Need Self Discipline & Faith to defeat Virus

Practical self disciplines to come over Covid-19

We are all now facing great challenges and uncertainties due to Covid-19 and current situation in India especially Second wave of the Virus is causing more harm to health of the beings than earlier. In these times we all should hold our nerves and should not get panic due to unfounded fear, depend upon God and calmly try to find the best means to solve the problem.

The following are the best practical advises given by Swami Chetanananda, must be followed get immense benefit and free from all kinds of fears:

Human beings live in three planes: physical, intellectual and spiritual. So under such circumstances here are some positive and practical suggestions. Please note that each of you will need to consider which suggestions are applicable for your particular circumstances.

  1. Think that you have 2 months’ vacation and have decided to go to a lovely, meditative place, or to go to Uttarkashi or Rishikesh in the Himalayas to practice austerity in a cave. This kind of thought will take away the homebound feeling.
  2. As you are at home all 24 hours, make a routine: One hour japa and meditation and study before breakfast, lunch, and supper. Morning study: one chapter of the Gita, noon study: a lecture of Vivekananda’s Jnana Yoga, and evening study: Gospel of Ramakrishna. These three hours will keep you in the spiritual plane. If you wish, devote more time. This will help develop faith and a close relationship with our Ishta (Chosen Deity), which will make us strong and free from anxiety.
  3. Work 6 hours a day: personal business, homework, cleaning, cooking, and so on. Engage yourself with a project and do something constructive.
  4. While cooking and cleaning, listen to some bhajans, or music, or listen to some lectures of the swamis from YouTube. Always keep your mind engaged with something.
  5. Help others, if you can, but from a distance (6 feet).
  6. Exercise is very important: Do what you can at home or outdoors; do some yoga asanas in the morning before meditation; or do some freeform exercise in the morning and in the afternoon walk for an hour.
  7. Those who have a reading habit, please take a Vedanta book and read thoroughly: My suggestion: Gospel of Ramakrishna, Ramakrishna and His Divine Play, Holy Mother and Her Divine Play, Swamiji’s four yogas.
  8. Watch something funny or interesting from the internet. The other day I watched B.K.S Iyenger demonstrating hatha yoga in London in 1985. He is amazing.
  9. Ramakrishna said: Religion is not possible for an empty stomach. Please keep appropriate food at home and eat only what is needed for your level of activity. Follow basic hygiene (especially wash your hands with soap thoroughly and avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth).

When human efforts fail, we seek divine help. Let us pray to the Divine Mother: “O Devi, when satisfied, you destroy all illness.

No calamity befalls human beings who have taken refuge in you. Those who have received your grace, they become truly a refuge for others.” Chandi, 11:29

Swami Vivekananda Response to Epidemic in 1899

Lets relate to current Pandemic Responses and to improvise the Situation in India

When the Plague first made its appearance in Calcutta in May 1898, Swamiji, along with other sannyasis including Swami Sadananda and Bhagini Nivedita wanted to start relief operations immediately to help the afflicted. The plague epidemic that seized Calcutta created mass hysteria.

The first thing Swamiji did was draft a plague manifesto. Due to the hard work of Sadananda and Nivedita, the manifesto reached the greater part of the population and considerably reassured them. 

Here is the full text of The Plague Manifesto

THE PLAGUE MANIFESTO

Salutations to Bhagavan Shri Ramakrishna & Brothers of Calcutta! 

1. We feel happy when you are happy, and we suffer when you suffer. Therefore, during these days of extreme adversity, we are striving and ceaselessly praying for your welfare and an easy way to save you from disease and the fear of an epidemic. 

2. If that grave disease — fearing which both the high and the low, the rich and the poor are all fleeing the city — ever really comes in our midst, then even if we perish while serving and nursing you, we will consider ourselves fortunate because you are all embodiments of God. He who thinks otherwise — out of vanity, superstition or ignorance — offends God and incurs great sin. There is not the slightest doubt about it. 

3. We humbly pray to you — please do not panic due to unfounded fear. Depend upon God and calmly try to find the best means to solve the problem. Otherwise, join hands with those who are doing that very thing. 

4. What is there to fear? The terror that has entered people’s hearts due to the occurrence of the plague has no real ground. Through God’s will, nothing of the terrible form that plague takes, as seen in other places, has occurred in Calcutta. The government authorities have also been particularly helpful to us. So what is there to fear? 

5. Come, let us give up this false fear and, having faith in the infinite compassion of God, gird our loins and enter the field of action. Let us live pure and clean lives. Disease, fear of an epidemic, etc., will vanish into thin air by His grace. 

6. (a) Always keep the house and its premises, the rooms, clothes, bed, drain, etc., clean.

(b) Do not eat stale, spoiled food; take fresh and nutritious food instead. A weak body is more susceptible to disease.      

(c) Always keep the mind cheerful. Everyone will die once. Cowards suffer the pangs of death again and again, solely due to the fear in their own minds.

(d) Fear never leaves those who earn their livelihoods by unethical means or who cause harm to others. Therefore, at this time when we face the great fear of death, desist from all such behaviour.       

(e) During the period of epidemic, abstain from anger and from lust — even if you are householders.       

(f) Do not pay any heed to rumours.       

(g) The British government will not vaccinate anyone by force. Only those who are willing will be vaccinated       

(h) There will be no lack of effort in treating the afflicted patients in our hospital under our special care and supervision, paying full respect to religion, caste and the modesty (Purdah) of women.

Let the wealthy run  away! But we are poor; we understand the heartache of the poor. The Mother of the Universe is Herself  the support of the helpless.

The Mother is assuring us: “Fear not! Fear not!” 

7. Brother, if there is no one to help you, then send information immediately to the servants of Shri Bhagavan Ramakrishna at Belur Math. There will be no dearth of help that is physically possible. By the grace of the Mother, monetary help will also be possible. — N. B. In order to remove the fear of the epidemic, you should sing Nâma Sankirtanam.

Lets understand that it is not first time Mother India & its children facing difficulties & uncertainties like now, but its time to revive our strength and courage by remembering the great souls of Mother Nation like Swamiji and all other Saints & Sages whose “Tapas” is ever working for healing the Nation from sufferings and hope very soon Glory comes back to the Nation and smiles blossom on the faces of its children.

Salutations to Nation, Saints & Sages !!!!

Sources: Complete-Works / Volume 9 / Writings: Prose and Poems. Prabudha Bharata Vol 111; May 1, 2006)

Shankara Jayanthi – 17th May

Note: The content is drawn from Swami Sivananda article on Shankara Jayanthi of Divine Life Society, Rishikesh

Religion is Realization

Religion is realization; it is not mere learning—this is the divine message which stands deeply in the minds of every Hindu. This is not a mere fancy. This is not a mental conception. This is not a stretch of imagination.

This is the assertion of Shankara, India’s greatest philosopher-saint, the incarnation of Lord Shiva, reverently known as Sri Adi Shankaracharya.

Sri Adi Sankaracharya

Shankara was born at a time when Indian thought and culture were decaying; when they underwent sore distraction; when ethical glory and the widespread influence of the Buddhistic cult was gradually dying; when there was complete chaos and confusion; when innumerable sects sprang up and, with their own individual doctrines, confounded the masses; when evil social influences and blind superstitions, garbed falsely in the clothes of religion, attracted the credulous masses into a frenzy, and ambushed them into complete ignorance of the ultimate Reality. There were no less than seventy-two cults and sects of this type which carried away people from the right path. 

