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

V Subrahmanian v.subrahmanian at gmail.com
Fri Jun 8 05:34:07 CDT 2012


The excerpts provided by you, when read together, only confirms the
Vedantic teaching that anything about matter, or for that matter, even
Consciousness, is anirvachaniya, in the sense that nothing can be
categorically stated in respect to them in terms of 'is' or 'is not', etc.
  We are reminded of the famous verse of the Vivekachudamani on matter, or
to be more specific, shakti/mAyA/energy:

sannApyasannApyubhayAtmikA no
    bhinnApyabhinnApyubhayAtmikA no .
sA~NgApyana~NgA hyubhayAtmikA no
    mahAd.hbhutA.anirvachanIyarUpA .. 109..

One cannot say it is 'sat' or 'asat' or both. Is it
different from Brahman or not or both? This is also
not possible to say.  Does it have parts or not or

both? It is impossible to say.  It is very wonderful
beyond speech.

Bhagavan's replies could be seen in the context of the
questioner, the people around, and other such factors.

   (some more comments below)

On Thu, Jun 7, 2012 at 9:46 PM, S Jayanarayanan <sjayana at yahoo.com> wrote:

> (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.

Here, Shakti is not an independent entity; it HAS to depend on Shiva,
Consciousness, for its very 'isness', being.  This is the clear teaching of
Vedanta.  Shankara has said it in several places.  And it cannot act on its
own too.  This too is explicit from the Bh.Gita words.  Shakti, mAyA, is
admitted to be a superimposition, adhyAropa, on Brahman and hence,
non-different from It, ultimately.  In the manner of: 'that which was seen
as a serpent, is really the rope.'   Shankara gives expression to this kind
of analysis in the Bh.Gita bhashya for the verse: 4.24 (brahmArpaNam brahma
//The knower of Brahman perceives the instrument with which he offers
oblation in the fire as Brahman Itself. He perceives it as not existing
separately from the Self, as one sees the non-existence of silver in nacre.
In this sense it is that Brahman Itself is the ladle-just as what appears
as silver is only narcre. 'yathaa yadrajatam tat shuktA eva.'//

> 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.

Yes. This kind of teaching is required, for example, to discriminate,
viveka, the spirit from matter.  For, we are too identified with matter
that the spirit that we are is lost sight of.  In order to show us the
truth, the scripture shows us how to do this viveka.  The best source for
this is perhaps the Bh.Gita 13th chapter which itself is named:
kShetra-kShetrajna vibhAga yogaH. Bhagavan Ramana's above reply could be
seen as a crisp summary of this chapter, which in turn is a summary of the
entire Vedanta shastra.

> 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?

This 'atyanta bhinnatva' is to be emphatically stated by the shAstra in
order to enable the aspirant to see the true state of affairs.  Shankara's
famous 'adhyAsa bhAshya' begins with this teaching: tamaH-prakAshavat
viruddha svabhAvayoH...

Bhagavan is even teaching here the Vedantic siddhAnta that Brahman is
jagatkAraNam but not in the usual sense of something being the cause of
something else, but hinting at the vivartavAda:  if the clay-pot kind of
cause-effect cannot be given, we have to resort to, by force, the
vivartavAda : Brahman alone appears as the world. Consciousness alone
appears as matter.  Again the adhyAsa bhashya puts it so very tellingly.

> 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."

This is the explanation of the vyAvahArika sthiti.  The co-existence of the
Purusha and prakRti is extensively talked of in the scripture.  The
dependence of the prakRti on purusha for its very existence and functioning
and the dependence of the purusha on the prakriti for any act of creation,
etc. is the central message here.  Shankara in the  BSB even explicitly
says: without admitting this shakti, it would be impossible for the
Vedantic Brahman to be the cause of the universe.

> 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?

In a way yes.  I do not know about that ism.  But the Upanishads, by
talking about the antaryAmi, teach that each and every object of creation,
like even night and day, apart from the pancha bhutas, have this
Consciousness in them, which they themselves do not know.  By presenting
Brahman as the sarvAntaryAmin the scripture wants us to appreciate the
infinite nature of Brahman/Consciousness.  It is in and through all
creation.  In fact Shankara specifically makes such comments in the
Taittiriya Upanishad bhashyam:  brahmaNo astitva jnApanAya, Anantya
pratipAdanAt, etc.

> 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."

Yes. This has to be explicitly said too for otherwise the teaching of
viveka would not be effective/complete.  The bhoktR-bhojya duality and the
viveka involved there is an important part of vedantic teaching/learning.

It would be immensely beneficial to note what Shankara says as the
twin-'requirement' for moksha, consistently in two places of this very

BGB 13.26:

यः एवं यथोक्तप्रकारेण (1) वेत्ति पुरुषं साक्षात् अहमिति (2) प्रकृतिं च
यथोक्ताम् अविद्यालक्षणां गुणैः स्वविकारैः सह निवर्तिताम् *अभावम् आपादितां
विद्यया*, सर्वथा सर्वप्रकारेण वर्तमानोऽपि सः भूयः पुनः पतिते अस्मिन्
विद्वच्छरीरे देहान्तराय न अभिजायते न उत्पद्यते, देहान्तरं न गृह्णाति

[Sah yah, he who; vetti, knows, in the manner described; (1) the purusam,
Person, that Self possessed of the characteristics stated above, as 'I
myself (am That)'; and (2) knows prakrtim, Nature, as described above,
which is characterized as ignorance; *to have been eradicated by
Knowledge*, saha, along with; gunaih, the qualities which are its
modifications; na abhijayate, will not be born; bhuyah, again-after the
fall of this body of the man of realization, he does not become born again
for (taking) another body, i.e. he does not take up another body; ..]

BGB 13.34:
-क्षेत्रक्षेत्रज्ञयोः यथाव्याख्यातयोः एवं यथाप्रदर्शितप्रकारेण अन्तरम्
इतरेतरवैलक्षण्यविशेषं ज्ञानचक्षुषा शास्त्राचार्यप्रसादोपदेशजनितम्
आत्मप्रत्ययिकं ज्ञानं चक्षुः, तेन ज्ञानचक्षुषा, भूतप्रकृतिमोक्षं च, भूतानां
प्रकृतिः अविद्यालक्षणा अव्यक्ताख्या, तस्याः भूतप्रकृतेः मोक्षणम् अभावगमनं च
ये विदुः विजानन्ति, यान्ति गच्छन्ति ते परं परमात्मतत्त्वं ब्रह्म, न पुनः
देहं आददते इत्यर्थः।।

13.35 Ye, those who; viduh, know; evam, thus, in the manner described
above; jnana-caksusa, through the eye of wisdom-the eye is the realization
in the form of the knowledge of the Self, which arises from following the
instructions of the scriptures and teachers; through that eye of wisdom;
antaram, the distinction, the particular mutual distinction;
ksetra-ksetrajnayoh, beween the field and the Knower of the field as they
have been explained; and bhuta-prakrti-moksam, *the annihilation of the
Matrix of beings-the Matrix of beings is that which is described as
ignorance and is called the Unmanifest; (those who know) the annihilation
(moksanam) of that Matrix of beings*; te, they; yanti, reach, go to; param,
the Supreme, to Brahman, the Reality which is the suprme Goal. The idea is
that they do not take up a body again.

Thus, one has to not only know that Consciousness is different from matter
but also that matter does not really exist.  Swami Paramarthananda made
this twin-statement:   Consicousness wrongly understood is the world.  The
world correctly understood is Consciousness. [The first is the statement of
the problem and the second is the solution.]


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