Eternity


Eternity

Posted on  by amartingarcia

If we consider humans as finite beings, what evidence do we have that “eternity” actually exists?

Physical bodies are finite, corruptible, but are human beings just their bodies (and their finite minds)? There is a mysterious, undefinable, and unmeasurable entity called consciousness which appears to pervade all sentient beings and nature in general. Nature, all life, is conscious – dare we say? This entity – consciousness – is undeniable, for it is our most direct and unfalsifiable experience. Consciousness – by consensus of a majority of physicists – escapes all parameters of physics, neurophysiology, and brain studies. But not only consciousness, but the so-called matter is also in the same category of the intrinsically unknowable, even if there are methods for measuring and experimenting with such entity as matter-energy.

Again, no one knows what eternity might be, such are the limitations of our means of understanding reality, even though physics and mathematics come to our aid in this and also with the phenomenon of space (space-time). What is more, philosophy and metaphysics have a better grasp of the extra-physical dimensions of reality aided and abetted as they are by (universal) intuition. For metaphysics time does not exist outside of our minds, and, rather than eternity-(duration), timelessness – or what is the same, that only the PRESENT exists – is what, as a concept, gives a semblance of reality to reality (all that is and ever has been) – incomprehensible to the unaided mind.

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Consciousness


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DUALITY & NON-DUALITY


 FOREWORD

This book consists of a selection from Quora of some of the most relevant questions concerning metaphysics or spirituality that encompass Eastern and Western traditions. The approach is catholic or universal, as can be appreciated in the table of contents. I make no apology for giving comparatively more prominence or coverage to the Eastern tradition, particularly to what is called Non-duality and or Advaita Vedanta. Some examples of non-dualist Western philosophers or mystics are accounted for, in particular, the greatest (in my estimation), Plato, not forgetting Plotinus, Meister Eckhart, Ibn Arabi, etc. Plato can be compared to some extent to Shankara, the latter being perhaps the topmost philosopher and mystic the world has given birth to.

It must be advised that the reader will find some repetitions¾mostly in some of the questions or themes¾something that is inevitable given the nature of the book. The latter consists of a compilation and selection of Questions, together with my Answers, in Quora from 2014 to 2019 on crucial areas of thought and experience, again from East and West. Much thought or reflection has been dedicated to this endeavor, any considerations of recompense or expectations being entirely out of place.

Of course, appreciation and thanks to all sources of joyful inspiration are implicit and must be acknowledged, together with the persons or authors behind them. Such are too numerous to mention here. I make an exception with Sowmya Shree, who was a great help during my (impish) travel to India in 2018, being the instigator of it. I would have been lame and lost without her. My other crutch could not have been any other than my dear wife, Angeles.

Two words about the book’s title (or part thereof) ‘Duality and Non-duality’. These are two aspects of the one truth or reality, as it were in search of unity: the truths of empirical or everyday life, and the truth of what transcends and, at the same time, embraces them as a higher Truth. The latter cannot but be ineffable, not amenable to definition or description, and can only be actualized in Self-realization. As the seers of ancient India uttered, ‘Reality is one¾the sages call it by many names’. These words, which corroborate what is known as the ‘wisdom of the ages’, come out in one of the Indian Upanishads, the Mundaka Upanishad.

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My book


DUALITY & NON-DUALITY
( My answers in Quora)

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“Can we still hold that modern science is far from realizing the unreality of the world, the basic teaching of Advaita?”

It’s clear to me that philosophical statements such as “the world is unreal”, or “reality is spiritual” express not empirical but a priori propositions. As such, they are independent of sense experience in that their truth or falsity is not determined by the facts of sense experience. Such statements can neither be confirmed nor confuted by sense experience. Observation and experiment are simply irrelevant to their truth or falsity. Thus, they fall outside the realm of the empirical sciences, whatever be the speculations of individual scientists when assuming the role of members of the laity. Further, in the contexts in which they most often occur, such statements are not regarded as provisional truths subject to refutation or revision as in the sciences, but as absolute and irrefutable truths vouchsafed by unimpeachable authority. (From another thread – forgot author).

