Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Science and self-investigation

A friend recently asked me to comment on an article entitled The Universe as a Hologram by Michael Talbot, saying that ‘it brings the scientific viewpoint very close to the mystic vision of reality’, and after I replied to him he sent a second email in which he tried to explain why he believed that science is relevant to Sri Ramana’s teachings, saying:
Before physics delved deeply into the nature of matter, conviction about the unreality of the perceived world could only be based on complete faith in the teaching. In the modern world however, beliefs are founded upon rational and scientific grounds. Particle physics has provided us with scientific grounds for such faith i.e. belief in the unreality and illusoriness of the perceived world, since it has shown that what we regard as solid matter is actually non-substance.
The following is adapted from the replies I wrote to these two emails:

First reply:

When I skimmed through Michael Talbot’s article I did not find it any closer to the advaitic view of reality than any other theory of advanced physics such as quantum theory, because it is all based on the assumption that there is something that exists independent of the mind that experiences it, and on the further assumption that the mind that experiences all this is real, which are two assumptions that Sri Ramana challenges.

To say the universe is a phantasm (in the sense that Talbot suggests it is) is very different to saying it is a dream, because a dream is created by the mind without any external cause, whereas a phantasm (in Talbot’s sense) is supposed to be a phenomenon created by the mind due to its misperception of something that exists externally (that is, something that exists independent of the perceiving mind).

Science is limited by its demand that everything should be studied objectively, so it can never come anywhere near to the view of advaita, which can be experienced only by rejecting all objective experience and trying to experience only the experiencing subject, ‘I’. By experiencing ‘I’ in total isolation from everything else, which is what we attempt to experience when we practise self-investigation (ātma-vicāra), we will experience absolute non-duality, in which all that is experienced is the ‘I’ that is experiencing it. Therefore there is no way that any of the objective sciences can approach this experience, because they only investigate things that are experienced as other than ‘I’, and hence their findings necessarily entail duality (a distinction between the observer and the observed).

Science is useful for improving the material comforts and conveniences of our bodily life, but there is no way that it can enable us to experience the absolute reality that underlies the appearance of our bodily life and this physical world. In this context we should bear in mind what Sri Ramana wrote in the third paragraph of Nāṉ Yār? (Who am I?):
சர்வ அறிவிற்கும் சர்வ தொழிற்குங் காரண மாகிய மன மடங்கினால் ஜகதிருஷ்டி நீங்கும். கற்பித ஸர்ப்ப ஞானம் போனா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான ரஜ்ஜு ஞானம் உண்டாகாதது போல, கற்பிதமான ஜகதிருஷ்டி நீங்கினா லொழிய அதிஷ்டான சொரூப தர்சன முண்டாகாது.

sarva aṟiviṯkum sarva toṙiṯkuṅ kāraṇam āhiya maṉam aḍaṅgiṉāl jaga-diruṣṭi nīṅgum. kaṯpita sarppa-jñāṉam pōṉāl oṙiya adhiṣṭhāṉa rajju-jñāṉam uṇḍāhādadu pōla, kaṯpitamāṉa jaga-diruṣṭi nīṅgiṉāl oṙiya adhiṣṭhāṉa sorūpa darśaṉam uṇḍāhādu.

If the mind, which is the cause of all [objective] knowledge and of all activity, subsides, jagad-dṛṣṭi [perception of the world] will cease. Just as knowledge of the rope, which is the base [that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of a snake], will not arise unless knowledge of the imaginary snake ceases, svarūpa-darśana [true experiential knowledge of our own essential nature or real self], which is the base [that underlies and supports the imaginary appearance of this world], will not arise unless perception of the world, which is an imagination [or fabrication], ceases.
We cannot experience ‘I’ as it actually is so long as we experience the world, and when we do experience ‘I’ as it actually is, the false appearance of both our mind (which is a mistaken experience of ‘I’) and this world will dissolve and disappear, just as the imaginary snake disappears as soon as we see the rope as it is.

Second reply:

Long before any of the findings or theories of modern physics were known, philosophers both in the east (probably earlier) and in the west (probably somewhat later) have asked questions about the world such as: How can we know that there is any external world? How can we know that anything that we experience (such as this world) exists independent of our experience of it (or independent of our mind that experiences it)? How can we know that anything is as it appears to be? How can we know that any appearance is actually real?

