Embodiment in the western world
Being of the Western paradigm is a tough one when one is trying to talk explain things of a realm that doesn’t exist in the western paradigm except in concrete terms. Although we talk about consciousness, we lack much understanding of it and try to look at it through our normal limited western lens of science. There is a ton of understanding of this realm in the vedic paradigm though. Infact, it is explained in depth, but we always need to reinvent the wheel here don’t we. If only one was to read and study the following, one would have a totally different grasp upon consciousness. You can google for yourself to study them. Here is a good link to start with http://www.hindupedia.com/en/Consciousness_Studies. It is worth the time as all of the sciences of the vedas are truly sciences of self realization.
The foundation of all later Schools of Yoga go back to Patanjali. The word yoga automatically calls to mind Patanjali the founder and father of Yoga Sutras. (Yogic teachings covering all aspects of Patanjali Yoga are common in pre-Patanjali literature of the Puranas, Mahabharata and Upanishads.) He was a great philosopher and grammarian. He was also a physician and a medical work is attributed to him. His best known work is Patanjali Yoga Sutras of Aphorisms on Yoga. The path outlined is called Raja or the sovereign path. It is so called because of the regal, noble method by which the self is united with the overself. Patanjali’s Yoga has essentially to do with the mind and its modifications. It deals with the training of the mind to achieve oneness with the Universe. Incidental to this objective are the acquisition of siddhis or powers.
The aim of yoga sutras is to set man free from the cage of matter. Mind is the highest form of matter and man freed from this dragnet of chitta or ahamkara (mind or ego) becomes a pure being. The mind or Chitta is said to operate at two levels-intellectual and emotional. Both these levels of operation must be removed and a dispassionate outlook replace them. Constant vichara(enquiry) and viveka(discrimination between the pleasant and the good) are the two means to slay the ego enmeshed in the intellect and emotions. Vairagya or dispassion is said to free one from the pain of opposites love and hate, pleasure and pain, honour and ignominy, happiness and sorrow.
The easiest path to reach this state of dispassion and undisturbed tranquillity is the path of bhakti or love. Here, man surrenders his all-mind, soul, ego-to the Divine Being (not human) and is only led on by the Divine will. Self-surrender the Diving Name. Such repetition must not be mechanical but one-pointed and full of favor. For this, concentration is necessary. concentration can be there only if man has practiced to fix his attention on a particular object without letting it dwell on anything else. Concentration also calls for regulation of conduct if bhakti must develop. Good cheer, compassion, absence of jealousy, complacence towards the virtuous and consideration towards the wicked must be consciously cultivated. There are also methods of regulated breathing which help reach concentration. Yoga is an art and takes into purview the mind, the body and the soul of the man in its aim of reaching Divinity. The body must be purified and strengthened through various practices. The mind must be cleansed of all gross and the soul should turn inwards if a man should become a yogic adept. Study purifies the mind and surrender takes the soul towards God.
The human mind is subject to certain weaknesses which are universal. avidya(wrong notions of the external world), asmita (wrong notions of oneself), raga (longing and attachment for sensory objects and affections), dweshada (is like and hatred for objects and persons), and abhinivesha (the love of life are the five defects of the mind that must be removed). Constant meditation and introspection eradicate these mental flaws. The human body is a vehicle for journeying this life. It must be kept in proper form if the mind should function well. For this, there are practices too, but Patanjali does not elucidate on them.
and then also study…
Shad darshana (Sanskrit: “Six views or insights; six philosophies.”):
Among the hundreds of Hindu darshanas known through history are six classical philosophical systems: nyaya, vaisheshika, sankhya, yoga, mimamsa and vedanta. Each was tersely formulated in sutra form by its “founder,” and elaborated in extensive commentaries by other writers. They are understood as varied attempts at describing Truth and the path to it. Elements of each form part of the Hindu fabric today.
