February 27, 2009

The "supreme" vak is associated with the root cakra, muladhara

The Question of the Status of the World in Advaita Vedanta
from Gaia Community: kelamuni's Blog

For the most part, Shankara tows the party line of the Vedanta: the world has brahman as its cause. But he also says that the world arises out of what he calls "unmanifest name and form." Structurally, this parallels the Samkhya's idea of prakriti forming the basis of the world. But Shankara wants to have it both ways here. He wants to support the brahmanic orthodoxy, but he also wants to make use of several ideas that have their basis in the unorthodox schools, the Samkhya and the Mahayana schools in particular. After Shankara, the later Advaitins will assert that maya or avidya is the cause of the world, or that brahman in conjuntion with avidya is the cause of the world. Shankara does not speak this way. For him avidya is an "epistemic" principle only; we might say that it is only "metaphysical" to the degree that it is involved in our conceptual construction of the world, that is, to the degree that it is the root of the transcendental illusion.

As we noted, Shankara is able to have it both ways by ranking "realism" and "illusionism." Now there are some interpreters who have argued that Shankara is actually more of a "realist." As I noted before, I think that we are justified in saying so as long as by "realism" we mean something like the realism of the ancients. Those who argue that Shankara is more of a realist in the general sense do so on the following three grounds: 1. on the basis of the interpretation of "ananyatva" that takes it as saying, "the world is real insofar as it exists in brahman"; 2. on the basis that the world does not "dissolve" with realization; 3. and on the basis that the world "becomes" brahman with realization.

Now, the first two of these arguments can be challenged. The first can be shown to be a propaedeutic view. And the second does not necessarily imply anything, other than the fact that the Advaitins were not pralaya-vadins (who thought the world and the mind "dissolve" with realization). The third point, though, is interesting. It refers to a single tract in Shankara's works, the comments on Brhad Upanishad 2.4.12. There the Upanishad refers to dissolution of the world into the "Mahabhuta" or great reality. Shankara comments that when discrimination arises "the world becomes one without a second" and "merges" with the Mahabhuta. He concretizes this idea saying that this means that one's separate existence dissappears and one returns to the "womb" or own-source (yoni). (In a similar way, at the end of chapter 3 of the Gaudapada Karikas, we read that all dharmas are "always already" non-dual and inherently quiescent.) But the language of "merging" used in the above is metaphoric for Shankara, so I don't think this final point stands scrutiny either.

At the same time, it is necessary to point out that there is indeed a pronounced "realist" streak in Shankara's writings (at least in those writings that were written after the commentary on the GK). Time and again he rejects the "idealist" arguments of the Yogacharins, and he continually refers to brahman as a "vastu" or real thing. More importantly, following an unnamed master referred to at the beginning of the Brahma Sutra commentary, he emphasizes that for the practitioner, the world is real until realization occurs.

A Commentary on The Play of Consciousness, Pt II
from Gaia Community: kelamuni's Blog

We have already touched briefly upon early conceptions of personal eschatology and proto-soteriology in Vedic religion, and we can now relate some of those conceptions to Indian conceptions of cosmology. On page 135 of his book, Muktananda mentions Indra-loka. Vedic mythology speaks of the world of Indra, or Indra-loka and it appears also in later mythology; in the Mahabharata, for example, Arjuna travels to Indra-loka. By Indra-loka is meant, more or less, Svarga, the Vedic "heaven". It is often depicted as sitting atop mount Meru, the "axis mundi" of the Vedic cosmology. It serves as the home of the gods -- much like mount Olympus in Greek mythology -- and as an abode for the blest in the afterlife. [...]

