One lesson a jnani must learn is the limitation of both words and concepts. We work with them; they are useful tools. Some concepts more nearly approximate the truth than others. Some lead towards the truth while others lead away from it. Some phrases or ideas even have the virtue of invoking an experience of truth, although they are not themselves the truth. The jnani cannot be attached to certain expressions. All will be seen to fall short of the goal, and must be relinquished along the way. Better sooner than later. The attachment to ideas or expressions is as bad or worse than the attachment to material goods or sensory experience.
I use the term "expressions" to mean "certain phrases, sentences, terms, or ideologies which are customarily used to express a given concept or concepts." I prefer to use the term expressions rather than dogmas or doctrines because even non-dogmatic or non-doctrinaire people can be attached to a given expression.
A jnani must understand that one cannot change one's reality by changing one's thoughts. This is precisely the problem with most New Age visualization faddishness. It is a change in consciousness, not ideas, that produces an alteration in reality. Unless the quality of consciousness changes, then you get more of what you already have. This is not to say that those New Age methods never produce results. They can and do. However, the changes they produce amount to nothing more than shifting the furniture around on the stage, or at best moving the play from one theater to another. The plot remains the same, and the ending is identical. If you want a new story, you need a new script. The new script is the product of creation. Creation occurs at the level of super-consciousness, not at the level of ordinary, ego-based self-consciousness. Thus jnana yoga is not about opinions, concepts, etc. The purpose of jnana yoga is not a new set of notions, any more than the purpose of asana practice is a healthy body. In both cases the purpose is heightened awareness of one's identity with the One Source.
Could you give specific examples of how one might practice jnana yoga?
If you read the posts, earnestly attempt to assimilate and integrate them, and allow yourself to observe how your reactions to life's events compares, contrasts, or is in any way modified by the comprehension you have gained, you will be doing jnana yoga. This is brief, and I will go into much more detail as time goes on. There is a certain order to the unfoldment of these things, and foundations to construct, but you will see how it all fits together. In the meantime, (which as St. Jimi observed is a fine time), the message is in the doing. More later.
Could you explain what is meant by raja yoga?
The short answer is that it is the yoga discussed by Patanjali in the "Yoga Sutras," combining asana, pranayama, moral observances, etc. For further information I would refer you to one of the many excellent translations of Patanjali that are available. My personal favorites are "How to Know God" by Swami Prabhavananda of the Ramakrishna Order, and "The Science of Yoga" by I.K. Taimni (no longer in print in the U.S. but I recently found an Indian printing on the Web by doing a search on "Taimni". It was inexpensive and arrived swiftly. I no longer remember who the merchant was but I believe he was in LA. Many Indian publishing houses do a wonderful job of keeping inexpensive versions of classics in many fields, such as yoga, philosophy, and homeopathy, available when they are no longer in print elsewhere.)
Perhaps a stupid question but is there any "organizing
construct" which links the various disciplines (branches of yoga)
together? Do they all agree on certain overriding tenets? Also, is
yoga intrinsically tied to Hinduism or are these two concepts separate
ideologies which do not necessarily go together.
As far as I know there is no central organizing construct tying all branches of yoga together. There are many different philosophies within Hinduism, with degrees of disagreement between them. Yoga sprang out of Hinduism and is closely tied to it, and yet it can be and is taken separately by many. I know devout Christians of many types who practice yoga without buying the Hindu theology. Having said that, let me qualify it some: there are definitely similarities in practice. If you look at Hindu yoga, Buddhist meditation, Zen koans, Chinese systems such as chi qong and t'ai chi, and western systems such as Qabala and alchemy, there are remarkable similarities among them. But their practitioners probably could not get together in a room and agree on how to describe it or put it into words.
Finally, I am wondering if you also could share your take on the concept
of metaphysics and whether you feel it has any connection to yoga or
Metaphysics and spiritual practice: there is definitely a connection. Definitions need to be precise, though. There is a term metaphysics which is a technical term in western philosophy which has meant basically the same thing for many centuries, and then there is the contemporary, new age usage which means something quite different.
Frankly I have never been able to get a good handle on what the contemporary usage means, partly because my prior philosophical training has me using it in one particular sense for which it is so useful I hate to give it up, and partly because the new age usage seems vague, like it changes from person to person depending on what they need it to mean. So please let me know what metaphysics means to you and we can go from there.
If you are not familiar with the philosophical meaning, by all means do a word search on the Web and see what you come up with. You will have to winnow a great deal of chaff from the wheat but you will come up with some good resources if you look more to URLs with .edu at the end rather than .com :-)
Having done such a search, if you have more specific questions I will be happy to go into it, but I do prefer that people (this is addressed to all in general and not just you, L.) do some homework on their own -- we all have access to the same libraries, Web, etc. My first guru had a precept which I have felt to be quite wise and I have followed it since. What he said to me was "Please don't ask me questions that you could answer by looking it up or going to see for yourself." It was an important step to mental discipline for me and I recommend it to one and all. I would even say that the lessons I've learned from following this dictum have been an important part of jnana yoga as I have known it.
Jnana is a term signifying wisdom. It is related both conceptually and etymologically to the term 'prajna'. Prajna is more often found in the Buddhist literature, jnana in the Hindu. Both signify a specialized form of wisdom. Western scholars often translate both terms as 'transcendental wisdom'.
The use of the term 'transcendental' is problematic to an extent. It implies a false distinction between higher and lower. Why this is false will be dealt with more thoroughly later in this series. For now, suffice it to say that it refers to the wisdom gained from absorption in samadhi, or as a Buddhist might say the experience of sunyata. By practicing jnana yoga, one will experience that absorption. This is the first goal or purpose of this practice.
Having experienced samadhi, the second purpose of jnana yoga is to help one know what to do with it. Samadhi is not an end in itself; it is a tool to use. For more on that topic, I refer my readers to Patanjali. He goes into considerable detail on that topic in the latter part of his 'Yoga Sutras'. There is a Western term which means much the same thing. This term is 'Philosophy'. Philos means love of, and sophia is divine (or transcendental) wisdom. Unfortunately, the word has lost that connotation. Over the centuries it has come to mean either a particular academic discipline inhabited by certain specialists, or it refers to one's point of view. From this transformation we see how often the love of opinions overcomes the love
of wisdom. There is an object lesson there for all jnanis.
Your information sounds like Ramakrishna. He experienced God through many
disciplines, exoteric and esoteric. Because of his extreme receptivity
and intensity, I still don't think this validates some of the systems he had
Samadhi through--if that is indeed what he did. Did he inadvertently mix
up his efforts?
I was dramatically influenced by Ramakrishna at around the age of 15, and that influence continues. I never thought of the checkered path I've followed as being like his, because I just never thought about it. I did what seemed best at the moment.
