Thursday, 24 February 2011

Radiohead - A Theory of of Mind/Body

Conventional science believes that the brain is the seat of consciousness.

Well, I can go along with that, to an extent.

One of ways that scientists come to that conclusion is by prodding around in brains. Or by examining the behaviour of beings (human beings or other-species beings) with damaged brains. They come to the conclusion that, as behaviour is altered when the brain i altered, this proves that consciousness is a property of the brain.

In other words, there is no need for any theory of consciousness as separate from the brain, and certainly no need to postulate a soul or spirit that inhabits the brain/body.

Scientists can prove that the brain 'generates' consciousness, because they can manipulate different parts of the brain, and show predictable results. If we mess around with one part of the brain, then the sense of social conscience is lost. If we mes around with another part of the brain, the ability to recognise faces is lost, etc.

This is taken to mean that these parts of the brain 'are responsible for' these aspects of our conscious being. The whole thing is wrapped up, and no further thought need be given to it. The so called consciousness is just a illusion created by the way thee varous parts of the brain interact. Its just electrical impulses, nothing more.


I have a box on desk that talks to me.

There is a voice coming from the box, so, it makes sense that the voice comes from within the box.

I open the box up to see, and there are a complex system of wiring and weird shaped things.

I finda few bits that move. When I move them, the voice changes. When I move one thing, the voice gets louder or quieter. When I move another, the voice changes to music, or to a different voice. Maybe to a strange voice talking about 'Dogger, Backing South 5 to 7'!

If I mess around with some of the other parts, I sometimes et screeching and howling. If I mess about to much, it dies.

It's quite obvious that this voice originates from the complicated machinery in the box.

Of course, it doesn't. And we all know I'm describing a radio. Funny thing is, someone from a couple of hundred years ago might reach these conclusions, and a modern scientist might scoff at them or not understanding radio waves.

Of course, the way a radio works is that there is a field permeating the space all around us, and tis field is called 'electromagnetic radiation', or radio waves. The radio is just receiving equipment. It 'tunes in' to the electromagnetic field, and as a consequence, manifests sounds.

Different radios can be tuned to different channels, and even radios tuned to the same channel sound different. Some are louder, some quieter, some are hi-fidelity, some are 'cheap trannies', these days, some are digital!

The same thing is happening in the brain.

Space is infused with another field, called 'consciousness', or 'Brahman', or 'God'. Same difference.

Brains are receiving equipment for consciousness. This is so obvious to anyone but a scientist!

Some receptors are very good. Some receptors give a perfectly clear reception of the true nature of the consciousness field. Our Guru is one such.

Some receptors are less good. Some add their own 'colouration' to the field. The nature of the equipment influences how the field is manifest. Like a radio that has too much bass, or is too 'tinny'.

Some receptors give a great deal of distortion. Such as criminals and those who are so called 'evil'.

Some give quite a clear sound, but somehow lose all the subtlety and nuance. You can tell the equipment is receiving, but you can't make out quite what is being received. Such are animals and Liverpudlians (JOKE! :-).

Some objects are permeated by the field, but barely pick it up at all. Such are trees and mountains, planets and stars.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Monday, 21 February 2011

