Consciousness-Existence-Love


http://www.quora.com/How-many-of-you-agree-with-the-theory-that-our-consciousness-ends-when-we-die?__nsrc__=4

How many of you agree with the theory that our consciousness ends when we die?

(There’s of course nothing called ‘Soul’ of a person that goes on to live forever in afterlife. I’m an atheist. I person believe that when we die, our brain and the entire body shuts down, and we meet an end. Those of us who experienced anesthesia knows how it feels when our brains are inactive.)

(30.11.16)

M. I for one do not agree. Bodies decay and die, not so consciousness. The whole is greater than the part, and that whole can be called ‘life’, ‘existence’, or ‘consciousness’ – none of it reducible to the physical or material. All bipolar concepts, such as life-death, good-bad, one-many, mind-body, ‘you and I’ (‘me and the other’) are false – just concepts. There is only totality (‘what is’), namely, existence or being – not many existences (existents), but one existence; not many loves, but one Love Consciousness and reality1535525_676806255693789_2147234899_n. And all of us are in essence, that is, in reality, existence and love – they are not ‘two’ (love being Plato’s higher ‘eros’ or desire) once plurality is ‘seen’ for what it is: a deception or narrow vision.

About amartingarcia

General surgeon (retired). Studied Western philosophy at U of Toronto. Afterwards interest turned to advaita vedanta and non-duality for past 20 yrs, plus a long interlude in Sufism coinciding with that period. Now contributing in ’Advaita Vision’ with regular posts and discussions.
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11 Responses to Consciousness-Existence-Love

  1. saengnapha says:

    Consciousness seems to be a word that gets tossed about a lot both in scientific circles and philosophical ones. Many serious neuro scientists have begun to doubt the existence of something called consciousness as there is not a shred of evidence that it exists. But we use the word to signify something, and that something seems to be our subjective way of referring to ourselves. Many neuroscientists now believe that there is no real self but activities that create the appearance of there being one. The creation of the narrative of our person who is having experiences, both inwardly and outwardly. All of this exists due to the information passed to the brain from the sensory doorways of our bodies, such as eyes, ears, touch, etc.

    Since we cannot have any control over what passes into the brain, it is purely autonomous, consciousness seems to arise with the brain’s interpretation of these sensory inputs through images and language. Apart from this activity, we would not know that we are conscious or even alive. Only the brain keeps telling us we exist as our narrative.

    Surely this narrative does not survive the death of the body. The elements, matter, which are not something personal go on to transform into other forms, none being amartingarcia. Why are you so convinced that there is something called consciousness aside from our subjectivity when the overwhelming evidence says it doesn’t exist? Or, perhaps you come to all of this as a Monist who wants to believe that there is something eternal to look towards or believe in? Science also wants to understand this but will not prematurely identify something that may not be there. All this talk about the ‘hard problem’ could be mental deception, imagination. We are such good creatures at projection. Truly creative and extraordinary and we believe our stories!

    • Thank you for your well-argued comment. Empirical science is one thing; philosophy another. Other than Monism there is Non-duality, ‘not-two’ (ultimately there is no essential distinction between matter and consciousness which latter, logically and epistemologically, is prius; equally, no distinction between subject and object, observer-observed. The existence and reality of consciousness, which is independent of all phenomena, doesn’t need a proof. ‘I’ (a subject) am conscious (Descartes was right here). Referring oneself to subjectivity actually is enough (shall we call it a qualia, though you, no doubt, will reject it?). It is indisputable that all bodies (organic matter) will disintegrate in due time. Rather than an individual ‘soul’, forms of nonduality, such as advaita Vedanta, Yogacara Buddhism, etc., postulate, precisely, consciousness (Advaita) or mind (Budd.) as the ultimate reality – awareness is an equivalent term for the former. Philosophy works with/by intuition and also reason (phenomenology is something similar, and is of Western pedigree).

  2. saengnapha says:

    It is so easy to slip through an enquiry of a subject to a conclusive belief. You jumped to this statement: ‘ultimately, there is no essential distinction between matter and consciousness which latter, logically and epistemologically, is prius’.

    You are not putting forth any real or clear concept when you say that reality or consciousness doesn’t need a proof. The ‘I’ of Descartes has been clearly shown through both science and philosophical/religious schools to be a creation in the brain with no concrete reality. The idea of an ‘ultimate’ reality is just a theory that is adhered to by Monists, which you counter with non duality. Non duality, advaita, = not two, is usually reduced to ‘oneness’, which is another form of Monism. Buddhists do not postulate Monism or any ultimate reality. They postulate advaya, = not two.

