Thursday 19 June 2014

Is consciousness a product of the mind?

In a comment on one of my recent articles, Self-investigation, effort and sleep, Venkat wrote:
May I ask for your comments on the following.

Science tells us that our fundamental building blocks (chemicals . . . electrons, protons, neutrons . . . ultimately energy waves) are inter-dependent and non-differentiated. For whatever reasons, the universe has evolved, and from which has evolved body-minds. These body-minds are fundamentally non-separate. Bhagavan's self-enquiry is for the seemingly separate ‘I’ to see this non-differentiated non-separateness and thereby to dissolve.

If you agree that this model is feasible, is consciousness a product of the mind? Nisargadatta talks about consciousness as a product of the food-body-mind, and the Absolute that is aware of this consciousness.
Since the reply I drafted is too long to post as another comment on that article, I am giving it here:

Venkat, what science tells us is a combination of observations and theories that have been developed to explain those observations in terms of other observations and currently accepted theories, and also to predict future observations, but what science cannot tell us is whether what it has observed is real or illusory. Science is based on our generally unquestioned belief that the world is real and exists independent of our experience of it, but our experience does not and cannot support this belief.

Sunday 15 June 2014

Why do we not experience the existence of any body or world in sleep?

In a comment on my previous article, What do we actually experience in sleep?, Wittgenstein wrote with reference to my ‘gap’ argument that the featureless gap called ‘sleep’ that we experience between some consecutive states of waking and/or dream ‘also characterizes the discontinuity of world-body (they always pair up), space-time, causation and ego (all belonging to non-self, jada). So, in a single attempt we do come to know the continuity of the background self (sat-chit) and the discontinuity of the non-self. Further, such discontinuous entities should be unreal even when they appear’, and then went on to discuss why we do not experience the existence of the world or any other non-self items in sleep. In general I agree with his inferences, but the following are my own reflections on this same subject:

Because our natural predisposition (or rather the natural predisposition of our mind) is to believe (at least while we are experiencing them in the waking state) that this body and world are real and exist independent of our experience of them, we wrongly assume that the reason we do not experience them in sleep is that we were unconscious then. However, if we analyse our actual experience in our three states of waking, dream and sleep, we can understand that (for reasons such as those that I explained in my previous article, What do we actually experience in sleep?) we are in fact conscious in sleep, even though we are not conscious of any body or world then. We therefore have to question our assumption that this body and world exist when we are asleep, and also our underlying assumption that they exist independent of our experience of them.

Thursday 12 June 2014

What do we actually experience in sleep?

A friend wrote to me recently asking me to further clarify what I had written in Chapter 2 of Happiness and the Art of Being about sleep being a state in which we are still conscious or aware that we exist, and after I replied to him he wrote again saying that though he would like to be convinced that he is aware in sleep, he is still not entirely sure that this is the case. The following is adapted from the replies that I wrote to his two emails.

First reply:

When you say, ‘I fall asleep and I’m not aware of anything’, what exactly do you mean by saying ‘I’m not aware of anything’? Do you mean that you are not aware at all, or that you are aware of nothing? Please do not rush to answer this question to yourself, but think about it carefully.

Consider the difference between the experience of a totally blind person (B) and a normally sighted person (S) when they are both in a completely dark room. B does not see anything because he does not see at all, so he does not know that the room is dark, whereas S sees nothing, so he knows that the room is dark. Is our experience in deep sleep like that of B or S?

Thursday 5 June 2014

Self-investigation, effort and sleep

In the final paragraph of a comment that he wrote on my previous article, Since we always experience ‘I’, we do not need to find ‘I’, but only need to experience it as it actually is, Wittgenstein wrote:
From point 4 above [Due to the opposing nature of consciousness and non-consciousness, laya and vichara (self attention) are mutually exclusive], it is clear that one can not be self attentive while in sleep. That being so, there is a statement [believed to be made by Bhagavan] in Mudaliar’s book [DDWB] that if self attention is maintained and one drifts into sleep, it would continue even in sleep, which is difficult to understand. Does this simply mean that one would sooner or later wake up with a reminder to be self attentive? Or is there something else meant [assuming Bhagavan really made this statement]?
As Wittgenstein says, we obviously cannot make any effort to be self-attentive while we are asleep, but if we try to be self-attentive now while we are awake we will eventually be able to experience sleep in this waking state, as Sri Ramana says in verse 16 of Upadēśa Taṉippākkaḷ (in which he summarised what Sri Muruganar recorded him as having said in verses 957-8 of Guru Vācaka Kōvai):