[Advaita-l] The nature of spiritual realisation

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Tue Sep 30 11:09:44 CDT 2003

--- Tahir Nazir <tnazir at energy.com.au> wrote:
> I came across a view from a religious person that stated spiritual 
> realisation is due to a brain event, specifically situated in the
> right 
> hand side. He said there is nothing demeaning to spirituality if it
> is 
> seen as a result of brain activity.This is an anti-metaphysical view,
> reducing all things to the one level of reality - namely the
> corporeal. 
> Could you comment on the nature of spiritual realisation that would 
> clearly show  this view to be a misconception?

This question is one of the more "philosophically subtle" objections
that can be raised against advaita. In the Brahma sUtra BhAshhya
3.3.53-54, Shankara conclusively proves that the Self is distinct from
the body. Unlike some so-called "traditionists" who never use logic and
even dissuade such questions, Shankara takes great care to refute this
theory logically.

Before examining Shankara's arguments, it may be helpful to consider
two popular current Western theories on the Self:
1) Reductionism: Everything can be reduced to something simpler.
(Specifically, all that exists is atoms, space and time. The Self is a
combination of these three categories).
2) Cartesian Dualism: The mind/Self and the body causally interact with
each other. The analogy is that of a physical object (body) being
associated with a non-physical property (mind).

The above definitions are great over-simplifications, and "professional
western philosophers" will certainly find fault with them, but you get
the idea. Here's Shankara's argument against the above two views that
the Self is dependent on the body or is derived from a combination of

Brahma sUtra 3.3.53:
Some deny the existence of the Self, its existence being dependent on
the existence of the body. 

Shankara's commentary:
Opponent: With regard to this, there are some materialists who identify
the Self with the body itself, and think that there is no soul distinct
from the body. Under this belief they consider it possible that
although consciousness is not seen to belong to the external things
like earth etc. taken either individually or collectively, yet it may
belong to the elements transformed into bodies, and they say that
consciousness arises from them like the power of intoxication arises
from liquor, and that a man is nothing but the body dowered with
sentience...they adduce the reason, "its existence being dependent on
the body". Anything whose existence depends on the existence of another
and which ceases to be when that other thing is not there, is
ascertained to be an attribute of the latter, as for instance, heat and
light are attributes of fire. As regards attributes like sentience,
memory etc. which are held to belong to the Self according to the
believers in the soul, they too are perceived within the body and not
outside; and hence so long as any substance other than the body cannot
be proved, they must be the attributes of the body itself. Hence the
Self is not distinct from the body. 

Brahma sUtra 3.3.54:
But this is not so; there is a distinction (between the Self and the
body) because consciousness may not exist even when the body exists, as
it is in the case of perception.

Before I type Shankara's commentary, any ideas as to how the opponent's
theory can be refuted?

> Regards,
> Tahir



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