Advaita : Some Basic Explanations - 6

hbdave hbd at
Thu Mar 28 02:58:07 CST 2002

Srikrishna Ghadiyaram wrote:

> Hari Om !!
> --- hbdave <hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN> wrote:
> >
> > Dear List Memebrs,
> > Here is posting no. 6.
> > Best to all.
> > -- Himanshu
> > > Advaita : Some Basic Explanations - 6 (Brain)
> >                                                 --
> > Himanshu
> >
> -----------------------------------------------------------
> >
> > In my past potings I have used the word "brain" to
> > denote
> > the activity that takes place in the physical brain
> > of a
> > person. We are not concerned very much about the raw
> > or
> > anatomical brain (though everything takes place
> > there), but
> > more with the *logical*, i.e., working aspect, the
> > actions
> > of its various components and their results. In
> > other words,
> > when we say "brain", what is meant (in these
> > postings) is the
> > functional brain, what the brain is doing.
> >
> While the posting makes an interesting reading, I am
> afraid that what has been taught in the Vedanta
> regarding MIND as subtler than Gross body is deviated
> in your posting, by referring it as "Brain activity".
> even if were to accept these views, it still does not
> explain the sub-conscious and un-conscious MIND rather
> Vasana/Samskara theory which shape even our thoughts.

No, it is not so. All activities, upto Anandamaya Kosha
occurs in the physical brain.
There is no other "higher level" vehicle.
Vedant very carefully calls the Chetana found in
Ahankara etc. due to reflection of Atman. It is compared
witha mirror. Just as ones face is reflected in a mirror, the
Chetan of Atman is reflected on the Chit, i.e. the
intelligence of the brain. Intelligence is a "mechanical"

> We might study the brain waves and pulses under
> certain thought conditions, but the reason for these
> thoughts is not explained by this "brain activity".

True, but manomaya, vijnanamaya and anandamaya koshas
are defined over physical (logical) brain.

> Similarly, your definition of "Brain Activity" +
> Reflection of consciousness theory does not seem to
> fit the model of Ahamkara. Is there a location for
> Ahamkara for your EEG therory and study ?

No, that is not what I said or meant.

> I am afraid
> that you are comparing things of two different realms
> here.

No, I am not doing that.

> How can I compare essence with the bulk ?

You are confusing between the  information/knowledge
and medium through which it is conveyed/handled.

> Or do we redefine our model of Pancha Kosas as
> increasingly subtle ?

Please read through my (or any other) description of
five Koshas carefully; you will realize that the complete
hierarchy of five Koshas is basically concerned with
acceptance/delivery of data (what is k.a. Anna in Upanishads)
interpreting the data in form of information and absorbtion/
integration of information in form of knowledge.
Over which medium this is done, is not given directly in

What each kosha is doing is abstraction/summary of the
ascending information and detailing/developing of the
descending information.

> Please comment.

PLease see the attached note for further details.

> Om Namo Narayanaya !!
> Srikrishna

Answers for posting no. 8 will be taken up next!
Best wishes,
-- Himanshu
-------------- next part --------------
The Physical (Logical) Brain and Pancha Koshas :

There seems to be some doubts and confusion about how the physical
(or what I have considered as logical) brain, consisting of
neurons and their inter-connections, signals passing between them,
can achieve the higher order functions envisaged in the Panch

I have already discussed this in my posting no. 6, but there seems
to be some doubts.

In short, one should realize that the complete Kosha hierarchy is
concerned with acceptance/delivery of data (what is called
Anna in Upanishads), interpreting the data in form of information,
and absorbtion/integration of the information in form of knowledge.

What each Kosha is doing is abstraction/summarizing of the ascending
information and detailing/developing of the descending information.

Over which medium this is done is not discussed directly in Vedanta.
There are some indirect indications, e.g. "during sleep the Prana
resides in Hita Nadi" [Br. Up. II-1-19]. Some further details about
the Nadis in which Prana move about are given in [Br. Up. IV-2-3 and

More detailed studies show that the medium is the signals passed
between neurons.

[A] Now we go into some more details.

First, we should understand the following terms and their heirarchy,
concerned with knowledge gathering :

The process of knowledge transfer takes place as :

signals --> data --> information --> knowledge

signals - are modifications of some physical medium. For example, when
you are listening to some music from a stereo system, the sound waves
reaches your ears as signals which are modifications of the air pressure.

In our case of brain activity, the electrical potential and release of
certain chemicals at interconnections by the neurons are signals.