But now that you mention it, yes there is a comparison, and no doubt it was due to that influence. Ever since I have been able to think coherently on my own, I have thought that he did not really "follow the practices of all religions" as he and his followers state. He adapted them to his own Hindu devotional and meditational style.
And then there is the matter of his extreme sensitivity and receptivity. He had a gift for the kinds of experiences he describes, like an Olympic athlete of mysticism. Few people will approach to what he accomplished, even if they live just as he did – it's a matter of native ability.
So no, his experience does not validate much of anything. He remains my favorite avatar and I am reading a book called "The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna" bit by bit even as we speak. On the bedside table, don't you know.
I might rephrase one thing you said- that the love of opinions overcomes
the love of wisdom. Rarely does this occur- usually those who attain the love
of wisdom know better than to regress to the love of opinions. But the love of
opinions is very seductive to those who have not yet gotten a taste of wisdom.
Although maybe I'm being idealistic. In my case, it's more of an ongoing
But you know- Mark Twain built an impressive case for his claim that there
is no such thing as a genuine seeker after Truth. He maintained that all
seekers must sooner or later find- something or other. And it may in fact
be true. But then they set about building a castle and a moat around that
truth, and erecting the cannons and other weapons.
The bit about the love of opinion swallowing up the love of wisdom refers to the mass, not the individual. More precisely: the mass of those who love opinion out-clamor the few who love wisdom. You are right, of course, in pointing out that those who have tasted wisdom are unlikely to turn back to opinion -- although it does happen -- I give you Art Kleps for an example.
And always important to note that Twain, for all that I love, admire, respect, and believe him to be an enlightened man, was also cursed with life-long chronic depression which colored what he wrote. No matter who, you gotta allow for their bias. Same with Buddha, Jesus, whoever.
An important perspective to keep in mind is that religious and philosophical writings do not describe truth in a scientific sense. (Neither does science, which is why they call their claims 'theories'.) Sophisticated religionists know that faith precedes thought. If you have a certain faith, then certain doctrines naturally follow. For example, if you believe in the literal inerrancy of the Bible, then Darwin's theses make no sense. If on the other hand you have faith in the process by which Darwin came to his conclusions, then Biblical literal inerrancy makes no sense.
There is a branch of religious philosophy called 'soteriology'. This refers to the actual practical ability of religious or philosophical statements to produce certain outcomes. In the Christian tradition, for instance, acceptance of the statement that Jesus died for your sins is believed to produce actual salvation from damnation for those sins. In Nichiren Shoshu Buddhism, it is accepted that chanting 'Namu Myoho Renge Kyo' produces enlightenment and other desirable outcomes. This is also soteriological.
All ideas of any religious tradition are primarily soteriological, no matter how much their proponents assert that they are the bald-faced truth. For that matter, much secular philosophy is soteriological. I give you Plato's Dialogues and Marcus Aurelius' Meditations: both of these works were intended to produce actual life-changing effects on their audiences. Jnana yoga is more a method than a set of beliefs. Nonetheless, there is a soteriological thrust to it. You're not just doing it for your health. To put it as simply as I can, the point is to experience and integrate samadhi. That is a soteriologcal statement. It presupposes something called samadhi, that you would want to experience it, and that by practicing this method you will have that outcome. That makes no sense unless you have faith that there is such a thing as samadhi, that some methods lead one to it, and that you are willing to believe that this one can and will. Otherwise why waste your time?
Nonetheless, the jnani knows that these statements have no real meaning outside of their soteriological worth. Please don't be led into a glassy-eyed stupor by such a 50¢ word as soteriology. I use it solely because it is the only word which means what it means. Clarity and precision are so crucial to the jnana enterprise that I make no apology for introducing technical language. Any effort you put into accommodating that will more than repay itself.
Does soteriology depend upon the creative power of emotional thought? I
guess that power depends upon soteriology?
That's quite a question. Let me say that the word "soteriology" is refers to those philosophical or religious statements which produce a religious or philosophical effect. It's just a word that describes a certain phenomenon which has been noticed enough to have a word named after it. See what I'm saying? The question as asked is barking up the wrong tree. "Soteriology" doesn't depend on anything except an arbitrary definition. I'm belaboring this point because we need to understand the nature and limitations of words. A word refers to something but is not the thing itself.
Change the question a little, and we have this: does the ability of certain religious or philosophical ideas or statements to produce a desired effect depend upon the creative power of emotional thought? I would say yes. This is my bias. Others may feel differently, with good reasons. In my preferred system of thought, emotion, and especially desire, is an essential element of creativity. Since these certain statements create a certain experience, then desire is at the heart of it. IMHO.
Hmm... Soteriological. Excellent word. I've re-read your message
quite a few times, trying to wrap my head around it, and I think I've just
come up with my difficulty. It seems to me, by my understanding of the word,
that EVERY religion has a soteriological bent, so that I don't see what
the big deal is in its application to jnana yoga, other than to point
out the need that to achieve samadhi, you need to believe in samadhi.
For instance, it is a cornerstone of certain Christian sects that hell
awaits those who fail to accept the One and True Lord Our Savior Jesus
Christ as King of the World, &c. By implication, the acceptance of this
theory, the acceptance of the King of Jews as God's Favorite, sends you
to Heaven. Thus, soteriological. I can't think of a single religion,
or occult system, which is not soteriological.
So, have I missed the point? Or can your paragraphs be summed up by
It presupposes something called samadhi,
that you would want to experience it, and that by practicing this
method you will have that outcome. That makes no sense unless you have faith that
there is such a thing as samadhi, that some methods lead one to it, and that
you are willing to believe that this one can and will.
Also, perhaps I'm jumping the gun, but thus far I haven't seen anything
to separate jnana yoga from, say, raja yoga. Forthcoming, I presume?
Great questions. You are right, every religion has a soteriological bent. The point of learning that word, and its application, is to recognize that certain statements, which attempt to pass for truth, are soteriological rather than descriptive. Remember, jnana yoga is the intellectual approach to yoga -- raja is the meditative approach. The tools of jnana are logic and clarity. The use of the term soteriology promotes the latter.
The point of referring to samadhi in that post is to make it clear that the statement "jnana yoga leads to samadhi" may not be descriptive, in the sense that the statement "I am typing this on my computer keyboard" is descriptive. Its value is soteriological, rather than whether or not it states a knowable fact. If you think back, we have often seen these arguments between what one person believes to be true, which another believes to be false. If they know that certain statements were soteriological rather than descriptive, the argument vanishes. Clarity in action.
Perhaps we should say that the difference
between a religion and other systems (philosophies, sciences,
arts, etc.) is that you get some kind of benefit (heaven, better
hunting, winning in war, glory, personality transformation, etc.)
from religion. On the other hand, philosophies, arts, and sciences
do not necessarily give physical benefits, other than a better map
of the terrain to help us understand where we are.
That dog don't hunt. Too much evidence to the contrary. I.e., religions that don't offer those kinds of benefits, and philosophies, arts, and sciences that do.
