Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Phenomenological Deconstruction (or Dissolution) of the Mind-Body Problem:

Descartes postulated the mind (actually my mind) as a thinking substance from the fact that I think. I know for sure that I think, therefore, I must exist as a thinking substance, i.e., the mind, of which my thoughts are attributes.

Descartes jumped to the idea of the material object ‘out there’ on the basis of his clear and distinct ideas and on the basis of his belief that God wouldn’t deceive him.

Once these two substances are established (I am not going into the detailed discussion of Descartes’ ideas of substance and attribute and or his notions of clear and distinct ideas – those do not, for my purposes, matter) then it would become a problem for Descartes as to how these diametrically substances could be related, as they seem to in our day-to-day experience, as for instance, when I foot strikes (an occurrence in the physical world), I feel the hurt (a mental phenomenon), and when I want to raise my arm (a thought, as it were), lo and behold, it goes up (a physical phenomenon).

Again, I do not need to go into Descartes’ solution of the mind-body problem, namely, his Interactionism. (Descartes apparently believed that both mind and body are incomplete substances (finite), neither of them capable of causing ‘modes’ in each other by themselves. But, according to the author I was reading, he believed that body and mind are related as potentiality and actuality and form and they together formed a more complete substance, called the human being which has the properties of voluntary bodily movement or visual perception of material objects etc. This is an unsatisfactory solution based on the unquestion assumption of body and mind being two separate substances somehow being united into a human being.) My interest here is just to show how the problem is generated by Descartes in the first place.

(It’s interesting that the mind-body problem never figured either in Buddhist philosophies or Hindu philosophies. There is no clear opposition between the mind and the body in these philosophies.)

My solution below may appear phenomenological; and it may appear to be subjective. But it is not purely subjective, as something of the sort can be repeated by other people:

1) In the field of pure awareness there is neither body nor mind: there are just images and sounds which can be interpreted as thoughts and things.

2) When I view the world, I have to abstract the things in the world from my impressions of them (sounds like Berkeley, doesn’t it!)

3) When I confuse the things abstracted with my impressions, then I can generate the mind-body paradox: how can a purely extended thing (abstracted from impressions) be related to a non-extended idea which is again abstracted from another impression?

4) I’ll have to show how I get to the pure awareness: First, I have to abstract the body awareness out. I could do that by letting go of all goals and desires, all the things that hook me to my thoughts. Then the thoughts themselves go. I am reduced to my body awareness. Even the body can be abstracted. The methods of meditation etc. that can be used here to achieve this state don’t really matter for the thesis I am presenting.

5) In that pure awareness the same images or sounds can be both images or sounds or they can be thoughts. This occurrence can be brought about by an event that is happening or resurgence of some memory or some other cause. The causes don’t really matter. What matters is that the abstraction can be repeated by other people and the result is pure awareness.

6) There is engagement and disengagement occurring when we view the images and sounds as thoughts or impressions.

The thoughts and impressions, once they are experienced as such, also present the subject object opposition – along with the opposition we not only have the idea that we are experiencing the world, but also that ‘we’ are experiencing the world.[1]

A parallel abstraction is made on the object side of the thoughts and impressions: then we have the material objects and from there it’s only one step more to the further abstraction of ‘matter’. Matter, of course, would have the extensible properties.

7) Here the two impressions follow one another (in the Humean fashion, and we establish a correlation and causation: ‘raising my hand causes it rise’ or ‘hitting a stone causes the pain sensation or feeling’). There is nothing more to causation than that. We don’t need to establish any more relationship than the correlation: just as when you probe an area in my brain with an electrode in a laboratory, I get the sensation of being pricked, or an image or a dream. Unless we establish by abstraction other entities such as the area of the brain as a material thing and my pain sensation as a mental thing and ask how these are related, there is no problem of relationship between mind and body.

Remark: Am I not reduced to a Berkeley sort of idealist position here? Notice, Berkeley had the problem of answering how there can be a tree when I am not looking at it. Actually, I don’t know, but I abstract. And I could very well be deceived, although normally the deception may not take place. I don’t have to maintain an independent object called the tree out there or a subject called myself in order to maintain objectivity of things or of other people.