    Quoting the definition by an Indian scholar Jaldhar Vyas:
    “Although both Jnana are called non-dual, here too they mean two different
    things. Non-dual (advaita) in the Hindu context means (divitiyam nasti).
    There is no second substance except the Brahman is the only thing that
    exists. This should be called Monism rather than Non-dualism. The word eka
    vastu vada would be closer than advaita.

    However Buddhism usually uses advaya (only sometimes is advaita used) and
    here it means ‘not two’ i.e. free from the two extremes (skt. dvaya anta
    mukta) of samaropa (the tendency to see things as really existing) and
    apavada (the tendency to see things as non-existing).” Think it over, a bit.

    I’m not arguing which is right, but, we are getting away from the postulating of consciousness. There is simply no way to separate consciousness from phenomena. Science cannot do it, and the philosophical or religious mind can’t do it. They only postulate a thought structure which. But you seem to insist on this being a fact of life instead of something to really contemplate deeply. The urge to believe is phenomenally strong in us, so much so, that we allow what others have put forth to inform/influence us how to live and what to think that we are not facing what we actually are. Science has clearly shown that we are just looking through filters of what we know/believe and interpreting the sensory data that is hitting the brain. We interpret through imagery and language which is all learned/stored in the brain. It is just information that the brain sifts through and comes up with probabilities. Where is ultimate reality in this? Certainly not through another belief system.

    It’s a difficult subject, all of this. I don’t expect any perfect explanation from you or anyone else, so please don’t feel that you have to argue to a conclusion. This is not personal.

  3. saengnapha says:

    Sorry, one correction please: advaita = not two is incorrect. advaita=nonduality is what I meant. Not two and nondual actually mean different things in the two schools mentioned, which I gave a quote from Vyas.

  4. You raise a lot of questions, and I will go about them one by one, hoping you won’t mind.

    1). Everything is a belief until the belief is replaced by a conviction based on an experience, the experience (intuition + reasoning) needing no proof.

    2). Consciousness and intelligence are prerequisites for understanding what any concept (e.g. matter) means. Without consciousness, nil. That is why it is logically, ontologically, and epistemologically prior to any enquiry or investigation. Can this be contested?

    3). When writing or reading, are you and I conscious? Is there need of a proof for this (which I call reality or fact)? The fact of being conscious as a living being is irrefutable. Another question is whether it is the brain, or consciousness, that which is causal in this ‘binomius’.

    4). Descartes posited an ‘I’ (cogito) invalidly, instead of saying: ‘a thought/thinking is happening’, as his first premise, but he was not amiss when he went on to distinguish between res extensa and res cogitans (refuted by non-dualists as well as by Berkeley). The problem here, extensive to most of Western philosophy, is the conflating mind and consciousness. For Advaita Vedanta (from now AV) mind is an object of/for consciousness which, together with all that it thinks of, appear and disappear (e.g., swoop, deep sleep, etc.). Not so consciousness, which is invariant and ever present. Thus, objectless consciousness is a fact, not a theory.

    5). So, the idea that the “‘I’ of Descartes has been clearly shown through both science and philosophical/religious schools to be a creation in the brain with no concrete reality” is true if one takes mind as including, or replacing, consciousness. If, on the other hand, ‘consciousness’ is substituted for ‘mind’, then religion, philosophy, and many scientists (those who do not buy into physicalism, a particular doctrine or belief) will not raise that objection, as suggested by point #4.

    6). Non-duality, including Advaita (a-dvaita, not two) is not the same as Monism. Who says that “advaita, = not two, is usually reduced to ‘oneness’, which is another form of Monism”? I am aware of that confusion. The non-dualism of AV signifies that Atman (true Self) and Brahman (non-dual reality) are not two numerically different entities, but rather two different labels for one and the same reality – thus removing any ambiguity (the same thing can be said about the bipolar concept ‘subject-object’). Clearly, then, I beg to differ from the Indian scholar you mention (“[Advaita] should be called Monism rather than Non-dualism”

    7). Contrary to what you say Buddhists postulate either emptiness/void or dharmakaya as the ultimate reality or truth – or what can be called such. That tradition is different from AV, but the experience (if there is such an experience) comes to the same thing: ineffable oneness. (BTW Oneness is not monism; it is other than what you stated above: #6).

    8). “There is simply no way to separate consciousness from phenomena. Science cannot do it, and the philosophical or religious mind can’t do it”. Reply: (Understanding) AV does it: Objectless consciousness is a fact and a possibility of experience (#4). Since Brahman is the only reality, there is no possibility for ‘any thing’ to be objectified as seen (contemplated) from paramarthika (again, ‘not-two’). Hence mind becomes no-mind.

