Advaita : Some Basic Explanations - 3

hbdave hbd at DDIT.ERNET.IN
Wed Feb 20 01:53:25 CST 2002

Dear List Members,
Here is posting no. 3.
Best Wishes
-- Himanshu
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Advaita : Some Basic Explanations - 3
                                                -- Himanshu
In the last posting we have talked about the "defects" of
a person, which need to be removed by some means before contact
with the Ultimate Reality can be established.

Doubt : Who has these defects?
Reply : Myself.
Doubt : Self? By Self you mean {\skt aatmaa}?
Reply : Yes, but the defects are not in Self, they are in myself.
Doubt : You are splitting hairs!
Reply : It is necessary to do so. We have to be clear what is
        Self, the {\skt dehin}.

{\skt dehin} -- {\skt deha.h asya asti iti dehii}
        Dehi - one who has a body;
        That is {\skt aatmaa} or Self, but it has to be understood

We are aware of our physical body. We say "this is my hand", "this is my
foot", we do not say "this me hand", "this me foot". Thus when I say
something about my body, I am aware that it is not really me, i.e., what I
call myself. At the most we may say that my body is *part of me*. The
important point to note is that there is something which I call "I" who is
*aware of this body* as something distinct. Thus there is an *awarer*
within my body who is aware of my body. My body itself is aware of the
environment surrounding it, we see through eyes, we hear via ears, our skin
detects temperature, touch etc.

When astronauts went to moon, they put on a special suit to protect them
selves. It gave them an external body, overlaying their biological body.
That external body (space-suite) was being driven in all its activities by
the biological body of the astronaut. The space-suite also had sensors, via
which the astonaut could sense the outside temperature etc. A moon-man
(if there were one) would have seen the moving and working space-suite and
taken *it* to be the visitor from space! Almost same concept is here.

The awarer of my body is situated within me, that is quite clear as it is
available wherever the body goes. Thus as if there is an outer layer of
myself and an inner myself. Thus we have :

environment --> [body] --> [awarer]

In order to talk about these things without confusion, we talk in terms of
layers of consciousness or awarers. The body is awarer (or is conscious of)
the environment. Now what is this environment? It provides inputs to the
body in form of food, various sense inputs etc. That is called {\skt anna}
(literally "food", but used as a technical word to denote any inputs - this
is important to understand). As the body obtains the inputs it is called
{\skt annamaya} -- the layer aware of or dealing with the external
inputs. The word {\skt} means a cell, a box or a layer.

Within this {\skt annamaya} is its awarer. Now what is the nature of
this awarer? It works by various nervous signals spread throughout the body.
If we could see them, we would have seen a structure, mesh or body of nerve
signals supporting all the activities of the body. The nerve signals are
called {\skt praa.naa.h} and the awarer which is made up of such signals is
called {\skt praa.namaya}, the "Sensor". Thus the digram given above
can be redrawn now as :

environment --> [{\skt annamaya}] --> [{\skt praa.namaya}]
environment --> [body] --> [Sensor]

If you think a little bit, you immediately realize that this
{\skt praa.namaya} is not the real "I", because I am sometimes
thinking and at that time the nerve signals in the body are not involved, on
the other hand, I *decide* to take some action with my hand and control
my hand through the nerve signals. Thus there is an awarer sitting within
the Pranamaya cell which controls it. Possibly, that awarer be what I call
"I"? Because that awarer seems to be working by thinking, analysing, deciding,
etc., it is called {\skt manomaya}, the cell consisting of mental
activities, the "Thinker". We redraw the diagram now as :

env. --> [{\skt annamaya}] --> [{\skt praa.namaya}] -->
                                     [{\skt manomaya}]
env. --> [body] --> [Sensor] --> [Thinker]

But our quest for our true self is not yet over. We realize that even this
{\skt manomaya} is not real "I", because I am *aware* that I am
thinking, or I am happy, or I am angry. When you learn something, say
geography of a particular place, not only you know that information, but you
are aware that you have that information. Thus there is something within you
which is aware of what you know, what you are thinking, etc. In other words,
there is an *observer* of your mental activities. This, the "Knower", is called
{\skt vij~naanamaya}, the cell who knows. {\skt vij~naana} means
{\skt vi" j~naana} the final or pure knowledge. We extend our diagram
as :

env.-->[{\skt annamaya}]-->[{\skt praa.namaya}]-->
                                 [{\skt manomaya}]-->
                                 [{\skt vij~naanamaya}]
env. --> [body] --> [Sensor] --> [Thinker] --> [Knower]

So is this the real "I"? Have we reached the innermost cell? Unfortunately,
no.  To understand that we have to take into account each and every minute
of our existence. We are awake during the day and do various activities.
Most of the Western science is based on our existence during waking sate
only. But there are at least two more states of ourselves to be considered.
We sleep for considerable time. Sometimes during the sleep, we dream also.

