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September 29, 2009


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Just came across "Mind set: Dilemma of a liberal Hindu" in the Times of India. It speaks about the secular - religious divide in India. Interesting article.


Takes a brave person to stick to their secularism right to the nub of it like this, not sure i could do it.

I think the problem with death is that it is just such a massively open-ended question, but what the rationalist is saying is that we are only products of evolution and our body and consciousness will simple cease to exist upon death.

Its not a happy thought and there's no higher meaning, which seem so cold and precisely what perhaps our human higher-evolved consciousness (as opposed to heart or instict) is searching for.

Does an elephant or a tree ever contemplate their existence or the supposed illusory nature of the material world or potential awareness beyond their physical living bodies and death?

I doubt it. I really do wish and hope there is something beyond it all, but that might be the very problem and why we are consigined to looking for meaning in a meaningless existence.

Having just been to a Christian burial service, where the people's beliefs, in something more, goes way beyond what some would call faith to what they consider to be fact, your piece today is particularly timely.

I was with people I really like and the service wasn't one that offended me, no proselytizing, but the certainty with which they face death or loss, it does give them a comfort that I don't have at the moment. Say it and it will be so? I envy them but I am not a person to pretend to believe what I do not believe. I feel that figuring it all out on the death bed wouldn't do us much good. It's what we live with here that matters. I do wonder though what these people find when they do reach the other side-- assuming there is another side which I agree is an assumption I cannot make either. It doesn't really cause me fear though as if there is nothing, it's just all over.

On the other hand, much worse would be if what these people are so certain of, if that happened to be the truth... But I have to live with what I believe is true and am not the type of person to hedge my bets out of fear of something.

I am not convinced at all that there is no god nor that we don't have a soul that survives. I just don't know. I am comfortable being around those who do 'know' either way though as long as they let me be in the 'don't know' category.

I dont get it? Some dude on his death bed makes a statement about what he doesnt believe in and you guys all clap yourself on your backs and say, "hey man, see, we are right, we have been right all along".
Then you claim you follow scientific process.
Gee guys, are you so insecure in your ideas that you need a blog to prop up your little belief systems, how sad are you?

I have been visiting this site for sometime. And, I have never got the impression that Brian's intention is to claim, "hey man, we are right, we have been right all along."

To the contrary,it's about admitting that we real don't know - have no clue - what lies beyond this life.

And, those that claim to know, well.......


PS: Not sure what the intention of your post is.

i agree with skeptic. i think the entire obsession and debate about something after death, or nothing after death, is downright stupid. your life is NOW. thats all it is ever going to be. so live for today. there is nothing you can do about tomorrow. your life is NOW, today. if you cease to exist after death, you won't know it anyway. and if you go on existing after death, then you will deal with that when that time comes. there is no sense in ever talking or even thinking about it. people who think and talk about it aren't living in the now. they are wasting their time speculating and conjectuing about something that does not exist. death is not relevant for the living, or for the dead. all that exists, is always only now. so enjoy existing and being alive right NOW. in this sense, death doesn't matter, it doesn't exist right now. never did, never will. so wake up and live for today, right now. death is just and idea. no need to think abut death. as christ is reported to have supposedly said: "let the dead bury the dead". there's the point. that IS the point. life is for the living. as long as you are alive, then don't worry about death. you are alive now, so just BE alive now. your existence right now, is all there ever is, or ever will be. the rest is an illusion.

I enjoy the speculation of the the afterlife. I enjoy debate. I am enjoying those things in the now. That is why there is sense in "speculating and conjecturing about something that [supposedly] does not exist." The purpose is my enjoyment now.

enjoy whatever you will. thats up to you.

i'd rather think about things present in my life, than about the unknown after death.

there is nothing there to think about for me. its an unknown. so i'd rather think about and enjoy the known. i accept the unknown, but there is nothing there for me to see or or to enjoy. its a void. a cloud of unknowing. yes there are many possibilities, but they are only thoughts.

i'd rather enjoy things that are tangible and real and present, than vague dark unknowns. i enjoy the living, not the dead or the void of the unknown. for me, life is for the living of it, and the unknown of death will reveal itself, or not, at another time and plkce.