  5. saengnapha says:

    Again, you keep jumping into unfounded conclusions about Brahman and consciousness. These are your beliefs. We all have them. Reduction is not the same as truth or fact. It is an assumption. Our assumptions are often wrong (not the end of the world). You introduce two elements that are distinctly Indian in origin, Brahman, which you say is the ultimate reality, and consciousness, which you say can be objectless.

    I don’t see how you can separate these things from the totality of phenomenon. When you reduce this to a single truth, you automatically elevate it into a hierarchical model and that highest element is Monism. Why do you insist on separating things out? The universe does not work like that, it is only our minds that are attempting to do so. The struggle of mind to sort out what doesn’t need sorting is where duality resides.

    Advaya, meaning not two, is not a definition of non duality. It means to say that the 2 views, things as existing, and its opposite view, things as non existing, are not adhered to. This is the Madhyamika view of Buddhism. Can you see the difference?

    I am not saying that this is a better view than the Hindu one. But, it does allow for the totality to remain as it is, what it is, neither existing, nor not existing. It shuts down the mentation that carries on the analytical and self serving functions that lead to holding either one or the other of the views that are mentioned above. In this kind of environment, conceptualization doesn’t overpower what is. Objectless consciousness has no more importance than the breeze coming through my window, or the river flowing along its banks. Nothing stands apart from anything else.

    What is your definition of awareness vs. consciousness? Is there one without the other? Are they effectively the same thing? You seem to think that consciousness exists. As stated above, this would be a mistaken view and not within the advaya purview. Whenever you separate anything out, the tendency is to fixate on it. Please think this over.

  6. S. “Again, you keep jumping into unfounded conclusions about Brahman and consciousness.”

    M. Am I? My position has been, and is, all along that of (Shankarian) AV. You should try to refute that tradition rather than trying to refute me. Besides, as I said before, a belief based on introspection and understanding or assimilation ceases to be just a belief (you would have to refute the tradition behind it). True, the conclusion based on it (the purported belief, or understanding) may be only – and it usually is – within vyavahara (see below).

    S. “Reduction is not the same as truth or fact. It is an assumption. Our assumptions are often wrong… You introduce two elements that are distinctly Indian in origin, Brahman, which you say is the ultimate reality, and consciousness, which you say can be objectless.”

    M. Again, these two doctrines (or ‘beliefs’) are not mine, they faithfully reproduce the teaching of AV (I could have copied them from one or more of my books). By the same token, they correspond to what is called vyavahara (empirical viewpoint) and also mithya (neither real nor unreal). All teaching – as teaching – is vyavahara.

    S. “I don’t see how you can separate these things from the totality of phenomenon. When you reduce this to a single truth, you automatically elevate it into a hierarchical model and that highest element is Monism.”

    M. There is nothing that is separable as seen from AV; what there is is an integrated whole (but not Monism, as I clarified previously). There is not even need to resort to the Budd. Doctrine of Co-dependent origination since understanding that all transactions – practical or empirical and doctrinal (including the highest doctrines) are but mithya; all phenomena are mithya, meaning not independent or self-validating. This means that the essence of all phenomena (gross and subtle) is satya-reality (or Brahman). It also shows that you did not understand what I wrote last.
    ‘Brahman’ is a name or symbol standing for ultimate reality, but one can use others.
    ‘Consciousness’ and ‘awareness’ (equivalent terms in AV) are also verbal symbols within a given language; English in this case. Something – a figurative symbol or a name – has to stand for the reality or fact/s indicated by them; there may be more than one. The modern Indian sage, Nisargadatta Maharaj, distinguished between these two terms, ‘awareness’ (as was translated from Marathi, his own language) being ontologically prior or higher (than ‘Consciousness’); he was rather an exception in this.

    ‘The Madhyamika view of Buddhism’…

    Evidently this is your main (source of) inspiration or adopted teaching/tradition. We could debate on this, showing on my part why I consider the non-duality of AV preferable, if not necessarily superior (a personal choice?).

    ‘Existence-non existence’.

    This pair is also referred to and covered in AV, and is a theme all its own.
    (I said enough about ‘awareness vs. consciousness’ and the misunderstanding caused by these two terms.)

  7. saengnapha says:

    S. “Reduction is not the same as truth or fact. It is an assumption. Our assumptions are often wrong… You introduce two elements that are distinctly Indian in origin, Brahman, which you say is the ultimate reality, and consciousness, which you say can be objectless.”

