"How to Think Like a Hindu" Why? Radio episode with guest Swami Sarvapriyananda
7:39PM May 8, 2022
Jack Russell Weinstein
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Why philosophical discussions about everyday life is produced by the Institute for philosophy and public life, a division of the University of North Dakota's college of arts and
Hi, I'm Jack Russell Weinstein, host of why philosophical discussions about everyday life. On today's episode we'll be learning how to think like a Hindu with our guests Swami Sava Priya Nanda, please visit why radio show.org For our archives show notes to support the program. Click donate on the upper right hand corner to make your tax deductible donation for the unit of University of North Dakota's secure website. We exist solely on listener contributions.
Many of you may be familiar with the concept of Orientalism. It's a term coined by literature professor Saeed to describe the way that Western countries falsely treat much of the non western world as caricatures, and is fundamentally different from themselves. The idea is that not only are people from Asia, North Africa and the Middle East somehow less than Westerners, but their cultural practices and religions promote subservience and are less sophisticated. Now, there's a lot to unpack here. What Sade was criticizing was Orientalism and he was talking about colonialism and domination a kind of cultural contempt. I, however, would like to focus on the idea of foreignness that beliefs and traditions from these places are assumed to be for other people and not for us. This was illustrated most recently when Russia invaded Ukraine and the American news media kept commenting on how we should be more connected to this war than those in the Middle East because Ukrainians look familiar and could be our neighbors. They are one commented blond haired and blue eyed and they all live in a region where we don't expect conflict. This not subtle message is that all folks in the large circle of nations that surround Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are meant to be bombed, and their people are not worth distinguishing as individuals. This othering contaminates descriptions of Hinduism specifically the third largest religion in the world, despite its being 5000 years old, regardless of the fact that is 1.2 billion adherence, it is often depicted as fringe and exotic. Western Hindus are frequently dismissed as weirdos or New Agers. You can think the hippies and the Beatles for that. And Hinduism is commonly belittled as a two dimensional performance, people mimic when they want to find spirituality rather than religion. My own philosophical education certainly suggested this, almost every department of philosophy in the English speaking world emphasizes what we call Western philosophy. The tradition of European thought inherited from the ancient Greeks and each without fail, has a course called Eastern philosophy or now to be more inclusive Asian philosophy, which attempts to encapsulate a quarter of the world in one semester. The contention that I have heard over and over again, is that Eastern philosophy is different. Its notion of logic is much more ambiguous, its texts are to be read more mystically. And that I and philosophers like me with all of our years of training are simply not qualified to talk about it in class. You're either an Eastern or Western philosopher, and there's no getting around that. Now. I have strong words to describe this fiction, but I'll leave them to your imagination. Not only is it not true, it's never been true. The East in the West if those terms even make sense have always been intertwine through trade, competition and conflict. The earliest statues of the Buddha, for example, were created to counter the spread of the cult of Apollo in the region we now call Pakistan and Afghanistan and everyone everywhere, even the peoples beyond the Indus River who were the earliest Hindus are concerned with good and evil, justice, knowledge of the Divine, our relationship with others and self awareness. These are human questions, and I'm sorry if this sounds pedantic but Hindus are humans to universal, it's like to claim that there is one great truth and that each religion is simply a specific cultures attempt to describe what that truth is, Krishna said something similarly, I have to admit, I find this insight compelling and if it's accurate, it means that Hinduism gets us where we want to go as well as any other belief system, they each provide their own piece of the puzzle. Hinduism is worth attending to. It's a rich, complex tradition whose influence permeates non Hindu lives through yoga and meditation, for example, or vegetarianism, or the non violence apart Luther King Jr. or the widespread belief in reincarnation. There's much to learn about the religion, and on today's episode, we'll be doing just that. But we're going to do more than look at how Hinduism as conclusions differ from the Abrahamic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The title of today's episode is how to think like a Hindu because my contention is that each of us given some time, reflection and imagination can get a glimpse of the thought proceeds that help everyday Hindus find meaning and divinity in their lives. Today's guest is a monk, a Swami. He's devoted his life to both the study and practice of Hinduism, and he's also worked tirelessly as a representative of his religion as an emissary for the curious If this makes him different than most of our other guests, because for him, ideas don't mean anything if they can't be actively pursued. That's a major difference between philosophy and religion. philosophical ideas can always remain purely theoretical, but religion must be inherently practical. It's evidence isn't the lived experience of every person who aims to fulfill its ideas. So today, as we all try to think like Hindus together, try to imagine not just whether the ideas are right or wrong, but whether your life would be better if you lived as they suggested, ask yourself does the new knowledge the SWAMI offers us make a difference in how you see the world? If it does, then you are one step closer to countering the pernicious Orientalism that divides east and west and to the recognition that truth is never exotic. It's just unfamiliar. And now our guest Swami Sava pre Ananda is the minister and spiritual leader of the Vedanta Society of New York and was integral Fellow at the Harvard Divinity School he served as an Assistant Minister in the Vedanta Society of Southern California's Hollywood temple. And as teacher RKR aka your curio, thank you very much of the monastic probationers Training Center at Belur Math India, Swami welcome to Why
thank you, Jack. And thank you for having me.
I am I am glad that you are based in New York because you're going to put up with my New York accent and my horrible butchering of all of the Sanskrit words and your name, and I apologize for that. But um, it's, I don't know what else to do about it.
That's perfectly all right. And you will be surprised at the number of Indians who make a mess of the name difficult names.
So folks at home if you'd like to participate, share your favorite moments from the show and tag us on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Our handle is always at y radio show, you can always email us at ask why umd.edu? Listen to our previous episodes for free, learn more and donate at why radio show.org Okay, so Swami, this may be an odd question to start with. But I've actually been thinking about a lot. Every guest I've had so far I've called by their first name. This is true whether they've been a friend, a best selling author, a Nobel Laureate. Yet, from the very beginning, I knew I was going to call you Swami. It never occurred to me to refer to you as anything else. Now, you're not my therapist. Right? But do you know why this is? Do you have a sense of what I'm reacting to there?
Well, actually, it's not difficult to have the very visual impact of this person dressed in bright orange, or just yesterday. I when I turned up at my hosts here in Fargo, they have a very bright six year old. The first thing he said when he saw me was Hello, orange uncle. And I would suggest that people really are reacting in the same way as the six year old. Here is this person who represents something. And that's what we are addressing, you know, when when it says Swami, this bright orange robe person is a swami I mean, what else could he be? In India? You know, we bow down to somebody who looks like a monk. And not because we know him, or we didn't even know it this particular religious affiliation. But we know that he stands for an ideal, a lot. Like, you know, when you see a person in uniform at the airport, you might go up and say thank you for your service without knowing exactly who he is or who or who or what she does. But it's just the impersonal ideal of it. I think that's what people are responding to.
My father, who is we'll call him an imperfect Jew, will wear his yarmulke his GPA, most of the time, but when he's in a restaurant that isn't kosher, he'll take it off, because he doesn't want anyone outside to think that it's a place that's kosher, and that's leading him astray. Do you feel that same kind of pressure when you're out and about when you're representing your order, that everything you do is an advertisement for not only what you represent, but what people can use you as a guidepost for for lack of a better way of asking the question.
