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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.

2 comments:

Ramesh said...

Interesting to speculate if people with brain damage or dementia lose their spiritual self. I see the point that once connections are lost, almost everything is lost. But I wonder what happens to people with , say extreme Alzheimers. Yes, they lose almost all of what we would term as their consciousness. But do they lose their spirituality ? If we extrapolate that, do we lose our spirituality when our physical life ends ? Or does the spirituality actually get "released" when we shed the phsycial bodies. Does that mean those who lose their voluntary consciousness , even when alive, actually ascend to a higher spiritual plane ?

Of course we have no answers, but I thought it interesting to speculate.

Balu said...

Thanks for your interest, your comments and questions. I agree that we do not truly know enough about what consciousness is, particularly because the term refers to different things to different people. Philosophers have one view; psychologists have a different view; and neurophysiologists another.
I do not think that there is some special ethereal thing called soul/spirit which occupies the physical body which can survive even after the body is gone. I know and that is the traditional view.
What I mean by spirituality is a sense that there is something, some force that is Primordial which started it all and is part of us all. Getting in touch with that is spirituality. I do not need concepts such as spirit/self/atman to be spiritual. It just requires experiencing a level of consciousness at which I can touch that Original Force in me and feel ITs presence in everything in this universe and experiencing the interconnections.
Once again, thanks for making me think.