We can see in the classification of the three worlds -- the worlds of men, forefathers, and gods -- an instance of the Indian penchant for triads and tripartite divisions. An even older conception also makes use of a tripartite division. The oldest Vedic texts refer to three domains: an underworld populated by Ashuras, a middle world populated by men, and a celestial world populated by the gods or devas. Yet another conception of three worlds describes a celestial realm, an earthly realm, and an intermediate realm. Brhad Up 5.5.3-4 describes these three worlds in relation to the cosmic person. It says, "bhur is its head, bhuvar is its arms, and svar is its feet." These three terms refer to the three lokas of Brahmanic lore. "Bhu" refers to the earthly world or Bhu-loka. "Bhuvar" refers to the intermediate realm of the air, that is, to the "atmosphere" which is known as Bhuvar-loka. Bhuvar loka, which is between the earth and sky, is said to be a world populated by semi-divine (cf. daemonic) munis and siddhas. "Svar" refers to the celestial realm, Svar-loka, which is the same as Svarga, heaven, or Indra-loka. It corresponds to the sky and is populated by gods. At some point in history, various other lokas are added to these three. The next to be added is Mahar-loka, which is said be populated by Brghu and other saints who survive the periodic dissolution of the lower worlds. Taittiriya 1.5.1 says, "Besides these three, the seer Mahacamasya knew a fourth, called Mahar." Eventually, two more worlds are added to these four: Jana-loka, a term that refers not to a world populated by sexy Kiwi babes but to Brahma's sons; and Tapar-loka, in which deified Vairagyins dwell. Atop all of these is Satya-loka, otherwise known as Brahma-loka, the highest of the lokas, and for some, the domain of release. Eventually, the Indian tradition settles with these seven worlds. Muktananda speaks of a "Siddha-loka" but as we can see here, this could refer to any of the lokas above Bhu-loka.

The Basic Tripartite Structure of Vedanta: We can now return to what is perhaps the best known of the metaphysical triads in the Indian tradition, the division between the gross, subtle, and causal. The three states of consciousness are actually the original basis of this division. Descriptions of the three states occur in various places in the Brhadaranyaka Upanishad. Initially, a contrast was developed between the waking state and the state of deep dreamless sleep. This pairing functioned as a kind of metaphor for the polarity between life and death, with deep dreamless sleep acting as a kind of analog or foreshadowing of the "sleep" of death. Dreaming initially appears as a kind of mediating or "daemonic" third term, a kind of metaphor for the imaginal realm situated between the two, not quite one or the other. [...]

In the Chandogya, the "fourth" self functions as a kind of transcendental ground of the other selves. Although he vacillates somewhat on this point, Shankara generally agrees with Kant, and says that the transcendental self cannot be an object of experience since it is the transcendental condition of experience as such. In terms of turiya, this idea is referred to in Advaita via the dictum that turiya is not a state among other states but the "truth" of the rest. And yet in the Gaudapada Karikas, and elsewhere, this "fourth" begins to be treated as if it were some kind of "state" of consciousness. Karika 1.15 definitely refers to turiya as a "pada", not in the Mandukya Upanishad's sense of a metaphoric "part" of the self, but in the sense of a "state" or "stage". Also, in an explicit sense, turiya begins to designate liberation (moksha) itself. But if this is so, then we have a problem. To use Wilber's terminology, the other three states function as "structures" of consciousness. And yet moksha cannot be a "structure"; it can only be a "stage". Thus, if turiya is moksha, there is a qualitative difference between the first three padas and the fourth "pada". To make matters more complicated, something else enters the picture. Various traditions begin to speak of certain states of consciousness as "transcendent", that is, as states that go beyond conditioned reality, beyond the "world" of samsaric existence epitomized by the first three states. [...]

The Four-Fold Scheme of the Grammarians and Tantrikas: While the tantric traditions such as those of the Naths and Kashmiri Shaivas, accept the three (or four)-fold scheme of gross, subtle and causal states which is derivative of the Upanishads, there is another scheme derivative of the grammarians that is also operative in tantric works. This scheme is the three, or four, -fold division of the nature of mantra. The grammarians had posited that the "word" (vak), in its most inclusive sense, has four dimensions: para vak, the supreme, which is soundless; pashyanti vak, at which stage the word begins to manifest at an intuitive level; madhyama vak, or the middling stage, at which the word manifests at the mental level as thought; and vaikhari vak, which is physical speech. The tantric tradition assimilates this theory of mantra of the grammarians and integrates it with the theory of the three selves of Vedanta. In fact, the tantric traditions incorporate under this four-fold scheme every conceivable facet of doctrine and ritual of their system in a vast edifice of correspondences. The synthesis of the Vedantic and grammarian schemes within the tantric manifold figures most prominently in the works of Abhibnavagupta, the great Kashmiri Shaiva yogin, polymath and philosopher. This four-fold structure occurs elsewhere in tantric literature and can be found, for instance, in chapter three of Jnaneshvar's Amrta-anubhava, The Experience of Immortal Bliss, a work clearly written under the influence of the Naths.