These questions are all a mixture of epistemological and metaphysical questions (the ‘how can we know’ portion is epistemological, and the other portion of each of these questions is metaphysical), and epistemological and metaphysical questions cannot be adequately answered either by philosophy or by science [as I explained in my previous article, Does the world exist independent of our experience of it?]. That is, neither philosophy nor science can give us a certain answer to any of these questions.

Philosophy is useful insofar as it prompts us to question everything that we believe or that we assume we know, and thereby it helps us to understand how little we do actually know for certain. However, though it teaches us to ask many important questions, it cannot by itself provide us with any certain answers to those questions. The greatest benefit that we can derive from philosophy is that it can (though most philosophies do not) indicate where we must look in order to find reliable answers to all its most fundamental questions, as does the philosophy taught by Sri Ramana.

That is, since philosophy can show us that the only thing that is absolutely certain is that I am, even though at present I am confused about what I am, it can enable us to understand that we cannot attain certain knowledge about anything else until we know for certain what I am, and that in order to know what I am I must try to experience myself alone, in complete isolation from everything else. In other words, before investigating anything else we should first investigate ourself alone in order to experience what I actually am, as the philosophy of Sri Ramana teaches us to do.

Science, on the other hand, does research on the world as it appears to us, and it develops technologies for doing research on things that we cannot perceive by our unaided senses. In the course of its research it develops theories to try to explain its observations, and those theories postulate theoretical entities such as atoms, protons, neutrons, electrons and energy fields, and thus it creates a theoretical picture of the world which is quite different to the picture of the world that is provided by our five senses. So for example it theorises that what seems to us to be solid matter is just energy fields in empty space.

But these are all just theories, and from the history of science we learn that theories and theoretical entities that were once universally accepted by the scientific community were later discredited and replaced by newer theories and theoretical entities that could accommodate more recent discoveries. Therefore we have no reason to suppose that any of the theories or theoretical entities that are now universally accepted by the scientific community will not later be discredited by future discoveries, and will not therefore need to be replaced by other theories and theoretical entities.

Even if we suppose that all currently accepted theories and theoretical entities are true (though this is a supposition that is almost certainly not true), how can we be sure that the theoretical picture of the world that they present to us is any less of an appearance than is the picture of the world that is provided by our five senses? If the world as we perceive it by our unaided senses is only an appearance, why should we believe that the world as it is postulated to be by modern physics is not likewise only an appearance?

Can physics or any other objective science prove to us that there is actually an external world; that anything that we experience actually exists independent of our experience of it (or independent of our mind that experiences it); that anything is as it appears to be; or that that any appearance is actually real? All objective sciences are based on the assumption that there is an external world — a world that exists independent of our experience of it, and independent of our experiencing mind — so how can any theory that is based on this assumption prove that this assumption is true?

If there is no external world, all the theories of science are false, because they are all beliefs that entail belief in an external world. Therefore, to try to prove the existence of an external world by means of any scientific theory would entail circular reasoning — that is, it would assume as one of its premises the conclusion that it is trying to prove.

When modern philosophers of science are confronted by the question whether there is actually any external world (that is, any mind-independent world), the best answer they can give is that belief in an external world is justified by what is called IBE or ‘inference to the best explanation’, because they claim the existence of an external world is the best explanation of all that we experience. However, what makes it appear to be the ‘best explanation’ is that it fits best with everything else we believe about the world, all of which entail our belief that the world exists independent of our experience of it. Therefore their claim that it is the ‘best explanation’ is based on a not too well concealed form of circular reasoning (which means that science is not as rational as it superficially appears to be).

Therefore though modern physics does lend support to the view that the world is not as it appears to be, it does not and cannot challenge our deep-rooted but unfounded belief that the world exists independent of our experience of it.

When Sri Ramana says that the world is unreal, he is not merely saying as modern physics says that it is not as it appears to be, but is saying that it does not exist at all independent of our mind that experiences it. And according to him, even the mind that experiences this world is itself unreal: it does not actually exist at all, so if we investigate it it will disappear, and along with it the entire appearance of this world will also cease to exist.