Where did you learn all of this information? Did you study it formally or did you
come about this kind of expertise otherwise?
Hmm -- yes and no. I majored in comparative religion and philosophy for my BA, so that's formal study. I continued studying on my own after college, so I guess that's informal. I don't know of any "guru", Indian or otherwise, who professes to teach on the basis of jnana yoga. Not that there aren't any, but they haven't come across my radar yet if there are. I guess I've mostly picked it up on my own. And, as I said way back, my version incorporates material from various traditions such as Buddhism, Qabalism, and philosophers like Hume. So this is by no means "classical jnana", although at present I am going over some of the classical material.
Does this sort of yoga stand alone from postures or does all yoga
involve the physical performance of postures. Is yoga actually similar
to the concept for "school" or branch of philosophy ie. the xyz school
of philosophy etc.
Only asana yoga involves the use of postures. Mantra yoga involves the use of words, bhakti yoga involves the use of devotion, karma yoga involves the use of work. Since asana yoga is so well-known, that's what most people think of when they say "yoga." It would be more analogous to the term "method" than "school." The Indo-European root is the same as for our word "yoke." The comparison is this: a both are something that joins things together. A yoke joins, for instance, two mules together. Yoga joins the aspirant and the divine together.
Yoga as a whole is one of the six schools of Hindu philosophy, which include Vedanta, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Samkhya, and Mimamsa. So you've hit the nail on the head there.
What, in your opinion, is the connection between manifestation and
spirituality. Are they related? Is there an esoteric aspect of
creativity and/or ensuing manifestation?
You keep coming up with these really meaty questions. I wish I had time to really chew into them. Whole books have been written on what you are asking here.
Yes, there is an esoteric or spiritual aspect of creativity and manifestation in the system of thought I favor. Briefly put -- and there are many who would disagree but this is where I'm at -- there is One Source. Some call it Brahman, some call it God. In its essence it has no attributes and there is no manifestation. No attributes means it is neither this nor that. Neither big nor small, loving nor hateful, neither actual nor potential -- neither this nor that kind of sums it up. It is also neither something nor nothing. All those sets of pairs, which I (along with many others) call dualities or polarities, only crop up after manifestation. The One precedes manifestation. Manifestation of the universe as we know it comes about as a result of the desire of the One to make something manifest. How could the One have a desire, if it is without qualities or attributes? Well, that is just the best way I know of to describe the way I understand it. Since my understanding and ability to express things is finite, then so are my descriptions. We just have to live with that. Something triggers the One to create a manifestation. Personally I believe that is because without opposites you have no tension, and without tension you have no stories, and the One likes stories. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.
Some of this will come up again, so ask again when it does, and see if your question changes any along the way. This is way way way the short version.
(Some questions came up about astral planes, Ascended Masters, and the like, which were not precisely on the topic of jnana yoga, but which addressed issues which one hears mooted about in esoteric/New Age/yoga circles.)
One hears these descriptions of "planes of existence" from time to time. I'm not sure what value they have. If they exist at all, they are also part of Maya or illusion, so they would have to be transcended the same as any other illusion. For my part, I am fully willing to accept that there are non-embodied or discarnate entities such as angels that inhabit other planes of existence and occasionally come to visit ours, but on a day-to-day basis, so what? When we get further into the meat of jnana yoga, you will see that I am not being flip here.
I also think it reasonable to see the planets as entities -- life forms -- and the Solar System as yet another, higher form, and the galaxy yet another, and the Local Group as yet another, and so on. Again, so what? Again, I don't mean to be flip. But what good does this knowledge do? There are many interesting things in the cosmos, and if this is what interests anyone, I think they should look into it as much as they can. But I'm not sure it's any more valuable than any other hobby.
The previous notes on jnana yoga were introductory in nature. They established some definitions, gave an idea of the scope of the thing, and issued a caveat that what we are discussing here is not a matter of facts so much as a matter of method. Now I want to move on to discuss that method further.
In classical jnana yoga, the yogi would be conversant with the six primary systems of Hindu philosophy: Vedanta, Nyaya, Vaisesika, Yoga, Samkhya, and Mimamsa. It would be safe to say that most jnanis were advaita vedantins. That is to say, they would see Brahman as the undifferentiated one source of all manifestation, and manifestation as a particularized representation of Brahman. We will not go into a discussion of the six systems. It is a fascinating study and would reward any who undertake it. These are ways of looking at the world which have for thousands of years been found to be of interest to many and absolute descriptions of the Truth to many others. Which is another way of saying that, whether you agree or disagree with any of them, they all speak deeply to the human condition.
In fact, if one is to know anything more about jnana yoga than what I will be saying in these brief notes, one must at least read a good book-length summary of these systems. Partly, this is because the jnana tradition evolved within this framework. Mainly, though, I recommend it for soteriological rather than intellectual reasons. Why this is will be apparent if you have paid close attention so far. Jnana yoga is not a set of opinions, it is a method. In reading and comprehending the six systems of Hindu philosophy, you will be exercising and strengthening precisely those faculties which are so important to the jnani: clarity, discretion, discernment, logic, concentration, and the ability to lift yourself up out of yourself to see a wider perspective from the point of view of someone else. In the next post, I will discuss some of the Buddhist sources which I have found helpful in furthering my study/practice of jnana yoga.
Could you comment further on
"clarity, discretion, discernment, logic, concentration, and the
ability to lift yourself up out of yourself to see a wider perspective
from the point of view of someone else."
It is an intriguing statement and once again not totally unlike a series
of lectures I once attended called "Tibetan lessons" The content of
these lessons was fascinating although I have some difficulty with the
notion that the lessons came from a metaphysical source known as the
"White Brotherhood" Does anyone know from what tradition this
terminology originates or was it specific to that particular
organization which taught the lessons?
The passage you quote was in the context of recommending that it would be worthwhile to do some study of the six main Hindu philosophical systems (I recommend Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan's book for a decent one-book introduction.) So in reading about these systems, the simple exercise of understanding them will by itself bring about an increase in clarity, discretion, etc. Partly by having to learn something new, and partly by then comparing it to your own point of view. Lifting yourself up to a wider perspective will occur because each of these systems takes a distinctly different way of looking at the Hindu tradition. The study of them, therefore, means an encounter with six very different perspectives, which will in turn broaden your own.
The Great White Brotherhood as a phrase came into use through the Theosophical Society (Mme. Blavatsky and Annie Besant.) In other versions of the western hermetic tradition it is also called the Illuminati, Third Order, Inner School or the Ascended Masters. It is said to be composed of discarnate beings who were formerly humans and who can still assume a human body at will when it suits their purposes. The Brotherhood is said to be responsible for guiding their still-incarnate human brothers and sisters to higher awareness/enlightenment/liberation. There is also said to be a Himalayan Brotherhood, which is an identical group only composed of Oriental masters rather than Western. Yogananda talks about this in his autobiography, and tells of one he met named "Babaji" who could appear and disappear, sometimes with a whole group of followers, at will. Probably the best known in the West is the Count of St. Germain, who was said to appear in France, Germany, England, Belgium, and (in this century) in America from around the time of Louis XIV onwards.