I guess that's true, though. I wouldn't keep it forefront in my awareness that would be too much pressure to take. So I'm pretty comfortable in my skin and in the orange to fill your right. You know, there was a time when the Swamis who have been here for more than 100 years now, at the center, I am in was, is probably the first Hindu ashram in the west. It was established in 1894, by Swami Vivekananda, among Hindu monk who came here with Hinduism first, some of the early Swamis in pre war United States, you would see them dress First in western clothes, but that was more because it was too strange this this dress, and it sort of interfered with what they were trying to say to their almost entirely American audience at that time. Things have changed since then. I find, for example, New York is so very multicultural. Nobody looks back twice. At me when I'm dressed like this, so I guess, yeah, that's what I would say.
Do they? Do they treat you differently at the security at the airport? Do they give you deference? Or do they scrutinize you more?
Or both? Sometimes, especially in India, you would get a lot of difference. Sometimes not in India, you would be picked out of a line just because you're dressed like this, but it's alright. That's alright.
When when you became a Swami, you changed your name? Yes. Is that is that is the new name, a title and as Swami and office or is this more akin to even what the born again Christians are trying to suggest that metaphysically existentially you have become a different person, and that when you've reached this stage of being Swami, your identity has fundamentally changed. I think
both the latter more than the first, but the first two first of all, the word Swami, just literally from Sanskrit it translates into master teacher, Monk. So Swami, normally a monk would be called Swami so and so the Swami is actually more like, in like Reverend, for example. And my name would be a server pre Ananda, the whole name would be Swami server, Priyanka Puri, and that clearly Max me out as a monk. And to those who know more details, it will tell them which order I belong to, which kind of which brand or flavor of Hinduism, I follow, what my philosophy leanings would be. But more than that, what you suggested. The second option was, yes, when you become a monk in Hinduism, you are actually supposed to, it's like being reborn. You did, when when a Hindu dies, there are certain ceremonies performed, which Mark like funeral ceremonies. And when you become a monk, you actually perform those ceremonies for yourself. That's the only case where you would perform it's as if you're dead to the world. And then now you have a new life, you begin with this new name, and entirely new position in society. Which is also one of the reasons why you can't actually go back with the other person is supposed to be dead.
On to figure out how to ask this question, I'm asking a little above my paygrade. So I may get this wrong. And you may have to explain some things. But my understanding is that a person's karma in previous lives, creates the body of their next, I guess, generation, you are changing your identity, but presumably you're not changing your body. So is there a theological sense of how this shift into monkhood affects your karma? And would you say, I'm going to use Aristotle's terms here? Would you say that, that your essence is different, even though your physical matter is the same?
The answer to that would be actually no. But if I could just get back to your earlier question about death and being reborn into a new life, Indian law actually recognizes this, you know, taking sanyas that means the vows of monasticism and Hinduism, is actually regarded as being equivalent to legal death. So if you become a monk, you as far as I know, you give up all claim to your paternal property, you can't now litigate and, you know, tell your siblings from an earlier life that you give me my share of stuff, you can't do that. Now, is there a change? In a sense, is there a change in karma? No. You it is well recognized that becoming a monk and all the ceremonies we go through and all these vows that we take up, and the new life, all of these are seen as aids to eventual enlightenment. And until an enlightenment, you're still under the thrall of causality, past actions still rule over us. So literally, it's not that all your actions are done away with your karma has no hold upon you. It will have no hold upon you once you're enlightened. So and being a monk is a is an aid a very powerful aid, but still, it's just part of the journey.
I want to I've been trying to think about how to start the conversation without what so many people do, which is could you define this? Could you define that? If listeners, they can't hold that, and it's boring. And one of the things that I found most intriguing, in one of your interviews was you talked about there being two basic kinds of religions, a God centered religion and a self centered religion. And I think that that is probably a really useful way for our listeners to start thinking about what Hinduism brings to the table. Would you talk a little bit about this distinction, and and also how it informs your order and your point of view?
Right, thank you for bringing that up. Jack. I think that's a very important distinction, especially here in the West, the kind of religion that people are used to, and in fact, that's all most people understand where religion is, is God, faith in God, and eventual freedom from worldliness, some kind of salvation. And it's all very faith based. In fact, that's the name for religion in America, we'll use religion and faith interchangeably. But that's not necessarily true. I mean, in India, we know of an enormous variety of religious perspectives. And some of which are not predominantly faith based, for example, Buddhism, it's difficult to say that it's just a faith, or it's an entirely faith based enterprise. That's why I think a lot of Westerners find Buddhism intriguing, you know, we find how is it a religion, it seems to be more than a system of ethics and meditation. So yes, if you look at the structure of human experience, we are experiences, subjects, and we experience an objective world so there is a subject and object. And it would make sense that if our spiritual pursuit could have these two dimensions, and objective dimension, when you want to know what's the reality behind this universe, let's call that God. And this God, you have faith in God, your teachers tell you so the your tradition tells you to, so the holy books tell us so. And then you develop devotion, surrender, love, and cultivate the ethics that are prescribed in your religion. So that would be the God centered religion. In contrast, I wouldn't call it a self centered religion, that sounds pretty bad, self inquiry based religion, that would be a better term for that. And there are many of those. Buddhism is a classic example. But in Hinduism, to Hinduism, you have a philosophy called Sankhya, which is self inquiry based, you have yoga, the philosophy called yoga, yoga is a white tongue covering a lot. But there's a particular school called Yoga, which is centered on meditation. But that's also a self inquiry approach. There is another religion, which is well known in India, not so much outside called Jainism. And they don't they don't talk about God, they are agnostic about the existence of God. So those are self inquiry based religions aware, the whole question is not God, but who am I? What am I? And if I inquire into myself, I'm expected to find the answers which will lead me to eventual enlightenment and freedom. This, I would say, is that fundamental difference between these two kinds of religious religions?
You've sort of anticipated a question that I had in mind, but I'll ask it anyway. There are some who will hear the self inquiry, the self focus aspect of religion is as somehow narcissistic. But for as you describe it, it's more of an entry into a method, right? Can you talk about why isn't narcissistic and how is it? The beginning of inquiry,
right. Both of these approaches, the God centered approach, and the self inquiry approach, have their individual have their unique advantages and disadvantages to it's interesting to see how each sees the other. So I remember this interfaith program organized by the Sikhs in India, which I attended, and Sikhism is, is a completely God centered approach. And so there were Hindus and Sikhs and Muslims, Christians, and a rabbi from New York all the way from New York and in India,
wherever were everywhere. Yeah, exactly.