Science consists of observations (about how the world appears to be) and theories (that explain those observations), but neither its observations nor its theories can actually prove anything other than the fact that I am, because in order to observe anything or to conceive any theory, I must exist. However, we do not need any science to prove that I am, because everything that I experience proves that I am, and even if I did not experience anything else, I would still experience that I am, because the very nature of ‘I’ is to experience its own existence, ‘I am’.

Thinking about science or anything else other than ‘I’ is a distraction that diverts our attention away from ourself towards other things. Therefore, if we are to experience what this ‘I’ is, we must give up investigating or attending to anything else, and must instead investigate only ‘I’ by attending to it exclusively.


Sundar said...



The above is a link to a discourse on this topic more or less by Nisargadatta's guru Siddharameshwar given in 1926. His e.g. of our eyes using a Telescope and a Microscope analyzing whether what we see is even real is quite interesting. I think its an interesting article.

Noob said...

The whole world is my guru, it turns my attention back to the source.

Periya Eri said...

What is wrong in our deep-rooted "but unfounded" belief that the world exists independent of our experience of it ?
The statement saying that the world is unreal does not in the least change the fact that we have to master all difficulties in our life.
The same evaluation goes for the conclusion that the world does not exist at all independent of our mind that experiences it. And the same is true of the statement that even the mind that experiences this world is itself unreal. Also the account that the mind does not actually exist at all and that after its investigation it will disappear, and that along with it the entire appearance of this world will also cease to exist.
So what is the result ?
All the spectacular insights maybe satisfy fanciful scientists and cave dwellers who live far from coping with modern life.
For humanity I don't see what the advantage would be in accepting their "wisdom". We cannot say that the particle physics along with the outcome of self-investigation are a lot of use or would be helpful for a large part of population in daily life.
People should put it to the test: While experiencing 'I'as it actually is, take a power saw and amputate one of your legs.
What then will be the "false appearance of both our mind and this world" ? Will the world dissolve and disappear ?
I think the mentioned epistemological and metaphysical questions will then increase in value. That won't help us.

Periya Eri said...

Sorry about the spelling mistake;
in the last line of course I wanted to write "decrease in value" instead of "increase in value".

Michael James said...

Periya Eri, even if our present waking state is just a dream, and this world is therefore just a mental creation, like the world we experience in any other dream, so long as we are dreaming ourself to be part of this world, we obviously have to face all the difficulties that that entails, such as struggling to earn a livelihood or taking care to avoid being cut by a power saw.

Philosophical questions, self-investigation and particle physics are not intended to solve such mundane problems of daily life, just as taking care to cross a busy street safely is not intended to provide answers to any philosophical or scientific questions, or to enable us to experience what we really are. Each human endeavour has its own purpose, and the fact that endeavour E1 does not serve purpose P6 does not mean that it is useless, because it was never intended to serve purpose P6 but only to serve purpose P1. So long as it serves purpose P1, it is useful for that purpose, even if it is not useful for any other purpose.

Therefore before deciding which endeavour is useful for us, we need to decide what our purpose or aim is. If your aim is to experience what you really are, then self-investigation and Bhagavan’s teachings are very useful, but if your aim is anything else, then perhaps they are not useful for achieving that aim.

If your aim is to experience what you really are, you need to understand that you are not what you now seem to be. Now you seem to be a person living in a material world, and if you believe that this is true, you will see no purpose in self-investigation, because you believe that you are what you seem to be. However, if you are ready to doubt whether you are what you now seem to be, you will recognise that self-investigation is necessary to solve this doubt.

If you doubt whether you are what you now seem to be, you will also have to doubt whether the world and all the other things that you experience are what they now seem to be. You now seem to be a body called Periya Eri, and hence that body seems to be real, but if that body is not what you actually are, it is perhaps not real but just a mental creation, like any body that you experience as yourself in a dream. And if this body called Periya Eri is just a mental creation, the world that you perceive through the five senses of that body must also be a mere mental creation.

Therefore if your aim is to experience what you really are, questions about the reality of your body and this world will be of great value to you. They will seem to be of little or no value only if you do not aim to know what you really are.

