This topic contains 6 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by Pravin February 7, 2019 at 12:50 pm.
- November 12, 2018 at 9:01 pm #6598csbeguParticipant
In many New Age and Eastern philosophy circles we hear ultimate goals such as “merging into the Oneness” or “being one with the Universe”. There is, of course, the Advaita Vedanta school where the goal of spiritual life is also presented as an impersonal state of being. Why are people so attracted to these concepts, as opposed to the personalist schools which speak of a Supreme Being that is personal as the ultimate goal? I understand that, philosophically speaking, the arguments of these schools are not so strong, but my interest is why people are so attracted to them? What is behind this fascination with impersonalism? Isn’t the soul ultimately personal? Then why does it desires impersonalism? Frankly, it sounds as a form of spiritual suicide.
- This topic was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by csbegu.
- November 13, 2018 at 3:49 pm #6603AshishParticipant
The personality of the soul comes from ananda or pleasure, and this pleasure is created from desires or what we call likes and dislikes. Different people have different likes and dislikes and our personality is created from the hierarchy of these likes and dislikes. The hierarchy means we prioritize some likes and dislikes over others. In all religious and spiritual philosophies this desire is considered ‘evil’ and the cause of material bondage. This is in a way true, because material desires are indeed the cause of our attraction to the material world. Therefore, in all religions asceticism is encouraged, which basically means to renounce all your desires. Renunciation or asceticism is considered the fundamental distinction between religion and materialism.
When we renounce desires, we lose our individuality of likes and dislikes. In karma-yoga for example one has to become free of desires and perform one’s duties without desires. In jnana-yoga knowledge is supposed to give us detachment. In astanga-yoga by the practice of breath control one gains control over the mind and hence conquers their desires. A simple and austere life is similarly encouraged in all religions. Thus, there is a deep-rooted belief in all religious-minded people that desires lead to attachments and attachments lead to bondage. To be free of this bondage, we have to give up desires, and therefore the personality of likes and dislikes.
In the varnasrama system also, the brahmachari, vanaprastha, and sannyasa stages of life are different forms of renunciation or detachment and controlling of desires.
The personalist philosophy instead says that we don’t discard desires but we change the desires. This also means that we don’t give up likes and dislikes, but we change them. Accordingly, it is not a rejection of personality but the creation of a new personality. But since the path to this discovery passes through the rejection of all material desires, there is a strong sense in most people that to practice religion one has to give up their personality and hence impersonalism becomes the natural conclusion for anyone who is trying to control their desires.
The personalist philosophy instead says that you like something because God likes it and you dislike something because God dislikes it. This is also called yukta-vairagya or connected renunciation, where the ‘connection’ is to God, and our likes and dislikes are molded in accordance with the likes and dislikes of God. Accordingly, the personalist doesn’t focus on giving up all desires, but rather desires (or rejects) those things that are favored (or disfavored, respectively) by God.
The personalist philosophy is also a devotional philosophy and the impersonalist philosophy is the idea of liberation or emancipation. When one thinks about one’s own liberation then he or she thinks naturally about the desires that bind them to the world. But when one thinks about love of God then they naturally think about what would be liked or disliked by God. Therefore, impersonalism is individualism and personalism is God-consciousness.
There is hence another reason for people adopting impersonalism which is that they have a problem with a personal God, and hence they have a problem with a personal soul. Their aversion towards a personal God comes because such a God demands surrender and obedience, and they don’t want to surrender and obey. They want to remain free individuals. To achieve this freedom, they reject the personality of God, and hence their own personality, and ‘merge’ with God. This ‘merger’ is notional—we think or want to think that we are as good as God.
Surrender to God is often equated to slavery and loss of freedom. Therefore the ‘freedom-loving’, ‘individualistic’ people want a freedom both from material bondage and from God. They are unable to distinguish between the laws of nature that forcibly bind a person and the loving relationship in which one is volunarily bound. They cannot imagine how or why someone would renounce their freedom even for love. They prize the happiness emerging from freedom much more, and don’t recognize or don’t understand that the happiness from loving bonds is greater. So, impersonalism is also a direct consequence of not having understood the nature of love, and how love involves a sacrifice but the gains of that sacrifice are far greater.
All these reasons—renunciation, fear of losing one’s freedom, and lack of understanding the happiness of true love—are contributing reasons for the prevalence of impersonalism.
- This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by admin. Reason: grammar
- November 14, 2018 at 10:37 am #6607HarshaParticipant
I agree cārvaka philosophy says bhasmībhūtasya dēhasya punarāgamanaṁ kutaḥ
Thats the reason why moksha is the last purushartha, not everybody needs to aspire for it, it should come as a wish unasked for. And those who aspire for it may not get it. The policing to lead a moral life should never be a fear of God or fear of not getting Moksha. What should then keep a person moral and ethical? This should be out of the scope of sprituality. I believe this is the reason why spirituality and religion should be separate. Religion should define ethics and morality and hence smṛti’s are dependent on desha and kāla. Right?
