by Peter Holleran
Does the "I" First Arise at Age 2?
Is there "no thing" that reincarnates?
Is there no awareness after death?
A conversation based on passages from A Net of Jewels by Ramesh Balsekar and I AM THAT by Sri Nisargadatta, as quoted in A Course in Consciousness, by Stanley Sobottka, Emeritus Professor of Physics, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
I: Hello again. I am intrigued by the common argument these days, which you seem to subscribe to, that our ego-identity is created around the age of two by the development of a consciousness-bifurcating dualistic language, and that therefore the entire spiritual quest can be reduced to the undoing of our "personal story". In "A Course in Consciousness," Professor Sobotta seems to argue for this quite adamantly, through the writings and dialogues of Ramesh Balsekar and his guru Sri Nisargadatta. I will let you read portions of that course to me and respond as I am moved to.
ND: All right, but be forewarned, I will jump in anytime I choose. Sobotta writes (in bold):
7.6. The first identification: The appearance of sentience
At the first collapse of the brain-sensory system wavefunction of the embryo or fetus, sentience appears, but without an observer/observed duality. (Exactly when this collapse occurs is unknown and consequently is an inadequacy of the theory.) Goswami explains this collapse as self-referential collapse between nonlocal consciousness and the brain wavefunction. Brain wavefunction and nonlocal consciousness mix with each other to make the collapse self-referential. Without self-referential collapse, there would be no sentience and no manifestation. The result is not only sentience but also entanglement of the level of nonlocal consciousness with the level of the physical system, a tangled hierarchy. This results in identification of nonlocal consciousness with the physical mechanism. This identification is necessary for sentience to appear and for the life processes of the physical mechanism to occur. It also produces the experience of awareness: Nonlocal consciousness thereby becomes aware. We may call this state the unconditioned self.....
7.7. The second identification: The appearance of the "I"
The classical part records in its memory every experience (every collapse) in response to a sensory stimulus. If the same or similar stimulus is again presented to the brain, the memory of the previous stimulus is triggered, and this memory acts as a restimulus to the quantum part. The combined quantum-classical wavefunction is again collapsed and the new memory reinforces the old one. Repeated similar stimuli inevitably lead ultimately to an almost totally conditioned response, one in which the probability of a new, creative response approaches zero. The brain then behaves almost like a classical deterministic system...
The repeated restimulation of the quantum part by the classical part results in a chain of secondary collapses. These secondary collapses correspond to the classical states of evoked memories, habitual reactions, introspective experiences, and conditioned motor responses. However, we can see evidence for the functioning of the quantum part even in introspection and memory because of the quantum characteristics of the mind that we discussed in Section 7.4 above.
The secondary processes and repeated running of the learned programs of the classical part conceal from us the essential role of nonlocal consciousness in collapsing the wavefunction and creating an experience. The result is the persistent thought of an entity (the "I"-concept) that resides in the mind. Now, a second tangled hierarchy can occur, this time between nonlocal consciousness and the "I"-concept, resulting in identification of nonlocal consciousness with the "I"-concept. When this occurs, the illusion of what we call the ego, "I"-entity, or "I"-doer is formed. The ego, or false self, is an assumed separate entity with an assumed power of agency that is associated with the classical, conditioned, deterministic part, while the unconditioned self is an experience that is dominated by the full range of possibilities of the quantum part.....
To recapitulate, two distinct levels of identification (tangled hierarchy) occur, the first resulting in pure awareness, the second resulting in the false self, ego, or fictitious "I"-entity.
The ego does not exist as an entity. It is nothing but a presumption--the presumption that, if thinking, experiencing, or doing occur, there must be an entity that thinks, experiences, or does. It is the identification of nonlocal consciousness with the "I"-thought in the mind. As a result of this identification, the experience of freedom that is really a property of the unconditioned self becomes limited and is falsely attributed to the ego, resulting in the assumption that the "I"-entity has free will instead of being a completely conditioned product of repeated experiences.
If we believe that we are egos, we will believe that our consciousnesses are separate from other consciousnesses and that we have free will. However, at the same time, we will contradictorily perceive ourselves as being inside and subject to space-time and as the victim of our surroundings. The reality is that our true identity is the nonlocal, unitary, unlimited consciousness which transcends space-time, and the experience of our true identity is the infinitely free, unconditioned self.
7.8. Further discussion of the unconditioned self, the ego, and freedom
In this discussion, we must make a clear distinction between the two types of experience that are related to the two types of processes occurring in the brain. The first process to occur in response to a sensory stimulus is the establishment of a response wavefunction in the combined quantum-classical brain. This is a superposition of all possibilities of which the brain is capable in response to the stimulus. Nonlocal consciousness self-referentially collapses the wavefunction. Remember that in this first tangled hierarchy, the contextual level of nonlocal consciousness and the level of the physical brain become inextricably mixed. This tangled hierarchy gives rise to awareness and perception, but still without the concept of an entity which perceives or observes. Goswami variously calls this primary awareness, pure awareness, the unconditioned self, or the Atman. It is important to realize that the unconditioned self is not an entity, thing or object. Pure experience needs no entity. In this state there is no experiencer and nothing experienced. There is only experiencing itself. This is the state of the unconditioned infant, and of the enlightened sage (a redundant term).
The other type of experience is related to the secondary processes in the brain. These are the processes in which the classical part restimulates the quantum part, and the combined quantum-classical wavefunction again collapses into the same or similar classical brain state, which restimulates the quantum part, etc. After sufficient conditioning of the classical part, the quantum-classical brain tends to respond in a deterministic pattern of habitual states. Included in these states is the concept of a separate entity. In the second tangled hierarchy, nonlocal consciousness identifies with this concept, and the assumed "I"-entity or ego arises. When we are in this identified condition, we are normally unaware of both the tangled hierarchies and of the unconditioned self.
Identification that leads to the illusory "I"-entity arises during early childhood when the child has been conditioned to think of itself as a separate person. This occurs after the child has been called repeatedly by its name; has been referred to as "you" (implying that there is another); has been instructed, "Do this!", "Don’t do that!"; and generally has been treated as being an independent person separate from its mother. However, one should not think that this conditioning process is something that can be avoided, since it is a necessary part of child development (see Section 5.8). The child is being conditioned for survival in the world.
The ego is presumed to be the thinker, chooser, and doer. However, it is absurd to think that a mere concept could actually be an agent with the power to think, choose, or do. The ego is nothing but a figment of the imagination, does not exist as an entity, and has no power whatsoever. In reality there is never a thinker, chooser, or doer. There is nothing but identification of nonlocal consciousness (which is not an entity) with the conditioned quantum-classical brain.
Exercise: Watch your thoughts come and go. See if you can see where they are coming from. Are you thinking them? If you think you are, see if you can see yourself doing it. Can you choose your thoughts? If you think you can, see if you can see yourself doing it. Now see if you can choose to have none at all.
There is only one consciousness. Our consciousness is nonlocal consciousness. My consciousness is identical to your consciousness. Only the contents are different. The entities that we falsely think we are result from identification of this consciousness with a concept in the conditioned mind.
Identification with the hard conditioning and rigid isolation of the fictitious ego is relaxed in so-called transpersonal, or peak, experiences, which lead to a creative expansion of the self-image (described by Abraham Maslow in The Farther Reaches of Human Nature (1971). These experiences approach, but are not identical to, those of the unconditioned self, since identification with a self-image is still present although the self-image becomes expanded.
The unconditioned self is experienced as pure awareness, pure presence, and pure subjectivity in which there is no entity at all, and which arises when the unconditioned quantum wavefunction is first collapsed (or later in life after disidentification from the self-image has occurred). Awareness is what we really are, and is equivalent to the Atman of Indian philosophy, or not-self in Buddhism. The goal of all spiritual practice is to disidentify from the fictitious "I"-entity and so to realize our true nature.
7.9. The disappearance of the ego. The experience of freedom from bondage.
We are now in a position to complete our discussion of freedom. Goswami uses the term "choice" to mean the nonvolitional action of nonlocal consciousness in selecting a particular possibility out of the range of possibilities defined by the wave function. (Choice is nonvolitional because there is no entity to exert volitional choice.) Without identification, choice is free. With identification, choice becomes limited. However, even when we think we are egos, we are aware and we know that we are aware. Therefore identification of awareness with the I-concept is never actually complete, and this allows the possibility of disidentification from the false self.
We found in Sections 5.9, 5.10, 5.11, and 5.12 that freedom of choice does not exist in a separate entity. Therefore, even if the ego were real it would still not have the freedom to choose. However, because the ego is nothing but a fictional self-image, it does not even exist as an entity. Therefore its freedom is doubly fictitious. All choice is the nonvolitional choice of nonlocal consciousness, and complete freedom is the experience of unconditioned, disidentified awareness.
We come now to the paradox of the paradoxical tangled hierarchy (Section 7.5). The ego is the belief that it is free to choose, but it is not. The unconditioned self is freedom itself, but it is not a separate entity that can choose. Remember from Section 5.12 that the belief in free will depends on a perceived separation or dualism between a controller and a controlled. Within the unconditioned self there is no separation or isolation--there is no entity--so there is no dualism. Hence, in the state of pure, or primary, awareness, there is no illusion of free will .
The experience of true freedom comes from the unconditioned self, whereas what we think of as free will comes from the noncreative, conditioned, imaginary ego. Whenever we experience pure freedom, pure creativity, or pure originality, it is a result of a momentary disidentification from the conditioned ego, permitting the experience of the freedom of the unconditioned self to be revealed. This is true freedom, creativity, and originality, not the mechanical workings of the conditioned, deterministic brain. During these moments, there is no individual “I”. When reidentification occurs, the conditioned “I” reappears and then takes credit for being free, creative, and original!
Question: What is the experience of being absent?
The paradox of the paradoxical tangled hierarchy reveals itself in our experience of freedom even when we are bound by our belief that we have free will. The thought of free will, which is a thought of bondage, cannot conceal our true nature, which is pure freedom. However, the ego attributes the experience of freedom to free will instead of to pure consciousness even though nothing in the conditioned mind is free.
How can we apply this knowledge to our personal lives? We have seen that our consciousness really is nonlocal universal consciousness and the goal of all spiritual practice is to know the freedom of unconditioned awareness. This can happen only when disidentification from the fictitious ego-entity has occurred. However, "you" as the ego cannot disidentify from the ego because the ego, being only a concept, can do nothing. Disidentification can only happen spontaneously. But understanding the ego and the feeling of bondage it entails are helpful in disidentification. The practices of Part 3 show this. However, "you" cannot do them. If they are supposed to happen, they will. If not, they won't (see also Section 5.15).
I: Let's stop there. Compare this view to the following by Paramhansa Yogananda:
"Master," said a disciple, "J----is a little discouraged. Someone told him that, according to Ramakrishna, grace is only a sport of God. He takes this to mean that one might meditate for years and get nowhere, yet God might reveal Himself to any drunkard if he took a mere notion to do so." The Master replied, "Ramakrishna would never have said that! That is what happens when people without spiritual realization try to interpret the sayings of the masters. God is not a creature of whims! Of course, it may look like sport sometimes to people who don't see the causal influences of past karma. But why would God go against His own law? He Himself created the law." (The Essence of Self-realization, 1990, p. 100-101)
Let's also consider the following from advaitist James Schwarz, on the idea that there is nothing we can do because it is all pre-determined. I think here is where Balsekar went a little too far and fell into the trap of non-dual philosophy as contrasted with non-dual reality, which includes dualism. This quote is a little long but please bear with me. I've presented this before but I think you will find it valuable.
