the Advaita List. I hope you will not mind.

Best wishes,
-- Himanshu
-------------- next part --------------
Rearding Reconcilation of Physical Model and Advaita Model

The question raised is quite difficult to answer, but I shall
try. See if it satisfies you. Take it as a first try at answering
the question. In this first try, I shall use minimum of jargon,
so that more people can give their response.

Basically, as I understand, you are asking :

+----------------+                            +-----------------+
| Physical Brain |<-- how much distance?----->| Advaiata :      |
| cells, Koshas  |                            | chidabhasa      |
| messages, vaak |<-- how to reduce ? ------->| jiiva, Atman    |
+----------------+                            +-----------------+

We shall now derive certain conclusions from what we can observe.

We try to take the two sides towards each other and see what
happens. A few seemingly separate ideas are put forward.

1)      First we start investigating the physical equipment a man
has with him. [him = him/her in this note! Do not call me male pig]

We say that a system is Reactive or responding if, given a stimulus,
it responds with some response. This does NOT require consciousness.
A few examples are : plants, some lower animals, industrial
controllers, simple computers, telephone exchange, etc. The spinal
chord in animal (human) body is one such system.

The next higher system is Intelligent Reactive, where ability to
learn and adapt exists. Still consciousness is not required. A
few examples are : higher animals, intelligent controllers,

stimulii +----------+
-------->| Reactive |--> response     Non-conscious system

A conscious system must have a "knower" which finally absorbs
the information gained from the inputs (stimulii), and integrates
it into its network of existing knowledge. It can be shown as :

         | Knower    |
           ^      |
           |      V
-------->| Reactive  |--> response    Conscious system

Question arises : who is conscious?
One responds : "I am conscious."
Who is this "I"?

The "knower" itself cam be another conscious system, for example
the way we have described the hierarchy of Koshas.
When a finger is pricked, the hand involuntarily withdraws, this
is a purely reactive resonse from the spine. But the fact that
the finger was pricked is also noted in my brain. We say that
the Pranamaya kosha is the reactive system, backed by the
Manomaya kosha, which is the "knower". The whole hierarchy
described in Advaita and related texts works like this.

Ultimately, we should have a Knower which is pure consciousness,
i.e. no further "knower" is necessary. Unless we postulate this,
we can not answer the question raised above : "who is this I?"

Now, taking the brain as a physical system, made out of neurons,
etc. though we can envisage it as a Reactive system, similar to
a computer, to show it to be a conscious system, we must postulate
a final or Ultimate Knower. This is because, each one of us says
"I am". There is no doubt whatever that "I am existing." Only
known physical equipment is the brain.

This Ultimate Knower will be aware of itself, i.e. "I am."

Lower levels of consciouness, or impure consciousness, has to be
built up of a network of knowledge, so that it can absorb new
information or react in a "conscious" fashion.

Thus, the Conclusion No. I is :
There is an Ultimate Knower, working at top of the conscious
hierarchy, which knows itself as "I am."

Yoga gives an experimental "proof". Analysis of the three states
awake, dreaming and deep sleep, as done in several Upanishads,
provide the theoretical basis.

How do I know that I am existing?
A Greek philosopher has said "I think so I am", in other words
it is because I am aware of my thinking that I say that I am.
In Kenopanishad this is called {\skt pratibodhaviditam} -
known by knowing the knowledge.

I need the awareness of my thinking to know that I am. But then
do I stop existing when I am not thinking? e.g. in deep sleep
or deep meditation? No, in deep sleep I am not thinking but I
do exist - may be not as ego, but as the pure Knower.

Is this the Ultimate Knower?
Does it require anything to know that "I am"?

Definition :
The Ultimate Knower does not need anything to know itself.

2) What is the reality of what we see? what we experience?

For example, we have, say, an iron sphere of certain size. What
we see as the sphere is really an arrangement of iron molecules.

It is our eye's (physical+brain support) limitations that make
us see it as something solid. Further, these things called
molecules are made up of atoms, atoms of micro-particles, and
they in turn quarks. This is known from physics till date.