They're talking about God, God, this and God died and we are all children of God. And all the time it was noticing there was this group of smiling. Buddhist Lamas who were doing the Dalai Lama had said, they're sitting peaceably in one corner of the hall and smiling gently, from their perspective. It's all superstition. What are you talking about? What God Where is this God you're talking about? So these The peculiar strength of the self inquiry based religion is, I exist. Nobody denies their own existence. And that's what Descartes ended up with, you know that, that you cannot deny your own existence you can doubt everything else. But you can't doubt the doubter and the human to doubt that you have to be the doubter. So, this the Self exists, what the nature of the self is, that depends upon your particular philosophical angle, your particular religious bent and of choice. Whereas the problem with the God centered approach always has been doubt. Does God I mean, extraordinary if God exists, God is the most extraordinary thing ever. But does God exist at all? And you will find this, there have always been skeptics who have doubted the existence of God. And there have been believers who have always been plagued by doubt. And notice one characteristic of all the gods centered religions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and varieties within Hinduism, which are God centered. They always have this effort to prove the existence of God. Whether it is St. Augustine, Akina has the five proofs of the existence of God, the great Indian logician who then Acharya who offers nine proofs of the existence of God. And I mean, the the Hindus, and the Buddhists had nearly a 900 year debate on the existence of God. And so, but more of that later. So, the weakness of the God centered approach is the weather does God exist at all. And there the self inquiry based approach has a an advantage there. That's why I would say that Buddhism is so attractive to a lot of Westerners today, because it doesn't make demands on faith. And which is quite difficult in this day and age when you're confronted by, say, Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens or somebody, Buddhism is peculiarly, peculiarly impervious to such a thoughts.
I have so much to ask, we have to take a break. When we get back. I'm going to jump right in and I'm going to ask a question that I think some people would be concerned about, especially with Westerners becoming interested in in Buddhism particularly but also Hinduism and the practice of yoga, and that is whether or not the question of cultural appropriation comes into play. But first, you are listening to Swami sobre Priya Ananda and Jack Russell Weinstein on wide philosophical discussion about everyday life, we'll be back right after this.
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we're back with why philosophical discussions about everyday life. I'm your host, Jack Russell Weinstein. We're talking with Swami Sava Priya Nanda about Hinduism how to think like a Hindu. And when we left, I brought up the Congress the question of cultural appropriation, because I know especially for younger generations now, what it means to be authentic. What it means to hold on to a tradition is very, very important. There are great debates now about Can White people wear cornrows in their hair? Can people wear who aren't native american wear Native American traditional garb? What's the difference between honoring and caricaturing? And so I'm wondering, as you look at the American interest, the Western interest in these Hindu practices. When is it okay, and when is it not, too, not just take an interest but I don't want to participate for lack of a better term.
Let me tell you a little anecdote that comes to mind when you ask this question that was in Los Angeles or five years ago, I was asked to talk about Hinduism to a group of American school kids. And then I mentioned yoga one little boy said, Oh, you have yoga in India too. So that brings up an interesting issue. Look, it's wonderful when the ideas in our tradition are, you know, people are interested in them, and they incorporate it into their practice. That's wonderful. That's why we are here. I mean, when somebody asked once, so are you here to convert people to be your way of thinking or your religion? Not really. I haven't converted a single person yet. And in my whole tradition, I don't I can't think of too many people who actually become
well, we have a lot of listeners, so you never know.
So that's not the point, when Swami Vivekananda was asked, What are you here for? He said, Do I want that a Christian should become a Hindu? He says, God forbid, do I want a Hindu should become a Muslim, God forbid, what I'm what I want is a Christian to be a better Christian or Hindu to be a better Hindu, or Buddhist to be a better Buddhist and so on. The idea is that we have something valuable to share. And at that, I think that makes our common spiritual life much richer. It's, I think, in some ways, it's easier for a Hindu because Hinduism is so internally so diverse, incredibly diverse. I often say any question that you ask a Hindu, the answer would be yes. And no.
All of the things you're saying, including the way you phrase, God forbid, just makes it sound. So New York Jewish. And maybe that's the product of living in Manhattan. But there is something to be said about. When I hear you talking to other folks. There's, there's constantly this refrain of people aren't wrong. They're just on a journey. People aren't making a mistake, you can read it this way. You can say it this way, you can do it this way. Because this is where you are right now. Is that a heuristic? Is that talking down to people who just don't get it? Or is it is there really the sense that all of these different answers are contingent on who you are, where you are not just in the cycle of reincarnation, but where you are in your physical lives and in the world.
That's very important. You know, the way the Hindu looks at religion is as a path. The moment you do that, then you can you can immediately you see that there can be different paths, and the different paths can lead you to the goal. We do, however, insist that there is ultimately there is a goal. And it's, we would also like to insist that it is the same goal, the goal being infinite. You can see it as different goals. You can describe it in different ways you can describe it and the theists, theological God, the theistic god of say, Judaism, or Christianity, or as the impersonal, absolute of Vedanta, or as the Nirvana of the Buddhist, it's, it's infinite, and therefore all of these are appropriate and right, also valid. And the different religions are different paths, which take you to that infinite reality, and which is the goal of all religion. A lot of what I'm saying is similar to the perennial philosophy, Aldous Huxley, that there is a common, like a highest common denominator of all religions. And these are different pathways, which will help you they're going back to the question of appropriation. So so first of all, appropriation is not a huge problem, because from my perspective, I mean, a modern term for that would be cosmopolitanism.
That's excellent. I like that right? For folks listening. cosmopolitanism is a word that is often used to suggest that there is one world and we're all citizens of the One World and that to be a true one world citizen is to take different ideas and different practices from different traditions and look at all of these as one unified thing rather than by focusing on false national identities, divisive ethnicities, and those sorts of things. So so I really love that cosmopolitanism as the opposite of, or the negation of appropriation, please, I'm sorry to interrupt continue that
very well put. And you see that in a place like New York, for example, I used to think India was like the most diverse place I've ever been. But come to New York, it's more diverse than India, you have eight people from 80, or more different nations language and, and you are part of it. You know, often the problem with pluralism is that, yes, there are these different truths, but you can still be within your own ivory tower and excluded from the others, and still continue to insist on some kind of doctrinal purity, which actually, if you look closely at it in a fine grained look at any church, any religious congregation, there isn't that much that much uniformity as one as the purists would want actually. So the idea that different religions can all lead you to the truth, and you need to hold on to one, but that does not mean you're shut out to all the others. influence from other religions can enrich you this I have this very interesting revealing experience, which shows the difference in the way of thinking Professor Clunie in at Harvard, the Harvard Divinity School, he wrote this very nice text reading Hindu and Christian classics together and the book launch which was done online, you will have two scholarly interlocutors who come in and comment on it. One of them, a noted scholar of religion said, Well, what's the point of this exercise, you know, ultimately, the whole point is to decide which is right and discard the ones which are wrong. And that's so shocking for a Hindu, you'd never in a million years, think about it that way. Every time I read, say, a Christian text, devotional text, the whole idea is to see it from through Christian eyes, and enrich my own devotional practice by spiritual practice. That's the way a Hindu would look at it. And I suggest that's pretty close to a cosmopolitan idea of spirituality.
So I'm going to ask a silly question. And then I'm going to morph it into a serious question. We had a video when our daughter was younger of yoga for kids that taught the different positions as letters in the alphabet was very, very cute. And there's also a book and people talk about when, when dogs stretch and you know, do Downward Facing Dog, they call it dog, right? The silly question is, is that somehow inappropriate? Or is that making light of something that shouldn't be made light of but the more serious question is, you know, when I, I am not a very bendy person, but I really find yoga really tremendously useful for me and where I live, one of my great frustrations is that a lot of the yoga is at the fitness center, and there's no sense of spirituality and there's no it's Goga as a workout, on the one hand, right? People do, what they need to do where they are. On the other hand, it feels such a bastardization of the practice. How do you feel about this idea that that Asana, that pose practices, even in sort of just for, for the physical needs, and for workouts, can lead someone to the deeper, more spiritual, more meaningful yoga practice?