"It is a common misconception that you can just
‘get it’ once and for all and from that point on life
is just endless bliss. I don’t know if you are
familiar with the story of Ramana Maharshi, but if you
are, ask yourself why, if after his death experience
and the awakening it caused, he spent twenty years
sitting alone in caves? If he was the Self as he had
experienced, then what is the point of sitting in
caves? Isn’t it rather stupid to say the reality only
shines in caves, that it does not shine in the world?
Why not just go back home and live like a normal
person? The answer is that he had experienced the
Self and he could not forget it and his mind was
turned inward, ‘’by a powerful fascination’ to use his
own words. But this was just the beginning of his
spiritual life. There was still somebody there that
was fascinated, inspired, by the Self.
Ramana’s greatness was that he understood that the
best way to get rid of Ramana, his sense of duality,
was to keep his mind fixed on the Self (he called it
Self inquiry) and just burn out all those old
dualistic notions. The best way to do it for him was
to follow the tradition and go sit in a cave where he
would not be distracted. At some point the small
Ramana that he thought he was, the one who had had the
experience, disappeared and from that point on the
name Ramana referred to the Self, not to a person who
had realized the Self. A person did not disappear
because there was no person there in the first place.
All that disappeared was his notion of himself as an
Awakening [causes] you to understand what the Self
is but the next step is to understand that you are the
Self. Getting this understanding is hard work. Every
time you find the mind thinking as a limited ‘I’ you
correct it. You put it to work asserting your
wholeness and completeness, not denying it. And
slowly the mind changes. You can keep up this work
because you know that you are the Self, not [xyz].
This is why it is not brainwashing or a kind of
religious belief. You can actually see what the Self
is and that you are it. One day, the mind gives up
arguing with you. It surrenders. It accepts you as
are you are and no longer tries to convince you that
you are a limited little worm, a beggar in need of
inspiration or anything else. It sees you as you are.
This is the end of it....
If there is only one Self and this Self always
knows who it is, i.e. that it is limitless and whole
and therefore does not need any particular experience
to erase its sense of limitation and make it whole,
how can it forget who it is? Vedanta says that it
can't forget but that it can forget. Or to put it
another way it says that there is only one Self, pure
Awareness, and that this Self is capable of both
knowledge and ignorance. It would not be limitless
if it were unable to be ignorant. This capability of
being two opposite things at once is called Maya.
THE DEFINITION OF MAYA IS; THAT WHICH IS NOT. YOU CAN SEE THE PROBLEM IN THE DEFINITION. HOW CAN SOMETHING THAT IS NOT, BE? WELL, STRANGELY IT CAN.
There is a strange notion that when one permanently
experiences the Self the intellect is switched off for
good and you just remain forever as the Self in some
kind of no thought state. The fact is that the
intellect keeps right on thinking from womb to tomb.
God gave it to us for a good reason. Clear logical
practical thinking is absolutely necessary if you are
going to crack the identity code. It is called
inquiry. YOU WANT TO THINK BEFORE REALIZATION, DURING REALIZATION, AND AFTER REALIZATION. Realization is
nothing more than a hard and fast conclusion that you
come to about your identity based on direct experience
of the Self. Only understanding will solve the
riddle....No experience will eradicate vasanas born in
ignorance and reinforced with many years of negative
Finally, let us also compare this concept of self-identity arising for the first time at the age of two with the following from one of the yoga schools:
"The jiva, or soul, is individualized consciousness: the infinite limited to, and identified with, a body. The beginning of its existence as an individual soul comes with the causal body. The soul's further encasement in an astral body is what causes it first to manifest ego-consciousness. identification with the body of light is what causes one to think,"I am unique and different from other beings of light." Ego-consciousness becomes further bound to objective reality when it assumes a physical body, and all its energy is directed outward through the physical senses." (p. 307-308) In the material world, man's wareness of outer Nature (Aparaprakriti) virtually defines his concept of reality. In the astral world, that outward direction of awareness is only partial. Though limited by ego-consciousness, he nervertheless senses the reality of the energy within him, which sublty links him to the objective realities around him. In the causal world, he knows that everything is made of idea-forms, or thoughts. Separate ego-consciousness ceases, for him, to exist, and he knows himself s the soul (jiva), a manifestation of Para-Prakriti: pure Nature. He is attuned to the Kutastha Chaintanya - the Christ consciousness underlying the universe. Blessed with this high state of realization, and virtually freed from every self-limitation, his consciousness is crowned with almost infinite power." (The Essence of the Bhagavad-Gita, explained by Paramhansa Yogananda, as remembered by his disciple Swami Kriyananda, p.307-308)
Maybe the self-identification at the age of two, necessary for the build-up of the organism, is not the first arising of an "I", but only the first arising in the physical body. One has died to the bardowa and reidentified with the physical, then an new identity, sure, arises with language and self-reference, but this is not the first time, nor the only disidentification which is necessary. Serial disidentifications at plane after plane may be called for; the soul coming back into its own. so to speak. Perhaps the new babe is only "relatively radiant", as one teacher put it, and not equivalent in consciousness to that of the sage. Nor may it all be just "one soup", as some ND's assert. There may be irreduceable paradoxes involved, such as pointed out by PB and Plotinus.i.e, One and many souls, inseparable but distinct. It is a guess of the ND's, such as John Sherman, that there is only one Self, one consciousness, as equally a guess of the integrationalists that there are truly separate souls.
ND: You may be right, but I say "if you get it here, you don't need to get it there." If you awaken in the physical body, you are done. Here is some interesting conversation about the ego or "I" between Ramana and Mercedes de Acosta when she visited the sage many years ago:
Question: What is death and what is birth? Bhagavan: Only the body has death and birth, and it (the body) is illusion. There is, in Reality, neither birth nor death.
Question: How much time may elapse between death and rebirth? Bhagavan: Perhaps one is reborn within a year, three years or thousands of years. Who can say? Anyway what is time? Time does not exist.
Question: Why have we no memory of past lives? Bhagavan: Memory is a faculty of the mind and part of the illusion. Why do you want to remember other lives that are also illusions? If you abide within the Self, there is no past or future and not even a present since the Self is out of time-timeless.
Question: Are the world, the mind, ego and the body all the same thing? Bhagavan: Yes. They are one and the same thing. The mind and the ego are one thing, but there is no word to explain this. You see, the world cannot exist without the mind, the mind cannot exist without what we call the ego (itself, really) and the ego cannot exist without a body.
Question: Then when we leave this body, that is when the ego leaves it, will it (the ego) immediately grasp another body? Bhagavan: Oh, yes, it must. It cannot exist without a body.
Question: What sort of a body will it grasp then? Bhagavan: Either a physical body or a subtle-mental body.
Question: Do you call this present physical body the gross body? Bhagavan: Only to distinguish it-to set it apart in conversation. It is really a subtle-mental body also.
Question: What causes us to be reborn? Bhagavan: Desires. Your unfulfilled desires bring you back. And in each case-in each body-as your desires are fulfilled, you create new ones. You must conquer desire to be absorbed into the One and thus end rebirth.
Question: Is it possible to sin? Bhagavan: Having a body, which creates illusion, is the only sin, and the body is our only hell. But it is right that we observe moral laws. The discussion of sin is too difficult for a few lines.
Question: Does one who has realized the Self lose the sense of "I"? Bhagavan: Absolutely.
Question: Then to you there is no difference between yourself and myself, that man over there, my servant-are all the same? Bhagavan: All are the same, including those monkeys.
Question: But the monkeys are not people. Are they not different? Bhagavan: They are exactly the same as people. All creatures are the same in One Consciousness.
Question: Do we lose our individuality when we merge into the Self? Bhagavan: There is no individuality in the Self. The Self is One-Supreme.
Question: Then individuality and identity are lost? Bhagavan: You don't retain them in deep sleep, do you?
Question: But we retain them from one birth to another, don't we? Bhagavan: Oh, yes. The "I" thought (the ego) will recur again, only each time you identify with it a different body and different surroundings around the body. The effects of past acts (karma) will continue to control the new body just as they did the old one. It is karma that has given you this particular body and placed it in a particular family, race, sex, surroundings and so forth. Bhagavan added, "These questions are good, but tell de Acosta (he always called me de Acosta) she must not become too intellectual about these things. It is better just to meditate and have no thought. Let the mind rest quietly on the Self in the cave of the Spiritual Heart. Soon this will become natural and then there will be no need for questions. Do not imagine that this means being inactive. Silence is the only real activity.” (My Meeting with Ramana Maharshi by Mercedes deCosta)
ND: And here is more relevant material on this subject from A Course in Consciousness:
10.4. About death
Because all bodies die, if we identify with the body, we will fear death. When we see that we are not the body, we will be indifferent to death. In Chapters 20 and 23, we shall see directly that we are Awareness, which is unchanging and cannot die. We are not what changes, which is unreal and must die.
All sages attempt to answer the seekers' question, "Where was 'I' before the birth of the body?", and, "Where will 'I' be after the body dies?" Ramesh Balsekar teaches that, when the body dies, Consciousness simply disidentifies from it. Indeed, the death of the body is the result of Consciousness disidentifying from it. Since there was no separate “I” before death, there is none after death, so there is no entity to continue after death. Thus, there is neither an after-death nor a before-death state for the “I” since it has never existed in the first place. Without a body there is only pure unmanifest Consciousness.
I: This is reductionistic; surely even a sage has a sense of a separate self, a conventional "I"; that can exist after death, and get progressively transcended plane after plane even as it is not ultimately our identity? He is guessing that without a body there is only pure unmanifest consciousness, and that mysteriously out of that comes the force of memory and tendencies which form a new body that consciousness re-identifies with. Sri Nisargadatta admits a witness "I am" and a "causal body" that, while not our ultimate identity, do provide a link from life to life:
Q: "And what is death?
M: It is the change in the living process of a particular body. Integration ends and disintegration sets in.
Q: But what about the knower. With the disappearance of the body, does the knower disappear?
M: Just as the knower of the body appears at birth, so he disappears at death.
Q: And nothing remains?
M: Life remains. Consciousness needs a vehicle and an instrument for its manifestation. When life produces another body, another knower comes into being,
Q: Is there a causal link between the successive body?knowers, or body-minds?
M: Yes, there is something that may be called the memory body, or causal body, a record of all that was thought, wanted and done. It is like a cloud of images held together.
Q: What is this sense of a separate existence?
M: It is a reflection in a separate body of the one reality. In this reflection the unlimited and the limited are confused and taken to be the same. To undo this confusion is the purpose of Yoga.
Q: Does not death undo this confusion?
M: In death only the body dies. Life does not, consciousness does not, reality does not. And the life is never so alive as after death.
Q: But does one get reborn?
M: What was born must die. Only the unborn is deathless. Find what is it that never sleeps and never wakes, and whose pale reflection is our sense of 'I' [but which nevertheless derives, and gets its sense of existence, from THAT]."
In the meditation for April 13 in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh says,
"Once the body dies, manifested consciousness is released and merges with the impersonal Consciousness like a drop of water merges with the ocean. No individual identity survives death."