Remaining Verses

A few thoughts on BG 3.32 - 35.
32. But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and misunderstand everything, become lost and are the cause of their own suffering.
33. All beings act according to their own nature, even the wise. Why try to force anything to be otherwise?
34. It is natural for the sense o be attracted to that which is pleasant and to reject the unpleasant, but you must not come under the power of these two forces, because they are your enemies.
35. It is better to perform your own duty imperfectly, than someone else's perfectly. In fact, it is better to die in ones own duty, because following someone else's path is dangerous.
Taking these one at a time...
32. But those who, out of envy, disregard these teachings and misunderstand everything, become lost and are the cause of their own suffering.
This pretty much speaks for itself, but is perhaps worth adding some emphasis.
Become the cause of their own suffering.
Noone else. Nothing else, is the cause of our suffering, but ourselves.
We are each, individually, the cause of our own personal individual suffering.
And the cause of this suffering is that we forget, or are ignorant of, this teaching of the Gita: that everything that is in the manifest world is just the interaction of forces with other forces, again interacting with other forces...
Our suffering come because, not realising that we have no impact on the world, and the world has no impact on us, we imagine that the leaf swept along by the currents of the river, swirled by turbulence and bashed on the rocks, is who we are. We forget that we are actually the serene bird in the tree, simply observing the leaf with dispassionate compassion.
33. All beings act according to their own nature, even the wise. Why try to force anything to be otherwise?
Why try to force anything to be otherwise? Notice the 'try', ad the 'force'. We make heavy work for ourselves when we fight against what the world gives us. We can try all we want, we will not change a thing.
If we see change, and we believe it is as a consequence of our actions, that is also a delusion. Whatever happened was going to happen anyway.
If we choose not to act, so meaning it doesn't happen, then that is what was going to happen anyway.
34. It is natural for the sense to be attracted to that which is pleasant and to reject the unpleasant, but you must not come under the power of these two forces, because they are your enemies.
It seems the most thing in the world. Indeed in it's essence, it is the very basis of the survival instinct. Reject what is bad, accept what is good.
Te important thing here is 'you must not come under the power'.
It does not say 'you must ignore your instinct'. If something is bad, move away from it. Don't be affected by it. Don't feel fear or revulsion. Observe the bad situation, take it for what it is: forces of nature acting on other forces of nature, in such a way that you don't wish to be around them. See them, and move away.
If you can't move away, then its because you are an essential part of that particular pattern, working itself out. Bear with it. See it still as forces of nature acting other forces of nature. Recognise yourself not as the leaf in the wind, but as the observer of the leaf. See what comes, and, as the saying goes, roll with it.
It's at this point that most people say 'that's easier said than done'!
Of course it is.
Nobody said it would be easy.
But what do you want?
Do you want to get embroiled in the turbulence, forget your true nature as the unperturbed devine spirit, and just go with it being a horrible situation, and cause yourself more strife y struggling against forces so much ore vast than the puny leaf on the mighty river?
Or do you want to at least try to let go?
Do you want to at least make an effort to step back, take a breath and identify yourself with that still small voice?
The longer you use 'easier said than done' as an excuse for not doing, the longer it will be before you, personally, stop saying an start doing!
But that's okay too, because that also is already decided.
35. It is better to perform your own duty imperfectly, than someone else's perfectly. In fact, it is better to die in ones own duty, because following someone else's path is dangerous.
Might save this one for tomorrow...

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Bhagavad Gita 3.29 - 31

Continuing my look at the verses selected for the next Mrityunjaya meeting, lets move on to verse 29:
29. Those who are deluded by the qualities of material nature become attached to material activities.
The cause of attachment to material activities is delusion brought on by misunderstanding of the qualities of material nature.

The nature of the misunderstanding was mentioned previously: the idea that we carry out actions, and that we have a a conscious free-will.

It is this delusion of our activity in the world that gives rise to us believing we have some kind of investment in what goes on. We believe, mistakenly, that we are making decisions, and we are carrying out actions, and therefore we feel a sense of responsibility and ownership for the results of those actions. We also believe that just as we make our decisions and our own choices, so do other people. So when someone else does something that contradicts our expectations and desires, we get all hot under the collar about that, too.

It is our delusional belief that we are acting and being acted up by others that leads us to this feeling of interacting with the world, when in fact our true nature is as observer of the world.
30. Dedicating all actions to Me, meditating on the Supreme Spirit, becoming free from the wising and selfishness fever, you must fight!
We all know that 'fight' is figurative, and part of the story structure of the Gita, and that what it really means that we must do our duty. We must carry out our lives by following our Dharma and our samskaras.