You say, ‘While experiencing ‘I’ as it actually is, take a power saw and amputate one of your legs’, but if we experience what we really are, we will not experience ourself as a body, so there will then be nobody to take a power saw and amputate one of his or her legs. What you say is like saying, ‘While experiencing yourself as the body you now seem to be, take a power saw and amputate one of the legs off the body you seemed to be in a dream’. The body you seemed to be in your dream does not exist now, so how could you now amputate one of its legs?

Periya Eri said...

many thanks for your reply.
I have to concede that I have not any clear insight into reality because I am beginner on the path of self-investigation. Therefore my viewpoint is only the ego and the result of the daily perception of the five senses and the impressions on the senses. So it is not relevant if I do not much think of the statement that the waking state is just a dream and this world is just a mental creation. That was the reason why I used the drastic suggestion to take a power saw and to amputate one leg.
Although I seem to be a person living in a material world I believe I am only pure consciousness.
Further I believe that this is true. So I see purpose in self-investigation and it is of course my aim to experience what I really am. Not in the least I do believe that I am (only)a person what I seem to be.
Therefore I have not to apply self-investigation to solve any doubt. Rather I started to try to be self-attentive to make me ready to let the ego subside.
You can see now that a "black or white" draft cannot be employed to my current situation.
I do not care if the world is really or just a mental creation. For me it is enough to experience both the body and world. These questions maybe are interesting after realisation if ever. I feel that question does not have any relevance or significance for my spiritual ripeness.
I cannot agree with your conclusion that questions about the reality of my body and this world will be of great value if it is my aim to experience what I a really am and inversely of little value only if I do not aim to know what I really am.
It is a matter of opinion. As you say each human endeavour has its own purpose.
Maybe your claim is useful for the purpose of some others.
The statement that the body and the world would be “ just“ or „ mere“ a mental creation of mind for me does not contain any useful significance.
Of course Sri Ramana did experience himself as he really was and consequently did not in the slightest identify himself with or experience himself as a body.
But he as absolute consciousness did carry or have a body too. So his body also could have taken a (power) saw…
Michael, maybe there are more different kinds of approach to the truth as it may seem( to you).
Arunachala is not only guru to many individuals or personal selfs(jivatman) but also to me.
Therefore I do not want create any controversion.
But I think the mentioned statement can possibly or definetely prevent people from having a good look at Sri Ramana’s teachings because many people are of similar spiritual condition.
Apart from this: Though I would not compare the experiences of Mother Theresa with Sri Ramana I do not think that Mother Theresa would consent to the statement we were just talking about.

R Viswanathan said...

"The statement that the body and the world would be “ just“ or „ mere“ a mental creation of mind for me does not contain any useful significance."

This portion of the comment appears to be somewhat inconsistent with Arunachala being considered as the Guru. Especially after Bhagavan himself explained in many verses of Guru Vachaka Kovai as well as in Ulladhu Narpadhu the basis or reason for his assertion that the body and the word is only a mental creation. I am not sure whether such a statement will prevent anyone from having a good look at Bhagavan's teachings. On the contrary, I feel that it might induce one to critically analyze Bhagavan's teachings and thus may even result in developing a firm faith in the validity of Bhagavan's statement.

Periya Eri said...

Thank you, R Viswanathan, for responding.
Please could you tell me exactly which concrete help do you draw from that statement in your persisting practise of self-investigation ?
We in the west have the madhouses full of people who claim the world is not real. The mentioned statement seems to be misleading at least for beginners. That statement may expound explanatory advice only for advanced practised people.
Firm faith in Bhagavan's teachings is surely necessary, but you should not forget that you have to go the way by your own experience alone.

R Viswanathan said...

The most concrete help comes to me in the form of convincing reasoning given by Bhagavan (who stood by his assertion all along) in various verses of Guru Vachaka Kovai and Ulladhu Narpadhu) that the world and mind are not real and that self is the only reality.
I do feel that we need to go by the faith in and validity of Bhagavan's teachings until it becomes our experience, too, especially when Bhagavan never encouraged anyone to give up any activity to be able to perform self investigation.

Sundar said...

My comment here is specific to giving up activity or not.

