Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Self-ishly Ours

“There is only one true force in the Universe. Everything else is an illusion caused by our inability to see beyond an infinitesimal portion of the Truth.”

These words were greeted by me with an instantaneous derision born out of twin reasons:

  1. It sounded as immature as something that a child would say after watching Star Wars
  2. It sounded unreasonable. Heck, everyone knows that for balance to exist, this is impossible.

I truly believed at the time, just like any “good child” that where there was good, there was also evil, where there was virtue, there was vice and where there was black, there had without doubt, to be white. It was reflected everywhere. Every action produced an equal an opposite reaction. Who could argue with that logic and who could ever believe in a singular Force that was the only real Truth while the rest was just an illusion or a manifestation of the one Force?

As I observed more things and gave them some thought, it began to strike me that I was undoubtedly correct in my belief of multiplicity. Even relativity seemed in a way to be based on the duality of everything around me…and then of course, things changed.

Centrifugal became a pseudo-force while only the centripetal existed (or have I mixed them up?). And with it came more thoughts about this. There was no good and no bad, no absolute right or wrong, no black-and-white…everything was grey… At the end of it all, I was left with quite an interesting scenario that seemed to be playing out all around me.

Newton left the world his legacy of physics and so did Einstein. The two are never applicable in the same case. It’s either one or the other and the aim of the entire Physics community seems to be to find that Unifying equation which would be applicable to both these frames of reference. A single equation or a set of equations which would independently explain every single phenomenon.

Similarly, after discovering electric force and magnetic force, the scientists discovered that they’re pretty similar, if not just different manifestations of the same, as would be evidenced by the “electromagnetic” force. (Please pardon my extremely limited technical know-how on these topics. I am just a pseudo-engineer you know. Never bothered to probe too deep into these things.).

So, at the end of the day, I found myself thinking that there might actually be more truth than I had first attributed to the entire concept of a single Force that was the only Truth. This belief was only strengthened when I read excerpts from the Upanishads which kept speaking of this force and acknowledged this as the ruling entity in the Universe (as mentioned before, they do not accept a “God” which is what makes them so believable).

So, just what tools is Science using to find this singular Force or the singular set of equations to explain the Universe? Ironically, Science endeavours to “study the Universe”. Ironic, because what we see and observe is not even a measurable fraction of the entire Universe! After all, what portion of Infinity could be anything more than negligible?

There’s an even more ironic side to it though. We aim to explain the Universe, yet do not even know an infinitesimal part of our own selves! After all, we can’t even explain what the “subconscious” is. Intuition, instinct, gut feel, call it what you will, there seems to be nobody who can really explain this “subconscious”. And yet, it plays a huge role in our lives and could perhaps reveal more to us about the Universe than aeons of “observing the Universe” may yield.

“I am the Universe”, says that immortal line. It may sound egotistical to the unread, yet, in my mind it is the most humbling thought ever. After all, the “I” is not about me alone; it is applicable to every single human being! So, what exactly does that line mean? Can it really be that knowing oneself could reveal all the answers?

It’s a very interesting thought, but why does one often say, “I don’t know what it was, but something inside me told me to…” or “It’s not like me, but I…” or “I just had this feeling that I should…”? These are not things that you can explain away with a wave of the hand and a contemptuous smile. For in my limited experience, I find that with most of us, that “gut-feel” turns out to be correct more often than not…even while taking a wild guess…

Wild guesses are another very interesting concept, for we never really take truly wild guesses. We’re always trying to rationalize to a certain extent. And yet, you find an urge to tick a particular answer (am talking of wild guesses in an MCQ – Multiple Choice Question – scenario). Why does that happen? Or let’s take a simpler example…driving a car or riding a bike.