These two states are very interesting and our Indian thinkers have
considered that to understand the human existence, we can not ignore these
states. The three states are called *waking* {\skt jaagrata},
*sleeping* {\skt su.supti} and *dreaming* {\skt svapna}.

Now, what happens during these states? We shall talk about the dreaming
state later on (in fact in quite some detail, but not to analyze the
dreams!), we consider here the sleeping state. In sleep (and when we are not
dreaming, i.e., in deep sleep), we are not aware of anything. The autonomous
functions of the body go on, i.e., the autonomous functions of
{\skt annamaya} and {\skt praa.namaya} go on, but the {\skt manomaya} and
{\skt vij~naanamaya} are silent or inactive. Am I there during that period
or not?

We are sure that I am there, because on waking up, or if someone
wakes me up, I say "I was sleeping so *happily*, why did you wake me up?"

Many persons, who have long time experience of meditation, develop a special
sense sensitive enough so that they are aware of their own sleeping state!

Thus during my sleep, "I" am definitly existing, only the awareness is
(normally) not there. Notice that people report the sleeping as a pleasant
experience, not a bubbling pleasure, but a subtle pleasure. That is why I
have emphasised the word "happily" above. One may have trouble going to
sleep, one may get terrifying dreams in sleep, but the deep sleep itself
is a pleasant experience.

That which is existing in deep sleep is my innermost self, the true "I".
Only awareness it has is happiness, happy to be just "BE". That existence
is called {\skt aanandamaya} the "Happy one".

Doubt : Why {\skt} a cell? Is there still something inside it?
Reply : Yes and No. That explanation has to wait a bit.

Doubt : Why have you to postulate something existing during the deep
sleep, can we not say that during the sleep, mental activities stops,
so one is not aware of anything, and on waking up, he becomes aware

Reply : What is your own experience? Are you existing during deep
sleep or not? How is it that you say "I was happily asleep."? It is an
imprint of the experience during the sleep, experience of pure being, that
makes you say so. If *nothing* existed during sleep, even the faint
recollection of the experience would not be there. In fact, this is the main
difference between a computer and a human.

Our diagram now becomes :

env.-->[{\skt annamaya}]-->[{\skt praa.namaya}]-->[{\skt manomaya}]-->
                        [{\skt vij~naanamaya}]-->[{\skt aanandamaya}]
env. --> [body] --> [Sensor] --> [Thinker] --> [Knower] -->[Happy one]

Because these cells are one within another, like the Russian Matruskaya
doll, we redraw the diagram as :

env.-->[Body [Sensor [Thinker [Knower [Happy]]]]]

An outer cell provides inputs to the immediately inner cell and the inner
cell provides control, a kind of consciousness or {\skt cetana} aliveness to
the outer cell. In other words, an outer cell seems to be alive due to the
control provided by the inner cell.

In Advaitic literature, the controller is called "doer" {\skt kartaa}.
        <---| Karta |

The awarer or observer is called "enjoyer" {\skt bhoktaa}.
        --->| Bhokta |

The arrows show the flow of information.

Putting it in slightly different way :

[Body           [Sensor         [Thinker        [Knower         [Happy]]]]]
                                                buddhi          chit
External --->   internal --->   manas  --->     will and -->    ananda
organs  <----   organs  <----          <---     validation <--

All these five cells are parts of myself as a human being and are called
{\skt "sariiram} (colloquially body) or something which can be destroyed.
The word {\skt "sariiram} is derived as
{\skt "s.r.r iiran} "one which goes to destruction"; thus the meaning of the
word itself is "destructible".

Doubt : Then, is not this {\skt aanandamaya} the {\skt dehin} ?
        Is it not the one who has possession or control of the body?

Reply : No, not exactly, but you have to be patient to understand that.
Note very well that aanandamaya is part of "sariiram - it is destructible.

There is one more aspect to be understood. The cells which are part of
awareness in various major states (awake, dreaming, sleeping) are :

env. --> [body] --> [Sensor] --> [Thinker] --> [Knower] -->[Happy   ]
                                                        |<- sleep ->|
                                |<-------- dream ------------------>|
        |<-------------------  awake ------------------------------>|

Till now we have talked about something that any modern neurologist will
tell you, but what follows now is something that is found only in Vedant.

The "Happy" - {\skt aanandamaya} is also called {\skt cidaabhaasa} -
a reflection of something on the "surface" of activity of human brain,
which gives rise to an illusion (aabhaasa) of chetan (chit), an active
principle. It is compared to reflection of Sun on a water surface.

We shall use the words chidaabhaasa and aanandamaya interchangeably.

Doubt : Is not chidaabhaasa the jiiva or jiivaatmaa?
Reply : Strictly speaking, NO.

Doubt : This is not at all clear. What is this "reflection"? Whose
reflection it is?

Reply : Yes, it is a good question, but this posting has become too
long. We shall discuss it in the next.

-- Himanshu

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