In the tantric version of the theory of mantra, these four stages of the manifestation of the word are associated with the cakras in an interesting way that may seem counterintuitive. The "supreme" vak is associated with the root cakra, muladhara. The "causal" stage is associated with the navel cakra, manipura. The "subtle" stage is associated with heart cakra, anahata, and the "physical" stage is associated with the throat cakra.

In the tantric formulation the term "madhyama" is clearly associated with the mind, either manas or buddhi. This is the domain of the subtle. What, though, does "pashyanti" refer to? Here is my take: The verbal root "pash" means "to see". This particular ocular verb is sometimes associated with the "spiritual" seeing of the ancient rishis. The term "rishi" means, literally, "seer". It was thought that the ancient rishis "saw" the Veda (which means "knowledge") and then composed their hymns and mantras accordingly. This "seeing" is contrasted in the later tradition, which emphasizes the more derivative "hearing" (sravana). The ancient rishis, however, did not hear the Veda, they "saw" it; that is, they intuited its meaning directly. By "intuition" here we do not mean some fuzzy faculty of "feeling", but rather unmediated cognition, such as the apprehension at this moment that we awake. This, I think, is what is meant by the term "pashyanti": it refers to the intuitive mode of knowing in which subject and object, though distinguished, are in direct relation with each other. In Plotinian terms, it corresponds to immediate relation between noemata (Plato's "forms") and noesis (Plato's episteme) within the sphere of nous.

Feb 26, 2009 40.) Spatio-Temporality in Hindu Studies
from Indological Provocations by arvind sharma

The Upaniṣads are a particularly delicate case; the problem, stated in simplified form, has been whether the Upaniṣads were pre- or post-Buddhist. Their subject-matter and method of presentation have much in common with Buddhistic writings; the Pāli style seems, indeed, to be a diluted imitation of the Upaniṣadic style. The secular approach of the Upaniṣads is characteristic also of Buddhism and Jainism, those religions of princes. If we work on the presupposition that in India progress is from the simple to the complex, from brevity to elaboration, the Upaniṣads must be regarded as earlier. This is my own view.[4] Louis Renou, Religion of Ancient India (London: Athlone Press, 1953) p. 7.

February 25, 2009

Heirs of correlationism have shifted towards a theological discourse: Nancy, Derrida, Marion, even Henry

Why Realism? from Larval Subjects by larvalsubjects
I am hesitant to write this post because I believe that metaphysical and epistemological issues should be grounded in metaphysical and epistemological reasons, rather than normative reasons. Indeed, this was one of my main critiques of Deleuzian scholarship in Difference and Givenness: That it was too often conflating normative considerations based on a particular politics with grounds for endorsing Deleuze’s ontology. [...]

