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Thursday, March 3, 2016

Life and Awareness – Abstract or Concrete?

                During my periods of meditation, I become an observer. I am able to know when I observe thoughts. I am also aware when “I” do not observe any thoughts, because there are no thoughts. I am aware of the subject (me) and the object (thought, my thought). What is the relation between these two states? Who is the “i” with the thought, the object? And, who is the “I”, the subject with the awareness of “my” thought?

                These events and experiences are real in me as an individual. I am sure other individuals experience similar states, at least they are capable of it. Since these experiences have to be universal, I can make a name for that Universal states of all the “i” s and the common, general “I”. But is that just an abstract, a concept or is it concrete?

                I see a similarity to the concept of “disease”. Even a specific disease such as Typhoid is a concept – a name we give to a collection of events (signs and symptoms) in a living body, a specific individual. From observing similar set of events (cluster of signs and symptoms) in several bodies (individuals), we conceptualize a general disease entity and name it “typhoid”. From observing several different clusters of signs and symptoms we conceptualize several different diseases and from there we conceptualize “diseases” in general. But, there is nothing concrete called “typhoid” (or any other specific disease entity) floating around in thin air.

                That general entity called disease and specific entity called typhoid have no existence apart from an individual (a body). They did not exist in the minds of people before someone conceptualized, although we know that people were suffering from diseases before we gave them names. The point is that specific concepts are based on concrete realities, although those concrete realities were based on generalizations of observation on individuals.

                Do these ideas apply to the concepts of Life and Awareness? Both of them are real (concrete) at the level of an individual. Are they at a collective, universal, conceptualized level? They are phenomena and require a body for their manifestation and recognition. Without matter (individual) to animate and illuminate, where is the need for life or awareness? Without an animated and aware individual capable of conceptualizing, what is life? What is awareness? Where do they exist apart from a body? Will there be something called “life” or “soul” if that body is not live and has a functioning mind to observe, generalize and conceptualize?

                It is interesting that according to one school of thought in Indian metaphysics, an entity comes into being only when there is one who is aware of it. It goes on to say that “In the absence of perception, everything is un-manifest”. Please note that the statement did not say “that everything is non-existent”.  Everything is existent but an individual with perception is needed for it to manifest. Again, please note that the word is manifested and not created, according to this point of view. Things exist eternally but manifestation is based on the observer, the subject and not the object. This is also the basis of Adi Sankara’s use of the word “mithya” – it is not sat (is) or asat (Not is) but, a word to denote a state which is true (sat) under some conditions and not true (asat) under some other conditions.