The Cosmic Dance

The Cosmic Dance

 

On dark summer nights, away from city lights, I love to stargaze and imagine that I am dancing with the stars. I pretend to be one of the Constellations-Orion or Perseus- and imagine myself dancing with the other stars. In this state of reverie, I feel the truth of astronomer Carl Sagan’s words “we are all made of stardust”.

According to the latest theories in physics, there are four fundamental forces in nature–gravity, electromagnetism, strong nuclear force and weak nuclear force. So, what is a force? A force is the interaction between particles. It is how particles interact or relate to one another. Positively charged particles (protons) attract negatively charged particles (electrons), but positively charged protons repel other positively charged particles and similarly electrons repel other electrons.

Gravity is an attractive force, it is weak relative to other forces and it acts over long distances. Gravity is the most familiar of forces, it is what keeps us from flying off the face of the earth, and is responsible for maintaining order in the universe, as it were. Gravity is what accounts for planetary motion. Einstein showed gravity is distortion of space-time caused by the mass of an object. The more massive an object the greater the distortion of space around it.

Electromagnetism works over infinite ranges in the macro world and at subatomic levels too. All charged particles in motion create an electromagnetic field (or exchange photons with other charged particles). Electromagnetic forces are what binds electron to a proton to form atoms. It is electrons which attract protons from a neighboring atom to form the force that keeps us from walking through walls or falling through our chair. Electromagnetic force is what gives us electricity and magnetism.

Gravity and electromagnetic forces are the ones we are familiar with in our daily lives. The other two forces–strong and weak nuclear forces–act at the subatomic level. Strong nuclear force keeps the nucleus of an atom together, that is, binds protons with neutrons. Weak nuclear force is responsible for nuclear decay.

Thus, it is these four forces of nature which regulate all interactions between matter. All phenomena in nature are the result of this cosmic dance between energized particles and the forces of gravity, electromagnetism, strong and weak nuclear forces

All that exists and all that happens in nature is explained by the interaction between matter and forces. All of scientific equations are mathematical representations or precise quantification of the action between particles and forces. Mathematical equations are the notations of the choreography of the cosmic dance. The choreographers are the physical laws of nature.

Life is a cosmic dance. It is as if every particle in nature is reaching out to every other particle and engaging in a beautiful cosmic dance.

Shiva’s dance!

The cosmic dance is not random motion but is beautifully choreographed and the movements obey laws of nature. The most fundamental laws of physics are the conservation laws–conservation of mass, conservation of energy and conservation of momentum. These laws control all movement, interactions and transformations in the universe. The laws are inviolate regardless of where in the universe one looks.

Nothing new in the universe has been created, since the Big Bang, but only transformed from one form to another. What appears as creation or destruction is only a transformation from one form to another in accordance with physical laws. The laws are fixed but the dancers and the dancing change. The dance never stops.

Since Newton, four hundred years of progress in science has led us to understand that our universe is not capricious or ruled by demons and monsters of nature, but instead it is an elegant universe governed by laws. Thanks to science we do not fear thunderstorms or cure diseases through exorcisms. We do not believe that the earth is flat or that we are at the center of the universe.

Science has unmasked nature to reveal that behind the many forms everything is alike. Every electron, proton or neutron is the same as every other electron, proton and neutron. All forms are made of the same building blocks which are connected and interact through forces. “We ourselves are a mere collection of fundamental particles of the universe” Stephen Hawking.[i]
At a fundamental level (particles) there is no separation between us and what is outside of us. It only seems this way, because of the limitations of our senses. If we had X-ray vision, we would see that there is no separation between a chair and the person sitting on the chair.

“About 99 percent of your body is made up of atoms of hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. We also contain much smaller amounts of the other elements that are essential for life.

While most of the cells in your body regenerate every seven to 15 years, many of the particles that make up those cells have actually existed for millions of millennia. The hydrogen atoms in you were produced in the big bang, and the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms were made in burning stars. The very heavy elements in you were made in exploding stars.

The size of an atom is governed by the average location of its electrons. Nuclei are around 100,000 times smaller than the atoms they’re housed in. If the nucleus were the size of a peanut, the atom would be about the size of a baseball stadium. If we lost all the dead space inside our atoms, we would each be able to fit into a particle of lead dust, and the entire human race would fit into the volume of a sugar cube.

