[Advaita-l] Analysis of the Mind-6

kuntimaddi sadananda kuntimaddisada at yahoo.com
Thu Jan 31 10:13:51 CST 2008

          6. Fundamental Human Problem

We have discussed two aspects, the mind and the subtle
body.  Of the mind, the important component is Ego,
involving ‘I am this’, which is the essence of the
individual ‘I’ with which I do all the transactions. 
It involves the conscious-existent entity, ‘I am’
identifying with inert entities, body, mind and/or
intellect to facilitate all transactions in the world.
Ego, although a necessary vehicle without which I
cannot transact in the world, it became the essence of
myself, since I do not know what my true nature is.
Thus a false guy, ego, has become a real guy, since
real guy is not known.  When I take my self as ‘this’,
the limitations of ‘this’ becomes my limitations. 
‘This’ is always limited by ‘that’, while freedom is
to BE beyond all limitations, absolute infiniteness,
Brahman (the word Brahman itself means infiniteness).
Any limitation causes unhappiness, and no one wants to
be unhappy. Unlike other infinities that we are
familiar in mathematics, such as pi or e or parallel
lines meeting at infinity, etc., which are
conditionally infinite or qualified infinite (for
example pi cannot be more than and less than some
numbers or parallel lines are separated by some finite
distance, etc), Brahman is absolutely infinite or
unconditionally infinite or unqualifiedly infinite and
therefore unconditionally limitless which is the same
as absolute happiness.  Limitless that I am, take
myself to be limited notional ‘I am = this’.  This
leaves me with three fundamental limitations which can
be expressed as a) I am a mortal b) I am unhappy and
c) I am ignorant. I do not like the presumed
limitations that I have.  Hence, I struggle hard to
gain my true nature.  If we examine our lives we find
that all our struggles in life can be reduced to two
broad categories, a) trying to gain something
(pravRitti) and b) trying to get rid of something
(nivRitti).  All these struggles are to overcome these
three fundamental limitations stated above.  Thus from
birth to death or from womb to the tomb, every living
being is trying to solve these three fundamental
limitations by way of trying to gain something or
trying to get rid of something, pravRitti and/or
nivRitti. This is true across the board and from the
time immemorial. The tragedy of life is, no one will
be able to solve these problems of limitations, now or
ever. Let us look at each one carefully and see where
the problem lies. 

When I take myself as I am the body, then body
problems become my problems.  The body, by its nature,
undergoes six modifications; existence in the womb
(asti) for seven to nine months, birth as a
baby(jaayate), growing pains as a child to an
adulthood (vardhate), modifications of the body
(vipariNamati, i.e. problems of the grownups), slow
disintegration with all the health problems in the
world (apakshiiyate) and ultimately kicking the bucket
(vinasyati). That which is born has to die or that
which has a beginning has to have an end, (jaatasya hi
dhruvo mRituH) says Krishna. That is the Law of
Nature. No body or nobody is permanent here.
Civilizations have come and civilizations have gone. 
The world is always in a continuous flux, never in a
static condition.  Hence the Sanskrit word for the
world is ‘jagat’ and etymologically it means ‘jaayante
gacchate iti jagat’ that which is continuously coming
and going; that is the nature of the world. What comes
must go, like the slogan, what goes up must come down.
In a dialogue between a celestial being (yaksha) and
the King YudhiShTara in Mahabharat, yaksha asked the
king, ‘What is the greatest wonder in the world?’.
Obviously, the King had no idea of our seven wonders
of the world.  He responded, “We see people being born
and people dying everyday, yet everyone acts as though
he is going to be permanent in this world; and that is
the greatest wonder of the world”.  By the by, related
to the mind there was a question too. Yakshaa asked
the king, “What moves the fastest in the world?”. The
king replied without knowing that the velocity of the
light is the fastest we can reach, “mind moves the
fastest in the world”. 