I: He is guessing here when he assumes no intermediate realms and states after death; he has never experienced that state. The saints declare they have. Was PB purposely misleading us when he said:
"Philosophy teaches that every sincere seeker finds a certain compensation - in a beautiful and ethereal world after death - for the failures, disappointments, and miseries which make up so much of the stuff of the human story."
"Unless the human ego were itself an emanation of the Overself it would be quite unable to identify itself with the sensation of severance from the body during the process we call dying." (v220.127.116.11)
He says elsewhere that accept for a brief swoon during the death process one awakens to a world more light than this one, where in rare cases one may even progress spiritually and not need be reborn. He also says:
"It is not quite correct to assume that we are the manifested forms of the perfection from which we emanate, we are projections of a denser medium from the universal mind, appearing by some catalytic process in natural sequence within that medium. The cosmic activity provides each such entity-projection with an individual life and intelligence centre through an evolutionary process, whereby its own volitional directive energies are, ultimately, merged with the cosmic will in perfect unity and harmony." (v6.1.131)
Further, the concept of gradual liberation, or liberation from the after-death realms, is lucidly explained by Swami Krishnananda, disciple of the reknown Swami Sivananda. It is not altogether clear that the non-dualist assertion that this is impossible is true.
This adds a dimension of complexity to the usual advaitic metaphysical reductionism.
In the meditation for May 20, he says,
"When you are dead, you will be back in the primordial state of rest which existed before you were born, that stillness before all experience. It is only the false sense of a limited, separate "me" that deprives life of its meaning and gives death an ominous significance which it really does not have."
I: While he is right in reminding us that death is no bugbear, he again assumes no consciousness after death, no intermediate states.
In the meditation for June 19, he says,
"What is born must in due course die. The objective body will thereafter be dissolved and irrevocably annihilated. What was once a sentient being will be destroyed, never to be reborn. But the consciousness is not objective, not a thing at all. Therefore, consciousness is neither born nor dies, and certainly cannot be 'reborn'."
I: Is there an antakarana - a 'deeper personality' that is reborn, flooded by the same sutra atma or ray of 'light' (the individual Overself, paradoxically a 'one and many') or is it a complete shuffle of the deck? If it is a complete re-shuffle, it might be argued that there is little reason for effort or morality.
And in the meditation for October 14, Ramesh says,
"Although one may be afraid of the process of dying, deep down one very definitely has the feeling, the intuitive conviction, that one cannot cease to exist. This feeling has been misrepresented as the basis for the theory of rebirth, but the fact of the matter is that there exists no actual entity to be either born or reborn or to cease to exist."
Since there never is a separate "I", there can be no entity either to incarnate or to reincarnate. Ramesh explains the existence of individual characteristics of the body-mind organism as a result of conditioning and heredity (see also Section 5.15). (Note: Ramesh says that heredity includes differences projected from the "ocean" of consciousness (see Section 8.1) as well as genetic differences. (The "ocean" is a concept that cannot be verified; see Section 8.2.) Ramesh uses this concept to try to explain the origin of body-minds that are strikingly similar to previous ones, as in the concept of reincarnation. From the "ocean", he says the body-mind may inherit characteristics from previous body-minds, but there is no previous lifetime of the "I" since there is no "I".)"
I: No "I", or no "I" that is our ultimate identity?; the deeper personality - the antahkarana - contains the reincarnating or reintegrating ego; this may not be the ultimate identity, but is nevertheless real; there are beads on a string, the "sutra-atma", the incarnations strung on the deeper personality which is itself strung on the Light of Consciousness, the same ray that is behind the differing lifetimes, even if it is not an objective 'thing'; consequently, there is a purpose behind doing right action, and a meaning to the law of karma. In the Occult Glossary (Theosophical University Press, 1996) theosophist G. de Perucker argues thus:
In the method of dividing the human principles into a trichotomy of an upper duad, an intermediate duad, and a lower triad -- or distributively spirit, soul, and body -- the second or intermediate duad, manas-kama, or the intermediate nature, is the ordinary seat of human consciousness, and itself is composed of two qualitative parts: an upper or aspiring part, which is commonly called the reincarnating ego or the higher manas, and a lower part attracted to material things, which is the focus of what expresses itself in the average man as the human ego, his everyday ordinary seat of consciousness."
When death occurs, the mortal and material portions sink into oblivion; while the reincarnating ego carries the best and noblest parts of the spiritual memory of the man that was into the devachan or heaven world of postmortem rest and recuperation, where the ego remains in the bosom of the monad or of the monadic essence in a state of the most perfect and utter bliss and peace, constantly reviewing and improving upon in its own blissful imagination all the unfulfilled spiritual yearnings and longings of the life just closed that its naturally creative faculties automatically suggest to the entity now in the devachan.
But the monad above spoken of passes from sphere to sphere on its peregrinations from earth, carrying with it the reincarnating ego, or what we may for simplicity of expression call the earth-child, in its bosom, where this reincarnating ego is in its state of perfect bliss and peace, until the time comes when, having passed through all the invisible realms connected by chains of causation with our own planet, it slowly "descends" again through these higher intermediate spheres earthwards. Coincidently does the reincarnating ego slowly begin to reawaken to self-conscious activity. Gradually it feels, at first unconsciously to itself, the attraction earthwards, arising out of the karmic seeds of thought and emotion and impulse sown in the preceding life on earth and now beginning to awaken; and as these attractions grow stronger, in other words as the reincarnating ego awakens more fully, it finds itself under the domination of a strong psychomagnetic attraction drawing it to the earth-sphere.
The time finally comes when it is drawn strongly to the family on earth whose karmic attractions or karmic status or condition are the nearest to its own characteristics; and it then enters, or attaches itself to, by reason of the psychomagnetic attraction, the human seed which will grow into the body of the human being to be. Thus reincarnation takes place, and the reincarnating ego reawakens to life on earth in the body of a little child."
Purucker says this about devachan:
"[Tibetan, bde-ba-can, pronounced de-wa-chen] A translation of the Sanskrit sukhavati, the "happy place" or god-land. It is the state between earth-lives into which the human entity, the human monad, enters and there rests in bliss and repose. When the second death after that of the physical body takes place -- and there are many deaths, that is to say many changes of the vehicles of the ego -- the higher part of the human entity withdraws into itself all that aspires towards it, and takes that "all" with it into the devachan; and the atman, with the buddhi and with the higher part of the manas, become thereupon the spiritual monad of man. Devachan as a state applies not to the highest or heavenly or divine monad, but only to the middle principles of man, to the personal ego or the personal soul in man, overshadowed by atma-buddhi. There are many degrees in devachan: the highest, the intermediate, and the lowest. Yet devachan is not a locality, it is a state, a state of the beings in that spiritual condition. Devachan is the fulfilling of all the unfulfilled spiritual hopes of the past incarnation, and an efflorescence of all the spiritual and intellectual yearnings of the past incarnation which in that past incarnation have not had an opportunity for fulfillment. It is a period of unspeakable bliss and peace for the human soul, until it has finished its rest time and stage of recuperation of its own energies. In the devachanic state, the reincarnating ego remains in the bosom of the monad (or of the monadic essence) in a state of the most perfect and utter bliss and peace, reviewing and constantly reviewing, and improving upon in its own blissful imagination, all the unfulfilled spiritual and intellectual possibilities of the life just closed that its naturally creative faculties automatically suggest to the devachanic entity. Man here is no longer a quaternary of substance-principles (for the second death has taken place), but is now reduced to the monad with the reincarnating ego sleeping in its bosom, and is therefore a spiritual triad."
I'll admit, theosophy tends to be a little weak in its philosophy of the ego and the soul, in contrast to the non-dual teachings of Buddhism, but PB (perhaps as a legacy from his theosophical days) spoke of a "seed atom in the heart as a repository of all the components of man's ego that passes from life to life. [See also Karanaopadhi]. Yet the truth of our identity, no doubt, lies in the phrase, "the bosom of the Monad." That would have to be not an entity per se, phenomenally conceptualized, or else fail the strictest test of philosophy.
PB said that the highest the average man could go after death would be to the third heaven, which might be equivalent to devachan of the theosophists. He at least admits there is an afterlife. I think some of the advaitists like Balsekar may be sometimes confusing the swoon of death with what comes after it, when they assume there is nothing between death and rebirth.
ND: Maybe, but from the higher point of view, Balsekar is right. It is hard to accept that he, or Nisargadatta, would not agree that on a relative level there is a consciousness after death, although not automatically equivalent to recognition of the immortal Self.
I: You are right. Nisargadatta doesn't say that. In I Am That (1984) he states:
"Human beings die every second, the fear and the agony of dying hangs over the world like a cloud. No wonder you too are afraid. But once you know that the body alone dies and not the continuity of memory and the sense of 'I am' reflected in it, you are afraid no longer."
In this passage he is saying, like Ramana, to hold onto the sense, thought, or feeling of "I Am" (the witness) and it will take you to what is beyond the I Am. Thus, this I Am is the root of the deeper being that does survives death. It is not the absolute, but it does exist after death.
Some sages teach that, in the absence of the body, Consciousness is still aware of itself. The evidence they cite is an awareness that they say exists during deep (dreamless) sleep. For example, in I Am That, p. 28, the following dialogue ensues between Nisargadatta Maharaj and a questioner:
Questioner: What do you do when asleep?
Maharaj: I am aware of being asleep.
Q: Is not sleep a state of unconsciousness?
M: Yes, I am aware of being unconscious.
Q: And when awake, or dreaming?
M: I am aware of being awake or dreaming.
Q: I do not catch you. What exactly do you mean? Let me make my terms clear: by being asleep I mean unconscious, by being awake I mean conscious, by dreaming I mean conscious of one’s mind, but not of the surroundings.
M: Well, it is about the same with me, Yet, there seems to be a difference. In each state you forget the other two, while to me, there is but one state of being, including and transcending the three mental states of waking, dreaming and sleeping.
In Truth Love Beauty (2006), Francis Lucille says,
"Consciousness knows itself, with or without objects."
However, note that, in the February 4 meditation in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh states,
"The original state of the Noumenon is one where we do not even know of our beingness."
This is the state before birth and after death."
I: He is guessing here, too, since he never experienced that state - nor, do I suspect, any of the mystical states after death either to make that claim.
Since there is no body in this state, there is only Noumenon. This state is not identical with the states in dreamless sleep, under anesthesia, or while comatose, because, objectively speaking, in those states there is still rudimentary sentience associated with the brainstem.
I: Another assumption.
Dreamless sleep, anesthesia, and coma are examples of the presence of absence as depicted in Figure 1. These are not the same as death because, before the body was born and after it dies, there is a double absence--the absence of the presence of the manifestation and the absence of the absence of the manifestation. The only way to describe this state is that it is neither presence (waking) nor absence (sleep), neither existence nor nonexistence.
I: He is making a blanket assumption here, which may only be true in the moment of the dawning of the Dharmakaya. No, after the death of the physical body, for most, there is, true, the absence of its presence, but there is still the presence of the astral body then after its death, the causal body, and after its death, the individual soul, infinite and cosmic, but individual, but not personal, as PB wrote.
Didn't Ramesh or Sri Nisargadatta acknowledge at least the relative wisdom of the Bible where it talks of the "second death" - the dissolution of the subtle body into its constituent elements, followed by rebirth? The "first death" doesn't make all go back into the soup just like that. There are intermediate levels and mechanisms for the process of manifestation.