⦗….⦘

As you might guess, these spaced-out particles make up only a tiny portion of your mass. The protons and neutrons inside of an atom’s nucleus are each made up of three quarks. The mass of the quarks, which comes from their interaction with the Higgs field, accounts for just a few percent of the mass of a proton or neutron. Gluons, carriers of the strong nuclear force that holds these quarks together, are completely massless.”

If our mass doesn’t come from these particles, where does it come from? Scientists believe that almost all of our body’s mass comes from the kinetic energy of the quarks and the binding energy of the gluons. We are not this solid, substantial looking mass, but instead we are empty space and particles in motion. In reality, instead of being made of flesh, muscles and bones, as our senses have us believe, we are primarily empty space and particles engaged in the cosmic dance. In this dance there is no separation between what is inside of us and what is outside. Our skin which separates us from the outside is itself particles interacting with particles on the outside, or dancing with the particles outside itself. The particles do not “know” what is inside and what is outside. It is only our senses that make the distinction between inside and out.”[ii]

We are entangled with everything around us in a cosmic tango. Every atom in every cell in our body is entangled with atoms in other bodies and objects in the universe.

The dance is fluid, the movement continuous, the partners (atoms) changing positions at every opportunity. The dance is endless and the music never stops.

When I look up at the sky and see the stars against a dark sky and imagine that my body is not solid as it appears, but, is full of “twinkling” atoms, buzzing around dancing in the vast empty space inside and outside of me, I am Nataraja the dancer.

My body is not separate from all that is outside it. It only seems so to my senses. I am entrained with everything around me in a cosmic dance. The ups and downs in my life are just the high and low notes of the song that I was born to dance to.

[i] (http://www.hawking.org.uk/, n.d.)

[ii] (https://www.symmetrymagazine.org/article/the-particle-physics-of-you, n.d.)

An atheist finds God

I started out an atheist and I now believe in God. Not a God that is in heaven but a God within me. Not a God of any religion but a presence within me. I do not believe in a divine being presiding over the affairs of man somewhere “out there”.  I now know that absolute truth is within me. I am the truth.

I am not my body. My body is made of matter, matter is made of atoms, which in turn are made of subatomic particles. According to quantum theory subatomic particles are not a “thing”, they are probability functions or waves, therefore our bodies are not solid or substantial. They only appear to our senses as such.

Neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio and V.S. Ramachandran posit that the world we perceive including our body is a projection of our mind. Our senses gather information from the world outside us and transmit it as electrical signals to the brain and the brain converts those signals into objects that we see, touch and feel. The “objective” world is not objective at all, it is a reality constructed by our minds.

Prof. Damasio goes even further in his book, the Self Comes to Mind, in explaining how the “I”, our selfhood, is constructed in our mind. There is no cartesian “I” to be found in our brains, there is no homunculus in our brains. The “I” that we identify with is also a mental construct.

It gets curiouser and curiouser as Alice proclaimed in her adventure through Wonderland. I know that I exist, but Prof. Damasio’s work explains that “I” too am a figment of my imagination (mind). Who, then, is writing this sentence? Physics tells me that my body is nothing but emptiness, neuroscientists tell me that “I” and all that exists is a projection of my mind. But, I know that I exist. As Dr. Johnson, famously refuted, Bishop Berkeley’s views on Immaterialism by kicking a stone to make the point that he does exist.

 

The way out of this conundrum is the way in. Raman Maharishi, perhaps the greatest Indian sage of the twentieth century, believed that the path to self-realization is to seek the answer to “Who am I?”. The way in, is the way out of the illusion. As the Heart Sutra in Buddhism teaches “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate”-one has to go deeper, deeper and deeper still to discover one’s truth. One’s truth, in Hinduism, is known as Dharma.

Each of us has an essence, that is unique to us. Our physical being is a manifestation of this essence. My essence is not a thing; it cannot be detected by our senses. It is pure consciousness. According to neuroscientist Donald Hoffman, at the University of California, Irvine, the building block of existence is consciousness. Each of us is a conscious-agent.  All that is there is consciousness. From consciousness arises our mind which in turn creates our reality.

Spirit, soul and atman are synonymous, in my world view, with the Truth in us, our Dharma, our essence, our true nature. It is who we are.  Even atheists have their Dharma.

