June 30, 2006

Idea of a separate conscious self is false

Who is responsible for our actions? MUKUL SHARMA Economic Times FRIDAY, JUNE 30, 2006
What happens when we consciously wish to do something? For instance, we might be sitting at a dining table that’s set with a plate in front and a spoon on the side. Now, say, we wish to pick up the spoon and place it on the plate. That thought is translated into electro-chemical activity in the brain which then sends impulses to the required muscles to carry out the motor activity. This is followed by the actual implementation of the action and results in the transference of the spoon onto the plate. In other words, we did what we willed to do as a conscious act of volition. We think of this as possessing free will.
This neat neurological scheme of things got a rude jolt in 1985 when Benjamin Libet, a pioneering scientist in the field of human consciousness carried out a series of experiments. Libet asked his subjects to move one hand at an arbitrary moment decided by them, and to report when they made the decision. At the same time the electrical activity of their brain was monitored. Now it was already known that consciously chosen actions are associated by a pattern of brain activity known as a “readiness potential”.
The surprising result was that the reported time of each decision was consistently a short period after the potential appeared. It seemed to show that the supposedly conscious decisions had actually been determined unconsciously beforehand. So where did free will go? Much scientific wrangling has been going on since then because the experiments give the impression that actions and decisions are made rapidly and only later does the brain weave a story about a self who is in charge and is conscious. In other words, consciousness comes after the action; it does not cause it.
Eminent psychologist and writer Susan Blackmore, however, has a different take. “This is just what some meditators and spiritual practitioners have been saying for millennia; that our view of ourselves, as conscious, active agents experiencing an external world, is wrong,” she says. Instead, she believes we live in the illusion that we are a separate self and that in mystical experiences this self dissolves and the world is experienced as one — actions happen but with no separate actor who acts. Long practice at meditation can also dispel the illusion. Science too seems to be coming to the same conclusion — that the idea of a separate conscious self is false.

We live and develop in a primate body

Interesting that in Zen, contrary to most other traditions, practitioners are advised to locate consciousness in the belly and to live from that region. In his magisterial Zen and the Brain, author James Austin notes that “The Zen Way plumbs depths that code for our strongest convictions,” including even the sense of taste. Eventually this primitive gustatory network "coordinates with other sensory impulses arising from the viscera.... Do you take a strong ‘visceral’ dislike to some things, find some person’s actions distasteful or disgusting? The links of taste-related circuitries may be compounding over more networks than you realize.... It is not the wisps of a few abstract thoughts which make us feel delighted or disgusted. The visceral roots of longings and loathings start very deep, even though they go on later to have extensive upward ramifications.”
By now, most of us are familiar with the yogic chakra system, as debased as the concept has become in popular culture. In talking about this system, you have to bear in mind that it was worked out in a pre-scientific world, so that the writings often include a lot of frankly mythological and fanciful speculations. But just like the ancient physicians who talk about the “four humors,” the ancient “chakrologists” were careful observers who were noting something phenomenologically real, even if they didn't necessarily understand its basis.
One of the reasons why psychoanalysis is so profound, is that it takes seriously the idea that we live and develop in a primate body. In other words, our consciousness is thoroughly entangled with our body. Immature babies interact with their mothers in such a way as to use them as an “auxiliary cortex” for the purpose of downloading programs from her brain into theirs. Interestingly,the latest research in attachment theory demonstrates that the right brain develops considerably ahead of the left brain during our first few years of life. Furthermore, the right brain has deep connections with the emotional limbic system, so that it is fairly clear that what we call the “unconscious” is located in the right brain. And this explains why most forms of psychotherapy are so ineffective, since they deal only with surface cognitions, when what you really need to do is “interrogate” the right brain and put its nonverbal reality into words. This is the basis of “free association” in psychoanalysis, which attempts to use language to bypass language. Our deepest traumas are literally encoded in the bodymind.
The Katha Upanishad states that “Radiating from the lotus in the heart there are a hundred and one nerves. The mortal in whose heart the knots of ignorance are untied becomes immortal.” By “a hundred and one,” the Vedic seers merely mean “a whole bunch,” which turns out to be true. In his book The Biology of Transcendence, Joseph Chilton Pearce cites research indicating how the heart “maintains an intricate dialogue with our brain, body and world at large.” He notes that half or more of the cells of the heart are neural cells like those that make up the brain. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:53 AM 6 comments Thursday, June 29, 2006

June 29, 2006

"String theory" is no theory at all

Currently, string theory represents the only advanced approach to a unification of all interactions, including gravity. In spite of the more than thirty years of its existence, the sequence of metamorphosis it ran through, and the ever more increasing number of involved physicists, until now, it did not make any empirically testable predictions. Because there are no empirical data incompatible with the quantum field theoretical standard model of elementary particle physics and with general relativity, the only motivations for string theory rest in the mutual incompatibility of the standard model and of general relativity as well as in the metaphysics of the unification program of physics, aimed at a final unified theory of all interactions including gravity.
But actually, it is completely unknown which physically interpretable principles could form the basis of string theory. At the moment, "string theory" is no theory at all, but rather a labyrinthic structure of mathematical procedures and intuitions which get their justification from the fact that they, at least formally, reproduce general relativity and the standard model of elementary particle physics as low energy approximations. However, there are now strong indications that string theory does not only reproduce the dynamics and symmetries of our standard model, but a plethora of different scenarios with different low energy nomologies and symmetries. String theory seems to describe not only our world, but an immense landscape of possible worlds.
So far, all attempts to find a selection principle which could be motivated intra-theoretically remained without success. So, recently the idea that the low energy nomology of our world, and therefore also the observable phenomenology, could be the result of an anthropic selection from a vast arena of nomologically different scenarios entered string theory. Although multi-verse scenarios and anthropic selection are not only motivated by string theory, but lead also to a possible explanation for the fine tuning of the universe, they are concepts which transcend the framework defined by the epistemological and methodological rules which conventionally form the basis of physics as an empirical science. Abstract: String Theory - From Physics to Metaphysics The author is Reiner Hedrich posted by antimatters at 6/26/2006 08:53:00 AM

Sri S.K. Das: Free Internet Lessons on Vedic Scriptures

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, June 27, 2006: Sri S. K. Das, of Chicago, sends free weekly lessons on Vedic Scriptures by e-mail. The lessons contain basics of Vedas, Smritis, Shrutis, Upanishads, Puranas, Bhagavad Gita, etc. Sri Das came to US to spread the message of our scriptures and conducts classes in Chicago and Milwaukee areas. His only motivation is to spread this wonderful knowledge to all. So far about 1,100 have joined his mailing list. If you are interested in getting these lessons you may contact him at
He assures that your email id will never be given to anyone for commercial exploitation and you can opt out anytime after joining. Hindu Press International"

Brahman, the Ground or the Ain Sof

All bad philosophies--which is to say, almost all philosophies--take the cosmos utterly for granted, without getting into the prior question of why they believe there is a thing called “cosmos,” that is, the strict totality of interconnected objects and events, much less how we can know that fact. The religionist doesn’t have that problem. Judeo-Christian traditions affirm that “in beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” In other words, there is a prior unity called “God” underlying the apparent division between the celestial and earthly realms--the vertical and the horizontal, consciousness and matter, whole and part, knower and known, yin and yang, guys and dolls. Religion teaches: where there is apparent duality there is wholeness and unity, whatever the duality. Even life/death. Woo hoo!
The Mundaka Upanishad takes the story of existence back even further than Genesis, affirming that “Out of the infinite ocean of existence arose Brahma, the first-born and foremost among the gods. From him sprang the universe, and he became its protector.” In other words, the creator God--Yahweh, Brahma, the Father--is himself an aspect of an even deeper unity, called Brahman, the Ground (by Meister Eckhart) or the Ain Sof (in Judaism), for even God has an an absolute inside and a relative outside.
In the absence of revelation--either “given” or “intuited”--there is no way to know about either the cosmos or its "parent" or source. Reduced to natural reason, human beings are like spiders spinning concepts out of their own substance and then living in and crawling about on them, catching the occasional meal. In fact, if the secular spider is going to be honest, he will have to admit that all he can ever know is his own web, which was Kant’s point. Kant took profane philosophy as far as it could go, which is why most philosophy since has merely been a footnote on Kant. posted by Gagdad Bob at 8:02 AM 6 comments

June 28, 2006

New and superior means and powers

Harmony is the natural rule of the Spirit, it is the inherent law and spontaneous consequence of unity in multiplicity, of unity in diversity, of a various manifestation of oneness. In a pure and blank unity there could be indeed no place for harmony, for there is nothing to harmonise; in a complete or a governing diversity there must be either discord or a fitting together of differences, a constructed harmony. But in a gnostic unity in multiplicity the harmony would be there as a spontaneous expression of the unity, and this spontaneous expression presupposes a mutuality of consciousness aware of other consciousness by a direct inner contact and interchange. In infrarational life harmony is secured by an instinctive oneness of nature and oneness of the action of the nature, an instinctive communication, an instinctive or direct vital-intuitional sense-understanding by which the individuals of an animal or insect community are able to co-operate.
In human life this is replaced by understanding through sense-knowledge and mental perception and communication of ideas by speech, but the means that have to be used are imperfect and the harmony and cooperation incomplete. In a gnostic life, a life of superreason and supernature, a self-aware spiritual unity of being and a spiritual conscious community and interchange of nature would be the deep and ample root of understanding: this greater life would have evolved new and superior means and powers of uniting consciousness inwardly with consciousness; intimacy of consciousness communicating inwardly and directly with consciousness, thought with thought, vision with vision, sense with sense, life with life, body-awareness with body-awareness, would be its natural basic instrumentation. All these new powers taking up the old outward instruments and using them as a subordinate means with a far greater power and to more purpose would be put to the service of the self-expression of the Spirit in a profound oneness of being and life. The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo
Book 2 - Part 2 - Chapter 2-28 The Divine Life

The world of pure Matter is neutral, irresponsible

It is only by contact with conscious beings that material objects exercise powers or influences which can be called good or evil: but that good or evil is determined by the contacted being's sense of help or harm, of benefit or injury from them; these values do not belong to the material object but to some Force that uses it or they are created by the consciousness that contacts it. Fire warms a man or burns him, but that is as involuntarily he meets it or voluntarily uses it; a medicinal herb cures or a poison kills, but the value of good or evil is brought into action by the user: it is to be observed too that a poison can cure as well as kill, a medicine kill or harm as well as cure or benefit.
The world of pure Matter is neutral, irresponsible; these values insisted on by the human being do not exist in material Nature: as a superior Nature transcends the duality of good and evil, so this inferior Nature falls below it.
The Life Divine by Sri Aurobindo Book 2 - Part 2 - Chapter 2-14 The Origin and Remedy of Falsehood, Error, Wrong and Evil

June 27, 2006

Sattwa is purity, light and illumination

The 3 Gunas Bhagavad Gita Ch. 14, (rendered by Sri Aurobindo)
"6. Of these Sattwa is by the purity of its quality a cause of light and illumination, and by virtue of that purity produces no disease or morbidity or suffering in the nature: it binds by attachment to knowledge and attachment to happiness, O sinless one.
7. Rajas, know thou, has for its essence attraction of liking and longing; it is a child of the attachment of the soul to the desire of objects; O Kaunteya, it binds the embodied spirit by attachment to works.
8. But Tamas, know thou, born of ignorance, is the deluded of all embodied beings; it binds by negligence, indolence and sleep, O Bharata."
As we know, each person has a combination of the 3 gunas within him/her. In some, Sattwa is dominant, in others, Rajas, and yet others, Tamas.Through our Sadhana and our conscious observance of our own actions, we can slowly cause our Sattwic tendencies to become dominant. posted by Devi 6/26/2006 06:54:00 AM Monday, June 26, 2006

Quantum tantrums by a non-conformist

What is contemporary physics trying to tell us about the nature of Nature?
Ulrich Mohrhoff Location:Pondicherry, India
I teach maths, physics, and quantum philosophy at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education in Pondicherry, India. I received my education from the University of Göttingen, Germany, and the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, India. I am interested most in the ontological implications of contemporary physics, the relations between matter and consciousness (How can a material thing be conscious? How can there be consciousness of material things?), and the place of physics in the larger reality explored by Indian psychology and metaphysics (whose most modern and comprehensive exposition is due to Sri Aurobindo).
I have published numerous papers on these subjects and am in the process of writing a textbook of contemporary physics that will complement currently available texts by focusing on the ontological implications of the formalism and on why the formalism has the particular form that it has. View my complete profile posted by antimatters at 6/26/2006 02:38:00 PM

June 26, 2006

World Union is the next in the list

When Sri Aurobindo was on earth, there was the possibility of the birth of the Supramental Being. As the earth was not ready, the most He could do for the earth was to win the two world wars. Had the first war been lost or even the second, the world would have taken a very long time to outgrow that tyranny. Hitler who destroyed the Jews would have turned on who or what next, we cannot say. Sri Aurobindo said that Japan was a young country. Had the impulse of imperialism succeeded there, she would take possibly 500 years to outgrow that.
British Imperialism was the expansive impulse of a mature nation, founded on democracy, which valued the good opinion of others more than anything. She did not come to rule, She came to trade. Ruling India was almost an accident. From the time Indian Freedom was won in the subtle plane in 1910, we see in the House of Commons endeavours to grant India a greater measure of self-rule. In 1935 the India Bill that was passed by the House of Commons conferred dominion status on India. Gandhiji rejected it.
v Out of His five aims, He realised the first two – Indian freedom and Asian freedom – during His lifetime. The next on the agenda is world union.
v When the possibility was so great as the birth of the Supramental being, the utmost He could do was to win the wars for humanity.
v Is there such a best available now for the unconscious aspirant?
v Before Sri Aurobindo came, there was no quest in the mind of humanity. The dark ages continued in effect. If anything was there, it was groping, sometimes fumbling. No one knew what to aim for.
v Though we are unconscious, we have before us in writing what to do, what to aspire for. He has left us those blueprints.
v His final goal was the birth of the supramental being. Before that, He speaks of India becoming the Guru of the world. World union is the next in the list.
v His Force is working for world union in the subtle plane.
v The European union which He spoke of in 1916 has become a reality.
v If we have the knowledge that world union is possible, being unconscious, can we work for it? If so, is it to be overt or covert?
v He successfully worked for Peace. As His Force is working for other goals, our working for Prosperity is possible, in my view.

