Sunday, 23 October 2016

A Method of Enlightening the Disciple Upadesa Sahasri (4 )

I was going to attempt to clarify the advaitic theory of how an object comes to be an object or how an object can be an object and at the same time have the non-numerical identity of being an object ‘in’ us. On consideration, interesting as that is, it would be a divagation from the actual course of the Upadesa Sahasri. One might consider it the ontological arm of the advaitic philosphy whereas the work under consideration focusses on the epistemological. The question that might ensue for the specialist in Indian philosophy is whether this onto/episto characterisation be not a Western confection from the sweet shop of Teutonic Hellenism. Certainly, maybe, remembering that Non-Dualism (a-dvaita) is reflected with only local refraction in what we know and how we know. In Upadesa Sahasri the weight of the inquiry is on the latter. The opening up of this anfratuous path proceeds by the progressive sublation of previous views, a procedure knows a adhiropa/apavada.

We start from where we are, immersed in a world where the ego is set over and against the other out there. Even scripture seem to reflect this with its injunctions and prohibitions.

41. If it be so, Sir, why do the Srutis speak of diverse ends to be attained, their means and so forth, as also the evolution and the dissolution of the universe ?

42. The answer to your question is this: Having acquired (having identified himself with) the various things such as the body and the rest, considering the Self to be connected with what is desirable and what is undesirable and so on, though eager to attain the desirable and avoid the undesirable by appropriate means - for without certain means nothing can be accomplished - an ignorant man cannot discriminate between the means to the realisation of what is (really) desirable for him and the means to the avoidance of what is undesirable. It is the gradual removal of this ignorance that is the aim of the scriptures; but not the enunciation of (the reality of) the difference of the end, means and so on. For, it is this very difference that constitutes this undesirable transmigratory existence. The scriptures, therefore, root out the ignorance constituting this (false) conception of difference which is the cause of phenomenal existence by giving reasons for the oneness of the evolution, dissolution, etc., of the universe.
(from U.S. Chap.1: 41,42)

Thursday, 20 October 2016

A Method of Enlightening the Disciple Upadesa Sahasri (3)

I mentioned, indeed repeated, the very characteristic recension of one’s views that occurs on deeper reflection, the process known as adhiropa/apavada. This conversion can also be an inversion so to speak. The first position is that the Self is other than the sensations and perceptions because they are objects for it. On reflection the question arises as to how they are objects for the self or in other words ‘what is the nature of an object such that it can be an object’? Instead of going on to give the advaitic view of how this is possible or the schoolboy’s cog, I will allow the question to remain suspended believing that you cannot gain the relief of an answer until you have felt the force of the question.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

A Method of Enlightening the Disciple Upadea Sahasri (2)

Upadesa Sahasri 1:34:

If pain or its causes viz., burns or cuts were in the perceiver one would have pointed out the perceiver to be the seat of the pain, like the parts of the body the seats of the burns or cuts.
1:35: Moreover, (if it were in the Self) the pain could not be perceived by the Self like the colour of the eye by the same eye. Therefore as it is perceived to have the same seat as burns, cuts and the like, pain must be an object of perception like them. Since it is an effect, it must have a receptacle like that in which rice is cooked. The impressions of pain must have the same seat as pain itself. As they are perceived during the time when memory is possible (i.e. in waking and dream and not in deep sleep), these impressions must have the same location as pain.

This are interesting parallels between these basic intuitions and familiar views in the Western tradition. We translate the idea of awareness of an external reality to the internal sensation of pain etc. Objects of perception and objects of sensation are assimilated to one another. Please note that this position is subject to the adhiropa/apavada strategy. In other words it is an interim position which is later modified on further reflection. It is subject to recension and represents the typical level of apprehension of the of the beginner. The flavour that we associate with Cartesian Dualism is there.

Next is the idea of cause and effect being in the same sphere as they interact with each other. The one is continuous with the other. In a way there is an element of weak causal closure here with the important difference that mind is regarded as inert or reflective of consciousness rather than conscious by nature. This in intimated in the following insight about the objects of consciousness. They are only present when the mind is operative viz. in waking and dream. Impressions of pain and pain itself are, like memory, in the mind. ‘In the mind’ here has not the same connotation as ‘all in your mind’ or unreal. Mind is the aspect of the physical being pervaded by consciousness.