Most of us go through life without discovering our true nature.  We identify almost exclusively with the physical and are not aware of our spiritual self. We are asleep to our own true selves. This is why, realizing our true nature is known as awakening.

 

“I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God”  ~ Rumi

“This piece of food cannot be eaten,

Nor this piece of wisdom found by looking.

There is a secret core in everyone not

even Gabriel can know by trying to know” ~ Rumi

Amen!

 

Nothing matters

If life is Maya, an illusion, as the Vedas say, or that there is more to reality than meets the eye, as scientists have proven, then what is real?

The Cheshire cat, in Alice in Wonderland, is the wise one, always ready with an answer to Alice’s questions. It appears and disappears at will. Sometimes the cat is gone and left behind is its smile. Reality might be like the smile on the Cheshire cat. The smile is real, the cat illusory. What we don’t perceive might be more real than what we do.

When I look out of my window I see trees with branches and leaves. The tree is separated from other trees by empty spaces, the branches are separated from other branches by spaces between them, and the leaves too are separated from other leaves by spaces between them. Without the spaces the tree would be a big mush. Without space there would be no objects. When we remove objects all that is left is spaces in between, like the smile on the Cheshire cat. Does space give rise to objects? Can there be one without the other? Is the nothing of space something?

The new frontier in physics is the “nothingness” of space. Physicists are trying to figure out what it is. Nothing apparently is not no-thing. At first, physicists believed that space was filled with the mysterious substance ether. This idea was experimentally put to rest by Michelson and Morley in 1887[1].  More recently, physicist John Wheeler commenting on Einstein’s theory, had this to say about the nothingness of space “Mass tells spacetime how to curve, and spacetime tells mass how to move.” This put nothingness of space on the same footing as matter. “Nothing” mattered from this point on. Space was no longer an inert stage on which matter did its thing. Nothing is an active participant in the cosmic dance, moving and being moved by matter. Nothingness of space is not emptiness but is as much a player (or should I say a dancer) as objects are in Shiva’s cosmic dance.

“Plato who so vigorously avoided the void…. sounding a little bit like a chemist, seemed to view the background (void) something like a neutral solvent–something that allows other things to come to be without imposing too much of its personality. The background can’t have any personality of itself, otherwise it would be showing its own face as well.” Wrote K.C. Cole, The Hole in the Universe.

Philosophers such as Plato and scientists of today agree that the void of space, the nothingness, has no detectable features. So, what is this void? And, how do we find out what it is?

“…suffice it to say that very little in the universe is nothing. Almost all the seeming nothings are sums of opposing somethings” writes K.C. Cole. “What seems like a silent sea of nothing at all is an infinite number of positives and negatives, all joining together and splitting up in an endless jumble of uncertainty.”

Nothing is not no-thing, but, instead, is teeming with potential somethings. It is full of matter and antimatter in equal proportion, cancelling each other, this the scientists refer to as conserved quantities or the law of conservation. The things that are conserved are energy, momentum and charge. The most fundamental things in nature are those that never change. These are changeless and timeless. As is the speed of light, it is a constant, no matter what. It is interesting to think that a photon which travels at the speed of light never ages. The photon that started at Big Bang is still the same photon. It is timeless.

Symmetry is a term used by physicists to describe the void or emptiness of space. It is what accounts for the void or nothingness but has no detectable features. Symmetry is the reason why the void appears as nothing, yet it is full of potential energy, and teeming with matter and antimatter. Symmetry is what cancels matter and its opposite, resulting in nothing or the void. Symmetry is an important concept in physics. All the conservation laws are the result of symmetries in nature. Conservation laws are the accountants of nature, they balance the books, that is, they make sure that energy is never created or destroyed, all the energy that we started at Big Bang is conserved. In other words, when we reassemble all the fragments of nature that happened at Big Bang, we get back to nothing.

yin yang

Symmetry is the equivalent of Yin and Yang in Zen Buddhism. Yin and Yang symbol represents opposites which exist in harmony, as one, until that harmony is broken and then they become opposites.

Another analogy for Symmetry is, if you were to walk into a glass door thinking that there was nothing there, and you shatter the glass into many pieces, you have just broken Symmetry, and created something out of nothing.

