What is Real? Discussions with Ranga.

Tue, May 22, 2007 at 5:27 AM

Your introductory para starts-off suggesting that there is a process creating Maya and by understanding this process one can see why light is so special in our phenomenal notions of space and time. However, the concluding argument tapers off without completely explaining why light is so special. You probably left out some parts in this email?

Yes, what I quoted were a couple of paras from my article (http://theunrealuniverse.com/unreal-advaita.pdf). I go on to explore the role of light in sensing and argue that the specialness of the speed of light in our reality hinges on the fact that ours is a reality created using light. Much like the speed of sound would be special in a bat’s reality created using echolocation, as you said.

I don’t suggest that the absolute reality can be understood or known using our investigations in our phenomenal world. But, it may be possible use the fact that the abs. reality IS different from our perception of it. For instance, if we model (for the sake of argument) an absolute reality that obeys classical (Galilean) relativity and work out the process of sensing through light, we get a perceptual reality very similar to what Einstein describes in SR. This should indicate that classical mechanics is a good model for AR. But, as you rightly pointed out, classical mechanics is another manifestation of our perception and it cannot be all there is to AR.

IOW, we don’t need to know what absolute reality IS, we just need to know that it IS NOT what we perceive. With this knowledge or distinction seriously applied to astrophysical phenomena, we can already come up with good explanations for GRB and radio jets. In fact, we can even explain cosmological features like the CMBR and the expanding universe.

Brahman does not have to be seen as an agent with a purpose to cause the signals to fall on our senses which in turn create a model of the surroundings that in turn are presented to our conscious awareness etc. leading to Maya or illusion.

Well, if Brahman doesn’t cause Maya, who/what does?

What this means to me is that, Brahman and Maya are one and the same.

As all statements in Hinduism, this one also is mystical 🙂 They are the same, but they are also distinct from each other as you point out below.

To make this more understandable to ourselves, at the cost of fouling it up – it can be seen as the constant flux in the Brahman, constant interaction of the universe the objects and beings in it as manifestation of the phenomenon. This interaction begets a certain differentiation the identification of objects and beings as individuals and the need for the survival of these individuals. The birth of this differentiation is the beginning of the phenomenal world I’m not talking in terms of evolution or emergence of life here. The critical insight that we are actually part of a whole is the death of this differentiation and the resubmission to the Brahman the realization of this is called Atman. This does not happen in us, allegedly, except in extreme circumstances (so-called Nirvana or Samadhi) and certainly not in a sustained way. And hence, our constant need to be individualist and different and to prove our difference and make theories about the world we see around us.

I think normal death (not Nirvana or Samadhi) is the end of the individual differentiation, knowledge etc. To the extent that we remember nothing and know (first hand) nothing from before our birth, we come from nothing. And our death has to be a merging with nothingness or everythingness that is Brahman.

So, to sum it up, the point I would like to make is that the notion of Absolute Reality separate from Reality is flawed.

This point, I’m not sure I agree with. To the extent that Maya is a manifestation or projection of Brahman, they are the same. But they are also distinct as sound is different from air pressure waves or smell is different from chemicals. (Or, as a Njana yoga book put it, heat is different from fire).

The notion that one can reach the AR through better analysis of R is even more flawed.

This I agree with. But we may not have to get to AR to understand our perceived R better.

So, what does that leave us with? That if you explain something (such as GRBs), you are explaining both the AR and R because they are intertwined. Further, the beauty of this that any theory conceivable (proven or disproved, falsifiable or not in a scientific method) explains both AR and R, because the explanations are products of our senses and intellect, which are parts of our world. If we have perceived it, it should be in the world AR or R or otherwise.

In my view, when thinking about these issues, there is a danger of coagulating into one of two notions. One is that AR or Brahman is incomprehensible and way beyond our reach and we shouldn’t worry about its properties. The other is that to the extent that PR or Maya is all we have to work with, our theorizings should be confined to it. Which, I believe, is the basis of scientific realism. My book is probably an exploration in finding a middle ground, successful or not. You seem to entertain both these notions.

In the end, what we don’t know is what we don’t know. We can come up with different views and beliefs and methods to attack our ignorance, but at some stage, we just have to accept that there are limits to what we can know.

Anyways, it has been a while since I had conversations of this kind. Good to rekindle these thoughts, thanks.

– cheers,
– Manoj


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