Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A Paper on Self!

The Department of Psychology in the University of Delhi has a unique paper – Self! It is supposed to be an inquiry into, of all things, our ‘selves’. When I came to the department and got a bit used to the horde of girls surrounding me all the time, some of them a testimony to beauty, I was happy enough to be in Delhi, a city full of history and in a University which boasts, among other things, a ridge forest and flurry of interesting interactions with some of the finest minds in the world. Before completing a year here, I have heard or at least seen from close quarters, HH The Dalai Lama, Jaggi Vasudev, Thich Nhat Hanh , Sudhir Kakar, Ashish Nandy and the like. But far more important for me has been the interactions I have had with my classmates about, to use Bollas’ phrase, ‘the thing that is self’.
That we all exist and possess a ‘self’, a consciousness of being is too evident to need any assertion. Yet, what is this ‘self’. I am sure that I am conscious but how can I be sure that anybody else in the world is conscious? I can’t perceive anyone’s consciousness save mine. The consciousness of other beings is inferred. I supposed that if I have an internal conscious space beyond merely perceptible behavior, presumably, others too must possess it. But from an experiential standing, all other sentient beings are merely projections of my being; they exist because I Am! Indeed the universe exists because I Am! Perception needs a perceiver and the perceiver manifests as the self. While this abstract articulation of the epistemology of Self is important enough, here in psychology, we have been more concerned with the phenomenological self, the personal, the uniquely experiential narrative. Theorists have come and gone through the year. And some novelists and tellers of stories found their way in the motley crowd. Bollas and Philips with their nets woven around the edifice of Freudian psychoanalysis, Winicott with his fables woven around teddy bears, the absurd and disturbing Kafka, the contemplative Herman Hesse and even the sublime Upanishadas, all enriched the garden, some as flowers, others as interesting weeds. Many rebelled with Camus at the idea of an academic appraisal of their ‘selves’, others found it too abstract and some cherished it and were happy fodder for draining workshops on narratives woven around their psychically intense moments. What I couldn’t reconcile with initially was the dark, the absurd, the seemingly futile colors in the painting, the irrational fears and endless repetitive patterns. But it seems what Existence blesses with being can never be put besides any carpet of absurdity. What IS can be, lived, enjoyed, suffered, analyzed but not glossed into spontaneous oblivion.
After coming here, I have become more accepting of the black holes inside me. For now I see that they have devoured many bright stars and going deep into them would reveal the buried effulgence. And that has been the fruit of psychology in first year!

Thursday, April 2, 2009


Notions such as 'Shunyata' (Void) or 'Fanaa' (annihilation) are purely imaginary nd delusion-inducing. To say that 'nothingness' exists or is a valid experience to be had consciously is a proposition too absurd and nonsensical to merit any reasoned refutation. How can consciousness emerge out of nothingness? And as far as all those who speak of the Ultimate as 'Shunya' or 'fanaa' are concerned, they are surely not speaking from a void or a nothingness bereft of consciousness. If they claim to speak from a nothingness, it is a ludicrous claim. If they claim to have returned from a 'nothingness' to speak, it's even more ridiculous. How can that into which a conscious entity can merge and from which it can emerge ever be 'nothingness'? Consciousness can only merge into a still deeper awareness. Dissolution pertains to a merger of the individuated consciousness into infinite awareness and never any non-being. All talk of void or shunyata is specious and imaginary and to be completely refuted by every genuine seeker, in whichever scripture it may happen to appear. All who speak of 'nothingness' speak from a plane of confounding speculation and constrained imagination. And all speculation and imagination happens in consciousness.Thus the very idea of 'nothingness' is rooted in consciousness. And that's what it is. A delusional idea!
To say that the densest point of Big Bang or the minutest zygote or seed is empty or 'nothingness' is again absurd. To say that the pure awareness which transcends the vibrations is void is also absurd for no emergence from or merger into a void is ever possible.
To quote from the Spanda Karika (Stanzas on Vibration), a beautiful flowering of Kashmir Shaiv mysticism,

12. Nothingness can never be an object of contemplation because consciousness is absent there.( It is a mistake that one has perceived nothingness) because when reflection (subsequently) intervenes, one is certain that "IT WAS".

13. Therefore consider that to be an artificial state similar to deep sleep. That principle( awareness) is forever perceived and not remembered in this way( as a memory of 'nothingness').


23-24. Once the Yogi enters That State which he takes as His support and firmly resolves that 'I will surely do whatever He says,' both the sun and the moon set, following the ascending way, inot the channel of Sushumna, once the sphere of the universe is abandoned.

25. Then in that Great Sky( of Awareness), when the sun and the moon dissolve away. THE DULL MINDED YOGI IS CAST DOWN INTO A STATE LIKE THAT OF DEEP SLEEP. THE AWAKENED HOWEVER REMAINS LUCID.

The last verse clarifies everything. Nothingness is the casting down of the dull yogi into deep slumber and not any valid experience. The adept does not swoon but goes deeper and still deeper into ever vibrant awareness. Thus Awareness is Real while nothingness is a stupor which appears in awareness due to dullness of the seeker.

To inhere in Awareness is sadhana and all talk of 'nothingness' is a delusion and an obstruction.