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Home >> Seeker’s Solace  >> Relevance of ancient Indian scriptures: The eye of the eye
 
Ancient Indian Scriptures

Relevance of ancient Indian scriptures: The eye of the eye

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There is a lovely 16th century kirtan written in Malayalam by the famous poet Thunchaththu Ramanujan Ezhuthachan called Hari Nama Keerthanam, the song of the holy name Hari. Although it sounds like bhakti literature, Hari Nama Keerthanam is full of philosophical understanding and metaphysical truths. It says:

Kanninnu kannu manamagunna kannathinnu,

Kannayirunna porul, thaan ennu murakkum mala,

Vanandamenthu, hari narayanaya nama

Kannu means ‘eye’. It roughly means the eye of my eye is the eye of the mind. Oh, how blissful it is to know that I am the eye of the mind too. Who is the one who sees when I say, ‘I see’? It’s a very interesting question. Let’s look at the process of sight purely from biological point of view. My eyes are open. The instrument of sight—my eye—is made up of different parts of which the very important one is, of course, the lens.

It’s a convex lens and, therefore, any image that I see is reflected into the convex lens. It falls like a camera image on my retina and then, the idea of the image is transferred through my optic nerve to the centre of my brain that deals with vision. So, the optic nerve carries the impressions of what I saw, after which it is processed at the vision centre and sent to the different nerve endings and synapses, which work together in coordination, and then, I know, yes, I am looking at a tree.

Now the question asked here is, who is this ‘I’ who coordinates the different data processed by the different parts of the brain and says, ‘this is this’ and ‘I am seeing or experiencing this’?


Now, although it takes so much time to say this, it all happens in a second and the machinery that does this is so super-efficient that it does it in no time. There seems to be a coordinator who first must recognise himself or herself as a ‘self’ with identity and then coordinate all that is going on and say, I am here, and I am seeing a tree. There are two parts of this—first, ‘I’; and two, ‘I am seeing a tree’. This is the process of sight; so, it is also with hearing.

Now the question asked here is, who is this ‘I’ who coordinates the different data processed by the different parts of the brain and says, ‘this is this’ and ‘I am seeing or experiencing this’? That entity is what is sought for and is there an answer to this question? Has the Upanishad identified that person, the individual? Well, the Upanishad in its usual style answers, or tries to answer or deal with this question in its own way with a counter-statement that doesn’t seem like an answer because the next sloka says Srotrasya srotram manaso mano yad vaco ha vacam sa u pranasya pranah. It means: The eye of the eye and the ear of the ear, the mind of the mind and so on—that is not an answer.

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