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Universal Self & Individual self in Vedanta Syamala D. Hari

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Syamala D. Hari

"In the ancient Hindu philosophy known as Vedanta, the mind — understood as an accumulation of
memories, desires, emotions, thoughts, etc., including the self, that is, the ‘I’-thought present in every
conscious experience — is said to be a sense like any other physical sense: see, hear, touch, taste, or
smell. The implication is that mind is also instrumental in creating our conscious experiences but it is
not awareness itself. One may ask: if mind is also a sense, then similarly to a sensory experience which
need not involve all the five physical senses, do we ever have a conscious experience with no ‘I’ in it?
Indeed, Vedanta elaborately describes such a state of consciousness called Samadhi, which lies beyond
waking, dreaming, or deep sleep. Vedanta also affirms the existence of a state in which one’s self does
not see itself as belonging to only one’s own body/brain and mind but one sees nobody and nothing in
the universe as different from oneself; in other words, this awareness (called Universal Self) identifies
itself with everything in the universe, whether living or lifeless. Vedanta claims that in our ordinary
lives, in those moments when we express love and sympathy towards others, we are indeed in that
state of infinite oneness whether we know it or not, and that the expression of love is a manifestation
of nothing but the Universal Self. We will attempt in this article, to examine the rationale for this claim
using the notion of an ever-widening circle of identification. We will describe a simple analogy used by
Vedanta in its analysis of consciousness, mind, and body relations, to explain how the individual self
associated with one’s body and mind arises from the Universal Self. We will also summarize Vedanta’s
theory of mind-body interactions and suggest that it offers solution to the ‘hard problem’ of today’s
consciousness researches in a way compatible with modern science."

18 pages in PDF form


Edited by old3bob

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