Coming back to the topic, body cannot but be mortal. 
When I identify with the body as I am this, I feel I
am going to die one day. The fear of death is the
greatest fear that a human being faces. No one wants
to die.  Even those who want to commit suicide also do
not want to die, but they think that by ending their
life they would solve their problems. They do not want
to die if the problems of their mind can be solved
without dying.  Those problems arise because of the
ego or identification with the body, mind and
intellect. Therefore the problem of mortality, we can
never solve, whatever pills or medication we take or
however much we try to hide our age by coloring or
making up the deficiencies, etc.  Man’s longing to
live eternally is inherent, where as finite life seems
to be the fact of life.  To solve this problem some
turn to religion.  Some religions promise eternal
life, not now, but after death; of course only if you
believe in them. After your death, no one would know
if you lived happily ever after.  There is a day of
judgment when you will be taken to eternal heaven or
pushed to eternal hell – either way eternity is
guaranteed. All these beliefs sprung up since there is
inherent desire to live eternally. No animal wants to
die. Preservation of one’s life at any cost is
instinctive. Hence mortality is a problem, since I
identify myself with the body. It has become not
anymore body’s mortality but my mortality.  But
whatever we do, we can never solve or escape the jaws
of the death. I want to be eternal, but with the body
I can never be. Hence all attempts to live happily
ever after with the body will be futile. 

The second problem arises with the notion that I am
unhappy. This arises fundamentally with the
identification with the mind as I am the mind. Mind is
never happy with what it has and therefore it always
wants to make itself more full by acquiring this or
that.  Life becomes a rat race and twenty-four hours
is not sufficient.   However much we accumulate, the
inadequacy that I feel that I am not full still
remains.  Only way to solve this problem of inadequacy
is to be fully adequate.  That means have everything
in the world, possessing limitless entities.  One can
never reach limitless by adding limited things.
Addition of finites cannot accumulate to infinite.
Hence problem of inadequacy of the mind or unhappiness
of the mind remains as an unsolved problem. 

The third problem is based on the identification that
I am the intellect, which is always limited. We cannot
stand this limitation either.  Hence the longing or
curiosity to know remains. Unfortunately, the more we
learn, we find that there is lot more things to learn,
which we did not know before that they even existed.
However much we learn, we are left with an
uncomfortable feeling that what we know is very little
compared to what we do not know.  Our ignorance grows
exponentially with our knowledge. Hence even the
ignorance problem also we cannot solve. Man becomes
desperate. In one of the Upanishad, the student goes
to a teacher and asks, “Sir, please teach me knowing
which I know everything”. Upanishads recognized that
there is an intrinsic desire to learn everything. 

Vedanta says there is a fundamental problem in our
understanding about ourselves. Since I am a self
conscious entity, not knowing who I am, I take my self
to be what I am not – that is I am the limited body,
limited mind and limited intellect.  Equipments, body,
mind and intellect remain limited irrespective of who
I am.  As a result of this identification, I take
myself I am mortal, I am unhappy and I am ignorant.
All struggles in life are to solve these fundamental
problems. The analysis shows that all our attempts to
solve these three fundamental limitations miserably
fail.  For majority of us these struggles temporarily
end one day, when we die.  This seems to be
autobiography of everybody, the billions of people
that live on this planet earth; only the details of
how they failed in trying to solve these fundamental
problems vary.  

Vedanta says, everybody fails only because everyone is
trying to solve a problem where there is no problem to
solve. Why should anyone solve a problem when there is
no problem to solve? According to Vedanta, the
problems are not real but imaginary, since we started
with a wrong assumption about ourselves.  Imaginary
problems can never be solved. Since we do not know who
we are, we take ourselves to be something other than
who we are.  Intrinsically there is a natural drive to
be who we really are. Hence longing to be immortal,
absolutely happy and having infinite knowledge are
inherent drives to become what we are. Hence according
to Vedanta there is really no problem to solve, but to
recognize our true nature.  We are ignorant of our
selves and solution to this problem is to know who we
are.  Who are we then? According to Vedanta, we are
sat-chit-ananda swaruupa; that is we are of the nature
of existence-knowledge and limitless or happiness.
Hence Vedanta is considered as mirror that shows who
we really are compared to what we think we are. ‘I
think, I am’ – was the statement of Descartes. Vedanta
says, I am – hence I think. That is I am existent and
conscious entity. Existence has to be infinite. Finite
would make the existence bounded. A question then will
arise in terms of what is there beyond the boundaries
of finiteness that is different from existence.
Different from existence is only non-existence; and we
cannot say non-existence exists on the other side of
the existence. That is a self-contradictory statement.
Therefore existence has to be infinite. I am not only
an existent entity but also a conscious entity. 
Consciousness has to be existent, since we cannot talk
about non-existent consciousness. Hence existence and
consciousness are not two separate entities but one
and the same entity viewed from two different
perspectives. I cannot qualify myself – since any
qualification belongs to an object which is inert.
Hence Vedanta says – I am unqualified absolute
infinite existence-consciousness – which bible says –
I am that I am, since I cannot add anything else to I
am to qualify myself.  

