[Advaita-l] Locus of feeling in Advaita

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Fri Jul 21 20:42:57 CDT 2006

Replies to Mahesh Ursekar and Siva Senani Nori:

> Mahesh Ursekar <mahesh.ursekar at gmail.com> wrote:
>   Pranams:
> Can somebody let me know the Advaitic view on the locus of fleeling
> e.g. of
> pleasure and pain?

The locus of pleasure and pain, AFAIK, is in the individual body
and/or ahaMkAra. This is covered in some detail in the

--- Siva Senani Nori <sivasenani at yahoo.com> wrote:

> Interesting mind game! Let me think aloud. My body is a collection
> of the atoms of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorous,
> calcium, sodium, potassium and so on. In other words it is
> inanimate.


> Yet it moves, seemingly without an external force.
> Obviously it would not if 'I' were to 'die'.

Not really. It is not obvious that the body "moves without an
external force" - when you walk, you make use of the frictional force
between your body and the ground. If there were no "external forces",
the body simply wouldn't move, as for example, an astronaut floating
in space cannot move his body by himself.

Besides, a robot can also be seen to "move without an external
force", would that make the robot a jIvAtmA?

> So 'my' Atman is
> pervading the body and animates the whole thing.

Do you have a scriptural reference for saying that in advaita
VedAnta, the Atman pervades the individual body?

I've come across this teaching that the "Atman pervades the
individual body" mostly in neo-Vedantic circles, but haven't found
this teaching in any of Sankara's works (so far).

> But since Atman is
> one why does it not move 'somebody else's' body? 

The Atman being a "mover" of the body doesn't seem advaitic, because
the Atman does not act.

>   I recollect a similar discussion. Once I was driving my Guruji to
> a veda pAthaSAla where his son was the teacher. Early in the
> morning, on an empty road, we were travelling a bit on the faster
> side. He asked me how I was able to control the car at 100 kmph or
> thereabouts, which is maybe 10, 20 times the normal speed that the
> body is built for. I said, it is all reflex action and that I
> cannot explain it any further. He suggested that at that moment I
> am spread all over the car, my body were extended so to speak, and
> I control it in the same way that I control my body. That
> immediately appealed to me: we do refer to a nose of the car, and
> to the back of the car (in Telugu, the expression is rather more
> colourful) and do figuratively refer to the vehicle being an
> extension of the body. Even as I contemplated, he then said: "we
> should think of the human body as the car, and the driver as the
> Atman. The Atman pervades the body even as you extend to the whole
> of this car."
>  (This is in some aspects similar to the e famous analogy of the
> chariot, the charioteer etc. which occurs in both Upanishads and
> Gita.)

The analogy given in the upanishads is that the Atman is the
"passenger", and *not* the "driver" of the body. For even "driving"
is an action, while the Atman is merely a Witness.

>   To come back to Ursekarji's question, whether the locus of
> feelings be Atman or manas, it cannot be argued that Atman should
> pervade all bodies since it is but one. This is an issue of
> definition, and so it must be understood that the influence of
> Atman in the vyAvahArika world is limited to one body, much like
> the influence of the 'strong force' is, by definition, limited to
> the atomic scale. 

I wanted to reply to Mahesh's posting in greater detail, but besides
Subhanu Saxena, no one has taken pains to write clearly about

Basically, the Self in advaita is not grounded in action, but in
Perception - Seer/Seeing, Hearer/hearing, etc. Since Perception
cannot be derived out of the elements constituting the body, the only
explanation is that the Self, which is of the very nature of
Perception, has the body superimposed on It. Sankara explains this in
his commentary on brahma sUtra 3.3.54.

Science has so far not completely explained Perception, e.g. Visual
Perception does not seem to end in the brain for various reasons. You
can
I will try and post something more about this subject later.


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