- Nyaya: “System, rule; logic.” A system of logical realism, founded sometime around 300 bce by Gautama, known for its systems of logic and epistemology and concerned with the means of acquiring right knowledge. Its tools of enquiry and rules for argumentation were adopted by all schools of Hinduism.
- Vaisheshika: “Distinctionism.” From “vishesha,” differences. Philosophy founded by Kanada (ca 300 bce) teaching that liberation is to be attained through understanding the nature of existence, which is classified in nine basic realities (dravyas): earth, water, light, air, ether, time, space, soul and mind. Nyaya and Vaisheshika are viewed as a complementary pair, with Nyaya emphasizing logic, and Vaisheshika analyzing the nature of the world.
- Sankhya: “Enumeration, reckoning.” A philosophy founded by Kapila (ca 500 bce), author of the Sankhya Sutras. Sankhya is primarily concerned with “categories of existence,” or tattvas, which it understands as 25 in number. The first two are the unmanifest purusha and the manifest primal nature, prakriti—the male-female polarity, viewed as the foundation of all existence. Prakriti, out of which all things evolve, is the unity of the three gunas: sattva, rajas and tamas. Sankhya and Yoga are considered an inseparable pair whose principles permeate all of Hinduism.
- Yoga: “Yoking; joining.” Ancient tradition of philosophy and practice codified by Patanjali (ca 200 bce) in the Yoga Sutras. It is also known as raja yoga, “king of yogas,” or ashtanga yoga, “eight-limbed yoga.” Its object is to achieve, at will, the cessation of all fluctuations of consciousness, and the attainment of self realization. Yoga is wholly dedicated to putting the high philosophy of Hinduism into practice, to achieve personal transformation through transcendental experience, samadhi.
- Mimamsa: “Inquiry” (or Purva, “early,” Mimamsa). Founded by Jaimini (ca 200 bce), author of the Mimamsa Sutras, who taught the correct performance of Vedic rites as the means to liberation.
- Vedanta (or Uttara “later” Mimamsa): “End (or culmination) of the Vedas.” For Vedanta, the main basis is the Upanishads and Aranyakas (the “end,” anta, of the Vedas), rather than the hymns and ritual portions of the Vedas. The teaching of Vedånta is that there is one Absolute Reality, Brahman. Man is one with Brahman, and the object of life is to realize that truth through right knowledge, intuition and personal experience. The Vedanta Sutras (or Brahma Sutras) were composed by Rishi Badaråyana (ca 400 bce).
Hindu Cosmology upholds the idea that creation is timeless, having no beginning in time. Each creation is preceded by dissolution and each dissolution is followed by creation. The whole cosmos exists in two states – the unmanifested or undifferentiated state and the manifested or differentiated state. This has been going on eternally. There are many universes – all follow the same rhythm, creation and dissolution (the systole and diastole of the cosmic heart).
“Then was not non-existence nor existence: there was no realm of air, no sky beyond it. What covered in, and where? and what gave shelter? Was water there, unfathomed depth of water? Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal: no sign was there, the day’s and night’s divider. That One Thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature: apart from it was nothing whatsoever. Darkness there was at first concealed in darkness this. All was indiscriminated chaos. All that existed then was void and form less: by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit. Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning, Desire, the primal seed and germ of Spirit. Sages who searched with their heart’s thought discovered the existent’s kinship in the non-existent. Transversely was their severing line extended: what was above it then, and what below it? There were begetters, there were mighty forces, free action here and energy up yonder. Who verily knows and who can here declare it, whence it was born and whence comes this creation? The devas are later than this world’s production. Who knows then whence it first came into being? He, the first origin of this creation, whether he formed it all or did not form it, Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven, he verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not” – (Rig Veda 10.129.1-7)
This stuff is pretty deep when you get into it. It is also mind blowing what was known way back in time that we have come to think we discovered or that science has proven when they didn’t have telescopes way back then. Where did the knowledge come from then?
and don’t forget….
