Why do we exist?

Why do we exist? Updated January 19

Long time observer of history – cultural and scientific. MD.Originally Answered: Why do humans exist?

You could equally have asked: Why do stones, and trees… the earth, the universe exist? There is no answer to any of those questions (other than by the various theologies). Existence is, and is the way it is – it is a given. No reasons can be given, in the same way that we cannot find a meaning to it all.

But we can assert with confidence that there is intelligence in the world, in the universe, and by extension, in all it contains; intelligence is participated in by all beings. By persistent questioning, it is possible to find an answer as to what is the nature of the universe, of being, and of ‘me’. See what the rishis of old revealed, which goes way beyond religion.

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There was a young man who said…

What is the use of asserting that things exist “independent of human observation”?


There was a young man who said “God,
To you, it must seem very odd
That a tree as a tree
Simply ceases to be
When there is no one about in the quad.”

And God replied:

“Young man, your astonishment is odd.
I’m always about in the quad
And that is why the tree
Never ceases to be
As observed by yours faithfully, God.”

If we substitute consciousness, or cosmic intelligence, for ‘God’, this should be more acceptable to intelligent people, including physicists, neuro-physiologists, etc.


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Why is there ignorance?

Why does Brahman-Ātman deceive itself with Māyā, Avidyā, and Anātman? Why doesn’t consciousness simply manifest (in humans) with Vidyā, with innate knowledge of its true self from the beginning?

Life is like a riddle or a play – it is a mystery, not unlike the mystery plays of Medieval Europe. Brahman /reality/God manifests the whole of its grandeur, splendor, and beauty, and Life is that manifestation, an unimaginable and superb spectacle. But there are obvious limitations in it from the perspective of a being such as man (a self-reflecting, limited being): there are the undeniable facts of death and decay, as the young Buddha contemplated in front of him when he left his palace, and that needs an explanation since man’s capacities are also obviously limited.

These are the facts of existence, and it is useless to ask the Supreme Being and originator of life on earth why He did not create existence without death and decay being it’s inevitable and unwelcome companions. So man has to learn and accept that there cannot be growth and reproduction – no life – without there also being the dissolution of forms. This is the play of opposites inherent in all life, primarily the pair male-female (yang/yin). This play is not just a metaphor, but a reality. Without this play – which is manifestation itself – there would not be life and its disclosure and endless development and reproduction.

Man then learns that there cannot be unity without multiplicity, not one without two… and that he is, in his most intimate being or essence, that Unity. It is in Oneness that reality, completion, and intelligibility – and beauty – resides. God/Brahman did not make a mistake or willingly produced something deficient, incomplete.

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Connection between spirituality and warriorship

A truly spiritual person is a seeker of/after truth… no matter what difficulties are in the way. For them truth is paramount and one is prepared to sacrifice everything for it. Needless to say courage is a distinctive mark: courage, perseverance, and total dedication. These virtues are not the assets of a majority of people and that is why the hero is often depicted as a loner (e.g. Gary Cooper and other examples in Western movies). The Greek hero serves as an example; also Siegfried and Parsifal of Wagnerian operas, Brunhilde being the heroine …

Therefore spirituality is contrasted with religion (or ‘religiosity’) for good reasons. What moves the hero or spiritual person is a greater truth which he makes his own and is ready to die for it, no concessions being made (Don Quixote may have been mad, but his instinct was true and noble, as shown through the masterful portrayal of his creator Cervantes… is the former a joke, or just insane?). The spiritual person is also humble and generous and his aim or only motivation is the good of all (including animals… all sentient beings – his respect and love of creation/nature is total), not making distinctions as to social rang, etc. In summary: Seek thou truth and follow its dictates – wherever they may lead you (In Jesus’ words, ‘Seek thou truth and it will make you free’.

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Victim-centered society – my answer in Quora

Why are psychology and so many self-help ideologies perceived merely as blame-shifting gimmicks that are guilty of creating a “victim-centered society?”


I am not sure that psychology and self-help ideologies – and self-help books – are or ought to be guilty of creating such a society, but the basic premise of all of them is the belief that the ego – that impostor or ‘mask’- is the centre of the person. The ego is, by definition, a net of desires, frustrations, hopes, and the like – a kaleidoscope of self-created and contrasting images. A happy ego is almost a contradiction in terms, given that such a dubious character is never *quite* satisfied (look up the basic tenet of Buddhist psychology: ‘craving’).

Greek tragedy embodies and exemplifies all those human passions in the extreme. No wonder that what is pervasive in ALL Western novels is frustrated desire, unrequited love – restlessness, in a word – given the fragility of the ego and its perceived failings. Hence the widespread interest in psychology and the multiple therapies aimed at assuaging all the pain, suffering, and frustration, which are extensive to the whole of society.

Something that is of an altogether different nature – to the point of transcending individuality – is aspiration or yearning, be it spiritual or moral. Even so, the point can be made that (any) desire, and its fulfillment, could in principle be a step in the direction of that aspiration, which is one towards completion or real self-fulfillment.

In Eastern psychology, for example Advaita Vedanta, the ego-or-mind does not have the ‘distinction’ of being the centre of the person. Rather, the ego is closer to being that ‘mask’ referred to above. If you ask me what then the center of the person is, the answer is: Spirit (or Atman) in its pure state. Any lack of purity is equivalent to ignorance or a degree thereof. — Where then is suffering?


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Can we live without technology?

