Can consciousness exist without time?

(Question answered 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 with the concept ‘now’, which cannot be elucidated or otherwise measured. ‘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 are strong in that position.

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Two questions and answers

Two questions answered in Quora

Is soul different from consciousness?

I agree with the responders here that equate both concepts – soul and consciousness – which in themselves are just pointers to what is real/reality. Reality can only be one, not multiple; thus, to make a distinction between soul and consciousness, or between spirit and matter, God and the world (or ‘I’), experience and knowledge  – or between Brahman and Atman – is either provisional (an intermediate doctrine or teaching) or confusing and limiting.

Another polarity which is ultimately unreal (only verbal or conceptual) from an unitary or metaphysical perspective is singularity/multiplicity. Language has its rights, but in this rarefied realm I would also equate spirituality with metaphysics, knowing full well the risks or misunderstandings that it can lead to.

Life is difficult. Life is tough. Life is full of problems, challenges, obstacles and struggles. How do you feel about it? Do you like it? How can such a life ever be enjoyable or motivating? Why would anyone want to live if this is how life is?

This is a leading question, expecting, that is, that one will tend to agree with the questioner… ‘True, life is so hard…’ Before calling such question, or statement in question form, a platitude, one would wonder what his/her age is in order to help in assessing the sincerity and opportunity of the question – very young, mature, old?

Many of the answers given may or may not satisfy the questioner, but, before I might attempt an answer myself, I would have to ask a number of questions – apart from the age – so as to avoid embarking in a long essay on such complicated or difficult question – not something in black or white, yes or no. For example, what is the life-experience and/or background of the person asking, or what is it that motivated such question. None of the responders could object to what I just wrote… did they all forget to ask these elementary questions prior to attempting an answer?

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Advaita Vedanta – ll

In  Advaita Vedanta Vedantic (or higher) reasoning is distinguished from independent reasoning or speculation, which invariably is in conflict with that of other individuals and schools of thought – ‘Speculation is unbridled… It is impossible to expect finality from it, for men’s minds are diversely inclined’ (SBh 2-1-11). The former, higher reasoning, is, or must be, in agreement with scripture (Upanishads, etc. called shruti) and is never in conflict with universal experience. There is some syllogistic deduction (‘there is fire on that mountain for we see smoke there’), but it is not prominent in AV.

‘For the truth relating to this Reality which is conducive to final release is too deep even for a conjuncture without revelation’ (SBh 2-1-11). Here  ‘revelation’ means the ‘deep intuitions arrived at by the sages of old (rishis)’ and compiled in three main bodies of works (chiefly the Upanishads), so you can disregard that word and substitute ‘self-realization’ for it.

But even scriptures are not sufficient to get to the truth: a prepared, mature mind is a requisite, which usually takes years if not life-times. After that long  preparation, preferably with the help of a qualified teacher, a final intuition (anubhava or brahmavidya) may occur. I won’t talk about the method or methods used or about qualifications of the student, not a small matter.

‘Right knowledge ought to be uniform throughout, since it must conform to an existing fact. That is to be considered real which consistently maintains its identity… right knowledge, as for instance the knowledge that fire is hot’ (SBh 2-1-11). There is of course much more to say about all this [what is ignorance (avidya) as per AV, means of knowledge, levels of understanding – rather than of existence or being – , etc.].


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Advaita Vedanta – l

Advaita Vedanta can be called a mystical path, a spirituality, science of reality, or a combination of both (which I prefer). It can be called nonduality or ‘Monism’ (preferably the first): monism because it takes reality as being One (“without a second”). Nonduality because – though reality is one in essence or ultimately – it presents itself as apparently two: purusha-prakriti, Self- not self, sat-asat, subject-object, Atman-brahman. That apparent dichotomy, as stated, is reducible to the one reality which can be called variously ‘pure consciousness’, ‘the absolute’, ‘sat-chit-ananda’ (being-consciousness-bliss)… the unnamable. Words – language – is secondary, needed to express what is in itself inexpressible. What is inexpressible can be/is a (self)realization of ‘what is’  (anubhava) arrived at by intuition and (Vedantic) reasoning.

From he above it can be seen that Berkeleyan idealism is quite different. One similarity is that both systems deny the existence of an external world, but the idealism of Berkeley retains the validity or reality of minds and ideas. There is no problem with having God as the final ‘arbiter’ or Witness, since this notion or reality is (ontologically) equivalent to ‘the Self’ or pure Consciousness. Towards the end of his life Berkeley came to a position akin to pantheism*, not quite different from Advaita which, as stated, is a mystical, experiential Way (knowing-being), but properly it is not not pantheism. In Advaita the apparent multiplicity of forms/objects is denied – they are just names and forms (nama-rupa) , but in the end (with full comprehension) they are not other than the way Consciousness or the Self manifests Itself, thus ultimately not different from It.

* His last work, ‘Siris’ c.f. Colin M. Turbayne’s “Berkeley’s Two Concepts of Mind”

c.f. Greg Goode on Non-duality (Western types of).

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‘Problems of new religions’

“The problem of these new religions is that they do give results. But not necessarily in a religious sense. People are going to these new religions for emotions, for experiences, not for reality. An experience always seems real, even if what you experience is illusory in nature.” Father Sylvan, in ‘Lost Christianity’ – J. Needleman

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Wisdom and seeking

At the end of many journeyings the man full of wisdom cometh to Me; he, the Great-souled One (Mahatma), rare indeed to find, saith: ‘Vasudeva (Krishna as the indwelling One) is All’. Gita Vii, 19.


Si no fuera por los espacios del alma, no habría caminar para los buscadores’ – ‘Ata Allah,  El libro de la sabiduría (kitab al-hikam)


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Can we step out of Plato’s cave?

Quora — posted on  by 

X  As I remember, Plato spoke of the few that escaped into the bright light of day, becoming (at least temporarily) blinded. That, by itself, has a metaphorical meaning. But if the question is rhetorical, the answer is a conditional ‘Yes’ – that is, by leading the life of a philosopher (‘lover of wisdom’), i.e. following the path of philosophy. That is a lifelong process or journey, in Plato’s terms.

Y  Plato mistakenly thought we could get a Truth by purely mental means and a priori principles.   Not so.  We have to look at, touch, feel, smell, taste and handle reality.

X  Sorry to disagree. First, we don’t know what were his oral doctrines to selected disciples (the 7th letter says something in that regard, while undervaluing the written word). Second, his ontology was non-dualist rather than a scalar one: all the lower steps or stages being incorporated step-wise in the higher ones, till getting to the Good as a first principle (supreme arché) – each step or degree of being, a reflection of the one above, exactly the same as with the five koshas or sheaths of Advaita Vedanta, except that here each kosha is within the previous one and thus becoming subtler and subtler. This would result in contemplation of a unity or oneness – one reality. When Socrates spoke of Diotima, his mentor, he did so reverently, signifying or suggesting something sacred – a spiritual transmission (one might google: Plato’s secret doctrines).


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