When a symmetry is broken something emerges. Out of nothing comes something. In the beginning there was nothing, just the void, which was teeming with potential something. By breaking this symmetry, emerged our universe at Big Bang. This is the creationism story in science.

The creationism story in the Vedas is written in hymn form in the Rig Veda. It too speaks of how in the void the opposite existed until “symmetry” was broken and creation happened.

 

First there was the void:

Then there was neither death nor immortality

nor was there then the torch of night and day.

The One breathed windlessly and self-sustaining.

There was that One then, and there was no other.

 

In the void existed opposites:

The sages who have searched their hearts with wisdom

know that

which is

kin to that which is not.

Rig Veda, Creation Hymn 1500 BCE —Translated by A. L. Basham

 

It seems that all of existence is the dance of opposites. When the opposites merge, as in Yin and Yang or as in the concept of Symmetry, there is the void. The void is seemingly nothing but in it is the potential for everything.

From the void emerged the “opposites”-matter and anti-matter, spaces and objects, darkness and light. Without opposites there is no existence. Without darkness there is no light, without evil there is no good. We know a thing by its opposite. Reality itself is non-dual[i], that is, it is an undivided whole. It is because of the limitation of our sense organs that we do not see the oneness behind appearances.

Most of us accept, uncritically, what our senses tell us is reality. We are like fish in a pond, all they know is water, to them their reality is the pond, they have no reason to suspect that there is anything other than the pond. Most of us are like that, but the few, like the physicists and the ancient sages, who have gone beyond the limitations of their sensory perceptions have brought us tales of what lies beyond. It is up to us whether we accept what our senses tell us is reality or find out for ourselves what lies beyond the reach of our senses.

“If you look at zero you see nothing; but look through it and you will see the world.”[ii] Robert Kaplan.

There is a void in each of us. It is the hole we feel in our being, it is what makes us feel that there is something missing from our life. This void is the source of energy that animates us. As Rumi, perhaps the greatest poet of all time, wrote:

“Remember the entrance door to the sanctuary is inside you.

We watch a sunlight dust dance, and we try to be that lively,

but no one knows what music those particles hear.

Each of us has a secret companion musician to dance to.

Unique rhythmic play, a motion in the street we alone know and hear”[i]

Perhaps the void is the absolute truth or Reality that we seek, all else is relative, impermanent and an illusion. All of existence is a play of opposites; it is impermanent, Reality is an unbroken whole. We have to reach beyond the limitations of our senses to have a personal experience of Reality. Psychedelic drugs, meditation, music, dancing, poetry, kaons, art and even prayer for some, are means of transcending the limitations of sensory perceptions, and experiencing the void, symmetry, soul or God (if you will).

 

 

 

[i] (The Soul of Rumi, 2002)

[i] (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ0YFoUcY0s, n.d.)

[ii] (Kaplan, 1999)

[1] (https://www.aps.org/programs/outreach/history/historicsites/michelson-morley.cfm, n.d.)

Nothing is as it appears

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” Alice, in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland[i].

Some have interpreted the book, Alice in Wonderland, as an allegory for man’s journey to Christ or enlightenment or self-discovery. There are many passages in the book, such as the one above, that are both playful and profound. Initially, in my journey, I was like Alice, “Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” I began to entertain the possibility that perhaps there is more to reality than “meets the eye”, or that which meets the eye is not real. The insight of the Vedic sages that the world is an illusion or Maya might be worth investigating further, I thought.

Maya is often misunderstood to mean that the world of our senses does not exist, the correct interpretation, though, is that the world is not as it appears. Dr. Samuel Johnson, an eighteenth century distinguished English writer, is said to have refuted the idea that the world is an illusion by kicking a stone, and exclaiming “I refute it thus”[ii]. The idea that the “real” world is an illusion is hard for many to accept. But, it is a fact that there is more to the world than our senses are able to perceive.

For example, visible light is only a small segment of the full spectrum of light. The full spectrum of light or electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all frequencies of radiation from low frequency radio waves to the very high frequency gamma rays. The human eye only responds to the visible light components which lie between infrared and ultraviolet radiation. Clearly, there is more to reality than meets the eye.

