[Advaita-l] Cotard Syndrome and Brahman Realisation

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Wed Jun 6 13:12:31 CDT 2012

On Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 11:01 PM, Rajaram Venkataramani <
rajaramvenk at gmail.com> wrote:

> There are some slokas such as bhaja govindam which talk about an ardent
> sadhaka acting as a mad man. But I did not say that a jnani is mentally ill
> because I guess understand the spirit of these verses and have at least
> some respect for our traditions. In fact I argue below that tattva jnana is
> like understanding the nature of reality akin to understanding that the
> body is made of carbon, water etc. I just think that certain practices such
> as nidhidhyasana *may* bring about neurological changes. If we see a
> picture of food, there will be saliva in the mouth. If we keep telling
> ourselves that this is just a picture and not real food, we may not
> salivate after repeated conditioning. Like that, if we repeatedly tell
> ourselves that the world is mithya we should expect that we will not react
> with attraction or aversion as a normal person would. It is logical to
> expect that a similar reaction will happen if we damage the portions of the
> brain responsible for causing response to stimuli (as in the case of
> diseases).
> But I think a jnani is able to reverse the conditioning instantaneously.
> So, the question was whether his brain undergoes a change or not?

There is the example of a certain 'bhramara kITaH'  to convey the idea that
constant, intenseful, thinking/contemplation of / on Brahman will 'turn'
one into Brahman.  This example is quite often used in Vedanta.  Also, for
example, the Atma bhoda of Shankara has this verse:

evaM nirantarakRtA brahmaivAsmi iti *vAsanA*
harati avidyA-vikShepAn rogAn iva rasAyanam  35

Thus, the constant practice of 'aham brahma asmi' becomes ingrained as a
strong vAsanA which dispels avidyA and the projections, just as a medicinal
concoction would cure a disease.

Vedanta accepts that the sAdhana is at the level of the mind.  That is the
reason it emphasizes a fit mental apparatus at the sadhana-culmination
period.  In the place of anaatma vAsana that lies deeply ingrained in the
mind, the counter to it, the brahmavAsanA, is to be put in place.  That way
we can say that the exercise is at the mind-level. And indeed it is.  If
one is able to show that there are changes taking place at the brain
centres it would not be counter to Vedanta.  But, in Vedanta, the mind, not
the brain, is said to transmigrate, along with the vAsanA-s.  The Bh.Gita
says: aneka janma samsiddhaH tato yAti parAm gatim...bahUnAm janmaNaam ante
jnAnavAn mAm prapadyate.  Shankara says: in each life, janma, one adds a
little to the sAdhana/siddhi and finally becomes freed.  This shows that it
is the sUkshma sharIram consisting of the mind that is the repository of
samskAra-s that remains in all the janma-s.  We cannot say this with the
brain which evidently belongs to the sthUla sharIram and is not
transmigrating; it is burnt / buried.

Maybe one could say this:  Just as it is admitted that one's form, rUpa
saundarya, the efficiency of sense organs, motor organs (hands, legs, etc.)
are the result of karma, one might say that the brain that one gets is a
result of his past karma.  So, in accordance with the karma/sadhana/vasana
the brain could be said to have/undergo the necessary change to dictate the
behaviour of that jIva/person.

I have heard Swami Paramarthananda say: the brain could be admitted to be
the physical/gross operating organ of the subtle mind. [ This could be
compared to the subtle 'indriya-s' which operate through the gross
'goLaka-s', the orifices.  ]

It is also true that jnani-s sometimes behave like a lunatic.  It is also
possible that due to prarabdha any disease, of the body or the mind, can
afflict a jnani too.  And at that time his behaviour could be surely
despicable, very un-jnAni.  When I posed this question long ago to a
Jnanin, the reply was: If the concerned Jnanin is a jivanmukta of a very
high order, then he will be able to even be a witness to his own odd
behaviour.  But, in any case, there will be no damage to his realization
because of such afflictions.  For, the shAstram is the only pramaaNam in
things supersensuous.  The shAstram says, without qualifying, the jnAni's
praaNa-s (sukshma shariram) do not transmigrate.  And science does not
accept rebirth/transmigration/samsara/moksha.  And the shAstram accepts
afflictions to a jnani's body-mind apparatus owing to prarabdha.

I am only thinking aloud taking the question posed by Sri Rajaram as the
'prashna bIjam'.  Members are welcome to point out errors in my


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