    M. Again, these two doctrines (or ‘beliefs’) are not mine, they faithfully reproduce the teaching of AV (I could have copied them from one or more of my books). By the same token, they correspond to what is called vyavahara (empirical viewpoint) and also mithya (neither real nor unreal). All teaching – as teaching – is vyavahara.

    When I read your response, my first thought was that this was what you have programmed yourself to believe and to respond to all questioning with. It is so easy to repeat these words of doctrine once you get the hang of it. Is there anything that you can call your own understanding? Direct knowing is not a doctrinary procedure. Knowing the nature of things is ontological. The words of doctrine take a diminished position because they are not the nature of things but a reflection through mentation. There is only division between doctrines which should be obvious to any serious enquiry. Isn’t this one of the main points of non duality teachings?

  8. You. “Knowing the nature of things is ontological.”
    Reply: You mistake ontology for epistemology. All knowledge has to do with means of knowledge, evidence, presuppositions, etc., which is epistemology. What you say above is, at best, a tautology, but it is not well expressed.

    You. “The words of doctrine take a diminished position because they are not the nature of things but a reflection through mentation.”

    Reply: Another tautology (or part thereof) — analytical argument which is empty of content: ‘Doctrine/al is reflection through mentation’ (another example: ‘All bachelors are unmarried’). Further, and obviously, ‘doctrine’, ‘words’, *are not* ‘the nature of things’ – a third tautology.
    Conclusion so far: You have not said anything.

    You: “There is only division between doctrines which should be obvious to any serious enquiry”.

    Reply: Yes, it is obvious, and it amounts to a fourth tautology! (Difference/s imply division)

    I was going to reply to your last comments by saying that you seem to be engaged in a personal feud against me, portraying or positioning yourself as a/the winner (such self-assurance!) – For this, undoubtedly, is a debate. You want to prove that your understanding (shall we call it ‘non-dual realization’?) is superior to mine – mine actually non-existing since it is all just parrot-like repetition or book-learning. Also, I was going to say that this is illegitimate on your part since the debate is, first and foremost, about ideas. But now I think that, being a debate, we should call for an independent jury or forum. Simply by showing who handles better the arguments produced back and forth, the judges will be able to tell whose understanding (out of the two contenders) is deeper and/or truer. Shall we do that?

  9. saengnapha says:

    more games, sir? No, thanks. That is not my interest. We can agree to disagree. I didn’t mean any personal insult. I have no desire to force a result and I don’t want to spend the time arguing. It is usually counterproductive to my own views and practice, and I don’t mind if you think of my comments as just my 2 cents. Let me leave you with this………….
    Whatever we call ‘Knowing our true nature’, it is something that is doubt free and possible in any given moment. It is always present no matter what the circumstances are, positive or negative, with thoughts, and without them. This knowing is of a radiant nature that encompasses all appearances. It is all appearances, nothing is separated from it. If this is your experience, then indeed, your path has borne fruit. If not, finding a real teacher is of paramount importance. Nothing can replace what we call Transmission. A real teacher introduces you to your own nature directly. This Knowing needs to be nurtured as it will be in a fragile state in the beginning. A real teacher will help you abide in this knowing through your own contemplation. This connection is essential, please don’t underestimate it.

  10. You speak the words of Advaita Vedanta, including “a real teacher is of paramount importance”. It is indeed very helpful, almost indispensable — but, essential? Please allow me to make a few points for your consideration:

    1). The teacher of teachers, guru of gurus, Dattatreya (as per the Avadhut Gita), when asked from whom he obtained his wisdom, he replied that he had had 24 gurus: water, earth, space, moon, sun, maker of arrows… Yes, of course, not anyone can be a Dattatreya, the supreme guru. He had what we can call ‘spontaneous – or congenital – Atmanubhava’ (final intuition). But intuition is universal. ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth’ (Spiritus ubi vult spirat).

    2). In the Gaudapada karika 1-18 (Gaudapada being grand-guru of Shankaracharya) one reads that ‘all concepts like Prapañcha (world of duality) – guru, shishya (disciple), etc., – are mere misconceptions. In his bhashya to this karika Shankara states that ‘these ideas are for the purpose of teaching which are (appear as) true until one realises the Highest Truth’. Then, as I wrote before, ‘mind becomes no-mind’ since there are no longer any objects, no multiplicity at all.

    3). As to Transmission of spiritual power from teacher to disciple (shaktipata), this is prominent in forms of Tantra, and one reads that Abhinavagupta elaborated on it extensively, but it is not a dogma of AV, as implied by what was said under #2. Greetings, AM.

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