Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Continuous Immediacy (Upadesa Sahasri)


75. The teacher said to him, Your doubt is not justifiable. For you, the Self, are proved to be free from change and therefore perpetually the same on the ground that all the modifications of the mind without a single exception are (simultaneously) known by you. You regard this knowledge of all the modifications which is the reason for the above inference as that for your doubt. If you were changeful like the mind or the senses (which pervade their objects one after another), you would not simultaneously know all the mental modifications, the objects of your knowledge. Nor are you aware of a portion only of the objects of your knowledge (at a time). You are, therefore, absolutely changeless.

The response to this can take a number of forms, two of which are ready to hand. One is that ‘mental modification’ linked with immediate awareness is no more than a dormitive definition so named after the doctor who said that opium cause sleepiness because of its dormitive power. A mental modification is an awareness by virtue of being a mental modification.

The second rebuttal which is identified with Buddhism within the Vedic tradition suggests that knowledge is constantly changing. Apprehension is a progressive affair. As we go on perceiving we come to know more and more. Knowledge is then an active business and is therefore not changeless. This is the line taken by the Disciple.

The Teacher in his reply does not deny that there is an experience of change. What he wants to stress or the insight that he wishes to induce is the immediate nature of the consciousness that accompanies any sensible state. This is a reflection of the nature of the Self. In an image used elsewhere in the book the Self is likened to a mirror that is not changed by the reflections that occur in it.

May I offer the idea of continuous immediacy paradoxical as that sounds. It has I maintain a connection with the Bergsonian concept of duration. Eliot in The Four Quartets wrote about the ‘still centre of the turning world’.

Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
(Four Quartets Section 5: Burnt Norton)



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