Vidyaranya and Rene Descartes on Consciousness

Baba Times Digest© | 21 July 2013 13:34 EST | New York Edition

Vidyaranya and Rene Descartes on Consciousness

Weekly Spiritual message from Divine Life Society New York

Vidyaranya also known as Mādhava Vidyaranya is variously known as being a kingmaker, patron saint and high priest to Harihara Raya I and Bukka Raya I, the founders of the Vijayanagar Empire in India. He was the 12th Jagadguru of the Sringeri Sharada Peetham from 1380 to 1386 A.D

René Descartes lived during 31 March 1596 – 11 February 1650 A.D) was a French philosopher, mathematician, and writer who spent most of his adult life in the Dutch Republic. He has been dubbed the 'Father of Modern Philosophy', and much subsequent Western philosophy is a response to his writings, which are studied closely to this day.

The impossibility of denying the existence of consciousness is the main subject in the initial verses in  Panchadasi by Vidyaranya. We may doubt everything. We may even deny everything, but we cannot deny consciousness – because it is consciousness that doubts and it is consciousness that is denying things. When all things go because of the denial of all things, then what remains? There remains the consciousness of having denied everything and the consciousness of doubting all things. Even if we feel that we do not exist – we are annihilated or we are dead, for instance – even then, we will feel that at the back of our imagination of the annihilation of our personality there is a consciousness of the annihilation of personality. Even if we say that there is only a vacuum, and there is nil, and finally nothing exists in the world, there is a consciousness that affirms that nothing exists. Hence, it is impossible to obviate the predicament of a consciousness interfering with all things.

Cartesian doubt is a form of methodological skepticism associated with the writings and methodology of René Descartes. Cartesian doubt is also known as Cartesian skepticism, methodic doubt, methodological skepticism, or hyperbolic doubt. Cartesian doubt is a systematic process of being skeptical about (or doubting) the truth of one's beliefs, which has become a characteristic method in philosophy. This method of doubt was largely popularized in Western philosophy by René Descartes (1596-1650), who sought to doubt the truth of all his beliefs in order to determine which beliefs he could be certain were true.

Descartes, knowing that the context of our dreams, while possibly unbelievable, are often lifelike, hypothesized that humans can only believe that they are awake. There are no sufficient grounds by which to distinguish a dream experience from a waking experience. For instance, Subject A sits at her computer, typing this article. Just as much evidence exists to indicate that her composing this article is reality as there is to demonstrate the opposite. Descartes conceded that we live in a world that can create such ideas as dreams. However, by the end of The Meditations, he concludes that we can distinguish

dream from reality at least in retrospect.

One of his popular declarations states that ‘you can doubt everything’ but you can never doubt the doubt itself, because otherwise the doubt itself falls ! and there is no doubt !

It is amazing to note how these two people were connected in concept although they were separated in space and time, one lived in India in 1300 AD and the other in France in 1500 AD.

Read More

Vidyaranya in Wikipedia

Panchadasi by Swami Krishnananda

Rene Descartes in Wikipedia


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