Hi. I am Bharath Vallabha. Welcome to my blog.
When I was sixteen, I had a vision. In the vision I stepped out of myself and saw my body from afar. I saw my body the way I see my house, as a physical object in which I reside but which is not me. I was disassociated as well from my mind, from my thoughts and feelings. My thoughts appeared as crystals floating in space, closer to me than my body but still far from me. I was nowhere and everywhere. I was simply awareness, untouched by the passing scenes far below.
I have had similar experiences since then. Each experience felt real, insightful, pregnant with potential. Like they were bread crumbs leading me to a deeper reality, a truer awareness of myself and the world. In these experiences there is a great calm and a deep sense of peace and joy – peak experiences which guide my life.
Inevitably the experiences would recede, and I would find myself again as my normal self, with this body and mind, in the midst of the anxieties and pleasures associated with them. And my mind racing to understand the experiences. What were they? What did they mean? This led to big questions: Who am I? What is reality? How do we know anything? What is the mind and how is it related to the body? What is science, religion, spirituality?
The questions led to majoring in philosophy at Cornell, which led a PhD in philosophy at Harvard, which lead to teaching at Bryn Mawr College. Along the way I studied great thinkers and debates about materialism, dualism, naturalism, theories of ethics, political philosophy, art and religion, history of philosophy, and the meaning of life.
At the same time, I read and was inspired by non-academic, spiritual and new-age philosophers such as Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Thomas Merton, Thich Nhat Hanh, Ken Wilber, Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, Mooji and Sadhguru.
I was inspired by both spiritual and academic philosophy. Spiritual thinkers like Sri Aurobindo and Eckhart Tolle spoke to the kind of experiences I had and they explored them much more than me. Academic philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein spoke to the modern, naturalistic worldview I found compelling. Can the two be reconciled? How? Moved to follow spiritual philosophy as it led me, I left academia.
This blog is a space of embracing the insights of both spiritual and academic philosophy.
My essays at The Electric Agora:
- The Value of Intellectual Safe Spaces (October 2018)
- America and the Enlightenment Philosophers (September 2018)
My essays at Hippo Reads:
- An Immigrant’s Letter to Western Philosophy (September 2018)
- Academic Philosophy is Failing its Cosmopolitan Values (October 2014)
An interview with me for Free Range Philosophers, a series by Derek Bowman about philosophers outside academia.
My previous blogging can be found at: