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Re: The Song of the Sannyasin (By Swami Vivekananda)

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  • Charles Wikner
    ... Whoso wears a form must wear the chain ....like the goat tied to the post. In breaking the chain (or rope) to seek greener pastures, the goat may perhaps
    Message 1 of 2 , Feb 1, 1999
      On Thu, 28 Jan 1999, Ram Chandran <chandran@...> wrote:

      > "Who sows must reap," they say, "and cause must bring
      > The sure effect; good, good; bad, bad; and none
      > Escape the law. But whoso wears a form
      > Must wear the chain." Too true; but far beyond
      > Both name and form is Atman, ever free.

      "Whoso wears a form must wear the chain"
      ....like the goat tied to the post.

      In breaking the chain (or rope) to seek greener pastures, the
      goat may perhaps join a tiger for dinner -- so the rope may be
      a protection as well as a restriction.

      This is just another view, but may help one to simply *accept*
      circumstances (or endure them bravely, as BG 2:14 puts it), so
      that there is contentment and the peace of mind to examine the
      situation as a whole. Then the perspective may change:

      Why is the post tied to the goat?
      (Why is the Self identified with a form?)

      Regards, Charles.
    • Charles Wikner
      ... Both, but they are very closely related. I don t follow the drift of your question, so perhaps I should expand on some of the key words. These are off
      Message 2 of 2 , Feb 1, 1999
        On Thu, 28 Jan 1999, brickmar@... wrote:

        > On 30 March 98 Charles Wikner wrote:
        > > On Wed, 25 Mar 1998, Jonathan Bricklin wrote:
        > > > The experience of free will can only be swept away by grace.
        > > True. Until then, the experience itself can be understood and
        > > weakened, in order to avail oneself of that everpresent grace.
        > Is the word "everpresent" faith or knowledge (either personal or second
        > hand) in this context?

        Both, but they are very closely related. I don't follow the drift
        of your question, so perhaps I should expand on some of the key
        words. These are off the cuff, strictly personal, and subject to
        change without notice:

        grace: the cit aspect of saccidAnanda, i.e. direct Knowledge or
        true knowledge. (Others may prefer to link grace with
        the beatitude of Ananda.)

        everpresent: not conditioned by time, nor excluded from the
        temporal world either. The sat aspect of saccidAnanda.

        knowledge: a comprehensive, self-consistent, systematic body
        of information (such as a philosophy, science).

        faith: an attitude of mind, an open receptive trust having a
        rational foundation in sound knowledge. (By contrast,
        belief is an expressible *content* of the mind.)
        The most personally satisfying description of faith
        that I have come across is: shraddhA cetasaH saMprasAdaH
        (Faith is a settled clarity of mind).

        Does that address your question?

        > > >...to assert a belief in free will is to deny God's
        > > > reality, as Ramakrishna was getting at in what I quoted.
        > >
        > > The problem is seeing them as contradictory (and contrasting apples
        > > with oranges doesn't help: *belief* in free will vs. *reality* of God).
        > > Religions see no problem: you are free to love God (or go to hell),
        > > because compulsory love (or surrender) is a contradiction in terms.
        > Or, as Rabbis say to apostates, "Do you think God cares that you don't
        > believe in him?"
        > > To acknowledge the experience of free will in no way denies God's
        > > reality
        > I never said that it did! What I said was, to believe in free will
        > [implying "as a reality"] is to deny God's reality.

        I don't see them as necessarily contradictory: one is a practical
        experiential "reality" in the empirical world, the other an Absolute
        Reality. Thus --

        > >: to affirm the apparent reality of free will is not to
        > > assert its absolute reality;

        Until Self-realisation, free will is a practical working hypothesis
        that accords with common experience and which may be used in purifying
        the mind. I don't see that believing in free will (i.e. acknowledging
        the common practical experience) denies Absolute Reality; conversely,
        I don't see that denying free will asserts Absolute Reality.