Take, for example, the contemporary debate over evolution. The religious skeptic might concede the correlationist argument, claiming that at the level of phenomena or how things appear for-us, evolution is the only plausible conclusion. Nonetheless– and here I’m indebted to Meillassoux’s analysis in After Finitude –the religious skeptic can still point out that this knowledge is restricted to appearances, and that the level of things-in-themselves the world could be organized in a completely different way, along creationist lines. “Since we cannot know things-in-themselves,” the religious skeptic reasons, “there is no reason to conclude that things are as they appear.” Consequently, the correlationist move still leaves open wiggle room for faith trumping what our experimental investigation of nature tells us. If the religious skeptic is committed to revelation as an article of faith (not knowledge), then he will feel warranted in rejecting the findings of these sciences (not that we would ever convince the religious skeptic anyway, but perhaps those in the audience viewing the debate). We find exactly this line of argument in vulgar form among those who argue (with frightening frequency in the states) that either a) Satan put fossils in the earth to mislead us, or b) that God created the world in such a way so as to appear to work along evolutionary terms so as to test our faith (apparently God is an ego-maniac that needs our faith like a vampire needs our blood, according to those who believe such things). But we also find very sophisticated forms of this argument. It is not a surprise, for example, that the heirs of correlationism have, in many instances, shifted towards a theological discourse: Nancy, Derrida, Marion, even Henry in his own way.

I thus think that lurking in the background of the realist/anti-realist debate is this central issue. The realist move– if possible today –attempts to bite the bullet and argue that occasionally we discover a bit of the real and that this real is not just phenomena for-us, but is how things are in-themselves. That is, these things are as they are regardless of whether we know them or experience them, and regardless of whether or not anyone exists. In making this claim it refuses the conflation of the epistemological (the for-us) with the ontological (the in-itself), arguing that claims about beings (the ontic) cannot be reduced to claims about what things are for-us. In part, I think this is what was at stake in the recent arid debate about the status of mathematical entities and whether or not there are mathematical entities that cannot be constructed in intuition. If it is so important to defend the existence of entities that cannot be constructed in intuition– which is entirely different from the claim that they cannot be known –then this is because what is being defended is the position that these entities aren’t simply what they are for-us, but exist as they are in their own right regardless of whether or not anyone exists to know them.

However, it is important to note that this realism would not be a naive realism. It is not being asserted that things exist in-themselves as we perceive them or that we posses an immediate relation to mind-independent objects as they are in-themselves. Following a line of argument advanced by Nick over at Accursed Share, it could turn out that things such as trees, tables, rocks, etc., do not exist as real objects, but instead exist in a completely different way at the level of real and mind-independent being. That’s an issue for ontology to work out. These real objects, rather, are only arrived at through a laborious and careful process in the development of knowledge where many theories are tried out, many motives for pursuing that knowledge are operative, and many of these theories and concepts turn out over time to be mistaken (as demonstrated experimentally, where the real gets to add its two cents with respect to our constructions or models).

It is also worth noting that this realism does not foreclose the possibility of theology or God as in the case of the correlationist move. It could turn out that God exists or is real. However, if things such as evolution describe the real, if things such as contemporary cosmology, geology, subatomic physics, and psychology, turn out to be true, it would also be the case that this God that exists is very different than the anthropomorphic God we find in the revelation of sacred texts throughout the world religions and that we should side with what our investigations into nature show us to be true, rather than what the revelation of some sacred text shows us to be true. From the correlationist standpoint this assertion cannot but be nonsense, as revelation is a matter of faith, whereas science is a matter of how things appear for-us. Thus, as Galileo put it in a less than heroic moment, his claims about planetary motion were not real but were useful fictions that aided in calculation.

As I said at the beginning of this post, I am hesitant to write all of this. If I am hesitant to write all of this, then this is because the desire to refute the religious skeptic is not a legitimate reason for endorsing a particular ontology, nor a reason for dismissing a particular epistemology. If we are intellectually honest, the reasons for endorsing or dismissing a particular ontology or epistemology must themselves be ontological or epistemological in character. Wishing, desiring, does not make something so, and this is the problem we find among ontological and epistemological arguments that are normatively driven such as in the case of those Deleuzians who seem to think they can dismiss Kant because he is a “state-thinker”. Poppycock! If Kant is to be dismissed, then this can only be on the grounds of 1) there being significant flaws in his position, and 2) through offering an alternative. However, while wishing does not make something so, this does not undermine the fact that these supposedly arid and remote issues have consequences that reverberate far beyond what they’re immediately about. I strongly suspect that both Alexei and I agree on the truth of the maths or the sciences, regardless of the fact that he’s an antirealist or correlationist and I’m a realist. However, the realist and anti-realist positions nonetheless have consequences that go beyond these rarified matters.