There are two things that are unqualifyable.  One is
Brahman, since it is absolutely infinite. The reason
is simple.  Only finite things can be qualified since
a qualification is that which distinguishes the
qualified object from the rest of the objects in the
world.  The absolute infinite has to be only one,
since if they are two, each limits the other and
neither one will be Brahman. Hence, there cannot be
anything else besides Brahman, in order for it to have
qualifications to distinguish it from anything else.
Hence whatever descriptive words that are used are
only indicative of Brahman (lakshyaartha) and not
literal descriptions (vaachyaartha), similar to the
word infinite, to indicate that anything finite cannot
be Brahman.  The other thing that cannot be described
is the subject I, since I am a subject and not an
object, and objects alone have qualifications.  Hence
when I state my qualifications using my bio-data, I am
only describing all ‘this’ that I identify with, which
are qualifications of ‘this’ and not ‘I’. 

Now we arrive at the famous equation what Vedanta
calls as mahaa vaakhyas (great aphorisms). Since
Brahman is one without a second, absolutely infinite,
existent and conscious entity and I am also
unqualifyable existent-conscious entity, we are left
with no other possibility other than the identity
relation, I am = Brahman (aham brahmaasmi). Our
problems started with our presumed identity equation I
am = this, where as Vedanta says the correct equation
is I am = Brahman. The first equation is invalid,
since I am equating a conscious entity with
unconscious entity. On the other hand, in the second
equation I am equating two conscious entities, only
with clear understanding that there cannot be any
divisions in consciousness or in existence. 

Looking at our struggles to solve the three
fundamental problems stated above, Vedanta declares
that we are solving a problem where there is no
problem; and that has become a fundamental human
problem. All attempts to solve this problem fail. 
Only way to solve this problem is to recognize that I
am not a limited entity that I think I am.  The
limitations are the result of my superimposing
qualities that do not belong to me – the qualities of
the body, or the mind or the intellect or all of the
three. Hence Vedanta says– YOU ARE THAT (tat tvam
asi). I am referring to unqualified
existence-consciousness that I am and Brahman is
absolutely infinite existence-conscious which  cannot
be away from me – in fact it is me. This teaching is
direct and immediate like seeing apple in my own hand,
which is by direct and immediate perception. I do not
have to think, I do not have to run to Himalayas to
sit and meditate or contemplate for me to see the
apple in my hand.  As soon as I open my eyes, I cannot
but see. Similarly I do not have think or contemplate
or meditate or analyze to find out if I am existent or
not, conscious or not.  I do not have to prove myself
that I am. I am self-conscious and self-existent
entity.  I might even say I am the only one that is
self-conscious and self-existent entity. As for as I
am concerned, I have to be there to establish any
other’s existence.  That I am conscious-existent
entity is direct and immediate and so is Brahman,
since it is absolutely infinite. Whether I can accept
this equation or teaching immediately or not depends
on my faith in the teaching as well how closely I am
seriously I am interested in finding my true nature.
It is logical yet the truth is beyond logic.  I am an
existent-conscious entity is not logic – it is a fact.
Brahman is infinite existent-conscious entity is what
Vedanta declares.  The identity of the two is pointed
out by Vedanta and that is logical too, since it is
illogical to divide existence; it will be like
dividing space. Just as space cannot be cut, made wet
or dry or burnt by fire, Krishna starts teaching in
Bhagavat Gita to Arjuna, a confused soul, that
existence-conscious that you are cannot be cut, made
wet or dry, or burnt to death by fire – you are
indestructible and immortality is your very nature. 
It is amazing that we accept readily that we are the
inert body, mind or intellect but are not ready to
accept we are existent-consciousness-limitless, says
Shankara, the one who formulated this advaita
philosophy on firm grounds using Vedanta as the means
of knowledge.  

The question that remains then is, why is that I do
not know who I am, since I am taking myself what I am
not as I am.  Essentially when did this ignorance of
myself started. The related questions are what this
world is, if Brahman is everything, or why did Brahman
become this world, since unlike Brahman it appears to
be an unconscious entity. 

In addressing these issues, we are going beyond the
boundaries of logic.  Hence Vedanta alone becomes a
means of knowledge for these things, even though the
answers that Vedanta provides are not illogical.  The
reasons logic fail is that the answer is not in the
domain of the intellect with the cause-effect relation
ships.  Cause and effects are in the realms of time. 
We are asking questions that transcend the time
concepts and hence intellect cannot find the answer by
itself.  This is the same reason why science also will
fail to address these issues, since science is logical
and objective while the truth is beyond logic and
deals with subject, I. 

