Friday, 2 December 2016

Desire




Just imagine a person who comes to you and says that the efforts that you are putting in are all good but not producing good results due to all human beings in general being in a metaphysical sleep. Some might get angry, some might show some other emotions but for me, I would be glad and at peace with myself because of this. In this article I am commenting on the article of Osho- Desires grow like leaves on a tree.
 
The main message of Gautama Buddha to humanity is basically that man is asleep. The sleep he is referring to is not ordinary sleep, but a deep unconsciousness within man. This deep unconsciousness goes hand in hand with metaphysical sleep. Basically, all of us are acting out of that consciousness and hence he says that whatever we do, with how much ever effort we do goes wrong. Practically it is impossible to do right with this unconsciousness/ metaphysical sleep within us. This unconsciousness/ metaphysical sleep destroys/ makes void or null all our efforts and leads us into wrong directions.

Desire is like something that already exists in us. It can’t be dropped unless we wake up. The fatal mistake would be to be desireless without waking up. Being desireless is another desire (to put it plainly). There is great bliss or less of sorrow if desire is dropped. On having dropped desire, the result will be that we will attain eternity, that we will not know any birth, any death anymore; that we will become part of the universal celebration that goes on and on.

Osho reasons saying, ‘The desire for godliness, the desire for truth, the desire for liberation, the desire for truth, the desire for liberation, the desire for becoming desireless, each of these is still a desire.’ In the hunt of being desireless ‘a new greed- religious greed- has taken possession of you.’ He stresses on waking up so as to drop desire because dropping desire according to him is not an easy task. He says that desire is equal to dreaming and nothing else because we dream when we sleep and we are in unconsciousness/ metaphysical sleep. His basic idea is that our dreams will disappear once we wake up or in other words our desires will disappear. 

He clearly states that our fight is not with desires but with our sleep. Fighting against desires is like cutting the branches of a tree which will soon come up again. We will function out our unconsciousness/ metaphysical sleep and do the same things. We have to cut the roots i. e. our sleep or else we will remain the same.

We constantly live in a world of dreams, we live in a world of dreams because there are so many desires of ours that are unfulfilled, and living with unfulfilled desires is really painful. In our dreams we basically try to fulfill our unfulfilled desires i. e. create a false feeling or an idea of fulfillment. Hence, our dreams are basically a portrayal of what our desires are and what we want to become.

Coming to the point where one is awake, he says that that person knows that there is nowhere to go and nothing to become. He is already the person that one has to become. Hence desires just fade away on their own on having seen the grandeur of his being. There is no effort required at all because those desires just fall by themselves like dry leaves that fall from a tree.

Therefore Buddha never urges anyone to ‘pray’ or ‘meditate’. Prayer is basically for something and hence it will be a desire. We will go to churches and temples and listen to people praying; and all that they do is basically ask, ask and ask (I personally don’t agree with this point because according to my experience, in Christianity asking is a form of prayer, thanking God is also a form of prayer and so on there are different forms of prayer……. So it’s not that we only keep asking, asking and asking……….. Statements can’t or shouldn’t be generalized as Osho has done). A little he further goes on to say that  their prayers are superficial because they had gone to the holy place of worship to thank the Lord but ended up complaining (Once more I clearly state that I clearly disagree with what he says, because God for me is my parent who is also my best friend. Hence it is obvious that if someone has hurt me, I will go and complain to my parent or even shout or fight with Him for what someone else did to me. Osho must  be made aware of the fact that life is not just full of joys but also of unexpected sorrows and it is precisely in these moments that we turn to our loved ones to either thank or to complain). 

Buddha’s idea about prayer is that we shouldn’t be bothered with prayer, because by the fact that we are asleep our prayer is bound to be nothing but a desire. Further on he says that our asceticism is also bound to be a desire which is deep hedonism. Hence the allurements which drive all people to the places of worship are the talks about the joys and pleasures of heaven and paradise.

            To get up from our deep slumber the solution that he gives is Silence. Silence according to him ‘creates the right space to wake up.’ He says that, ‘Silence goes to the very center of our being like an arrow and wakes us up. And when we are awake, our whole life becomes a prayer.