Sri Aurobindo's philosophy of integralism

A poet, philosopher and mystic, Sri Aurobindo has through his theory and practice, pioneered the understanding the message of the Vedic heritage and the meaning of the modem renaissance. He is one of the outstanding 'builders' of Indian philosophy in recent times. He formulated his philosophy of integralism on the basis of his own authentic experience. Experience is manifold; it may relate to any field of life - art, poetry, religion, philosophy, occultism, and so on. When it is organized as a verifiable field of knowledge, it is philosophy. Sri Aurobindo's philosophy is described as integral for two reasons.
  • It takes into account the whole of reality as it reveals itself to the uplooking / inlooking human mind.
  • It is also integrative as it leaves no grade of experience behind once another experience comes by. The lower is taken up and integrated into the higher, the smaller into the larger.

Sri Aurobindo did not arrive at his philosophy by a sudden revelation. His was a steady growth of consciousness with dimension adding itself to dimension. Though he started as an agnostic, he turned out to be a passionate minstrel of God, a prophet of the message of life divine for humans, a revolutionary who initiated radical departures from the established traditions not only in the sphere of politics and social structure, but also in the practice of spiritual life and philosophical thought. Sri Aurobindo's philosophy continues to shape the lives and minds of human beings in various ways, at different levels. SAKSI

SAKSI is a Spiritual movement

Sri Aurobindo Kapali Sastry Institute of Vedic Culture
The aim is to spread the message of Veda and Sri Aurobindo, which imparts awareness to lead a beautiful, harmonious, creative and happy life, individually and collectively.
The sages of the Vedas had an integrated and pragmatic attitude towards the pursuit of the supreme goals of the spiritual life and the demands of everyday life. Unlike some of the later books, the Vedic books do not exhort everyone to take up sanyās or cessation from common daily professional activities for seriously pursuing a spiritual life. In this context, SAKSI carries out a variety of activities which help in building and harmonizing all aspects of our life.
Our institute draws its inspiration from the great spiritual savants and scholars, Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), The Mother (1878-1973), Sri Kapali Sastry (1886-1953) and Sri Madhav Paņdit (1918-1993). Their well-Known books emphasize the need for harmonizing both the 'spiritual' and 'worldly' aspects of our life. We have to take seriously the notion 'All is Brahmaņ'. We should become conscious of every act or thought in us so that we can indeed lead a beautiful and harmonious life.
"Nothing has to be rejected, all has to be raised to the level of the divine consciousness" - Sri Aurobindo SAKSI Activities News & Events Ongoing Projects Ongoing Prgms. Essence of Veda Veda Books Rig Veda Yajur Veda Sāma Veda Atharva Veda Upanishads Deeper Meaning Sandhya Mantrās Mathematics Marriage ... FAQs Other related sites Download Brochures

June 25, 2006

Highest level of critical scholarship

Ken Wilber Disappoints Me Yet Again spiritofnow (spiritofnow) wrote,@ 2006-06-23 17:50:00
I confess I am not a Wilber scholar and cannot comment on the validity of his overall philosophy. But increasingly Wilber's scholarship has seemed unreliable to me. SES has a massive bibliography and a set of endnotes, which look very impressive, but once you start going to the primary sources you very often find that they are not saying what Wilber says they are (he clearly misrepresents Sri Aurobindo, for example). Reading the critiques by esotericists M. Alan Kazlev and Arvan Harvat, and skeptic Geoffrey D. Falk convinced me a long time ago to take Wilber with a grain of salt, but I think after this latest development the man has completely lost credibility as far as I'm concerned...
Of course some of my "turquoise" Integral friends will now say, "You've got the Mean Green Meme!" ;-) What can I say? I am increasingly unimpressed by the entire Spiral Dynamics developmental system. Not only is it not peer reviewed, it's used by everyone in the Integral community to silence debate. Frank Visser aptly points out:
  • When psychoanalysis was criticized, critics were labelled "sexually repressed".
  • When Marxism was criticized, people were told they had the wrong "class consciousness".
  • When Integralism is criticized, we are diagnosed as being infected with the "Mean Green Meme".
  • Can't anyone see the circularity in these closed, ideological systems?
  • Isn't this type of thinking incredibly...boring?

I could go on and on, but Michel Bauwens, Matthew Dallman, Geoff Falk, Frank Visser and others have already done an excellent job of criticizing Ken Wilber. I just can't take the man seriously anymore. He strikes me as immature and childish, hardly someone who purportedly goes into nirvikalpa samadhi in a matter of seconds (for that matter, half the so-called spiritual gurus out there have feet of clay -- just go check out the landscape for yourself). Personally, if I were in his position, I would give up this notion of an "Integral Institute" or whatever entirely. The whole idea is stupid and cultic. Does anyone ever say, oh, let's set up a Rationalist University? Or an Existentialist University? Of course not. An academic institution is a place where you are supposed to have as many different views as possible. That is the point. Intellectual, academic and cultural exchange...

