Thursday, 31 May 2012

The Inert Mind of Advaita

The mind is said to be inert in Vedanta. This seems a surprising and counter intuitive position to hold because if the mind is anything it is surely conscious. Clearly their view of mind is somewhat different from that which we usually encounter in Western psychology and epistemology. Without going into the detail of the structure of the Jiva or individual person it could be said that they begin with a radically non-dualistic picture of human nature. It is the person as a whole that is pervaded with consciousness. The mind in broad terms is the body pervaded by consciousness. The mind of the jiva/person reflects the complexity of the brain/body. It is in this sense that the mind is said to be inert because without consciousness it is just matter. It is very complex matter certainly which is why that the information that it gives and receives from its environment reflects that complexity and its information can be information for itself in the form of the running commentary that we associate with mind in psychology.

Consciousness as running commentary or talking into your own ear is not the same as what is capitalised as Consciousness in Vedanta. All manifest being whatever is 'that' or Sat, Cit, Ananda/Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. It is in this sense that I can follow the beckoning arm of Daniel Dennett as he plunges, tied by the cords of whimsy harpoons, into the deeps of the counter-intuitive.

That this Vedantic view is establishable in any empirical manner is denied by Advaitins (Non-Dualists). There is no objective mark that we can recognize as a sign of abiding in non-duality. This is so because you are already there.

The discussion of how that , the Absolute, becomes this, the Relative, is the topic known as adhyasa or superimposition and is central to the famous preamble to Shankara's commentary on the Brahma Sutras. More anon.



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