by Robin Datta
This essay is a response to ulvfugl.
Then substitute yourself, or Buddha, or anyone, or ‘a human’ for x, and substitute ‘other’, or ‘world’, or Earth, or biosphere, or ‘life’, or ‘my brother, sister, son, daughter, wife, husband, lover …’ for y
Then what should be the quality of relationship between x and y ?
One of the clearest expositions of this problem and its solution were given in the Indian epic, the Raamayana, by Raama’s helper and assistant, Hanumaan, to Raama’s question, “Who are you to me?”
Raama is posited as an incarnation of the Supreme, referred to in Hinduism by several terms, the best-known of which is Brahmaan, the corresponding term in Buddhism being the Sunyata, sometimes translated as the Void. Per the Wikipedia, Śūnyatā, (Sanskrit, also shunyata; Pali: suññatā), is a Buddhist term that is translated into English as emptiness, openness, thusness, etc. Śūnyatā refers to the absence of inherent existence in all phenomena, and it is complimentary to the Buddhist concepts of no-self (Pāli: anatta, Sanskrit: anātman) and dependent origination.
Brahmaan (more commonly spelled Brahman) has to be distinguished from Brahmin, traditionally a member of the academic/priestly class, with the word now accepted in an specific English usage with derogatory connotations. It has also to be distinguished from Brahma, the anthropomorphic deity, that assumes the creative function of the creation-sustenance-destruction continuum as the Creator-god.
Hanumaan, the leader of the monkeys that befriended Raama in the forest, is referred to as the monkey-god, or the individual person in relation to the Supreme.
Buddhist writers note that The Void is not empty For an allegory, a photographic film non-sensitive to wavelengths in infrared, if used to capture infrared images, will turn out blank. It is be noted, however, that both “not empty” and “infrared”, are concepts, phenomena, and therefore fail (cf.
“From one’s point of view of physical existence (of the body and mind) I am your slave.”
“From one’s point of view of the Supreme in an individualised aspect, identified with the constraints of physical existence, I am a ray from you” (as in a ray of sunlight from the sun).
“From one’s point of view of the Supreme in an individualised aspect, but not identified with the constraints of physical existence, I am your very Self.”
This first case corresponds to an attitude fostered by theistic religions. In an idealised manner, the individual is to consider oneself to be an instrument of the Divine Will. In Christianity it is a servant of God, in Islam it is a slave of Allah, an Abdullah (عبدالله), and in Judaism it is an eved hashem (עבד יהוה). In Hindu symbolism, one description is that of becoming Krishna’s flute.
The second case involves a sublimation of the first attitude. The theistic religions tread rather gingerly about this. In various theistic sects it borders on, or even ventures into the heretical. However, the Judaic tradition narrates that God animated the clay (= adamah in Hebrew, hence the name Adam) image by breathing the Spirit into it; in Kabbalah it is noted that the Spirit never separated from its source. In the Hindu tradition, this is expresses as “Jiva is Shiva”: here the Jiva is the Supreme individualised and identified with the constraints of physical existence, while Shiva is the deity anthropomorphised/personalised.
The third case involves complete identity, and is not overtly subscribed to by any theistic sect. In the Hindu tradition it is referred to as “Atmnn is Brahman”
The three cases represent a progression in the disappearance in the sense of an “I”.
In Hinduism, the mind is not considered separate from the body, similar to the view in modern neuroscience. The mind is termed the “antakarana” in Hinduism, the “internal instrument” and is considered complementary to the five senses, making their functions possible.
With regard to inanimate objects and sentient beings, in the first case one is a steward of the Divine, and all of these are one’s charges: the obligation rests upon one to take optimal care of them all. This includes one’s body and mind, which are the first among all the charges assigned to one by the Divine. This is the nidus of non-attachment: one cedes one’s personal claim upon anything and everything to the Divine. All actions are preformed as if at the behest of the Divine.
In the second case, it is the Divine Light, as the light of one’s consciousness, that illuminates all objects, both animate and inanimate, making them manifest in the realm of one’s awareness. Nothing exists apart from one’s consciousness, and all things are recognised as oneself. One’s attitudes and actions are in concordance with this recognition. In the Buddhist tradition, the last words of the Buddha were “be a light unto yourselves and a lamp unto others”.
In the third case, the sense of an “I” does not exist. At the deepest level of conscious awareness, there is neither an “I” nor a “thou”, neither existence nor non-existence. Our perspective from within the confines of existence does not extend into it. Yet in that third case, the body-mind continues to function in a conventional manner because the momentum of those tendencies that have become manifest impels it on.
The allegory used is that of a potter who intermittently gives a push to his wheel to keep it spinning. When he is done with shaping his pots, he does not give it any more pushes. The wheel, however, continues to spin under its own momentum until that momentum is exhausted.
Even without these three cases, all sentient beings that retain a sense of an “I” are motivated to every intentional action and intentional inaction by the anticipation of consequences to be felt by the “I”.
In the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, the illumined sage Yajnavalkya teaches his wife:
Then Yajnavalkya said: “Verily, not for the sake of the husband, my dear, is the husband loved, but he is loved for the sake of the self which, in its true nature, is one with the Supreme Self. “Verily, not for the sake of the wife, my dear, is the wife loved, but she is loved for the sake of the self. “Verily, not for the sake of the sons, my dear, are the sons loved, hut they are loved for the sake of the self. “Verily, not for the sake of wealth, my dear, is wealth loved, but it is loved for the sake of the self.
Robin Datta was born in Quetta, Pakistan in 1949. His father was one of three Hindu officers in the Pakistan Army at that time, and a veteran of the Burma campaign of WW2 as a Regimental Medical Officer in the Royal British Indian Army. Robin attended nine different schools as his father was posted to different places. His mother was also an officer in the Nurse Corps of the Royal British Indian Army in WW2. His mother’s native language was Telegu, and his father’s was Bengali: their common language was English (a consequence of two centuries of British Raj), and hence he spoke English natively (as his first language), but had to unlearn it rapidly when exposed to the American Language in New York. He also speaks Urdu, the lingus franca in those parts, natively (natively bilingual).
Datta graduated with a medical degree from Bangladesh in 1972: in order to graduate, it was necessary to take a medical history from the local patients, and as a consequence he learnt Bengali. He moved to New York in 1973. He served in the Army two years (one in Korea, and half a year in Desert Storm), and served three years in the Navy, and was a Flight Surgeon in both branches of service.
Datta completed Family Practice Residency in Louisville, Kentucky, and passed board exams, becoming certified both in Family Practice and Emergency Medicine. He worked in Emergency Medicine from 1983 to 2009 in Kentucky and California (San Jose, Hollister, and Fresno in California). He is single (never married) and retired with no dependents.
Almost all of what he learnt about Eastern religions was acquired after coming to America. The knowledge of Bengali helped significantly in understanding the nuances of cognate terms in Sanskrit and Pali.
Datta is not sure what to do next. Whatever it is, it must take into consideration imminent collapse. He is open to and invites any possibilities and suggestions.