If you are filled with desire, your sorrows swell
Like the grass after the rain.
But if you subdue desire, your sorrows fall from you
Like drops of water from a lotus flower.
This is good counsel and it is for everyone:
As the grass is cleared for the fresh root, cut down desire
Lest death after death crush you as a river crushes the helpless reeds.
For if the roots hold firm, a felled tree grows up again.
If desires are not uprooted, sorrows grow again in you.

     -Gautama Buddha
in Dhammapada

Thursday, 24 November 2016

World




The judgment that we pass about others is exactly the same way in which we look at ourselves. If we look at the world and say that the world is evil, that is because we consider ourselves to be evil and vice versa (Not applicable always). Sonal Srivastava in her article You are the Universe says, ‘We are conditioned to think about ourselves in a certain way, and our perception is reflected on the outside world.’ We look at the world from the prism of the self.

If we feel hurt, indecisive, compare, insecure and so on, we will able to find those traits in the people around us. The other is like a mirror we are speaking to or into. The world is a reflection of what I do or think. Sometimes these thoughts may bring us immense joy and at other times they may bring us immense sorrow. Suffering may come about if things don’t happen the way, we would like them to happen.

Next she goes on to speak about the all- pervasive self which is the Universal Consciousness. This consciousness according to her constitutes the universe (including us). To describe a little more about the Self, she says that it is like air in the pot. Despite the pot being broken, the air continues to exist. She connects this analogy to the human body and says that it is the same with us, though we die and leave our physical body, we will continue to exist as consciousness.

The Astavakra Gita says, “Turn your attention to forgiveness, sincerity, kindness, simplicity and truth.” This should be done to attain knowledge of oneself and also to be liberated from beliefs that limit us. After this, we will be comfortable with our surroundings no matter where the place is situated. What the Gita says makes perfect sense because forgiveness, sincerity, kindness, simplicity and truth needs us to shift the focus/ attention from ourselves to the other.

One becomes a spiritual practioner upon the realization that one is pure consciousness. There is also the realization that there are no strings attached. Also when one becomes aware of the current moment, practices universal values which were mentioned earlier,  without expecting any reward in return, when help is given to others without bringing in the ego- all this boosts one to become a spiritual practioner. Sonal quotes Sage Astavakra who cautions us against our own selfish desires saying, “You are pure Consciousness- the substance of the universe. The universe exists within you. Don’t be small- minded.”

She beautifully describes human beings saying that we encompass the universe in our body. Whatever is there in the world is an inseparable part of ourselves. This brings or leads her to say that we are mini universes in our own rite. The only thing needed is that we realize it, once and for all. ‘What we also need to remember is that several mini universes together make up the Self.’

‘YOU ARE THE UNIVERSE’

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Death


            ‘Death is a lovely experience’, says Prafulla Deoskar whose article named Transcending time and space continuum appeared in the Speaking Tree, a Times of India Publication on August 7th, 2016. She says that when we are in a body we basically speak about a beginning and an end. All things in life have a starting point from where they begin. The second aspect of this is the ending point where things end. E.g. Death.

Talking about death, another fundamental change that occurs in this realm is the end of fear. Fear is associated with life, and hence when we die it is the end of fear. During the time of our birth and a little while later, we are all egoless. As we gradually proceed along life’s way, we begin to develop a self-image about ourselves based on our own judgments and those made by others. ‘Ego is always susceptible to judgment and it is afraid of losing its ground. While living with our egos, we resort to various defense mechanisms. As mentioned earlier, with death comes the end of fear because the situations where we can be scared don’t arise.


Elaborating a little more about fear, this is the feeling that kills joy. She says that after we pass away from this life we realize that pure joy is unconditional. I personally find it difficult to make sense of what she says. After we die we will not exist, then how would it be possible for us to know what true joy is. Though our souls will continue to exist, it wouldn’t have the brains and the heart to think and feel true joy. I totally agree with the following statement that she makes ‘The pure joy is without any cause or conditions and we are made up of it- it is our very essence’.

Being egoless will result in connectivity. Connectivity will come about because we will be without ego due to death. Separation and differences of opinion arise because of our separate egos. However after death the original substance, i. e. the Essence takes over. In this, a person feels a ‘love- like’ substance as Prafulla calls it. In that love like substance, everything appears to be one. She cites an example of those who have near death experiences, those people are full of love towards others and this love is unconditional. 

