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What is Life?
Latter Day Buddhism

The following is from the book:
"What is Life? (1944) with Mind and Matter (1958) and Autobiographical Sketches (1992)"
by Erwin Schrodinger, Cambridge University Press (www.cambridge.org/9780521427081),
16th Printing in 2006.


From the early great Upanishads the recognition ATHMAN = BRAHMAN (the personal self equals the omnipresent, all-comprehending eternal self) was in Indian thought considered, far from being blasphemous, to represent the quintessence of deepest insight into the happenings of the world.

-- See: What is Life?, Epilogue, On Determinism and Free Will, pg 87, paragraph 4.


In a dream we do perform several characters at the same time, but not indiscriminately: we are one of them; in him we act and speak directly, while we often eagerly await the answer or response of another person, unaware of the fact that it is we who control his movements and his speech just as much as our own.

-- See: What is Life?, Epilogue, On Determinism and Free Will, pg 88, paragraph 1.


How does the idea of plurality (so emphatically opposed by the Upanishad writers) arise at all? Consciousness finds itself intimately connected with, and dependent on, the physical state of a limited region of matter, the body.

-- See: What is Life?, Epilogue, On Determinism and Free Will, pg 88, paragraph 2.


The only possible alternative is simply to keep to the immediate experience that consciousness is a singular of which the plural is unknown; that there is only one thing and that what seems to be a plurality is merely a series of different aspects of this one thing, produced by a deception (the Indian Maja); the same illusion is produced in a galler of mirrors, and in the same way Gaurisankar and Mt. Everest turned out to be the same peak seen from different valleys.

-- See: What is Life?, Epilogue, On Determinism and Free Will, pg 89, paragraph 1.


Consciousness is associated with learning of the living substance; its knowing how is unconscious.

-- See: Mind and Matter, The Tarner Lectures delivered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1956, Chapter 1, The Physical Basis of Consciousness, A Tentative Answer, pg 99, paragraph 1.


The background of every ethical code to be taken seriously has been, and is, self-denial. Is it not absurd that I am supposed to suppress my primitive appetites, disown my true self, be different from what I really am? Our conscious life is necessarily a continued fight against our primitive ego. The resistance of our primitive will is the psychical correlate of the resistance of the existing shape to the transforming chisel. For we ourselves are chisel and statue, conquerors and conquered at the same time -- it is a true continued 'self-conquering.'

Only those modifications become conscious which are still in the stage of being trained, until, in a much later time, they become a hereditary fixed, well-trained and unconscious possession of the species. In brief: consciousness is a phenomenon in the zone of evolution. This world lights up to itself only where or only inasmuch as it develops, procreates new forms. Places of stagnancy slip from consciousness; they may only appear in their interplay with places of evolution.

-- See: Mind and Matter, The Tarner Lectures delivered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1956, Chapter 1, The Physical Basis of Consciousness, Ethics, pgs 99-101, excerpts from various paragraphs.


There is obviously only one alternative, namely the unification of minds or consciousnesses. Their multiplicity is only apparent, in truth there is only one mind.

This is the doctrine of the Upanishads. And not only of the Upanishads. The mystically experienced union with God regularly entails this attitude unless it is opposed by strong existing prejudices; and this means that it is less easily accepted in the West than in the East.

-- See: Mind and Matter, The Tarner Lectures delivered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1956, Chapter 4, The Arithmetical Paradox: The Oneness of Mind, pg 129, paragraph 2.


When in the puppet-show of dream we hold in hand the strings of quite a number of actors, controlling their actions and their speech, we are not aware of this being so. Only one of them is myself, the dreamer. In him I act and speak immediately, while I may be awaiting eagerly and anxiously what another one will reply, whether he is going to fulfil my urgent request. That I could really let him do and say whatever I please does not occur to me -- in fact it is not quite the case. For in a dream of this kind the 'other me' is, I dare say, mostly the impersonation of some serious obstacle that opposes me in waking life and of which I have actually no control.

-- See: Mind and Matter, The Tarner Lectures delivered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1956, Chapter 4, The Arithmetical Paradox: The Oneness of Mind, pg 131, paragraph 2.


The over-all number of minds is just one. I venture to call it indestructible since it has a peculiar timetable, namely mind is always now. There is really no before and after for mind. There is only a now that includes memories and expectations. But I grant that our language is not adequate to express this, and I also grant, should anyone wish to state it, that I am now talking religion, not a science -- a religion, however, not opposed to science, but supported by what disinterested scientific research has brought to the fore.

-- See: Mind and Matter, The Tarner Lectures delivered at Trinity College, Cambridge, in October 1956, Chapter 4, The Arithmetical Paradox: The Oneness of Mind, pg 135, paragraph 1.



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