Some use the term Great White Brotherhood to denote both the Eastern and Western branches. No doubt the Masters call themselves Joe and Jim and Alice and such. There are accounts of people who say they have been in contact with one or more of these beings. I know personally one such person whose veracity I have never had any reason to doubt and who in fact tends to debunk airy-fairy notions. Take it for what it's worth. On the whole, I think it is of little practical relevance one way or the other.
The next few posts are going to get out of the realm of standard or classical jnana yoga. This is because I will be looking at elements from outside of Hinduism which I've found invaluable as a practicing jnani.
Today I want to look at a contribution from Buddhism. As a matter of historical fact, Buddhism influenced jnana yoga a great deal, because much of Shankara's contribution to philosophy was in response to Buddhism. Jnana in the Hindu tradition is quite similar to Prajnaparamita in Buddhism. Prajnaparamita means roughly "the perfection of wisdom." Two of the principal, and most accessible, scriptures of the Prajnaparamita tradition are the Heart Sutra and Diamond Sutra. They are short and well worth reading. You could read both in an hour or so.
Nagarjuna was a Buddhist in approx. the 6th century AD. He was part of the Mahayana tradition, and in particular the Prajnaparamita school. In my view, Nagarjuna scaled the heights of philosophy. Even David Hume, whom I respect above all other Western philosophers, could have learned a trick or two from Nagarjuna, and I believe it can be demonstrated, that nothing more true can be said in words (given the limitations of language) than what Nagarjuna said.
Or, I might rather say, the way Nagarjuna said it. He himself espoused no opinions. His writings mostly elaborate a method of thinking which cuts through all illusion like a hawk through mist, a hot knife through butter, a catamaran through water. In essence, Nagarjuna's method is to discredit all sides and possible combinations of any polar opposite you can think of.
For instance, there is an old argument within Buddhism about whether physical materiality is real (Form), or is it illusory (Emptiness)? Nagarjuna would say that there is neither Form, nor Emptiness, nor 'both Form and Emptiness', nor 'neither Form nor Emptiness.' Let's try another one. A classical Western argument is why a loving God would allow so much evil and suffering. Nagarjuna might say that there is neither good nor evil, nor 'both good and evil', nor 'neither good nor evil.'
In a later post I will talk more about how this works and why it is important. For now, let me suggest that you simply experiment with it. When faced with seemingly irreconcilable opposites in your life, think it out in this manner: neither A nor B, nor both A and B, nor neither A nor B. It has the effect of canceling out all ideas about what is going on, which if followed sincerely will lead to direct experience of the event without intervening notions, which ultimately leads to transcendental experience. For now, just try it. It takes practice, and you can't just say the words like a mantra. If you really think it through each time, you may experience some confusion at first but with perseverance will experience a lightness as though a fresh wind were blowing through you.
Instead of using A or B, could you put it into more words? Could
you give a real life example of how to use the concept? I am interested
in trying it, but would like a few more examples.
I don't think I want to come up with more examples, although I can say more about method. It would be easiest to start with an incident from your own life -- perhaps recent, perhaps in the past. Look at the incident and see what polarities were operating. Attraction-repulsion? Love-hate? Good-bad? Pretty-ugly? Desirable-undesirable? It shouldn't be too hard to figure it out. Then, think it all the way through. What would it mean if, for instance, that which you thought was ugly was neither pretty nor ugly, nor both pretty and ugly, nor neither pretty nor ugly? I can't go farther than that without discussing a particular incident, because what it might mean in that situation depends on the situation itself. But if you take one from your life, concentrate on really following the logic through, and see what happens -- you may report back a shift in perspective, a new insight, or a change in consciousness.
As I've said before, I am not describing classical jnana yoga, which was an avowedly Hindu construct and used sources from that tradition. So far we have given some thought to ideas from Buddhism, and especially of that great philosopher Nagarjuna. Today we will turn to Western sources, and consider the work of David Hume.
If Nagarjuna is the greatest philosopher ever to have lived, David Hume is the second. His uncompromising honesty and courage, along with a brilliant mind, resulted in a number of books which have stood the test of time. Probably the best introduction to his mature thought is "An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding." It is fairly short and contains a distillation of most of his ideas. "An Essay Concerning Human Nature" is also good, albeit long.
Hume noted that we can know nothing except what our senses report to us. I see, I hear, I smell, I taste, I feel. In a sane person, these sensations form patterns, which replicate themselves over and over. For instance, I see the same color on my front door every time I walk in. It does not change from time to time. Therefore, I develop the habit of thought of thinking that there IS a door, and it IS that color.
But I don't know that. All I know is that I receive a sensory impression of what I call a door, and that the sensory impression is characterized by something I call color, and that every time I have the experience it has the same color. But that does not mean that I can know that there is a door, or what the color is. All I know is that this is my customary experience. You may see red where I see green, or vice versa.
Extending this further, then, there are other things I cannot know. Chief among them is that I don't know whether or not there are other people. I have experiences of these complex patterns of sensory impressions which I call people. Each of them tends to manifest certain typical characteristics. For instance, my secretary is usually pert and inquisitive. I come to expect this of her. But do I know that there is another person there, just because I have these habitual sensory impressions? I do not. All I know is that I have these impressions and they follow a more-or-less predictable pattern.
This may be tricky, so let me give an even more detailed example. When she has a certain expression on her face, she tells me she is sad. After that, I note that every time she has that look on her face, if I inquire, she tells me she is sad. Therefore, extrapolating from my experience of what I feel when I am what I call sad, I assume that she is feeling something much the same. But I don't know that. I can't know what she feels, only what I feel.
The mere fact that I can often guess what another person is feeling, and that they agree to the word I choose to describe my guess (such as sad, or angry, or happy) only means that there are very complex groupings of sensory impressions. It still doesn't mean that I can know that there is a world out there which exists independently of my sensing of it. Let me say that again, for emphasis: I cannot infer, from the fact of my having sensory impressions, that they originate in objects which exist whether I sense them or not (external reality.)
This may remind some of the old question, If a tree falls in the forest with no one around to hear it, does it make any sound? The problem with this question is that it does not take its own premise to its logical conclusion. If I do not sense the forest or the tree, is it really there? No one can answer this question honestly. I am not saying it is not there, I am simply saying that I cannot know if it is or not. All I know is whether or not I experience sight, sound, smell, taste, or touch.