Private property is the sole guarantor of Liberty

Tuesday, 24 February 2009 Downgraded... As Predicted from ANTIDOTE by Sauvik Chakraverti

I read Kaushik Das' column in today's Mint with great interest...Kaushik is an adherent of the Austrian School of Economics, probably the only one with such a theoretical understanding in the Indian market. He is an economist with Kotak Mahindra Bank. [...]

In case you want to compare, read Pulin B Nayak's column in the ToI of today, supporting Keynesian bullcrap. Professor Nayak teaches at the Delhi School of Economics, and is a "government servant." So you know where not to go for higher education. Congrats Kaushik. Well done. Posted by Sauvik on Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Saturday, 21 February 2009 Thoughts On "Market Day"

We are fortunate that today we also have access to a speech by Vaclav Havel, president of the Czech Republic, at the European parliament. As a representative of a nation that suffered greatly under communist rule, Havel emphasizes the concerns his countrymen have over a European Union that is getting more centralized as well as protectionist every day. Havel says that the EU should have just two functions: one, removing barriers to trade; and two, public goods that cannot be provided for by member nations acting alone or jointly. He deplores the fact that the EU is headed in the opposite direction. He says:

“… the present economic system of the EU is a system of a suppressed market, a system of a permanently strengthening centrally controlled economy.”

He also deplores the protectionism that is rife in the EU. He finds it hilarious that the EU has imposed a 66% import duty on candles from China. It is as if Bastiat’s Candlemakers’ Petition has become reality.Do read the full speech here. This is the kind of politics we need in India. We too should put communism and socialism firmly behind us. Posted by Sauvik on Saturday, February 21, 2009 0 comments

Tuesday, 24 February 2009 The Purpose Of Law

A Rule of Law Society is based on three pillars: Property, Contracts and Torts. Each of these pillars of The Law are meant for the protection and safety of the citizen. With his Property protected by Law, the citizen is secure, his possessions are securely his; and not only that, when he wills his property to his descendants, these descendants are secure and protected too. No bully can interfere and hijack property. As John Locke wrote in 1690: "Where there is no Property, there is no Justice." Posted by Sauvik on Tuesday, February 24, 2009 5 comments

Monday, 23 February 2009 Ban The Police

The Police runs the black markets. And there is no Justice. And there is no Liberty. Recommended reading: Bruce Benson’s “The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without The State.” Ban The Police! Posted by Sauvik on Monday, February 23, 2009 1 comments

Wednesday, 25 February 2009 On Property, Liberty And The Law

We have just discussed the idea that the purpose of Law is to protect. It therefore follows that Legislation is not Law. Legislation is an interference. It takes away Freedom. It empowers the minions of The State. It is an instrument of social control – and is therefore the prime instrument of Socialism, which seeks to perform “social engineering.” All the schemes of social engineers are effected through Legislation.If you want to study this idea further, I suggest Bruno Leoni’s “Freedom and The Law.”

This book influenced Friedrich Hayek, whose “Law, Legislation and Liberty” broke new ground, as compared to his earlier work, “The Constitution of Liberty,” a book that Margaret Thatcher swore by. The future of freedom, which we aspire to, can only be achieved if we restrict Legislation to where it justly belongs: and that is, the regulation of the arms of the government. Legislation should cover the tax bureaus, the police, the civilian administration. This is the “public law.”

The citizenry are therefore free from Legislation. They inhabit the “private law” world of Property, Contracts and Torts. These fall within “civil law” and require no legislation. Of these, it is Private Property that is the sole guarantor of Liberty. When Legislation cannot interfere with Private Property, when Property is inviolable, we are all Totally Free. Posted by Sauvik on Wednesday, February 25, 2009 0 comments

February 12, 2009

Religious springboards - mantras, pictures, relics - as a living impulse toward Spirit

The Greyscale Between Religion and Spirituality by Rick Lipschutz
posted by Debashish on Sat 10 Jan 2009 09:46 AM PST Permanent Link

He may be coming to the yoga from a different basis - after all most of us do not usually start the Integral Yoga from all bases at once, though that too is possible and would be preferable - i.e., there may be a devotion dichotomy here that has turned into an apparent absolute conflict, which, seen from a wider, though admittedly not particularly human perspective, could simply present complementary approaches. This complementary, more inclusive understanding, if approached from a psychic or spiritual view, could even potentiate mutual growth among us all. Just a suggestion.

