The last few days, I have been reading How To Know God - The Yoga Aphorisms of Patajali.
Patanjali, who some scholars suggest never actually existed and is only a mythical character, is sometimes referred to as the "father of yoga". These aphorisms (also called Yoga Sutras) were written (presumably by him but perhaps by someone else with the same name, as Mark Twain might have put it!) sometime between 400 BCE and 400 CE. They comprise a spiritual path and a way of life. Briefly, their essence is (quoting from the book) "God, being the underlying Reality, is by definition omnipresent. If the Reality exists at all, it must be everywhere; it must be present within every sentient being, every inanimate object".
Again, "Why does Brahman (Reality in its universal aspect) cause Prakriti (the elemental, undifferentiated stuff of mind and matter, the power or effect of Brahman)? This is a question which cannot possibly be answered in the terms of any man-made philosophy. For the human intellect is itself within Prakriti and therefore cannot comprehend its nature. A great seer may experience the nature of the Brahman-Prakriti relationship while he is in the state of perfect yoga (union), but he cannot communicate his knowledge to us in terms of logic and language because, from an absolute standpoint, Prakriti does not exist. It is not the Reality - and yet it is not other than the Reality. It is the Reality as it seems to our human senses - the Reality distorted, limited, misread. We may accept, as a working hypothesis, the seer's assurance that this is so, but our intellects reel away, baffled, from the tremendous mystery. Lacking superconscious experience, we have to be content with picture-talk".
Originally published in 1953 by the Vedanta Society of Southern California, which is associated with the Ramakrishna order, the book is a translation of Patanjali's words but also includes commentary, among which is the following passage quoted from a book calledWhat is Life? by Nobel Laureate (physics) Erwin Schrodinger:
Consciousness is never experienced in the plural, only in the singular .... How does the idea of plurality arise at all? Consciousness finds itself intimately connected with, and dependent on, the physical state of a limited region of matter, the body ...
Now, there is a great plurality of similar bodies. Hence, the pluralization of consciousness or minds seems a very suggestive hypothesis. Probably all simple ingenuous people, as well as the great majority of western philosophers, have accepted it. ...
The only possible alternative is simply to keep the immediate experience that consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown; that there is only one thing and that, what seems to be a plurality, is merely a series of different aspects of this one thing, produced by a deception (the Indian Maya); the same illusion is produced in a gallery of mirrors ...
Yet each of us has the undisputable impression that the sum total of his or her experience and memory forms a unit, quite distinct from that of any other person. He or she refers to it as "I". What is this "I"?
If you analyze it closely you will, I think, find that it is just a little bit more than a collection of single data (experiences and memories), namely the canvas upon which they are collected. And you will, on close inspection, find that what you really mean by "I", is that ground-stuff upon which they are collected.
Very cool stuff.
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