Saturday, December 26, 2009


[FIRST A WELCOME: Trey, Neil and Juhana and a FaceBook user are the new members to our Blog. A VERY HAPPY WELCOME TO ALL OF THEM. Trey has been kind to introduce the Blog at the FaceBook; I am grateful to him for this -- ramesam.]


As we end the year 2009 to snuggle cozily into the welcoming arms of 2010, thoughts on the Past, Present and Future do hover in our minds. We accumulate our experiences as memory. Our brains decipher certain inviolable patterns in those experiences. The patterns and their recurrence go to reinforce and solidify our belief in the reality of our experience.

Ancient Indian scriptures talk of three levels of ‘reality’ – (i) Absolute; (ii) Transactional and (iii) Dream. The Absolute Reality is the ultimate, unchanging Truth. Transactional reality is what we live with in our daily life. The ephemeral reality is the one we experience in a dream world.

Vedanta shouts from roof-tops: The dream and transactional experiences are equally FALSE and UNREAL. There is nothing like a past and future of things happening. Everything just happens in the NOW. There is NO thing other than Nowness, the Aliveness, the very Beingness. It is Alone. No second one is there. And that is Advaita.

That is the view from the Absolute Reality that Gaudapada gives us.

Venerable Gaudapada was a Great Sage of the 8th Century. He expounded the above philosophy of Ajativada (nothing is ever born), the true gist of Vedanta, in his classic Karika (commentary in verses) on Mandukya Upanishad. The Second Chapter of the Karika discusses the illusory nature of the world that we experience and the non-difference of dream and awake states of man. The Mandukya Upanishad and Karika hold these two states to be mere 'arisings' in the deep sleep state.

Quoting Gaudapada Karika:

A question arises then: who cognizes the illusory objects of dream and wakeful states, if the objects cognized in both the states are unreal? (Karika II – 11).

The 12th verse of the Chapter II goes to answer (Swami Nikhilananda’s translation, Advaita Ashrama, 1995):

“Atman, the self-luminous, through the power of his own Maya, imagines in himself by himself (all the objects that the subject experiences within or without). He alone is the cognizer of the objects (so created). That is the decision of the Vedanta.”

Gaudapada further explains that internally conceived things like thoughts, ideas etc. are no different from objects seen ‘out there’. He says in the 14th verse:

"Those that are cognized within only as long as the thought of them lasts, as well as those that are perceived by the senses and that conform to two points of time, are all mere imaginations. There is no other ground for differentiating the one from the other."

Swami Nikhilananda amplifying on the word “imaginations” writes as follows:

“That a thing exists independently of the perceiving mind is also an idea. …. Past, present and future are nothing but ideas present in the mind at the moment.”

Peter Dziuban provides us, like Gaudapada, the worldview from the stance of and as Absolute Reality. His teachings echo Gaudapada’s Ajativada.

We are fortunate that he explains with great clarity, irrefutable logic and inimitable expression our questions at his Blog: Reality Check.

I posed him the following question:

Though we seem to understand intellectually the non-dualism, how is it that a sense of ‘lack’ continues to haunt us?

I want to get to the root of this 'lack' - a lack not for any objective 'thing' but that gut feeling of "not satisficing".

One way is to see the 'lack' to be "ALL", the very Being. However, this looks to be a mere explanation.

Peter’s response is available at his Post of 23rd Dec 2009.

What Peter said, in brief (as I understood in my words) was:

1. Notice that "something" has cognised that sense of 'lack'.

2. Be that very "Cogniser" rather than claiming ownership for that sense of 'lack'.

3. The sense or gut feeling of 'lack' is time dependent (hence transitory) and therefore, sure to 'dissolve'.

4. The sense of 'lack' has its origin because of an 'assumed add-on' i.e. some unspelt 'expectations' of a person in 'me' looking for 'object-oriented experience'.

Later Peter answered in three Posts of 25th Dec 2009, the following question of mine:

I do not find anywhere, either in the ancient Indian lore or in the modern non-dualism teachings, anybody explaining the emergence of the wakeful state with all the phenomenal 'world' and its goings on.

Words like 'Maya', 'Leela' (play), 'Freedom', [Vibhuti, Karma, Cyclicity] etc. are used to explain how from that Immutable Oneness the first 'I-thought' is engendered to manifest later as the variegated manifold. But these are admittedly just explanatory fictions. Such explanations take all the mathematical precision and scientific regularity in the phenomenal 'world' as 'given'. They accept the inevitability of inexorable natural laws and never provide any clue as to why a law is the way it is.

[.....,] we see a 'signature' of dream state in a dreaming brain (REM sleep). How do you think the brain state would be when one is "abiding" as ALL, One, Consciousness, Brahman.

I would like to draw the attention of the readers of this Blog to the excellent Posts of Peter in reply to my query, a befitting way to end the year 2009.

[The possible state of the brain of a “realized” man (Jivanmukta) is obviously something he cannot comment. It would fall under Neuroscience. However, his surmise is that there would be no thinking activity, and little or no experience of sensations — so he speculates that those apparent related areas of brain activity would be greatly reduced or inactive. Meanwhile, in such states the body usually still appears to breathe, pump blood, etc. so it would seem that whatever brain activity is involved in these apparent functions would continue.

This topic can be a good study for Barrow Neurological Institute, Arizona, U.S.A. One of their Directors attended the Oct 2009 'Science and Non-dualism Conference' in San Rafael, California.

