Western misfitism

February 26, 1999

Ray Monk ("Woodstock of the mind", THES, February 12) is probably right that description of consciousness rather than a science of it will meet the "craving" (what a Buddhist word) for understanding. But I do wish he, and everyone else who seems to mention this, will not talk of "eastern", "Asian", "mysticism", "meditation" and "pure/higher consciousness" in one, interchangeable rush. Of the four or five systematic schools of thought in classical India, which treat consciousness and related issues of knowledge, awareness and mind, two (Mimamsa and Nyaya) assert that consciousness can only be intentional and is possible only through the apparatus of the body and identify it with physical processes. Even in that supposed paradigm of Indian mysticism, Advaita Vedanta, there are plenty of works where the analysis of the phenomenology of consciousness and its epistemological implications have little or nothing on meditation.

C. Ram-Prasad Clare Hall, Cambridge

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