You're right. There are schools, which preserve the spiritual core of yoga, I've seen yoga schools, like the bay teach all the physical yoga, but they have meditation, they have philosophy, they have courses in Sanskrit, things like that added on to that. And I've seen, and I've seen a lot of yoga teachers in the sense of the physical yoga teachers in the West, who become interested in the philosophy behind it. But you're right, a lot of it has just become like a physical exercise, which is good in itself. It's, there's nothing wrong in it, it's perfectly fine. But I would always want the link to the deeper philosophies behind it to be preserved. So that, and sometimes you're right, it can feel like it's become superficial, or, you know, stretched, forgive the pun stretch too far. So a bent completely out of shape, if you will. I have seen, I have had reactions from Indian yoga teachers who have objected strenuously to say go to yoga or something like that. And my response to them has been, I see what you're trying to say. But on the other hand, look at it this way. We had it all this time. What did we do with it? In India, almost nothing. Nobody was particularly interested. It's the Western, especially the Americans who became very interested in it, and they took it up the Americanized it. That's, that's all right. But now it's, it's the position of the whole world. It's not just the position of a few Yogi's in India, and I'm so glad about that. Now, there's an international day of yoga, for example. So it's taken a life of its own. And good that there is this little push back in the demand for authenticity, which will tend to preserve the core of yoga. One reason why it's been like this is also partly due to the Indian teachers themselves. When they came here, famously, I heard as saying, ascribed to marshy, Mahesh Yogi, who, who emphasize the meditation aspect. Somebody, when he went back to India after his first few classes here in the West, somebody in India, one of his brother, monks said, What's this, that you're teaching them that meditation is good for, you know, your physical immunity, it makes you look younger, your wrinkles won't be there in your face. That's not the point of meditation. The point of meditation is enlightenment. That's what all the texts tell us. Why are you saying these things? And not that they are wrong, but that's not the point. And it seems that Mahesh Yogi responded, he said, I give them meaning the Americans, I give them what they want, in the hope that one day they will want what I want to give them.
That's and that really, that preserves that sense of the path of moving forward. And so if you only end up continually doing just the fitness center yoga, then maybe you've missed out on something really important. And that leads to the next question which I think one of the things that will help us all understand how to think like a Hindu and the Hindu tradition is the debates within Hinduism, what makes one school different than the other. I wonder if you talk a little bit about dualism and non dualism, and how Hinduism struggles with this debate and why this is connected to this notion of a path and this notion of enlightenment.
Right? To understand that we have to go back to the very roots of Hinduism, in the Vedic times, maybe four or 5000 years ago, we don't know exactly when they came across this most valuable insight in the Rig Veda, which is the most ancient of the Hindu, the fundamental texts of Hinduism. The Sanskrit is a comes set Vipra Buddha Vedanta literally translates into the truth is one, the wise speak of it differently. And this was so valuable, and it sort of informed the development of Hinduism and India over the next four or 5000 years. What it did was, it allowed an enormous variety of opinions to flourish and develop regarding religion and philosophy in India, without fear of persecution, without fear of being saying that this is right, everybody else is a heretic, the idea of heresy simply wasn't there in India, if the truth is one and infinite, you can express it in different ways in different philosophies, different logic, different language, and that's perfectly fine. So you will have variety of schools, variety of thinkers, and each would find a follower. And that's true even down till today. Even it is the smallest Indian village, people who have no idea of Sanskrit or, you know, a drum set the problem with evidente, but they have imbibed it into their culture. So I go and worship Shiva in my little temple in the village, and my neighbor goes and worships Vishnu. It's perfectly alright. And I know that is another way of expressing the same truth which I am,
I want to interrupt I want to get to dualism question, but I do I hear the voices in my head, that of the audience members who saying this is this is beautiful, and this is theoretical, but we are talking about India versus Pakistan, we are talking about Kashmir, we are talking about tremendous conflict. And so how does one preserve the Universalist super tolerant, super inclusive notion of Hinduism In the face of real world world conflict and the history of violence? That is certainly not exclusive to the South Asia?
Right. And it's an important but a difficult question. Let's divide it into two parts when there was enormous diversity within India. The thing about Hinduism and Buddhism, the gap between Hinduism and Buddhism, in some sense, is much greater than the gap between say Hinduism and Islam and Christianity, for example. Here you have people, Buddhists, who don't believe in God, they don't believe in an immortal soul. And then, but what happened was, because of this understanding that spiritual masters may speak in wildly different language, yet, it could still be true what they're talking about, because the truth they're talking about is beyond language. The one response was the development of, as you mentioned earlier debates. So there was this entire range of scholarship, there were scholars on both sides, and they were lucky to have a common scholarly language Sanskrit, and commonly agreed upon rules of debate. So all these fights, they were played out at a very sophisticated, intellectual like intellectual gladiatorial combat, where literally like combat, there will be two scholars facing off against each other supporters of each side. And they will be judges and they will be the lay audience all enjoying these debates. And these debates would have real world consequences. A particular sect might become more important and other SEC might lose its followership if you lost an intellectual debate. But what it did was, on one hand, it led to a flourishing of philosophy. A lot of sophistication came to philosophy ecosystems because of continuous challenges and reputations, country reputations, it preserved the peace. So differences were okay. And it could confront the differences but you would confront it, you'd have a certain minimum cutoff of intellectual capacity, it would have to be confronted at an intellectual level. What happened was when you had entirely different forces come into the Indian subcontinent. First the waves of Islam By the way, Christianity, Judaism and Islam came to India, at almost at the very beginning, Judaism came first to India around 70 ad with the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans. And the Jews have always been a tiny community but always well regarded, always treated very peacefully. I remember meeting this Israeli consul general in in New York, he said, I meet the Jewish diaspora from all over the world, and they have tales of war to tell us except one country, and that's India, they've never had a problem in India. So diversity was there. Christians have been there since the time of Jesus, apparently, St. Thomas, the doubting he came to India. That's the story at least. So it's been there for a long time. But with the waves of the Islamic invasions coming from the northern border, you now have an ideology, which is not interested, it's not part of the common culture of Sanskrit and debate, was not interested in Sanskrit and debate. It's interested in saying that I'm right, and you're wrong. And you're going to either join me or that. So that was, I think it was a huge shock to the the thought culture of the Indian system. And let me not be, you know, make it sound simple. Because it wasn't simple. There were enormous problems within traditional Indian society, incredible hierarchy, with those at the bottom of the hierarchy, with the light being crushed out of them by the by the caste system. Yes. So it's not that it was always the soul or some kind of pressure converting people from Hinduism to Islam. No, it was often a release from an oppressive system. So there are large numbers of people, I'm sure they converted out of their freewill and they were attracted to this new ideology. So what happened over time, was a synthetic culture came up in India, which integrated elements of Islam into Hinduism, giving rise Hinduism has always been a matrix giving rise to different religions. Buddhism and Jainism came out of Hinduism, so did Sikhism. And the one reason was the shock of the encounter with Islam, Sikhism seems to have elements of both Hinduism and Islam in it. So this is how Hinduism has responded as a religion, to the influx of other religions into India. My own order, which is the 19th century might call it an 18th century reform Hinduism was responding not only to Islam, but also Christianity, and also the west with science and rationality and all of that coming in. And this is not considered inauthentic in Hinduism has always been organic, it takes on new forms over the centuries. And that's perfectly fine in Hinduism.