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Consciousness is prior to the universe


What is the scriptural basis for Advaita consciousness being an awareness preceding the universe?

That’s an ‘easy’ one. 1) Consciousness and awareness are the same for Advaita Vedanta. 2) Atman-brahman, or Consciousness, is the sole reality – the universe is in essence not other than Atman (Consciousness or ‘Spirit’). 3) Consequently, there is no creation – no causation, including space and time which, as everything else, are phenomena, appearances.

Mundaka Upanishad 2.1.10: ‘the world is brahman alone’.

K 3.18. In this karika Gaudapada demonstrates that creation is only apparent, because reality cannot undergo change (and it is taught that the effect is not other than the cause).

Katha Up. 2.1.10: ‘Who ever sees difference between what is here (individual Atman/’soul’) and what is there (brahman) goes from death to death’.

Brihadaranyaka Up. 2.5.19: ‘The supreme being is perceived as manifold on account of Maya’ (magic).

Taittiriya Up. 2.6: ‘Brahman, which is the absolute reality, became reality (satya) and unreality/appearance (asatya)’. That is, the cause itself appears as various effects due to superimposition, which is itself the core, or definition, of ignorance (avidya). Cf. Tai. 2.6, Chandogya Up. 2.8.4, and Bhavagad Gita 4.13 and 13.2.

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Ramanuja & Shankara


Who would win in an argument between Ramanujacharya and Shankaracharya?

As non-duality can be said to go beyond, and at the same time enclose duality within itself, we can also say that Shankara, being a non-dualist philosopher, goes beyond and ‘incorporates’ Ramanuja, that is, the latter’s philosophy (it has been said: a jñani understands a bhakta, not vice versa).

Ramanuja took the ego (psychological self) as being the Self, an error for an Advaitin. For the former, destruction of the ego (“me”) will thus entail the destruction of the Self. For an Advaitin, the ego or subtle body (mind, senses, and vital breath) dissolves when the body dies – not so awareness or pure consciousness.

From the viewpoint of Advaita Vedanta, ‘consciousness’ is another name for reality/being/existence: all there is or that can be (all possibilities of existence). Neither ‘subject’ nor ‘object’, it annihilates this (mental) division, as well as sublating all concepts.

Or, as Francis Lucille, a well-known teacher wrote: ‘Simply put, non-dualism is the hypothesis that reality is non-dual, that there is only one single reality which is the substance of all things, of all phenomena, of both mind and matter. If that is true, it follows that the reality of our ordinary consciousness, meaning whatever is really perceiving these words at this moment, must be this non-dual, single, and universal reality.’

Shankara said:

‘An enlightened person, after his death, does not undergo a change of condition – something different than when he was living. But he is said to be “merged in Brahman” just due to his not being connected to another body.’ Quoted from ‘The Method of Early Advaita Vedanta’, Michael Comans.

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Freewill vs. determinism


Is every action predetermined or is there free will?

The notion of ‘free will’ is of Jewish-Christian origin, and is the other side of the coin which consists in that other nostrum, ‘(the problem of) evil’, and which complicates things even more. God, being the summum bonum, is not responsible for evil; therefore that responsibility falls entirely on (fallen) man.

There is no notion in Plato (and generally among the ancient Greeks) of the concept of ‘free will’, in the sense of a faculty of the soul which determines a particular course of action – choice, in other words. Rather, it is an inclination or appetite (desire) which motivates action and which is either for the highest and noblest aspiration in man or for his lower preferences (they correspond to Being and Becoming respectively). When the inclination is towards the Good Plato calls it Eros. This account of ‘good will’ was preserved in St. Augustine (dilectio or caritas).