While one is on the road, one makes thousands of judgments, ranging from whether to overtake or not to where to brake and what risks are worth taking, whether the chap in front will swerve towards you etc etc… Yet, none of these is a totally conscious decision and there are various types of drivers. The cautious and the rash, for example. What separates them? My answer is that the only thing that separates them is their assessment of what an acceptable risk level is. The entire process of driving is one where the subconscious makes millions of calculations every millisecond and yields probabilities of various scenarios. These answers are likely to be the same for everyone…and yet, while the risk-taker may risk an overtaking move with a 40% chance of success, the risk-averse would wait till the chance was 80%...and so it goes on…

Now, the funny thing is that as much as you may be disinclined to agree with my views as stated above, you can’t really prove me wrong, just the same way as I can’t really prove myself right. But the way I see things, this seems a logical view of the entire process of driving and leads me to a very interesting conclusion. The subconscious brain seems to be much more powerful and knowledgeable than the conscious. After all, I sucked at probability and really can’t think of any person, however brilliant that can make anywhere close to these many calculations in that short a time.

In the face of such a disparity it seems odd that we choose to probe the Universe with the decidedly inferior portion of the brain, while making no effort at all at even getting to know ourselves better and increasing our chances of success by harnessing or even understanding the far more powerful force that resides very much within. Even if I were to disregard the proclamation of the ancient wise men (who said more profound things than any of their descendants, that the Self is the key to the Universe) it seems to me that there would be more to gain by harnessing or even understanding the power of the subconscious than by choosing to sit idly and observe phenomena in the Universe…

Wonderful thought though…that just understanding yourself completely could lead you to answer every single question that has baffled humanity since the very first dawn…


Docs Dope said...

what utter crap

surya said...

As the Upanisad proclaims...

"The Truth is unknown to those who know It and known to those who dont know"...

it might look like a play of mere words....but isnt that very lucid and deep enough at the same time??

surya said...

This is a bit long...but I think you will like it..

"Knowing 'that' by knowing which everything is known "

Quest to know what is Truth can be said to be one of the definitions of Moksha or "Realisation". One may ask the universe is infiite, so how can one ever know the whole of truth. But Vedanta resolves this problem by answering that "know that by knowing which everything is know". Chandogya Upanishad explains this concept beautifully and clearly.

One explanation goes like this:
Long ago in India, there was a boy named Sveta-ketu (shway-ta-kay-too). He was already twelve years old, but he had not yet gone to school. Probably he had no brothers or sisters and there was so much work for him to do at home, helping his parents, that there had been no way for him to go to the house of a learned teacher, which is where the pupils studied in those days. A boy had to live with the teacher and study with him the various branches of knowledge that were taught at that time.

The father of this boy said to him one day, "Sveta-ketu, go to school. You are a brahmin, of a wellborn family, and no one in our family line has failed to live up to that. A brahmin must be educated and learn how to behave nobly in every respect."

So Sveta-ketu went off to the local teacher's house and studied the great books, called The Vedas, and similar subjects, for twelve years. In that time, of course, he had been able to master many things, so he had quite a good opinion of himself. He walked proudly and smiled very little. When, at the age of twentyfour, he had come back to his parents, they were very happy to have him home again. But his father noticed the proud attitude in the boy and decided that there was only one word for Sveta-ketu: conceited!

One day he said, "Well, my boy, since you consider yourself a very serious person and well educated indeed, let me now test your knowledge. Did you ever ask your teacher for that instruction by which one hears the unhearable, perceives the unperceivable, and knows the unknowable?"

"How, sir," the young man answered, very much surprised, "can there be any such instruction?"

"Why, in this way, my boy: by knowing the nature of one lump of clay, we can know the nature of everything made of clay, can we not? The shapes of other things, such as a pot, a toy elephant, etc., are just names, given to help us talk about them. The reality in them is just the clay, is it not?"

"By knowing the nature of a nugget of gold, the nature of all gold things is known; likewise, by knowing the structure of a nailfile, we understand everything made of iron. The shapes and names we use for convenience. The reality is just the gold, or the iron."

"Yes, Father," said Sveta-ketu. "Surely my revered teachers did not know this; why did they not tell me? So, you please tell me about that."

His father agreed, and the instruction he gave his son, remembered by him and passed on to generations of students, takes up a large part of one of the Upanishads. Let's hear the beginning and a few other portions of that teaching.

"In the beginning, my boy," said the father, "there was just Being and nothing else. Some people said there was Nonbeing and nothing else, and that Being came out of that. But they were foolish! How could Being be produced by NonBeing?"