- This reply was modified 3 months, 1 week ago by Harsha.
- November 14, 2018 at 5:28 pm #6611AshishParticipant
Moksha is tangentially related to God. Worship of God can imply moksha but moksha doesn’t imply worship of God. That’s why there is an impersonal liberation called Brahman. It is moksha but it is not worship of God. The only problem is that the jiva can (and does) fall from Brahman.
Similarly, moral life is necessary for God consciousness, but God consciousness is not necessary for moral life. You can lead a moral life without being aware of God. It is not fear that drives one toward God but the desire to be in a loving relationship with God.
Yes, there is a difference between religion or dharma and spirituality or sanatana-dharma. Dharma is dependent on place and time and circumstances. Hence, dharma changes with time. But sanatana-dharma is unchanging. Smriti such as Manu Samhita can be considered dharma but not sanatana-dharma in so far as it covers the rules of moral living.
- November 17, 2018 at 5:54 pm #6672HarshaParticipant
// Worship of God can imply moksha but moksha doesn’t imply worship of God. //
Sorry I took sometime to really understand this comment.
Worship of God can imply Moksha — means it is not necessary that worship of God always results in moksha, but it may help in some situations to reach Moshatva and “can imply”
precisely denotes that.
Moksha does not imply Worship of God — means moksha is never the result of worship alone, there can be other means as well. This makes Bhakti absolutely optional.
Surprisingly even as per both the Acharyas Madhwa and Shankara, Bhakti Yoga is only the first step but the final is always Gnyana.
In Vivekachudamni Shankaracharya explicitly says it is knowledge and only knowledge that helps reach Brahma. So only necessary and sufficient condition is knowledge
But Madhwacharya never even hints about a path devoid of Bhakthi, even though he says Gnyana is absolutley necessary. For him Bhakthi is a necessary but not a sufficient condition.
I am planning to work on Brahmasutras in modern context, I want to start on it atleast after about two years from now. I am hence studying upanishads and bhashyas and the Gita. I also need to study western philosophy for this, which I am not sure where to start. Discussions like this helps me a lot.Thanks for your answers.
- November 17, 2018 at 7:01 pm #6677AshishParticipant
There are five kinds of liberation called sayujya, salokya, samipya, sarupya, and sarsti. The first one doesn’t require bhakti and the later four require bhakti. So, when I say that worship of God can imply moksha I mean the later four types of liberation. When I say that moksha doesn’t imply worship of God I mean the first type of liberation. Krishna says bhaktya mam abhijanati or by bhakti I am known, which means that bhakti is sufficient, jnana is not necessary. But generally to practice pure bhakti one must have knowledge about God–How can you love God if you don’t know what God is? So, knowledge is knowledge about the nature of God.
As far as Brahma Sutra is concerned, it is written in a logical style in which there is a premise and each successive sutra adds to that premise. Nothing is repeated, just like in a mathematical proof every successive step takes the previous step and then adds something to it. Finally you get to the conclusion. Given this style of writing, it is much harder to understand Brahma Sutra and a single misunderstanding in any step will mean misunderstanding of all the subsequent steps.
Srimad Bhagavatam — which was written by Vyas Deva after authoring Vedanta Sutra — is considered the natural commentary on Vedanta Sutra and it is written in a style where even if you don’t understand something you can proceed further and understand the rest. The conclusions are repeated may times and there isn’t a strict dependence on premise to know the conclusion. Therefore, once we understand Srimad Bhagavatam then we can provide the proper interpretation of Vedanta Sutra.
Finally, Western philosophy is not needed to understand anything in Vedic philosophy. I use Western philosophy for a very specific purpose, and that purpose is that I’m trying to formulate an alternative science and to do that one needs to understand the philosophical basis of modern science, especially empiricism, rationalism, and materialism.
- February 7, 2019 at 12:50 pm #6829PravinParticipant
In my opinion, this attraction towards ‘merger’ and oneness comes from our deep-rooted identification with concepts of western education, specifically evolution and anthropology. We think of ourselves as a human body and mind, which is a very recent development in evolutionary terms, and going back through monkeys, dinosaurs, primitive life-forms, complex molecules, base elements, all the way to the big bang. When thinking through this historical lens it becomes difficult/seems unscientific/unsophisticated to identify with God in the anthropomorphic form that is popular. By extension, we cannot merge with a dinosaur, or a diatom or even hydrogen atoms; much better to merge with big bang which is a condensed form of ‘everything’ before explosion into variety. Therefore this fashionable fascination with oneness, although appearing sophisticated, is rooted in a fundamental ignorance of our true nature, that of a soul having sat-chit-anand capabilities. Once we are able to get out of our scientific and historical thinking and begin thinking in terms of reality, experience and the nature of ‘person’ in personalism and the evolution of the soul, things fall into place much more easily.
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