Some of you might be interested in reading Geoffrey Falk's Stripping the Gurus, which I have linked to before as well. I could not stand his acerbic style in the beginning, but I now understand much better where he is coming from, since he was abused at the Yogananda Self-Realization Fellowship. Moreover, his references are usually rock-solid, though sometimes I do take issue with him when his criticisms just sound like nit-picking to me (Visser notes that he has turned Wilber-bashing into an art). Nevertheless, do check out what he has to say.
Increasingly I'm starting to sound (and feel) like a mystical radical agnostic (ala David C. Lane), though moments of bhakti keep coming and going. I think this is fine for now, as I need to focus on more practical things for some time, like getting myself into a graduate school.I meditate in the mornings with Hazrat Inayat Khan's daily meditations, which are very simple and for beginners (no hardcore philosophy in them, thank God), and I highly recommend them as they are beautiful. The nature meditations would probably appeal even to secular people. Though I don't get enough time, I do try to read Sri Aurobindo (he also has lovely aphorisms for meditation, though they can be difficult to understand at times), Mirra (the Mother), Hazrat Inayat Khan, and Matthew Fox's essays on Christian mysticism. But most of my time is taken up studying research methodology, epidemiology, and cognitive psychology, as the place I am working at is involving me in some research (if I'm lucky, a publication may be forthcoming)...
Before I end, here is an important quote from the ex-Randian, now spiritual Nathaniel Branden, on the whole problem with trying to build up rational fortresses to defend spirituality (p. 202-11 of his The Art of Living Consciously)...
One thing is clear to me. I won't settle for anything less than the highest level of critical scholarship. To paraphrase David Lane, doubting spiritual teachers or experiences does not necessarily mean one is not spiritual. In fact it could mean the opposite. It could mean that one has so much confidence in "Truth" (whatever that may be) that he or she knows that "doubting" cannot make such a Reality disappear (and in fact looking at the way people react to doubting God, you would think he is a figment of their imagination who might disappear in a puff of air if he is doubted). Those of us who are not intellectually and spiritually lazy will just learn to live with uncertainty. Better that than sacrificing one's integrity.To invoke Pascal, little doubt, little faith; great doubt, great faith.


By the way, this is why spiritual practice requires effort. True, all things are possible with grace, but grace only operates in the cosmos as given to us by God. There are readers who don't want to believe me on this point, and I have no desire to get into an argument with them yet again. But for most of us, our “fall” must be actively countered on a day-to-day, even moment by moment basis. It is not as if you are “saved” and born again, and that's the end of it. Rather, that is only the beginning of it. It represents the formal acknowledgment of the ascending cosmic winds that one will heretofore spend one’s life trying to navigate back up toward the One at the father shore. In the formula of Sri Aurobindo, it is Aspiration-Rejection (of the lower)-Surrender (to the higher) 24/7/365/13.7 billion. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:01 AM 6 comments

June 24, 2006

Dance to remember, calculate and plan

Why dance is supposed to make you a better person Shanta Serbjeet Singh Hindustan Times Saturday, June 24, 2006
‘A sound brain in a sound body’ is not just a saying. It encapsulates the spiritual wisdom of our traditional societies. We know now that every cerebral activity like reading, writing or solving a mathematical problem may be primarily concerned with the brain but also has a direct impact on the body. And the emotions, feelings and sensory reactions created by brainwork have a bear ing, however subtle, on the body and its health.
Similarly, every kind of exercise has an impact on the brain and the nervous system. There’s the direct effect when we plan and think about exercise. At the same time there’s the indirect effect due to the release of adrenaline and other chemical substances in the blood from exercising.
Classical dance involves both the physical and the neurological halves of the body and dance students develop such a high ability to remember, calculate and plan that their academic record, too, improves significantly. In Indian dance training, the skills that are imparted are almost universal: from control of the body in every position and movement, except climbing, to a heightened sense of the body in space and overall alertness. There is also the refinement of the fine neuro-muscular adjustments of a whole host of cooperating nerve fibres.
Now, the autonomous nervous system connects with the involuntary organs like the heart muscles, blood vessels of the respiratory system and the muscles of the digestive tract. Through connections that dance creates between the autonomous and the central nervous systems, the exercises of the skeletal muscles have a tremendous influence on them and heighten the balance between the reciprocal nerve fibres regulating the heart muscles, blood vessels and the intestinal tract. This indirect effect is very important in helping a child grow into a healthy adult, free from disease.
In his book, The Function of the Human Body, Guy A.C.C says: “Repetition is the great secret of success, to allow the whole coordinated performance to become smooth and satisfactory.” He talks only of sports and such activity. Dance scores over them because it combines in itself a host of skills like speed, stamina, dexterity, endurance and grace, normally attained by different exercises for each benefit. This not only saves time but, as dancers swear, comes with a high degree of genuine enjoyment enhancing a holistic spiritual connect. Especially since the source of the drive to dance is in the emotional mechanism, invaluable in the nervous organisation of man!

Sri Aurobindo: Reunification of two streams

But let us not forget that Christianity was originally an Eastern religion that only later became westernized by the Latin church--not an altogether bad development by any stretch, the reason being that truth is One, and ultimate or integral Truth must subsume both the interior and exterior of the cosmos. Material development was delayed for hundreds of years in the East because of the overemphasis on the interior dimension and a misunderstanding of the nature of maya, for it is true that the material world is “illusion,” but it is not only illusion. It is only ultimately illusory in comparison with the Absolute, with Brahman itself. The relative is obviously quite real, only in a relative way.
As a matter of fact, this is one of the main innovations of Sri Aurobindo’s yoga, which to my mind represents a reunification of those two streams that split apart some 3,000 years ago. It is the historical task of Eastern religions to become more exterior, while it is the task of Western religions to become more interior. Interestingly, if one travels all the way back to the origins of Christianity, to the Eastern Orthodox tradition, one will find that it is already quite interior, easily the equal of any yogic tradition. This is why a fair number of modern people are pushing into the future by building a bridge to the first century--by embracing the earliest forms of Christianity, as opposed to modern deviations such as fundamentalism which are in fact extremely exteriorized. There is really nothing “fundamental” in fundamentalism. Certainly early church fathers such as Origen or Denys the Areopagite wouldn’t recognize it. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:44 AM 17 Comments:

Seers hid the Mysteries in symbolic stories

All sciences barring Vedanta(The Science of the Absolute) & Yoga(The Science of Transcendence) are relative by nature. Mythology is the adumbration of philosphic verities. Sir Philip Sydney writes in "An Apologia for Poetry" that the great seers and mystics of yore hid Great Secrets in symbolic stories ("which of purpose were written darkly, lest by profane wits it might be abused").
Sri Aurobindo in the Secret of the Veda writes that "this Wisdom is unfit & dangerous to the ordinary human mind and liable to perversion & loss of virtue, if revealed to vulgar and unpurified spirits". Hence the Seers hid the Mysteries in symbolic stories like the Iliad and the Odyssey, the Ramayana & the Mahabharata, books which deal with the Inner War in Man!
The Hidden Foe( Ego) lodged in the human breast Man must overcome or miss his higher fate This is the inner war without escape. More quality information about spiritual Books & CDs can be had from
Email posted by ravi anil singh @ 2:07 AM