Though I often read about how Bhagavan did not encourage giving up activity, I don't think thats true for either Bhagavan or any Jnani for that matter. I think Jnanis advice a person to give up activity or not because they have some foreknowledge pertaining to that person even though sometimes that advice is made to sound generic by others. For e.g. Annamalai Swamy was not allowed time to even meditate during his first 12 years with Bhagavan but later Bhagavan himself told him that his Karma was over and asked him only to meditate and for the next 50 years Annamalai Swamy never worked. With Muruganar, Bhagavan asked him to go back to his wife but he never did and always refused and lived alone. There was a monk in Ramakrishna Mission, Swami Damodarananda who met Bhagavan first and then when he asked Bhagavn if he should go to Ramakrishna Mission to become a monk, Bhagavan approved. So, I think whether to give up activity or not should not be based on the words of a Jnani's advice given to a specific person, rather it depends on one's own Vairagya. When one person asked Bhagavan why he himself ran away to Tiruvannamalai but adviced the other person not to renounce, Bhagavan simply hinted that if he had that vairagya, he would not be asking someone whether or not to renounce but would have done so and that says it all.

The other thing that I have noticed in the story of many Jnanis including Nisargadatta, Papaji etc that even though they don't advice anyone to give up their family after they became self realized, if you just read their own lives, they would have given up their family and spent their full time doing sadhana atleast for long periods before realization. So I don't think for giving up, one should necessarily worry about, "What Gita would have said or what Bhagavan would have said". Krishna adviced Arjuna to fight because he had lot of karma vasanas in him but the same Krishna asked Uddhava in Bhagavatam to renounce, so this advice is very specific.

Moreover one illogical thing that I see especially in many people who say that Bhagavan never asked anyone to renounce is that, on the one hand they say everything happens due to prarabhdha but on the other hand talk about whether one should renounce or not making it look like you have free will too and if you do have free will why not try to renounce and exercise it? You cannot have it both ways. If everything happens due to prarabhdha, then if a person tries to renounce 3 times but is not successful, how does one know that he will not be successful the fourth time? So how can one say it was not in his prarabhdha to renounce? Maybe it was in his prarabhdha to renounce in the 4th attempt. After all we all come to know what our prarabhdha is when we look in retrospect. I think the advice of Jnanis in such instances are specific and one cannot follow it based on an advice given to another person or even a set of persons.

If our ultimate goal is freedom, we have to do whatever needs to be done be it remaining in the family or renouncing. Our own Vairagya should and would make us do whatever is appropriate. However if we have a realized person like Bhagavan as a Guru, then we should heed his advice. Swami Vivekananda actually argued the other way and this this is pointed out by Sadhu Om in his book Ramana Darsanam. Swami Vivekananda said that if your goal is full freedom, why should you not give up activity and take up sanyasa. If you are not able too then that only means you still have attachment, which is pretty much what Bhagavan says, so in the absence of a Jnani as a guiding force in physical form, I think we should take our own guess as to our Vairagya. There is never one advice fits all in spirituality. Atleast, thats my take on giving up activity.

Sundar said...

As for renouncing or not here is an excerpt from Aurobindo's Essays on The Gita
An inner situation may even arise, as with the Buddha, in which all duties have to be abandoned, trampled on, flung aside in order to follow the call of the Divine within. I cannot think
that the Gita would solve such an inner situation by sending Buddha back to his wife and father and the government of the Sakya State, or would direct a Ramakrishna to become a Pundit
in a vernacular school and disinterestedly teach little boys their lessons, or bind down a Vivekananda to support his family and for that to follow dispassionately the law or medicine or journalism.
The Gita does not teach the disinterested performance of duties but the following of the divine life, the abandonment of all dharmas, sarvadharmam, to take refuge in the Supreme alone, and the divine activity of a Buddha, a Ramakrishna, a Vivekananda is perfectly in consonance with this teaching. Nay, although the Gita prefers action to inaction, it does not rule out the renunciation of works, but accepts it as one of the ways to the Divine. If that can only be attained by renouncing works and life and all duties and the call is strong within us, then into the bonfire they must go, and there is no help for it. The call of God is imperative and cannot be weighed against any other considerations.

Death said...