In my search for Reality, I read and reread theories in physics from Newtonian mechanics to Einstein’s relativity to Niels Bohr’s quantum physics. I was looking at theories in physics not as an explainer of how things worked, but as a revealer of truth. I read books such as The Hole in the Universe by science writer K.C. Cole[iii] and The Elegant Universe by physicist Brian Greene[iv], alongside, Seat of the Soul[v] by Gary Zukav and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle[vi]. The threads from science and eastern wisdom were beginning to weave together into an understanding of a “new reality”. The new reality that was emerging for me was more like the world of Alice than the world that my senses perceive. What seems real is not, and what is not, is.

Noting is as it appears. Light is not just light; matter is mostly empty space; space is curved; time is relative. All true, but not how we perceive any of it. Our eyes respond only to the visible spectrum of light, we hear only a limited range of sounds, between 20Hz and 20KHz, dogs by contrast hear up to 65KHz and bats can hear between 1Hz and 200KHZ. Our perception of what exists is proscribed by the limitations of our sense organs. Thus, there is more to reality than our senses are able to perceive.

The picture of reality that physicists paint is beyond our ability to perceive it, it is a reality in which everything is connected to everything else; space and time are one; particles buzz in and out of existence; there are massive black holes; solid objects are mostly empty spaces; ten dimensional spaces, particles are waves too; uncertainty abounds; etc. While the physicists’ view of reality is beyond the pale of our senses, at least our intellect can comprehend this reality, the reality that the Vedic sages speak of, is one that is beyond the reach of even our intellect.
The Vedic view of Reality is that it is Turiya[vii] or the fourth state of existence beyond the waking, sleeping and dreaming states, Turiya state encompasses the other three states. The four states of existence are represented by the symbol OM. Each element in OM symbolizes a state of existence. The “3-like” object represents the waking, sleeping and dreaming states, and the “crescent with the diamond” represents Turiya. Turiya is a transcendental state beyond the reach of our senses. Indian sages and other mystics are known to have the ability to go in and out of Turiya state, at will.

Om

I had come to accept that Reality hides behind appearances. And, that what our senses perceive to be real is not all of Reality, and therefore an illusion.

Life is an illusion in that that there is more to existence than our senses are able to detect. Life is incomplete without experiencing what our senses cannot detect. The most meaningful work that we can do in life is to discover for ourselves part of existence that is hidden from our senses. There is a whole another realm waiting to be discovered.

“An unexamined Life is not worth living”-Socrates

[i] (https://www.britannica.com/biography/Lewis-Carroll, n.d.)

[ii] (https://askaphilosopher.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/when-dr-johnson-kicked-the-stone/, n.d.)

[iii] (https://www.salon.com/2001/01/26/cole_13/, n.d.)

[iv] (http://www.briangreene.org/, n.d.)

[v] (http://seatofthesoul.com/about/, n.d.)

[vi] (https://www.eckharttolle.com/books/now/, n.d.)

[vii] (https://www.yogapedia.com/definition/5367/turiya, n.d.)

The hole within

Most people have a hole in them. A giant gaping hole. This hole is bigger than our physical self. I had one. This hole, I have realized, is the gap between who I really am and who I was pretending to be. Most people do not even know that they have a hole in them, but the hole shows up in their lives, in its mild form, as discontent and in the more extreme form as a dis-ease.

Some turn to self-destructive behavior such as drugs, alcohol, gratuitous sex and violence to escape from this unease, still others, chase after fame, fortune and pleasure. This unease is a call to come home, to realize who we truly are and to dwell in our true nature. There is nothing that we have to become. All we have to do is to accept and love ourselves for who we are. Not love of a narcissist, but an all-inclusive love, a transcendental love (agape).

This hole or emptiness is not detectable by any instrument. It will not show up in an X-ray or MRI. It is even hidden from us, it reveals itself to us as a feeling, as if something is lacking in our lives. We look to external objects and experiences to fill this hole, without realizing that this emptiness is in a dimension outside of space and time. There is nothing in the material world that can fill this emptiness. This emptiness is larger than all that exists in space and time. This emptiness is bigger than the universe.

This emptiness is love, it is transcendental love. It is our true-self pining for itself.