Shankara in his succinct way has drawn the boundaries of the average intelligent seeker’s initial position. The difficulties within it are made clear by self-inquiry/atma vichara.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Some Poems of Joseph Campbell (1879 -1944)

Some poems of Joseph Campbell (1879 -1944) cf.Joseph Campbell

I am the gilly of Christ,
The mate of Mary’s Son;
I run the roads at seeding time,
And when the harvest’s done.

I sleep among the hills,
The heather is my bed;
I dip the termon-well for drink,
And pull the sloe for bread.

No eye has ever seen me,
But shepherds hear me pass,
Singing at fall of even
Along the shadowed grass.

The beetle is my bellman,
The meadow-fire my guide,
The bee and bat my ambling nags
When I have need to ride.

All know me only the Stranger,
Who sits on the Saxon’s height;
He burned the bacach’s little house
On last Saint Brigid’s Night.

He sups off silver dishes,
And drinks in a golden horn,
But he will wake a wiser man
Upon the Judgment Morn!

I am the gilly of Christ,
The mate of Mary’s Son;
I run the roads at seeding time,
And when the harvest’s done.

The seed I sow is lucky,
The corn I reap is red,
And whoso sings the Gilly’s Rann
Will never cry for bread.

Note: 'bacach' is Irish for cripple, a 'rann' is a verse, a gilly (giolla) is a servant, termon is a sanctuary

The dawn whiteness.
A bank of slate-grey cloud lying heavily over it.
The moon, like a hunted thing, dropping into the cloud.

Friday, 14 October 2016

Italian Journey by Goethe

There’s a Irish Tourist Board ad with the tag line: The Road you’re on will take you there which suggest inevitability or a doom which will leave on lonely road in Connemara in the pouring rain wondering if you collected all the wool of the barbed wire would you have enough to knit a jumper with. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe made his escape from Weimar slipping away early and giving the impression that he would not be long, just popping out for a moment, which turned into two years from 1786 to 1788. This was a road he had to take.

Everything that was important to me in early childhood is again, thank God, becoming dear to me, and, to my joy, I find that I can once again dare to approach the classics. Now, at last, I can confess a secret malady, or mania, of mine. For many years I did not dare look into a Latin author or at anything which evoked an image of Italy. If this happened by chance, I suffered agonies. Herder often used to say mockingly that I had learned all my Latin from Spinoza, for that was the only Latin book he had ever seen me reading. He did not realize how carefully I had to guard myself against the classics, and that it was sheer anxiety which drove me to take refuge in the abstractions of Spinoza. Even quite recently, Wieland's translation of Horace's Satires made me very unhappy; after reading only a couple, I felt beside myself.
My passionate desire to see these objects with my own eyes had grown to such a point that, if I had not taken the decision I am now acting upon, I should have gone completely to pieces. More historical knowledge was no help. The things were in arm's reach, yet I felt separated from them by an impenetrable barrier. Now I feel, not that I am seeing them for the first time, but that I am seeing them again.

I am only at the beginning of his journey on his way to Rome down the Po, noticing everything recording and making a point of collecting shells at the Lido to crush for sand to dry his ink.

Early this morning a gondola took me and my old factotum to the Lido. We went ashore and walked across the spit of land. I heard a loud noise: it was the sea, which presently came into view. The surf was breaking on the beach in high waves, although the water was receding, for it was noon, the hour of low tide. Now, at last, I have seen the sea with my own eyes and walked upon the beautiful threshing floor of the sand which it leaves behind when it ebbs. How I wished the children could have been with me! They would so have loved the shells. Like a child, I picked up a good many because I have a special use for them. There are plenty of cuttlefish about, and I need the shells to dry the inky fluid they eject.

This pixel projecting ‘cuttlefish’ will continue to post at intervals on this classic of travel literature. Here he is on Raphael’s painting:

First of all, the Cecilia by Raphael. My eyes confirmed what I have always known: this man accomplished what others could only dream of. What can one really say about this picture except that Raphael painted it! Five saints in a row— their names don't matter — so perfectly realized that one would be content to die so long as this picture could endure for ever. But, in order to understand and appreciate Raphael properly, one must not merely glorify him as a god who appeared suddenly on earth without a father or a mother, like Melchizedek; one must consider his ancestors, his masters. These were rooted in the firm ground of truth; it was their labour and scrupulous care which laid the broad foundation; it was they who vied with each other in raising, step by step, the pyramid, on the summit of which the divine genius of Raphael was to place the last stone and reach a height which no one else will surpass or equal.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford by Derek Mahon