It was only Shankara who gave the unshakable concrete form to Hinduism and established the unity and purity of enlightened Hindu thought and culture. Superstitions and corrupt practices melted away in no time.

His victory over other systems of philosophy was not due to a stubborn grip onto his own faith and reasoning without considering the pros and cons of others. He had mastered even the minutest intricacies of the other theories. The underlying currents of his thoughts were the foundations of the other systems. It is for this reason alone that his philosophy was recognized with much reverence by all the other schools of thought.

The secret of his conquest and the charm therein lay in his most apt and reasonable illustrations in every case. He never based his arguments on theoretical axioms and un-testified hypotheses, but entirely on integral experience. Further, all his arguments were based upon the Vedas as well, which are genuine and authoritative.

Shankara never entered into hot discussions to substantiate his case or disprove others’ theories. With his gigantic intellect he poured out his masterly exposition in simple and clear terms with the same supreme authority of the Gita, Upanishads and the Brahma Sutras, the self-evident validity of the Sruti Pramana.

Sri Shankara with his diSciples

Philosophy of Shankara is not restricted to the highly intellectual. It is within the easy reach of even the layman. With his profound knowledge, all-comprehensive learning, keen intuitive insight and convincing explanations, he has erected the strong edifice of Vedanta, equally accessible to the scholar and the layman. How effectively he prescribed “Bhaja Govindam” to the scholar who was racking his brains in committing various scriptures to memory!

Vedanta is not the only aspect of philosophy he has preached to the world. He has entered the heart of every earnest seeker after truth. He encourages the worship of various forms of the Lord and greatly advocates Bhakti. Without a tinge of partiality to one form or the other, he has composed innumerable hymns, each brimming with devotion and philosophical truth, each inculcating divine ecstasy and perennial joy even in the tender undeveloped mind. His untiring work for the welfare of mankind marks him out as a veritable, dynamic Karma Yogi.

His devotion to his Guru is very high. Read what he says: “Any person who realizes ‘I am That Brahman’ through the unparalleled mercy and glance of the Sadguru, loses all feelings of doubt and, with his mind free from illusion, attains liberation even while living in the body”.

On this auspicious day of Shankara Jayanthi study his works, pray and meditate.

Glory to Adi Shankaracharya, Glory to Lord Siva!!!

May you be showered with his blessings!

A Grand Synthesis by Indian Ancient Philosophy on Cosmos: Discerning Ancient Wisdom from Modern Science

Juturi Ravi Kumar Reddy

*Associate Professor, Shri Vishnu College of Pharmacy, Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh, India – 534202

Abstract

In the most ancient Indian texts, in the Rigveda, one of the hymns famously known as ‘nasadiya suktham’ says when there was neither existence nor non-existence what existed? In profound depths what existed at the beginning from which everything else has emerged. Answers to these questions were found, in the most ancient times. In the Vedas and Upanishads, these answers are found. But the questions are asked again and again and answers are restated. It is the wisdom of the ancient philosophers but now stated in the language of modern scientists. As far as the macrocosm (the universe) concerns the ancients are contributed a lot, now our understanding is much deeper with modern physics and cosmology. As far as the microcosm (mind & consciousness) concerns Vedanta and other Indian systems of Philosophy have very valid and deep insights. This is much more than modern understanding given by consciousness studies. Modern science has an edge over ancient wisdom in describing the universe with the help of physics, chemistry and describes the body with the help of biology and physiology. But closer and closer it comes to our selves, the ancient wisdom is better than modern science. A grand synthesis and profound understanding of Indian Ancient philosophy on macrocosm & microcosm, root cause of human suffering, ancient wisdom to remove suffering, “Law of Karma” and its implications are presented in detail in this hypothesis

Introduction

Our experience of the world is subject & object, all our experiences throughout life are ourselves and everything else out there, so the investigation into everything else nothing but ‘objective world’ is the subject matter of ‘Macrocosm’. An investigation into ‘human personality’ is the subject matter of ‘Microcosm’. Subjects and objects are the basic structure of our experience. So all of our investigations will be in one or the other. So this vast universe and its beauty, magnificence its stars, planets, nebulae, mountains, and oceans. What is it and where did all this come from? What is it destiny? 1

In time, our place as a human being in the universe is so little, humanity started a few million years ago in the scale of billions of years. So we do not know, since ancient times onwards almost this is the great question from where did all this come from? Origin of the universe? 1

Now comes to the most fundamental questions of humanity, what are we? What are the purpose and ultimate destiny of humanity? The purpose of life?  How are we to overcome suffering? All these fundamental questions of human existence take up for consideration from ancient times.1 We shall investigate this from ancient Indian philosophy which expressed in harmony with modern knowledge and its latest findings. The essential principles from ancient Indian texts are relevant even today in terms of modern physics and cosmology.

Investigation into Macrocosm

When we look at this universe, what do we see? One thing is that we see patterns like when we plant a seed then a tree develops grows bigger and goes back again as a seed and this becomes a plant. Here what is first is a separate question but we can notice the pattern like how water becomes vapor, goes up and dances in the space but when it reaches a higher altitude it gets transformed into water then comes down as rain falls into rivers and ponds and again later on go up in the form as vapor. This is called the water cycle. In another case, high Himalayan towering Mountains one time underwater after eons of the time these transformed into sand goes into oceans later after millions of years becomes Mountains.  After seeing this, one can discern a pattern or cycle. Today modern science has understood these facts.2

Principle of Causality is originated from Ancients

Thousands of years ago, an ancient philosopher was known as Kapila saw this pattern in nature and gave the principle of causality. From cause comes effect and effect becomes cause again for the next effect in this way cause and effect go in a cycle.

If it is to be true that nature is uniform what we see in the little slice of the world is what we experience, if this be the pattern of the universe and there is nothing to show otherwise because science depends on the uniformity of nature. So, by knowing a grain of sand we will know the secret of the universe. If it is true that nature is uniform what we see in one little experience of nature we can extrapolate that to the entire universe. This is the proposition of Kapila’s philosophy. The entire universe was at one time in a seed state or unmanifest state (potential state) and then it has become this manifested universe. So the creation of the universe means manifested or fully realized state but the origin of this is from a potential state. Hence, there must have been a state where this diversity was not there, it was in a seed state, all-stars, planets and galaxies, plants and animals are probably of a single point, Kapila gave it the name Prakriti (Nature) the root nature from which diversifies into this entire universe. This is a great principle called causality (“Sat Karya Vada” in Sanskrit). That means the effect which we see now is pre-existed in some cause.3

What is ‘creation’, cause becoming the effect, from unmanifest becoming the manifest, from manifest becoming unmanifest is ‘destruction’. So, going from cause to effect (unmanifest to manifest) is the creation, and going back to cause is the destruction (manifest to unmanifest). The death means transforming cause to effect or vice versa like a tree dies but its potentiality is now in the seed which again germinates and grows into plant.4 This is logical because all diversity that we see in the universe has come from nothing. It means creation never comes out of nothing. Something comes out of something. At the most we can say from the unmanifest manifest has come or from the undiversified to diversity has come. Like in the seed, we do not see roots, leaves, stem, branches, flowers, fruits of the tree. But they are there in the potential form in the seed. Today we understand the same in genetics and we confirmed all the information is there in the DNA form of a tree. A tiny embryo consists of entire information of the human body to transform in time. This is what understood in principle at the time of Kapila at ancient times in India.