Another way of approaching this topic is to ask if there are any other logical explanations of sensory experience besides the existence of external reality. And there are, close to hand. When I go to a movie, and become engrossed in the drama, I react to it just as if it were "real life." I may cry, or laugh, or become angry, just as though these events were "really happening." When I come to myself again during the closing credits, I know that it was just images of light and patterns of sound reproduced via screen and speakers. How do I know that all my sensory experience is not in some way analogous to this situation? I don't.
Another analogy involves dreaming. When I dream at night, it seems very real. I can be hurt by bumping into objects, I talk to other people that seem to have emotions, thoughts, and lives of their own, I move from one place to another, etc. Yet none of it has any existence outside of my sensing of it. When I wake up, poof it's gone.
To train oneself in jnana yoga is to adopt this same kind of strict, empirical, logical manner of thinking. Hume is an excellent "role model" for the jnani. Again I state that it is not a matter of opinion, it is a matter of method or technique which distinguishes the jnani. The jnani uses intellect to understand experience so that the illusion is milked out of it. This concludes the introductory survey of jnani philosophy. Next, we will turn to particular tools which the jnani finds useful.
The next logical question is whether 'I' exist, either!
Good point. However, Hume didn't go into it, to the best of my
recollection. Nor did he attempt a cheesy "I think therefore I am"
runaround. He just left it be. It was not on his agenda. It would be
fascinating to know what he would have come up with had he done so.
I am beginning to lose interest in this listserver because there is not enough of
the "hard core" info of the sort which you present and too much of the
guru-gushing to which I don't relate.
Well, I delete a lot.
Can you recommend other lists and/or sites which are more in line with the sort of thing
which you post?
For what you want, you are not going to find much of it anywhere. The fact that you ask the kinds of questions that you do means that you are already head and shoulders above most of the people who indulge in these kinds of topics. With all my experience, travels, correspondence, etc., I have known only a handful of people who can talk about spiritual topics with knowledge, intelligence, wit, and the authority of experience. You will sometimes find one or two of those things, but rarely all four.
You are better off going to the original sources, such as I have suggested in my jnana yoga series (the next installment should be ready soon.) I know that you don't have a lot of time with your professional workload, but such time as you have would be better spent working just a few pages a day at Nagarjuna or David Hume then surfing around on the Net looking for really high-class stuff. I am talking quite bluntly because I think you want the truth. The Net is a wonderful thing but it takes a lot of time to separate the wheat from the chaff. As Art Kleps, a great American philosopher who unfortunately went mad once told me, "the first test of a prospector is to know gold when he finds it."
(You want to know what I mean by "unfortunately went mad"? Check out Art's
but don't blame me if you feel icky afterwards.)
What I am about to say may be really self-serving but whatever you do I hope you will stay in touch. I have found your posts to be quite stimulating. Few people (I mean this sincerely) cut through the BS and get down to brass tacks. Most have to show how smart they are by playing word games or trying to get one-up vis-a-vis how much they have read or which gurus they have been to or whatever.
I like your willingness to not be a know-it-all but just ask for what you want to know. This is what Suzuki Roshi called "Beginner's Mind" in his book "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" (another classic.) All the most evolved people I know have this same quality. They know what they know, they know what they don't know, they don't confuse the two, they aren't afraid to admit to ignorance when they want to find out the stuff that they don't know -- I just love and respect those folks so much.
One of the main tools of jnana yoga, or any worthwhile thinking, is logic. Logic is not an end in itself. The most important parts of our lives, such as feelings and values, are non-logical. This is not the same as illogical. The fact that you love your spouse, or favor chocolate over butterscotch, does not contradict logic.
The foundation of logic is the inference. An inference takes related facts (called premises) and forms a conclusion from them. The classical form of this is called a syllogism. For instance: long hair is hard to care for; I have long hair; therefore my hair is hard to care for.
Inference only works on two conditions: the premises have to be true, and my reasoning has to be valid. For instance, if long hair is easy to care for then the above conclusion will be false. Or if I conclude that "therefore I will not care for my hair", then my reasoning is invalid. (In this case I've substituted an unspoken premise: "I don't want to work hard.")
Poor reasoning also produces flaws, and there are many common errors. Here's an example: "I am a man, men like to be good at sports, therefore I am good at sports." The proper conclusion is "therefore I like to be good at sports."
There are a number of appealing ways to duck being logical. A lot of them have to do with wanting things to be different than they are. Here's an example: "No man would ever hit a woman." Confronted with the unpleasant reality that in fact some men do hit women, it changes to "Well okay then, no real man would ever hit a woman." In other words changing the definition of terms to suit one's preconceptions.
Another mistake occurs in presenting the premises in such a way that a preferred conclusion seems unavoidable. The common guilt trip is an example of this "If you really loved your mother, you wouldn't move so far away." The implied syllogism here is "People who really love their mothers don't move far away from them, you love your mother, therefore you can't move away." It is simply not true that loving children never move away.
This is very common in spiritual or New Age circles. Wanting to believe in something, let's say the healing power of crystals, then I am open to all kinds of mistakes. I may accept premises which are not based on fact. I may reason invalidly, as in this example: "I had a cold, the cold went away after I put this crystal around my neck, therefore the crystal cured my cold." This is an example of the "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy: after this, therefore because of this. I think I have demonstrated a causalconnection between putting on a crystal and my cold going away, when in fact all I have shown is that one event followed the other.
One common flaw arises from what is called the argument "ad hominem", or "to the man." If I can make you look like a fool, a cad, a slacker, or some other bad thing, then I may succeed in casting doubt on anything you may say. This is an effective ploy but nonetheless deplorable for that. If what one values is truth, regardless of the source or consequences, then the argument ad hominem is a distortion of that value. If Hitler or Savonarola says the sky is blue, does it make it any less true?
Another fallacy is called the "reductio ad absurdum", or reduction to the absurd. Let's say I state that the 2nd amendment to the US constitution guarantees to all citizens the right to own firearms, and then someone who dislikes guns says "Oh, so you think we should give guns to any child old enough to lift one?" By casting my statement into an extreme form which no sane person would maintain, you attempt to discredit what I am actually advocating. As with the argument ad hominem, this is an assault on the truth. Any extreme statement is likely to be mistaken. And reasonable people can have legitimate differences of opinion without painting each other as desperate fanatics.
One of the key disciplines of jnana yoga is to recognize your beliefs as such. It is not that beliefs are bad and knowledge is good, but that they are different. Each has its place and function. I don't believe the sky is blue, I know the sky is blue. I believe that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning, but I don't know it for a fact. That is one reason why formal logic is so powerful. It allows me to distinguish between belief and knowledge, to prevent me from going off on vain fantasies that I mistake for reality.
So who says "feelings" are non-logical? They are perfectly logical, but
the deductive logic by which they come about is sub-conscious and therefore
not known to our self-conscious mind. The images and feelings that we "feel"
are generated by that perfect deductive logic engine called the
I am writing a book, working title "The Reality of Irrationality and the Poverty of Illusion." Very few people realize the real power of the subconscious and the emotions. One might say that they have a certain rhythm, harmony, and process of their own, but on the other hand they can also be arrhythmic, disharmonious, and the process can be chaotic. The incredible power and sweep of irrationality has to be seen to be believed, like a hurricane, a tornado, or a supernova. I hope that my subconscious is never so tame as to be a "perfect deductive logic engine."