Of course, we believe in these things. It doesn’t mean that we know that they exist independently. We believe that there are other people when we are not seeing them around, and other people tell us and we believe what they tell us. But does that mean we actually know that they are there?

I think our thesis is weak, unless we can establish some kind of epistemology here. The objection here would then be, I may be abstracting objects out of my impressions (and matter out of material objects), but we know they are not mere abstractions, for we believe (and other people believe too) that they exist independent of our impressions.

Then what is it to know their independent existence: If you take my thesis for granted, nothing would count as knowing it. Ontologically, you are left with nothing but impressions and awareness of them; everything else is a construction or an abstraction. Does it mean that all science is a concoction and has no validity? What about all the results of science and its technology? We do believe in them.

8. We take other people to exist primarily on the basis of our taking language as meaningful. This is the same act through which we take images as thoughts, experiences pointing to objects (or to oneself). How does meaning arise? By somehow the consciousness being linked (or attached or engaged) to an image or sound and looking at the object as a thing, or the sound coming from another person as meaningful. I participate in the dialogue and also see the other person as a person.

9. The notion of ‘abstraction’ needs to be made clear. I hear what someone says as noise, on the one hand, and, when I am viewing the same thing in the ‘intentional’ mode as meaning, as an idea referring to experiences and other people as well as myself, on the other hand.

Here are some specific examples of this: What look like the sounds coming from another person, by being in the intentional mode, I view as speech coming from a person. That’s because the same movement of becoming intentionally engaged also creates me as a person – I don’t just make sounds: through my talk I make sense, communicate and convey information and experiences. Once I am in the dialogue, I have no less evidence to conclude that the other person is a person than I, who am making these sounds, supposedly coming from my awareness and body, am a person. In other words, the abstractions are all intentional movements. They establish me and other people as well as the world as separate entities. Of course, then I have the philosophical problems about how I know them, or how one thing affects the others and so on.

Before, the abstraction, there are no metaphysical problems. We really don’t know that there are other people; but we don’t really know that we exist either, or that the world exists.

That’s essentially where my solution (or, rather, dissolution) of the mind-body problem is.

10. Remark: One might argue (like Wittgenstein) that I cannot assign any meaning to my impressions even unless I take certain uses of language given to me by my culture and society.

The question is not how I get the meanings; that’s immaterial. The causation of these impressions or the origin of the meanings of words is not important.

Then how do I know that these are valid or meaningful? I don’t. I just manage. The question does not arise until I am deceived or fail in my action.

What then? Don’t I have to take something ‘objective’, independent of myself, as the basis for the meaning and validity of my impressions?

The answer to this is that something is more objective only relative to something else. Where I get my knowledge, the sources, don’t matter, as far as I am concerned. Other people are abstractions (of course, I take their independent existence also for granted, as I have abstracted them from my impressions).

There is nothing fixed about meanings. We check, for sure meanings of our words with what we see as an objective ‘dictionary’. When we use we treat them as objective, until something else, or some one else gives us a different definition which might prompt us to revise this definition.

Remark 2: This seems like solipsism revisited. And we will definitely land in not just skepticism but also relativisms of all kinds.

Where is awareness, one might ask, except for my impressions of it, or rather my awareness. Surely, there is no none. There need not be any.

Remark 3: Disillusionment with goals etc. is an unnecessary adumbration in this thesis. We just need to stick to the rock bottom of impressions. Isn’t that what Hume did?

Remark 4: Then how is this thesis different from Hume’s? Hume actually denied not only matter but also mind. He said, just like we are saying, that both are constructions out of impressions. We don’t know either of them directly. Then how is it that Hume didn’t end up being a solipsist. He was and worse, he was a skeptic!

So, is this is a futile exercise?

If we ‘bracket out’ bodies and minds, we are left with just impressions. But then we have no ‘knowledge’? But who cares about knowledge?

11. I read the article by Thurman in the Online Journal of Indian Philosophy: It shows the parallels between Wittgenstein’s attack and Prasangikas’ attack on the private language theory.

It’s not so earth-shattering: I think the confusion arose because Wittgenstein and others were confusing between basing your knowledge on impressions and the privacy of the language on which one could refer to your sensations or impressions. Must the former imply the latter? Suppose we drive a wedge between the two: What we are saying is that your idea of the material objects and matter in general and the idea of minds are generated out of the impressions, or rather they are ‘abstracted’. Does that necessarily have to mean that this is some thing private to me, something which others cannot share?

