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Author Topic: Self Enquiry - Concerning the exploration of mind Vs consciousness  (Read 146 times)
CygnusX1
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« on: 28/08/09 @ 16:31 »

Self Enquiry - Concerning the exploration of mind Vs consciousness

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Concerning the exploration of mind Vs consciousness

Self-enquiry Theory

Thread intro…

The investigation into the origins and reality of Self and of consciousness leads us to the questioning of the mind and consciousness. Is the mind the prime mover, or is it consciousness itself?

Here is offered as a practical exercise and an opportunity to investigate the reality of both the mind and consciousness, and to decide whether this is in fact a valid method to unveil the truth of either. It makes no difference as to the beliefs on the part of the individual, as any religious belief is irrelevant to the practice of this exercise.

For all those interested and concerned with the question of mind vs consciousness, here is offered as a means of exploration and a method for investigation that is also open for debate and discussion.

CygnusX1

Preamble By David Godman

Sri Ramana Maharshi maintained that Self-realisation could be brought about merely by giving up the idea that there is an individual self, which functions through the body and the mind.

A few of his advanced devotees were able to do this quickly and easily, but the others found it virtually impossible to discard the ingrained habits of a lifetime without undertaking some form of spiritual practice. Sri Ramana Maharshi sympathised with their predicament and whenever he was asked to prescribe a spiritual practice which would facilitate Self-awareness he would recommend a technique he called self-enquiry. This practice was the cornerstone of his practical philosophy.

Before embarking on a description of the technique itself it will be necessary to explain Sri Ramana Maharshi’s views on the nature of the mind since the aim of self-enquiry is to discover by direct experience, that the mind is non-existent...

to read the full text, (I cannot post the entire page here, it is too long)
more here > Self-enquiry http://www.hinduism.co.za/self-enq.htm

 Smiley
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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #1 on: 29/08/09 @ 16:19 »

Hi Cygnus,

Thanks for the link - which I'll try to read through in the next few days. It's funny: I read the same book that the text is taken from over 20 years ago. I liked Maharshi's simple approach. It'll be interesting to see how it looks now in the light of 20 years of philosophical study!

Will post soon.
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Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #2 on: 31/08/09 @ 18:29 »

Having read it, I think the interesting thing here is (a) how close the view of the mind is to that of Decartes, and (b) how close Marashi's method is to the scepticism of Hume.

Firstly, the mind is seen as fundamentally the 'I' thought. So, as with Descartes, the fundamental activity of the mind is thought:

Quote
But what, then, am I ? A thinking thing, it has been said. But what is a thinking thing? It is a thing that doubts, understands, [conceives], affirms, denies, wills, refuses; that imagines also, and perceives. (Med. II)

So, everything that we think we are is the product of this 'I', this relation of subject and object.

It is also an interesting aspect of Descartes's Cogito argument that the self only exists whilst there is thought: 'I' am a thinking thing, so when 'I' am not thinking (sleep, unconscious), 'I' do not exist. This is a problem for Descartes, but unlike Descartes, Marashi sees this as the beginning of the possibility of transcendence. So, because the self is just this collection of thoughts based around the 'I' concept, to go beyond it we merely have to realise this.

Quote
From where does this ‘I’ arise? Seek for it within; it then vanishes. This is the pursuit of wisdom. When the mind unceasingly investigates its own nature, it transpires that there is no such thing as mind. This is the direct path for all. The mind is merely thoughts. Of all thoughts the thought ‘I’ is the root. Therefore the mind is only the thought ‘I’.

But where does this leave us? The difference between Marashi and modern philosophy is that he sees this as a positive thing, whereas philosophers have traditionally seen this as a problem. Hume, for instance, saw this as a sceptical problem: we cannot directly experience the 'I' (it is an illusion). Therefore, we cannot conclusively prove the exist of the soul or non-material self. From here, modern philosophy falls back on materialism. If there is no such thing as an independent 'I', then we are just the body, or - more specifically - the brain. However, brains may be split, of we may make physical duplicates of them (to use a science fiction scenario), and therefore there is no such thing as a physical self either.

The upshot of the philosophical view is therefore very different to Marashi's view. The lack of a permanent self for materialist philosophers is a problem; for Marashi, it is liberating.

A deeper debate however would concern whether Marashi would consider that materialists are mistaken. I think he would, for to focus on matter as the only true reality is to focus on one aspect of experience. Also, from his other comments - correct me if I'm wrong - he would seem to support some form of dualism - i.e. that there is pure consciousness that is conjoined but ultimately separable from physical matter. This is where most philosophers would disagree, but it would depend on how Marashi defines this self of pure consciousness - even if the 'self' talked about here is Atman (the supreme self as part of the soul of the universe).

I'm still reading, but it's very interesting - many thanks for this.
« Last Edit: 31/08/09 @ 18:41 by Gareth Southwell » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: 01/09/09 @ 09:56 »

Just finished reading it, so one other quick observation.

