Author Topic: Mind and Matter Part 2  (Read 1219 times)

Dr. Sadananda

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Mind and Matter Part 2
« on: February 17, 2010, 11:32:25 PM »
Mind and Matter Part 2

It is taken for granted that everybody knows who they are. Most of them have a high opinion of themselves (superiority complex) and some have a low opinion of themselves (inferiority complex), but everyone has some opinion about himself. Since everybody knows who they are (or at least they think they know who they are), no educational system offers courses on this. All the educational systems are only trying to teach us about 'this', this being any of the objectifiable sciences, such as chemistry, physics, psychology, medicine, how to do?, etc. It sounds ridiculous to say that we can become experts in 'this' without knowing much about our selves. The ironic thing is that we ourselves misunderstand ourselves, although we complain most of the time that it is others who do not understand us.

In one of the Upanishads a student gives a huge list of his expertise in many fields (in our terminology more than 60 PhDs), yet repents that he is still restless and does not have peace of mind. The teacher says you know everything except yourself. Essentially, knowledge of 'who I am' is not for academic interest like knowledge of any of 'this'. The teacher says that it is the very foundation of life itself. Without knowing yourself, it is impossible to have proper contact or relationship with the world. All mental suffering (suffering is mental only) results from this lack of understanding. Hence Vedanta says ignorance of one's own true nature is the root cause of human suffering.

If we ask anybody 'who are you?', we get a big account of who he is. Some people have pages and pages of their bio-data, in response to the above question. If we examine any bio-data, including our own, all it tells is - I am 'this', I am 'that', etc, starting from physical dimensions to intellectual accomplishments - pages and pages of information about 'this and that', but nothing about our self. The subject 'I' is different from the object 'this' - and our fundamental confusion arises from identifying the subject 'I' with the object 'this'. Analyzing this problem, Vedanta says that, when I do not know who I am (self-ignorance), then I take myself to be what I am not - I am 'this or I am 'that'.

Subject consciousness or self-awareness is intermixed with object-consciousness, awareness of this. This confusion arises due to the lack of correct knowledge about 'who I am'. Now the question is: does this confusion arise because the subject consciousness and object consciousness cannot be easily separated in the mind? Is this inherent in the structure of the mind? If someone says, after reading this, that he definitely knows who he is, then Vedanta says that only means he does not know who he is. This is because, he is only conceptualizing or objectifying who he is and in the very objectification, he misses the subject, himself. Then how does one ever know who he is? Vedanta provides definite clues by which one can evaluate his self-knowledge. These clues are for self-evaluation and not for others to evaluate him about his self-knowledge.

In the western theories starting from Rene Descartes to Sigmund Freud, conscious mind is identified with 'ego' or notional 'I', which is nothing but the notion that 'I am this' - this being whatever I think I am at that time. Hence the famous statement of Descartes, 'I think, therefore I am. Hence we posed the question before - Can I ever be conscious of myself without simultaneously having objective consciousness – i.e. without the duality present in the form of I and this, as 'I know this' and ultimately 'I am this'? Related to this, can the mind operate in the realm where there is subject consciousness alone without simultaneous object consciousness? 'I am'... 'I am'... 'I am'... period, without any 'I am this'... 'I am this'... 'I am this'... etc.

This identification or equation of the subject 'I' with an object 'this' forms the fundamental conditioning of the mind discussed in the introduction, where 'this' that I identify with depends on the conditioning of my mind. Thus I am an Indian, I am an American, I am a theist or atheist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, dvaitin, advaitin, believer or non-believer, etc - identification with concepts, traditions, theologies, beliefs, etc. Deconditioning therefore involves declutching or removing this confused understanding about myself. How to do the deconditioning without reconditioning myself with different notions is the secret of Vedanta - therefore Vedanta is not another religion or path but is like a mirror which shows who you are in contrast to who you think you are.

This is not a fanatical statement but a statement born of the experiences of many sages, since time immemorial. The beauty is that the solution is not up there in heaven or after the death etc, but right here and right now. Since the truth that is infinite has to be eternal, that also includes here and now. Hence Vedanta is the means of knowledge (pramANa) to know the truth of oneself, since any other means of knowledge including all scientific investigations relies on objective analysis or analysis of 'this' and is therefore not valid for the analysis of the subject 'I'. Science can never prove or disprove the truth about myself, since its field of enquiry is limited to objective analysis or analysis of 'this' and not about the subject, I. This also establishes that western method of analysis of even the mind as an object of investigation will never give the total picture of the mind, since it can only deal with the 'this' aspect of the mind which is the inert part and not the consciousness aspect of the mind that deals with self-consciousness and object-consciousness.

It is clear from the perpetuation of many theories and postulates about the nature of the mind that it is not amenable to grosser objectification and analysis by conventional scientific tools. The inherent problem is that we are using the mind to investigate the mind. So called tools that are normally used in scientific experimentation are not fully useful in the inquiry into the mind other than at the gross or clinical level. There is also confusion in that mapping of the brain is equated to mapping of the mind - it is like investigation of the hardware to find out about the problems in the software. Experience of pleasures and pains, emotions of love, compassion, fear, anxiety, hatred, etc are not easily quantifiable to determine cause-effect relations since they are subjective.

Understanding the mind would help us to control our mind or redirect the workings of the mind, instead of the mind controlling us. This is more important to maximize the efficacy of the mind than trying to change the 'set-up' or the world at large to improve the standard of living. Pressures of modern society are contributing to more and more mental problems. Man may be more comfortable with modern gadgets but they make him only comfortably unhappy. Absolute eternal happiness is the goal of every being and the key to accomplish that lies in understanding and utilizing the mind properly. In the following we present various classifications of the mind based on its functions and utilities, since understanding of the working of the mind is the first step in controlling it and redirecting it properly.