Our interest is to show how the mind—body problem is generated in our experience; it doesn’t necessarily imply that other people don’t do the same thing. I am not necessarily arguing for a solipsistic position, namely, that all we know are nothing but my own sensations and impressions. What I am saying is more like phenomenalism, or rather like phenomenology which shows how the problems are constructed. It’s more like Kant’s transcendental argument which asks what must the case in order for us to experience such and such.

We are asking what must be the case in our experience for the mind-body problem to be generated. We are showing the presuppositions on which the problem is based. I am not saying that I have any privileged access to these sensations or impressions. Rather, I am saying that from my point of view the public is abstracted from the private, even my mind is abstracted from the sensations or awareness or impressions or what have you.

Of course, this won’t satisfy the hardcore phenomenalists (or what you call them) or materialists.

12. But the question still remains, how is my solution different from that of Hume? Hume assumed that there was a problem in the first place and he offered his solution to that. But then he ended in skepticism with regard to knowledge. My solution, whatever it is, must allow for some sort of relativistic knowledge without landing in skepticism. How is it possible?

But do I have to have a theory of knowledge to solve the mind-body problem. Just skip that part of it. I think it will work out fine.

13. I think everything centers on our notion of ‘abstraction’. What exactly is abstraction? How does it affect knowability of things? What is the resultant epistemological and ontological status of things after abstraction? These questions should probably be answered.

14. ‘Abstraction’ is just a way of saying that if we go in our experience ‘below’ the level of objects, to impressions, and the awareness which is even prior to them, there need not be a mind-body problem.

Then do the objects exist or do they not? Do minds exist or do they not? If they do, how do we know them?

We are not saying that we have a notion of the self, like Berkeley, or that the self is a bundle of impressions without a core, like Hume. We are saying that the self is an abstraction, much like the material object.

The idea of abstraction not akin to ‘superimposition’ in Advaita. If it is, we have to have a prior knowledge of the object somewhere to superimpose on the impressions.

15. ‘Abstraction’ is nothing but imposition of permanence to particular, fleeting sensations, impressions or images, and by adding time, or rather freezing in time, it adds a third dimension and solidity to material objects as well as substantiality to the self. We have to be putting together various sensations and attribute solidity to them and give them a third dimension. Just as we assign solidity to objects, we assign the status of a state to our experiences and place them in time. How this is done? It seems that as our memory and past come to bear upon the present, it’s an automatic process.

First, an image or ‘sound’ becomes a thought when your awareness is engaged to it. The same thing is viewed then as an object with a subject pole.

Two, when in perception an object is recognized as such, i.e., as an object, it too is like an object of thought with its subject pole. Then you can get the further awareness that you are seeing the object.

Three, you get the further awareness that the object exists out there, independent of you. No further abstraction is needed here.

Four, when you perceive several of these objects, you can then abstract the idea of a material object or thing as such, as opposed to my thought of it, perception of it, while at the same time you get the idea that I am thinking these thoughts. I get the idea that I am behind all my thoughts and perceptions, much like matter is behind all the material objects.

Fifth, then I start thinking about the relationship between my perception of the object and the object as such, or between my thought and the object (correspondence), the relationship between my perceptions and thoughts and myself as well as my relationship between my body and thoughts, the body itself being a material thing, although I seem to be in it, having it, etc.

Sixth, I think about how I feel what happens to my body, and am able to move my body according to my thoughts and feelings.

What is the relationship between my thought and my body, then, except that from my point of view they are both something which I perceive, and there seems to be a correlation between them.

The problem of mind-body relationship is a problem which exists in my perceived world. I also ask about what the relationship between another person’s body and what he says which indicate his thoughts.

Notice that in none of this does the private language question rises!

16. Mind-Body Relationship: For myself there is no problem, because both the thought or sensation or feeling and my body are mine. I am not two separate things to be somehow related. There are two sets of things happening in me or to me, if you wish. There is only a succession, as far as I am concerned. No other relationship need exist, because they are both mine. The question of my being two separate entities called body and mind doesn’t arise except in abstraction. I move my arm and once I have an abstract notion of the body, then the same event is interpreted as the arm of my body moving, as if I were something apart from my body. Same goes with my thoughts. They are not separate from me.