And what about the silver cord, which allows the meditator to leave the physical body and traverse the inner realms and come back, before actual death? These experiences are much deeper than the OBE's or NDE's, which seem to be still within the limits of the gross body. But not beyond the experiences talked about by the shabd yogis, where it is argued that there is an actual 'death' at every plane quit by the soul (or emanent of the soul). Balsekar and Nisargadatta or Terence Grey (Wu-Wei-Wu) aren't going to invalidate thousands of years of mysticism just like that.
Question: What is the experience of dreamless sleep? Can you remember it? What is the experience of being under anesthesia? Can you remember it?
Although all religions attempt to give some picture of what we will be after death, they are all based on ego fears and desires rather than on personal experience. The ego may insist that it will continue to exist after the death of the body, but in so doing, it defies the direct evidence of everyone's disappearance during deep sleep or anesthesia. If the reader cares to imagine some picture of personal life before birth and after death, he or she should be aware that there never can be any kind of direct proof of such states.
I: Why can't there be?
Some people think that thought can exist without a body,
I: Maybe not without "a" body, but without the physical body.
:...so that the "I" concept (the soul) may prevail after the death of the body. But if that state cannot be verified, how can it be said to have existed at all?
Many Buddhist teachers claim that the Buddha taught that, after death, the individual is reborn in another body. To them, this seems logical because of the Buddha's teaching of karma (or causality, see Section 12.3). However, because he taught that there is no self, there hardly could be a rebirth of the self.
ND: In an article on Buddhism we find:
"If there is no soul, does Buddhism then teach that death is the termination of all conscious existence? This question cannot be answered by a simple “yes” or “no”.
It is not strictly true that Buddhism teaches reincarnation, nor does it advocate an absolute annihilation. Rather, it takes a position some place between these two extremes. The Buddha was born a Hindu, and in the Hindu religion each conscious being is regarded as having a soul. Each soul is a manifestation of the great Universal Soul which the Hindus call Brahman or God. Brahman is the Absolute, the basis of all creation, and the ultimate goal of the finite soul is to return and unite with Brahman. This union with Brahman is the Hindu conception of Nirvana and is achieved after many reincarnations. With each new life the soul learns new lessons; sins, suffers from its sins, and goes to the next life somewhat better than before. At last it is purified of all selfishness, attains Nirvana, and is no longer reborn.
In reply to the question, “What will happen to me when I die?” The Buddha might answer, “What are you?” For the word “I” or “self” includes not one thing but many. Death, of course, means the cessation of all bodily functioning. What then becomes of the mind? With our modern knowledge of neurophysiology, there can be little question that most, if not all, of the things we call mental activities are directly dependent upon the electrochemical workings of the brain. When the brain ceases to function, sensations, perceptions, thoughts and consciousness come to an end.
Buddhism teaches that mind without matter is an impossibility; a body is a prerequisite for consciousness. However, it also teaches that a body alone is not enough. There is a nonphysical aspect of the human psyche which must be present before consciousness can occur. This nonphysical aspect of the mind is referred to as the bhavanga-sota or subconscious life-stream. It is said to survive the death of the body and then manifest in a new body.
The nature of this bhavanga-sota is peculiar to each individual and is the percipitate of his former actions and experiences. Each person has his or her own inherent blend of conscious and subconscious tendencies; e.g., pride, an interest in music, an aptitude for art, a love of nature, feelings of insecurity, and so on. Each of these carries with it its own karma. Selfish tendencies carry with them the karma of selfishness which is suffering (i.e., dukkha) in proportion to the amount of wrong that has been previously committed. The condition in which each man finds himself is the result of his own former thoughts and deeds. His present behavior is what will determine his future state. Thus, each man makes his own destiny.
The bhavanga-sota is, like all other finite creations, constantly in an evolving, changing state, acquiring new attributes while abandoning or modifying old ones. Such changes are identical with the changes in one’s personality. As most people go through life they are influenced by their families, societies and other features of their environments to the degree that they become products of their environments. As a result, the development of their personalities is largely a matter of chance. The purpose of Buddhism is to guide and direct the development of one’s personality so that such development is no longer a matter of chance. Niravna is the ultimate goal in this process of maturation, and with Nirvana rebirth comes to an end.
“What is it, Venerable Sir, that will be reborn?”
“A psycho-physical combination, O King, is the answer.”
But how, Venerable Sir? Is it the same psycho-physical combination as this present one?”
“No, O King. But the present psycho-physical combination produces karmically wholesome and unwholesome volitional activities, and through such Karma a new psycho-physical combination will be reborn.” (Milinda-Panha 46)
A man’s conscious memories, his present self-concept, his views and attitudes toward his own existence, his specific prejudices and his beliefs and opinions will perish with the body. Consequently, one could never say that the same person will live again."
After-death states, such as those described in the Tibetan Book of the Dead, by necessity are intuited or cognized by a living person, so the reliability and motives of that person must be considered. Any intense, personal experience, such as a near-death experience, cannot be proof because such experiences by definition and necessity are not death experiences. The appearance of discarnate entities, such as spiritual guides, deceased relatives, or religious figures, are also not proof because they always appear in living body-mind organisms and therefore could merely be mental phenomena.
Because near-death and out-of-body experiences require the presence of a brain, they cannot reflect what happens after death. In fact, out-of-body experiences can even be produced at will by electrically stimulating the right angular gyrus region of the brain (see Blanke, Ortigue, Landis, and Seeck, Nature 419 (2002) 269 - 270); and by video camera and 3D goggles (H. H. Ehrsson, Science 317 (2007)1048; and Lenggenhager, Tadi, Metzinger, and Blanke, Science 317 (2007) 1096-1099). Near-death experiences have been shown to be more common in people for whom the boundaries between sleep and wakefulness are not as clearly defined as in those not having near-death experiences (see Kevin Nelson, Neurology 66 (2006) 1003). Thus, in near-death experiences, the REM (rapid eye movement) dream state of sleep can intrude into normal wakeful consciousness.
In the April 7 meditation of A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh says:
"There are many reports of what are popularly considered 'death-experiences', which are mistaken as evidence of what happens after death. These are in fact only hallucinations experienced by the ego arising from stimulation of certain centers of the brain before, not after, the completion of the death process. Most of the mystical phenomena recorded as yogic experience are of the same order, movements in consciousness experienced by the ego."
I: It is true, NDE's are not the same as experiencing death. Here it is admitted that most - but NOT ALL - mystical phenomenon are limited to the brain. To argue that they all are, however, is going out on a limb. Are we to believe that the masters in the Sant Mat tradition, for instance, are totally deluded or lying when they say that, as in the Bible, there is something called the silver cord that remains unbroken during life, but which enables the deep meditator to get true out of body experiences and still return before death? Sant Rajinder Singh, one of such masters, has said that one will be assured that there is life after death when one reaches the third inner plane. While that in itself raises a number of questions, does anyone think he is a fool, and knows nothing about death and beyond? Perhaps most non-dual realizers haven't had such experiences, and therefore are not in a position to comment on them. See also The Thirty-One Planes of Existence and In the Way of Enlightenment: The Ten Fetters of Buddhism by the Wanderling for more discussion about gradual liberation, or liberation by stages, on after life planes for certain qualified souls.
An interesting view on this form the path may take is given by one Swami Satprakashananda. This is similar to the view of Swami Krishnananda mentioned earlier:
”Knowers of Saguna Brahman [God with form or attributes], according to Sankara, do not have full knowledge (jnana) and their souls depart from their bodies at the time of death, although they do not have to be reborn. The jnanis (knowers of Nirguna Brahman - God without attributes), however, merge in Brahman, and their subtle bodies (souls) dissolve at the time of death....Knowers of Saguna Brahman realize Nirguna Brahman and attain final liberation at the cosmic dissolution, along with Hiranyagarbha, the presiding deity of Brahmaloka. This is called “Gradual Liberation” (krama-mukti), as distinct from “Immediate Liberation” (sadya mukti), achieved by those who realize Nirguna Brahman in this very life.” (Swami Satprakashananda, The Goal and the Way (St Louis: The Vedanta Society of St. Louis, 1977), p. 179)
Since a chief claim of Sant Mat is that Sat Lok itself is beyond both Brahmaloka and the “three worlds”, as well as cosmic dissolution and grand dissolution, it would most likely disagree with the above statement, although not necessarily on the general concept of gradual liberation or the non-necessity of rebirth for as yet unliberated souls, which it, and even some schools of Buddhism, ARE in agreement with. It is just that it may take longer on the inside than here. The followig is from Paramhansa Yogananda:
“Salvation is of two kinds: final liberation from all karma and union with God; and freedom from earthly karma, giving the possiblitiy of living from then on in high astral regions, from which one can work out his astral and causal karma until he reaches final liberation. Salvation from the need for further imprisonment on this material plane is in itself a great blessing, and can be won even without (yet) achieving divine perfection.” [(18:71) EVEN THAT PERSON WHO, FULL OF DEVOTION AND WITHOUT SCEPTICISM, MERELY LISTENS TO THIS HOLY DISCOURSE, AND HEEDS ITS TEACHINGS, SHALL BECOME FREE FROM EARTHLY KARMA AND SHALL BE BLESSED TO DWELL IN THE HIGH REALM OF THE VIRTUOUS.”] (The Essence of the Bhagavad-Gita, Explained by Paramhansa Yogananda, As Remembered by His Disciple, Swami Kriyananda (Nevada City, CA: Crystal Clarity Publishers, 2006), p. 569)
Kriyananda further writes:
"It is not the soul which incarnates and dies with the body...The body - the bodies, actually: physical, astral, and causal, the first two of which are subject to birth and death - may be described even on the physical even as only ideas of the soul. All three bodies are unreal in eternity, and endure only as long as the idea of them is activate by desires. That idea is fueled in the astral and physical bodies by the concept of individuality. Ego-consciousness is, indeed, an “element” of the astral body.” (Ibid, pp. 425-426)
Yogananda elsewhere states:
"If our individuality were dissolved by death we would [simply merge back into God then]. But the ego forms the physical body. It is the cause, not the effect, of physical birth...The ego is an element of the astral body, which is retained after death. the physical body is merely the ego's projection into the material world".
I think some of this is Swami Kriyananda's misinterpretation of Yogananda's teachings; the astral body may survive physical death, but is not immune to the "second death" where it disintegrates into its constituent elements prior to rebirth; the ego itself is birthed prior to even the astral body, according to most occult doctrines, including that of Sri Yukteswar [for more on his teachings and those of Yogananda, see: Paramhansa Yogananda and Kriya Yoga]. Still, Yogananda has some wonderful things to say about the higher, heavenly astral realms:
"There are two kinds of heaven. the one most people think of is that which comprises the higher regions of the astral world. The true heaven, however, and the one which Jesus more often referred to, is the state of union with God. The astral heaven has, as Jesus described it, many 'mansions,' or levels of vibrations. It is similar to this material world, for this one is a projection of those subtler realms. The astral heaven, however, is without the countless imperfections of this grosser plane of existence. Heaven is not 'up there,' as people commonly imagine. it is all around us. it is just behind our physical vision. i see it all the time, and I spend much of my time there. It is a vast universe, composed of beautiful lights, sounds, and colors. The colors of the material plane are very dull by comparison. Heaven's beauty is like the most radiant sunset you have ever seen, and even far more beautiful. There is infinite variety in the astral world. The seasons there can be changed at will by advanced souls. usually it is springtime there, with perennial sunshine. Snow, when it falls, is peaceful and beautiful, and not at all cold. When the rain falls, it descends gently, as myriad-colored lights...Sentiments, too, are highly refined on the astral plane, and far more intense than people normally experience them on earth...How long a person remains in the astral world depends on how well he lived on earth. Those with good karma may remain there for many centuries. Devotees, on the other hand, spurred on by their desire for enlightenment, may elect to return to earth sooner, in order to continue their spiritual efforts. For they realize that the astral world, too, is but a veil behind which the Lord hides His face of eternal perfection." (Ibid, p. 74-75)
Regarding rebirth being caused by desires, Yogananda further states:
Newcomer: "What causes the ego to reincarnate?"