One more question along this line, and then I'll move back to the dualism question. It has always been my personal feeling my contention that anytime you end up having a partition, you fail, that partition is not a goal. India, Pakistan, Northern Ireland and Ireland, Israel and Palestine, that that partitioning is a failure. And that integration is the only long term solution for for getting long. Do you think that that's too naive? Do you think that that's inappropriate for in your experience with the with India particular? Particularly?
I think you're right. In principle, in principle, in principle, partition is a failure. Yeah, it's the inability of large groups of people to get along together, which everybody, any cool head, reasonable person on both sides will recognize that would have been a better alternative, which is why Mahatma Gandhi was devastated. When India became independent and became an independent Indian independent Pakistan. He took it as a day of mourning, because his dreams had fallen apart, they were dead. Now these two nations were they should have been one and only dividing principle was religion, just people who are just like each other. Now they become refugees in their own country, they go to different country, and set up an intergenerational intergenerational hatred for each other. One at risk of being unpopular, but I must say, there is in Hinduism, from the Hindu perspective, there is no theological philosophical reason to hate people belonging to a different religion. Whereas in other religions, it might be that we are right and you are wrong, and therefore we have to either convert you or destroy you or something. And that leads to a theological prompted, you know, like activism against some of the religion which might be religious conversion, it might be actually warfare, it might be riots. So the violence from On Hindus, sometimes it's more based on I would say, resentment against past, real or imaginary, you know, atrocities against our community, the destruction of temples, mass conversions, enslavement, things like that lots of political freedom, colonialist colonialism, resentment against past aggression, and also the perceived continuing present aggression. But it's not I often say, religious violence from Hindu side is not an authentic in the sense and I'm being slightly sarcastic here. It's not authentic, because it's not based on any kind of philosophical or, you know, like no scriptural basis for it, no philosophical basis for it. It's just hitting back at when some of my Hindu friends in the new Hindu, right, which is there, which is quite aggressive. And so they say that all this harmony talk that we hear from you, you don't hear that from other religions. I say, that's fine. But you're a Hindu, right? And say, yes. So as a Hindu, how would you respond to other religions, because as a Hindu, you must admit that you don't have this doctrine of other religions being false religion says nothing like that in Hinduism. So all the major religions, you must respect and you must see that they all are talking about in some way out the same infinite truth, which your own traditions are talking about, with enormous internal diversity, it's very easy for the Hindu to say that, that other what the Muslim is doing, and what the Christian is doing, also must be true. So there is no answer to that for people who are trying to be aggressive within Hinduism.
Every religion that I've ever gotten involved in, there has always been a core group of people who have argued their scripture is tolerant that violence is inauthentic. And I'm not suggesting that that's not true of Hinduism. I'm suggesting that that it proves your point, right, that there is this tremendous overlap, and that and that, in that that this this debate, this interaction, this integration, that all of the religions would be better off if that if they held that position. I wonder, let's go back. So, the original question, you know, 14 hours ago, the original question was about dualism and how dualism and non dualism are representative of the fractures within Hindu theology. So, so please continue
about that. I wouldn't call them practice, I would just see it as the richness of interfaith Fair enough. And I was warned when it came to the United States that Be careful when you talk about dualism and non dualism in a Christian context, maybe even to some extent in an Abrahamic context dualism and non dualism would be like between good and evil things like that.
Oh, yeah, no, no, this this is this is Cartesian mind body. Yeah, appearance versus reality. It was, is it my problem, Brahman Brahman?
Yes, here, dualism specifically, would mean multiple realities. So God is a different reality. And we are different from God. And in sentient world, material world is a different reality. world, God and you are different realities. This would be the doctrine on which dualistic schools are based in multiple dualistic schools within Hinduism, the various varieties of that. And non dualism, the tradition which I represent our my home tradition, so to say, would say that you can't dismiss the fact that you experience difference, but the fact that we experienced difference does not mean at some deep level there is not oneness. And so the non dualist school claims that underneath all the experiences of difference is this one reality which is called Brahman, literally, which means the vast etymologically the word Brahman means the fast, which encompasses all of difference. But how do you encompass difference? One way would be that the differences are real, but they form a part of an organic whole. And that's one school of thought, which is in technical, it's called Vishesh, tagged with a qualified monism. But that's not the school I'm talking about. It's interesting to distinguish the my point of view or our traditional point of view, from that point of view, that point of view says that, yes, human beings are different from each other, and we are different from the material world that surrounds us. And all of that is encompassed in one Divine unity. Sounds of sounds a little like Spinoza here.
You had to spell my question. I'll get to that in a second. So,
underlying Divine unity, but the non dual tradition says, no, no, the differences are apparent, and the unity is the reality. So the, you know, the differences between me and you In this world, it's like the differences you see on a movie screen. For example, there are people and houses and earth and sky. But the reality is, these are all pictures on one uniform screen. Similarly, there's only one uniform screen and that what would that be? That is being itself. And then non dualism being is identified with awareness with consciousness. So being itself, consciousness itself, and the word Ananda, it refers to Bliss fulfillment value. So value or fulfillment itself, Sat Chit Ananda, these are the technical terms used. Notice, all of you know, metaphysics, epistemology, and axiology, sort of ontology, epistemology, and axiology are involved here. All the questions of ontology end up with SAP being, all the questions of epistemology end up with consciousness, awareness, that's what makes knowledge possible. And all that we had seeking whatever is valuable in life, the answer to that is Ananda, translated as bliss or joy or fulfillment. And that is the reality. And the world we experience difference, which we experience is the appearance thereof.
So in a few minutes, I'm going to bring up the problem of the one in the many, but because I think that this oneness is something that that Westerners, and I'm always reluctant to do that but Westerners struggle with, and I also want to point out that I think that some of the things we're saying now the connection between epistemology, the study of knowledge and ontology, the study of existence, that these are, that this proves part of what I was talking about it in the in the monologue, that there really is no radical division between the Western philosophy and Eastern philosophy. So you mentioned Spinoza, and Spinoza, who was excommunicated for being a pantheist. His position was nature and God are are one and the way that I've always explained it is they're just different perspectives on the one it's like a spoon that is convex and concave that one is one is God, and one is one is nature. Are you suggesting something more like pantheism and panentheism? Is the idea that yes, nature and God are one, but God is, or Brahman is more than one. And the example I usually get for that is the Beatles, right? We know that the Beatles are John, Paul, George and Ringo. But when they're the Beatles, there's something more than just the four individuals and we know that because none of their individual careers ever were successful. Right? So are you suggesting something along those lines that the unity is more than just the sum of its parts? Or is there something even deeper were metaphysically distinct from that?
deeper, more metaphysically distinct from that, more radical than that, okay? It's not so much as the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I mean, even they come together. By the way, I live near the Dakota where John Lennon used to live
in a great neighborhood.