Theory of Evolution

This is a major development in modern thought from Darwin onwards. But we find this idea firmly in place thousands of years ago in Indian thought. But there is a difference between Darwinian evolution theory and the way Sankhyans understood this phenomenon of evolution. In modern evolution theory, we understand that the genetic material undergoes constant mutation, and at the macro-level means environment keeps on changing, and some of these mutations are favored for survival because they match what the environment requires. This is broadly known as “survival of the fittest”. The suitable mutation will survive and they propagate and progress further into evolution. But Kapila says, these are not the source of evolution, these are the ones which bring out the potential but the source of the evolution and why evolution happens is that all of this is potential already exist in the cause just as a particular human being develops from an embryo, as the plant develops from the seed. It’s not just because of the pressure of the environment, in the case of each individual it’s the genetic material which uncoils. This was the idea of the evolution of these Indian ancients.So, all potential is there in nature and over time it evolves in the universe. This is beautifully reflected in the ancient Hindu philosophy in Dasavatar (ten incarnations of God). Where incarnations of god evolve from animal forms like fish, tortoise to half-human & half-animal to a human form, this is showing the idea of evolution of forms at ancient times.

Involution

The idea of involution from ancients is that one day this universe which all with its diversity will go back into the seed form containing all this diversity but inhomogeneous form means we cannot see stars, planets, galaxies, mountains, oceans, animals and human beings. But the potentiality of all this is now in the seed form and which will be cause for the creation of next universe.2, 4

Theory of the Evolution became Enemy to Religious idea

One of the biggest blows to religious thinking has been the idea of evolution. After seeing, this variety of life, vast diversity, an extremely sophisticated design we find in a human body, the first reaction of thinkers there must have been a creator who designed this entire universe with all its diversity. But then Darwin came with the theory of evolution and showed all this complexity and this design can emerge out of evolution, it doesn’t require an external creator or designer to create all these forms. Complex designs can emerge out of natural processes just by the process of struggle to survive and constant random mutation of genetic material it is possible to have ever most sophisticated bodies. So with this theory of Darwin evolution, the argument for the existence of the god is knocked out. This is a way for modern science now showing that evolution can take the role of what god in religion is supposed to do for creating the universe.

The truth of the Religion

As per the idea of Indian ancients, adding the idea of involution then the whole idea of evolution and involution are taken together actually proves the truth of religion. How does it do so, the highest in the evolution like Christ man in Christianity or Buddha man in Buddhists and freeman of the yogis called Jivanmukta (free while living) of vedantins all of this there must have been wherein potential form in the first protoplasm of life, even further into a singularity at the beginning of the universe from there the emergence of the matter, energy, space, time to the emergence of stars and planets to the emergence of life and to the evolution of life to the emergence of intelligence and the evolution of civilization to the coming of spirituality and the religion and the appearance of these highly spiritually evolved human beings in the sense of morals, unselfishness, spiritual insights all of this must have been there at the beginning of the universe also in an unmanifest form. 5, 6 This is the idea of evolution and involution of the universe by the ancient Indians. That ultimate reality which exists at the beginning emerges as a seed and which evolves into this magnificent universe and goes back into the seed, behind it all giving it existence, making it all possible is that ultimate reality is the supreme power called ‘God’. This is the actuality in saying god created this universe. This ultimate reality is called “Brahman” in Vedanta which is the nature of existence, consciousness, and bliss (Sat Chit Ananda) which appear as this universe. 7  Hence, if we combine the idea of evolution and involution then evolution instead of them being the enemy of religion will prove the truth of the religion.

Final form of Vedanta on Macrocosm

The final form of the Vedantic theory going from Sankhyan theory is that there is this existence, consciousness bliss called Brahman or ultimate reality which appears as this universe and this universe goes through a cycle of manifestation of God and transformation of nature (Brahma Vivartha, Prakriti Parinama) which is the combination of ‘evolution & involution’. That means nature cycles between unmanifest and manifest this is called creation but God remaining at the background gives it entire thing existence. God is called as ‘Saguna Brahman’ in Vedanta means Brahman with attributes. Existence, consciousness, and bliss associated with ‘nature’ (Prakriti or Maya in Sanskrit) is the idea of God (Saguna Brahman) in Vedanta. 8 Going forward from Sankhya to Advaita Vedanta Philosophy the final understanding is that, there is a fundamental reality that appears as this universe in this appearance it goes through creation means the manifestation of diversity and destruction means back to unmanifest. But in the unmanifest entire potentiality is always there nothing new appears. Vedanta further says this universe is the creation of the Brahman rather it is the projection of the Brahman rather it is Brahman itself.

Microcosm

After examining and having considered the macrocosm and the universe, now the question is turned inwards, attention is drawn to the subject from the macrocosm to microcosm like who am I? What is the purpose of life? What am I to do in all these vast creation? What is my destiny? These are questions from the most ancient times in Indian Philosophy. When everything destroyed and the body is buried is there something left over? If something survives physical death then what is its destiny? Whence as it comes? Where does it go? 1, 2

These questions about human beings not as the body but about the inner person, mind, the self, and consciousness bring in to the investigation of the microcosm. Like the ancients, so the moderns, it is so interesting that consciousness studies have become so important and such a vibrant field only in the last 20 to 30 years. Before that, it is not even considered as serious research in the science which is closest to us, our minds, our awareness, our self. These closest things to human experience did not found as the subject of investigation especially consciousness till the last 2-3 decades. Buddhist philosophy is far superior to modern psychology in understanding the mind. When it comes to consciousness what modern science has to say is trivial compare to Advaita Vedanta, Yoga, Sankhya have to say. These ancient knowledge systems seem to better when it comes to closer to the core of human beings.

An investigation into the body, senses, and mind

When we look into ourselves, in a way of an epistemology of knowledge what do we find? When I see a flower there is an object outside and there is a sense organ that takes information from the object and transmits into inwards, up here it is physical including optic nerve role in seeing and nerve center functions in the brain. Then it becomes mental and subtle means information is now presented to the mind. So from the object to the senses to the mind. The moment it comes to senses and the body investigation comes to microcosm. There is another distinction where at one point the senses stop at the brain and play a role in the mind. It means apart from the physical sense organs role at the outer level, there seems to be sense organs role inside at a subtle level.

It’s very interesting, the mind is essential for the functioning of the sense organs, even without the physical sense organs the mind can still in its way use sensory perception. What it means by, when a person falls asleep then all physical senses are shut down but in the dream, the mind sees, hear, smell, taste, and touch though it is not happening externally, the whole thing is in the mind. The point here is the experience in the dream also a kind of sensory perception. After awake he reports that I saw something, I heard something, experienced taste, smell, touch, etc. In actuality, he did not see or hear anything but all of that was going in the mind. So the mind can simulate sensory experiences. So therefore senses have a subtle role in the mind as well, which means data collected externally and brought to the mind at a subtle level. In the mind there is seeing, hearing, touching going on based on the data brought by the senses, and this mind later controls the senses, which coordinates the data and directs the senses. In the Katopanishad the mind is compared to the reins of the chariot, horses are the senses and they are controlled by the reins which are the mind. 13

What is behind the mind is Consciousness or the Self

“Sankalpa Vikalpa Atmaham Manaha” the mind which considered the various options based on the data brought by the senses. Then it is presented to the intellect (Budhi in Sanskrit). This is another part of the subtle body. The intellect decides, clarifies, and understands. In Sanskrit “Nichyatmika Budhi” means intellect is the deterministic faculty.10 Even this is not the end, the whole thing now presented to the self (Atman in Sanskrit) which is consciousness.11 At that level, a person becomes aware of everything as an experience of seeing, thinking about, hearing, touching, understanding, etc. All the function of the senses and the mind and the intellect is lit up by the consciousness. Then perception completes. Therefore, the real self is not the body, is not the senses, is not the mind, is not the intellect but consciousness which lights up the intellect and the mind and the senses, and the body and the entire universe which is experienced. This ‘consciousness’ is synonymous with the ‘Self’ (The Atman).

