First, the response.
hmmmm….you may need to look at how most of these teachings are taught. There is always a BEGINNING – neti neti – which means – not this – not this – to assist someone sifting themselves out as the unchanging stable from the fleeting and changing… when Jesus said “build your house on rock not sand” this is what he meant. Align with what is permanent then you will not be afraid – fear is based in impermanence/death.
Once you gain a sense of BEING then its naturally – not only this – not only this – you then see clearly that you indeed are ALLl that there IS! How could ANYTHING NOT be you? Every fool knows that ice and rain and steam and waterfall is water. Teachings are for the unenlightened not the enlightened. Once someone has been pointed to that which IS, the rest need not be taught it becomes self evident.
The beautiful maalaa used in those teachings illustrates – the beads are different in appearance but are held together by one string – Oneness.
I am not trying to “throw the baby out with the bath water” – but I am referring to very direct teachings of a sophisticated nature – including Ramana, Nisargadatta, etc. This is not a simple discussion. As you put it, the “fleeting and changing” nature of life, is life, as well as the still. It is, both, one and separate. It’s ineffable.
My blog post rails against those elements of EST (and there are many – let’s face it) that seek to allay normative fears with faith. In this way, they are no different from any other form of institutionalized religion that promises “la-la” answers to authentic concerns. I was told that if I mixed dairy with meat that I would be violating my jewishness. That is so true. So much for my jewishness. But on the other hand, I’m proud of my jewish heritage and there is so much of beauty and sadness there and that’s what I love and that is, in part, who I am.
So the hell with empty philosophy. Live life and do what you love, stand up for what you believe in, and seek to be free from everything that is false … only then does what that is “right” shine forth. Ultimately, it’s all about dealing with our fears. The choice is ours’. Do we retreat to empty homilies or do we investigate what is true and live our lives in accord with what we have seen as false? The true is, ultimately, mysterious in any general sense, but what is false tends to be consistently false. This is all the philosophy I need in this life. But that is the journey we are all on.
You wrote: “Our thoughts and feelings change, but, as these philosophies point out, there is a part of us that doesn’t change.”
In Advaita, what is not changing is not seen as “part of us”.
You wrote: “Within this array of change, we can detect patterns of thought and feeling. These patterns suggest an individuality that is, in fact, real.”
I think they just suggest that there are patterns that are changing on a slower pace than others.
I think you need to clarify how you use the term “real”. You seem to use it in a relative way. So when something changes slow enough, it becomes real – like what you refer to as rather consistent individual traits – and when it changes fast, it becomes an illusion? That is a bit problematic, because you would have to define the boundary between them.
My response to him:
Rene – I can always trust that you will make me think! I am suggesting that “what is not changing” (aka – presence/consciousness) is like the old and highly respected theory of “the ether” that was thought to be essential in holding the universe together. Even Einstein briefly supported the theory until he disproved it (I’m NOT saying that I’m Einstein). Many Advaitists present the belief that our real identity is this consciousness that is neither born or dies (Salior Bob, Nisargadatta, and many others). But is this consciousness real? By real I mean, does it exist? I am suggesting that it is not real, that it does not exist. However, the mind, by its very nature reflects on the thoughts that pass through it. One of the distinguishing characterisitc of a sociopath is the absence of such reflection (autism as well). This concept of the unborn consciousness is like the ether. It appears to explain a complex situation, but it doesn’t. It’s not necessary to understand perception and thought or so I’m suggesting. Moreover, it appeals to fears that are not unreasonable, such as the death of the body/mindm by promising a kind of eternal existence as presence. Is this true?
Regarding rates of change – it’s just an observation. There are thoughts and feelings that are fleeting, but there are long standing patterns of thought and feeling that appear much more solid. True – they may be the consequence of conditioning, culture, and genes, but for whatever reason, they would appear to define the person that I have TENDED to be. There is no perfect consistentcy – thank goodness for that. Everything changes – even these deeply embedded personality characteristics, but those characterisitics that survive the longest would appear to be those characteristics that make a thing comprehendable and identifiable. It’s far from a perfect construct. It just appears to be “real”.