Advaita Vision

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Advaita for the 21st Century

An Introduction to Vedanta
Part XXXV
Dr. K. Sadananda

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Part XXXV– Conscious and Unconscious entities

In the realization of oneself, the creator-creation and the self all merge into one that is Brahman that I am. We will now address the question of how the notion that ‘I am an individual’ arises, or what is the nature of the individual (jIva) and what is its relation to Brahman.

When I say ‘I am’ (aham asmi), the ‘I’ refers to the consciousness aspect and the ‘am’ refers to the existence aspect. However, when I introduce myself, who I am, I will start with ‘I am’ plus additional information that distinguishes myself from all others beings in the world. We have already noted earlier that being a subject, ‘I’ cannot be defined, since any definition objectifies the subject. Hence, all the distinguishing features that are used for ‘I’ to define myself, do not belong to ‘I’, the subject, but belong to ‘this’ - this object that I can point out.

When I say I am this body, this mind or this intellect, I am equating the subject I with the object ‘this’. There is obviously an inherent confusion in the very definition for ‘I’ that I use, since I am equating a conscious-existent entity, ‘I’, with an unconscious entity ‘this’. ‘This’ normally refers to either to my body, my mind or my intellect. For example, when I say I am five and half feet tall, weigh 150lbs, was born in India, studied and worked as a scientist in US, am married to so and so, and father of so and so, orbited 62 times around the sun, etc. - these all refer to this body, mind and/or intellect complex that I am fully conscious of.

I can go on with my bio data, providing pages and pages of information ‘all about myself’, but in reality nothing about myself. All these pages only contain attributes at my body level, my relationships at emotional or mind level and my accomplishments at an intellect level. I can say nothing more about myself beyond that. I also cannot stop my introduction just with a statement ‘I am’ period, although that is all that can be said about the subject I. Hence, in my understanding of myself as an individual ‘I am’, I combine two things: ‘I am’ – an existent-conscious entity that I am; and ‘this’ – an inert entity that corresponds to body/mind/intellect (BMI) with which I identity at that instant.

By definition, that which has attributes is an inert entity. Hence, all my bio-data correspond to my BMI, which are inert entities, while ‘I’ am a conscious entity. Here, we have a peculiar combination of ‘I’ the conscious entity identifying with local equipments BMI, which are inert. This unholy combination results in an individual ‘I’ that is different from all other individuals in the universe. We are able to live in this confused world only because everybody is equally confused and is making the same mistake of false identification of ‘self’, ‘I’, with the non-self, ‘this’.

Proceed to the next essay.

Other Essays in this Section:
01. The common questions. 27. The Mind of God.
02. Search for happiness. 28. The Paradox of Space and Time.
03. Questions about Religions and God. 29. Living in the Present.
04. Belief that we are Mortal, Unhappy and Ignorant. 30. Relationless Relation.
05. You are not what you take yourself to be. 31. Concept of Ishvara or God-Hood.
06. Problem Definition. 32. Self-realization or God-realization.
07. Vedanta as pramANa. 33. Self realization - attitude of mind.
08. shravaNa, manana and nididhyAsana. 34. Consciousness and reflected consciousness.
09. Experience versus Knowledge. 35. Conscious and Unconscious Entities.
10. Who am I or what am I not? 36. Real Self and false self.
11. Ego or ahaMkAra. 37. Transmigration of Soul.
12. All about the universe. 38. Witnessing consciousness and reflected consciousness.
13. Creation according to Vedanta. 39. Analysis of Mind: Intro part 1
14. Description of brahman. 40. Analysis of Mind: Intro part 2
15. Progressive teaching method: svarUpa lakShaNa. 41. Mind and Matter: Part 1
16. Carpets and Schrödinger's Cat. 42. Mind and Matter: Part 2
17. Attribute and Substantive. 43. Classification of the Mind: Part 1
18. Does the world exist independent of an observer? 44. Classification of the Mind: Part 2
19. Brahman and the world. 45. Classification of the Mind: Part 3
20. The Cognitive Process. 46. Classification of the Mind: Part 4
21. Perception of the world. 47. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 1
22. What does negation involve? 48. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 2
23. Errors in Perception. 49. Fundamental Human Problem: Part 3
24. adhyAsa or error superimposition. 50. vAsanA-s part 1
25. What is Real? 51. vAsanA-s part 2
26. Transformation-less transformation. 52. Viewpoints of reality.

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