Three components of Microcosm

Having understood the functioning of senses, mind, intellect & Consciousness, now the entire human personality can be considered into 3 components; gross or physical component like the body including physical senses up to the brain (Sthula Sariram in Sanskrit). Then there is the subtle body (Sukshma Sariram in Sanskrit) which is the mind including the sensory powers, intellect. Beyond this, there is self (the Atman) which is consciousness. So the soul or self is made of consciousness and that shines upon the subtle body which is made of thoughts, sensory powers, and intellect and that pervades the physical body which is made of matter. This is the microcosm described by the ancient wisdom of Sankhyan and Vedanta knowledge systems in India.

None of this is speculative or theoretical when it analyses carefully into one’s own experience. Everybody experiences physical body, subtle body like thoughts, feelings, emotions, memories, desires, and ego-sense beyond that consciousness which is an unchanging witness principle. This consciousness or the real self is beyond the physical body, beyond the subtle body, and causal body (seed form of the mind). The consciousness is innate, intrinsic, unchanging from which mind borrows light of consciousness this is like a moon borrows its light from the sun. When iron is heating in the fire it becomes hot, becomes very hot later and it emits heat but none of which belongs to iron hence after some time it loses heat and becomes cold. Similarly even the mind is not conscious, the physical body is not conscious by nature, but when the physical body and mind and senses feel conscious, all of this consciousness is borrowed from pure consciousness or self.

This can be understood by observing the states of the mind; after wake up from sleep mind feels very conscious and alert, late in the night feels dull and sleepy, these are not the states of consciousness but the states of the mind. The same thing explained in the Vedantic text by the method called ‘seer and seen’ (Drig Drisya Viveka) which clearly states that waking, sleeping, dreaming and deep sleep are of the states of mind not of the consciousness.15 Consciousness is ever shining and unchanging light. But the mind depending upon its state sometimes channel this consciousness effectively and feels very alert and conscious or when it weakens may be due to aging even body which is closely connected to mind also get effected and slows down feels dull and tired. ‘I am not as sharp as I use to be’ a common statement demonstrating this truth. But the consciousness is aware of everything that when the mind was sharp in the past and now it also aware of fading memory and slowing down intellect. But there is no time when the consciousness itself becomes dull or slowing down. Swami Vivekananda describes the nature of consciousness (Atman) as “it is not that consciousness exists but it is the existence itself, it is not that consciousness knows, it is knowledge itself, it is not that consciousness is happy, it is happiness itself”.14

Existence Consciousness Bliss

Whenever the existence is borrowed will go away in time, which means it loses its relative existence in the conventional sense it is called death or destruction. A thing can lose its existence only when it is gained existence. Gaining and losing existence possible only if it is borrowed, it is not original or intrinsic to it. Atman existence is it means it exists intrinsically by its nature, everything else intellect, mind, sensory system, and body all barrow existence from consciousness. Similarly the joy or bliss in the mind, in the intellect, the pleasure of the senses is gained and lost because it is borrowed from the consciousness (Atman) whose very nature itself is bliss (Ananda in Sanskrit). The mental and emotional joy find in the mind and pleasure found in the senses comes and goes makes to feel sometimes happier and sometimes not, so the joy in the mind can increases and decreases but it neither increases nor decreases in the ‘Self’ (Atman) which is bliss itself. 1-6

Having understood the nature of the Atman that is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda), if you consider the question why not Atman barrows the consciousness and existence from something higher than that, if so the problem will be where it does stop? It goes further and further back, it becomes infinite regress (Anavastha in Sanskrit) means a logical fault of not having a foundation. We have to stop where it is logical to stop, the self or Atman is the consciousness is the place to stop, if the self or Atman is not conscious by its nature then it leads to an infinite regress.

Law of Karma

The law of Karma states that whatever we do has consequences, which means what we consciously and deliberately think, say, and do has its consequences. If we do consciously what is good (Dharma) the result is merit (Punya in Sanskrit) which gives rise to pleasant things (Sukam in Sanskrit) that happen in life. If we deliberately do what is bad (Adharma) it leads to demerit or sin (Papam in Sanskrit) which gives rise to unpleasant things (Dhukham in Sanskrit) that happen in life. Therefore according to the law of Karma whatever we see in our life now is the effect of past Karma. Whatever we do now give rise to effects in the future. 14

Philosophy of Reincarnation

The law of Karma is leading to the principle of reincarnation. Why because, when a child is born we see the vast differences across the world, one child is born in a poor community suffers from nutrition, good education, and other child born in a highly secured and rich community. If these are the effects then where are the causes? Causes cannot be in this life because they are just been born so there must some past existence where the causes lie. So the diversity of effects at the very beginning of our lives, if there are any cause and effect relationship at all then we must have existed in some form earlier. There is a common saying “there are so many evil people who did many bad things but we don’t see that they seem suffering”. That means we must accept the possibility that there is Karma remains to be experienced in the future. After the death of the body, one will have newer bodies where the leftover karma is to be experienced. But that is not the end, when we get newer bodies we do more karma again and that leads to a new birth. So the cycle of birth and rebirth fuelled or instigated by karma.16

This concept of karma and reincarnation axiomatic in different and diversified schools philosophy and religion in India except for the materialist (Charuvakas). This is a very profound philosophy. One can notice that Buddhists do not accept the existence of permanent self or soul and God and Vedantists uphold the existence of God, soul, or self, yet both with tremendously diverse views still accept that there is karma, birth, and rebirth. So this idea is common to Indian thought. But the strange thing to notice is there is resistance to this idea in the west yet there is no logical argument in the history of western thought. But in Christian thought or Judaism, there is always the belief of some existence after the death of the body like the immortal soul which further goes to heaven or hell. If this is already accepted or even understand the claim that we do exist after death then this is just an extension of the law of karma and reincarnation. It is not difficult to understand if you believe in the existence of self or soul after death then there is the possibility of karma and rebirth is almost inevitable.

