[Advaita-l] Mind and Matter in Bhagavan's Teachings

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Thu Jun 7 11:16:43 CDT 2012

(This is an old posting that I didn't send out to the list, as I didn't think it was relevant, but here it is, as my questions may also be someone else's)
There are a few teachings in "Talks with Ramana Maharshi" concerning Mind and Matter that I felt were very cryptic. Here they are, along with my doubts:

1) Has Bhagavan said that matter and spirit are the same or different?

Bhagavan has said that matter and spirit are the same:

23rd October,1936
Talk 268.

M.: There is no difference between matter and spirit. Modern science admits that all matter is energy. Energy is power or force (sakti). Therefore all are resolved in Siva and Sakti i.e., the Self and the Mind.

Bhagavan has also said that matter and spirit are different:

3rd May,1938
Talk 487.

M.: The spirit is differentiated from matter and is full of life. The body is animated by it.

Bhagavan has again said that matter and spirit are as different as light and darkness:

21st January,1939
Talk 613.

A young man asked: "Are thoughts mere matter?"
M.: What do you mean? Do you mean 'matter' like the things you see around you?
D.: Yes - gross.
M.: Who asks this question? Who is the thinker?
D.: The thinker is spirit.
M.: Do you then mean that spirit generates matter?
D.: I want to know.
M.: How do you distinguish between matter and spirit?
D.: Spirit is consciousness and the other not.
M.: Can consciousness generate non-consciousness, or light darkness?

But Bhagavan has said that mind and matter co-exist:

4th February,1935
Talk 25.

"While Self or Spirit is unmanifest and inactive, there are no relative doubles; e.g., subject and object - drik and drisya. If the enquiry into the ultimate cause of manifestation of mind itself is pushed on, mind will be found to be only the manifestation of the Real which is otherwise called Atman or Brahman. The mind is termed sukshma sarira or ‘subtle-body’; and jiva is the individual soul. The jiva is the essence of the growth of individuality; personality is referred to as jiva. Thought or mind is said to be its phase, or one of the ways in which the jiva manifests itself - the earlier stage or phase of such manifestation being vegetative life. This mind is always seen as being related to, or acting on, some non-mind or matter, and never by itself. Therefore mind and matter co-exist."

2) Does Bhagavan mean that inanimate objects have souls?

31st January,1935
Talk 22.

D.: Is it not killing life to prepare meat diet?
M.: Ahimsa stands foremost in the code of discipline for the yogis.
D.: Even plants have life.
M.: So too the slabs you sit on!

There is a philosophical viewpoint call "panpsychism" which claims that all matter is conscious. Is Bhagavan alluding to this viewpoint?

But Bhagavan has also said that inanimate objects are different from the Self:

5-3-46 Evening ("Day by Day with Bhagavan" by Devaraja Mudaliar)

"Bhagavan has told us that the analogy is wrong and misleading. The honey is something inert and unconscious, a conscious being is required to taste it and enjoy it. On the other hand, the Self is consciousness and bliss itself and it is absurd to argue that when one becomes that, the Self, one will not be able to enjoy bliss and that one must remain separate to enjoy it."

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