Yogananda: "Desire. Desire, you see, directs energy. As long as a person desires the things of earth, he must come back here, where alone his desires can be fulfilled."
Disciple: "Must every desire conceived on earth be fulfilled here also?"
Yogananda: "Not pure desires - not, for example, the longing for beautiful music, expansive scenery, or harmonious relationships. Such desires can be fulfilled better in the astral world than on this imperfect material plane. In many cases, the desire to create beauty here on earth is due to deeper-than-conscious memories of the beauty and harmony one experienced in the astral world...Those souls, especially, who in this life have meditated even a little bit, go to regions of great beauty after death. Those also go to higher regions who have prized duty and truth above their physical existence." (Ibid, p. 73, 74)
I recall Anthony telling us that listening to classical music, for instance, helped to purify the cittta. "Citta" is usually translated as "mind-stuff," but Yogananda preferred to call it "feeling." He said that the yoga phrase "chit vritti nirodha" meant the pacification and calming of the feelings (the heart), without which meditation would not be fruitful. So this is all good to know.
ND: The problem is how to reconcile all of that information of astral and causal worlds and so on with the statements of Professor Sobotta, Ramesh, Nisargadatta, as well as the following from Jess Foster and Sri Ranjit Maharaj (co-disciple with Sri Nisargadatta):
"Everything simply arises and dissolves in this open space, this vastness which holds all of manifestation. "I" arise in this vastness, and the story of "I am a separate individual" arises too, as does the story "One day I will die". And no matter what arises or dissolves, the vastness remains untouched, always. The vastness accepts everything, unconditionally, including the arising and dissolving of the individual, that is, including my apparent life and my apparent death. And so "you" will never really die, because "you" were never really born. There is only this wide open space in which all ideas about birth, life and death arise and dissolve."
(Jeff Foster, Beyond Awakening, p.77)
"10.10 "By words I have become bound, and by words I can become free." The human body is not born with the capacity to use words. That is a skill that is acquired through a process of trial and error during early childhood. The infant learns to objectify its sense impressions by imitating the words provided by its parents. Consciousness, which is the power that allows the process to take place, and which is the real "identity" of the child, becomes veiled by ignorance. The brain, divided into two halves, provides the basis for a mind that also divides everything into two, beginning with the fundamental duality: "I" and "not-I." This confusion of the consciousness with the I-thought creates identification with the body and is bondage. To undo this process of misidentification, the opposite process must be applied, like unscrewing a screw or tracing a river back to its source. By enquiry into your true identity through seeking the answer to the question "Who am I?" the misunderstanding can be removed and the individual identity merged into its source. Both processes take place through the use of words and concepts." (Sri Ranjit Maharaj, Commentary: Thinking and the Mind)
I: My feeling is that we are going to have to include the concept and experience of the Soul in here sometime, if we are going to understand the experience of enlightenment - or awakening - or no-awakening, or no-state - throughout all the states (!), including the portcullis of death. Ranjit, if you read the complete commentary above and many of his others, brings up the analogy of the dream and sleep states again and again, something Yogananda would downplay in favor of knowledge attained from the superconscious states. This and similar topics have been discussed ad nauseum in the first two dialogues in this ongoing series of debates.
Returning to Kriyananda's comments about the physical and astral bodies being subject to death, he is there implying that the “causal body” is not subject to birth and death. This would be consistent with the idea that a deeper personality - an antahkarana or karana sarira - reincarnates, or at least “reintegrates”. This itself implies that there is a relatively permanent, although not necessarily eternal “I”. But I ask, is this truly the case? Is there an “I” , non-eternal but relatively permanent, which reincarnates? Most non-dualists say no, that the "I" is being born and dies, or appears and disappears in every moment, and otherwise develops relative permanency for the incarnation at about age two.
ND: Right, there is no permanent I, not even an apparent one. That was the whole point of the Buddha's teaching. Wei Wu Wei wrote:
""Birth" is the birth of the I-concept. "Death" is the death of the I-concept. There is no other birth. There is no other death...There is no Path! Paths lead from here to there. How can a path lead from here to here? It could only lead away from home. All methods require a doer. The only "doer" is the I-concept...The aggregate of "latent tendencies," held together by an I-concept, is what reincarnates - whatever that may be...Karma and Reincarnation, and all and all, belong to the dream-world. The dream goes on... (Ask the Awakened, 2002, p. 16-17)
I: Yes, and I will get into all that some more later on. That is a big point. But so is the notion of the Soul. For now I wish to explore further the concept raised about the moment of physical death being the end of the "I". For instance, many such accounts of death are only useful for the immediate transition of physical passing. There may be a swoon implying nescience or unconsciousness before re-awakening in the astral worlds. There will also, according to yogic schools, upon successful meditation or competent grace of an adept, be a “death” at each transition to successive planes. Multiple such “zero points may need to be passed through for the full liberation. At the very least, complete dissolution of all of the vehicles of the soul and the ”soul” or “immortal ego in the causal body” itself at the moment of physical death is not backed up by the majority of the scriptures, sutras, as well as testimony of high saints and sages, which suggest intermediate stages. Therefore, jnanis such as Nisargadatta and Ramesh Balsekar may not have the full truth of this matter.
ND:..."But when man finally surrenders his miserable egoic individuality, there is no experience of anything. He is the Totality itself."
I: Maybe the followers of Balsekar and Nisargadatta should bow to a illumined saint and beg for a true experience of the soul. When his 'miserable egoic individuality' is surrendered, something greater than that will takeover and overshadow his limited self, without taking away all sense of individuality, according to the testimony of saints, or sages like PB. Papaji didn't deny reincarnation as relatively real, which Nisargadatta and Balsekar seem to do.]
In the April 4 meditation of the same book, Ramesh says:
"My relative absence is my absolute presence. The moment of death will be the moment of highest ecstasy, the last sensorial perception of the psychosomatic apparatus."
I: Ramesh is extrapolating from his understanding based on reading the book Open Secret by Terence Gray (Wu Wei Wu) over one hundred times, not from his experience in the afterdeath state, and also limiting the possibility of knowledge of the afterdeath states based on his interpretation of the rather limitations of NDE's and OBE's in the literature. Ramesh also taught there is no free will, because there is no doer, (a strict non-dual philosophical position, which may not square with reality, as most philosophies don't) and that your decision to practice is involuntary. Maybe because there is nothing you can do about your spiritual progress according to him is why he had affairs with his students in his old age]
On p. 181 of I Am That (1984), Nisargadatta (Ramesh's guru) says:
"Everybody dies as he lives. I am not afraid of death, because I am not afraid of life. I live a happy life and shall die a happy death. Misery is to be born, not to die."
And on p. 122, he says:
"To be a living being is not the ultimate state: there is something beyond, much more wonderful, which is neither being nor non-being, neither living nor non-living. It is a state of pure awareness, beyond the limitations of space and time. Once the illusion that the body-mind [physical-body-mind] is oneself is abandoned, death loses its terror; it becomes a part of living."
I: Nisargadatta, a Piscean, seems capable of some fellow-feeling or love and decency. Surely he is right about the goal, that it is beyond all conceptual descriptions, neither being nor non-being, etc., but he, too gave the impression there is no existence of a subtle personality at all after the body-mind dies. He doesn't mean when the three coils die or disintegrate, just the psychosomatic organism. If so, he, too, is guessing. Robert Adams felt Nisargadatta was a bit angry and had a radical extreme understanding of the advaitic position, which he didn't agree with. Robert advocated that his students make effort, because in their next life, as he put it, they would at least be ahead of the guy going bowling (!), and that maybe they would get enlightened when they were fourteen. He recognized a continuity of consciousness, if not awareness, from life to life, as well as the paradoxical need to make effort.
I can see the isolated case where someone may seem to have the memories of a previous lifetime, and even recognize items and people in a village where "they" were supposed to have lived, but maybe they were really experiencing samskaras of someone else's lifetime, not their own or one they had a connection with. This seems possible. But many, many times the person is very strongly certain that it was themselves, and not others. And in the case of a master pointing out that one's mother had been reborn in such and such a town, and the person travels there and finds a little girl, with whom he has instant rapport, and who seemed to embody many of the traits of his mother, that seems an even stronger case for a link. Such indeed was one of many such instances related by devotees of Paramhansa Yogananda. Exactly what did the Master see in these instances? We here have not one, but two people, one of them supposedly enlightened, testifying to a karmic connection. Something sees or remembers. What is that?
The following previously written essay will explore in more detail some of the above concepts on death, rebirth, and consciousness:
"An Esoteric Examination of Reincarnation" by Peter Holleran
The concept of the Bodhisattva, or continually reincarnating adept whose purpose is the enlightenment of all beings, as found in the Mahayana Buddhist tradition, finds no equivalent in the West. Western religious exotericism rejects reincarnation entirely, while its stream of esotericism makes only occasional mention of perhaps one or another adept being reborn as a specific teacher. In the East the Tibetans have been unique in their outspokenness about the existence of entire lineages of reincarnating adepts, whose relocation has been made into a well engineered science. In India the subject is treated somewhat more casually by the general population, and the adepts themselves are often hesitant to speak of their previous identities. Baba Jaimal Singh, for instance, was considered by his disciples to be a reincarnation of Guru Nanak; indeed, there were many resemblances between the two, and the soldier-saint Jaimal Singh was born in the very same district in which Nanak had prophesied he would reappear. Yet when questioned on the matter the saint merely said, "If we spirits were to speak our minds, who would allow us a moment’s rest and who would spare our skins?" (1) Satya Sai Baba, on the other hand, has plainly stated that he was previously the reknown Shirdi Sai Baba, and even prior to that, Jesus the Christ. Swami Muktananda felt that this was not possible, arguing that Shirdi Sai Baba was an enlightened being and that enlightened beings do not take rebirth. This finds little support in the traditions, however, and possibly rests on a common misconception in occult teachings regarding the liberated state, namely, that it is inccmpatible with existence in the world. Enlightened beings do take rebirth, and such jivan muktas ("those liberated while alive") are the best “candidates” for reincarnation, for after the sacrifice of re-embodiment their spiritual development is swift and complete, enabling them to most effectively serve the enlightenment of others. The enlightened individual is not compromised in his enlightenment by the arising of manifest conditions, for he is eternally present as their conscious source and stands as the Heart and its Light, the divine body of enlightenment. Finally, Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita points to the paradoxical nature of reincarnation when he tells Arjuna, in words to the effect, "many lives have I had", and also, "never was I not."