“Ah Love! could thou and I with Fate conspire
To grasp this sorry Scheme of Things entire,
Would not we shatter it to bits – and then
Re-mould it nearer to the Heart’s Desire! “

Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam

This love is transformative. For mystics like Mirabai, in India and St. Teresa of Avila it was the love of God that consumed and transformed them. Mirabai, was a fifteenth century Indian princess, who renounced her princely life and went against the traditions of that time to devote her life to Lord Krishna. Her poems are of love and devotion to Lord Krishna.

Life in the world is short,
Why shoulder an unnecessary load
Of worldly relationships?
Thy parents gave thee birth in the world,
But the Lord ordained thy fate.
Life passes in getting and spending,
No merit is earned by virtuous deeds.
I will sing the praises of Hari
In the company of the holy men,
Nothing else concerns me.
Mira’s Lord is the courtly Giridhara,
She says: Only by Thy power
Have I crossed to the further shore.

Mirabai[i]

This all-encompassing love, call it love for God or self-love, is what it takes to fill the emptiness inside us.

“Love goes very far beyond the physical person of the beloved. It finds its deepest meaning in his spiritual being, his inner self.”  Victor Frankl, Austrian psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor.

 

 

“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done

Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung….

There’s nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be

It’s easy

All you need is love, all you need is love

All you need is love, love, love is all you need”

The Beatles

[i] (Mirabai, n.d.)

Even atheists have a God

I have journeyed through science, religion and philosophy, have participated in spiritual practices and have had countless discussions with people on a similar journey. Along the way, like a meandering river, I have been changed by the terrain that I have encountered. I started by looking for absolute truth as if it were an object, a theory or an idea existing somewhere out there, I have discovered that truth lies within me.

I started out an atheist and I now believe in God. Not a God that is in heaven but a God within me. Not a God of any religion but a presence within me. This presence I now know is my essence; my dharma; my religion; my true north. It is my real self. It is who I am. I am not a physical being that I thought I was. I am not my body nor my mind. I am pure consciousness.

The scientific theories and the Vedic insights which have shaped my beliefs are:

  • There is no separation between what is outside of me and what is inside me. This separation is illusory. We perceive separateness because our five senses are limited in their capacity to sense all that exists. There is no objective world outside of my subjective perception of it. The observer in me is the observed. (Latest theories in physics support this view).
  • The manifest world is created in our minds. The world that I perceive is constructed by my brain, it is a mental construct. (Neuroscience supports this view).
  • My body too is a mental construct. (Neuroscience supports this view)
  • I do not exist. The “I” that I identify with is itself a mental construct. It is a thought just like any other thought. (Neuroscience supports this view).
  • I am not my body. I am not my mind. I am not a physical being. (Vedas and neuroscience support this view)
  • I am my essence. I live my dharma. (Vedic insight)

These are radical notions which defy conventional thinking. And, they belie what I see, hear, touch, taste and smell. My sense organs do not nor can they reveal to me that which is real. I did not come to accept these ideas uncritically. These ideas have taken shape in me over twenty years; they did not come to me fully formed nor all at once. Most of these ideas seemed implausible, at first, but after considerable research and after probing and pushing at these ideas to find any flaws, I have come to accept them and they are the bedrock of my belief system.

We live in a virtual reality created by our minds. The world of our senses, the world we accept as real, is created in our minds. The world out there is a projection of my mind. All the objects we interact with are virtual; all the people we interact with our virtual, time and space are virtual. The virtual reality we live in is so realistic that we mistake it for reality. As long as we rely on our senses we will not know that we are trapped in a virtual world.

The way out is the way in(ward). The way inward is the way of self-inquiry. As the Heart Sutra in Buddhism says “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate”-you have to go deeper, deeper and deeper still to get to the “other shore”, which is discovering your true nature. This journey inward has led me to understand who I am and what reality is.

My essence is not a thing, it cannot be detected by our senses. It is pure consciousness from which arises our mind which in turn creates our reality. Each of us has an essence which is unique and special; it is who we are meant to be. It is what neuroscientist Donald Hoffman calls a conscious agent. I have realized that what I took to be real- my sensory world, is unreal and what seemed unreal is real.