Something that you know exist

You will not really get a sense of the hostile forces
until you undertake a serious spiritual practice
Obviously, Europe is well down this bright and shiny secular path, as is half of America. Western Europe is getting to the point that it no longer comprehends religion, as is true of secular America (which is why they are so allied in their contempt for American values). If we do not reverse this trend, we’re going to lose something so critical to our psychic substance, and yet, not even know what hit us.
Secular Americans are genuinely clueless in their ignorance of how much they benefit from the thoroughly Judeo-Christian milieu in which they were raised. Like those atheistic Soviets, they really don’t get it, and are largely incapable of doing so. My point is that the human mind is a religious mind. If you like, you can say that this is simply because of the way we’re built biologically, although I don’t believe that. That is simply a theory advanced by scientific Vulcans trying to understand human beings in terms of their own limited metaphysical framework.
So when I talk about “hostile forces,” I’m talking about something that you know exist, even if you don’t know that you know. I could also affirm with equal certainty that you believe in attachment theory, even if you’ve never heard of it, for infant and childhood attachment is the axis of human psychological development. But just as you generally cannot “see” the effects of your own attachment history until you undertake some form of psychotherapy and systematically uncover it, you will not really get a sense of the hostile forces until you undertake a serious spiritual practice.
This is really an area in which all traditions agree. Some sort of resistance is provoked when we try to advance spiritually. This is not speculation but empirical observation. “Hostile forces” is simply a term used--it is Sri Aurobindo’s term--to give a name to a well-known phenomenon. posted by Gagdad Bob at 7:44 AM 17 comments

June 23, 2006


General Editor : Kapila Vatsyayan IGNCA

The articles on the terms, written on the basis of the cards, do not claim to give a complete history of the concept, which would not be possible at the present stage of indological research.However, they can show the stages through which a concept has travelled, from the Vedas with their ramifications in the speculative, physical, ritual and mythological/narrative fields, from Buddhist and Jain sources, through Vedangas or ancient sciences, the various Sastras, Puranas, Tantras, Darsanas, etc. till its crystallisation in the different arts. The relation between the conceptual background and the manifestation in the arts will be the main focus of the articles. The arts occupy an intermediate position and hence mediate between metaphysics and physics, between spirituality and science; e.g., a stupa or temple represents a whole metaphysical conception, and at the same time its building required the technical science of architecture and engineering. An interdisciplinary approach is thus indispensable.

The Tantric dictum: Sarvam Sarvatmakam, everything is related to the totality (or: every detail is related to the whole), serves as a kind of magic key to unravel these concepts. As for possible schemes of interpretation, which may be obvious or implicit, the Indian tradition itself offers sufficient categories. The various schemes of two or three levels of understanding reality can be applied here: the Vedic division in Adhibhuta (physical), Adhidaiva (divine) and Adhyatma (human, spiritual); the pervasive conception of the three dimensions of Sthula (gross, physical), Suksma (subtle, psychic) and Para (transcendent); the differentiation in the manifest and the unmanifest (Vyakta, Avyakta and Vyaktavyakta), and others serve as a hermeneutical basis. Depending on the context, the starting point may be physical/scientific or metaphysical/conceptual, but other dimensions are not excluded. Unidimensional or one-sided interpretations are eschewed. Kalakosa Kalatattvakosa -> List of Books Kalamulasastra Kalasamalocana

Power of speculative thinking

Quantum Theory, Elementary Particles: Limits to Divisibility
In the physical sciences, certainly, mathematics is an essential and powerful language and mode of thinking, which of course gives an abstract quality to the basic theories of physics. One can get a feeling for this abstractness by appreciating that,
  • firstly, the equations of physics are more fundamental than the individual phenomena which they describe. This of course is to be expected.
  • But secondly, going beyond this, one finds that the symmetries of the equations are more basic than the equations themselves!

In Dirac’s words, "both relativity and quantum theory seem to show that transformations are of more fundamental importance than equations". So the ‘stuff’ out of which one imagines nature to be made, and the principles underlying our understanding, get more and more refined...

However, all these comparisons and discovery of parallels between ancient thinking and modern physics must be understood properly. As Heisenberg carefully clarifies, it is the appeal to controlled experiment that gives to modern science a really solid and serious foundation and meaning. The statements of quantum theory are in a very specific context, and are not largely poetic imagery and speculation, however elevating these may be. For one ancient ‘insight’ corroborated today, may be there are many others not so corroborated. But there is no surprise in all this. It shows the power that speculative thinking can bring in.
At the end of his discussion, Heisenberg concludes by saying: "All the same, some statements of ancient philosophy are rather near to those of modern science. This simply shows how far one can get by combining the ordinary experience of nature that we have without doing experiments with the untiring effort to get some logical order into this experience to understand it from general principles".
Coming back to modern physics, it is the reliance on mathematics that provides guidance and rigour in thinking, and helps avoid internal contradictions and inconsistencies. But here it is a quite startling fact to realise that the true impact of careful and rigorous thinking within mathematics itself is a matter of very recent origin. Namely it is no older than the later half of the last century, through the work of mathematicians like Weierstrass, Dedekind and others. Even in this century we have had the striking results of Hilbert and Godel — the former trying to prove the internal consistency and completeness of an axiomatic framework for mathematics, the latter then showing that these can never be achieved!

June 21, 2006


Heidegger's way of thinking is still on an upsurge, principally because it gets written about in ways that are consistent with what he wrote. That is fed by the plethora of new translations, so Being and Time is no longer a monolith that must be conquered (read), but instead a piece in a larger puzzle. The puzzle's never done, and continues to entertain. I discovered last week that the Contributions hasn't been translated in French yet, and look at how much Heidegger continues to be discussed in France, despite left-bank existentialism having passed into the past as a XXth century curiosity. And the next piece, Mindfulness, is about to arrive. 7:07 AM 0 comments enowning

Humanism and Terror

Against the pious excuse of ends On Philosophy by tim @ 3/8/2006 10:31 pm
There’s a great deal to like in the Merleau-Ponty’s Humanism and Terror. I found particularly interesting the distinction he makes among different ways in which violence can be deployed. Merleau-Ponty’s critique of the opposition to violence from the “beautiful soul” is similar to the one Zizek has been advancing recently, but I think Merleau-Ponty is clearer about a number of points on which Zizek is disappointingly vague.
Merleau-Ponty begins by emphasizing the omnipresence of violence: “communism does not invent violence but finds it already institutionalized” (1), in the institutions he will later identify as “colonization, unemployment, and wages” (103). Already, he marks a space between his own position and that which would simply identify violence as necessary to achieve certain goals. For Merleau-Ponty, it is not even possible to decide whether or not a certain goal justifies or does not jutify the use of violence, as we are implicated in violence right from the start, and cannot simply choose not to use it. He identifies the danger in believing that violence might be simply instrumental:
The most serious threat to civilization is not to kill a man because of his ideas … but to do so without recognizing it or saying so, and to hide revolutionary justice behind the mask of the penal code. For, by hiding violence one grows accustomed to it and makes an institution of it. On the other hand, if one gives violence its name and if one uses it, as the revolutionaries always did, without pleasure, there remains a chance of driving it out of history. (34)
Merleau-Ponty’s reference here is to the Stalinist use of violence, but his characterization also seems relevant to the contemporary use of Just War Theory (particularly in reference to humanitarian intervention). Today’s wars are justified using a kind of counterfactual logic that hides violence behind the mask of good intentions: a just war would be one which did not target civilians, for example, and this is then held to justify actual wars, despite the fact that there has never been a war in which civilians were not targetted.
Still, at this point Merleau-Ponty comes close to endorsing another form in which violence can be masked, when he tells us that revolutionaries used violence “without pleasure,” and, he implies, they did so for the purpose of “driving it out of history.” The problem here comes if the lack of pleasure in violence is taken to be a justification in itself for the use of violence. When the use of violence is treated as an unpleasant but necessary means to a good end, this very unpleasantness tends to be taken as in index to the justness of the end.