Dear Mr James
To name the substratum,what remain after the dissolution of the ego,as I am or being or Reality or consciousness,or whatever has caused deadly confusion.The reason is that as someone after seeing that the snake is just a rope,similarly believe that these names of the substratum remain as something to be seen by the ego.but after the dissolution of the ego nobody remain.
Also when you say being is knowing is still frustrating because in being there is nobody to know or not to know.

R Viswanathan said...

Deadly confusion or fear exists for the presently active mind (or ego) that after the dissolution of the ego nobody would remain. Fortunately, there will be nothing to remain confused or with fear after the dissolution of the ego!

Frustrating for the presently alive mind (or ego) which remains with the thought that nobody will be there to know or not to know. Fortunately again, there will be none any more to feel frustrated after the dissolution of the ego!

Guru Vachaka Kovai verse 768 is very encouraging. I reproduce the translation by Sri David Godman:
"Those who have realized the truth by steadfastly abiding at the source of the ego in such a way that it is destroyed root and branch will see the perceived world merely as an imaginary appearance. Because they exist and shine as the vast and subtle space of being-consciousness that provides the room for everything, [to them] that world is assuredly not only consciousness alone but also wholly Self [tanmaya].

Michael James said...

Periya Eri, I have replied to your comment of 26 January in a new article that I have justed posted, Why is it necessary to consider the world unreal?.

Michael James said...

Sundar, regarding what you write about renunciation of activity, the root of all activity is the ego, so what Bhagavan advised us to do is only to renounce this ego, which we can do only by investigating it. We cannot retain the ego and renounce all activity, because the nature of the ego is to be active. Therefore trying to renounce activity without renouncing the ego is futile, and since Bhagavan did not give futile advice, he did not advise us to try to renounce activity but only to try to renounce its root, the ego.

In the first chapter of Maharshi’s Gospel (2002 edition, pp. 4-5) it is recorded that he said:

“The feeling ‘I work’ is the hindrance. Ask yourself ‘who works?’ Remember who you are. Then the work will not bind you; it will go on automatically. Make no effort either to work or to renounce; your effort is the bondage. What is destined to happen will happen. If you are destined not to work, work cannot be had even if you hunt for it; if you are destined to work, you will not be able to avoid it; you will be forced to engage yourself in it. So, leave it to the higher power; you cannot renounce or retain as you choose.”

When he said that ‘you cannot renounce or retain as you choose’, he obviously did not mean that we cannot choose to renounce our ego, because he often said that that is the only correct use we can make of our free will. Leaving it ‘to the higher power’ means surrendering our ego, and as he explained in the first sentence of the thirteenth paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?, the only way to renounce the ego is to vigilantly observe or attend to it:

ஆன்மசிந்தனையைத் தவிர வேறு சிந்தனை கிளம்புவதற்குச் சற்று மிடங்கொடாமல் ஆத்மநிஷ்டாபரனா யிருப்பதே தன்னை ஈசனுக் களிப்பதாம்.

āṉma-cintaṉaiyai-t tavira vēṟu cintaṉai kiḷambuvadaṯku-c caṯṟum iḍam-koḍāmal ātma-niṣṭhā-paraṉ-āy iruppadē taṉṉai īśaṉukku aḷippadām.

“Being completely absorbed in ātma-niṣṭhā [self-abidance], giving not even the slightest room to the rising of any thought other than ātma-cintana [self-contemplation], alone is giving oneself to God.”

Michael James said...

Death, it is true that after the dissolution of the ego no ‘body’ will remain, but what will remain is what alone is real (which is what you call ‘the substratum’), namely ourself. In this context all the words that you say cause ‘deadly confusion’, namely ‘I am’, ‘being’, ‘Reality’ and ‘consciousness’, denote only ourself — what we actually are — so if they are understood correctly, they do not cause any confusion. Your confusion arises only because you seem to imagine that the ‘substratum’ is something other than what we actually are, which would be absurd.

Regarding your final remark, ‘Also when you say being is knowing is still frustrating because in being there is nobody to know or not to know’, what Bhagavan said in verse 26 of Upadēśa Undiyār was ‘தானாய் இருத்தலே தன்னை அறிதல் ஆம்’ (tāṉ-āy iruttal-ē taṉṉai aṟidal ām), which means ‘Being ourself alone is knowing ourself’, so when the ego is dissolved and we alone remain, it is we ourself who know ourself merely by being ourself, because self-awareness is our very nature.