‘Law of Karma’ when properly understood is a way to human free will

The ‘Law of Karma’ is a philosophy of human free will but quite often Indians are charged with fatalistic kind of civilization, but if we take a deeper look at karma it is what we are today is what we have generated in the past but it’s not fixed by some unknown force. That means, what we are experiencing today is what we created, as ‘we reap what we sow’, this is what mean by “what we will be in the future is in our hands today”. So there is always the modicum of free will, but karma can only generate and determines a broad outline of our lives but how we react to it depends more on the individual than karma which does not generate every little movement of our minds or thoughts or direction that life takes.  So we have freedom, wherever there are mind and intellect lit up by consciousness there is freedom. We have the power to make our destiny. This gives the message that, take the whole responsibility upon oneself and work out to your destiny. In the words of Swami Vivekananda on Karma “If what we think, we say and what we do that generates karma if our bad karma is there like tigers waiting to pounce on us, never fear because all the good that you have thought, felt and done is waiting with the power of a thousand angels to come to your help. This is the actual understanding of the law of karma”.16

Conclusion

As a whole, it is a grand synthesis by Indian Ancient Philosophy on macrocosm and microcosm. It is the ‘Consciousness’ which also ‘existence’ and ’bliss’ we find in ourselves as ‘I’ in the microcosm is the same reality of the macrocosm because when we investigated into macrocosm we found the cycle of involution and evolution (the manifest and unmanifest) which means nature (Prakriti) is going through the cycles and beyond it all, there is the same ‘existence’, ‘consciousness’ and ‘bliss’. This is stated in Vedanta by a great saying known as “Tat Tvam Asi” (That Thou Art), here ‘That’ means reality behind the macrocosm and ‘Thou’ means reality behind the microcosm which includes the physical body, sensory system, mind and intellect beyond all, the innermost is the ‘Consciousness’ (the Atman) is the same existence consciousness and bliss as a fundamental principle in the ‘macrocosm’ which is indicated by ‘Art’. Therefore it is concluded by Indian ancients in wisdom, that the ‘fundamental reality of the macrocosm is the same reality in the microcosm’ which is a grand synthesis at which Vedanta arrives. This is to be understood philosophically and to be practiced spiritually for attaining permanent happiness.

References

1. Swami Vivekananda, Two New York Lectures on the Cosmos (New York, 1896), Cf., Complete Works, Vol. II. The Cosmos: The Macrocosm and The Cosmos: The Microcosm.

2. Swami Vivekananda, Second lecture entitled, The Cosmos, or the Veda Conception of the Universe, (California, 1900), of which there is no verbatim transcript available.

3. Swami Vivekananda, Lecture was entitled, The Claims of Vedanta on the Modern World (Oakland, 1900) of which there is no verbatim transcript available. Cf. Complete Works, Vol. 8, 224-27.

4. Newspaper report is an overview of eight lectures delivered at the Home of Truth in December (1899) and January (1900), of which there is only one verbatim transcript, Hints on Practical Spirituality, published in Complete Works, Vol. II, 24-37.

5. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, (Mayavati Edition, 1970), Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, Vol. 2, 491-93.

6. The Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, (Mayavati Edition, 1970), Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, Vol. 2. 367-87.

7. The Vedanta Philosophy, complete works, (Mayavati Edition, 1970), Calcutta: Advaita Ashram, Vol. 1, 347-55.

8. Ray and Wanda Ellis, Swami Vivekananda in Washington D.C (1991)., The Vedanta Kesari, 369-70.

9. Amit Goswami, The Self-Aware Universe (New York: G.P. Putnam Sons, 1993).

10. The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana, with Commentary by Sankara 2 vols., George Thibaut trans. (New York, NY: Dover Press, 1962).

11. The Vedanta Sutras of Badarayana, with Commentary by Sankara 2 vols., George Thibaut trans. (New York, NY: Dover Press, 1962)

12. Max Müller, The Upanishads, Vols. 1 - 15. The Sacred Books of the East (Oxford: Claredon Press, 1879).

13. His Eastern and Western Admirers. Reminiscences of Swami Vivekananda. (3rd ed. 1983), Advaita Ashram, Calcutta.

14. Swami Krishnananda, Commentary on the Panchadasi (1989). Swami-krishnananda.org

15. Swamı Satchidanandendra Sarasvati. How to Recognize the Method of Vedanta, (1995). Adhyatma Prakasha Karyalaya.

16. The untranscribed lecture advertised as Karma and Reincarnation Delivered at the (Peoples’ Church, Sunday, October 28, 1894). 

Aim of meditation and its accomplishment in Patanjali yoga and Vedanta

Juturi Ravi Kumar Reddy,

Department of Regulatory Affairs, Shri Vishnu College of Pharmacy, Andhra Pradesh, Bhimavaram

Abstract

This article comprehends the actual goal, philosophy and practice of meditation prescribed in the ancient Yoga system of Patanjali and Vedanta. Meditation is very popular in present days, especially in the west becoming increasingly popular and rightly so as it offers lots of benefits, which is already researched and published. Many schools of Meditation have come to west from east, for instance Yogic Meditation (Hatha Yoga) at the beginning followed by Zen Meditation and transcendental meditation and many other forms of meditation. Presently Mindfulness is well acknowledged meditation in the west, which helps in controlling the wondering mind to calm down by anchoring the attention to the breath means paying attention to the rhythm of breathing cycles. Therefore, the focus of the mind can be attained by effort of meditation, it means the distracted mind can be transformed into concentrated mind by a process of meditation. According to Yoga and Vedanta objective of the meditation is ‘self-realization’, which means true recognition of the self as the ‘witness consciousness’ which is beyond the mind, it is not to be manufactured and it is not to be attained, it is always there and natural, which is the true nature of individual being, but it cannot be objectified, it is has to be recognised subjectively as the true self by which every objective experience is possible and to get this realization is the actual goal of meditation.

Introduction

The meditation has become very popular majorly due to enormous health benefits which includes mental disorders related to stress and some life style disorders. The published literature is indicating how meditation boost the immune system, how it calms down the mind which in turn helps to fight and reduce the mental stress. Another big application of meditation is found recently that it helps even in chronic pain management of patients. Apart from health benefits, meditation has the benefits in other areas like improves creativity and focus of an individual, this is very helpful for the current generation which is seriously suffering from attention deficit disorder. Perhaps the biggest benefit of meditation is that; which allows us to observe our thoughts in whichever process of meditation ultimately it will allow us to objectify and observe thoughts, there by gain a little distance from mind and there by gain a degree of control over mind. So, gaining a little distance from thinking process, and getting control over the mind, gradually lead to transformation of individual personality which in turn changes attitudeof the individual in reacting to circumstances and people, thereby oneself become calm and serine, wiser and more compassionate (Horowitz S, 2010 & Davis M & Jeffrey AH, 2012).

Primary purpose of the meditation

None of the above benefits deliberated are the primary purpose of meditation; neither better health nor curing a disease nor fighting or reducing stress nor calming down the mind. According to ancient texts, the primary purpose of meditation is ‘self-realization’. All the ancient traditions from which these techniques of meditation are drawn whether it is Patanjali Yoga or Zen or transcendental meditation, Mantra Yoga or Tibetan Buddhist Mediation or Mindfulness Meditation etc. all of them are aiming at ‘self-realization’ or ‘enlightenment’. All these eastern traditions consider that, Meditation is a stepping stone for the self-realization. Though all other benefits of meditation are true but they are the kind of side effects on the way to ‘self-realization’ (Wadhwa A et al., 2013 and Swami Vivekananda 1996).