A similar view can be found in Br.Upanishad 4.4.5: “Man is fashioned by desire; according to his desire is his discernment; according to his discernment he does his work.” Also: “For just as men here below pursue the aim after which each aspires, as it were done at command, whether it be a kingdom, or an estate, and live only for that, (so in their aspiration for heavenly rewards they are the slaves of their desires”) – Chand.Upanishad 8.1.5). Paul Deussen, in ‘The Philosophy of the Upanishads’, from which I just quoted, concludes: “The standpoint of the Upanishads, therefore, is a rigid determinism”.

That judgment, however, should be applied only to the empirical viewpoint of the everyday world, not to the higher one, where Atma (-Brahman), the only reality, reigns with absolute freedom. ‘That Thou art’.

http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/the-paradox-of-free-will/

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Neo-Advaita


Who am I? Someone who wants to play. I borrowed that expression from you.

Neo Advaitist- No play. I told you I don’t believe in any teaching; only, ‘Being is’, and that is what I am.

Some say, Being is not. Who is right?

… I am champion of the world.

Champion of what?

Champion of ‘I’.

Champion of you?

No, champion of ‘I am’.

Have you discovered it?

Yes, I have discovered it to the nth point: I am that I am.

But those are the words of God – God’s proverbial utterance.

Is there any difference between God and me?

 Not in the lower realm.

I forgot; you said that before. How about the higher realm?

That I am too.

Can you explain it?

No need to explain it, I know it… I just know it by heart.

How about non-being?

No, I am not that… told you that before.

To be or not to be?

That is the question, but you want to confound me.

Me is me?

Told you also…. I am everything… and of course, everybody. I just know it.

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Not thinking


What are the antonyms of thinking? Thinking is a conscious act. So, I think, the antonyms of thinking must express an unconscious action like sleeping, but I can’t find the exact word.

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Unconsciousness is the antonym of consciousness, not of thinking. The antonym of ‘thinking’ has to entail ‘not thinking’ in it’s meaning (the answer or term). What is it where thinking is absent but not so consciousness? The answer is, silent contemplation (or a state of wordless absorption). Samadhi – a thoughtless experience not devoid of consciousness – would also do as an answer. What will not be acceptable to a majority of readers is that even in deep sleep consciousness is present (objectless consciousness) – Advaitins do, and I am with them.

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Brahman & maya


Can Advaitins explain how Maya can be an attribute of the supposedly attributeless Brahman? Why was the creation needed if Brahman alone existed? What is Ishwara?

1) Maya is not an attribute of Brahman which, as you say, is attributeless. Maya is a diffuse, or polyvalent, concept that gives rise to much confusion, particularly by translating it as ‘illusion’ (see below). This concept can be viewed from the psychological, epistemological, and ontological perspectives. Purely from the standpoint of Shankara’s Advaita Vedanta, maya is tied in with the concept of ‘ignorance’ (avidya), which is prior to it; that is, avidya is the necessary condition for maya. Once ignorance has been annihilated by knowledge, maya disappears. That means that from the higher (of two) point of view maya does not exist. This is contrary to most post-Shankara authors, with the exception of Suresvara, who taught that maya is a positive entity or force. If that were the case, how could a positive entity be removed by knowledge? Swami Satchidanandendra, practically alone in the 20th Cent. has defended the former, Shankarian position.

Maya can also be viewed as the power or energy of Brahman to create the world, and etymologically the word comes from ‘magic/magician’. But note that the (phenomenal) world is not pure illusion, as stated above, but mithya (relatively real)

2) ‘Brahman alone is real. The world is appearance. The world is not other than Brahman’ (one of the ‘great sayings’ – mahavakya).

3) Ishvara is Brahman considered as creator and ‘personal’ by those who need or are proclive to a devotional relationship (creator/creature). It is also known as ‘saguna brahman’ (Brahman with attributes), as (apparently) different from ‘nirguna Brahman’.

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