‘The realization is that there is no other place to go’. Because are perception is limited by the senses that we have, we forget our essence and magnificence.
To sum it all up in 4 points, it is:

1.      Time doesn’t exist in a linear sense.
2.      A fundamental change in the realm of reality is the end of fear.
3.      Our realization comes in the form of connectivity.
                  4.   The ultimate realization is that there is no other place to go to.

Friday, 7 October 2016

The other

               Relationships have always been a source of love and strength for all human beings through all the ages. There is mutual love and sharing which takes place in relationships. The relationship is at its best when ‘the other’ comes before ‘me’. When the other takes a front seat in our lives then we notice a kind of selflessness within us. In this essay let us deal with the statement of the philosopher Jean Paul Sartre, ’The other is my hell.’

                I do not know much about his life; hence I will be slow in reaching a definite conclusion. I am sure that he has not simply come to the conclusion that the other is my hell. Placing him in context, I feel that maybe he must have been in situations where other persons were nasty, indifferent or cold towards him. This must have happened to him many times which finally led him to the conclusion that ‘the other is my hell.’



                According the concept of concern by Heidegger, we are human beings who are inter- related and not individual islands on this earth. We are called to exhibit our love and concern for the other in ways that make the other feel cared for (interpreted). Whenever another fellow human being goes astray, it is not s/ he alone who have gone astray but also a part of us. I say this precisely keeping in mind the evil activities going on in our society. I feel that those who are involved in such activities are directly responsible and those living in the society are indirectly responsible.


                Coming back to the topic, I feel that when Sartre said that ‘the other is my hell’ he  definitely knew that he too was ‘hell’ for someone else in the society. I totally disagree with Sartre and also feel a sense of empathy with him. I don’t think it is rational to blame him or his situations for the definition of the other that he gave. The only thing possible is to either accept or reject what he says.

                According to me, the other is not only what I perceive the other to be but much more and far beyond that. What we see is what we get and hence when I see the other as a human being who is full of goodness and possibilities, that is precisely what that person turns out to be. God created us in His own image and likeness; we can’t be hell for each other but can make hell very present for the other.


                All that we do is based on our choices. The choices to eat, drink, sleep, watch a movie, and hang out with friends and so on. We are destined for higher things and hence I think that we can make a heavenly experience for each other here on earth and the most appropriate to do it is now.

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Epistemic relativism

Introduction

            “Relativism is such a vast and a multi- faceted topic that it appears in huge areas of human inquiry, ranging from pop culture to current technical journals in philosophy. In discussions on relativism, the famous quotation from the controversial work of Allan Bloom i.e. The Closing of the American Mind, is often cited, ‘There is one thing a professor can be absolutely sure of; almost every student entering the university believes, or says he believes, that truth is relative.’[1]

Definition

Epistemology or the theory of knowledge is one of the main branches of philosophy.[2] It is concerned with the nature, sources and limits of knowledge.[3] The reflective character of the discipline of epistemology is seen in the very etymology of the word ‘epistemology’. It comes from the Greek episteme and logos both of which mean the same thing (science or knowledge), it gives us the idea of knowledge of knowledge.[4]

Any doctrine could be called relativism which holds that something exists, or has certain properties or features, or is true or in some sense obtains, not simply but only in relation to something else. Relativism is the denial that there are certain kinds of universal truths.[5] Epistemic relativism is an account of what makes a system of reasoning or belief revision a good one as relativistic if it is sensitive to facts about the person or group using the system.[6]

History

            The first articulation of relativism (at least in its epistemic form) from the history of philosophy appears to be given by Protagoras in his work Truth. What he says in his work is that what appears or seems to be true to a person is true to that person and anyone else to whom it seems so. His is an extreme version of relativism. According to him knowledge and truth are relative to the person contemplating the proposition in question. He denies any standard or criterion higher than the individual by which claims to truth and knowledge are made. [7]

            Relativism has been present in various ways and at stretches of time throughout the long history of Western thought from the ‘pre- Socratic’ period up through the 21st Century. One of the famous enlightenment philosophers Giambattista Vico (1688-1744) developed an idea of epistemology in which truth is understood as something that is made. He says that it is reasonable to accept what the ancient Italian sages believed namely “The true is precisely what is made”, and ‘human truth is what man puts together and makes in the act of knowing it.[8] I personally find it difficult to agree with this kind of epistemology.