        > similarly, to affirm the apparent
        > > reality of Jonathan is not to assert his absolute reality.
        > Of course. This much, at least, all non-dualists can agree upon.
        > Free will implies choice:
        > Free will implies choice. But all we can say of choice is that there is an
        > experience of choice. The experience of choice does not imply free will.
        > The impersonal interplay between contradictory thoughts can account for the
        > feelings of effort and will power.

        Identifying with those feelings is the common experience, and then
        they are no longer impersonal. When there is no identification with
        those feelings, then free will is not an issue, and the concept can
        be discarded, like the proverbial thorn to remove a thorn -- for that
        individual. For others, the concept helps to prevent them falling
        into the traps of fatalism or nihilism.

        > >that which claims to be the chooser is the ego.
        > A claim that is easily challenged, as you well know. Thoughts arise,
        > including the sense of "I" that goes with some of them. Experience does
        > not depend upon an experiencer, experience IS the experiencer, as Sankara
        > says. William James's version of that is "If the passing thought be the
        > directly verifiable existent which no school has hitherto doubted it to be,
        > then that thought is itself the thinker, and psychology need not look
        > beyond." Consistent with this viewpoint, no claim to be the chooser is
        > made by those who do not believe in free will.

        James uses one transient (thought) to deny another transient (thinker).
        This is not an argument (specious or otherwise), but merely a statement
        (and a false one at that, cf. bRhad 3.8.11), that terminates further
        enquiry. The obvious question is: What is that which is observing the
        passing thought as a directly verifiable existent? Such enquiry leads
        to the conclusion that the neutral observer present when detached from
        thought, becomes the thinker when identified with it. This is a far
        more useful line of enquiry that merely denying the thinker.

        I have used the same line of argument with free will: replace
        thought/thinker with choice/chooser.

        I consider a mere statement denying the chooser just as limiting and
        unhelpful as James's denying the thinker, and thus prefer to accept
        the common experience of free will and direct that energy to enquiry,
        so that the will becomes an effort towards the spritual, and choice
        is transformed into discrimination (viveka).

        > > > A weaker "I" sounds like a good start.
        > >
        > > Yes, indeed. Then the question arises: how is it weakened?
        > > Will mere denial do it, or is some other method necessary?
        > The methods you presented in a previous post sounded as intelligent
        > as any I've heard of. But there is still the
        > enlightenment-is-not-like-getting-a-PhD problem. The most effort, the
        > most desire, does not necessarily lead to freedom. It's the question of
        > grace again.

        The acquisition of a systematic theory and putting it into practice,
        is the preparatory getting-a-PhD phase. The effort (rajas) is to
        overcome the identification (tamas); further sAdhana increases
        detachment (sattva) so that true knowledge can manifest. To finally
        transcend the guNa-s and realise the Self is a question of grace,
        as you say.

        > > Some thoughts on free will:
        > >
        > > Let's say that I am offered a cup of coffee: I have the choice
        > > to accept it or not. (I could ask for a glass of water, or snap
        > > "Don't interrupt me!" but let's keep it simple.) Assume that
        > > the circumstances are not of my making, in other words the offer
        > > of refreshment -- in fact the opportunity to choose -- is simply
        > > presented. The act of choosing is generally experienced as an
        > > act of free will.
        > Free will, not unlike the existence or non-existence of God, tends to play
        > out as a background thought. Many, indeed most, actions of the day are
        > made without the feeling of choice (or choice denied), let alone that
        > intensified experience of choosing deemed, as it is happening, to be an act
        > of will.
        > > The choice is in fact quite mechanical (i.e. from habit),
        > Yes!

        If you re-read the original post (the thread had an obscure subject
        line like Screeching Squirrels as I recall), you will find that at
        each step there is a realisation of this mechanicalness: the point
        is first to see it, and then to transcend it. Ultimately the effort
        is to get the creature to conform to the laws of its Creator, i.e.
        Thy Will be done. (This is also called purifying the mind.)
        At no stage do I assert that free will is real.

        > > but
        > > nonetheless the ego feels that it has been consulted and labels
        > > this mechanical action as its free will. How this arises is
        > > straightforward: the ego identifies with the habit ("I am a
        > > coffee-drinker") and experiences the act of choosing as an
        > > opportunity to exercise its will (as the chooser) which reinforces
        > > the habit (with which it identifies).
        > I don't really recognize this as an accurate depiction. The "I" may become
        > identified with a habit or desire, but then again it
        > may not. And when it does become identified it does not necessarily become
        > identified in the active role you have assigned it.

