Intentionality Embedded in Objects

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    Danakeli Dasi

    In Sāńkhya & Science, I read the following: “The identity and individuality of objects is the information that distinguishes one object from another, and this information includes how the world is perceived by the senses, mind, intellect, ego, and the moral sense…. Information, however, originates as alphabets of language from consciousness.” And in Signs of Life, I read: “When the parts are only defined in relation to the whole, then the whole is in some sense logically prior to the parts.”
    This raises a question in my mind in regards to practical life. Say I am sewing a shirt & I think, “I would like six buttons of a particular size, shape & color.” The next day I visit fabric stores & find exactly what I’m looking for in one of them. There are a dozen identical packages of the six buttons I want sitting on a shelf, & I ‘randomly’ choose one of them to purchase.
    Am I correct in assuming that the package I purchased was embedded w/ the information that those particular buttons were intended for my sewing project? Those parts (the buttons) were defined & designated as belonging to a particular whole (the shirt I’m sewing)? If so, at what point & by whose consciousness did that information become embedded in those particular buttons?

    Ashish Dalela

    There are many different issues involved in your question.

    First, when you buy buttons, karma limits to an extent what you can buy. You could not buy gold or platinum buttons for example, because you may not have the money to do so.

    Second, within that limit, your guna chooses what you like to buy. Someone will buy ornate buttons while others may buy simple ones. Within the limits of karma, your guna chooses.

    These two issues of guna and karma are separate from what the button is itself. Karma is the opportunities you will get, and the guna is the choice you make within the opportunity. These guna and karma are also hierarchical. For example, at the present moment, you are undergoing a certain phase of reaping karma (good or bad) which will manifest over time. Within that larger phase of karma are smaller instances (good or bad) by which you will face individual encounters. Similarly, guna is also hierarchical. There is a higher level of proclivity towards beauty which will drive your selection of individual beautiful things, such as buttons or cloth, or others.

    Now, in the process of buying buttons, there is also intentionality in your mind. There are 3 meanings of intentionality. The first meaning is that I have a goal to buy buttons. The second intentionality is the type of button you want to buy — e.g. large or small, round or square, two holes or four holes, the color of the button, etc. The third intentionality is the specific instance of those properties you choose — e.g. I want to buy this particular instance of button.

    The first is general, the second is more specific, and the third is even more specific. So, the general goal that “I need some buttons for this shirt” becomes more specific gradually, narrowed by specific properties of the button and then a specific instance of those properties. This narrowing down of the abstract goal into specific properties, into one instance, is one type of hierarchy.

    Then within the shirt, there is another hierarchy — the shirt is the whole, and the button is the part. If you replace the buttons with one that has two holes vs. four holes, the shirt will not cease to be a shirt. It will remain a shirt. In fact, if you don’t add buttons, it will still be called a ‘shirt’, although without buttons. So, the shirt is independent of the parts that make it up. This is a simple way to understand it, but it is not entirely accurate. The accurate understanding is that what we call the shirt is a structure or design which has no observable counterpart. That shirt exists only in the mind, but gradually that design is converted into an actual shirt.

    So, the ‘shirt’ is the full design, but without the sleeves, front, back, buttons, collar, etc. This is what we mean by the ‘whole’. It is not the physical shirt, but the design of the shirt. You cannot perceive this whole by the senses, or what you see by the senses is a composite of the parts, and reducible to the parts. But the design in the mind is a form that you see only by the mind.

    When we convert the design into the actual shirt, in one sense the design is ‘incarnating’ into a body. If you have made a shirt without the buttons, the shirt is not missing anything, but your design is missing it. So, the missing piece is in your mind, not in the physical object.

    But we can’t say that my shirt was missing a specific button. The process is more complicated than that. The missing piece is in the mind, that absence creates an abstract goal — e.g. I need some buttons — which then becomes more specific (e.g. I need this type of button) which then sends you to the market of buttons where you buy a specific button, determined by your guna and karma. And once bring it back and stitch it in, the object is now compatible with your design, so your goal is fulfilled, the gap is overcome, and now you are satisfied or happy. The goal of missing buttons was creating some restlessness in you, which is now over.

    The process is very complicated and involves many aspects of the subtle body. Intentionality comes through the mind, but there is no direct intentional connection between the shirt and the button. That would be like saying that the shirt is ‘attracting’ a button. It’s not like that. The shirt is creating a problem in me, to solve that problem I develop an intention. And that intention then drives my purchase and stitching of the button. So, the intention between the shirt and the button passes through me, not directly between the shirt and the button.

    Danakeli Dasi

    I now see what my main difficulty was—I was not understanding the distinction between the whole (the structure or design) & the composite (made of & reducible to the parts). But now this is more clear. Thank you.

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