The problem of the relationship comes into question when one of them doesn’t go along with the other: as for instance, when I want to stop doing something, and my body, against my will, keeps doing it, when my mind is willing and my flesh is not, or when something happens to my mind (I lose awareness like in anesthesia) and my body seems to remain (for other people) without my awareness. Then a clear separation is made between my mind and my body and we ask the question of how these two are related. But the proper expression here, in order to avoid the mind-body problem, is that I am willing (or I like to do something), but I cannot do it, or my body doesn’t obey or some such thing.

Notice, even here I talk as if I am two separate things, I and my body, as if my body is separate from me.

Death is a special case. I cannot envisage my own death except by extrapolation from other people: I notice other people’s bodies becoming lifeless, and I attribute something parallel to myself, although I have no way of experiencing it directly.

Similarly, you say when I go crazy, my mind is gone. If I am not there, my mind cannot be mine any more, because nothing is mine without me being there. Others may it is mine, but I can’t.

Conclusion: The mind-body problem is generated, not as much out of a misuse of language, but out of certain natural assumptions and abstractions made from my immediate experience. Once, these assumptions are questions, there should be no problem remaining.

You can also say it’s the result of confusing the first and third person points of view.

18. What about other minds? I know only other people’s behavior, that is, what they say and do, and the expressions of their thoughts in words or expressions of their feelings in behavior and what they say. But that’s what constitutes other people to me, not other minds. We often wonder how the other person feels, because we feel that we can’t really feel their feelings.

[1] Berkeley’s notion of the self (as based on a ‘notion’) is probably based on such an experience.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Other Minds, Privacy and Private Language:

I think I get to recognize the other person as a person when several things go on either simultaneously or in different order: 1) I recognize the other person through looking into his eyes (Sartre’s ‘look’). Of course, something from my past experience must enable me to recognize the person as that person. Otherwise, it is just a person. 2) The fact that the other person speaks a language which I can understand and respond to gives me a basis to recognize the other person as a person. Notice how we are enamored by speech coming from the radio or television or a cash register or telephone. 3) There is one more important factor: that we have some sort of interaction with the other person through language or some other dealing. We are engaged in a dialogue, and we are involved with each other. There is the ‘you-I’ dialogue. Then the recognition of the other person is automatic. It is not that we are always explicitly conscious of the fact, but our dealings and behavior betray our recognition.

These are at the bottom even when we hate or are angry at someone. When someone mows down whole groups of people with a gun, it’s not clear what sort of attitude a person has. He could be treating them as mere things or animals or he could think that they are just a bunch of enemies to be gotten rid of.

What’s interesting to note here is that there is no special problem of knowing other minds in these contexts. For practical, day-to-day purposes, the recognition is all that matters and that’s what constitutes knowledge of other minds.

The rest is based on some philosophical mind-body dualism which didn’t need to exist in the first place.

* * *

“I know how you feel,” is something we say to other people either simply to express our sympathy or indicate that we have been in a similar situation in our past or that we have had a similar experience.

I think George Herbert Mead is correct in saying that recognition of other people is a developmental phenomenon. We are taught to separate ourselves from other people, to be aware of other people as others and to be aware of ourselves as separate from them. We don’t make such distinctions to begin with. Notice how a child (or as a matter of fact, even a grown up – I have seen this in UG when he cried watching Suguna crying) cries in pain when the mother is in pain by being ill-treated or for whatever other reason.

Such empathy is based on the fundamental non-division between the self and others. You can call that identification, which may in fact be the basis for UG’s saying, “What happens there happens here.”

There are many issues of privacy in the area of knowledge of other minds, but I think the problems get confused when you tie them to the private language controversy generated by Wittgenstein. (I mean here the idea that only I have access to my feelings and therefore, only I can know them, assuming that there is a private language through which I refer them to myself.)

Privacy and Private Language:

Your mind is private in the sense your thoughts are private (if you don’t reveal to me), your feelings are private and what you do or did, or intend to do is private.