And we can best achieve this by dedicating al actions to Krishna (or however you choose to name your conception of the Devine). So we perform our actions, to the best of our abilities, but we do them not for ourselves, but for God. Keeping God in mind at all times, we perform our duties with no selfishness, and no formulation of wishes for the results or outcome of our actions, as our actions are not ours, they belong entirely to God.
31. Whoever constantly practices tis teaching of Mine, with pure faith and without complaint, is released from karma.
Released from karma.

I can think of two ways of interpreting this: The way for mere mortals, and the real deeper meaning that applies only to those really elevated beings we hear about on occasion.

The interpretation for mere mortals, such as myself:

Released from Karma does not really mean 'released from karma'. Karma is a natural law and applies to everyone and everything. What this means is, because you are no longer attached, you are no longer impacted emotionally, intellectually or otherwise by the events that occur to you. Stuff still happens, but you understand that it's not really you it is happening to. Stuff is happening, and it's just forces of nature acting on other forces of nature. You are not involved in it anywhere. You just observe, perform your duty with dedication to God.

But what it really mean is:
Karma is a natural law. That's like saying 'released from the laws of physics'. Hmmm.

Well, some people are that released. Some people so seriously 'grok' that they are not in this world, that they are just the observer, that they are genuinely no longer bound by it's laws.

Maharaji swallowed enough LSD give an elephant the trip of it's lifetime, but it had no effect on him at all. Because, tripping is the consequence that follows if one is subject to the laws of nature, and Maharaji was not so subjected. Te laws of physics state that you can only be in one place at one time. Maharaji was frequently seen in multiple places at the same time. He would be at a festival in Brindavan, with hundreds of devotees, and on the same day he would be in his Kainchi ashram with hundreds of others. The laws of physics say this is impossible. But Maharaji was not subject o the laws of physics.

Karma is just another such law, and in the final stage, freedom from karma ia accompanied by freedom from all limits.

This type of miracle is very rarely mentioned in the Satyananda tradition. It's not a tradition with a big focus on the sensational, but when we were in Rikhia in October, I was taling to one of the Swamis, and they mentioned something. They mentioned that at one of the big events where many people are fed at the ashram, the feast was underway, and the person managing the kitchen came to realise that people were taking much more of the sweets than had been anticipated, and there would be a considerable shortage, and not everyone would be served.

So the kitchen wallah ran to Paramahamsa-ji and said 'Paramahamsa-ji, we are running out of sweets, and there will not be enough for everyone!'

Before Paramahamsa-ji could answer, another swami ran in and said 'Paramahamsa-ji, the sweet seller from Deoghar has just arrived with two carloads of sweets. He decided to close shop today, and give them all to you!'

Paramahamsa-ji turned to the first fellow and said, 'Why are you bothering me about having too few sweets! You can see we have plenty!'

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Our Ernie

Just to keep things nice and fair...

Monday, 7 February 2011

February Verses - 3.28

I said I had some thoughts on this verse. And I do.
Hopefully I'll be able to express them.

Here's the verse:
28. But those who know the truth, O Arjuna, understand the relationship between the gunas and action, and are not attached.
Or from Mascaro:
28. But the man who knows the relation between the forces of Nature and actions, sees how some forces of Nature work upon other forces of Nature, and becomes not their slave.
We'll have to excuse the 'man' references. Genderless pronouns are not very comfortable in the English language.

So, 'the man who knows the relation beween the gunas and action'.

This is quite strong stuff. In these two verses (this and verse 27) is the denial of free will, and the statement that it is the belief in free will that causes suffering (attachment).
"the man lost in selfish delusion thinks that he himself is the actor"
So says verse 27. So, to believe oneself the actor is delusional. But, if I am not the actor, then what is the actor?
in fact all actions are carried out by the [...] qualities of nature.
All actions are carried out by the qualities of nature. Not by me.
...some forces of Nature work upon other forces of Nature...
So, action, or change, is just forces of nature acting upon each other. No mention of conscious decision. Because, from the perspective of the Gita, so called conscious decision is just another action. And so it comes about by the acting of forces of Nature upon one another.

In other words, there is no conscious decision. A 'decision' is just a consequence of the interacting forces of Nature. The idea that we can decide anything, is delusional. The idea that we act.