That's really true. The Strawberry Fields there, and people are always singing Beatles songs, but they're singing Beatles songs. And they're John Lennon songs, but nobody says they're John Lennon, The Beatles songs. But what non dual non dualism in Hinduism suggests is that there is an even more radical possibility. It's not so much as the Lennon and George Harrison and others coming together and from the greater thing that is the Beatles more like a movie in a screen. So the reality there is the screen and light and pictures, and appearance is the story you have a Harry Potter and the School of magic and all of that, there is the earth and the sky, and the good and the bad, and all of that, but all of that is entirely dependent on and is an appearance of the movie screen. The movie screen can exist and does exist. In a sense, it is the only thing that exists from you know from, from a certain perspective, and it but it's also that which makes the movie possible. Similarly, Brahman, existence, consciousness, bliss, and these would be existence, consciousness, bliss with a capital E, C, and D are not, not the way existence here does not mean just existing things. It's that which makes existing things possible. Consciousness is not seeing, hearing, thinking, desiring. It's that which makes all of these things possible all the first person experience possible. And bliss here is sort of the culmination of all our attempts to seek fulfillment, happiness placed purpose, all of that. And Advaita Vedanta says, There is one reality which is at the same time, existence, consciousness, bliss. And everything that we experience is an appearance of that, like the rope by mistake appears as the snake, the sky because of the way See, it appears blue though it's colorless. Similarly, Brahman appears as this universe, and more stunning the real thing. The core idea of Advaita is the most stunning thing like the equation which Hinduism is most well known for that thou art. After talking about all of this, the teacher is supposed to tell you, you are that premiere, if you ask, what's that Brahman is a speculative entity? No, no, you are it. And we can show you how you are it. And then comes the different parts, the actual practices.
So if you'll indulge me for a second, I want to go down a sort of nerdy Harry Potter path for a second to introduce the idea of idealism, and then I'll trans, transition it into the question of the one and the many, both of which require explanations on from my part, and I apologize for that. So first is, and there's a spoiler here. So if you haven't read the seventh book, the seventh book, fast forward for a second, everyone thinks that the culminating scene in the Harry Potter series is when he is killed by Voldemort. This is because they look at it from a crystal logical point of view that Harry Potter has to die and come back for sins. But I actually think that the culminating scene is a comment by Dumbledore, after Harry Potter, quote, unquote, dies, and he's in the train station. Harry Potter is about to wake up again. And he says to Dumbledore, tell me Professor, is this real? Or is this all in my head? And Dumbledore says, it's in your head, of course. But my dear boy, what makes you think that's not real? In a series that's entirely about magic, and entirely about the effect of magic and the physical world? That has to be the central point, this question of idealism, what does it mean for the abstract to be real? What does it mean for the immaterial to be the ultimate reality? And that leads to the question of the one and the many in the question, the one in many is how the the individual fits in the parts. And this is how I always explain it. If I'm going to tell my biography, then I have to talk about my parents first, right? I have to say I was raised this way. And my parents raised me this way, because they were raised by that way. And they have to in order to talk about my parents, I have to talk about my grandparents, they raised my parents that way. But in order to talk about my grandparents, I have to talk about the preceding generation and the country they came from, and the tradition they came from and the problem is, I can't tell you anything about myself without telling you everything about everything. And that to truly understand Jack, you have to understand the whole universe, because it's all this causation, this this path, at the same time, in order to understand the whole universe, you have to start somewhere. So you might as well start with Jacques is that applicable to the oneness of Hinduism? And is that part of what you were talking about in terms of the self focused and self directed inquiry?
Yes, one distinction I have to make straight away is that non dualism, the Sanskrit word is adulterated writer means dual and underwriters, non dual. Non dualism is not subjective idealism. Okay. I was just reading.
To explain that term, it means it's not abstract from one person's perspective, it's not different for each individual. Right?
Right. It's not that this universe or this world that we are experiencing, it's all in your mind. Everybody else, like the studio and Jack and everything. Even this body is in my mind, it's not that it's not like a dream, where I have created a world. So just like in my dream, I create my own dream world. It's not true that I am the one who's creating this universe, not not in the sense of one individual creating a world. So it's not that's called subjective idealism. In the West, it's most famously identified with Berkeley
Yeah. that we exist in God's mind and, and the the world continues to exist when you close your eyes because it stays static in God's mind. Right?
Right. So the world is in a mind, it could be an individual mind or cosmic mind cosmic mind more reasonably. So that explains the stability of the world. India had a very long tradition of subjective idealism, which is a flavor of Buddhism. They call it the mind only school, and that was more than 1000 years before Berkeley, and they had several 100 years of development. And it still continues as part of the hybrid, which is the emptiness school and the mind only school which constitutes the philosophy of the Dalai Lama, for example, the Tibetan Buddhist school. Now why I'm saying this is non dual Hinduism Advaita. Is not mind only is not subjective idealism, as recently reading an article by Professor Arindam Gjakova to teach his Indian philosophy at in Hawaii. The article is called idealist refutations of idealism. Hmm. And that says it all. Adwaita non dualism in Hinduism is a kind of idealism, but you might call it an absolute idealism. And they are very careful to attack that that article talks about the greatest of the non dualists Shankaracharya, who lived about 1400 years ago who's coming to sort of form the basis of non dual Hinduism today, his fierce attack on the mind only School of Buddhism and compares it with Kant attack on Berkeley and subjective idealism. Almost the same arguments. And I would say Shankar has attacks on the Buddhists are more sharp, I mean, the professor shows, or they're more sharp and more clear than cancer tech, which is a little more diffused on Berkeley. So, yes, non dual. Hinduism is a kind of idealism. It's an idealism of an absolute kind, and not the imagination of mine. So Dumbledore in this question, would say that, no, it's not in your head. It's, you're there. And it's true that we are all here and the Hogwarts School is here, and the one who must not be named, You named him.
I had that debate in my head, thank you for that.
They're all there. And they're all real. They exist apart from outside your head. But you and they, and all of us, we exist in these wonderful books written by JK Rowling. So there is an underlying reality in which both subject and object appear. It's not that the object is an imagination of the subject, rather, the subject and object equally appear in one underlying reality. And that underlying reality is Brahman, and you can access it to the subject, you're the subject and an inquiry into yourself, coming to your question, an inquiry into yourself would take you to that absolute, your absolute reality. And that would be the purpose of non dual Vedanta, to realize, I am Brahman. And that realization would set you free from samsara from the travails of worldly existence.