Jyotisha (Sanskrit: “The science of the lights or stars”) from jyoti, “light.”:
Hindu astrology, Jyotisha is a form of divination (reading the Divine) which uses the patterns of planets in the sky, and their complex interrelationships, to reveal patterns in the subconscious inventory. Using the mirroring patterns of the planets’ movements, the individual reality, Jyotisha can predict the timing of major releases of subconscious expectation into the field of consciousness.
The upanishads are the end part of the vedas which briefly expound the philosophic principles of the Vedas and are considered the essence of the Vedas. The philosophy of the Upanishads is sublime, profound, lofty and soul-stirring. The Upanishads speak of the identity of the atman (individual soul) and brahman (the Supreme Soul). They reveal the most subtle and deep spiritual truths.
There is actually a whole lot more to look at as well but we can stop there.
In contrast, what we have today is the western science and its study of consciousness. The following is from a blog @ http://neurophenomenology.wordpress.com/tag/embodiment/
It is a wonderful blog full of science of the West about neurophenomenology, this is a word meaning “scientific research program aimed to address the consciousness in a pragmatic way.
It truly is a beautiful blog, please go check it out. I quite like this blog because it is trying to figure out embodiment but in western tradition it fails to have any knowledge of energy/prana/chi and a whole lot more.
The mysterious quality of our visceral space is based not only on such experiences but on all that is not experienced of our inner body, I have hitherto focused on what interoceptions we do have; they are marked by a limited qualitative range and a spatial ambiguity that together restrict our perceptual discriminations. Furthermore, as I will now address, there is a paucity of even such limited experiences.
Exteroception, at least during the waking state, manifests a certain spatiotemporal continuity. My eyes scan a visual world that is without sudden gaps or crevices. If I abandon one sense, perhaps closing my eyes, the other senses help to maintain the continuity of world. Similarly, proprioception traces out a completed sense of my surface body, allowing me to adjust every limb, every muscle, in appropriate motoric response to tasks. Though usually this sense is subliminal, I can close my eyes and proprioceptively hone in on the position, the level of tension or relaxation, in any region of the muscular body.
By way of contrast, the stream of interoceptive experience is marked by ineluctable discontinuities. In the above example, after eating the apple it largely disappeared from perception only to resurface in an experience of heartburn. This then faded away to silence, broken some time later by insistent cramps. This too passed. Finally, hours later I become aware of sensations from a new region signaling the need to defecate. But these are intermittent punctuations in a shroud of absence. Most of the intricate digestive process—its enzymatic secretions and peristaltic waves, its diffusions and active transports—proceeds without the possibility of conscious apprehension. This is equally true of circulation, respiration, thermal or fluid regulation. By far the greatest part of my vegetative processes lies submerged in impenetrable silence.
Causal relations are rendered uncertain by these spatiotemporal lacunae. I cannot be sure if my cramps are caused by an apple I previously ate, for this apple has, in the interim, disappeared from experience. Moments of discomfort are noted while the baseline of ordinary functioning is largely invisible, it is as if my eyes only reacted to flashes of blinding light, the rest of the time residing in darkness.
This darkness is never absolute. When I focus inward at even the quieter times I still find some vestigial sense of my midsection enveloped in a sort of sensory neutrality, neither full nor empty, pleasured nor in pain. And this vague aura is not devoid of meaning. It shows that any hunger or illness has subsided. The very absence of discomfort is tinged by a positivity.
Moreover, through a heightened focusing of attention, I can increase my awareness of visceral processes. Certain dim sensations that I had never noticed—the feeling of my pulsing blood, the depths of respiration, the subtler reactions of my stomach to different foods—can be brought into experience by conscious effort. As cultural variations show, a certain degree of visceral disappearance can be attributed to Western insensitivities and overcome by a systematic development of powers. The awareness of and control over the inner body exhibited by trained yogis has far surpassed what used to be thought possible in the West.