So all of existence, including our own actions, and the delusion that we ourselves take those actions, is merely the ebb and flow of cause and effect. It is the eddying of the flow of karma.

And it is by not realising this that we become involved in the world. We believe we are making our own decisions, and we believe we are making our actions, and when things turn out other than we expect, we get unhappy. And when things go as we wish, we get happy. We either become attached to what is, or we become attached to what is not.

If, on the other hand, we see material existence as simply the interplay of the forces of nature, and we understand that we (or what we perceive as 'we') are just a leaf floating on the eddies of karma, then we can avoid attachment. We can float through life without being battered against the rocks.

So we don't change anything by our actions. Because our actions are not our actions. Whatever we do, no matter how much we agonise over it, that's what was always going to happen, and he only thing we achieved by agonising over the decision was the creation of agony. Or rather, the illusion of agony, in our illusory minds.

The Bhagavad Gita needs a word. Unfortunately, the word was not invented until about 1960. That word is 'grock'. Grock is a martian word.

The Gita says:
28. But those who know the truth, O Arjuna, understand the relationship between the gunas and action, and are not attached.
Well, I know that truth. But I'm not liberated. But that's because the Gita meant to say 'those who grock the truth'.

Robert Heinlein invented the work grock. It means to know. Not just to know, but to REALLY know. To have something so fundamentally in your knowingness that it goes beyond mere knowing, and is fundamental to your truth.

For example, I am Phil Lewis. I grock that completely. There is nothing anyone can say or do to convince me I am actually someone else. I breathed in just now. I don't just know that: I grock it. It's so fundamentally true to me, that the knowing that I just inhaled goes beyond mere knowing.

And that's how we get free. Not by merely knowing that we are leaves on the wind of karma, but by grocking it.

Baba Neeb Karori grocked it. He grocked it in public.

So, one day in the morning, he told the people at the house where he was staying to prepare dinner for an extra 18 people.

In the afternoon, Ram Dass and his party were driving along, and they had to decide. Should they go straight to Maharaji (who nobody had told they were coming), or should they divert to Khumb Mela. In the late afternoon, they made their decision. They went straight to Baba. They were all astounded (as were the hosts) when the amount of food prepared was perfect, and the 18 people in the bus arrived just as it was being served.

But it's very simple to explain. Nobody decided to skip visiting Khumb Mela. Nobody decided to go straight to Maharaji. They always were going to Maharaji, and there was no decision to be made.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Our Eric

February Verses - Some thoughts on 3.27

These are some of my thoughts on the verses from the Gita chosen for the February meeting.

Firstly, the overall 'gist' of the passage is duty, why it is important to perform ones duty, and how one should approach that duty.

Verse 27 tells us that

"He whose mind is confused by egoism imagines 'I am the doer', whereas in fact all actions are carried out by the three qualities of nature."

So the concept of 'I am the doer' is an imagination of the ego. The ego is the little self, the 'I' who I mean when I think 'I am typing this blog'. So whenever that I thinks 'I am doing...' anything, then that is an imagining of the 'I' itself. Really, 'I' am not doing anything, and 'I' never can. Events are occurring, events are unfolding, and the sense that 'I' am responsible for any of those events is an egotistical illusion. In truth 'I' is not capable of 'doing' anything (for confirmation of this, just ask my wife!).

So, 'in fact, all actions are carried out by the three qualities of nature'. Hmmm. I'm not sure that's a good translation. I think the translator has imposed a Sankhya interpretation where it is not appropriate. The Verse in the Gita says:

"prakriteh kriyamaanaani
gunaih karmaani sarvasaha
ahankaara vimoohaatmaa
kartaaham iti manyate"

Word for literal, this is:

"ordinary-state honourable-operation
quality engaged-in all-enduring
ego free-self
I-doer so believe"

The important point here is that the word gunaih does not carry any connotation of 'three'. Often in yoga, we think of Sattvas Rajas and Tamas whenever the gunas are mentioned. In fact, this interpretation of the Gunas is quite specifically belonging to the Sankhya philosophy. Whilst Sankhya is mentioned in and treated by the Gita, it is not the overriding philosophy of the Gita, which is Yogic and Puranic.