The “vital” also plays its crucial part in yoga, and there can be no living realization without it. Spiritual philosophy (I’m referring, again, to those four “paths” or “principal elements” the Mother was speaking about) provides a needed underpinning, in the inner mind, so that the mind will not pose as its usual self inimical to spiritual advance, but be of some humble help, in being more open and quiet and peaceful and calm. And spirituality - once we start to have experiences, even realizations, we need to work to express them in life, not sit in them or get stuck in them - that, I believe, was part of the pretext for the founding of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram where spirituality is to be realized in life, embodied. If we regard Sri Aurobindo and the Mother as avatars, are they living Avatars, or are we stuck in a religious formula, an empty shell?

I think, if we look at ourselves - as I look at myself, anyway - I see that sometimes I am using religious springboards - mantras, pictures, relics even - as a living impulse toward Spirit - but sometimes, I am not. Sometimes I’m trapped in an empty shell, wrapped up in a formula. One moment, or one month, my inner consciousness may be spiritual; the next moment, or for two months I may be religious. And as the Mother said, in the passage I quoted, to be complete this yoga requires expressing the spiritual impulsion in living actions that, in the context of the passage, she called religious!

We can also see this (this necessity of expressing our spiritual aspiration in outward actions, sometimes even in seemingly religious forms of expression) woven into “The Yoga of Divine Works” in Sri Aurobindo’s essential The Synthesis of Yoga. And it might help, even in the attempt to become integral karmayogins, if we have some foundation in our outer and inner mind in a living spiritual philosophy; because, if we do, we maybe can give a decent explanation to someone else who asks a question.

Gently, I am suggesting that it might help if more of us actually read Sri Aurobindo in an ongoing fashion and find our spiritual philosophical understanding in some kind of greater spiral inclusiveness. His writing seems to become more clear as we do, and even the attempt to read him may help in promoting some mental quiet, mental clarity through which spiritual force can come.

And perhaps, just perhaps we don’t need to make a choice - that clean mental cut that our minds often fall upon the sword of! - between “worshiping” and “becoming.” I believe the Mother did make a statement about sadhaks worshiping because they were too lazy to become. When we look at this contexted in a yoga that embraces all of life, if we admire, devote ourselves, worship, then we can do it in such a way that we do not get stuck in our worship. We can worship in such a way that we strive to become, emulate, even identify actively with the Divine or at least its representatives. Or, our work-to-become may be a way of worship for some of us. Or, if we get stuck, and the soul in us is aflame and the guidance is there, then we get unstuck and start to move again. We come to surrender ourselves to the object of worship or devotion, not as worms, but as living, evolving beings who have a soul in us that is part and portion of the Divine - of the same essence as the Saccidananda and the very Transcendent itself, and aspiring also towards Braham-actualization - and we begin to identify with the Divine in form or representation and START TO TAKE IT ON.

We take it on by “grace” because we are not doing it ourselves, but only setting up conditions that may in time allow it to happen. This seems to be the only way we can bridge that gulf, between us and the pioneers of Integral Yoga - that distressingly infinite-seeming gap - that I mentioned. And there are many starts and steps, and turnabouts and bridges, and religion and spirituality seem to intertwine; and only the Divine Grace can really extract that fiber of true spirituality, from religion or religiosity. That divine grace in this yoga is the working of the Mother, the conscious bliss-force of the Shakti. Science, Culture and Integral Yoga Previous: Explanation of my Stand wrt The Lives of Sri Aurobindo Next: The Mother's war for the Truth against all conceptions of the truth