As no thinking can happen without stored information, it will also be interesting to see how memory will behave in a Jivanmukta. Our ancient scriptures say that vasana-s (past stored impressions) will become ineffective like burnt out seeds. Memory is still an active on going research topic in Neuroscience.

Information we have from Neuroscince on retention, loss or erasure of memory, abnormal memory of a savant brain and related issues will form the subject of a future Blog Post.]


Saturday, December 12, 2009


[I am happy to welcome Sivavasanta, Katie and Dr. Kirk Crist to our Blog. It is particualry noteworthy that Katie Davis chose to join us. She herself is a Non-Dualism teacher who spontaneously realized the Oneness of Brahman in 1986.  We look forward to their active participations/contributions.]


"Re-engineering your 'self'" was the title of a Talk I gave a year ago. I sent a copy of about 40 supporting ppt slides to Jerry Katz at that time. He was quite appreciative of the material. I thank him very much for the encouragement.

The principal argument of my presentation was as follows:

Our usual sense of 'self' is quite fragile and illusory. Neuroscience as yet does not know how this sense of self is generated. Certain gateway nodes of neuronal networks in our brain processing autobiographical information can be understood to be the correlates of 'self'. But no specific part of the brain contains a spot for 'self'. It was proposed by me that if a particular gateway node represents the 'self' node, there could be another gateway node which represents the feel of Oneness, obliterating all perceived boundaries between 'me' and 'the other'. We could call it the "Universal Self" node.

For example, Dr. Jill B. Taylor, a neuroscientist graphically described her experience of losing the sense of individuating 'self' when the left hemisphere of her brain was non-functional (due to an hemorrhage) in 1996. She felt a universal Oneness when the right hemisphere of the brain alone was functioning.

Recent developments in Neuroscience have shown that our brain is not like a fixed pre-programmed printed circuit board. The neural connections are not rigid but highly labile. This is called by neuroscientists as the "plasticity of brain." In view of this, it is suggested that we can retrain our brain to process the perceptions to go through the Universal Self node instead of the usual self node gateway. Dr. Greg Goode would describe it as "Standing as Awareness."

Direct Path Advaitins tell us clearly that the 'collapse of the sense of separate self' is enlightenment. Many of them describe it as re-orientating, or a shift in, the way we perceive (i.e. without a 'me' as perceiver). This would obviously involve (i) a clear understanding of the percepts (= what is perceived) , (ii) be thoroughly convinced that the percepts to be no more than mere thoughts, sensations and perceptions in our brain (and not to be any solid objects to be 'existing' out there) and (iii) finally retraining the brain through practice in this worldview. Therefore, the re-engineering involved is to manage a shift from the 'self' gateway node to the "Universal Self" node.

Even traditional Vedanta advocates Shravana (Gaining Knowledge), Manana (Reflection on what is learnt) and Nidhidhyasana (constant contemplation and remembering), corresponding to the three steps spelt out in the above para.

Bhagavad-Gita too lays considerable emphasis on Practice (abhyaasa) and giving up a claim of  'ownership (of possessions) and doership (agency for actions)' - i.e. vairaagya  (Chapter VI Sloka 35; VIII-8; XII-9).

Practice evidently takes advantage of the plasticity of the brain.

Neuroscientific Findings:

We all experience our body to be part of ourselves. It is a fundamental aspect of self-awareness. But this sense of self can be easily altered by manipulating our perceptions. It is illustrated by the "Rubber Hand Illusion." In this experiment we feel that 'a rubber hand is our own, when our corresponding real hand is hidden, and both the rubber hand and the real hand are touched synchronously for a few seconds by a friend. Not only that, our brain starts disowning our own real hand. The body temperature in the real hand drops down! Can you believe it!!

Such perceptual phenomenon does not happen just for a limb. It can happen to your entire body as proved by Swedish scientists a year ago.

See the video :

You feel the body of another person or of a mannequin standing in front of you as your body. Sort of "Parakaaya pravesha" (entering some other's body)!

Videos of the studies along with the virtual reality studies being carried out by Prof. Mel Slater are available at:


Various forms of meditation have been found to be quite efficient tools in bringing about a change in the texture and structure of the brain. Dr. P. B. Reiner reports on the work at Stanford and MIT in November 2009 as follows:

"Regular deep meditation changes the brain in positive ways. This type of meditation seems to be associated with gamma waves, the electromagnetic rhythm of neurons firing very rapidly in harmony.

Neuroscientists have pinpointed the cells responsible for producing these gamma rhythms and demonstrated a technology that can induce the brain-wave pattern in mice... In the future it might be possible to use this technology to reproduce some of the beneficial effects of meditation."

The Stanford and MIT scientists further say: " is worth remembering that both deep-brain stimulation, whereby implanted electrodes act as a kind of pacemaker in the brain, and transcranial magnetic stimulation, in which powerful magnetic fields are transmitted through the skull to affect brain activity, are rapidly moving from the lab to the clinic. Both these techniques represent relatively crude forms of brain stimulation."

Carnegie Mellon University scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel Just have uncovered in December 2009 the first evidence that intensive instruction to improve reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself.

Dr. E. Phelps and her colleagues reported in Dec 2009 Nature, "A drug free, non-invasive method for semi-permanently blocking the return of fear memories in humans" by training their brains. These works are still in development stage. Yet their research is significant towards erasure of fear memories.

A video of their work can be seen at:

In this context, we may note that Bhagavad-Gita says that surmounting fears is an important step towards ‘liberation’.

(This Blog is actually Posted on 12 Dec 2009).