Rise of Consciousness

The ‘otherness’ of the object of experience is not an intrinsic nature of my-Self but the epistemological component which generates meaning through a relationship between my-self and the object of experience. Hence it cannot be removed as long as it is experienced. Also, it cannot be removed (which is not needed) by another act or experience or another kind of knowledge since what is awaited for is not an emergent or caused phenomenon in time and space like any other object or experience. The Self will illumine by itself like the sun when the clouds disappear.

The emphasis is not on the object by itself or the way we relate to that object but the ‘self’ which is defined and perpetuated during the process. The process is considered to be ruled by epistemological processes. But the removal of the process cannot happen, or need not happen since that will be only another cognitive process.

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Structure of Mind and Structured Mind

arrowThe primacy of consciousness is a contention debated at various forums starting from nuero-biological to anthropological studies.
It is interesting that debates on the primacy/non-primacy of consciousness focuson the immediacy or mediacy of a localised experience with its own contextualised characteristics and not on the ontology of an 'enduring' experiencer. The issue is whether many discrete experiencers contribute to the continuous 'experience' of the I-consciousness or each experiencer is a ' holonic' expression of the I-consciousness.

When I talk about 'consciousness ' the first and nearest thing which comes to my mind is my mind .
We cannot discuss in depth about 'consciousness' without a discussion on the 'I' who is the owner of it and who is also the choice-maker. We cannot initiate a discussion on my "1-ness" without a discussion on my mind. And, mind can be discussed only on the basis of thoughts and patterns of thinking.

- Do we think based on mental structures?

- Are our thoughts fanned from mental structures?

- How are mental structures and thoughts related?

These are pertinent questions to think about.

The way we see the world and experience it is based on the interaction between three orders of realities: the 'I' , 'You' and 'My-World' . All the three are potentially evolutionary in nature and hence prone to change. The 'I' is the one who experiences the world, makes assessments, acts and lives based on his/her understanding.

Where and when does the 'I-ness' originate and does it have an abiding self is an issue which requires yet another discussion.

More In:
Menon, S. 2002, Structure of Mind and Structured Mind
Indian Philosophical Quarterly, 29(2-3): 334-344

For e-copy See http://unipune.ac.in/snc/cssh/ipq/english/vol29_2%20&%203.htm
Structure of Mind and Structured Mind IPQ paper -- Menon


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What my Mind Does

arrowThe Upanishads refer to manas as the coordinating factor which governs the five organs of perception and five organs of action.  It is ascribed of material origin.  It also accounts for buddhi as the intellect, the organ of discrimination, ahamkara as the organ of personal ego and citta as the sub-conscious mind.In the Aitareya Upanishad a distinction is drawn between consciousness as the real knower and mind as just a sense organ.  The various functions which can be classified under the three categories of cognition, affection and conation are enumerated with much precision.  “Perception, discrimination, intelligence, wisdom, insight, steadfastness, thought, thoughtfulness, impulse, memory conception, purpose, life, desire, control”—all these are identified as the operative names of consciousness.  A further point of psychological interest is the analysis of the cognitive act based on the knower (praajna), intellect (prajna) and cognition (prajnana).

Do these mental functions have any independent existence? According to Aitareya Upanishad  all mental processes are only the many names of consciousness.  Brhadaranyaka Upanishad says, “when breathing he is called the vital force, when speaking voice, when seeing the eye, when hearing the ear, when thinking the mind; these are merely the names of his acts.” Consciousness appears in various forms through which it manifests, but also transcends it.

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Rain clouds of Mind-Modifications and the Shower of Transcendence

arrowPatanjali gives a holistic concept of mind incorporating physical, emotional and ethical aspects. His Yoga psychology is woven around the discussion of five mental planes (citta bhumi), five cognitive modes (citta vrtti), nine mental afflictions (antaraya) and five causes of pain (citta klesa).The various modifications and afflictions of mind happen within the larger space of these five planes. The first two planes belong to an ordinary mind. It is the nature of mind to be unstable at some point, and confused. It is also the nature of an ordinary mind to be distracted with periodicity of stability and instability. When the first three planes are undesirable though given, the last two planes are desirable and positive. Their invoking will restraint the first three negative planes. To restrain the first three citta bhumi the last two have to be cultivated. It is significant to note here the subtle and systemic way by which Patanjali gives the prognosis for both gross and subtle, expressed and germinal form of pain. The fully expressed forms such as our habits, attitudes, mental dispositions and physical diseases can be removed only by combining a medley of steps such as yama, niyama, asana, pranayama, pratyahara, dharana and dhyana. These cater to the physical (postures, breathing), ethical (societal interactions), and mental dimensions of the habit to be removed. The subtle forms of pain have to have a deeper method – and its healing lies in its being consciously rolled back to its cause – prati-prasavam.

More in: Menon, S. 2009, The Rain clouds of Mind-Modifications and the Shower of Transcendence: Yoga and Samadhi in Patanjali Yoga Sutra, In: Yoga and Parapsychology, Ed. Ramkrishna Rao, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi

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Where did the snake and the silver disappear: Instances from Indian epistemology

arrow The nature of perceptual illusion, illusory object and its cognition is a topic for intense debate in Indian epistemology contributing much to theories of error. Adhyasabhasya of Sankaracarya and Pancapadika of Padmapada along with some positions taken by the Purvapaksa discusses this in detail. The issue of validation (pramanya) is extensively dealt with by the schools of Indian thinking. The discussion on validating knowledge and theories of error sometimes work as a preparatory ground for theories of reality. Prama is the term used for valid knowledge in Indian epistemology. Prama is defined as “awareness/cognition of a thing as it really is”—tadvati tadprakaraka jnanam prama. Prama is distinguished from Bhrama which is erroneous knowledge. Sources of correct knowledge are collectively known as pramana. Udyotakara gives a causal definition for pramana, that which is the cause of knowledge—upalabdhi hetuh. The word ‘pramana’ etymologically means ‘means of measurement’ or ‘that which produces knowledge’. The concept of pramana though initially interpreted as a theory of knowledge, of ascertaining knowledge, its function is not completely understood without taking into consideration its function as an empirical device to ascertain the veracity of a piece of knowledge that has already been acquired.

The two popular cases of illusion mentioned in many Nyaya, Mimamsa and Vedanta texts are of: (i) mother of pearl from a distance appearing as silver, and (ii) a piece of rope appearing as snake in dim light. The theories of error (bhrama) and knowledge (prama) are centered essentially on the following two questions which look at prior and post awareness of the true object-visaya-(i) where did the illusory silver and snake come from (ii) to where did the silver and snake disappear.

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