June 19, 2006

Badiou lectures on truth

Modern philosophy is a criticism of truth as adequation. Truth is not limited to the form of judgment. Heidegger suggests that it is a historic destiny. I will start from the following idea: Truth is first of all something new. What transmits, what repeats, we shall call knowledge. Distinguishing truth from knowledge is essential. It is a distinction already made in the work of Kant, between reason and understanding, and it is as you know a capital distinction for Heidegger, who distinguishes truth as aletheia, and understanding as cognition, science, techne.
Aletheia is always properly a beginning. Techne is always a continuation, an application, a repetition. It is the reason why Heidegger says that the poet of truth is always the poet of a sort of morning of the world. I quote Heidegger: 'The poet always speaks as if the being was expressed for the first time.' If all truth is something new, what is the essential philosophic problem pertaining to truth? Badiou lectures on truth ¶ 8:50 AM 2 comments enowning

Religion can triumph over materialism

If a religion is not universal, it cannot be eternal. A narrow religion, a sectarian religion, an exclusive religion can live only for a limited time and a limited purpose. This is the one religion that can triumph over materialism by including and anticipating the discoveries of science and the speculations of philosophy.
It is the one religion which impresses on mankind the closeness of God to us and embraces in its compass all the possible means by which man can approach God. It is the one religion which insists every moment on the truth which all religions acknowledge that He is in all men and all things and that in Him we move and have our being. It is the one religion which enables us not only to understand and believe this truth but to realise it with every part of our being.
It is the one religion which shows the world what the world is, that it is the Lila of Vasudeva. It is the one religion which shows us how we can best play our part in that Lila, its subtlest laws and its noblest rules. It is the one religion which does not separate life in any smallest detail from religion, which knows what immortality is and has utterly removed from us the reality of death. From Uttarpara Speech 30 May 1909 by Sri Aurobindo first published in "Karmayogin", June 1909in SABCL, Volume 2published by Sri Aurobindo Ashram - Pondicherrydiffusion by SABDA

The Human Cycle & the Global Society

City Lights: Urban-Suburban Life in the Global Society - Page 142 by Katharine A Phillips, E Barbara Phillips - Social Science - 1996 - 624 pages Berman notes that one of Marx's images of modernity—”all that is solid melts into air” ... Indian religious leader Sri Aurobindo described The Human Cycle as a trasition from the age of Individualism and Reason to the Subjective age and later the Spiritual age.

Sri Aurobindo and hermeneutics

J.L. Mehta on Heidegger, Hermeneutics and Indian Tradition - Page vby Jarava Lal Mehta - Architecture - 1992 - 310 pages121 8 From Sri Aurobindo: Life, Language and Yoga . ... 137 ii The Magic ofAurobindo ... 141 iii Maturation and Saying “No” ... 143 iv On Language . ...Limited preview - All matching pages
The Persistence of Religion: An Essay on Tantrism and Sri Aurobindo's Philosophy. with a Preface... - Page xby K W Bolle - Architecture - 1971 - 134 pagesWe do not doubt that “creative hermeneutics” will finally be recognized as theroyal road of the history of religions. Only then will its role in culture ...Limited preview - All matching pages
Contemporary Indian English Verse: An Evaluation - Page 77by Chirantan Kulshrestha - 1980 - 314 pagesA fine Indian poet-critic, KD Sethna, could not have bundled off his criticalsense while reading Aurobindo. (b) The structural hermeneutics are ...Snippet view - About this Book
The Study of Hinduism - Page 111edited by Arvind Sharma - Religion - 2003 - 320 pages... rT Aurobindo, who was educated almost entirely in the West, ... be amenableto a common taxonomy (see Vedic Hermeneutics, 9—13, and Laurie L. Patton, ...Limited preview - All matching pages
Indian Religions: A Historical Reader of Spiritual Experience and Expression - Page 27edited by Peter (Director, Historical Research, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Archives, India) Heehs - 2002 - 600 pagesA number of other examples of Marxist (or Marxist-Foucauldian) and Freudian “hermeneuticsof suspicion” are found in recent studies of Ramakrishna ...Limited preview - All matching pages
The Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History - Page 451edited by Edwin F Bryant, Laurie L Patton - Social Science - 2005 - 522 pages This issue also concerned Sri Aurobindo, who wrote: "The distinction between Aryan... This kind of hermeneutics is one of the several possible strategies ...Limited preview - All matching pages
Oriental Enlightenment: The Encounter Between Asian and Western Thought - Page 243by J J Clarke - History - 1997 - 336 pages(1987) Radical Hermeneutics: Repetition, Deconstruction, ... The Integral Philosophyof Sri Aurobindo: A Commemorative Symposium, London: Allen & Unwin. ...Limited preview - All matching pages
Returning to the Essential: Selected Writings of Jean Bies - Page 153by Jean Bies - Philosophy - 2004 - 285 pages... those from Sri Aurobindo or Sheikh ad-Darqawi to their disciples. ...whose different interpretations are spread by hermeneutics, as Islam does with the ...Limited preview - All matching pages
Through a Glass Darkly: Essays in the Religious Imagination - Page viiiby John C Hawley - Religion - 1996 - 300 pagesThe Social and Political Vision of Sri Aurobindo KD Verma 206 13. ... and theDuty of Disobedience in Nineteenth-Century Hermeneutics Joyce Zonana 228 14. ...Limited preview - All matching pages
Language, Eros, Being: Kabbalistic Hermeneutics and Poetic Imagination - Page 411by Elliot R Wolfson - Religion - 2004 - 700 pages[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]Limited preview - All matching pages
Indo-Aryan Controversy: Evidence and Inference in Indian History - Page 441edited by Laurie L Patton, Edwin Bryant - Social Science - 2005 - 320 pages[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]Limited preview - All matching pages
Religion and Gender - Page 312by King - Religion - 1995 - 324 pagesAugustine of Hippo 246, 247, 251 Aurobindo, Sri 43, 178, 182 authority in ...Church 286 n.31 Bible feminist scholarship 51—2 see also hermeneutics biology, ...Limited preview - All matching pages
Going Beyond the Pairs: The Coincidence of Opposites in German Romanticism, Zen, and Deconstruction - Page 217by Dennis McCort - Literary Criticism - 2001 - 224 pages[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]Limited preview - All matching pages
Spiritual Titanism: Indian, Chinese, and Western Perspectives - Page 291by Nicholas F Gier - Religion - 2000 - 302 pages[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]Limited preview - All matching pages
The Highroad Around Modernism - Page 166by Robert Cummings Neville - Philosophy - 1992 - 339 pages[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]Limited preview - All matching pages
World Philosophies: An Historical Introduction - Page 423by Cooper - Philosophy - 2002 - 584 pages[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]Limited preview - All matching pages
Canonical Texts. Bearers of Absolute Authority. Bible, Koran, Veda, Tipitaka: A Phenomenological... - Page 254by Rein Fernhout, Henry Jansen - 1994[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]Limited preview - All matching pages
Metaphors of Interrelatedness: Toward a Systems Theory of Psychology - Page 164by Linda E Olds - Psychology - 1992 - 205 pages[Sorry, this page's content is restricted]Limited preview - All matching pages
Religion and Psychology: Mapping the Terrain - Page 335edited by Diane Jonte-Pace, William Parsons - Religion - 2001 - 340 pages... Jay 132 gender studies 3, 8, 129—59 Gergen,KJ.86,88, 111—12, 115 Gerkin,Charles 182 Gerson, Jean C. de 208 Ghose, Aurobindo 269-70 Gibson, JJ. 102 Gil. ...Limited preview - All matching pages