I want to try this again, because this is deep metaphysical stuff with a lot of terminology. And if folks are feeling like they're losing the thread, they're not alone. So I want to try to do this again, because I think this is super interesting and super important. And I'm going to suggest something that it isn't to have you elaborating on what it is. There's a problem when when philosophers ask about what is real, they'll often ask, you know, is a fictional character real? So Homer Simpson, or we can stick with Harry Potter, right? In some sense, Homer Simpson, Harry Potter are real because we know who they're we're talking about. We know, we know what they look like. We know their stories, we know their adventure. There's there's a there's a intersubjectivity there's, there's a collective objective, quote, unquote, sense in which they're real, because we are all talking about the same thing. But they're also fictional, because they don't exist in the same way. You are not saying that, though. You're not saying that the real world is fictional. We just all share in that fiction, you're saying the physical world, the world of appearance, the world that we experience every day, is fundamentally real. It's just a layer of understanding a filter of understanding based on our knowledge at this point in time and at this life. And so the more we know, the more we've experienced, the more karma, we've we've we've had, we've created, the more we see the fullness, but they're all equally real. They're just different perceptions of the real is that I mean, it's, I should warn, again, the listeners that what ends up happening is that is that lots of folks in the Hindu tradition end up saying that reality is indescribable, right? And so we're gonna, we're gonna come across that problem, but But am I am I somewhere close to where you want to go?
You certainly are. It's not a fiction in the sense that, oh, we all tell now we were in the matrix. Now we have popped out of it. What happens is, is that if you investigate this, our experience, that ultimate reality, which Hinduism is talking about, will become evident to you. And from that perspective, you see, that's a deeper, a more real real, if you will, if you will, then this one, but this is also real in its own on its own terms. So science is perfectly real, and religion to Israel, and our common sense dealings in business and, and war. And all of that is real, it's happening. It's not, it's not seen dismissed as a fiction or as a dream, not in that sense. But as Swami Vivekananda was a founder of For the Hindu movement in the West, he put it. It's not from falsity to reality, it's better to put it as this way, from lower to higher truth. And in in there is a sense in which Brahman is a higher or a deeper truth than the world that we are experiencing. But it's not fiction. So there is a big disconnect between fiction and say, Harry Potter and the book Harry Potter is written in, there's a big disconnect, there's a jump there. And so from that jump, you can dismiss Harry Potter as a complete fiction. You cannot tell Harry Potter, that your essential reality is JK Rowling. No, they don't exist in the same plane plane of reality. But you we, in fact, non dual Hinduism will tell you that Brahman is your reality. Yes, you can talk about the world as a fiction, but you are the reality of this fiction. So this is an appearance in Brahman. And at the level of appearance, you can have science, you can have religion, you can have politics, all of that would be as true as they are claimed to be true, but they're not the ultimate truth.
So is Islam a level of reality Buddhism, a liberal reality, Judaism, secularism, quantum physics, are these all levels of reality that when we, when we have a sense of Brahman, it all gets sorted out in? Not necessarily in some hierarchy, but in some grand puzzle? Or is there? Is there is there falsity? Is there incorrectness? Is there, can you be wrong?
Yes, you can be wrong. And I wouldn't say that, you know, what I would say is that Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, at their core, what we hold is, they're all pointing to the same reality. The only advantage you might have in a data, the tradition I'm talking about, is that it might appeal appeal to a philosopher, where, instead of talking mystical terms, in terms of indescribable unity, you can actually go pretty far if not the whole journey, you can go pretty far, following a reason and experience, that's the only advantage that we are talking about. But all other traditions, they are pointing to it, um, they may be at the sharp end of the spirit becomes mystical. But they're all pointing to this one reality.
A book that I've mentioned on the show before that I found tremendously interesting and helpful is a book called Buddha's Brain, which you probably know, and it's, it's about the effect that meditation and yoga but particularly meditation has on neurology, and and part of it is, is the attempt to show that the tradition of meditation is meaningful, important, and that it can have effects in the world of science. Is you mentioned that science is true. Is there a tension in Hinduism between the scientific worldview and the mystical or theological worldview? Because of course, right. A lot of Americans are used to, especially in politics that evolution is false, even while driving their car and using the internal combustion engine, right? Is there the same tension in the Hindu discussion? Or is there a continuum and an integration that some people might find more, I guess, inclusive or holistic,
it is more inclusive, there's a greater continuum there. But again, I'm always careful when I talk about Hinduism, it could the opposite is also true. But let me just talk about the tradition uncomfortable about about Advaita Vedanta. There are two, two aspects to this. From the athletic perspective, we are very clear what we are attempting when we talk about the cosmos in the ancient cosmology of fire, water, air, that's common across the different Indian wind, just Indian, I think Greek, Indian, Chinese civilizations. And it's a pretty common sense way of looking at the world. But it's pretty clear in in our tradition, that we are not insisting that that's the right worldview. What we are saying is, you need a worldview, to go from there to what we are trying to point out that you are the absolute reality of this universe. Now, if you have a better worldview to offer modern science as a better worldview to offer advice, it would be perfectly okay with it. Because we are not trying to do scientists, we are not in competition with science. In fact, that's true of most of Hinduism. One of the early indologist he said I find that these ancient Hindus were Darwinians, 1000 years before Darwin. So you have in Hinduism, the idea of God, God was a thought Icynene very big thoughts and very powerful, impressive daughters, but so toys, and the God was a fish. And then God was first to fish. And then it taught twice. And then God was a board, and God was a half man, half lion. And then God was in the human form, which shows it very interesting, you know, like, almost Darwinian evolution of. So what Hinduism talks about is an evolution of nature, and the manifestation of God. So it's not that God is evolving, but God's let's say, God's outer garment, God's fashion sense is evolving.
Love that. Yes.
And so, this is, so nature evolves, and God manifests more and more through evolved nature. That's the way Hinduism would put it. So in their wisdom has no direct conflict with evolution. In fact, Hinduism would be happy with evolution. There are sutras in the Sutras of yoga aphorisms of yoga, which talk about evolution, which say that multiple bodies must come over over lifetime, and that's part of spiritual manifestation of Brahman. To
illustrate one aspect of this, will you tell the story about the swami who is suffering with throat cancer,
Sri Ramakrishna, who was at the source of our particular movement within Hinduism. He was probably the most significant spiritual figure in India in the 19th century, I think, in the last few 100 years, probably. So when he passed, he had he suffered from terminal throat cancer. And he was suffering immensely. One of his young disciples comes in once in the morning and says, How are you today, sir, and he says weakly, it hurts, he points to his throat, it hurts and I can't eat. And the disciple, I don't know what possessed him says, But sir, I see that you're in great bliss, you're in great joy. And that's a cruel thing to say to a dying cancer patient. But Sri Ramakrishna is responses even more startling, he busts out laughing. And he says, Oh, the rascals found me out, he's seen through me, which means that there is certainly a layer where disease is not denied. Pain is not denied. It's experienced, just like any other patient could experience it. But what spirituality has done, what enlightenment has done is, it's opened due to this much more fundamental level of reality, from which perspective, you see it as All right, and you can do, cancer doesn't go with a body is going to die anyway. But you see, you're not the body. And you see even the pain in the body as an object as a thing out there and an unpleasant thing, but still, it's there. It's not that you are unaware of it, you are in some deep mystical state, and you can't feel it. It's like you're spiritually, and it's decides to pain not even that he's feeling it, just like anybody else feels it. And yet he is, he somehow manages to rise above it. And that's what Vedantic spirituality promises. So you see, it's not dismissed entirely as a fiction. Every bit of this world is accepted as real. And yet through spiritual enlightenment through spiritual progress, one can lead a much better life here much more, you're much stronger, you have a greater sense of meaning and purpose in life, which is not shaken by the storms of life. The Gita says, having found that, after which nothing greater remains to be found, established in which even the greatest sorrows cannot shake you. It's almost biblical language. You know, when you build your house on firm foundations, call it the foundations of God or in Hinduism, we would say it is the foundation of your real self capital itself. And that's what spirituality promises. I just add one thing going back to what you talked about science and Hinduism, often a good deal of many texts, when they talk about the cosmos in Hinduism, does seem to echo off findings in modern science, leading some of my Hindu brothers to claim Oh, we are headed out 1000s of years ago, which is nonsense. We didn't have quantum mechanics 1000s of years ago, we didn't have a string theory 1000s of years ago, Brian Greene, who's a very well known cosmologists at Columbia. He launched his latest book, until the end of time, and I was in the book launch and I asked him about this side of Hinduism. He knows it, he has, his elder brother is a Hindu monk. So he has had these discussions with his brother, and he says, what you have in the Hindu texts, it's not science, but it's poetry. But on print principle, they seem to be talking about the same thing. So there you see there is no even at the most fundamental level, there is no real clue. hash with a bit modern science.
