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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Three Q&A-s


How can we consciously realize the consciousness concept?

First, consciousness is beyond concepts – language, which is dualist, allows talking of it as if separate from the subject, thus conceptually. But consciousness is a prime reality, the foundation of everything existing; same as being (which are not two). Consciousness is first, an immediate reality and, accordingly, you don’t have to do anything to realize it since you are it. Only, let the veil of ignorance drop, mostly by ‘not this, not this’ – one apavada after another; that is, by real understanding or discrimination. You are being itself, consciousness itself. The knower cannot know itself – as an object.

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 a destruction of the ego (“me”) will thus entail 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 it is that is really perceiving these words in 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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