You say “you don’t know how I feel.” You could as well say “you can’t know how I feel.” There are some senses in which these statements are true and some in which they are false. I could have been in similar circumstances or had similar experiences in the past as you are having now. Still, I can’t have your feelings, because I can’t be you no matter how much I try -- much like I can’t be that television set in front me. In order to have your feelings, in some sense I must be you. But if I can’t be you, then I can’t have your feelings, therefore, I can’t know your feelings. To know your feelings here is tantamount to having them. So, to say “only I can know my feelings” just amounts to saying “only I can have my feelings.” In this sense Wittgenstein is right.

I can’t know what you are going to do, or what you intend to do, because you keep your thoughts and intentions (which are also thoughts) to yourself and do not reveal to me. I can’t know what you have been doing, because you keep them secret, and I have no access to that information.

But that situation is different from knowing your thoughts: there are times we do say I am thinking exactly the same thing as you are. Or, you say, “Are you thinking the same thing as I am?” There is no mystery in this. We can verify this by comparing our thoughts by expressing them to each other in spoken or written word.

In this sense, we can even compare each others’ feelings by giving a description of how each of us feels about a situation. Another person could say to me, “I feel the same way” in a given situation, perhaps meaning that his description of how he feels is similar to my description how I feel in that situation.

There is no other mystery about other minds as far as I can see.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Desire, Pleasure and Tension

I learned from ‘network chiropractic’ that desire represents tension in the nervous system. I once mentioned to UG without disclosing the source where I got that idea. He agreed and said, “Yes, it is.”

This was borne out further in my own experience. When I let go of everything and am able to accept things as they happen, then my system relaxes totally. Then either I relax into the body and eventually fall asleep, or get into a state of awareness where there is no self, but just being, and sometimes states of ecstasy.

But you can’t remain there forever. Something draws your attention and you are caught in this or that activity or thought process. Then again, you are aware of things as when they are finished or you are finished with them, and you revert to the state of passivity, of letting go.

There is a certain instability in the state of desirelessness or absence of thought. There is always a pull in the direction of seeking pleasure which keeps looking for things in the past which might give pleasure now. And then you get lost in that memory, experience, and pleasure-seeking, or whatever. Of course, if you are aware of it, you can return to Ground Zero.

The real test of freedom is the ability to stop anything you are doing at the moment, however important it is, to be totally detached from it and divert attention to whatever else is needed. That ability and flexibility is what enable one to step out of any emotion, disappointment, depression etc., let alone the current activity.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Reflecting on Reflection

In the article below, I made ‘reflection’ sound like a thought process which is bound to perpetuate the self, which it surely does. But there is another sense of ‘reflection’: a reflection which is aware of all this, and this process of generation of goals and being bound by them, or continuing through them, and in the very process of being aware of them, dissolving them by letting them go.

This is a continual process: not that it is done in volitional way; it’s something that happens rather automatically. In the flame of awareness, goals burn away and therefore all the rubbish that is generated from pursuing the goals. And thoughts dissolve themselves.

It may be generated by the awareness of the pursuit of a goal and therefore could be called itself a thought, but once it is generated it dissolves the process rather than strengthen it.

Of course, there may be a motivation behind it, the motivation being to be rid of the pursuit of the goal, with the further motivation of being enlightened etc. But as long as it doesn’t generate further goals and process of seeking, it doesn’t matter if there is. It’s a movement of letting go, letting everything go, including life itself, and letting reflection go. It’s done in full awareness. It’s not a movement of one thought chasing another thought, like a dog pursuing its own tail.

If, on the other hand, this reflection perpetuates the self, by generating a sense of pride and achievement (of enlightenment!), maybe it is so; hopefully, that will happen in my awareness too. If I am deceiving myself in this, that’s life. I let it be.

Then I land in the body awareness or awareness in which thoughts, images or sounds may come and go.

I may later be dragged into action or pursuit of a goal. But then I can drop the pursuit of the goal whenever I find that it is complicating my life and binding me further. Again, I may be playing games with myself. But that’s the best I can do.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

On the Division between Spiritual and Worldly Goals

1) I said in the paper below, “by ‘goals’ I do not mean the goals necessary for day-to-day living, but goals for self-improvement and self-fulfillment – goals which involve the ‘self’ in some fashion or other. While the former set of goals will have no relevance and cease to be once they are achieved, the latter persist in our consciousness and create endless striving. Indeed, the continuity of the ‘self’ is perpetuated by the contemplation and striving for these goals.”

And Vito raised a question about this distinction:

“But in your essay you also talk as though the rational mind has its
legitimate place in solving “practical” problems.
As you put it,
“I have to use thought to solve problems, for sure, to plan ahead
and to organize my life – in short, to lead a successful life in this
complex civilization.” But what is it that requires us to “plan ahead,”
and what is to count as a “successful” life?
When I retired, with
a pension of $1500, our financial adviser thought we were nuts.

The definition of “financial security” is itself another thought
Do you see what I am getting at?  I think that the dichotomy spiritual:
practical may be shaky.
It may be that everything is thought, that
the mind entirely pervades human functioning and we can’t get rid of

And so did Elliot (see below). Now is the time to discuss this issue:

Is this distinction that clear-cut? When my goal is to make money, does that not also involve my self? When I make money, I feel elated, when I lose it I feel lost. Will I ever stop making money? Then isn’t that a spiritual goal?

A typical goal of going to some place just drops off when we arrive there. But it’s not so simple with other goals. Many of these wants are generally part of other wants, means to other goals. When the bigger ones are satisfied we find going after other wants or more of the same (better food or more of the same food, for example.) In this same example, of course, when you finish cooking a meal, the desire to cook that meal comes to a stop. But another desire is instantly formed from the success of it; viz., I must cook something like this again, or cook a different thing again. Or if the cooking is not successful, I say I must do it better again. Desiring, based on goal-formation, is something, as Hobbes says, which only ceases in death.

2) There is a constant restlessness in us which keeps seeking goals, wanting us to become something other than ourselves. On the one hand, this is based on our awareness of what we are at the moment, which evaluates the present condition and posits a goal to make it continue, or make it better etc.

On the other hand, we also have a restlessness which looks for anchoring, seeking some foundation. Notice this condition when we have nothing to do, when for just a moment, the mind is blank. Why does it have to go anywhere, become anything else or do anything?

It seems that, therefore, in the ultimate analysis, all goals are spiritual goals. They all want to make you better, change you into something other than what you are.

So where does that leave us?

3) Pleasure-seeking, goal-seeking, becoming something other than oneself etc. must all amount to the same thing. They are all goal-seeking behaviors. In other words, whatever we do, directly or indirectly involves goal-seeking or pleasure-seeking.

Still, when Elliot asked me the question whether money-making is worldly or spiritual, I said that it is worldly, as long as you can quit it when you have as much as you want or satisfied with. In other words, money can be worldly or spiritual depending on whether you can let go of the goal when you have enough of it.

That doesn’t mean you are free from all pleasure-seeking goals. If not money, you will be seeking something else.

To stop the movement of goals means you have to ‘die’! When for just a moment the movement stops, there is a strong impetus to go after something, to think about something, to become something. It’s a very unstable situation! You have to accept death and be disillusioned about all goals. Then you will probably recede into the body and be a mere awareness, at least temporarily.

And when you are drawn by some situation into action, then you can just do what’s needed for the moment and get back to ‘dying’ again! Even if that involves what may seem to be goal-seeking or pleasure-seeking.

4) Then there is the factor of thought complicating the issue: More often than not, thinking is not such an innocent function. It’s most of the time used to perpetuate or continue the self in some fashion or other. That means, there is a goal-seeking, pleasure-seeking activity going on whenever you think. At times, the mere recognition of an object is enough to judge and evaluate and therefore to seek a goal. Perhaps there are moments when you get tired of the whole thing, go into a mode of mere reflection.

5) But what is reflection? Isn’t it another form of perpetuating the self? Yes, in the absolute sense. Even when you are aware that you are aware of images and sounds! And as long as there is brain activity, it may just have to go on. Then what the hell is all this writing about? Why am I doing it?

6) That’s why UG kept saying that you have to clinically die! There is no final solution to problems except the final solution!

But then in UG’s case at least, there may be thought functioning without there being a thinker and without its perpetuating the self.

But until then, at least relatively speaking, you could be disillusioned with goals and attain some amount of peace. Or is that another one of our grand delusions!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

“There is Nothing to be Transformed”

On the one hand, UG seems to assert that you accept yourself exactly as you are and that there is no need to change anything. On the other hand, he himself couldn’t accept people’s behavior and wouldn’t tolerate their behaving in a certain way. He would do everything to change it or ask them to change it.