Data - (Anna in Upanishads) these signals are interpreted as data, i.e.
pieces of information, which have some agreed upon (i.e. pre-determined)
interpretation or meaning.
For example, when you send a telegram, the signals are electrical current
on the telegraph wire, data is the Morse code sent, "dih dah" for A,
"dah dit dit dit" for B, etc. The "dah" and "dit" are simply long and
short duration electrical current pulse, resply.

In case of the brain, the data is a particular sequence (or pulse rate) of
the neuron signals.

Information - a collection of data is interpreted by a set of pre-arranged
rules to represent some fact. That fact is information.

For example, when you send a telegram to your friend "Greetings 5", the
data would be the actual letters G R E E T etc., and information would be
"Many Happy Returns of the Day". Your friend receives this as information.

In case of the brain, infromation is various facts which we gather from
inputs about the world (external environment) or ourself (internal

Note that this information may be at any level of abstraction, as we shall
discuss further below.

Knowledge - is the information absorbed/integrated into the present store
of knowledge of the knower. When integrated thus, the given information
becomes knowledge.

Thus in a way Knower is a sink (final destination) of information.

Note very well that the first three entities are "passive" in the sense
that they can be defined or discussed independent of an observer. They are
"mechanical". The fourth, "knowledge" is not so. It is defined with
reference to a knower.

The knower has two aspects - one, which collects and integrates information,
and two, which knows that the knowledge is there. Thus normally, a knower
always requires another knower, who knows about the knowledge held or
received by the first knower.

[As we have already seen in our discussion of Vedanta, there has to be a
final or Ultimate Knower and that is Atman. But we are jumping the queue.]

Now, can the pysical (logical) brain made up of neurons etc., which is
nothing but matter, handle higher or abstarct (or as someone has put it -
subtle) ideas?

The above discussion must have told you that this is entirely possible, in
fact, all the things known about the brain points to the conclusion that
this is how it works. Though the Greeting Telegram was sent over physical
wires, using physical signals, using mechanical equipment, the information
conveyed to the person is at higher level. The idea that "my friend has
remembered me via this telegram" is even higher level. The joy arising out
of it is at still higher level.

Still, for those who are not yet convinced, let us take another example.

Post Office deals with letters, each written (or typed) on some paper with
ink. As far as the Post Office is concerned, they are dealing with these
physical medium of messages only. But individual letter may contain trivial
or important message (higher or subtler), a poem (still higher), a love
letter (still higher), etc.

Thus one should realize - and this is very important - that same physical
medium may carry messages having any level of information. The level of
abstraction or subtality is concern of the interpreter, i.e. the Knower.

Let us look at another example from slightly different angle.

In a office of a company, the executives are gathered to discuss the
sales and financial position. One executive, A, is presenting facts,
using a projetor which projects the facts on a screen. It happens that
the CEO is blind (!). So, another executive, B, goes on describing what
he is seeing on the screen to the CEO. Of course, B will not spell out
each and every small and minute details of the presentation, he will
give a summary, a general picture of *each slide*. From this the CEO
gets whatever he wants to understand about the state of the company.

Now, the owner of the company {who does not like cigarette smoke :-)},
seats in an adjoining room. At the end of the meeting in the outer
room, the CEO will go to the owner and simply say "our company is
OK (or not OK and this is what is bad)."

The projector screen is our surface consciousness (where whatever
we are thinking gets projected). Executive A is Pranamaya Kosha.
Remaining analogy you can work out yourself.


[B] Let us see this from side of Vedanta :
We have already seen that :
        Jiva = Chidabhasa + Sakshi (Kutastha)
        Jiva = Sakshi conditioned by Avidya (or Maya if you do not want to
                                                be too specific)

Happy  (Chidabhasa) <--> Kutastha               +--------  --------+
Knower                                          | +--------------+ |
Thinker                                         | | Kutastha     | |
Sensor                                          | +--------------+ |
Body                                            |  Avidya          |
One view of Jiva                         Second view of Jiva

Both these view are equivalent.
{Notice that small opening at the top? It is Brahmarandhra.}

Now Avidya (being a particular type of Maya) consists of the three gunas
as :
        a small amount of Satvika guna, overshadowed by
        larger amounts of Rajasika and Tamasika guna.

Now what are these gunas (aspects)?
        Satvika  -      consciousness (causal manifestation)
        Rajasika -      information (subtle manifestation)
                        (and NOT energy or motion as some have interpreted)
        Tamasika -      matter, movement, energy (gross manifestation)

These aspects give rise to five Mahabhutas etc.
Now, as a part of the Rajasika and Tamasika aspect, the physical (logical)
brain is created and operative.
In other words, the brain is a direct result of Avidya, which includes
Tamasika, the gross (matter, energy) aspect.

I hope this should make things clear.

-- Himanshu

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