This business of referring to the process exemplified by the Empress as deduction was invented by PFC out of whole cloth. The word deduction has a pedigree stretching back for 25 centuries and it was never used that way until he did. Paul noticed a similarity between the "Empress activity" and deduction, which is that it works from generals to particulars, and decidedto appropriate the term for his use. I have no problem with that, except that he might at some point have made it clear he was drawing a parallel, not using a technical term.
Inductive Reasoning goes from the particular to
the general. It is how we use Reason to discover Truth. Inductive
Reasoning is attributed to the Magician, and comes about from keen
observation. When you see a wooden 4 legged shaped object and think
"chair", you are using inductive reasoning.
This is a poor example of induction, because it is deduction. This is still reasoning from the general to the particular, and the syllogism looks like this: A chair has 4 legs and a seat. This wooden object in front of me has 4 legs and a seat. Therefore it is a chair.
Here is an example of induction: I give aspirin to 10 people and note that 9 of them report decreased pain. I therefore infer that aspirin will relieve pain for most people. That is reasoning from the particular (these particular 9 people out of this group of 10) to the general (most people.) Of course, there is a problem with inductive reasoning. A different set of 10 people might turn up different results. Maybe only 3 would have pain relief. Would I therefore infer that aspirin is not effective with very many people? Maybe I would decide that 10 is too small a number for statistical significance (it is.) So I get 1500 people. But no matter how many people I get, or how high the correlation is, every statistician (and every scientist worthy of the name) knows that there is always a margin of error.
My man, David Hume, discredited induction because it is based on the assumption of causality, which cannot be proved. How can we possibly know that taking aspirin relieves pain? All we know is that X number of people reported that they had reduced pain after taking aspirin. This is an example of the "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy -- "after this, therefore because of this."
You may be saying, what makes Bruce claim that causality is only an assumption? Well, if I take an aspirin in a dream tonight, and my dream headache gets better, was it the little white dream pill that relieved the pain? Of course not. The only difference between dream life and waking life is that there is rather more continuity to waking life. In other words, time seems to flow in one direction, and events seem to follow what are called the "laws of nature." Nonetheless, that this is an assumption is shown every minute of every day by the constant procession of synchronicity. All that occurs is at the will and pleasure of the Prime Mover (as Joseph N. has recently called it), including the appearance of causality, which is as subject to change as the cost of eggs in Istanbul.
Last time we looked at a form of logic called deduction which makes use of the syllogism: if A is the same as B, and B is the same as C, then A is the same as C. "If all dogs with tight curly fur and ribbons on their heads are poodles, and this dog has tight curly fur and a ribbon on its head, then this dog is a poodle." (I know, this would not always be true, but it displays the form of deduction.)
In this installment we'll look at another form of logic, called induction. Deduction looks at generals to discover something true about particulars (all dogs, this dog.) Induction goes in the reverse direction: from particulars to generals. To use the same silly example, I see ten dogs in a row that have tight curly fur and ribbons on their head, which are all poodles, then I predict that the next dog I see with tight curly fur and a ribbon on its head will also be a poodle.
Here's a better example, so you can see the use of induction. If I give aspirin to 10,000 people, and 9,000 of them experience pain relief, then I will say that aspirin is an effective pain reliever for 90% of the population. Now, I haven't tested the whole population, but I am making an inference -- going from the particular people I have observed, and making a generalization about all the people I haven't tested. We do this all the time. "If this stove which is red on top burned me, then all stoves which are red on top will burn me." I didn't need to try it twice, did you?
The application of this to jnana yoga is: people make claims all the time. "XYZ yoga will wake up your kundalini, make you rich, and give you a better sex life." How do they know this? Is it just a claim? Is it based on trial and test, and therefore an induction? If you're not looking to answer these kinds of questions, then you will be taken in by all kinds of false statements. Not the kind of thing a jnani wants to do.
We see this all the time on the Net, where claims are made for this or that guru, avatar, pundit, or whatever. The statements are phrased like simple declarative sentences: Swami Bananananda is an Adept of the Jupiterian Order, which gives him to power to initiate people into the wonders of the Outer Solar System. (I just made that up. I know of no such thing as an adept of the Jupiterian Order.) You see, there is supposition slipped in with fact. Swami Bananananda may well be a member of this order; that can be checked. It is either factual or not. But does he have any power, what do they mean by the wonders of the Outer Solar System, and so forth? Presumably, these claims are made on prior experience, which would be induction. "Since Swami B. has successfully initiated 9,000 out of 10,000 candidates into the wonders of the OSS, then he will be able to successfully initiate 90% of the population into the wonders of the OSS." Digging into it, you find no such basis for the claim. It is mere supposition. But you cannot verify whether he is a fraud or a guru if you don't know to ask the right kinds of questions.
Next time we will get beyond the formal logic stuff and look at some applications of all this material into practical spiritual topics.
Reading about jnana yoga the thought came to me that
spirituality is spirit is God. Do we forget God and talk about A B C ? I
just don't seem to get it. I know I followed Gurudev for over 20 years and
Bapuji and have done yoga faithfully and taught yoga for years and would
not be this far in my spiritual quest if I had not found this path. So in talking about A B C where is God??? ( If I gave ten people 1 aspirin,
9 people felt pain relief that to is 90 %, therefore 90% of this small
amount of people feel better. What is the problem? This is a physical
aspect.) Do you compare aspirins to spirituality? When someone walks,
runs, breathes, sings, cries, hurts, bleeds, loves, hates, listens, speaks,
combined forms the road to spirituality. To God?
I admit that I was somewhat taken aback by your letter. After -- let's see -- nine installments in the series, your post arrives wondering about the basic premise. What I'm trying to express here is surprise, not disapproval.
So, OK -- review time. There are several basic systems of yoga in India, from which all other systems derive. They are: Raja, Bhakti, Asana, Jnana, Karma, Tantra. (Subsets, or specialties, include mantra yoga, mudra yoga, kundalini yoga, etc.) They are devised for people of different makes, so that each may find a compatible path to the One. For the more meditative, there is Raja. For the more physically-oriented, there is Asana. For the devotional, there is Bhakti. For the intellectual, there is Jnana. For the doer, there is Karma. For the sensual, there is Tantra. This is how good God is, that for every character there is a path.