i have my view, and you have your view. i sahed my view, and you shared you view. i am happy with my view, and you say that you are happy with your view.

so everything's groovy.

tAo, I completely agree with you, How long has mankind pondered on the existence of life after death? How many books have been written, hours spent in thought, discussions held in coffee joints, and are we any nearer actually knowing for certain? No!
Sure, I hear some of you when you say you enjoy thinking about whether God exists or not. Hey, if you win the lottery, you can enjoy looking at the check you receive, but man, is it stupid or what. go and cash that check and enjoy what you really got! We have life, we can do things, hey, you never know, but if you got time on your hands, you could even go help someone else, plenty of people out there with real suffering, try it, its much more rewarding than sitting at blog typing out copies of other peoples ideas.
Thats what I mean when I said you lot are sad

And then there's people who sit at a computer, typing out comments about bloggers who type out copies of other people's ideas. Life is so wonderful!


...and i'd like to share something for the readers to ponder upon. its about what's happening in LIFE right now and just up ahead. its about life, not death. but if this is not the appropriate place for it, then i will re-post it over at open thread 7...

[Yes, it belongs in an open thread, since those thoughts don't have anything to do with this post -- Blogger Brian]


I agree. We can spin our wheels until the cows come home and never know what happens after death. All this spiritual speculation is just a pile of thoughts on top of old thoughts.

Really, all we have is the present morment!

You know, I think we tend to complicate life with our racing minds. Basically, it's quite simple. We are born, live, and die. Our remains become part of the great cycle of life from which new life emerges.

We either try to put off, delay, or avoid the inevitable. But, hey, we're going to die someday so yes, all we have are the few precious moments in our lives right now. So, let's skip work today and go surfing!!

There is a reason to ponder 'life after death' and it relates to what religions all promise. First of all that they will improve your life today (most say that but especially say Christianity) and then guarantee you an after life you will love. IF one those religions, who often disagree on what must be done, happened to be right, it might matter a lot to us and therefore it's good to speculate or have speculated on it to decide if they might be right. In my opinion, you do that based on how they live life because that's the only real evidence they have. Basing my decision on that, I don't see any being right and therefore, don't spend much time today thinking about what happens after I die-- although I always enjoy hearing what others believe about it and once in awhile go into a meditative state to see if the answer is there, waiting for me-- so I can be one of those who just 'knows'. So far... not.

Great stuff tao ! "You are alive now, so just BE alive now. your existence right now, is all there ever is, or ever will be. the rest is an illusion."

Thanks for sharing!

thaanks but it ain't me talking. its just the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. or like a flute or a harp being played by the...

What if now somebody starts a discussion:

Tao, is that you who wrote this or the sounds of the wind blowing through the trees?

In your first post you clearly wrote ""You are alive now, so just BE alive now. your existence right now, is all there ever is, or ever will be. the rest is an illusion." without giving any credit to 'sound of the wind blowing through the trees and in the second post you said its the other way'.. You have no credibility and you are twisting the facts..

Just trying to understand it through the literal mind..I know..I know..doesn't make any sense :):)

well... you'll have to ask the wind about that.

and the sound of the wind blowing through the trees is only alive now, is only existence now, and is only what there is in the moment.

Just thinking out loud, but, what does it mean - just being alive now - in relation to whether there is something or nothing after death?
Being alive now, is more than wind in the trees, its about living with other people, sharing global resources and struggling with our current primitive state of killing each other if we dont get what we want.
Does it matter? If there is NOTHING, absolutely nothing, after death, then what does it matter if we die now, rather than later, especially if suffering. The span of life is infinitely small compared with the span of Nothing. So death can be viewed as that escape hatch when things get too bad in life, not something to fear, but the safety valve, when things get too much.

But what if there is something after death, then it would be linked to our current life, (otherwise we would not experience whatever may be after death) and it could be reasoned that what we do now may have some influence on whatever may exist after death.

Yes, I agree, lets get on with life and stop speculating, but like business decisions that have to be made on incomplete information, if we may never know what happens after death, lets hedge our bets and make decisions in life that would best set us up for whatever may lie after death, if such a case should exist.

This is something that does not seem to be pondered very much...

Some people think that after death we are dead forever. So, before birth weren't we unborn forever?