Integral Multiplex

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The soul is unstained

copithorne said... Now, you have your religious faith and out of that faith comes your conviction that the violence you suborn expresses the will of God. And you argue that anyone who doesn't appreciate your violence doesn't understand God, doesn't have a true relationship with God, is "sick" in the soul.It would be a good use of your talents if you were able to look at yourself and share an understanding of how people begin with faith and end with violence. That doesn't seem to be your interest. I can witness to you without any doubt that there does exist genuine religious faith that does not involve the belief that dropping bombs is the will of God.
Your cup seems full and you aren't taking in anything from the living saints. But truly, a lot of people of faith and spiritual attainment can witness this possibility. You still haven't come up with a "left" that you disagree with. You didn't write thousands of words because Mr. Berg said "the death of anyone diminishes me." If you come up with someone you disagree with, we could talk about that.You can see or imagine that Zarqawi is not accurately perceiving America and the Shiites but rather he is projecting his own internal conflicts onto the world. This is really the way of all violence.
Until you can show that "the left" is something outside your head, we would infer that it is an internal object. I continue to disagree with you theologically -- at the very least you are leaning to port. The soul is unstained. It is continuously brilliant just as the sun is always shining. The soul cannot be hurt or damaged or killed. It cannot be purified by you or your religious practice. This is very important to remember. Tat Tvam Asi. 12:33 PM
copithorne said... It's all of a piece. Your belief that you can purify your soul through your own effort is going to have the same structure and play the same role as your belief that you can do God's will through violence. Again, your cup is full and it does't seem that anybody is really going to be able to reach you. You won't even accept the Veda's word for it. I can only witness to you that your soul is purity. You cannot possibly purify it.Here I am, making moral distinctions and confronting evil. It isn't fitting your paradigm, clearly. But I'll still witness, that I am speaking from a religious perspective. I agree that it is immoral to conflate moral and immoral violence for it is an escape from making moral distinctions. 1:28 PM
copithorne said... The soul does not suffer. We suffer. Your question isn't about death. How can anything unconditioned have a relationship with the conditional? It's inconceivable. I know people have tried to make this concept withstand philosophical scrutiny. I might say Sankara and Advaita Vedanta --which holds that the conditional world is a realm of illusion -- is the most coherent. But I might also say that it is at this point that theistic religion leaves the domain of philosophy and metaphysics and enters the domain of mystery and paradox. The scriptures, however, are clear. They say Thou art That. They don't say Thou art All That, a bag of chips and Bob's Big But. 4:47 PM
copithorne said... I don't know how much I need to belabor the point that you are mistaken. It isn't a coherent position for you to take and it has no support in the tradition. Maybe there is some embarassment, some hot blush of making a big production and then having it turn out to be wrong. That blush would be a more auspicious place to continue your career as a spiritual aspirant and psychologist than your confidence in your vain philosophy. Because even when you are wrong your soul is still radiantly pure. 9:43 PM
copithorne said... Tusar, the holy saint Sri Aurobindo also held that "the soul of man is united with the Godhead of which it is a portion." 4:49 PM
copithorne said... When you believe that the ego can purify the soul -- rather than the other way around -- then the ego moves in and sets up concrete fortifications. The ego feels some security behind its fortifications and this feeling can mimic spiritual equananimity. But actually it is a progressively claustrophobic prison of solipsism and illusion. It can take a lot of suffering to dislodge that kind of neurosis. Your post here is a breathtakingly comprehensive projection of this dilemma onto others. One caution that can come out of this is that it is crucial in the spiritual life to be accountable to a religious community and/or a living teacher. If you think you are on the spiritual path and you are not accountable to a teacher and community you are prone to be strengthening the ego rather than surrendering it. All the teachers and traditions agree on this point. 12:36 PM
copithorne said... In his book Transcending Madness, Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche has a exposition of the traditional Tibetan spiritual psychology of the Deva Realm. In the Deva realm, people achieve mystical unity with the ego. This would be the fulfillment of a spiritual practice of using the ego's effort to "improve" the soul... A wholesome prophylaxis against this condition in a theistic tradition would be devotional bahkti yoga. This would support a practice built on a foundation of service rather than a foundation of spiritual materialism. Sri Aurobindo presented Bahkti yoga as the center of his recommended practice. 6:35 PM