People who are attracted to one system, often "don't get" its opposite. Jnanis may have no difficulty with Raja or Asana, but "don't get" Bhakti. Karma yogis often "don't get" Raja ("who wants to just sit around staring at their navel all day?") Most everyone "doesn't get" Tantra. This is why I am not going to reply to the specific questions you raise. If you don't get it, you don't get it. That's fine. But you can accept that it is a path for others. In fact, although I expect you did not mean to give this impression, one might think it the height of arrogance to say "If I don't get it then it must be wrong." I'm sure you have neighbors who feel that way about yoga. I will give you one hint about, though, in response to one question you raised. The question was, Do you compare aspirins to spirituality? My answer is, do you think aspirins are something other than God?
I've thought about continuing our study of logic, having already covered deduction and induction. However, with the tools already presented, carefully employed, one can accomplish a great deal by way of observing and discerning the nature of given statements or ideas. Even for those whose spiritual path tends more to devotion than to philosophy, it is useful to be able to separate the wheat from the chaff. I hope that these lessons will have helped some to do that more satisfactorily.
What I would like to do now is to turn from the tools of jnana yoga to its principles. For me, this is the most enjoyable. I feel the same about these principles that others feel about Jesus or Krishna or the Great Mother. Not because of the ideas themselves, but because of that Reality, the One Source, of which they are a pale reflection.
The classical approach of jnana yoga is referred to in Sanskrit as "neti, neti" or "not this, not this." In other words, the One Source is in its innermost nature without any characteristic whatsoever. Anything which can be sensed or thought has characteristics; therefore, none of these things are Brahman (or, as I prefer to say, the One Source, the One Life, or just the One.)
Let me digress for a while. In Hindu philosophy, the One is called Brahman. In Buddhism, when they refer to Emptiness, they refer to much the same thing: the unbounded and unmanifest. In Taoism, it is said that before there is anything, there is Tao. In Jewish Qabala, a similar ideal is referred to by the term Ain. So we see that this same ideal has its counterparts in various parts of the world.
The One is unbounded and unmanifest because it is the Source of manifestation. Only that which is manifest has characteristics, so that which is the source of manifestation is without characteristics. The nature of language is such that we can say something like "The One is prior to creation", which points in the right direction. Yet it is also incorrect because time is a characteristic of manifestation. How can there be a time before time? Naturally, there cannot. The word "before" presupposes time. Think this through before proceeding further. Words like "before", "after", and "now" all exist within an idea of time. But the One created time, so it in itself has no time. It also created space, so it in itself has no dimensions.
This is why the "neti, neti" approach has been associated with Jnana yoga. When one rejects the ultimate reality of anything which is manifest, eventually all one is left with is the Unmanifest. This is not an idea, it is not a thought, it is an actual experience -- the Hindus call it samadhi. We will look further into this process in another essay.
The No-Thing is actually a thing, but not in this created
universe. Think of this universe as a meditation (computer game) of
the Brahman (the computer programmer who made the game, including
the bugs). The No-Thing is not an idea or a thing IN THE GAME. However, on the
plenum of existence (the hyper-pleroma) of that programmer, the
No-Thing is actually a thing.
I see what you are saying, but I have to disagree. It is an feature of language alone that you can say such things and have them be logical and syntactically correct, yet they do not correspond with experience or received wisdom. Well, I'm not all that big on received wisdom, so let's stick with experience.
We could also do a linguistic analysis. There is no existence prior to the creation of the universe -- existence being an artifact of creation -- so that which "precedes" existence neither exists nor doesn't exist. The concept of existence just isn't relevant. Existence is one pole of the existence-nonexistence duality, and the One -- the Ain -- is not defined by any dualities whatsoever. Again, based on experience. I am not bandying concepts, but just trying to express within the limitations of language as best I can something which is without limits. But I am getting ahead of myself -- the next episode in this series will go into polarity, duality and non-duality.
In the Heart Sutra, the word for "emptiness" is better translated "energy".
It is unbounded, but actually manifests everywhere. It
emanates into our universe in accordance with the computer program
the game programmer programmed.
Got to disagree again. Emptiness is emptiness (sunyata.) You may be thinking of prabhasvara, often translated as luminosity, and which is roughly cognate to "the Limitless Light."
You said, "So we see that this same ideal has its counterparts in
various parts of the world. The One is unbounded and unmanifest
because it is the Source of manifestation." Okay, if that is how you define unmanifest.
Short version, limited by the limitations of the language.
You said, "Only that which is manifest has characteristics, so that
which is the source of manifestation is without characteristics."
Again, this is correct if you mean no characteristics in this universe,
since it is not part of this universe; however, in the
universe in which it exists, it certainly has characteristics. In
this universe it also has the characteristic of "being outside this
universe". So "not having any characteristics at all" leads to the
same contradictions as "perfect in every way" and other logical
contradictions. God is not perfect because it is not possible to be
perfect. God has characteristics, including "outside this universe",
"imperfect programmer of this universe", "having no characteristics
in this universe", etc.
You can say this because the language allows it, but it does not correspond with the experience of the unmanifest (samadhi, cosmic consciousness, call it what you want to.) There may be other universes, but there is no other universe in which the One Source exists.
I feel like I'm repeating the same thing over and over, so rather than continue to respond to each paragraph as it comes along, I guess I have to just stop and say:
You are repeating the same mistake over and over. In part, you are mistaking ideas for experience. In part, you are not acknowledging the limitations of language, or the fact that even if something is logically valid and syntactically correct it is not therefore true. In part, you are making it up as you go along, which is fun but not philosophy.
Can you share what your background is in regard to Yoga?
Well, I've had a "checkered past." I've been a logger, paper mill worker, bicycle messenger in San Francisco, Quaker pastor, social worker, nurse's aide, motorcycle tramp, dishwasher, and some others. Somewhere in there I managed to get a Master's in Social Work and attend the Quaker seminary in Richmond, IN. I focus chiefly on my practice of psychotherapy and clinical hypnosis at present. I am Jungian and Ericksonian (Milton, not Erik -- well, him too) in my orientation. I've mostly worked with children and families but have been doing mainly adults for the last few years. Studying for a diploma in homeopathy to work that into my practice for a more well-rounded, holistic approach -- have used Bach Flower Remedies with selected patients for years. Majored in philosophy and religion as an undergrad. Been studying/practicing this stuff most every day since I was 13 (I'm 46 at present -- hmm, that makes 33 years, a nice round number.) I've practiced a variety of different disciplines at different times: TM, Kripalu, other forms of yoga, kung fu and t'ai chi, Buddhist mindfulness meditation, chanting Namu Myoho Renge Kyo (homage to the Lotus Sutra.) Was on staff at Kripalu in 1988-89. Initiated by Gurudev on 10/14/88. For the last ten years I have focused more on the Western "yoga" which is contained in the hermetic or Rosicrucian tradition, and includes the practice of tarot, alchemy, Qabala, and astrology. So, you know, a little here, a little there, sooner or later it all adds up.