Think about it. This imagined line of time stretches not only infinitely into an imagined future but also infinitely into an imagined past.

If there was time how could this moment of our existence have ever arrived?

i think it is worth pondering death and perhaps even preparing for it, but probably got to exercise balance, and not become obsessively morbid. The east perhaps does have something to teach the west in this regard, where the latter seems to shy away from or avoid death as being depressing and taboo.

i recently read the tibetan book of living and dying - alot of practical advice and thoughts that imo are often not discussed in mainstream western thought.


yep, interesting one is Time, but not sure i understand your point. What if space-time was brought into existence by the big bang and evolutionary events unfolded in a galaxy where at some point in time a species of life developed called humans and where at a more specific instant of time a specific human called Tucson evolved? A blip in an expanse of time, whose body and consciousness existed for some small range of this time, but not before birth and not after death. The story seems to follow, what is the alternative?

For some reason people often do not understand what I am getting at in my comment above on Oct 3, 12:30pm.

Even if there is absolutely nothing there is the passage of time as we normally conceive of it. Picture, if you can, an infinity of nothing except for a clock floating around ticking away moments of time.

Tic-tock-tic-tock for trillions of eons to the quadrillionth power is as nothing in the incomprehensible magnitude of the linear extent of it. But the clock keeps ticking away. It's a patient clock.

Theoretically, at some point they say there was this Big Bang, the universe appeared and it will, via entropy, eventually dissipate and die one day...forever. Just like us.

But if there will be this forever into the future in which we and the universe will not exist (forever and ever..for emphasis), there also was a forever and ever into the past before the universe and we existed. Think about that...UN-ENDING time into the past BEFORE the Big Bang.

How could the moment of the occurance of the Big Bang ever have arrived? It's like this unending ball of twine unravelling forever trying to reach the point of beginning but it can never quite get there. Never. Amazing isn't it?

See what I mean?


This question is easy now, I hope, to conceptualize but entirely impossible to resolve intellectually.

It is my koan to you all and the solution to it lies beyond any concept of mind, beyond any formulation that can be put into words.

You cannot know the solution because you are the solution. You are infinity itself.

Is your koan not based on certain assumptions which may not be true.

Perhaps time is infinite, but perhaps it is finite. Perhaps the past is finite and time had an origin (big bang). Perhaps there is no end of time and the universe keeps expanding, but perhaps it is finite and collapses back in on itself.

This is speculation, which is interesting, but the only we can really know is what we observe, which is that our bodies age and everything in nature appears to be born, live and then die. Perhaps the universe is the same, perhaps it is different. Perhaps the universe is eternal.

Stephen Hawking might have a similar koan for you, which is what is north of the north pole?

Going at it from a different angle:

The past is a memory and the future is a supposition, and because the process of perception and conception requires a lapse of time, the present has passed into the past before we can apprehend it.

The only 'present' is therefore 'presence' and this 'presence' is inevitably outside time and must be 'intemporality'.

Could this be what we are and what really, eternally if you like, is?

If there is no consciousness after death, it is reasonable to assume there is no consciousness before birth. Therefore consciousness exists as an isolated event in the middle of an infinity of time into the future and into the past.
But if consciousness is some highly evolved state of matter, and matter cannot be created nor destroyed, it is possible, given an infinity of time and a finite universe, that a particular arrangement of matter could occur again. In same way that the fundamental particles that make up a leaf on a tree are unlikely to be the same ones that form the leaf next year, if it is possible that a parallel universe could exist with only one difference between it and this one, it is certainly within realms of possibility that the particles that make up a leaf, could have been a leaf at some point in the past or at some moment of time in the future.
So it is equally possible that that highly evolved state of matter that we call consciousness could exist at some other moment of time, maybe millions of years into the future or perhaps in the past?
Consequently, consciousness may indeed continue after death, which disproves the assumptions made at the outset of this post.

Skeptic, all those "possibles" you raised don't add up to disproof of the Indian rationalist's assumptions.

Sure, anything is possible in the cosmos. A hundred-headed elephant could walk down my driveway this morning.

Without evidence, though, "possibles" remain mere possibilities. So until there is demonstrable evidence of the survival of human consciousness after death, Mr. Premanand is making the most defensible conclusion.