In all fairness, it must be admitted that no matter what he says and does, when things already happen in a certain way or done in a certain way, UG would never question them. He would simply accept them. When something like a flat tire or a car accident happens, his question was always, "What next?" No blame, no regret; only what has to be done next. But before things happened, he might want to change them.

When it comes to personal problems of an emotional nature, he would always encourage people to accept the situation; for example, if a person has a phobia of some kind, he would encourage that person to accept it. Sometimes he would ask people to make amends with those with whom they were at odds, if such were possible, etc.

But how about people’s lives and behavior? If there is nothing to be changed, then why should they do anything? Surely when it came to matters of making a living, UG is all in favor of developing and exploiting your talents in this world.

So, what exactly is it that doesn’t need to be transformed? UG means spiritual transformation. His interest is mainly to show that all these spiritual practices to transform oneself into something more sublime, to become some higher being, are a waste of time, because there is no Self there to be transformed and what is there doesn’t need to be transformed.

It doesn’t mean you don’t have to live in this world and be related to other people. Toward that end, people have to do various things to adjust their behavior to the world around them; that includes having to deal with him.

Notice that from a distance, UG wouldn’t deal with someone unless they want to deal with him (I noticed many times he didn’t have a thing to say to a stranger because the stranger would keep mum). But if you came close to him or interfere with his daily routine, he certainly would take you to task. He would not tolerate hypocrisy, inefficiency, indolence or possessiveness. He might attack or poke fun at you or what not. Yet people know that no matter what they were, they were still accepted and allowed to be around him.

Freedom or no freedom? There was many a time when UG said that there is no such thing as freedom. How does one reconcile this statement with his constant prodding people to do this or that, to succeed in the world, make money, exploit your talents or what not?

Without getting lost in the maze of the controversy of determinism vs. freewill, I think the answer simply lies in UG’s idea that our behavior is conditioned by our background, and whatever we do is governed by the pleasure principle, i.e., our search for pleasure and avoidance of pain. The pleasure principle is what perpetuates the continuity of the self. Within these parameters, we can still do various things as governed at the moment by the pleasure principle. For instance, if you want to get ahead in life, you do (and can do) such and such; to woo your girlfriend, you have to give her nice gifts and praise her beauty and so forth.

These are choices to be made within the parameters of the pleasure principle. The specific pleasures, such as the pleasure from winning a girlfriend, are determined by circumstances, your background and what you are exposed to. But outside those parameters, there is no freedom. You are stuck with the pleasure principle. Whatever action you do on the basis of whatever idea you have is all determined by it and you don’t have the freedom to change any of that. That includes all the efforts you make to attain enlightenment and so forth.

It doesn’t mean that the effort always bears fruit; on the contrary, some of it, like our striving for enlightenment, is misguided and will never bear fruit, for it only strengthens the self instead of free you from it.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reflection 2

The skeptical questions are based on a point of view, namely, that life must have some value and that it must amount to something. In other words, he is not willing to just go! If he does, there is no problem remaining!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Reflection 1


Each thought is from a certain point of view. As long as a point of view is there you will keep thinking. The point of view is itself another thought. When you can trace the thought to the point of view and question the point of view, the thought is gone. The point of view may be just any hang-up or hook-up (or attachment of some kind).

Playing the Skeptic: The big skeptical question is that this whole approach reduces one to ashes. One might claim that something might take over and that might act in some fashion. But the plain fact of the matter is that you won’t be there to know or experience or enjoy or suffer it. Take enjoyment, for instance: What I notice is that you couldn’t even use the term ‘enjoyment’ anymore, when the experience only lasts a split second and then something else is there in its place.

And when you recede into the awareness, it looks like everything in life is falling apart and people, actions, events, relationships etc. don’t make any difference. Then I could as well be dead!

Then what is the virtue of all this teaching? Just that I’ll supposedly be free from suffering? To be sure, psychological pain is pulverized, being broken up into pieces. But physical pain is always there drawing it to your attention. You are never going to be free from. It doesn’t even matter if you don't concatenate different sensations into a state of mind which has continuity or you do.