Patanjali yoga system of meditation

Patanjali Yoga Sutras are one of the most ancient texts originated from India. According to Yoga Sutras; “Self-realization” is the real goal of meditation. How Yoga Meditation does helps in the self-realization; this is deliberated in the ‘Yoga Sutras’ (aphorisms), one of them says; “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah” means Yoga is the cessation of the modifications in the mind. Here the modifications mean thinking process of mind in the form of thoughts, emotions, desires, memories, intentions, judgements etc. What the Yoga does is, at beginning makes the mind to focus by practicing a Mantra or by breathing technique or a holy image etc. This early technique of meditation brings the wondering mind to focus on to one prescribed thing. By concentrating the mind on one thing again and again, the mind becomes calm there by oneself get a control over mind and its attention, eventually at one point the modifications of the mind cease all together then it becomes one pointed, absolutely concentrated and thinking about things becomes stopped(Swami Prabhavananda & Christopher Isherwood, 1881).Then third Sutra of Patanjali Yoga says “Tada Drashtuh Svarupe Avasthanam” means, seer realizes as its own nature. It is like, when there are waves in a lake one cannot see the bottom of lake and when the water of the lake is muddy then also one cannot see the bottom of the lake but when the water is clean and there are no waves then one can see straight through into bottom of the lake. Exactly like this, when waves of the mind are calm down, and when the mind is clear (Satvikmind) but not dull then what is beyond the mind shines forth and it is seen as it is. Then oneself realizes that he or she is not the body, not the mind but as awareness shining through the mind experiencing the body and through mind and body experiencing the world. In this process oneself experientially realizes that world is changing, body is changing, mind is changing but that witness consciousness does not change and it illumines these changes that is “I am” is known as ‘self-realization’.What happens at other times; the fourth Sutra of Patanjali Yogasays; “Vritti Sarupyam Itaratra” means at other times whatever waves are in the mind, that witness consciousness is identified with them, it is like anger is expressed as “I am angry” or “I am irritated” “I am happy” “I am bored” but not known as “I am” distinct as consciousness and recognise the movement/wave of anger, irritation, happiness or boredom in the mind. This is the philosophy of Yoga and how the meditation works in the way of “self-realization”(Swami Prabhavananda, Christopher Isherwood, 1881).

Vedanta philosophy of meditation

he Vedanta approach to the Mediation is unique which involves enquiry-based analysis and intellectual understanding. Vedanta suggests to individuals to closely look into his/her routine experiences and then ask most fundamental questions to own self such as; is it that the ‘witness consciousness’ is there only when the mind is calm? Or is it there when the mind is active also? This investigation has been pursued in the Vedantic Mediation. Vedanta says that witness consciousness is there all the time. It means, when the mind is thinking, listening and all other times, the essence of individual being is the ‘witness consciousness which is evident in a calm and serene mind. Yoga philosophy objection to the Vedantic approachis; how one can recognise ‘witness consciousness’ while the mind is engaged with activities because during activities the ‘pure consciousness’ is mixed up with mind. Vedanta response to this objection as follows; it is like asking when an ocean is calm and serene without waves then only water can be seen and other times only waves are present. In fact, at all the time water is only present in the ocean and it is not required to cease the waves for seeing the water. Because usually our attention is drawn to the waves it seems that wave is the reality but actually the reality of the wave is the water. Similarly, ‘witness consciousness’ is present continuously in all the experiences of human throughout life. It doesn’t require to stop the mind to realize the true nature of oneself as the ‘witness consciousness’. Vedanta further says that, even the functioning of the mind can be used to recognise the ‘witness consciousness’ in oneself. This is the insight from Vedanta(Wadhwa A et al, 2013 and Swami Gambhirananda, 1972)

Help of the Pointers in Insight Path (Vedanta Path) of Meditation

According to Yoga, by calming the mind one can ultimately realizes that he/she is beyond the mind as unchanging awareness (witness consciousness). The other way is; insight path (Vedanta), in this path self-realization is possible with the help of pointers. For instance; examining the experience of seeing an external object; according to modern science; all that we see in the world is only reflected light because eyes are only meant to receive the light but not object as it is. This light later converted in to electrical impulses by optic nerves and finally this information is transmitted to some center in the brain and then somehow (mechanism is not explored yet in modern science) the electrical activity in the brain get translated in to an image of the external object in the mind, it is presented as a thought wave (Chitta Vritti/modification of the mind) and based on memory the person reports his experience of seeing a particular object. This entire process in the mind is lit up by ‘awareness’ and makes oneself feels the first-person experience as “I am seeing an object”. Here, “I am seeing an object” is in the mind and awareness of this thought is the ‘consciousness’. Thus, all experiences of seeing, touching, smelling, tasting and hearing is in mind and all thinking, remembering, loving, hating is one’s own mind but awareness of all these activities in the mind make possible by ‘witness consciousness which is the true self in essence of all living beings. No school of philosophy disputes this entire process of experience of seeing the objects with the sense organs (eyes), because it is evident that no one can directly experience the external objects of the world, but only reflected light of an objects goes in to the eyes and that light finally transformed in to a thought in the mind.(Gambhirananda S, 1972)Likewise, how experience of seeing an external object is formed as a thought in the mind which is called modification of the mind (Chitta Vritti in Sanskrit); all other experiences including; listening, thinking, eating etc. happens exactly in a same fashion. This gives rise to continuous experiences in the mind due to unbroken engagement of sense organs with external world in waking state. Therefore, we usually think our minds are disturbed, because world is disturbing us. But, in reality, we are disturbing because our minds are disturbed. Thus, “Samsara” (worldly troubles) appears to us because of a disturbed mind but not that “Samsara” disturbs the mind. In a peaceful and a serene mind, the same external circumstances can be seen in totally different perspective. Having understood intellectually the science behind seeing an external object based on actual experience and with the modern science wisdom; one proceeds to Vedantic Meditation to make this understanding in to a realization. This realization of seeing the external object with the eyes but at deeper level there is experience of seeing the object in the mind and this is being experienced by something deeper than the mind which is witness consciousness is now evident. But one can never objectify consciousness, it is like no more than one can see with the eyes but he/she cannot use them to see their own eyes. Similarly, consciousness cannot be objectified, it is having to be recognised subjectively as the true self by which every objective experience is possible. (Swami Krishnananda, 1992).

Conclusion

What Yoga approach of Meditation does is; it tries to calm down the modifications in the mind (ChittaVritti) and made consciousness is evident, like when the waves in the lake are calm down then the bottom of the lake is evident. This evidences to oneself that he/she is certainly not the body and not even the mind or the person and he/she will realize as awareness in which the person, mind and body appearing and functioning. This could be achieved in the Yoga meditation.

Vedantic approach suggest that; let the activities of the mind continue, it means experiencing of external objects in the mind need not to be ceased. But one has to question and examine like, what is experiencing these thoughts in the mind, this kind of enquiry should lead to intensive observation within oneself and this is known as Vedantic meditation. With the perseverance and persistence in this approach, finally one can recognise the ever-present consciousness in every conscious experience because without consciousness no experience is possible. This consciousness is sometimes compared to a ‘luminous space. ‘In Buddhist texts this pure consciousness is referred as “clear light of the Void”.

The Vedantic insight path to self-realization seems to be instantaneous and effortless but practically it is demanding the continuous engagement unlike Yogic meditation approach at one particular time. There is another danger in the insight path is; the tendency of the intellect is to philosophise the procedure it means; ‘I’ had a question and now ‘I’ have got the answer so investigation is finished that’s it. In fact, it is not finished the procedure has to repeat again and again and again until it becomes effortless and living experience.

