Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Introspective Living

Over the past few days I've been thinking a lot about what it is that i know. I don't merely mean in the epistimological sense of what can be known or what it means to know but I mean in the more conventional sense of what I know; what i've picked up through experience and also through simple book learning. I have amassed a lot of knowledge, an enormous amount actually. I would consider myself well read in terms of world religions, philosophy and cultural traditions. I'm not very well read when it comes to world literary traditions meaning the great novels and books of the world. My interest lies more with literature that deals with more philosophical issues. I try and keep up to date on many of the linguistic theories and studies that have to do with the ancient world, for some reason the ancient world fascinates me. I love to find out about how the ancients viewed the world, what they thought and how they fundamentally viewed existence.

While i was thinking about all this stuff, it dawned on me that Eastern thought specifically Indian thought isn't just or merely just an intellectual exercise, to determine how intelligent or persuasive that I could be. It is meant to stimulate the mind and then lead to living a live based on that knowledge. Its become apparent to me that I've lost that vital and sustaining notion. The acquization of knowledge must have a ultimate purpose, a raison d'etre so to speak. What is it? It is liberation and salvation from the bonds of ignorance and impermenance. Previously, I've written about the Buddhist idea of No-Self which is fundamental to entire structure of Buddhist thought, if that notion of No-Self falls so does the ediface that is Buddhism. In a similar vein, Advaita Vedanta or simply Non-Dualism of Sankaraacharya is built upon the idea of absolute identity of Individual Soul and Supreme Soul. Of course, the premise is that there is an individual soul and supreme soul which are real, the self is necessary.

In Buddhism, knowledge frees one from the bonds of samsara and into nirvana which is the cessition of all things, meaning the end of all thought and suffering through understanding that from an absolute viewpoint all this possesses no real/independent/intrinisic existence and reality. The self itself must be removed. Advaita echoes a very similar concept, all things have no real existence apart from Brahman, therefore the only real entity is Brahman and all else has no reality apart from that. Even the idea of a individual self, in the final analysis doesn't possess any real independant reality, the individual self ceases to exist upon knowledge of Brahman or moksha/mukthi. Even the God with personality in Advaita does not really exist but only exists conventionally as long as one is within the confines of ignorance. What finally and ultimately exists is a unqualified undifferentiated Consciousness, it is not a conscious entity but consciousness itself. It is beyond all qualities and all relations, it can be referred to through negatives, meaning you say what it is by saying what it is not, it is not death therefore it is life, it is not insentient but is sentience and so on. This is very intellectually appealling but it is not meant merely to be just that. It is meant to be lived and followed, that is why Sankaraacharya was also a great mystic devotee, who composed many devotionaly hymns and prayers. The point of all this, is simply to say that I need to get back to my roots and try to live these truths and ideas that i intellectually study and maybe by trying to live them i will gain a deeper and more foundational understanding of them.

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