When you say ‘in being there is nobody to know or not to know’, what you mean by ‘being’ is presumably what actually is, and what actually is is only ourself, as Bhagavan taught us in the first sentence of the seventh paragraph of Nāṉ Yār?:

யதார்த்தமா யுள்ளது ஆத்மசொரூப மொன்றே.

yathārtham-āy uḷḷadu ātma-sorūpam oṉḏṟē.

“What actually exists is only ātma-svarūpa [our own essential self].”

hadessama said...

How can this world be a dream?

In dreams things are illogical, on the contrary in physical reality things are logical.

Maybe indeed this world is a dream, but of an universal mind.

Michael James said...

Hadessama, this is a subject I have discussed in detail in many of my articles, such as Is there any real difference between waking and dream?, Why is it necessary to consider the world unreal? and How we can confidently dismiss the conclusions of materialist metaphysics, so I hope you can find an adequate answer to your question in articles such as these.

What exactly do you mean when you write, ‘In dreams things are illogical, on the contrary in physical reality things are logical’? When we recall certain dreams in our present state, what we experienced in them seems to be inconsistent, whereas other dreams seem to be more consistent, so if what you mean by ‘illogical’ is inconsistent, what you say may be true of some dreams but not all dreams.

Moreover, even if what we experience in some dreams is inconsistent, so long as we are experiencing such a dream it seems real to us. It is only after we have left a dream and shifted to another state that our former dream appears unreal. The nature of our mind is such that whatever state we are currently experiencing seems to us to be real, and other states that we are no longer currently experiencing seem to us to be mere dreams.

Though you say ‘in physical reality things are logical’, they are not actually as logical as they seem to be. Take for example our experience ‘I am this body’. This seems to be our fundamental experience in both waking and dream, though the body that we experience as ourself is different in each of these states. That is, the body we experience as ourself in any other dream is not the same body that we currently experience as ourself. If any of these bodies were actually ourself, logic would dictate that we could not experience ourself without experiencing that body, so our experience that we are one body in one state and another body in another state is certainly not logical. Since we experience ourself in dream without experiencing the body that we now experience as if it were ourself, logically we have to conclude that we cannot actually be the body that we now seem to be, nor can we be any body that we seem to be in any other state. In this respect, therefore, what we experience in our present state is as illogical as what we experience in any dream.

(I will continue this reply in my next comment.)

Michael James said...

In continuation of my previous comment in reply to Hadessama:

Moreover, though in both waking and dream we experience ourself as a body, which seems to be physical, we also experience ourself as something that is aware, so how can we be both something that is physical and something that is aware? Is it not clear that being physical and being aware are two quite different things. Physical objects like our body are made of physical matter, which is not conscious, and which has physical properties such as mass and dimension. What is aware, on the other hand, is conscious and has no physical properties such as mass or dimension. Logically, therefore, a physical body cannot be what is aware, and what is aware cannot be a physical body. Hence, though we are aware of ourself as if we were a physical body, logic dictates that this experience ‘I am this body’ must be an illusion.

Therefore, since our current experience of ourself as if we were a body is illusory, whatever else we currently experience must also be illusory, like a dream, because our experience of it is based on our illusory experience ‘I am this body’. Thus according to simple principles of logic our present state is as illusory as any dream.

Regarding your final statement, ‘Maybe indeed this world is a dream, but of an universal mind’, there is no logical reason why we should believe in the existence of any universal mind, or why we should believe that any dream we experience is created by any mind other than our own. We only experience one mind, namely our own, so any other mind that we may imagine is just another idea in our own mind. Since we have never and could never experience any mind other than our own, belief in the existence of any other mind is not justified either by our experience or by logic.

hadessama said...

Thanks for taking all the time to reply. I saw some of the links you posted and complimented with the answer you just gave me, I agree I have no refutal to this at least not that it can't be refuted. However there is a key difference that proves absolutely this is not a dream.

You see in my dreams at times I become aware that I am dreaming and when I become aware that I am dreaming then I can simply (though not always, it depends of the degree to which I am conscious) leave the dream and wake up or I can be imprevious to damage in what previously were nightmares.