References

Davis,M, Jeffrey,AH,(2012) “What are the benefits of mindfulness”. Vol. 43 (7);Page:64.Horowitz,S, (2010) “Health benefits of meditation. Altern Complement Ther”. Vol. 16; Page: 223 to 8.

Swami Gambhirananda,(1972),“Translator. Brahma-Sutra-Bhasya of Sri Sankaracharya”, Calcutta, India: Advaita Ashram.

Swami Krishnananda, (1992) “an Analysis of the Brahma Sutra: Specimens of Vedantic Meditations”Chapter 7, Publications of the Divine Life Society.

Swami Prabhavananda,(1881)“Christopher Isherwood, How to Know God: The Yoga Aphorisms of Patanjalitranslations” Pages: 73 to 74.

Swami Vivekananda,(1996)“Vivekananda: The Yogas and Other Works”, edited by Swami Nikhilananda, Ramakrishna Vivekananda Center, New York, Page:618.

Wadhwa,A,Wadhwa, D,(2013) “Haridwar. The Direct Realization of Brahman: Brahman Sakshatkar”. AkhandParamDham; India

Advaita Vedanta answer to the hard problem of consciousness: A philosophical review

Ravi Kumar Reddy Juturi
Department of Regulatory Affairs, Shri Vishnu College of Pharmacy, Bhimavaram, Andhra Pradesh, India

Abstract

For thousands of years, human beings have been exploring the fundamental nature of the world and the self. In this process, modern science and Vedanta philosophy do not differ in conceiving the physical body as a material and mind also as a material. But now and then, the question is asked that so-called matter is not sentient, it cannot be aware or conscious, and how does matter suddenly become conscious/aware/sentient being? For this reason, consciousness studies have become very important in the last two to three decades and it has opened up. These studies are now turn out to be multidisciplinary by the interest of brain scientists, neuroscientists, psychologists, philosophers of mind, language, physicists, computer scientists, Artificial Intelligence. A lot of work has been done in this field of science to address what is this subjective conscious experience which a human being has internally. Consciousness studies are not new in the east, about two to three thousand years ago texts called Upanishads which are originated from Vedas are clearly stated about consciousness and its nature. In this article, the nature of consciousness is discussed and demonstrated according to Advaita Vedanta Philosophy. The article also encompasses the standpoint of modern science on consciousness. Finally, an attempt is made to answer the so-called hard problem of consciousness from the Advaita Vedanta perspective.

Introduction

The fundamental question about consciousness and its nature is raised long ago in all schools of philosophies and discussed comprehensively in the philosophical texts. But for the past two to three decades, modern science especially brain and neuroscientists are puzzled with the question of what the consciousness is and how it can be understood? (Baars, 1997; Block, Flanagan & Guzeldere, 1997; Chalmers, 1996). In Vedanta, the same question is asked in a different way such as; impelled by what light or inspired by what power mind thinks? What luminous being directs the eyes and the ears? What is that giving the experience of seeing internally? It is remarkable to have a conscious experience of hearing, talking, listening, and so on in the material body. So the question is, what makes it possible to have this conscious experience in the material body? (Swami Sivananda, 1985).

As per recent Oxford University publications, there are five great unsolved questions in Philosophy which are: first, do we have free will? Second, can we know (knowledge) anything at all (skepticism regarding epistemology)? The third one, who am “I”? (fundamental nature of human beings), the fourth one is what is death (not physical death but as a psychological/sentient being) and the fifth one is what would “global justice” look like? (5 Great Unsolved Philosophical Questions, Oxford University Press, 2018).

The essential point in the above first four questions is that these questions are directly connected with consciousness. A very interesting thing is whether it is ancient eastern philosophy like Advaita Vedanta or Modern Western Philosophy all of them are vitally connected with consciousness.

 Modern Scientists Stuck with Consciousness

The physical body is described differently by different scientists like chemists, physicists, and biologists. Apart from all descriptions, a person is experiencing different internally called first-person experience or qualia and this is not explained by any of these modern scientists (Chalmers, 1996). So what is the connection between this physical substratum of body and conscious being living in the body? Some brain scientists even now arguing that this consciousness is generating by the brain (Robert, 2018), but on contrary, some other scientists from the same field like David Chalmers saying that the physical brain can’t generate consciousness (Chalmers, 1995). He also says that never makes a big mistake of transition from brain to consciousness as both are fundamentally different (Chalmers, 2006). This includes the reductionists or materialist’s approach of reducing consciousness to the brain and states of the brain, quantum or superstrings, etc. This is a big mistake as per David Chalmers due to jump made from one category to another category in principle.

The Hard Problem of Consciousness

In consciousness studies today, what is the central and essential question is something called the hard problem of consciousness (Block, 2002) (Dennet, 1988). David Chalmers who is an Australian philosopher & cognitive scientist coined this term the hard problem of consciousness. What is this hard problem is, so far what is accomplished in brain science is the science of correlation and with this, they are trying to understand neuronal activity reports in the brain and matching with that of related activities like listening to a speech or tasting coffee, etc. But here there is a huge problem which is pointed first time by David Chalmers is “how can a physical system as physical as inert substance the brain and nervous system can generate first-person experience or qualia” (Searle, Dennett & Chalmers, 1997). Any sentient being in his routine activities like listening, seeing, tasting, remembering, thinking, loving, and including all the conscious activities of life are generating the first-person experience internally rather he/she doesn’t experience anything about neurons firing in the brain during any of these acts. How can a physical system generate this first-person experience is the central question in today’s consciousness studies (Baars, 1997). The distinct point here is that this kind of internal experience is not possible with any physical constructs in nature except sentient beings.

Stumbling Block for Materialism in Understanding Consciousness

Recently, there is remarkable observation is taking place in the philosophy of mind including behaviorism and psychologism which is the approach used in materialism for understanding that consciousness is itself became a stumbling block (Shear, 1997). This is because science is about objectivity that’s works fine absolutely when studying objects, but when we are studying the subject itself by the same approach, then it will miss by a wide mark. Due to this reason despite desperate attempts made by most scientists come out with no understanding about what is consciousness and its nature. Then what is a solution to the hard problem of consciousness according to David Chalmers, says that though it is hard to accept we have to consider consciousness as one of the fundamental realities of this universe (Chalmers, 1996). It means no need to reduce consciousness to the brain or matter because it is fundamentally irreducible in principle so it is also as fundamental as like matter, time, space, and energy in the universe. That implies consciousness is ubiquitous in the universe by itself and it interacts with the physical world through the nervous system and brain (Chalmers, 2006).

The Idea of Panpsychism and Ancient Sankhya Philosophy is on the Same Page

In the philosophy of mind, panpsychism is the view that the mind or a mind-like aspect is a fundamental and ubiquitous feature of reality. It is also described as a theory that “the mind is a fundamental feature of the world which exists throughout the universe (Hartshorne & Charles, 1950).

About four to five thousand years ago one of the Indian Philosophies called Sankhya states a similar thing that there are two fundamental realities exists independently in the universe (Vangiya, 1969) According to this philosophy entirety of the universe including human bodies, brains, nervous system, and mind (thoughts, emotions) are the “nature” (Prakriti in Sanskrit). That which experiences the world, body, brain, and mind is the “consciousness” (Purusha in Sanskrit). (Sankhya, the theory of creation, Duality and Enumeration by Seer Kapila Muni).

