Skip to main content

Waves of thought



Buddhism teaches that all things are in a constant state of flux: all is changing, forever. Nothing is very stable in nature. This principle applies to humans as to anything else that exists in the universe. People have not ever, according to this, a steady state, physical or psychological, or a trait that defines us. Moreover, the existence of stable states or traits in people is purely an illusory manifestation of the changing reality.

 Think on this body! A painted puppet with movable limbs, sometimes suffering and covered with sores, full of imaginations, never permanent, always changing. (Dhammapada, 147).

It is in this context that the term Anatman takes perfect sense, as a denial of the existence of a personal soul (Atman) which defines or characterizes us as individual subjects. Anatman is the non-self. The words "I", "my mind", "my being" or "my soul" do not refer, in fact, according to this, to anything stable myself, do not define me as a being different from the rest, because nothing stable defines me. These words are simply agreed terms of convenience which let us refer to entities that we are, changing and unstable humans.

People do not have, then, a fully autonomous existence, because only the absolute (God), which is the constant flow, exists, and we are just immersed in it. We are Anatman. When we speak of ourselves, or our self, or our mind or our consciousness we mean, paradoxically, the component we share with other human beings, which comes and goes and fluctuates, but not so dependent on the individuality of the subjects, which is an illusion, but it does completely independent of that.
The attributes or qualities that usually mean a person do not really belong to him: When the body dies, the higher mental processes (reason, intelligence, the will) do not finish existence, because they do not were possessed strictly by the person, but existed before somehow, and still exist and continue to manifest ("reborn") on other people who are still alive or that come to life. And since mental processes are constantly changing and evolving, beings who are still alive are not exactly the same being who died (Atman), of course, but they are not totally different (Anatman), because basically they are a continuum (the continuum of life) with which died and God (Brahman).

Many people interpret the word "reincarnation" in the sense that there is some "thing" that is reincarnated in concrete, which travels from life to life. But Buddhism does not believe in unchanging entity, a self or a soul that emerges from individual body and survives his death. What provides continuity between successive lives is the flow of thought or consciousness in reality. The thought and consciousness are, in some way, a continuous and preexisting flow that operates in the individual and his particular sensory and experiential. And they made ​​simultaneously on each of the multitude of individuals, so that "moves" alike all the diversity of life and individuals, regardless of their particularities. It's a "flow of reason" or "universal logos" that continually revives in each of us our unpredictable thoughts and variable states of consciousness. In short, thought and consciousness are the central creative principle, as explained the Dalai Lama.
In the Buddhist scriptures there is a clear exemplification of this process of rebirth. The Buddhist Nagasena raised it to the King Milinda in a famous series of answers to questions that the king formulated:

-When someone reborn -asked the king to Nagasena- is the same that just died or is he different?
-Not the same or different ... -Nagasena answered-. Tell me: if a man lights a lamp could it provide light all night?
-Yes.
-Then the flame that lights in the first vigil of night is it the same that lights in the second or the last?
-No.
- Does this mean that there is a lamp in the first vigil of the night, another in the second and another in the third?
-No, the light shines all night due to this unique lamp.

The life and death of the individual body are biological accidents that do not transcend the plane of mind and consciousness. Affect obviously the concrete experience of the individual in sensory level, yet every moment the mind and thoughts vary, come and go and are renewed (as the flame) either in our mind or in that of others, because, in background, is the same, because nothing and nobody modifies the evolution of thought in an arbitrary manner. The logos of thought itself reborn and happens all the time, apart from our fickle will, because it is precisely what conforms our will (and the rest of our higher mental abilities).

As unstable flames... or as variable waves.
In the Aphorisms of Patanjali says, "Yoga is the control of thought waves."
Prabhavananda Swami said, "When the senses register an event or an object from the outside world, in the mind stands a wave of thought, sense of ego identifies with this wave, if it is nice ego feels: I'm happy, if it is unpleasant ego feels: I'm miserable. This false identification is the cause of our sufferings, because even temporary ego feeling of happiness brings anxiety and a desire to the object of pleasure, which prepares future possibilities of becoming unhappy."

Surely we will not get absolute control, but if we try, again and again, seeing our mind as agitated by these unpredictable waves, we will get used to distinguish their nature, the suffering generated by the fact we identify with them and how powerless we are to dissipate the storm...

Atman, Anatman, Brahman are the air that generates the waves and move the swinging flame of our mind, which moves our thinking, what's behind that makes it dynamic, but not shows itself, because is it what shows.
Appears at the beginning of the Kena Upanishad:

Who makes the mind go so far? Who makes life begin its journey? Who impels us to express these words?
That can not be put into words, but makes the words to spoke. Know it is Brahman, the Spirit, and not what people adore here.
That you can not think with your mind, but makes the mind can think. Know it is Brahman, the Spirit, and not what people adore here.

Popular posts from this blog

Mind, body and environment.

Memory is not a 'copy' of reality. The past is not in our memory. It is there as little as the future is. The mind is present activity. Contents that mind produces, about what has already happened or what might happen, are the result of its activity, they are not the mind. Brands of memory remain with some of our experiences, but the fact we want to see in these brands the reality itself or a reproduction of it is due to the bias of our anthropocentric and psychologizing vision, by which we replace the world by the contents of thought.
Our mind does not work like a computer, says R. Epstein. Our brain actually is not an information store. Our brain, strictly speaking, does not process information nor recovers knowledge nor saves memories. The computer is just a metaphor. What the brain does, more or less, is to resonate with reality; it is like a soundboard that, as everything, operates in the present, not in the past or in the future. It works in the physical present, with ele…

Prana, qi, ki...

‘Prana’ is a Sanskrit word for breath or ‘air inspired’ (from the verb ‘pran’: aspire), but also means ‘universal and invisible energy that enters the body through breathing’. Prana is a physical principle that permeates all forms of life, that which gives life and wisdom to beings and that is or comes from a kind of ‘universal spirit’. The first mention of the word ‘prana’ appears in the Rig-Veda, the oldest text of India, in the mid-second millennium B.C.
Prana shares the global sense of ‘air-life-wisdom’ with many terms of different ancient cultures: Greek ‘psyché’ and ‘pneuma’, Hebrew ‘ruach’ and ‘néfesh’, Latin ‘spiritus’ and ‘anemos’, Arabic ‘ruh’... or the Hindu atman, which also means soul while air or breath. (See the post ‘Pneuma...’ of this blog). Often, too, prana is confused with jiva, another Sanskrit term for soul-air, as there is a close connection between them. Jiva, in particular, would be the portion of air or prana which is located specifically in the cavity of the h…

Psychology and Life

The more certain existence and the better we know is indisputably ours, because, of all other objects, we possess external and superficial triable notions, while we perceive ourselves internally, deeply. What do we check then? What is, in this exceptional case, the meaning of the verb 'to exist'? First I see that I passage from one state to another state. I'm cold or heat, I'm happy or sad, I work or do nothing, I look around me or think about something else. Sensations, feelings, volitions, representations, such are the modifications among which distributes my existence and which color it alternately. I change, then, without ceasing. (p.13)
Thus the anthology of Henri Bergson (1957), conducted by Gilles Deleuze, starts, with this text of L'évolution creatrice, direct and full of content. And follows:
(...) I say, and rightly so, that I change, but the change seems to reside in the passage from one state to the next state: for each state, considered separately, I bel…