I have skirted using terms that have religious overtones, such as spirit, soul, atman or God, but I feel that I now have the understanding and the language to state what they mean to me, and what they mean to me is different from what they are conventionally understood to mean. Spirit, soul and atman are synonymous, in my world view, with the Truth in us, our essence, our true nature. It is who we are. It is the only piece of Reality in each of us. Most of us go through life without discovering our true nature or our spiritual self. We identify almost exclusively with the physical and are not aware of our spiritual self. We are asleep to our own true selves. This is why, realizing our true nature is known as awakening. I now know that my true nature is not physical. I am a spiritual being having a physical experience. This realization is a one-eighty degree turn for me. I started my journey believing that I was a material being living in a material world (paraphrasing Madonna).

The material world is so alluring and so real to my senses that in spite of my understanding that it is only Maya I am caught up in its drama most of the time. The difference for me now is that I know how to extract myself from this drama. I know that I have a choice that I can exercise moment to moment-a choice to show up as a physical being or as a spiritual self. Like a quantum particle I can toggle between the two states of being. There is a Buddhist saying that captures this state of being, well “you can be in the world but not of it.” It takes effort to switch from one state to the other and a constant remembering of who I really am.

The two streams of knowledge-physics and the Vedas-have come together for me to create this epiphany in me-the understanding of who I am, and what my dharma is. This is not where I started my journey. I started my journey identifying with my physical self. I have arrived at this view of myself or more accurately led to this belief, by science and the wisdom of the ancient sages. This belief reconciles my knowledge from science and my understanding of the Vedas, it satisfies my intellectual curiosity and it feels right to me. My entire physical being, that is, my mind, body and heart, are aligned with this view.

I believe that we all need a God and we have a God. The God is within each of us. The God is a presence in each of us. Even atheist have a God. This God is not some external deity, it is not the God that religions promote, it is our true nature, it is who we are meant to be. It is uniquely ours. It is universal only in that that each of us and every sentient being is conscious because of it. It is consciousness itself.

Amen!

Choose drama or dharma

The journey of self-discovery is a journey inward. The journey begins with the body and goes deeper inward only to discover that there is nothing there except emptiness. The body is made of atoms and atoms are mostly empty spaces; the atoms themselves are made of elementary particles which have no independent existence, they exist only when an observer is there to observe them. If elementary particles are not real then the atoms are not real and the body that appears solid is just empty space. This is undeniably so, it is what modern physics tells us. We also know from neuroscience that “I”, the self, that I identify with is a figment of my mind and does not exist. The body does not exist, I do not exist. So, what exists? What is left is the mind.

What then is the mind? The mind is pure consciousness say the Vedas. Physicist Donald Hoffman has a radical theory that the most elemental unit of existence is consciousness and that each of us is a conscious agent. We are not our body, we are not our mind, we are a conscious agent. Conscious agent, though Hoffman makes no such claim, is akin to Atman in Hinduism and soul in Christianity, it seems to me. What makes each of us unique is our Truth or Dharma.

Dharma and Karma are concepts in Hinduism[i]that have found currency in the west. Dharma is an idea that I was dismissive of, at first, because I misunderstood it to mean one’s destiny. It means a lot more than one’s destiny.

Dharma, as I understand it now, means one’s essence. Our dharma is what makes us unique and special. Every living thing has its essence or dharma, which is unique to it. This is why an apple seed cannot grow into an orange tree. The concept of genes, in science, is the closest idea to dharma. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The Selfish Gene, makes two assertions that are revolutionary: 1) our genes are immortal, that is, they carry information that makes each of us unique, and this information is never destroyed, not even at death 2) the genes are selfish, that is, they are about self-preservation and procreation.

Our dharma is our genetic code. It is what makes us “us”. Our genes are about self- preservation and procreation, which is our animal nature, but our dharma is more than our genes. Our Dharma is our essence, it is who we are, beyond our animal nature. Our dharma includes our genes but is not proscribed by them. It is often said that dharma is our destiny and that our dharma is set by our karma(acts) in past lives and how we act in this life. This too is a limited view of what dharma is.

My dharma is my Truth. It is my religion, that is, it is who I am meant to be. Dharma is also understood to mean one’s duty, but, in my view, it is much more than that. Dharma is the seed in me from which emerged my mind. Self-discovery is about getting in touch with this essence in us. Our dharma is our Truth.

Either we live our Truth or are swept up in the drama of daily life. It is either Dharma or drama. When we live our Truth, we are in harmony with nature and all of existence.

[i] (http://www.dictionary.com/browse/dharma, n.d.)