Epistemology and Relativism

            The relativity of truth and value is a demonstrated fact which many contemporary writers have taken for granted. From the studies done in the past, it has come to be known that valuation, judgement and cognition among varied cultures and also among people of the same culture are quite different and unique from every other person. Relativism makes distinctions between values and norms to such an extent that it destroys the possibility of morality and also of truth. This can eventually lead to skepticism, nihilism, irrationalism and finally return to barbarism. To add to this, human culture is at stake or ceases to survive when people find it difficult to gauge a particular situation and take a firm stand on matters of truth and value. Relativism at the same time also has a positive aspect in which it frees us from considering our personal insights as ones which are necessarily true. It also frees us from thoughts which are rooted in a stagnant, absolutistic design of truth and hence enables us to assimilate some kinds of truth which are otherwise incomprehensible.[9]
                                                                 
            Epistemology is that branch of philosophy which is concerned with human knowledge as mentioned earlier. However this might seem strange because there are very many things that we take for granted as known to us. Skepticism creeps in when we speak about the possibility of knowledge. Skepticism is basically an attitude which holds that true knowledge is doubtful or in other words it is difficult to take a particular stance on any matter. Thus it can be said that epistemology is closely linked with skepticism in a kind of symbiotic relationship. Hence “Epistemology may be defined as a critical and systematic reflection on the possibility, nature, sources and structure of knowledge.”[10]

            The tripartite analysis of knowledge has remained the standard of knowledge among epistemologists and has also inspired me to a great extent. The first condition for anything to be called knowledge is the existence of beliefs i.e. propositions that are judged to be true or false. The second condition for knowledge is truth and the third condition is the evidence or justification for believing something to be true.[11]

Epistemological Relativism

            Relativism is an idea which says that there is no absolute or universal truth. To put it positively, it is good or true for me only when it appeals to or fulfills my interests and biases.[12] Here a situation arises wherein one system is best for one person or group, while another one which is quite different is best for another.[13] Epistemological relativism is seen both in philosophical works as well as in ordinary day to day conversation or debates where a person claims that something that is true for the other person needn’t or is not true for him/ her.[14]

Problem of Epistemological Relativism

            Many philosophers find epistemological relativism to be a dangerous doctrine. However it is difficult to find healthy arguments supporting this kind of a negative attitude. The first problem of epistemological relativism is that it is nihilistic. This problem arises because it simply gives up on the task of clearly distinguishing good reasoning from bad. The second problem is that it threatens the connection or link between cognitive inquiry and truth. If the epistemic relativist is right then the other group holding some other belief can’t be right or true to the same extent as the epistemic relativist is. Both good cognition methods can’t always lead to true beliefs.[15]

Conclusion

            The idea that every truth claim, every item of knowledge has some standard by means of which it is evaluated or understood to be a truth claim, as opposed to merely a belief, seems important for a general theory of what it is to come know something. This point while not unique to relativism about knowledge is one that is important in general for doing epistemology.” However the definition of epistemic relativism is self- defeating or leads to solipsistic consequences and hence it should be rejected.[16]



[1] Timothy Mosteller, Relativism: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: Continuum, 2008) 1.
[2] George Karuvelil, “Epistemology (Western),” in ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 1, editor. in. chief. Johnson J. Puthenpurackal (Bangalore: Asian Trading Corporation, 2010) 452.
[3] Stephen P. Stich, “Epistemic Relativism,” in Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Vol. 3, gen. ed. Edward Craig (London: Routledge, 1998) 362.
[4] Karuvelil, “Epistemology (Western),” 452- 453.
[5] Mosteller, Relativism, 2.
[6] Stich, “Epistemic Relativism,” 360.
[7] Mosteller, Relativism, 3.
[8] Mosteller, Relativism, 4- 5.
[9] Gordon D. Kaufman, Relativism, Knowledge and Faith (London: University of Chicago Press, 1960) 3- 5.
[10] Karuvelil, “Epistemology (Western),” 452.
[11] Karuvelil, “Epistemology (Western),” 453.
[12] Stich, “Epistemic Relativism,” 360.
[13] Karuvelil, “Epistemology (Western),” 454.
[14] Mosteller, Relativism, 11.
[15] Stich, “Epistemic Relativism,” 361.
[16] Mosteller, Relativism, 29.