It seems that dualism isn't perhaps the best characterisation of Marashi's thought, for he argues that Braham (the divine self) is all that is real. Everything else, then, is illusion. This is a form of idealism - that reality, as we know it, is the product of the mind. However, once we realise this, then matter and soul are equally part of this illusion. Therefore, the view is non-dualistic, and may possibly be considered a form of transcendental idealism, since consciousness is the true reality, and yet it exists beyond all conceptions and forms, for these are merely illusory by-products of the conscious process.

It's difficult to find a precise Western philosophical parallel to this. Berkeley is close in some respects, but not others. It also occurs to me that it is possible to interpret Marashi in two ways: by saying 'nothing is real apart from consciousness', he may be arguing either that - literally - consciousness is the only reality (an ontological assertion - only consciousness really exists), or he may only be arguing that we can only ever know our ideas, which are in turn the products of the mind (a form of idealism, and an epistemological position - i.e. concerning our knowledge).

I'll leave it there, I think, for that's enough to get the ball rolling for someone else to contribute!
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CygnusX1
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« Reply #4 on: 01/09/09 @ 21:15 »

!! Yes, it seems very close both to Descartes' own line of self-questioning, and his style of objectivity. Indeed almost the very next step that Descartes may have perhaps taken himself, (if he did not so easily resign himself and limit his conclusions merely to the thought of "I" or "I thought"). Yet notice that the final conclusion that God, (or Brahman), is the prime mover of thoughts and consciousness is the same. I guess that we may all still arrive ultimately at this same conclusion with almost little effort, (it is a natural tendency), and I personally have no problems resolving, ultimately these issues with God, although my position is more agnostic at present.

But can you get this to work? I am having great difficulties. Yet this may be due to some preconceptions I already hold concerning the "I – thought" and the Vedantin position.

The method seems very logical almost to the point of simplicity itself !
And note further down how Maharshi describes alternative methods for this same Self-realisation, methods derived from Yoga, "Neti, neti", (not this, not this), and Advaita, "I am", (Brahman), techniques in which he was also familiar.

Ultimately the same question still applies to all enquiries - "who am I?"

The Vedantin point of view, and specifically Advaita is that liberation consists precisely of the direct experience of Self – Pure consciousness, which "lifts the veil of ignorance" of dualistic separation and the notion of the "Self". And this has been adopted by many new age Christian tenets that aim to conjoin eastern philosophy with western traditional religion, (for example ACIM).

Regarding Idealism..

Both the beliefs of Hinduism and its philosophical position maintains that "all is Brahman", both material forms and pure consciousness awareness - which becomes entangled in dualistic separation and identifies itself as a derivative consciousness with a material form. Thus this simple (?) mistake leads to the misconception and creation of the Self,  the "I thought", and an ego, as pure consciousness resolves to reconcile its own existence in its ignorance (Avidya), as Self.

This is not so dissimilar to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition and declaration that "God is.." Also notice in the bible where God declares to Moses, "I am that I am".

Indeed these ideas specifically Advaita Vedanta is defined as pure-non dualism. Whilst the common misconception is the heretical position that it raises the consciousness of man to that and the same as of God, in fact it implies quite the reverse meaning, that we are all in fact the result of pure consciousness awareness, (the witness), that is ultimately Brahman itself?
Yet this is only one Vedantin position, there are six established schools of philosophical thought all of which differ slightly in relation and understanding of creation and of God, and yet do not directly contradict each other.

Yet all this is a topic of discussion that is better suited for "philosophy of religion", and which deviates from the main question of mind Vs Consciousness – which is the prime mover?

Is this a valid method of Self-enquiry? and would Descartes have approved of this technique?

 Smiley
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You are neither earth, water, fire, air or even ether.
For liberation know yourself as consisting of consciousness,
the witness of these.
[The Song of Ashtavakra (Ashtavakra Samhita) Chapter 1.3]
Gareth Southwell
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« Reply #5 on: Yesterday at 15:39 »

I think most arguments for the existence of God fall short of certain proof - which isn't to say that He doesn't exist, but merely that we may not be able to objectively prove it via logical argument. However, Marashi and Descartes seem to agree that the self consists of the 'I' thought.

I think the alternative methods Marashi describes (neti neti, etc.) are criticised by him, aren't they? He favours the approach via self enquiry ("who am I?").

What is ACIM?

As regards whether Descartes would have approved of this technique (if you mean Marashi's version of self-enquiry) then I think probably not. Marashi's technique, as he states, is not meant to act as a tool of intellectual discovery - you are not looking to arrive at more ideas (or, not just ideas); rather, you are searching for a means to overcome egoism and to realise the true nature of self. Descartes's method, however, is meant to give us intellectual knowledge alone: What is the self? Is it separate from the body? And so on. You might therefore say that Marashi's technique concerns experiential knowledge, whilst Descartes's concerns propositional knowledge.
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