When did I become ignorant of myself?- Vedanta says
ignorance has no beginning. If I can ask myself, since
I do not know Anthropology, when did my ignorance of
Anthropology start?  I must say from the beginning I
did not know Anthropology. However, even though my
ignorance of Anthropology is beginningless, that
ignorance can end once I learn that science. Similarly
the self-ignorance has no beginning but can end once I
learn my true nature that I am
existent-consciousness-limitless entity. This
beginningless self-ignorance which is root cause for
all human suffering is called the primordial sin by
some religions. 

Ignorance or lack of knowledge is only one aspect. 
The related aspect is projecting myself as something
other than myself. Classical example is when I do not
know that the long thin soft one that is lying on the
semi dark road is a rope, I project it to be a snake.
Because of that projection, I sweat, my blood pressure
goes up, and I may even faint.  The innocent rope may
not have any thing to do with all these secondary
reactions that arise from my misunderstanding. Vedanta
says the problem is exactly the same, when I do not
know myself, I project myself to be something other
than myself and suffer the consequences of that false
projection. Ego that we discussed is the starting
point of that misrepresentation of myself.    

Next we ask, when did the ego start? When did I start
seeing the snake where the rope is? The moment I saw
that there is a thing on the road and since I do not
know that it is a rope, I saw it as a snake only, not
that I saw first rope and then the snake. The moment I
know I am there and not knowing my true nature, that
very moment I take myself as ‘this’, which is
different from I.  Taking myself as this will start a
set of chain reactions involving the three fundamental
pursuits in life – to be immortal, to be full and to
be knowledgeable – discussed above.  

It is common knowledge that what I do now will affect
what I will have or what I want to be in future. That
is what I am now must be the result of my past
actions. Within the transactional reality, the laws of
cause and effect are perfectly valid.  If I am
engineer today, it is only because in the past I went
and studied engineering.  Similarly, all the effects
that I am experiencing now is the product of my past
actions, whether I remember them or not.  Likewise,
the future that I experience will be the result of my
past actions modified by my present action. Having
become an engineer, if I now study medicine, I will be
one day a physician but with engineering background.
Thus I am the prisoner of my past, and also master of
my future. If this is perfectly logical, then Vedanta
says, where I am born, to whom I am born and the type
of body with which I am born – all the results - can
not be by random choice but must be effects caused by
my previous actions.  I do not accept that randomly I
become a engineer or a doctor, but by deliberate or
willful action in the present or in the past I am what
I am today.  Just as a background, randomness does not
operate at an individual level.  All the statistics
that we apply is only for a group behavior and not to
predict the behavior of individual entity.  We can not
use statistics to predict the behavior of an
individual.  At an individual level statistics can
only tell about probability of my becoming this or
that. In technical language, the deterministic
behavior of an individual cannot be predicted by a
statistical randomness of a group.  

This means my birth in this life is dictated by the
actions that I must have done in the past and the
birth in the last life must have been dictated by the
actions that were done in the life before, etc.  Then
how is my first birth determined? Since ignorance is
beginningless, my misunderstanding that I am this is
also beginningless in the sense that it is also beyond
the concept of time. As stated above, intellect itself
is the product of the birth, which is due to
ignorance; one cannot provide an intellectual answer
to the very first birth.  Vedanta says
birth-sustenance-death is a cycle with no beginning.
It can have an end once we have a knowledge of who I
am, since there is no more struggles related to taking
myself who I am not.  Knowledge of who I am can end
the ignorance of myself. 

Then who is that, that takes rebirth life after life?
We discussed before that we have gross physical body
consisting of gross matter – called food-sheath – that
which is born of food, sustained by food and goes back
to become food. We have a subtle body consisting of
total mind that has four components; 1)emotional
center, mind, 2) rational intellect 3) memory  4)ego,
+ Five physiological functions + Five senses + five
faculties of organs of action – together 19 entities.
In addition to these two bodies that we discussed
before, there is still subtler one called causal body
(kaaraNa shariira).  It is called causal body since it
is the cause for all the other two bodies.  Since we
just mentioned that it is the primordial ignorance
that is the cause for our birth – that ignorance
constitutes the essence of causal body.  We need to
discuss now the contents of this causal body since it
is the cause for the divergence for different types of
births and also accounts for why I am born with such
and such body, in particular place, for particular
parents and environment, 
 the whole nine yards. 

This we will do next.  

Hari Om!

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