The First Person Account of Consciousness in the Vedanta

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jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 4 Oct, 2009 07:03 pm
Many of the arguments around the nature of consciousness hinge on the problem of trying to define what consciousness is. The neurological or scientific explanations will attempt to explain consciousness on the basis of various analogies or models. From the viewpoint of many scientists, the very existence of consciousness is an inconvenience and something to be explained away:

Quote:
"Behaviourism claims that consciousness is neither a definite nor a usable concept. The behaviourist, who has been trained always as an experimentalist, holds, further, that belief in the existence of consciousness goes back to the ancient days of superstition and magic."

[RIGHT]John Watson, 'Behaviourism', 1924[/RIGHT]

I don't wish to suggest further models or explanations of consciousness. No doubt there is much to be learned from understanding the way the brain works and many important insights to be had from the scientific study of the topic.

But there is a very fundamental point I wish to make in this thread: no matter what model of consciousness you are considering, and whatever you understand the nature of reality is, conscious awareness is always present. It is always a given, always fundamental, the very means by which any discussion can be had or model can be thought of.

You might object that you can imagine a universe without anybody to observe it, and therefore with no conscious awareness - but this 'imagining' is itself an activity of conscious awareness. In fact whatever is going on, or is not going on, conscious awareness is always present. Where it is not present, there is nothing to be said, and no-one to say it.

Now this elementary and very simple fact is at the foundation of the Advaita Vedanta philosophy of Hinduism. They are pointing out something very simple, but very important, about the nature of conscious awareness, not on an intellectual level, but from an observation of the nature of existence.

The Advaita teachers will sometimes refer to two sayings in Bible, specifically Christ's saying: "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58) and God speaking to Moses on the mountain: "I Am that I Am" (Exodus 3:14). as statements in the Christian bible that point to the Vedantin understanding of the primacy of conscious awareness. The fact of being comes before everything else.

The Vedanta account of the nature of existence always commence with that which is always present, and to whom everything occurs. This they point to as the Self, Atman.

OK. 'What self', you might ask. 'What is that? Isn't that just the activity of the consciousness that we started off with?'

But the question is not really 'What is that'? It is 'Who am I?', because whoever or whatever it is, is at the very heart of your own existence. It is "that which thinks". And as soon as you begin to think about it, you are already heading in the wrong direction, because Self is never an object. This is the very meaning of 'Advaita': non-dual, not-two, not self-and-other.

To the Advaita sages, we ourselves are at the very source of all being, and yet we continually fail to notice it, because we are bound up, caught up in the drama of our own existence, which we ourselves create, and then fail to remember that we have created. This is the common state of person-kind, generally (but not unkindly) referred to as 'Ignorance' or Avidya (not-seeing). It is the state of 'maya' or illusion which constitutes normality for many of us.

That is all for this post. If there is interest, we will discuss the matter further, and introduce some of the Vedantist sages who have taught this understanding in recent times.
 
Jackofalltrades phil
 
Reply Wed 7 Oct, 2009 08:39 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;95100 wrote:
............
.......... But there is a very fundamental point I wish to make in this thread: no matter what model of consciousness you are considering, and whatever you understand the nature of reality is, conscious awareness is always present. It is always a given, always fundamental, the very means by which any discussion can be had or model can be thought of.

You might object that you can imagine a universe without anybody to observe it, and therefore with no conscious awareness - but this 'imagining' is itself an activity of conscious awareness. In fact whatever is going on, or is not going on, conscious awareness is always present. Where it is not present, there is nothing to be said, and no-one to say it.


Hi J i am a student trying to make sense of this world. Since i assume, yours and mine is the same, we may help each other.... While i will learn, you may as well practise..... I am not a serious student of religious philosophy, so excuse my avidya. Being a student, i have my doubts.

Conscious awareness (C A)........ what ever that may be, works on two principles..... 1) Being awake and 2) Being aware.

By saying awakeness i am no doubt putting it very simply... of what it could be made off as an explanation of consciousness to a kid. Consciousness cannot be analogous to any thing. However, it can be known as a state of being. Because it exists.

When you say, C A is always present. What does that mean? How did you conclude that, or is it just an opinion or a hypothesis?


jeeprs;95100 wrote:
The fact of being comes before everything else.

The Vedanta account of the nature of existence always commence with that which is always present, and to whom everything occurs. This they point to as the Self, Atman.


Advaita, although some prefer calling it non-dualism, it essentially follows the path of monoism. It would interpret as saying 'there is but One Reality'.

Your earlier proposition that '"conscious awareness is always present'" (1) presupposes existence. It also puts your later statement - "the fact of being comes before everything else" (2)- by its nature of language, and the trueness or factness of the subject matter (epistemiological and ontological) suggestiveness, in a slightly incoherent position.
Why?

(I take the risk of answering my surmise despite the absence of your clarification on CA )........ Because, Being exists as it is or as a first (your statement 2), which implies as a corollary that awareness comes later (from your statement 1). Remember i am trying to make sense of your two alleged conclusive statements. Thats how i see it. Therfore, awareness is not always present. (Am I seeing it or not-seeing it), Your comments?


jeeprs;95100 wrote:
To the Advaita sages, we ourselves are at the very source of all being, and yet we continually fail to notice it, because we are bound up, caught up in the drama of our own existence, which we ourselves create, and then fail to remember that we have created. This is the common state of person-kind, generally (but not unkindly) referred to as 'Ignorance' or Avidya (not-seeing). It is the state of 'maya' or illusion which constitutes normality for many of us.