"It was just the opposite, son: in the beginning, there was just Being and nothing else. That Being felt lonely. It thought, 'Well, let me become many. Let me produce other things.' And so It produced the different elements of this universe, one after another." In this way, Sveta-ketu's father went on to explain to him the various stages of creation.

"There is more to growing up than you may think. Facts, gathered from books and teachers are all very well, but wisdom is to know that they all come from one source."

You are That!

Sveta-ketu's father continued:

"Every night, when they go into a state of dreamless sleep, all creatures enter again into that Being from which they have come. Then, why do they not know it?"

"When the bees make honey by collecting the nectar of different trees and reduce them all to one juice, these nectars cannot say, 'I am the nectar of an orange blossom,' 'I am the nectar of a mango blossom,' etc. In the same way, my boy, all these creatures, though they have entered that Being, they cannot say what they are. When they return again to the waking state, whatever they are in this world -- a man, a tiger, a wolf, a boar, a worm, a fly, or a mosquito -- that is what they become again. They do not know that they have come back from that Being."

"Suppose there is a hidden treasure of gold lying buried in a field. People who do not know about it will walk again and again over that treasure and will not find it. Just so, all of us go, day after day, into the embrace of that divine Being but do not realize it. The Self of this whole universe is the same as the Seed from which it came. And you, O Sveta-ketu, are That!"

"But, sir," asked the son, "that Being has no name or form. So, how could this universe, with all its objects having all these names, come out of that?"

"Bring me a fig from our figtree," his father suggested. Sveta-ketu went out and came back with a fig from the tree.

"Now break it."

"Yes, it is broken."

"What do you see now?"

"Seeds -- hundreds of them."

"Now break one of the seeds, son."

"That is difficult, sir. But here, it is done."

"Do you see anything inside?"

"No, sir, there is nothing inside."

"Sveta-ketu, just because you cannot see it, that does not mean that there is not a fine principle at work in the seed, which is the cause of the whole fig tree. Believe me, my boy, the Self of this whole universe is the same as the tiny seed from which it came. And you are That!"

Now Sveta-ketu was puzzled and had a doubt in his mind: if some principle, called Being is the cause of all this world, why do we not see that? So, he asked his father, who replied:

"Here is a lump of salt. Put this lump in a vessel of water, and I will see you again in the morning." His son did so. Next morning, when he came, his father asked him to bring him that lump of salt. Sveta-ketu looked into the vessel, but of course the salt had dissolved.

"Taste some water from the surface of the vessel," said his father, "and tell me how it is."

"Salty," Sveta-ketu said.

"Now taste a little from the other side and tell me how that is."

"Salty, Sir."

"Now carefully pour off most of the water and try a little from the bottom of the pot." This done, Sveta-ketu replied that it tasted salty too.

"You could not perceive the salt with your eyes, you had to apply the sense of taste. So, also, in this body of ours -- that Being is not perceived by eyes or tongue or any of the senses, but it is here nevertheless. It has to be discovered by a different means."

( Later he will explain the means: meditation and discrimination.)

"The Self of this whole universe is the same as the tiny seed it came from. And you, O Sveta-ketu, are That!"

Darth Midnightmare said...

Beautifully summed up...there is also the mention of "dreamless sleep", the third stage - after waking and dreaming sleep... A nice read...

girl said...

quite a long post. and the quote made all the sense of the world to me :)

StupendousMan said...

The Universal Single Truth for me? That to seek and find purpose in everything that I do or see, or hear or feel, and to address the higher callings in the ways of life, is, well, too daunting a task!!! But on a less frivolous note, I'm open to the concept of a Central Force, or whatever one would choose to call it, and would not want to restrict myself to duality and shades of grey as a philosophy in life. With sufficient proof, i wouldn't mind subscribing to the existence of a system where balances are not required...

But if there is one over-riding emotion that defines almost everything for me, its that Life's a bitch, and then she has puppies... heh heh. (the 'heh heh' to denote intended humour, and also to qualify that the previous statement, in no way, is intended as a sexist remark)

interesting read. Mike, May the Force be with you..