You seem to be missing the point Brian. Scientists use their brains, they develop concepts, ideas, they hypothesise, they develop mental experiments, using the power of logic and rational thought.
These ideas are then tested by experiment, empirical work.
A hundred headed elephant falls into the realm of childish nonsense, there is no logic leading to the proposal, nor is there rational thought behind the concept.
I have tucsons idea or observation and applied logic to extend it further.
Your hundred headed elephant bears no relevance to the topic under discussion.

But who says consciousness is a state of matter at all?

There is a difference between a brain (made up of matter) and the mind (made up of intangibles) which appears to be a virtual creation of the brain that helps provide us humans with arguably the most accurate view of reality and our place in it, but which still remains only an approximation.

On whether matter can be created or destroyed, depends on what you mean by matter? In nuclear fission you are converting matter into energy. Even the conservation of energy in special relativity (e=mc2) assumes a closed system.

Matter can be transformed such as by nuclear transmutations when the different periodic elements of the cosmos are created in our sun's, such as hydrogen into heavier elements like oxygen, etc.

However, when we talk of evolution, i think of organisms or cells, which evolve over time to best suit their environment (rather than transforming into something else by applying energy).

The apex of evolution appears to be the human brain, which is the most complex organism in the known universe. Its physical working are far from understood, let alone the intangibles it produces in the 'mind'.

So i'm not sure consciousness can be thought of as matter, or a state of matter, but perhaps i am not following your line of thought properly. The scientific story of consciousness appears to be that it is personal mind produced by a human brain belonging to a particular person with a finite lifespan and where that consciousness will change in that lifespan as the indiviual learns and grows.

There's alot going on here, which is not understood, the link between the physical and intangible is unclear, but i struggle to see consciousness (mind) as some sort of matter or spirit that is independent of the brain and hence continues on after death, and presumably, before birth too.

When I wrote matter, I intended it imply matter/energy. But consciousness is either physical or non-physical where physical falls into the realm of science and may be matter or energy, and non-physical implies outside of the realm of science - such as has been termed spirit and other names.
Science has problem with the non-physical, ie non matter non energy. It deems that the physical world is all there is, and is unable to accommodate the spiritual into its models. Spirit cannot be tested or observed, and is perhaps not even defined.
But consciousness is observed, and so science posits that consciousness is likely to be some evolved state of matter.
This is supported by the lack of any evidence of consciousness existing separate from matter. Spiritualists propose that consciousness can exist separate from matter, hence life after death.
In my short comment, I proposed that consciousness is an evolved state of matter, but concluded that if parallel universes are considered a viable concept, due to the infinity of time and space, then so can the continuum of consciousness be a viable concept for same reasons.

"But consciousness is observed, and so science posits that consciousness is likely to be some evolved state of matter."

I don't think this is correct. imo one of the big problems to science is that consciousness cannot be measured or observed. I also dont think science posits consciousness as an evolved state of matter, i believe science posits consciousness as a mental construct (or by[product) or virtual creation of reality formed by the brain and specififically, the brains ability to interpret and make sense of the physical inputs it is recieving which is learned by experience and association.

I dont think consciousness is matter or energy, merely a personal mental creation of the brain that allows the individual concerned the ability to interact and survive in the outside world.

The mystics have it off pat

The rationalists will argue and cajole their mind into trying to ratify their inconceivable ideas of consciousness, or any concept that the intellect will forever struggle to understand.

All these ramifications bring about zero conclusions.

Only those with any degree of true sight can see, all the rest remain blind, and in their blindness seek solutions with senses and conceptual instruments of reasoning insufficient to recognize the simple clear as day reality.

Basva Premanand died October 4. It was interesting to read more about his life story, which was largely devoted to debunking Indian mystics like Sai Baba.

Consciousness may not be measured, but it is surely observed, indirectly, ie, the effect of consciousness.
Consciousness can be observed scientifically, ask anyone in the medical profession, they know when to pronounce death.
But science is surely limited to matter and energy. If not, what else does science recognise in its domain. What do you class consciousness as being if it is not matter or energy?
Mental activity is the activity of the brain, the brain is matter, physical matter.

These rationalist fundamentalists are nuts. What's wrong with Yoga?

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