I have also made it a point to get to know like-minded people wherever I've lived (which has been North, South, East, West, and Midwest) since you learn a lot that way too. Also literature, poetry, science (esp. physics and astronomy), history, all that, because it all reveals something about the human condition which is a microcosm of the cosmic condition. "That which is below is as that which is above, and that which is above is as that which is below, for the performance of the miracles of the One Thing." (The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus)
But of course learning is not enough. That's why I emphasize practice. If you don't practice, you don't really know what you've learned. Practice takes the learning, breaks it down, reveals your misunderstandings, shows you the right questions, points you to the answers, and then you've made the material your own. After that, as Van Morrison said, No Guru, No Method. Left a lot out but, you know, I don't want to blow my horn too much. Still, you asked, so there it is.
Surprisingly, you did not provide a Christian equivalent to "the source".
You note that I included no Christian version of the One. Well, really, there isn't one. The Christian tradition does not contain a good analog to Brahman, the Void, the Ain, or the Tao. Most of the tradition is quite emphatic about the Trinity, and even the non-trinitarians tend not to see things as non-dualistic, non-qualified, or what have you. If I've overlooked something please someone speak up. There are some in the Christian tradition who do have this kind of non-dualistic idea (we'll get into non-dualism more in the next essay), such as Meister Eckhart and Jacob Boehme, but they were part of the Rosicrucian tradition which has been greatly influenced by Qabala and would therefore have known of the Ain.
In the last essay on jnana yoga, we considered the classical Hindu approach, called the "neti, neti" approach, in which all which is not the One Reality is discarded. In so doing, it is found that the One has no characteristics at all. All characteristics are marked by duality, and the One is not dual. It cannot be divided. Only in its manifestations, as we experience, do there appear to be distinguishable qualities.
These qualities, qualifications, or expressions of duality, are marked by appearing as polar opposites. Therefore we have hot and cold, long and short, up and down, in and out, good and bad, and so on. In each case, it becomes clear, when using the tools of logic which were summarized in previous essays, that these terms are all relative. To give a common example, consider hot and cold. Is 40 deg. hot or cold? Well, if you have just gone through 3 months of sub-zero weather, 40 deg. would be shirt sleeve weather. However, in the middle of summer after weeks of 90 deg. heat, if the thermometer suddenly plunged to 40 deg. it would seem impossibly cold and everyone would be breaking out the sweaters and heavy coats. Similar instances could be drawn from any conceivable set of polarities.
One such set that is often a hang-up for the non-reflective is that of good and bad. It seems so clear, from any given point of view, that some things are good and some are bad. Some things may seem so good as to be thought of as pure, exemplary, or perfect, while others may seem so bad as to be thought of as terrible, unconscionable, or evil. Shift your point of view by just a little bit, and these no longer hold -- but a new set of circumstances will be seen to be right or wrong.
Perhaps the most basic of these dichotomies is that of existence and non-existence. It seems self- evident that something either is, or is not. However, this is not true from the point of view of the One. Existence is a condition of manifestation, and manifestation proceeds from the One. Or, to say the same thing in reverse, the One precedes existence. There is no existence until there is manifestation. If the One did not manifest, there would be no existence. Without existence, there would not be non-existence either, just as you cannot have high without low or near without far.
It is part of the discipline of the jnani to work with these ideas until they are not just ideas at all, but actual experience. This may need explanation also. A slave may have an idea of what freedom would be like, but until he is free, he doesn't really know. In fact, freedom will be seen to be quite different in many ways from the preconceived idea. The young lad or lass who dreams of marriage and family, or career, status and success, does not really know anything about them until they are part of his or her experience. So, while the jnani may be quite able to say to himself or herself "there is no such thing as good or bad, these are just concepts," it is the intent of jnana yoga to someday culminate in the experience in which this is actually perceived, felt, known to be so. This experience is that of samadhi.
Where you wrote It seems self- evident that something either is, or is not.
However, this is not true from the point of view of the One. Existence
is a condition of manifestation, and manifestation proceeds from the One.
I had to complain. (; Remember the Big Book says, "God either is or He
isn't" Now what? Okay, I'm playing with words.
"God either is or He isn't." That's true from the POV of the unenlightened consciousness, which is to say: when I look at the world through everyday eyes, all those dichotomies hold. Things ARE near and far. Things ARE up and down. Things ARE good and bad. And, of course, things ARE and ARE NOT. From that perspective. Including God, who when asked his name, could do no better than "I AM THAT I AM." :-)
It's only from the CC point of view that the polarities are resolved. In a sense, jnana yoga is a way of tricking the intellect into thinking it's doing its usual thing, when in fact it is being short-circuited. And this is the purpose of writing this series and sharing it with these folks, so many of whom are so Hodian – if they follow the hints, and really think about it, everything goes haywire and they will be given samadhi – or to put it another way, samadhi being a pre-existent condition, everything goes haywire and their resistance to experiencing samadhi vanishes.
You said, "God also makes the choice when we act irresponsibly."
Then we have no responsibility, and it matters not at all what we do.
Responsibility depends upon choice, and though it may be a thought
attributable to my pea-sized brain, it seems to me that this idea implies
a lack of choice.
To sit back and take the view that murder, rape, theft, etc. is
activity that serves some purpose in the Grand Plan of the Master
Architect of the Universe may be a valid viewpoint. You may argue
that since the concept of property is an illusion there can be no
such thing as theft; you may even argue that since we all enjoy
eternal life, there can be no such thing as murder. Nevertheless, I
believe all of us would agree that this is irresponsible behavior and
not appropriate for a society of upright and true persons.
Many people hold this viewpoint that everything and anything we do is in accord
with God's plan. What I consistently fail to understand, however, is why
at the same time such things as murder, theft and kicking a dog should be
considered anything less than sublime, holy behavior. If it is God
kicking the dog through me, what is irresponsible? If it is God pulling the
trigger of a gun while aiming point blank at Heston's medulla oblongata, why is
this anything less than perfection? What is so wrong about bombing a nursery
in Chechnya, gunning down a village in Bosnia, stealing a pensioner's social
security check? If it is God bombing and gunning and robbing, why should
we not give thanks whenever these events unfold?
Blessed art Thou, Lord of the Universe, who hath spilled 15,000 gallons of
crude into the river!
This again has to do with context. The statement which says "God is responsible for all actions" is not of the same Order of thought as the statement which says "Oil in the ocean kills thousands of life-forms" or "A bullet to the medulla oblongata will cause terrific damage or death to the recipient."
God is not bound by polarities; they spring from his manifestation. Therefore he is neither good nor evil, responsible nor irresponsible.
Within the manifestation, concepts such as good or bad, right or wrong, honorable or scurrilous, harmful or helpful, sick or healthy, all have usefulness. But only within the manifestation. To put this more concretely, if we loot and pillage and kick the dog, it is heinous, within the manifestation. However, since everything that is, is an expression of the One (what else could it be?), then looting and pillaging and kicking the dog also serve the purpose of the One, in ways which I personally often find too obscure for me to grasp.