How possible would it be for you to live without Technology? (From Quora)

My answer. A given individual can live without technology – telephone, radio, TV, automobiles – but society in general can no longer go back (how far back?) to the time of 3 or 4 generations ago. Everything has been ‘piling up’ and become more and more complex and, at the same time, integrated or intertwined more or less haphazardly. We need modern technology even if only to take us out of this mess – a mess which I don’t need to describe in any detail and which affects the whole world.

Are we at the point of no-return? Nobody knows. While there are great dangers, there are also opportunities, advances and turn-backs. Each individual is like a cog of a great machine (or a thread in a tangle?), but only individuals can bring about some change for the better – others do it for the worse. It is like the ancient lore of good and evil in endless battle. The myth of Prometheus (and also that of Pandora) loom over all of us. The Greeks understood all this very well.

The Vision of Advaita Vedanta is an antidote.


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Can Consciousness exist without time?

Can consciousness exist without time?  – My answer in Quora

From the viewpoint of Advaita Vedanta (and I believe also zen and Dzogchen), time is not just something elusive, but ultimately unreal – only an idea or concept. The same can be said about the concept of ‘now’, which cannot be elucidated or measured in any way. ‘Now’ can only be a symbol of eternity, immeasurable but always present. ‘Eternity’ itself is a symbol or slanted conception of reality or existence/being, which is timeless. For the absolute time does not exist. Consciousness alone is real and, thus, timeless. Stated differently, ‘what is never ceases to be; what is not never comes into being’ (Shankara). Parmenides, Gaudapada, and Shankara were strong in that position.


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Is everything said just an opinion? 


From the metaphysical perspective, however – for instance that of Plato – things are quite different, e.g. what is a physical object, whether natural or man-made? What is ‘true opinion’? What do the senses tell us and how to relate it to the Intellect (nous)? In this higher, metaphysical, order there is, following Plato, only one (ultimate) truth: that arrived at through contemplation of ‘Ideas’ or archetypes, themselves reducible to the one supreme Idea, ‘the Good’. This is the only thing that merits the name of real knowledge according to Plato, and is not transferable from person to person.

All interactions between people can be considered at most ‘true opinion’ (except, as said, consensual, empirical truths for the most part). Plato found ‘true opinion’ to be lacking in epistemic support; in the end he even made a joke about it, rather than ending with the usual ‘aporia’ (indeterminable). A similar account of truth v. belief or opinion can be found in Eastern metaphysics.

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The three non-existing princes

A young boy asked his nanny to tell him a story, and the nanny told him the
following story to which the boy listened with great attention:

Once upon a time in a city which did not exist, there were three princes who
were brave and happy. Of them two were unborn and the third had not been conceived. Unfortunately all their relatives died. The princes left their native city to
go elsewhere. Very soon, unable to bear the heat of the sun, they fell into a swoon.
Their feet were burnt by hot sand. The tips of grass pierced them. They reached
the shade of three trees, of which two did not exist and the third had not even been
planted. After resting there for some time and eating the fruits of those trees, they
proceeded further.


They reached the banks of three rivers; of them two were dry and in the third
there was no water. The princes had a refreshing bath and quenched their thirst
in them. They then reached a huge city which was about to be built. Entering it,
they found three palaces of exceeding beauty. Of them two had not been built at
all, and the third had no walls. They entered the palaces and found three golden
plates; two of them had been broken into two and the third had been pulverised.
They took hold of the one which had been pulverised. They took ninety-nine minus
one hundred grams of rice and cooked it. They then invited three holy men to be
their guests; of them two had no body and the third had no mouth. After these holy
men had eaten the food, the three princes partook of the rest of the food cooked.
They were greatly pleased. Thus they lived in that city for a long, long time in peace
and joy. My child this is an extremely beautiful legend; pray remember this always,
and you will grow up into a learned man.

O Rama, when the little boy heard this he was thrilled.

From Yoga Vasishta

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Is a single neuron conscious? A short discussion.


M. Advaita Vedanta’s perspective is better seen from the top down rather than from the bottom up. Consciousness or awareness can be considered (there is a consensus on this) as a ‘fundamental ‘property’ of (or pointer to) reality’, not reality itself, which is unfathomable and indescribable. It permeates every apparently external phenomenon, which is thus an expression or manifestation of Consciousness. Accordingly, a neuron, an electron, is a manifestation of Consciousness – ‘the One without a second’. Alternately, neurons, atoms, etc. are embedded in Consciousness or reality.

PB. I think the best words you can use to characterize reality are awareness/consciousness, existence/beingness and bliss/love. However, I wouldn’t identify reality with consciousness, the other two concepts, or all three together. They are just the purest manifestations of reality that we can identify. True reality is not a thing or concept, it is beyond definition.

But yes, I would agree that neurons, electrons etc. are phenomena of consciousness, as are these words and the bodies and minds that write them.

M. Metaphysical truth is sometimes called apperception, or direct supramental perception, and it is non-transferable. Nicholas of Cusa put it this way: “The highest wisdom is this, to know… how that which is unattainable may be reached or attained unattainably”. Metaphysics (philosophia prima, or first philosophy of medieval times) is not science, and its truths are often dressed as paradoxes, analogies, and metaphors; they are not meant to convince anyone who is not open to them.


A metaphysical truth appeals to intuition; it is an experience, or knowledge-experience… It is not speculation and is not amenable to subject-object relationship or distinction.

M. (to another participant) Did you look up the word ‘rishi/s’? It means ‘sage’ – Swami Vivekananda described Rishi-s  as Mantra-drashtas or “the seers of thought”. He told— “The truth came to the Rishis of India — the Mantra-drashtâs, the seers of thought — and will come to all Rishis in the future, not to talkers, not to book-swallowers, not to scholars, not to philologists, but to seers of thought.” (From Wikipedia).

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