It may very be that, in the case of the adept, the tendency for gross embodiment has exhausted itself, and therefore he must reincarnate or assume a body-mind anew by an act of will or intention, as contrasted with the bound soul whose re-embodiment is said to be more or less inevitable, but that is another matter entirely. The type of view that holds enlightenment and manifest existence incompatible or mutually exclusive speaks more of an inverted mystical realization than that of the sage. The Bodhisattva does not sacrifice his Enlighterment in order to remain incarnated for the sake of helping others, rather, he remains incarnated, enlightened, in order to help others. He postpones or awaits kaivalya or Nirvanic isolation, but not enlighenment itself. And, of course, in a very real sense, there is then no "one" awaiting such final or ultimate Nirvana.
This issue of reincarnation or rebirth is a very mysterious one and worth discussing in more detail. What is it, precisely, that reincarnates? If, as popular literature suggests, the notion of reincarnation is consoling to the bewildered ego, why should this be so?
The common belief about reincarnation is based on the same point of view that is at the foundation of both exoteric religion and conventional mysticism. This is the belief in a personal identity as an ego, or ego-soul, that is somehow inserted or contained within the body and that leaves the body at death, has experiences in subtle dimensions after death, and eventually re-associates with a body again and is reborn. Understanding of the reality of the physics of the body-mind, however , reveals to us that if such an identity is assumed to be real then one is precluded from experiencing a continuity of consciousness through the transitional states between death and rebirth. Yes, something continues, but, yes, something does not. In any case one is born again with, except in rare cases, no memory of anything prior to the present life, and faces a seemingly endless round of suffering in limitation unless and until he takes up the practice of self-transcendence in spiritual terms.
The human being can be classified into three dimensions. There is the gross personality, composed of the physical body, its life energies, and the lower or intentional nlind in its association with the physical body. This "gross personality" does not reincarnate, it is born and dies, and has parents and grandparents". This is Jane Doe or John Smith, an identity built up in this lifetime. It has no memory of past lives (or afterlife), generally, because it has no past lives (or afterlives). Prior to the gross personality is what could be called the "deeper personality". The deeper personality consists of the subtle and causal aspects of the being that may manifest through the gross personality as tendencies bearing little or no resemblance to the parent lineage. This constitutes what is considered the character of an individual, which is the net result of the tendencies built up over the course of many lifetimes and stored "deeper" within the being, essentially in what is subconscious and unconscious to the waking personality. In terms of yoga terminology, the deeper personality consists of the higher aspect of manomaya kosha as well as the vijnanomaya kosha. This is the antahkarana ("inner organ"), the true (if any) reincarnating entity. It is known as the karana sarira, or the "immortal Ego in the causal body" in theosophical language. This "causal body" is the repository of the samskaras or impressions and tendencies from innumerable past lives, from which the jiva or personality is formed afresh during each lifetime.
For one identified with the gross personality, the deeper personality is not readily available to their conscious experience, both in life and after death. Nevertheless it is a determining factor in their experience of both life and death. Prior to even the deeper personality is the conscious divine Self, the source-condition of both the gross and deeper personalities, and the very Reality which nevers reincarnates but remains as the unconditional Witness of all conditional experiences. This conscious Self is eternally unchanged and unmoving. Ramana Maharshi testified to his realization and identification with this omnipresent Self by remarking,just prior to his mahasamadhi, "They say that I am dying but I am not going away. Where could I go? I am here." The enlightened being has transcended identification with both the gross and deeper personalities: the physical body, the "psychic being", as well as the primal root of 'I'-ness or egoity itself. It is somewhat paradoxical to speak of his reincarnation, then, for as the conscious divine Self he does not reincarnate. The deeper personality does reincarnate, however, and it is this which can be said to have past lives. Some will argue that this deeper personality does not reincarnate, but more actually reintegrates after complete skhandic dissolution after death. The question remains if there is a permanent “I” that is self-identical from life to life, a post on which to hang the many impermanent personalities, other than the “I-I” of Maharshi which is the Self or unmanifest consciousness itself. Ramana suggests there is when he speaks of the “aham sphurana”, or current of the Self that leads to the unmanifest Self. If so this “I” would be part of the causal body as described in the literature. Some schools would call this the soul, but we will reserve that term for consciousness itself, or the Overself as termed by PB.
Ramana Maharshi, once again, speaking from the ultimate standpoint, says:
"Reincarnation exists only so long as there is ignorance. There is really no reincarnation at all, either now or before. Nor will there be any hereafter. This is the truth." (2)
Paul Brunton further explains:
"The true teaching about reincarnation is not that the divine soul enters into the captivity and ignorance of the flesh again and again but that something emanated from the soul, that is a unit of life that eventually develops into the personal ego, does so. The Overself contains this reincarnating ego within itself but does not itself reincarnate. It is not the Overself that suffers and struggles during this long unfoldment but its child, the ego. It is not the Overself that slowly expands its intelligence and consciousness, but the ego. It is not the Overself that gets deluded by ignorance and passion, by selfishness and extroversion, but the ego. The belief in the merger of the ego held by some Hindu sects or in its annihilation held by some Buddhist ones, is unphilosophical. The "I" differentiated itself out of the infinite ocean of Mind into a distinct individuality after a long development through the diverse kingdoms of Nature. The self-consciousness thus developed will not be dissolved, extinguished, or re-absorbed into the whole again, leaving not a trace behind. Rather it will begin a new spiral of evolution towards higher altitudes of consciousness and diviner levels of being. " (3)
Whether this “I” was an intermediate pedagogical position of PB or a pointer to a reality is a subject that may be debateable. Elsewhere he speaks much like the Buddhsts and Hindus by saying that the “I” is nothing but a bundle of thoughts and tendencies around an imaginary center, that gets its sense of reality from the unmanifest light or consciousness behind it, which is the only thing (which is not a “thing”) that persists throughout the incarnations other than the conditional process itself. In other words, there is no fixed entity which reincarnates. On the other hand, I remember once when Tony said that a sage can know your Overself, and he could know your psyche, but he can’t experience your “I”. That was a mysterious statement. What is this “I” ?
[ND: Nothing, in reality it doesn't exist, but phenomenally it is just a thought. And since it doesn't really exist, even the sage can't experience it as it is in someone else, while he can intuit their consciousness and "see" their phenomenal bodies - how's that?!]
If a realized individual maintains a connection with the deeper personality or karana sarira, then, it can be said that he reincarnates, even though from the position of truth, that is, from the absolute position, this is not so regarding his real identity. In other words, if two gross personalities shared the same karana sarira then there is a karmic link between them. So when a being such as Sri Aurobindo clams to be a reincarnation of Napoleon it may be understood in this manner: the two gross personalities share, or are karmically linked, by a common deeper personality or karana sarira, even though the ultimate identity of either character is the Overself or divine Soul itself. What is being suggested is that ordinary personalities are strung like beads on the deeper personality, and not just spontaneously strung on the Atman, Soul, or Not-self according to the Buddhist formula, “this being, that appears”, otherwise known as dependent origination. This would allow for the teaching in various schools of a gradual enlightenment from post-death spheres once transcendence of the gross body was attained.
From the point of view of the mind, the Buddhist teachings may seem to imply that there is a spontaneous or random connection between an Overself and its manifestations or conditional lifetimes. PB would say that the same ray of light underlies all the lifetimes of one divine Soul. If there were no karmic link between this present lifetime and a string of preceding ones, no connection between the Self and a deeper personality and between that deeper personality and its gross manifestations, then an adept might have to spontaneously manifest conditional vehicles, or borrow those of another, in order to incarnate. In fact, Rudolph Steiner suggested that the Christ acquired the body of Jesus for just this purpose. Such occurrences, if possible, would be rare and unique.
On the other hand, there is the Avatar theory, wherein it is suggested that the Divine Being (we could say the World-Mind of Paul Brunton, or the Absolute Soul of Plotinus) in some mysterious way assumes human form directly (without the agency of a Divine Soul Itself) and is, so to speak, only circumstantially associated with its vehicles, but not karmically associated. In other words, in this case, there would be no common karana sarira or deeper personality between any two manifestations of an Avatar. This is what may be implied if one takes some of the scriptural pronouncements literally. Whether it is true or not it is certainly difficult to understand, difficult to believe, and must remain a spiritual mystery, or rahasya, for ordinary unillumined souls. Yet since the concept has appeared again and again in the literature it has been mentioned here, along with a feeble attempt at an explanation. If these words fail miserably then this writer takes refuge in the exhortation of Plato, who, when commenting upcn his famous allegory of the cave,
said, "what I have written is not true; nay, it most certainly is not true. Yet something very much like it is true."
PB suggested that, inasmuch as an adept has to will his reincarnation,for the sake of helping others, the process of incarnation of such a realizer is essentially the reverse of the process of spiritual sadhana for the unenlightened being. The adept is the Self, who reaches towards a deeper personality and then a gross personality in order to have vehicles or agency for his work in the world. The disciple begins identified as the gross personality, and reaches towards the deeper personality and then towards the Self. The conjunction of these two represents the fulfillment of the process of realization. The sage, then, engages a real sacrifice in order to be born and teach others. He may even appear to lose his enlightenment in the process of embodiment, for the assumption of a new body and brain necessitates a period of re-adaptation and re-awakening in the conditions of the gross dimension. The force of his prior realization, however, guides his development and makes the process of sadhana in his case relatively brief and conclusive.
[ND: I'll tentatively buy that, but I must insert this comment by Wei Wu Wei to be more philosophically demanding:
"A Bodhisattva does not seek to enlighten inexistent "others": inexistent as a self, that which he is destroys the illusion of the existence of "others" as such." (Ask the Awakened, p. 174)
I: Not to drop a monkey wrench in this entire discussion, but in his commentaries on the Bhagavad-Gita, Paramhansa Yogananda said that an advanced yogi may even reincarnate in several bodies at once in order to work out his past karmas more quickly (Swami Kriyananda, The Path, p. 302). Ramana Maharshi once mentioned that a spiritually advanced person might even be born as a forty year old rather than as a baby, implying what seems to me some sort of "walk-in" theory!]
Contrary to what is taught in mystical schools, it has not been universally recognized that one should or needs to explore the subtle regions outside the brain for spiritual realization. One purpose of incarnation, it may be argued, is actually to confine and concentrate experience in the gross dimension. The brain exists as a barrier to the intrusion of subtle experience and past lives into one's consciousness in the waking- state, which, in fact, is the arena where all of the tendencies of the deeper personality (which interpenetrates the gross body) can be purified and transcended at the heart, without rising into the subtle planes themselves. According to some sages, when the lower life has been purified and the individual has matured to a sufficient degree, he can pass directly to the practice of the Witness consciousness, horizontally as it were, founded in the heart, without engaging the ascended mystical dimension while alive at all. Thus, it is not necessary to become a yogi, no doubt a great relief to many. Still, there is a yogic dimension to enlightenment. Does anyone think that PB, Sant Kirpal Singh, Paramhansa Yogananda, and the 16th Karmapa, for instance, were all wrong?
