Guest post by Kailasam Iyer
From the beginning:
About thirteen and a half billion years ago, something went “pop” and time began in the sense things started to happen. Our best guess about the antecedent to the “pop” is that since, to our knowledge, it had not had any effect on what happened after, it might as well NOT have happened. Galaxies , stars, and planets happened. Our own sun coalesced to start spewing out energy and matter for our earth and sister planets to form. Four and a half billion years ago, earth attained a solidity and identity. The evolution continues to this day.
Not too long thereafter, may be a billion years later, life started and has been ever since replicating, mutating, multiplying, and living to this day. Lucy happened someplace in Africa and her progeny migrated, filled the earth, and continue to proliferate to this day. Homosapiens happened a couple of hundred thousand years ago, lived in a state of nature until the beginning of reflective awareness developed in him to begin a sense of separation from nature around him. Cognitive tools supported by and in support of organic life started to flourish to a point of retaining the past in the present for planning the future developed. This aspect of life has been evolving to this day.
A baby is born in this context!
A life is conceived in a mother’s womb and it takes about three weeks to establish its viability. From that point onwards, three developments happen, given nourishment, which define a human. a) Physical: About three months into the gestation period, all the body parts are recognizable. At about the end of six months nerve structure is recognizable. Representations of its own body parts are beginning to be mapped into various parts of the brain. b) Sensory: Feeling of pain, the very beginning of consciousness in the form of sensitivity, happens toward the end of the third trimester of gestation. The baby wakes up, so to say, and the baby soon is out as separate from the mother. Physical and nerve developments continue. c) Cognitive: From about a year and a half, the knowing or awareness of its own body parts or the functioning of the representations in the brain, motor activity as reaction to environment, intelligence, the sense of self as separate from others, manipulation of the body and environment all develop and continue until, say, the teen years and we have a human being to continue life in both senses ( for the self and the species), to grow older, to decay and to die. In all this dynamic process, it is the cell, the unit of life, that forms, grows, multiplies, and dies in accordance with its own time line.
Astrophysical, geological, biological, anthropological, historical, one’s own life, and cellular time lines are essential parts of our picture of the life of the universe. Traces of these records are inside of each one of us in the form of samskaras. I want to stress this because we are now trying to understand what experience is, what it does, and how it can lead to “salvation”.
During our last session I mouthed off something like “ Our ancients didn’t have a clue to the how of the Material Universe”. Upon reflection, I must apologize; they were poorly chosen words. This is what needs to be acknowledged: Ever since intelligence sparked in the brain of homosapiens sufficient enough to cause reflective thinking, each generation had developed a model of their “environment” with which they could feel accommodated in the environment. This model was developed on the basis of whatever could be discerned in the form of data from the environment and the imagination of the smart folks in the generation. Today’s model does the same thing on the basis of what we can measure and analyze with our capabilities. The important thing to remember is NOT to tie our sails to a particular mast in blind faith and to remain open in our convictions along with a respect for the consistent evolution of human thought. Our ancients were not privy to the details of what we now know about our universe ( to include our own bodies). But, I think they had very sophisticated ideas of the cognitive part and how it constructed the phenomenal universe subjectively ( with self-referentiality).
The early followers of The Buddha constructed a model of five stages in the apprehension of an experience. a) Materiality ( objects and happenings) – bundle of properties, characteristics, features or, in general, identifiables. b) Sensing: the signals from materiality entering the mind field c) perception: recognition of the totality of the sensory information d) volition: interpretation of the perception to construct a self-referential image ( and a reaction methodology) for presentation to consciousness for awareness and e) awareness: This is when the person makes sense of the experience, decides “fight or flight” and moves on. The fourth stage is quite important. This is when the interaction between the sense of self and the murky world of samskaras take place. We must not underestimate this stage. If our total psyche ( the conscious and the unconscious) were to be pictured as the globe – the planet earth- we are only aware of ( conscious of ) the mantle – may be just ten or so miles in depth- compared to the four thousand miles of radius of the earth. I think it is the standoff between the sense of self ( free will etc.,) and the buried “memories” – astrophysical through personal – that characterize an experience. The sense of self itself is an emergent dynamic ( continuously evolving) feature of all that we are. We are the drama and we are watching it.
If we recognize that the union of Purusha & Prakriti sustains our cognitive lives, then we can, through the understanding of cognitive experience, recognize the effects of the pair Purusha & Prakriti and thus recognize them separately as well by applying Satkarya Vadham.
I really like the analogy of “yogurt from milk” for both Satkarya vadham ( cause and effect) and Parinama vadham ( complete transformation). This is more complete. The “seed and oil” and “clay and jar” analogies are sort of partials. A tiny bit of culture is necessary for starting the transformation. Once started, the transformation proceeds to completion and you no longer “see” culture or milk. If you are inside the yogurt, you feel the effect of culture and milk. Obviously, as in any other analogy, one can not push this too far.
Sankhya philosophy has a temporal history – Kapila (toward the end of Upanishadic period) through Buddha, Patanjali, Vyasa, Ishvara Krishna, authors of Bhagavata Purana, Vacaspati Mishra, Vignyana Bikshu ( around 1500AD) and many others have shaped it.
As a summary, I state the following for discussion: If it is not HAPPENING in our heads, we have no way of KNOWING about it. Activities in the conscious and hidden parts of our minds direct and guide us for good, bad, or indifferent results. Experiences are gateways into the workings of our minds and quite possibly to the ultimate cause. We CAN analyze our experiences especially those which we face for the first time unexpectedly because that is when all our weaknesses and strengths are in full display if we care to look. Clearly, I believe that Patanjali and many before him peeked deep into their psyches, surveyed the interior landscapes, and came out with maps with guide posts. We are the beneficiaries.