[Advaita-l] Cotard Syndrome and Brahman Realisation

Rajaram Venkataramani rajaramvenk at gmail.com
Tue Jun 5 11:50:24 CDT 2012

There are two types of supernatural powers or siddhis reported by astikas
with respect to their acharyas. The first is the mental type where the
acharya is able to read minds, predict future etc. The second is where he
is able to manifest a physical object including his own body. I do not know
if we will be able to understand these anecdotes logically with a deeper
understanding of the world.  From a vedanta point of view, these siddhis
are the result of certain types of karma and not due to atmajnana.
Ultimately, these siddhis are of no value to a Vedantin because they have
temporary results. The Vedantin's focus is on the realisation "I am
Brahman". Here, through application of pramanas (pratyaksha, anumana,
upamana and especially sabda), one develops a firm conviction that the
perceived world (Jiva, Jagat and Ishwara triad) is a sort of myth (mithya)
and the underlying reality that is completely independent of all objects of
perception, the Self alone is real. I am that. The later afflictions of the
body or the mind (e.g. alzheimer's) or residual ignorance that has to be
only exhausted through experience of prarabda does not interfere with
brahman realisation. There is no rebirth for the jnani. (Thanks Sri
Subrahmanian for your clarifications from a traditional point of view and
hope I got it exactly as you intended to convey).

I was recently having a conversation with someone, who argued that brahman
realisation is most probably a neurological phenomenon. As you know, modern
science does not accept that mind is independent of the brain as our
sastras teach. They have painstakingly mapped different functions of the
mind (logic, creativity etc.) to parts of the brain. Neuroscientists have
started to explain out of body experience as a neurological function.
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/08/070823141057.htm. Eminent
neuroscientists such as Dr. V.S. Ramachandiran are talking about the areas
of brain responsible for the sense of self and qualia.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTWmTJALe1w Basically, they try to explain
why we perceive red when the respective neurons fires and more importantly
why we see ourselves seeing ourselves seeing red! It gets interesting when
neuroscientists study people who believe "This is not my father (mother,
dog or house)", "This is not me",  "I am dead" or "I am immortal".

I argued that tattva jnana about who am I is akin to us analysing that our
bodies are made of water, carbon etc. This understanding of underlying
reality about our body does not bring about noticeable change in our
brains. In the same way, by understanding that I am pure consciousness
through analysis based on veda pramana does not change our brains. Having
said that, it is possible that nidhidhyasana will bring about the changes
in the brain. Continuous suppression of sensory stimulation will lead
removing emotional association with visual and auditory inputs as in the
case of capgras syndrome mentioned about. And profound meditation that I am
the Self and not the body, which appears to be real but is unreal may lead
to the kind of convictions that arise in the case cotard's syndrome. The
main difference will be that these changes will be accompanied not by
sorrow as in the case of these syndromes but an experience of bliss because
of the repeated tuning of the mind to experience bliss from inside rather
than outside.

I would like to know the views of scholars here and our acharyas' views on
the effect of atmajnana on the body and mind.

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