1. Kirpal Singh, A Great Saint: Baba Jaimal Singh (Delhi, India: Ruhani Satsang, 1968), p. 66
2. Maharshi's Gospel, p. 40
3. The Notebooks of Paul Brunton, Vol. 16, Part 2, 4.257
[See Fundamentals of Buddhism (Part II: Kamma and Rebirth) (scroll about halfway down the linked material) for a deeper discussion of this subject, in particular that of the bhovanga sota. Could that be equivalent to the karana sarira in the yoga teachings?]
Back to discussion of A Course in Consciousness.
ND: All of that is very interesting, but let's get back on track and directly to the point. What you have said is just unnecessary gobbledy-gook and taking us away from our direct experience. Read chapter 11 of A Course in Consciousness and then see what you have to say. The sages are very simple and precise:
GOD IS ALL - ALL IS GOD
11.2. The appearance of sentience within Consciousness
We have seen two objective explanations of how the world appears out of the transcendental: 1) wavefunction collapse, given in Section 7.3, and 2) manifestation from the transcendental realms of Nisargadatta and Ramesh, given in Section 8.1. Both concepts have the logical difficulties that are discussed in Section 8.2. A simpler, more general, and more verifiable concept is that the manifestation simply appears when sentience appears within Consciousness.
Sentience is the mechanism by which Consciousness becomes aware of Itself. (Objectively, sentience requires a brain connected to sensory organs; see Section 7.6.) There can be no manifestation without sentience, and there can be no sentience without manifestation.
In Chapter 9, we used the term individual mind, although we found that Awareness of all minds is universal, not individual. In simplest conceptual terms, all experience can be divided into thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and perceptions. All of these are nothing but concepts dividing Consciousness, so none is more real than another. However, we tend to equate intensity and persistence with reality, so the last items in the list can seem to be more real than the first items. For example, emotions, sensations, and perceptions can seem to be more real than feelings and thoughts because they can be more intense and persistent. However, sensations and perceptions are not inherently more real than feelings and thoughts are. On the contrary, the more attention-grabbing an object is, the more unreal it is likely to be, and the more subtle it is, the more real it is likely to be. For example, subtle feelings and thoughts (see Section 10.1, Chapter 16) are more likely to point to Reality than intense ones are, and very subtle perception (called apperception) is more likely to reveal the underlying Reality of the object (see Section 23.3 and Chapter 24) than superficial perception is.
On p. 95 of I Am That (1984), Nisargadatta Maharaj says,
“What is beautiful? Whatever is perceived blissfully is beautiful. Bliss is the essence of beauty.”
On p. 48-49 of his book Eternity Now (1996, see Appendix A2), the sage, Francis Lucille, says that Truth, Love, and Beauty transcend all concepts, and come directly from the Unmanifest and are pointers to the Unmanifest. On p. 70, he says that positive feelings like love, happiness, gratitude, awe, respect, and sense of beauty come from beyond the mind, and they generate release, relief, and relaxation at the somatic level. These are to be contrasted with negative emotions, like anger, hatred, and fear, which come from the mind, and which generate stress, heaviness, pressure, constriction, and tension at the somatic level.
Exercise: Close your eyes and feel the following feelings: Love, gratitude, beauty.
Now feel the following feelings: Fear, anger, hatred.
What are your experiences? Where do you feel them? Which seem more real?
11.3. Manifestation: The first level of identification
We shall talk about three levels of identification. The appearance of sentience and the manifestation is the first level of identification (see Section 7.6).
In the meditation for January 12 in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh says,
"The entire phenomenal manifestation is based on the principle of duality, which starts with the sense 'I AM'".
In the meditation for June 9, he says,
"An infant, not being aware of having an individual identity, has no intellect with which to conceptualize and therefore lives in spontaneous freedom without resistance from moment to moment. The same is true of the self-realized sage, who has gone beyond the mind."
I: Did Ramesh experience that, or is it another assumption? This can get very complicated, as many people who have done deep feeling work, such as that of the primalling of Janov and the rebirthing of Grof, feel that they have re-experienced states of individuality before the age of two, and even before birth all the way back to conception. I'm not saying those experiences are true, or interpreted as true, or that there are not other ways of understanding them (in as much as they are still being observed with the adult brain, albeit more primitive parts of the brain), but the fact is, Ramesh faces the problem in that he is guessing when he talks about the infant. Ramana said to one disciple, "Go back the way you came," pointing him to becoming like a child again, to reenter the womb, in a sense. That would be an actual experience, or a yogic dimension to Ramana's advaita, kind of a combination of mysticism and the regressive psychologies.
ND: I think you are reading way too much into Ramana.
And in the meditation for April 10, he says,
"The life of a sage appears to others to be as purposeless as the actions of an infant."
I: Did PB appear like that, purposeless? - or did Kirpal Singh?
The infant lives in the bliss of ignorance, while the self-realized sage lives in the bliss beyond both ignorance and knowledge. In fact the sage is no longer even an individual, in spite of the presence of a fully developed intellect."
At the first level of identification, which is the level of the infant, Consciousness is identified with the whole because the concept of separation has not yet arisen. Until intellect arises, there can be no concepts, so there can be no distinction made between subjectivity and objectivity. (This might also be the case with insects and the lower animals.) With the appearance of intellect in man and possibly the higher animals, the concepts of separation and duality appear. These concepts appear within nonduality, e.g., the concept of the individual mind (see Section 9.2) appears within Consciousness. The working mind now appears (see Section 11.9) but still with no sense of personal doership. This is the state of the sage. The difference between the sage and the infant is that the sage has a well-developed intellect whereas the infant does not.
In the sage, as distinct from ordinary people, there is no identification with the concepts of doership. However, in the sage as well as with ordinary people, there is identification with name and form. This means that there is direct awareness of the body's thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, and perceptions, but there is no direct awareness of those of any other body (see Section 9.2). Thus, when the sage says "I", he often refers to "his" body-mind but never to another body-mind. (At other times, when the sage says "I", he often refers to Consciousness.) Ramesh says that identification with name and form is exhibited when the sage is addressed and the body responds. In the Advaita Fellowship News of August 2003 (http://www.advaita.org), he says:
“The really important thing to realize--there is no need to try to remember it--is that the fact that there is no individual doer does not mean that there is no doing, that there is inaction, but that the operation of doing happens in the form not of inaction but non-action. The ego--as identification with a name and form--will remain as long as the body remains, but after Self-realization, continues to function merely as a witness of the non-doing instead of as a doer.”
Because the sage functions from pure Awareness, when the sage speaks, it comes directly from Source without being corrupted by an "I"-entity. However, what the sage says and the way it is said also depends on the conditioning of the body-mind organism, and this persists after the disappearance of the "I" entity. That is why different sages will explain their experiences of nonduality in different terms.
11.4. Objectification: The second level of identification
In the meditation for July 31 in A Net of Jewels (1996), Ramesh says,
"Bondage is nothing more than the illusion that you are an autonomous entity."
The concept of the separate "I" appears in the child after the appearance of the intellect, and after there is sufficient conditioning in the body-mind organism (see Section 5.8). Awareness then identifies with this "I" concept (the second level of identification) to produce the sense of personal doership and choice, and the fictitious "I"-entity, ego, or individual (see, e.g., Sections 7.6, 7.7, 7.8). Now there is objectification (which we may also call entitification) as well as conceptualization; or dualism (which includes the sense of separation) as well as duality (which is purely conceptual, see Section 9.5).
Whenever there is the sense of personal doership, there is also suffering because, in addition to the mind functioning as the working mind, it also functions as the thinking mind (see Section 11.9). The sage does not suffer even though there may be pain because there is no sense of personal doership and resistance, and no thinking mind.
When an object is said to exist, what do we mean? It means that Awareness has identified with the "I"-concept, resulting in the belief that the "I" is separate from the rest of the manifestation. Thus, the "I" entity is said to exist. From this, we can see that existence is conceptualization plus identification. After Awareness identifies with the "I"-concept, the pernicious beliefs in the existence of other objects also arise. Objects seem real because they seem to exist independently of each other and of our awareness of them. However, independent existence is nothing but a product of intellect, identification, and belief. In Reality there exists no "I"-entity or any other kind of object. There is only Consciousness.
Exercise: Do the following exercise with your eyes closed while looking past your thoughts directly at the sensations themselves. What is your immedicate nonconceptual experience of the following:
1. There are sounds, but is there something making the sounds?
2. There are sensations of touch and pressure, but is there something causing the sensations?
(Note: Sometimes we might carelessly say that Consciousness exists, but as we have already seen, Consciousness includes all existence and nonexistence, and transcends both existence and nonexistence (see Section 10.1). Another type of confusion results when the word existence is used to refer to the pure sense of Presence that always accompanies pure Awareness (see Figure 1, Section 10.1). This might be called pure Existence, but we shall avoid using this terminology.)
You are not an individual, and you are not limited. As pure Awareness, You are unlimited Reality. Reality is the same whether your eyes are open or closed. When your eyes are closed and all thoughts and images are absent, You are the only Reality. When your eyes are open, and objects seem to be present, You are still the only Reality. Reality underlies and pervades all the objects that you perceive. That is why You are everything and everything is You.
In The Elements of Buddhism (1990), John Snelling says,
"Central to the Buddha's teaching is the doctrine of anatman: "not-self." This does not deny that the notion of an "I" works in the everyday world. In fact, we need a solid, stable ego to function in society. However, "I" is not real in an ultimate sense. It is a "name": a fictional construct that bears no correspondence to what is really the case. Because of this disjunction all kinds of problems ensue. Once our minds have constructed the notion of "I," it becomes our central reference point. We attach to it and identify with it totally. We attempt to advance what appears to be its interests, to defend it against real or apparent threats and menaces. And we look for ego-affirmation at every turn: confirmation that we exist and are valued. The Gordian Knot of preoccupations arising from all this absorbs us exclusively, at times to the point of obsession. This is, however, a narrow and constricted way of being. Though we cannot see it when caught in the convolutions of ego, there is something in us that is larger and deeper: a wholly other way of being."
On p. 64 of Nuggets of Wisdom (2005) by Ramesh Balsekar, he says,
"The total acceptance of non-doership means the end of the load of guilt and shame for one's own actions and the load of hatred and malice towards the other for his actions. The removal of the load means the automatic presence of peace and harmony--equanimity."
On p. 65, he says,
"There is a distinct difference between the anger, grief or fear of the sage and that of an ordinary person. The sage's emotion is not based on any selfish motivation; and the sage's emotion is always in the present moment, and therefore very short-lived. No residual impression remains in the mind that could lead to involvement in horizontal time."
The beliefs in the existence of the "I"-doer and of the world are more persistent than they would be if they were known to be purely conceptual. Since the mind consists not only of thoughts, but also of feelings, emotions, sensations, and perceptions, identification and belief can percolate down to these other levels as well. In particular, the emotions of guilt, shame, hatred, malice, envy, jealousy, and pride are compelling evidence for a continuing identification with, and belief in, the "I"-doer. Upon awakening, these emotions disappear. Other emotions may arise, but there is no identification with them, so they quickly disappear without causing suffering. In particular, when a sage exhibits anger, it passes quickly without lingering because there is no identification with it.
Question: How does the sense of personal doership lead to suffering?
Question: How do the following emotions depend on the sense of personal doership: Guilt, shame, hatred, envy, jealousy, pride?
