Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Beyond Advaita

Advaita or Non-Dualism is a pinnacle contribution of ancient Indian thinkers, seers and sages. In its simplest expression, what it says is that what is around (including 'you') is all a 'Oneness', no separations, no boundaries, no solidities, no changes, no birth, no death, only an infinite, ineffable and inexpressible 'Tat' (Sanskrit for a nameless 'That').

In Advaitin state, the operation of triad -- the observer-the observed-the act of observing -- ceases to exist and the name given to this is 'Drik'. An individual who exists in such a state is a Jivanmukta (Sanskrit for 'liberated in this life').

Primordial Advaita defines Jivanmukta to be one whose sense of a 'separate' self has collapsed.

Neuroscience tells us that 'self' of an individual is purely an artifact, purely a fiction designed by creatures in evolution to facilitate their own survival - self preservation and perpetuation. But as human beings we start to believe in a separate 'self' for each of us and we claim it to be ours and go to all lengths to protect it (we perceive it as our ego). The neurons in the brain non-stop keep sensing the environment and cliques of neurons fire together giving constant warning to the creature about 'threats and opportunities' in the environment for its survival.

The firings of the neurons are experienced by us as thoughts, the sum of thoughts being our mind. Neuroscience does not, as yet know, how these neuronal firings give raise to the subjective experiential feeling of a separate self. But 'self' could be a sort of neuronal gateway node which allows only certain autobiographical and such related info to pass through. We may conjure that the output of this node to be the 'self' .

Even the best of Advaita experts incessantly debate and are unable to categorically state whether a Jivanmukta would still retain a mind of his/her own or what happens to his own mind when he/she feels hungry, needs food and water or gets involved in daily activities. One cannot even say that the neurons in the brain of a Jivanmukta stopped firing!!

So Advaita can be seen as the state of functioning of an individual using a different gateway node in the brain. This gateway node fails to give raise to a 'sense of separation' - and therefore, feels like a loss of self.

Advaita does not also answer the fundamental why questions - why universe? why life? why the (illusory or phenomenal) world? why do certain inviolable Laws of Nature (niyati in Sanskrit) exist at all? and so on.

Therefore, I suggest that the ancient thinkers within the limits of experimental, observational and data sources at their command could reach the limits of their thinking in those times and arrived at 'Tat' (also referred to as Brahman) as the ultimate thing and saw it as the substratum for everything.

Can we now go beyond Advaita, taking advantage of our ability to extend the detection range and bandwidth of sensory perceptions using modern gadgetry and experimental verification?

What is Beyond Brahman?

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