        It was not meant to cover all bases, but to simply to give a basic
        and practical illustration of the role that free will can play in
        purifying the mind.

        > As Jung says: "We
        > have got accustomed to saying... '*I have* such and such a desire or
        > habit or feeling of resentment,' instead of the more veracious 'Such and
        > such a desire or habit or feeling of resentment *has me*. The latter
        > formulation would certainly rob us even of the illusion of freedom. But I
        > ask myself whether this would not be better in the end than fuddling
        > ourselves with words."

        I consider *I have* to be more useful than *has me* -- it is a
        question of which appears to rule, I or the desire -- for it is
        closer to the next step of detachment, namely "There is such and
        such a desire in the mind." It is only from this detached state
        that one can intelligently respond to the desire, instead of
        reacting to it in a habitual manner. The key is to simply accept
        the presence of the desire (or craving or whatever) and examine it
        in the light of reason: perhaps it needs a response, perhaps not.
        If not, too bad, it does not mean that the desire is going to go
        away: you simply accept its presence and get on with life.

        > > At a later stage I come under the direction of a teacher (or
        > > doctor's orders for that matter) and the discipline given is to
        > > drink only water. That changes the equation somewhat: ego=habit
        > > becomes ego=disciple (one under discipline) where the choice is
        > > to follow the discipline or not. This does take some effort,
        > > but is eased by faith in the teacher (or doctor) and an
        > > intellectual understanding of the health benefits of drinking
        > > water and the dire consequences of drinking coffee. So there is
        > > still choice, and the ego still identifies itself with the act of
        > > choosing, and so this is also perceived as an act of free will.
        > If you lift what you think is a pen, only to discover as you lift that it
        > is a heavy solid brass rod, you will experience effort. More
        > effort than if you knowingly lift two brass rods that are twice the weight.
        > The effort derives from a contradicted assessment of what was entailed.

        The extra effort (rajas) is in waking from the stupor of autopilot
        (tamas), in order to shift the preconceived idea. Glue a coin or
        banknote to the sidewalk and observe what happens. ;-)

        > A
        > powerful, charismatic teacher may influence you so that very little effort
        > is felt in doing anything she or he might say.

        Perhaps he just wakes you up so that you connect more with the senses,
        and maybe replace a habitual thought pattern.

        > But if not, there is no
        > reason to assess the effort as some sort of original force independent of
        > the force each competing desire brings with it. There is simply no
        > evidence of a "special inner power," or faculty of will "exercising a kind
        > of police supervision" over feelings and thoughts. If, for example, I fail
        > to stick to a diet, I might say "'My greed was stronger than I was,'" but
        > all that can be substantiated, as the French psychologist Hubert Benoit
        > notes, is "'My greed was stronger than my wish to be beautiful.'"

        If you accept the force implied in "greed" and "wish", then analyze
        their common qualifier "my". Whatever "I" uses that personal pronoun
        is the "policeman", and appears to choose the greed over the wish.

        > Identification of competing desires with some intermediary will and self
        > is an illusion and trick of speech.

        Oh yes, no doubt about that. Any identification is an illusion.

        > I see no use in perpetuating such an illusion.

        Then don't perpetuate it -- for yourself! On the other hand,
        I see no use in denying such an illusion to others, who may
        yet find it practical and useful.

        Sunrise and sunset are also illusions (relative to the rotating
        earth): you may see no use in perpetuating such illusions; I see
        no use in denying them.

        > But then I am not a teacher.

        Oh yes you are! Everyone is a teacher at all times. You teach
        your values to others by simply living according to your values.
        Most people preach one set of values but actually live according
        to another: there is a rather public example in the US currently.
        Look beyond the individual to his public opinion poll ratings and
        it is clear that the average American values $$$ above morality.
        The tragedy of the situation is that it damns the American nation
        in their *own* eyes.

        Regards, Charles.
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