In physical reality it doesn't matter if I say "I am dreaming" I continue to be in physical reality and I can't just simply be immune to things like fire or damage as I could do once I become aware I am dreaming in a dream. If this was a dream too, shouldn't I be able to wake up or become immune to the contents of the dream as well?

How do you say there are no other minds? Aren't you aware that I am writing this? Aren't you replying to me? Obviously I exist and it is obvious that you exist too, if this is my dream and you are living in your dream, how can we even talk to each other? Obviously we exist in the same world, how else can we both agree and verify that for example Putin is the presidenet of Russia? Am I your projection or are you mine? Something is missing here.

Thanks a lot in advance for your reply, I am just trying to undestand.

Anonymous said...

Hadessama, these topics are discussed in detail in the book, 'Happiness and the Art of Being' by Michael. It is pretty large. However, he presents answers to these questions in crystal clear arguments and it is worth reading that book. Believe me, if you grasp that book, you will not be assailed by many questions such as these. I have tried in the following to answer some of your questions.

In waking state (‘physical reality’ as you call it) we are not immune to things like fire or damage, as we imagine ourselves to be this body. However, the damage itself is another imagination. We appear to wake up from dream but not from this waking state because we are more attached to the waking body than the dream body. Except for this difference in the degree of attachment to the body in waking and dream, there is no any other significant difference. In other words, the difference is only of degree, not of kind. Nevertheless, if this fundamental imagination that we are the body ceases, we should wake up from this so called waking state too.

There are no other minds simply because the existence of other minds are imaginations in our own mind. Agreement about the existence of this world did not occur while we were asleep. The ones who agreed about it (and Mr. Putin) went missing when we were asleep, along with the world. How can we believe the assurance given by such missing people?

That someone is projecting is yet another projection of ours. So, there is only one projection. There is a single mind that projects when it apparently wakes up and dreams. Depending on the body it takes (waking body/dream body), it projects different worlds (inclduing the people in it).

Is it not a wonder that the waking mind which suspects something is missing here goes missing in sleep? Therefore, is it not more important that we should try to observe very keenly where it goes missing (which is the same 'place' from where it comes), while we are still wide awake?

Michael James said...

Hadessama, if we first consider dreams that we now recognise to be dreams (as opposed to our current state, which now seems to be our waking state), we cannot generalise about them saying they are all significantly different or different in any uniform manner to our current state. In some dreams we seem to be able to wake up as soon as the idea that it is a dream occurs to us, but as you yourself acknowledge this is not always the case. Therefore it is no evidence that our current state is not a dream, because if we take it to be evidence, that would mean that any dream from which we cannot wake up at will is not a dream.

Some dreams seem more fleeting and unstable, with the surroundings and people constantly shape-shifting, while others seem more enduring and stable, but this does not mean that the latter type of dream is any less of a dream or any more real than the former type. They are all equally dreams, and the difference between them is a difference in quality rather than in substance. Likewise, any differences we can point out between our current state and other dreams are differences in quality rather than in substance.

In substance our experience in our current state is the same as that in any other dream. In all these states we experience ourself as a body, and through the five senses of whatever body we currently experience as ourself we perceive a world populated by other bodies that seem to behave much as our does, so it seems to us that in each of those bodies there is a mind that is functioning and experiencing the same world in much the same way as we are.

There is no adequate evidence that could prove to us that our present state is not a dream. While dreaming what we then experience seems to us to be real in much the same way that what we are now experiencing seems to be real. If we were having this discussion in one of your dreams, it would seem to you that we were awake, so you would be trying to argue that that state is not a dream and that dreams are in some significant way different to it. However, if you wake up in the middle of our discussion, you would realise that it was just a dream, and that the ‘Michael’ you had been talking with was just a product of your dreaming mind. How then can you be sure that your current state is not likewise just another dream, and that all the other people you see in this state are not just products of your dreaming mind?

Even if I or anyone else tells you that we are also aware of the same world as you are, what would that prove? Even the people you see in your dream would tell you the same, but that does that mean that those other people are actually aware of your dream? We never actually experience any mind other than our own, so our belief in the existence of other minds is impossible for us to verify, and is therefore as unjustified as belief in fairies or in little pink elephants flying around the moon.