A Disused Shed in Co. Wexford

by Derek Mahon

Let them not forget us, the weak souls among the asphodels.
  — Seferis, Mythistorema
(for J. G. Farrell)
Even now there are places where a thought might grow —
Peruvian mines, worked out and abandoned
To a slow clock of condensation,
An echo trapped for ever, and a flutter
Of wildflowers in the lift-shaft,
Indian compounds where the wind dances
And a door bangs with diminished confidence,
Lime crevices behind rippling rain barrels,
Dog corners for bone burials;
And in a disused shed in Co. Wexford,

Deep in the grounds of a burnt-out hotel,
Among the bathtubs and the washbasins
A thousand mushrooms crowd to a keyhole.
This is the one star in their firmament
Or frames a star within a star.
What should they do there but desire?
So many days beyond the rhododendrons
With the world waltzing in its bowl of cloud,
They have learnt patience and silence
Listening to the rooks querulous in the high wood.

They have been waiting for us in a foetor
Of vegetable sweat since civil war days,
Since the gravel-crunching, interminable departure
Of the expropriated mycologist.
He never came back, and light since then
Is a keyhole rusting gently after rain.
Spiders have spun, flies dusted to mildew
And once a day, perhaps, they have heard something —
A trickle of masonry, a shout from the blue
Or a lorry changing gear at the end of the lane.

There have been deaths, the pale flesh flaking
Into the earth that nourished it;
And nightmares, born of these and the grim
Dominion of stale air and rank moisture.
Those nearest the door grow strong —
‘Elbow room! Elbow room!’
The rest, dim in a twilight of crumbling
Utensils and broken pitchers, groaning
For their deliverance, have been so long
Expectant that there is left only the posture.

A half century, without visitors, in the dark —
Poor preparation for the cracking lock
And creak of hinges; magi, moonmen,
Powdery prisoners of the old regime,
Web-throated, stalked like triffids, racked by drought
And insomnia, only the ghost of a scream
At the flash-bulb firing-squad we wake them with
Shows there is life yet in their feverish forms.
Grown beyond nature now, soft food for worms,
They lift frail heads in gravity and good faith.

They are begging us, you see, in their wordless way,
To do something, to speak on their behalf
Or at least not to close the door again.
Lost people of Treblinka and Pompeii!
‘Save us, save us,’ they seem to say,
‘Let the god not abandon us
Who have come so far in darkness and in pain.
We too had our lives to live.
You with your light meter and relaxed itinerary,
Let not our naive labours have been in vain!’

(from New Collected Poems

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

A Method of Enlightening the Disciple (A Thousand Teachings/Upadesa Sahasri_

So what then is the procedure for the instruction of the pupil? Nobody gets to the enlightened state, in one hop. 'With one bound he was free', certainly not. The master (guru) has to deal with the material, the normal crooked timber, not true and twisted. For a start he has to offer the teaching at the level that the pupil (sishya) is at. That means the method of approximation or more technically adhiropa apavada which is to say, assertion followed by subsequent retraction. Each understanding is refined by a subsequent one. It must be kept in mind that the instruction in the traditional manner is one to one which means that it is gauged by the material to hand. What are the aspirant's presuppositions? A Western student of philosphy might demur and ask 'Does that mean that everyone gets his own version of Plato's Republic? Essentially, is that not the actual situation? We get a hold on it using whatever prehensile capacity we have and progress from there.

Theoretically there are perfect souls who on hearing the mahavakya Tat Tvam Asi (that thou art) get liberated. This is the ultimate sravana, hearing. Shankara's typical disciple is not one of those. He is characteristically sceptical offering the standard arguments against the advaitic concept of the Self.

If he says, "The pain due to burns or cuts in the body and the misery caused by hunger and the like, Sir, are distinctly perceived by me. The supreme Self, is known in all the Srutis and the Smrtis ('heard' and 'remembered' or Scripture and Tradition) to be "free from sin, old age, death, grief, hunger, thirst, etc. and devoid of smell and taste.

In summary the student contrasts this with his own transmigratory being. He has identified himself with his own mental states, his sensations, perception and emotions. In response the teacher must suggest a higher synthesis that characterises thes events as objective happenings.

Chap.1 para: 34:
The teacher should say to him, "It was not right for you to say, "I directly perceive the pain in me when my body gets cuts or burns". Why? As the pain due to cuts or burns is perceived in the body, the object of the perception of the perceiver, like a tree burnt or cut, must have the same location as the burns or cut etc.

Here there are two themes emerging. One of them is like the Cartesian Inner Theatre and the other is Causal Closure. Assesing these must be the subject of another post. As they say in that aggregator, - a 5 minute read.