June 18, 2006

Managing complexity

Natural and social systems are complex -- that is, not entirely knowable, unpredictable, resistant to cause-and-effect analysis, in a word, mysterious. For our first three million years on Earth we humans, like every other species on the planet, accepted that mystery. We adapted rather than trying to change our environment. We evolved by learning to accommodate ourselves to our environment. Those unable to accommodate perished.
But with the invention of civilization, we stopped accommodating change and started imposing it on our environment so we wouldn't have to change. Burn wood (and when it runs out, oil, and when that runs out, ah...oops) and you can change an intolerably cold climate into a comfortable one. No need to grow thick fur when you have technology that allows you to appropriate the fur of other animals.The problem is, our brains are severely limited in what they are capable of understanding. The need for a more sophisticated brain is only as old as civilization -- ten to thirty millennia. Not nearly enough time for biological evolution to occur. Our cultural evolution is therefore constrained by our biological evolution -- our outmoded, rudimentary brains. We've tried to develop artificial intelligence to evolve faster, but we can only imagine intelligence of the kinds we see every day, so AI is really just a copy of our own inadequate intelligence.
Once we invented civilization, and started to need to change our environment a lot, we needed to invent science. Science is nothing more than models of the real world, some of them quite interesting, a few of them useful. None of the models is perfect, but most of them function well enough to have a superficial understanding of how things work, and therefore provide us with a means to change or exploit how things work, to material advantage.Even scientists loathe the imperfections in their models. They desperately want to believe that there was a single event that created the universe, that the universe is infinite, that there is some fundamental particle that is not made up of anything even more fundamental, and mostly that there is a single unifying theory of everything. They would have us believe that it is just a matter of time before we find these things, prove them with certainty. But whenever we seem to get close, a new discovery reveals that the quark/gluon model doesn't quite explain everything, that relativity and quantum theory and even string theory have some annoying inconsistencies and flaws in them, and so the search goes on. The mystery is destined to outlast us.
One of the principles that stresses scientists, mathematicians, philosophers and theologists the most is the concept of infinity. Scientific models do a dreadful job of handling and representing infinity. Even our languages struggle with the concept.The reason for this is that, to survive very well in a healthy ecosystem, there is no need to worry about infinity. The fact that everything is more complex than what we perceive, that a butterfly wing in Chile can be the tipping point that produces a tsunami in Indonesia, the fact that infinity is everywhere and everywhen and everywhat, doesn't prevent us from doing very well in the small, apparently and functionally finite speck of time and place in which we 'live'.
It is only when our human systems get larger (beyond the tribal level), or when we attempt to change or understand things outside our speck of time and place (like dealing with global poverty or global warming) that we fail, utterly and abjectly. We fail because our brains aren't up to the task of understanding complexity. And why should they be? Until thirty millennia ago, a mere flash in time, we had no need for such brain-power.
So today we are changing things, using simple and complicated technologies, that give rise to intractable, 'wicked', complex problems, far beyond our capacity to comprehend let alone control. Managing complexity has always been nature's job, and always will. By the time we develop the mental power to manage what we are now doing, we will have rendered most of life on the planet extinct, including our own horribly technology-dependent and interdependent species. 3:58:07 PM trackback [trackbackCounter (1560) 0] comment [ commentCounter (1560) 4]

Vedic Pluralism and Biblical Monotheism

How I Became A Hindu - My Discovery of Vedic Dharma By David Frawley SPIRITUAL PATHS AND DISCOVERY OF THE VEDAS
Biblical traditions reflect a one God who is an authoritarian figure, having his chosen people, demanding allegiance, exhibiting jealousy, and lording over his creation like a king, if not a tyrant. While some may argue that this is a misinterpretation or a simplification of a deeper view, and it may be, it has been the dominant impulse behind missionary efforts all over the world. In the Christian view God has his heaven and hell to reward his followers and punish his enemies. Islam follows the same model. Such a God is looked upon with fear and trembling. His believers follow him as a role model and easily become intolerant and authoritarian themselves, asserting dogma rather than seeking truth, trying to make everyone follow the dictates of their imperious deity.
The Vedic view, on the contrary, is of many Gods and Goddesses, each with its appropriate and unique place in the cosmic order. Behind them is not some domineering personal Creator but a Great Spirit or Parabrahma, which is our higher Self beyond all outer limitations. The Vedic Gods form a vast and friendly brotherhood and work together to manifest the Great Spirit. While some like Rudra are figures of some fear or dread, representing difficult aspects of life such as death and suffering, even these can be propitiated and turned into benefic forces of light and love. Perhaps the Old Testament God was originally such a Rudra-Shiva like figure that got scaled down into a more limited or exclusive model over time. Rudra is also called Yahva in the Rig Veda, perhaps cognate with the Biblical Yahweh. [ Back ]
In the Biblical tradition human beings are fallen creatures, existing in sin and exiled from God, who stands with a threatening gaze in his heaven beyond. In the Vedas, human beings form a brotherhood with the Gods and have a common origin, nature and kinship with them. Human beings can become Gods and gain immorality along with them. There is no overriding or ultimate sin but simply ignorance and impurity that must be removed to allow our true nature, which is pure awareness, to manifest without obstruction.
Biblical monotheism tends towards exclusivism – if you are not with us, you are against us. The Vedic view reflects unity-in-multiplicity – those who sincerely think differently than us are also with us, because there is no one way for all. The Vedic view is of a pluralistic world order that accommodates many variant views in a vast harmony. It is aware of the Absolute Unity of Truth but also recognizes its many creative forms in manifestation.
The main Biblical view is that "I, the Lord thy God, am a jealous God and thou shall not worship other Gods." The Vedic view is "That which is the One Truth the Seers declare in manifold ways (Rig Veda I.164.46)", and "May noble aspirations come to us from every side (Rig Veda I.89.1)." The Rig Vedic original man or Manu states, "None of you Gods are small or inferior. All of you are great. All the Gods that dwell here, who are universal to all beings, may you give your protection to us and to our horses and cattle (Rig Veda VIII.30.1,4)."
The Biblical view is of a One God who is at war with other gods. The Vedic view is of One Truth that has many forms, expressions and paths of approach. Whether it is Indra, Agni, Soma and Surya of the Vedas or Shiva, Vishnu, Devi or Ganesha of later Hinduism, each is the Supreme Self in form, aspect or approach and includes the other Gods in a greater harmony.
Vedic pluralism gives rise to a free and open spiritual path, the many ways of yoga. It is not limited to monotheism, though it includes theism as an important approach at a devotional level. Vedic pluralism does not give rise to any need to convert the world but rather to the nurturing of ever new insights and local applications of truth. Nor is it a form of polytheism, reflecting a belief in many separate gods. It is a free approach to monism on an individual level, recognizing both the universal and the unique in human beings. Such a view is necessary today to link all the varied religious aspirations of humanity and the many sages, teachings and forms of worship that are our heritage as a species.
The Hindu way is a universal pluralism that combines the one and the many, the unique and the all. It is not a pluralism of anything goes, a mere promiscuity, but a truth that is vast, many sided and adaptable, like the great forces of nature. It is the pluralism that arises from the One, but the One that is infinite and unlimited. Such an inclusive view is necessary to integrate human culture throughout the world today, which is and should remain diverse. The exclusivist model belongs to the Middle Ages and reflects the urge of one group to triumph over the rest, which leads to conflict and destruction.
Hinduism does not claim to hold the big or the final truth, or to dispense it to a doubting humanity from on high. It holds that a Supreme Truth, a unity of consciousness, does exist but that it is beyond human manipulation and outside of human history. This spiritual truth has nothing to do with proselytizing and is not bound by any belief, identity or leader. Discovering it is ultimately a matter of individual search and aspiration. Hinduism provides tools for this self-discovery, but leaves the individual free to find out directly what it is. As a religion it makes itself dispensable and does not make itself into the last word. Once we know ourselves we go beyond all the limitations of humanity. But at the same time we become connected to all the great seers and yogis of all time. [ Back ] [ David Frawley ] [ Up ] [ Next ]