Please visit Thinking Skills for the Digital Generation by Athreya and Mouza at

Friday, May 17, 2019

Self and Spirituality

I have spent several  hours of my meditation time thinking about “self” and “spirituality”. During a meditation walk at the Winterthur Garden, I suddenly saw a thread connecting them. The critical word is connection.

The concept of self depends on my making connections between my body and my mind, between “me” and my experiences both in time and in space. It is a state in which one is aware of oneself as a continuum experienced at different times. According to the Upanishads  it is a state beyond the state of wakefulness, dream state and deep sleep. It is the common ground state which makes the awareness of the other three states possible. It depends on the mind making connections between the various states of the mind. The concept of self depends on this.

That common ground state is called meta-awareness by psychologists. But I think it is way beyond meta-awareness. It is the eternal behind dualities and instabilities. It is the constant that gives the base for all variations and multiplicities. The Vedas call this the Brahman, Purusha or simply That.

Spirituality is the totality of one’s being which can see the interconnections between the different layers of one’s self, between one's self and the self of others and between the self and the universe.

When I observe people with brain damage or dementia, I notice that the inability to connect the various components of the self  is at the core. Several of them have lost contact with parts or the whole of their own self. Most do not see the connection between their body and their name, their body and their belongings and their life’s experiences. I get the sense that most of them have lost their spiritual self since they are not able to connect with others or with the rest of the world.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Samkhya System for the 21st Century

I am sure you want to know what the original Samkhya text says. The word samkhya denotes enumeration. Here are the 22 sutras of Thathva Samaasa of Sage Kapila.                

1.       Athaatah thathva samaasah – This is the summary of the truth.

2.        Kathayaami ashtau prakritayah – There are eight root causes. (Nature, intellect, ego, sound, touch, form, taste and smell)

3.       Shodasah asthu vikaarah – There are 16 modifications (mind, five cognitive senses, five active senses, five primordial elements)

4.       Purushah – There is a spirit, an indweller.

5.       Traigunyam – There are three attributes namely, sattva (light), rajas (movement) , tamas (stability)

6.       Sanchaarah, prathisanchaarah – There is evolution and involution

7.       Adhyaatmam, aadhibootham aadhidaivam cha – Suffering may be caused by self, other beings or Divine acts

8.       Pancha abhibuddhayah – Five sources of knowledge (intellect, ego, mind, five cognitive senses and five active organs)

9.       Pancha karmayonayah – Five causes of action (evidence, fallacy, fancy, sleep and memory)

10.   Pancha vaayavah – Five winds (inbreath, outbreath, holding breath, spreading breath and steadying breath)

11.   Pancha karma aatmaanah – Five essences of action ( self restraint, practice, dispassion, stable intellect, wisdom)

12.   Pancha parvaah avidyaah – Five kinds of false knowledge (darkness, infatuation, deep infatuation, aversion and deep aversion)

13.   Ashtaavimsathidha asaktih – Twenty-eight inabilities

14.   Navadha thushtih – Nine types of satisfaction

15.   Ashtadha siddhih – Eight gifts or attainments

16.   Dashmoolikaarthah – Ten primary qualities

17.   Anugrahah sargah – Emanation is accumulation

18.   Chathurdashvidha bhoothasargah – Fourteen stages in the evolution of beings

19.   Trividha bandhah – Threefold knots or bondages

20.   Trividha mokshah – Threefold emancipation

21.   Thrividham pramaanam – Threefold proofs (seeing, inference and testimony)

22.   Says that whoever understands the above will be free from the effects of bondages and escape suffering caused by self, others or by Divine will.

Finally, here is a short summary of ideas from the Greek philosophers. In the 6th century BCE, Thales said that water was the original source of this earth. Anaximander said that space was the original source. Anaximedes thought that air was the primary source. Between 540 and 480 BCE, Paramanides said that “Nothing can come out of nothing; something that exists can become nothing.” Heraclites who said that “one cannot step into the same river twice” said that constant change is the nature of the world. Further, one universal reason, a constant oneness underlies all changes. 

Empedocles proposed four elements as the sources of this world – air, water, fire and earth. This is similar to the Samkhya philosophy except for the omission of space. Later Anaxagoras (500 – 428 BCE) said that each of the four elements are made of minute particles call atoms. This idea was developed further by Democritus and Lucretius. These writing were considered heretic and buried until the middle of the 13th century when a secretary to the Pope by name Poggio Braccolini unearthed these documents. 

Reference: Kapil's Samkhya and Patanjali's Yoga. Compiled and Edited by William and Margot Milcetich. Brahma Rishi Yoga Publications.2008

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Samkhya System for the 21st Century

I have always respected tradition. I have also learnt not to get stuck with tradition without updating. Our ancestors deserve our respect for the ideas they developed. At the same time, we need to check those ideas against current knowledge and reality. If they do not agree, we should be bold enough to let go of them or change them. That is what Buddha said, 2,500 years back. That is what Adi Sankara said 1,000 years back.

With that central idea in my mind, I wrote an essay on how to read ancient texts (www.timeforthought. net. June 2011). Now, I am trying to look at the Samkhya philosophy with a 21st century mind.

Samkhya philosophy is probably the first known attempt to answer fundamental questions of the human mind such as “How did this universe come about?” and “How did the one original source become many?” The author was Sage Kapila. His original was in the form of sutras or terse, short passages. When these simple sentences were interpreted differently by different people, a whole variety of philosophical schools came into existence.

I give you my version. I am not interpreting the old Samkhya. I am recreating it using the same line of thought as that of Sage Kapila.  But my outline is consistent with modern physics and biology, I hope. It is also consistent with both Hindu and Buddhist philosophies. 

1.       How did this Universe come about? What are the fundamentals of Nature?

2.       There seems to be 5 root elements – matter, energy, time, space and knowledge (Information or code)

3.       Modifications of these fundamentals are multitudinous.

4.       Aggregation and disaggregation of matter in space and time give rise to physical forms. We give names to those forms.

5.       Manifestations are due to unfolding of information/codes in the elements and their aggregates over time.

6.       When causes and conditions are ripe, “forms” manifest; when the causes and conditions are no more, they disaggregate and become part of Nature again.

7.       Life Force enters later.

8.       We do not know what Life is and why it appeared. It is the ultimate mystery.

9.       Human awareness is dependent on a body with life and a functioning brain.

10.   Memory followed by will and ownership (ego) impel action.

11.   All these are functions of the brain and known as the mind.

12.   A basic awareness is essential before all the other functions of the mind can manifest in that awareness.

13.   Life force is needed for awareness.

14.   Life tends to cling to life. It is driven by a need to preserve itself, escape danger and reproduce.

15.   Life’s realities are an end to life as an individual and loneliness.

16.   False hope is in clinging to this life.

17.   Forms appear, exist, grow, decay and disappear.

18.   There is transformation, all the time, but no death. Something cannot become nothing.

19.   Satisfaction is in realizing the impermanence of individual life and recognition of the similarities of needs of other lives.

20.   Humility is needed in the face of our ignorance of life and its impermanence.

21.   Compassion is needed in relating to the condition of all lives.

22.   Universe is a projection of matter and energy in space and time as experienced by human awareness.

23.   At the same time, they are real, not imaginary.

24.   Spiritual Ignorance and bondage are due to overemphasis on the individual existence and non-recognition of the universal realities.

25.   Peace and Wisdom can be had here and now with humility, compassion and detachment without disengagement.

I am sure you want to know what the original Samkhya text says. That will be summarized in the next post.