Advaita Vedanta and Consciousness

Advaita Vedanta is a school of Indian philosophy developed based on texts called Upanishads. In Advaita Vedanta, the focus is different for understanding the consciousness from that of the Modern studies. The focus was given to how one does overcome suffering in life and how to attain lasting, profound peace, happiness, and joy/wellness. In a most profound sense, the focus is transcendence or cessation of sorrow and attainment of lasting happiness/wellness. All the schools of Indian Philosophies are addressing the same point, i.e., freedom to self from sorrow. But the self is closely associated with consciousness. That is how Vedanta and other schools of Indian Philosophies are interested in the Self and Consciousness (Gambhirananda, 1996). The central teaching of Advaita Vedanta is “That Thou Art” (Tat Tvam Asi). The fundamental reality in this universe is Brahman meaning the vast or limitless. Brahman is also described as Existence, Consciousness, and Bliss. What in general considers this external world is the appearance of the underlying reality which is Brahman. The individual being is none other than that underlying reality. It does not include body, brain, and nervous system as a fundamental reality except the consciousness principle which functions through this body-mind complex (Chandogya Upanishad, Cha. 6, Verse 6.9.4) (Thibaut, 1890).

 Big Claim of Advaita Vedanta

The Advaita Vedanta claims that self is perfect, certain, existence, and pure consciousness which is beyond suffering, eternal, immutable all-pervading in nature which firms the fundamental reality of this universe. The individual self is already this pure consciousness nothing to attain except need recognition/cognizance of this truth by removing ignorance. As Swami Vivekananda says each soul is potentially divine and the goal is to realize divinity and manifest this divinity within (Eastern H, 1983). This makes the Advaita Vedanta paradigm to give irrefutable proof of the existence of God (consciousness in totality) is the existence of the individual soul itself, this is unique and the highlight of this philosophy (Sarvapriyananda, 2014; Tathagatananda, 2011).

An ordinary person in day-to-day life does not experience anything about quantum mechanics, superstrings, and data, but everyone is access to consciousness while thinking, remembering, feeling, seeing, hearing, etc. in fact what we call life is a series of experiences in consciousness. It implies everything is an experience in consciousness and therefore consciousness is a fundamental datum of life. As per Advaita Vedanta, everything an individual self does in his life is in the consciousness; therefore, everything in the universe is the manifestation of consciousness (Vivekananda, 1983 & 1984) (Burke, 1984).

Four Possible Approaches to Relate Consciousness to Objects

Now a common question put forth to all branches of philosophy and modern science is, what is the relationship between the consciousness and its objects? Four possible approaches are useful to understand the relation; the First one is Object is primary and consciousness is a by-product of it, this is the modern materialistic and reductionist view of consciousness. The second approach is Consciousness is primary and matter, space, energy (universe) is a product of it, and this is almost all theologist’s view of the world. The third option is neither created the other one, both are fundamental and independent realities by nature, but they can interact with each other means consciousness can function through the body-mind complex and gives rise to conscious experience, this is the ancient Sankhya and Yoga Philosophy which are already discussed. The fourth approach is the Advaita Vedanta view which is not that the object produces consciousness or consciousness produces objects but the radical claim of Vedanta is there is only one nondual reality (not two) that is the Consciousness. It is nondual because it appears to be two such as consciousness and the world but in reality, it alone exists. According to Vedanta a good example to understand this approach is a dream, it’s the mind alone which appears as a dreamer, and the dream world (people, things, events) all of this is the mind alone. Consciousness does the same thing, as Swami Vivekananda says one alone exists and it appears as Nature and Soul.

Advaita Vedanta further claims that every individual can “experience” the Consciousness. According to this philosophy, it’s not a journey in time or space to understand consciousness, but it is possible now and here (Bhajanananda, 2010). There are methodologies/techniques given in Advaita Vedanta like “Seer and the Seen,” an inquiry into “three states of sleeping, dreaming and waking” and an inquiry into “Five layers of Human Personality.” These techniques take oneself in understanding the nondual reality of Advaita Vedanta.

Demonstration of Consciousness in Vedanta

The method of “Seer & the Seen” (Drig Drisya Viveka) can demonstrate the consciousness which is based on a text called Panchadasi wrote by the author Vidyaranyamuni from the southern part of India about seven hundred years before. This method works based on the operating principle the seer and the scene are must be two different entities like eyes are different from its objects scene and similarly, the experiencer and the experienced are also different entities. This method comprises three steps in understanding. The first step is, eyes (seer) are different from its objects known as forms (seen), note here forms are many, but the seer is pair of eyes and forms are continuously changes and seer is unchanging relatively means the experience keeps changing but experiencer is constant. The second step is eyes themselves become a scene and the mind is the seer as the mind aware of the vision of eyes and no vision when eyes closed. So here eyes are known and the mind is the knower. Last step, the mind itself becomes the scene and consciousness (self) is the experiencer. It means the modifications of the mind like thoughts, feelings emotions are experienced constantly by the experiencer. These states of mind are continuously changing, but the experiencer is unchanged. So if the mind is experienced, the experiencer must be different from it according to the operating principle (seer & scene are different). This witness (Sakshi in Sanskrit) is none other than consciousness because it is aware of the contents of the mind. This witness/consciousness/awareness is equated with self but not in a sense of individual self but as a nondual impersonal self. Finally, the method indicates that consciousness is unknowable in a sense like an object; it never is objectified means one cannot know it as an object. (Krishnananda, 1989).

The method of three states can also demonstrate clearly how consciousness is an unchanging reality. Sleep has two aspects which are dream sleep (REM sleep) and deep sleep (non-REM sleep). In dream state, there is an experience of dreams that is supported by awareness of dreams. But in deep sleep also there is the persistence of consciousness (not a sense of “I”) but this is questioned by modern science by saying deep sleep seems to be an unconscious state. But Vedanta responds to this by saying it seems to prove opposite that means consciousness remains intact during deep sleep, not that there is an absence of experience in deep sleep, but it is an experience of the absence of objects. Therefore consciousness is experiencing all sensations and thoughts in the waking state, dreams in dream state, and absence of all above (experience of blankness or nothingness) in the deep sleep state. According to Vedanta deep sleep is the sleep of the mind, waking is the waking of the mind, dreaming is the dreaming of the mind, but consciousness is one unchanged and remains as it is in all the three states. Until an object is presented to consciousness, it cannot be experienced because an object is needed to be reflected. (Sarasvati, 1995).

Vedanta defines experience as consciousness plus an object like the experience of seeing, hearing, touching, and so on. So if no object is there to experience, then consciousness alone illumines but cannot be experienced (Gambhirananda S, 1996). This is what happens precisely in the deep sleep state. Evidence for consciousness presence in deep sleep is only possible from a subjective point of view as a first-person experience such as experiential knowledge of not knowing anything or nothingness with enormous peace expressed after waking. This is beyond the science of correlation.

Conclusion

Advaita Vedanta states that this nondual self or consciousness alone shining as the subject and everything else is known, by its light everything else illumines. It can never be an object of epistemology. But all knowledge and experiences are made possible because of this fundamental nondual self-luminous principle. This is the answer to the hard problem of consciousness by the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, the fundamental reality is the consciousness only, which reveals itself and everything else in the universe, which gives us the first-person experience or qualia. This consciousness is unchanging, immortal, immutable, and undying.

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