Belief in separation is extremely persistent, and is virtually invulnerable to superficial mental practices, such as the mechanical repetition of aphorisms, affirmations, or denials. For example, the thought that "I" exist as an individual is not nearly as difficult to see through as the feeling that "I" exist. Therefore, in order for a practice to be effective, it must be seen and felt directly that there is no "I"-entity and there is no separation. Such practices are the subjects of Chapters 20, 22, 23, 24.
It is the appearance of the conceptual, dualistic individual that is the source of all conflict, suffering, and striving in the world. However, the individual is an illusion because the apparently individual awareness is actually still pure Awareness. There is always only one Awareness, never multiple awarenesses. The individual is only a conceptual object because its subjectivity is really pure Subjectivity.
When the "I"-entity seems to appear, a boundary seems to arise between itself and everything else. This is represented in Figure 1 of Chapter 10 by the boxes in the upper right labeled "I" and not-"I". The boundary line between the "I" and the not-"I" becomes a potential battle line, with the "I" warring with the not-"I". The only way this battle line can be eliminated is for the "I" to vanish completely, i.e., for the recognition to occur that there never has been an "I"-entity. This is the perception of the sage.
11.5. Ownership: The third level of identification
We have seen that the first level of identification is the manifestation itself, when Consciousness becomes aware, while the second level is identification of Awareness with the concept of the separate "I" and its doership, resulting in the fictitious "I"-entity. The primary self-image of this illusory entity is that of observer, doer, thinker, decider, and experiencer. But conditioning and identification produce not only this false self, but also various kinds of thoughts, opinions, and images about the false self. Some examples of these are its competence, incompetence, beauty, ugliness, goodness, and evilness.
With the appearance of these concepts arises also the possibility that Awareness will identify with them. This results in a third level of identification, the level of ownership, or "mine", consisting of many forms of embellishment on the basic "I"-entity. Without this third level of identification, the "I"-entity is bare, consisting only in the sense of doership (which includes observership, thinkership, and decidership). With it, the "I"-entity becomes clothed not only in thoughts and images, but also in feelings and emotions. Feelings and emotions do not cause suffering unless there is ownership of them. Then many different kinds of suffering occur. This third level of identification is the one that causes all the trouble (some might say all the fun) but it depends entirely on the assumed existence of the doer. This fully identified (clothed) "I"-entity seems to suffer unlimited agonies over whether it is good enough, beautiful enough, smart enough, competent enough, healthy enough, strong enough, loving enough, caring enough, and many other "enoughs". It feels guilty about "its" actions in the past, and worries about how "it" will perform in the future. It sometimes sees itself as a bag of s__t, and at other times, as a god or goddess. However, sooner or later it will see itself as a victim, i.e., as an entity that suffers at the hands of something else (see Section 11.7).
I: This is all rather complicated. I would like to speak very practically here. My logic may not be metaphysically airtight, but bear with it. Hindu scriptures say that for the emanant that PB speaks of to reach the human level requires from five to eight million incarnations in lower live forms to evolve. That is,
"Egoic development begins, just as the outward life forms it assumes do, at the lowest levels of conscious identity. It moves upwards automatically at first, through plant, insect, and animal forms, until at last it reaches the human level. Thereafter evolution ceases to be automatic, for in man's more highly developed brain and nervous system the ego experiences for the first time the ability to exercise discrimination, and thus develops a certain amount of free-will. Spiritual evolution from this time onward becomes speeded up, or delayed, or temporarily reversed, according to the caliber of the individual's own efforts." (Swami Kriyananda, The Path, 1966, p. 258)
At this point, we can use karma to become neh-karma or free of karma. How? - by working within the dream in the right way. For instance, as Kriyananda writes:
"Spiritually speaking, karma has different levels of manifestation, depending on how clear it expresses the divine consciousness. Love, for example, is a more spiritual karma than hatred, since it reinforces the awareness of life's essential oneness. Hatred increases the delusion of separateness from God, and from other people. To tell the truth is a more spiritual karma than to tell lies, because truthfulness helps to develop a refined awareness of what really is - of the Divine reality behind all appearances." (Ibid, p. 259)
PB expressed this in a very poetic way; he said:
"Make it a matter of habit, until it becomes a matter of inclination, to be kind, gentle, forgiving, and compassionate. What can you lose? A few things now and then, a little money here and there, an occasional hour or an argument? But see what you can gain! More release from the personal ego, more right to the Overself's grace, more loveliness in the world inside us, and more friends in the world outside us." (Notebooks, Vol. 3, Part 1, 5.12)
Finally, as Paramhansa Yogananda said, "It takes very, very, VERY good karma to even want to know God." (Ibid, p. 262) I think what he is saying here can be understood in advaita as saying that it requires karma yoga to prepare one for inquiry or the more direct path - or maybe even that the two are inseparable in the paradoxically non-dualistic/dualistic universe we live in.
This may seem kindergarten level stuff to some, but I think alot of important things are learned in kindergarten, don't you? You can tell me that I have no control over the thoughts that come into my head, whether for good or for bad, and therefore no control over my actions, because there is no doer, and that all I have to do is see there is no doer and automatically everything will work out fine, but somehow I won't believe you. I think it is easy to fool ourselves, or let's just say, I feel we have to be, that is it is healthy to be, on our guard a bit when talking like this. Maybe it's just my problem, but even Anthony used to say that even if we take the witness position we still have to aspire to higher values and higher states. Many people strip away that portion of Nisargadatta's teachings and forget that he also taught devotion, as also did Robert Adams. It's like it is built into the system. If you want to bring in the idea of the Soul in the Nous, well, that's a college-level description of the same thing. PB had many beautiful quotes on of the necessity of the "double standpoint" :
Vol. 13, Part 1
"Paradox is the only way to view both the immediate and the ultimate at
the same time."
"Philosophy says that its highest teaching is necessarily paradoxical
because the one is in the many and the many, too, are one, because
nonduality is allied to duality, because the worldly and limited
points to the Absolute and Unbounded: hence the doctrine of two Truths."
"Paradox is the only proper way to look at things and situations, at
life and the cosmos, at man and God. This must be so if as full and
complete a truth as mind can reach is desired. To express that truth
there are two ways because of its own double nature: there is what the
thing seems to be and what it really is. The difference is often as
great as that yielded by an electronic microscope with five
thousand-fold magnification when it is focused on an ant, compared to
the view yielded by the naked eye."
"The idea of illusion is a necessary discovery for the beginner, but with deeper knowledge he discovers that the illusion is also the real because it is not apart from reality. The truth is that reality is attainable."
"If we think, "I strive to become one with God," or, "I am one with
God," we have unconsciously denied the statement itself because we
have unconsciously set up and retained two things, the "I" and "God."
If these two ultimately exist as separate things they will always
exist as such. If, however, they really enter into union, then they
must always have been in union and never apart. In that case, the
quest of the underself for the Overself is unnecessary. How can these
two opposed situations be resolved? The answer is that relativity has
taught us the need of a double standpoint, the one relative and
practical and constantly shifting, the other absolute and
philosophical and forever unchanged. From the first standpoint we see
the necessity and must obey the urge of undertaking this quest in all
its practical details and successive stages. From the second one,
however, we see that all existence, inclusive of our own and whether
we are aware of it or not, dwells in a timeless, motionless Now, a
changeless, actionless Here, a thing-less, egoless Void. The first
bids us work and work hard at self-development in meditation,
metaphysics, and altruistic activity, but the second informs us that
nothing we do or abstain from doing can raise us to a region where we
already are and forever shall be in any case. And because we are what
we are, because we are Sphinxes with angelic heads and animal bodies,
we are forced to hold both these standpoints side by side. If we wish
to think truthfully and not merely half-truthfully, we must make both
these extremes meet one another. That is, neither may be asserted
alone and neither may be denied alone. It is easier to experience this
quality than to understand it."
"The highest attainment in philosophy, that of the sage, comes from a
union of the sharpest, subtlest thinking and of the capacity to enter
the thought-free state--a combination of real knowledge and felt
peace--balanced, united, yielding truth. This is what makes the sage,
whose understanding and peace are his own, who does not depend upon
any outside person. Yet it is not the little ego's emotion nor its
intellectuality which has brought him to this truth. It is the highest
human mind, the finest human feeling. The total man cannot lose what
he has attained. It is the higher power working inside the human being."
"This is puzzling indeed and can never be easy, but then, were life less simple and less paradoxical than it is, all its major problems would not have worried the wisest men from remotest antiquity until today. Such is the paradox of life and we had better accept it. That is , we must not hold one standpoint to the detriment of the other. These two views need not oppose themselves against each other but can exist in a state of reconciliation and harmony when their mutual necessity is understood. We have to remember both that which is ever-becoming and that which is ever in being. We are already as eternal, as immortal, as divine as we ever shall be. But if we want to become aware of it, why then we must climb down to the lower standpoint and pursue the quest in travail and limitation."
"He may keep out the ego's interference and yet not reach the pure truth because he may not keep out his evolutionary insufficiency."
"Only a great nature can take a great illumination and not become imbalanced by it. That is why the full cultivation, all-around develpment, and healthy equilibrium of the man is required in philosophy."
"Those who talk or write truth, but do not live it because they cannot, have glimpsed its meaning but not realized its power. They have not the dynamic balance which follows when the will is raised to the level of the intellect and the feelings. It is this balance which spontaneously ignites mystic forces within us, and produces the state called "born again." This is the second birth, which takes place in our consciousness as our first took place in our flesh."
"So long as he is living exclusively in one side of his being, so long as there is no balance in him, what else can his view of life be but an imbalanced one? Nor will the coming of illumination completely set right and restore his balance. it will certainly initiate a movement which will ultimately do this, but the interval between it initiation and its consummation may be a whole lifetime."
"The separatist spirit which would erect the pediment of truth on the single pillar of yoga alone or metaphysics alone ends always in failure or, worse, in disaster. When each sphere of activity whose integral union is needed for the successful completion of the structure asserts its self-sufficiency, it begins to suffer what in the individual human being is called an enlarged ego. The student of metaphysics who despises mysticism and the student of mysticism who despises metaphysics will pay the penalty of neurosis for this unhealthy and unbalanced state of his mental life."
"Those who, like Krishnamurti, will recognize none but the highest level and have no use for the steps leading up to it become extremists and fanatics."
Part 2, 4.168
"It is not enough to attain knowledge of the soul; any mystic may do that. It is necessary to attain clear knowledge. Only the philosophic mystic may do that. This emphasis on clarity is important. It implies a removal of all the obstructions in feeling, the complexes in mind, and obfuscations in ego which prevent it. When this is done, the aspirant beholds truth as it really is."
Shall we talk some more about the concept of free will now?
ND: uh...later, bud.....
I: O.K. But first here is just a snippet from the late Robert Adams, a man I am sure you appreciate:
The Gift of Free Will
“When I speak of Unimaginable beauty within, you understand that this is a beauty that is indescribable. The beauty in Creation whispers of this. Always remember that we are spiritual people, the world is not. What this really means is that we, as human beings, become last, not first.
It is with much compassion that I tell you to do these things, for it depends on your Free Will. This is the secret. Everything changes, the Truth does not. Do not say appearances are not real, simply understand this and act accordingly. As you are unfolding, cling to what is True, Good, Beautiful. Be humble and strong. Speaking about Truth and becoming a living embodiment of Truth are two different things. Choose your actions carefully. Everything depends on the gift of your Free Will.”