Yet even such achievements take place only within an overall context of experiential disappearance. The very need for highly specialized training is evidence of the perceptual reticence of our viscera as compared to the body surface. And just as it is possible to speak of null points in relation to the surface body, the corporeal depths have their own phenomenological null points. That is, there are visceral regions that are almost entirely insensitive. In focusing upon stomach and gut I have actually chosen two of the more loquacious organs. The kidney, gallbladder. bone marrow, spleen, yield far less interoceptively. The parenchyma of the liver, the alveolar tissue of the lung, are virtually without sensation. Unlike the completed perception of the proprioceptive body, our inner body is marked by regional gaps, organs that although crucial for sustaining life, cannot he somesthetically perceived.
We rarely thematize this sort of disappearance. Upon introspecting, I do not feel an emptiness in my body where my liver should be. This would make the absence into a presence-as-concealed hovering before my awareness. Rather, the absence of the liver parenchyma is so total that few would ever come to realize or remark upon it. Yet a medical mishap can suddenly awaken us to the significance of such bodily lacunae. The vast gaps in our inner perception may conceal potentially damaging processes until they are far advanced. For example, while I may feel pain once damage to the liver has progressed to the point of affecting its membranous capsule, the initial process can go unperceived. Similarly, hypertension is experientially hidden through much of its career. As with my surface body, I can bring to bear upon these depth organs certain strategies of reflective observation. A blood sample can tell me a good deal about my liver function. Through a sphygmomanometer I can read off my blood pressure. I can look at an X ray of my lungs. I can even gaze through a colonoscope at the lumen and folds of my own colon. Such techniques enable me to gain knowledge concerning my viscera. Yet, as with my surface body, the absences that haunt my bodily depths are not effaced by these reflective maneuvers. Though I can visually observe my colon, its processes still elude experience from within, The magical power my body has to absorb water and electrolytes is not perceived as I gaze through the endoscope upon this furrowed, tubular space. The mystery of my body is only heightened by the very strangeness of the organ before me, its phenomenological noncoincidence with my body-as-lived.
Moreover, unlike the body surface, my inner organs tend to resist even these partial reflections. My viscera are ordinarily hidden away from the gaze by their location in the bodily depths, there is aspect of withdrawal may seem contingent, resulting from a sheerly physical harrier rather than an existential principle. Ye t this is to draw a false distinction; in the lived body, the physical and existential always intertwine.
The depth location of the viscera is no more contingent than the surface placement of the sensorimotor organs. Eye and hand could not perform their perceptual role unless they opened onto the external world- Thus, in order to perceive they must take their place among the perceptibles. They must be located at the body surface available to the gaze of myself and others, By way of contrast, my visceral organs, not constructed for ecstatic perception, disappear from the ranks of the perceived, I do not perceive from these organs; hence, they can hide beneath the body surface such that I do not perceive to them either. In fact, they require this seclusion just as the sensorimotor body requires exposure. My stomach, neither an organ of exteroception nor voluntary movement, could not screen the environment, secure appropriate foods, repel threats. It depends on a mediating surface, active and intelligent, to stand between it and the world, selecting what is needed for metabolic maintenance and protecting the vise us from hostile impacts. The hiddenness of vital organs, though frustrating at limes of disease, is essential to healthy functioning.
Thus it is quite rare for the viscera to be exposed in life. This can happen, as in surgery, wartime injury, or violent accidents, yet these are pathological and dangerous occasions, Most commonly, the direct exposure of the inner organs implies or threatens the death of the person, Hence, as Foucault notes in The Birth of the Clinic, when nineteenth-century medicine made the direct perception of diseased organs an epistemological goal, the corpse, not the live patient, became the paradigmatic figure of truth. For the “anatomo-clinical” gaze, “that which hides and envelops, the curtain of night over truth, is, paradoxically, life; and death, on the contrary, opens up to the light of day the black coffer of the body.”” While Foucault addresses this as a historical development, it manifests my phenomenological point; life itself is allied to a certain concealment, a withdrawal and protection of its vital center.