Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Nisargadatta, between Wisdom and Love

It was long ago. I had copiously indoctrinated R.C., a college friend of mine, with a lot of "hermetic" nonsense. She, on the other hand, just gave me one book: I AM THAT, a collection of talks by Nisargadatta Maharaj. One single book that burned like hell in my hands, a book that I sifted through with an insatiable craving.

The craving for TRUTH.

Let me tell you what I found inside.

One thing I immediately understood was the stature of the man and his teaching: instead of giving you a recipe for eternal life, for power, for becoming a superman, for attaining heaven, for some improbable freedom from suffering, he taught you how to die. I do not mean to commit suicide, of course, but how to die to the endless illusions about life, starting from the biggest one, the very root of illusions:

that we, as individuals, exist.

Well, many years have passed, and in the last few days I found myself having great conversations with a new friend & fellow seeker, mostly based on this incredible book.

I have just picked one quote, to which I am particularly attached. My wish to you all, friend and seekers, is that you too will be able to flow between the two great voices of Love and Wisdom.
Because Life is that flow.

My Very Best Wishes To You All.

I find that somehow, by shifting the focus of attention, I become the very thing I look at, and experience the kind of consciousness it has; I become the inner witness of the thing. I call this capacity of entering other focal points of consciousness, love; you may give it any name you like.

Love says "I am everything".

Wisdom says "I am nothing".

Between the two, my life flows.


andrew said...

As usual, I have to first ask myself if there's another (often more mundane) explanation for the experience of interconnectedness. In this case, mirror neurons warrant a look.

Someone cuts his hand and we feel the slice of the metal and the sinking of the stomach. Someone smiles a certain way and we flash on the actual emotion he experiences (rather than inferring his mood by making a detached correlation). There are specific areas of the brain that facilitate all this, and it's one of the most important cognitive functions (perhaps only rivaled by language) in the development of cultures and societies in the animal kingdom. Most higher animals are capable in some way of mentally simulating external events -- mirror neurons allow for simulating internal events as well.

There are people in whom these areas are abnormal or non-functional (i.e. autists, brain trauma victims) who could look at your face and be unable to tell you what you're feeling to save their own lives. To a sociopath, empathy is a very alien concept that he just isn't wired for.

To explain sympathy, empathy, and love, are we immediately forced to appeal to a cosmic, intangible interconnectedness? Especially with the knowledge that something as simple and material as a brain injury could wipe that experience from our lives forever?

In other words, are these neurons the receivers of union? Or the generators of it? And how can we confidently discern the difference?

The alternative explanation isn't nearly as sexy, and so people often discard it offhand, but in an honest pursuit of truth sexiness has no sway.

Polymathicus said...

Completely agree.

But, you see, at least in the quoted fragment, Nisargadatta does NOT make any claim as to the source of interconnectedness.

He simply states that he CAN "get", as it were, into the focal points of other consciousness.

He call this "process" LOVE, but he explicitely says that the label itself is not important.

Certainly WHY he can do that is an important question (whether it can be answered is of course open to debate), but equally important is the HOW.

Assuming, as you suggest, the brain is the "motor" behind empathy, how can we improve its sensitivity?

Greg Pass said...

Fortunate for many generations of alchemists, martial artists, meditators, discordians, painters, and harpsichordists that reason is not required for understanding.

Anonymous said...

A comprehensive site about Nisargadatta Maharaj with a large collection of Books, Photos, Videos and many more :

About Nisargadatta Maharaj - Pronunciation & Meaning - Biography - Meet the Sage - Navnath Sampradaya - Nisarga Yoga - I am That - Last Days : Last Teachings - Mahasamadhi - Maharaj's residence - Monuments of Maharaj - The Style of Teaching - Consciousness - My True State - Memories of Maharaj - Narrations by various devotees - The Famous books of Maharaj - Various other books about Maharaj - Traditional scriptures often referred by Maharaj - Where to buy books - A large collection of Photos - Download PrintSize Portraits - Quotes from famous books - Other Related Sites - Videos of Maharaj - Original DVDs - Translations of I AM THAT into various languages