So, this may be the last question. And it's a big one. But I also think it might be a useful encapsulation of, of what we've been talking about. What is me? You know, when I say me, is there a fundamental difference between the Mi i experience and me capital M? If I'm starting with this, this this self Focused Inquiry, as opposed to the god focused on I start with, you know, Jack me, I, what is it? And where does it lead me?
Right? I don't think that's the central question. And in the school I belong to, that would be the core spiritual practice, to attend to our own experience of life, which experience all experience, just attend to yourself, instead of attending to things other than you. So what am I or what's this mean? I mean, if you straightaway ask point to yourself, it will point to the body. But then we are invited to notice the body changes, from babyhood to childhood to youth to middle age, to old age and to death. Finally, and I seem to be intuitively the same person experiencing all of this body's a stream of matter all the time. Not only that, the body is an object, just like the table in front of me, I can see it and touch it and hear it. I can do the same to the body, I can touch it and taste it and smell it and hear it. And so the body is an object to all five senses. I don't I don't normally think of myself as an object. So I, whatever I am, it's not the body, because it's continuously changing. I'm not changing in that sense. It's an object, and I'm the subject. And I'm aware of the body, the body, not none of its powers, and none of its parts, or the whole is aware of me. Then we go deeper. So am I the mind? Thoughts, feelings, emotions, that's what most people identify with? You know, they'll say, Yeah, I don't think I'm a body. I'm an embodied person, the mind maybe. But then you see, the same logic applies to the mind, the mind is a stream of thoughts, emotions, ideas, memories. Not only that, those are also objects is a very subtle point that's pointed out here, that thoughts are also objects, because I'm aware of them there. If you just think two plus two is four, I was aware of the thought two plus two is four, two plus two, four is not aware of me the SWAMI. And it's not aware of anything, it's not even aware of itself. So thoughts are also objects, they are also changing. And I'm aware of them. I am that which is having these experiences, which makes experience itself possible. And that's never an object. So this is the way the inquiry proceeds in a non dual Hinduism. And the point, you are at one point, expected to grasp intuitively, this innermost reality, which is definitely consciousness in some sense, because you're aware, afterall, it definitely exists. And that is called existence consciousness in a non dual Hinduism. So that's how the inquiry would proceed.
That's powerful, beautiful, compelling. And I don't mean this sarcastically in any way, it would take more than a single lifetime to meditate on that. I want to thank you so much for being here you are you are the first person I've interviewed in person in many years because of the realities of our surrounding. I couldn't think of a better transition to person to person interviews again. So Swami, thank you so much for joining us. And thank you for coming to our little corner of the world.
Thank you for doing this jacket. I really appreciate it coming all the way in this weather to do the interview in person, but it is much more interesting for me. Wonderful. Thank you for having me. You have
been listening to Jack Russel Weinstein and Swami Sava Priya Nanda on why philosophical discussions about everyday life and I'll be back with a few more thoughts right after this.
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You're back with why philosophical discussions about everyday life. I'm your host Jack Russell Weinstein. We were talking with Swami Sava pre Ananda about Hinduism and how to think like a Hindu. You know, um, The drive down to Fargo from Grand Forks was pretty intense. Today, the rain was very heavy. And there were a lot of trucks on the road. And I had a lot of moments of real stress not to mention the fact that I was really concerned about being late. And in the process of of driving, I had to compose myself, I had to remind myself that I had control of the car, that my reality was being affected by my anxiety and my nervousness, and that I was a pretty good driver. And as long as everyone else was pretty good driver, we would be okay that the car was designed to run in the rain. Why do I tell the story because on the one hand, my reality is created by my perspective, on the one hand, the meanings that I have the confidence that I have in myself, the trust in my surroundings, that's part of my reality. But the other hand, if I had crashed, I would have died, right? If I had hydroplaned, the car would have done what it was going to do. And so I had to process both the real the physical reality, the scientific laws, and my perceptions and my knowledge of it, with the awareness that there was a whole bunch of other things going on. Like, for example, there was a designer of the highway, who would create angles that would make it easier to ride in the rain. I use that as an analogy to the conversation that we've been having today, that what Hinduism requires us us to do is to reflect on the layers of perception and the layers of knowledge, to follow a path to this thing called enlightenment, I can't describe to you what enlightenment would be, because if I were enlightened, you know, I probably be somewhere else. And in the Hindu tradition, as in the Great Western philosophical tradition, to claim knowledge is to make yourself suspicious, those people who were claimed to be enlightened may not be the enlightened ones. So I think that some of us are, for many of us, Hinduism is foreign. And for many of us, the the store the accounts that they tell the texts, the theology, the metaphysics is very, very hard to grasp. But in reality, we all think like that all of the time, we just have to be able to systematize it and reflect on it on it and think about it and do it without prejudice, do it without self consciousness, do it without embarrassment, follow those thoughts, follow your path, get to the place where Hinduism becomes a reality for you. It doesn't have to be your religion, but it's certainly a source of great knowledge and beauty and curiosity. One of the things that stuck with me in the conversation with Swami was when he said in passing that, that Americans had done more with yoga in recent years than in millennia in India. And on some sense, I think that was hyperbolic. But in some sense, of course, it's not at all. Yoga is pervasive. I mean, this is not the same tradition. But there are, I think, for sushi restaurants in Grand Forks, North Dakota, right, sushi is everywhere. Yoga is everywhere. Hinduism meditation is everywhere. And this idea that we can be a part of it, that it's not cultural appropriation, that it's not rudeness, that we can be genuinely authentically part of the inquiry is liberating in and of itself. And I'm tremendously honored to have the SWAMI here to help us see not just what Hinduism is, but to feel that we all have a place in it, whether we are Hindus or not. And what more can you want from a philosophical discussion? You've been listening to Jack Russel Weinstein on why philosophical discussions about everyday life thank you for listening. Don't forget to check us out at why radio show.org and click the donate button because we do exist on your donations. But regardless whether you do that or not, it is always an honor to be with you.
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