Tag Archives: Upanishad

Tall Tales of the Lonely Void

Void

Let’s think about nothing. It’s a little different from not thinking about anything. If we don’t think about anything then we actually just give the mind free reign to wander without constraint. The mind is always active so not thinking about anything really means not directing thought to a particular object, not thinking about anything in particular.

On the other hand, thinking about nothing means making ‘nothing’ the object of one’s meditation. This carries an exceptionally high degree of difficulty precisely because a void offers nothing to direct one’s thoughts to. In one sense, it’s impossible to think about nothing because there’s nothing to think about: in a void, qualities are conspicuous by their absence. A void can’t feel anything because there is nothing in a void that can generate feelings or be affected by anything. And a void can’t do anything because it has neither the power to act nor any mechanism for action. A void is neither sentient nor is it an automaton.

Curiously, the absence of qualities, energies, and instruments in a void does not always stop people, even scholars of yoga philosophy, from assigning qualities to that which is, by definition, quality-less. Continue reading

Reality, Illusion, and Vedanta

In my last post I offered reasons to believe that reality was greater than illusion and suggested that there’s a popular brand of yoga philosophy that asserts just the opposite: that illusion is greater than reality. In order to identify this philosophy we’ll have to venture outside the confines of ‘Yoga’ proper and into the realm of Vedanta.

Like Yoga, Vedanta is one of the six darshans, or schools of Indian philosophy. Veda means ‘knowledge’ and anta means ‘end’, so vedanta means ‘the end of knowledge’ and refers to a summary understanding of the Upanishads, which are the grand finale of the ancient collection of knowledge texts known as the Vedas. Yoga makes its first historical appearance in the Vedas and there is an important relationship between Yoga and Vedanta.

The essence of Vedanta philosophy is expressed in the Vedanta Sutras; a collection of terse aphorisms that, like a coded data file, needs to be de-coded by informed interpretation and commentary in order to be comprehensible. Also known as the Brahma Sutras, the Vedanta Sutras begin with a declaration that the great imperative for those gifted with a human birth is to pursue knowledge of the ultimate reality, which is subsequently defined as the source of everything. In Sanskrit the first two sutras read:  Continue reading