They were great thinkers.......... we are so indebted to them and their sources - one being the advent and influence of Islam.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Wed 7 Oct, 2009 02:27 pm
@Jackofalltrades phil,
Many thanks for your questions and observations.

Jackofalltrades;95804 wrote:
When you say, C A is always present. What does that mean? How did you conclude that, or is it just an opinion or a hypothesis?


It is the simple observation that to consider anything, form a theory, offer an opinion, you are aware first. You may notice that wherever you go, you are there. The fact of your own being is the indubitable basis of anything else that exists in your experience. It is not an hypothesis, but a simple observation. As I said in the first post, you can imagine a universe without you in it, but it is still an act of your imagination.

The Advaita sages say that all suffering arises because we ourselves think we are the doer of our actions, because we identify with our body and our thoughts, which creates the ego. They would say that pure awareness is the true Self, which is beyond the suffering of worldly existence. To realise this is fruit of 'sadhana', the spiritual life.


Jackofalltrades;95804 wrote:
They were great thinkers.......... we are so indebted to them and their sources - one being the advent and influence of Islam.


There are indeed Islamic sages in the Indian tradition, often from the Sufi tradition. (Sufis are Islamic mystics.) But the Advaita Vedanta is 100% pure Vedic (= 'from the Vedas') which pre-dates the Muslim influence in India by thousands of years. If you can detect an external influence in it, some scholars believe it was because the Buddha influenced the Vedanta, because although its founder, Shankara, was philosophically opposed to Buddhism, in arguing against Buddhism he adopted many of their innovations.

One of the greatest of Advaitins wasRamana Maharishi whose ashram is in Southern India, and who died in 1960. Many of his chelas (students) have formed the basis for a revival of the Advaita teaching in the modern world.
 
Jackofalltrades phil
 
Reply Thu 8 Oct, 2009 05:45 am
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;95872 wrote:

There are indeed Islamic sages in the Indian tradition, often from the Sufi tradition. (Sufis are Islamic mystics.) But the Advaita Vedanta is 100% pure Vedic (= 'from the Vedas') which pre-dates the Muslim influence in India by thousands of years. If you can detect an external influence in it, some scholars believe it was because the Buddha influenced the Vedanta, because although its founder, Shankara, was philosophically opposed to Buddhism, in arguing against Buddhism he adopted many of their innovations.


Thanks for your response. I would like to admit my deliberate attempt to bring islam into the discussion. With my limited knowledge, i know my hypothesis would be contented by very many followers.

I therefore would not like to assert my position, because it is a matter of further research.

There is nothing 100 % pure in religious contentions or claims. Everyone is influenced by every one else.

Just to clarify some facts, muslims and islamic thoughts and ideas did not come to India through invasions after 10th century. It came to South India through traders and travellers from 7th and 8th century onwards. Sufism came much later influenced by a parallel thought process originating in west and central asia. There is historical and popular myths especially in North India about invasions of thoughts and swords.

---------- Post added 10-08-2009 at 05:30 PM ----------

Sorry, i missed to comment on this one earlier.

jeeprs;95872 wrote:

It is the simple observation that to consider anything, form a theory, offer an opinion, you are aware first. You may notice that wherever you go, you are there. The fact of your own being is the indubitable basis of anything else that exists in your experience. It is not an hypothesis, but a simple observation. As I said in the first post, you can imagine a universe without you in it, but it is still an act of your imagination.


If C A is within you, and is always present - i would tend to agree with you or the Advaitists. Thanks for the explanation.
 
Subjectivity9
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 11:34 am
@jeeprs,
Jeepers,

It seems like everyone wants to define consciousness, like it is something that we can capture in a net of words.

But that is not IMO how to come at consciousness. In fact, I don’t believe that consciousness lends its self to lineal thinking.

So how, in your way of seeing it, do we make its acquaintance?

And another question:

Do you see awareness as being the same as thinking?

As in "I think therefore I am."

S9
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Fri 9 Oct, 2009 08:59 pm
@jeeprs,
From a website on Ramana Maharishi:

Quote:
Existence or Consciousness is the only reality. Consciousness plus waking we call waking. Consciousness plus sleep we call sleep. Consciousness plus dream, we call dream. Consciousness is the screen on which all the pictures come and go. The screen is real, the pictures are mere shadows on it.



Ramana would often refer to the 'fourth state' beyond dreamless sleep, dreaming and waking states. This is called 'Turiya':

Quote:
"The fourth state is not that which is conscious of the subjective, nor that which is conscious of the objective, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is simple consciousness, nor that which is all-sentient mass, nor that which is all darkness. It is unseen, transcendent, the sole essence of the consciousness of self, the completion of the world."


This is a state of higher consciousness which is the goal of sadhana or spiritual practise. Compared with this, the state of the ordinary mind is one of 'maya' or illusion, founded on the false premise of ego-identity. Attaining liberation ('moksha') from this state is the teaching of the Advaita.
 
 

 
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