Not satisfied with the reality that we can see, we built
instruments, a kind of extensions to our senses, like electron
microscope.  Now we could see the molecules, bot not atoms,
micro-particles or quarks. A cloud-chamber was built, which
allowed us to "see" particles, but not quarks, and so on ....

Thus our instruments are also limited, they can show us some
reality, but not the Ultimate Reality.

In other words, the information that we gather about the world
is *constrained* by our limitations including those of the
best instruments that we could build.

{I do not understand why physicists do not realize this simple
fact. With better and better instruments, we can hope to
go nearer the Ultimate Reality asymptotically only.}

A stage comes when Heisenberg's Principle comes into play
(though you have told me to keep Quantum Mechanics out of
our discussion, I just mention this to show the limitation.)

Conclusion No. 2 :
The Constraint (of our senses, mind etc.) is the Creator of
the world as we perceive.

OK, so we built the electron-microscope and saw the molecules.
How do we know that atoms, particles, etc.?

That is by inference. Just as my own present existence tells me
that my great-grandfather must have existed, even though I
have not seen him or have any other record of him.

Similarly, we can use foolproof inference (logic) to derive
that quarks must be present. How? we find certain behaviour.
This behaviour is again detected by instruments with their

[If Newton had astigmatic eye sight, he might have seen a
curved path for the falling apple and concluded something
funny about the Earths gravity :-) ]

Conclusion no. 3
The actual reality is definitely not what we percieve, but
we do not yet know what it is.

If I understand physics as it stands today, the "matter" is
localization (wavelets) of energy. What form of energy?
We do not know.

Now, our understanding of the world in terms of quarks is
limited by our present instruments. As th eperceived reality
depends upon the observer (it's equipment), the question
- if we can somehow remove the limitations of the layers of
obervation and analysis done by koshas in the brain
(manomaya, etc.) is it possible to be aware of the Ultimate

Definition :
The Ultimate Reality is one which exists independent of any
separate observer.

May be it is these hierarchy of observers - instruments,
senses, koshas, ... - which limit our capability?

Let us see if this is feasible.

Our conclusion about quarks did not come any direct observation
but from inference from experiments plus logic. This required
analysis/synthesis at higher levels of awareness.

Our model of the world, which is built-up in our mind, i.e.
pranamaya - vijnanamaya koshas, is based on information from
our senses (may be extended by instruments) and inferences
from them. Any new information that we gather, will be
integrated in this network of present knowledge, for us to
"know" something.

As we go down the perceived reality layers, removing layers
of constraints, we also go nearer to the final Knower.

Thus on one side we have Ultimate Reality, which is being
"experienced" without any constraints by some observer and
on other side we have the Ultimate Knower, who does not
need anything else to know.

Conclusion no. 4
If we reach the Ultimate Reality in this process, it must be
the same as the Ultimate Knower, because these are the only
entities which exist under the condition stipulated.

The next step, to show that the same knower is relevant to
all beings - is now easy enough. The Ultimate Reality can
not have parts, it should be extensive (as it is everything
there is). Thus the Ultimate Knower is also homogeneous,
spread thoughtout.

But then what is the nature of this Ultimate Reality?
(i)     it should exist         - {\skt sat}
(ii)    it should be conscious  - {\skt cit}
(iii)   it should not be bothered by the limitations
                                - {\skt aananda}

Actually these are not separate attributes but rather
our view of the Ultimate Reality (just like electron
---> wave/particle).

Then why or how do we see the objects of the world? Why
these limitations in first place? Why do we see stones,
river, individual human beings, etc.?

This is where Vedantins use a comparision with dreams.

The same process which gave us the constrained sense
organs, mind, etc. also seem to generate the objects.
We perceive the objects as they are seen, due to
limitation of our sense organs, mind and intellect.

But how do they arise? Are they not based on the
physical brain?

The brain sense organs, etc. are also objects created
by the same process.

Suppose due to some disease spread throughout the
world, for all of us the colour vision is lost. Then
there is no more colours in the world! The fact is :
previously also there was no colour! and after the
disease also there is no colour, neither was it

Definition :
The Ultimate Reality or Ultimate Knower is called
Atman or Brahman.

This should do for a first-cut.
-- Himanshu

More information about the Advaita-l mailing list