Loose ends

Charles Wikner WIKNER at NACDH4.NAC.AC.ZA
Thu Oct 9 03:47:31 CDT 1997

Greg Goode <goode at DPW.COM> wrote:

> Ultimately Atma or Brahman observes thoughts.  Some teachers use a
> teaching concept called the "witness."  This would be unidentifed,
> impersonal consciousness, the consciousness attributed to the sage.
> Where do the thoughts arise from?  Silence, same place they return to.
> Why THOSE thoughts?  Vasanas.  Ultimately, it's inexplicable, like
> what Shankara says of maya itself:  "unspeakable."

That is the theory: we could discuss theory forever, but seems rather
pointless.  The purpose of the questions was to actually look and
discover for yourself, to put the teachings into practice and peel away
the layers of ignorance. Observing thoughts etc. does imply a measure of
detachment from them: that is a rather more useful exercise than merely
clinging to the belief in some theory.

The process of enquiry (vicaara.na) is the second of seven steps on the
way of knowledge (j~naana-marga).  Few get that far; most rest content
with second-hand theory.

> In the relative level, yes.  But at a higher level, all these items
> partake of the same reality/unreality as everything else in the
> phenomenal world.  The "individual," its "nature," the vasanas and
> thoughts are evanescent appearances in consciousness.

More theory: after a time the mere repetition of theory gets tiresome.
What have you directly observed of the nature of thought?

> Not necessarily a decision.  True, the body/mind does one thing rather than
> another.  Which thing it does is based on everything in the universe. The
> "decision" comes in when there arises a thought "I" that comes to take
> credit for the thing done.

This is advaita theory misapplied to practical life, i.e. pure fatalism.
It nullifies ethics and reason, and can be used to justify any action.
This is the core of my objection to the mere denial of free will.

> > What is it that observes this "interplay between opposing thoughts"?
> That which observes everything.  Our true nature, Brahman, which even observes
> the dissolution and creation of universes.  The personal or impersonal
> "witness" is itself a concept, an arising in consciousness.

Is that your direct experience?  How many universes have you observed?

Do you find satisfaction in mere words and debate?  Is there no desire to
know It (as it were)?

> It really SEEMS that way, doesn't it?

Yes it does, and I see no reason to merely _deny_ that "seeming" with some
theory.  It is surely more useful to examine that "seeming" and directly
observe how it arises (as a practical step towards transcending it).

> But that response itself, along with the ideas that seem like intelligence
> are THEMSELVES thoughts/appearances that arise (totally unbidden) in the
> silence of infinite consciousness.  There's nothing you can name or point
> to which is NOT such an appearance.  As Shankara might say, these appearances
> are both real and unreal.  Real, in that experience cannot be denied.  Unreal,
> in that they come and go, are not eternal, and depend on being seen in order
> to exist.

Indeed, experience cannot be denied, however, I have the impression that
that is exactly what you are doing: throwing a blanket of theory over daily
practical experience.  Theory is one thing, realisation another -- the map
is not the territory, as someone concisely expressed it.

I find advaita a very _practical_ philosophy, and not merely a theory.

> > What came to a conclusion?
> The unreal ego appeared to perform a logical operation and come to an unreal
> conclusion.  None of these elements has any more or less reality or
> ontological existence than any other element.

The enquiry came to a conclusion.  It was smothered by a theory.

I notice your studied avoidance of the personal pronoun, and you no doubt
notice that I use it freely.  At one stage I also avoided its use, with
the idea that was more "objective", until I realised that it is nothing
of the sort, and did give the quite false impression to others that I knew
what I was talking about (i.e. that I actually was the witness and not
the ego posing as such).  To be objective and honest at the same time
meant prefacing every statement with "The Upanishads say" or some such,
which became rather cumbersome (besides which, there is always someone who
asks for a reference, and I don't know the scriptures quite that well).
So it proved much simpler to scatter personal pronouns about so that it is
quite clear that the expression reflects a current personal understanding
as in normal use in the world.

Nonetheless, it was an interesting exercise to go through.


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