In Yogic and Puranic philosphy, the term Gunas more classically applies to the five gunas as represented by the tattwas: akasha, vayu, tejas, apas, prithivi (spirit, air, fire, water, earth). In other passages where the Sankhya gunas are the intended meaning, they are described explicitly as tribhirguna: 'three sided gunas', or 'triple aspect gunas'.

I personally find it easier to understand this verse as saying that all actions are carried out by these elemental gunas, rather than being carried out by the abstract sankhya gunas. But maybe I am wrong?

The next verse states that if you understand the relationship between these gunas and action, then you are freed from attachment. I have a take on that, and hope to get a chance to blog about it in the next couple of days...

MADYA Seminar - Sanyassi Vimuktananda

Yesterday was a MADYA seminar day.
I'm the Membership Secretary for MADYA, so I go to all of their events. Usually, though, I sit outside in the hallway and do my own practice. MADYA is agnostic, and covers many forms of Yoga and other stuff, like Chi Gong.
I'm really not interested in other stuff any more, though, and have no interest in joining in with the various flavours of Yoga event MADYA puts on.
But yesterday was run by Sanyassin Vimuktananda from Satyananda Yoga North, so I joined in as much as I could. Unfortunately, a combination of a stinkingly hot room, and a rather congested set of sinuses, meant i had to keep popping out just to get some air.
However, as is always the case with Satyananda Yoga events, it was right up my street.
Vimukta put on a great day, with many people afterwards saying how much they liked it.
Pity I couldn't do more. My daily practice has also been badly affected by a head cold. It's nuisance, but I think it's better to spend my energy fighting the col, so practice is on hold for a few days.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Guru and Disciple

Some Western people are suspicious of Gurus. Some gurus are suspect.
We'll gloss over that for now, and address it another time.


We're all in a room. It's a very big room, and very high. We spend our lives wandering around, and most of us never even realise we are in a room. It's so vast, we think everything is ok, be cause we never meet the limits imposed on us by the walls. Most people simply don't see the walls.

Some of us do.

Some of us encounter a part of the wall that contains us. Some of those bump off the wall, and choose to pretend to not notice. They wander back into the room, and maybe don't encounter the wall again for a long time.

Some others spend some time frowning at the wall, scratching their heads, then kind of carry on wandering, but keep the wall in view, off in the distance. They get the feeling it's important, but just not right now.

Some others meet the wall and wonder what lies beyond.

These people often spend more and more of their time approaching the wall, probing, examining. Sometimes they may find a small, dirty window, and through the window, they may see tantalising glimpses of a bright beyond. Some become intrigued by the wall. The wall becomes a big part of their lives, and examining and exploring the wall becomes a regular occurrence. For some it becomes their primary purpose.

Sometimes, someone finds steps.

The steps are treated the same as the wall. Some ignore them, some start to climb. But climbing is hard, and many give up.

Some though, are driven, and think this must be the way over the wall!

So they climb. And the climbing becomes harder. The stairs steepen, the steps narrow, and eventually, its almost like trying to climb the wall itself. It's slippery, and difficult. But to some it's also rewarding, and these press on.

Sometimes, on very, very rare occasions, someone on these steps encounters a fine golden thread, hanging down the inside of the wall. Many people ignore the thread, thinking it is just another vine, another creeper growing on the wall.

But some people look up. And those that choose to look up see that the wall is terribly high. The sides are smooth, like glass. It's virtually mpossible to climb. But there, in the farthest distance, there is a light. A beautiful, glowing light at the end of the fine thread hanging down the wall.

And as the eyes become clear and accustomed to the glare, what we see is our Guru waiting patiently, holding out the thread of gold, simply waiting for us to take hold.

You can read a greaqt deal of wisdom concerning the Guru in Satsangi's wonder full book Light on the Guru and Disciple Relationship