I am a fairytale

“Tat Tvam Asi” say the Vedas.[i]

“Thou art That”

Who am I?

The journey of self-discovery is a journey inward. The journey starts at the outer layer- the body- and goes deeper inward and deeper still (Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate-Heart Sutra) 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.

The” I” that I identify with is a figment of my imagination. The I that I have grown up with and am fond of is not real. The I that has memories and hopes is not who I am. The “I” is a thought in the mind. This begs the questions what is mind, and whose mind is it? There are many theories of consciousness, one of the most radical theories is the one by Prof. Donald Hoffman, a cognitive scientist at The University of California, Irvine. His theory is that consciousness itself is a fundamental property of Reality, not space-time, matter-energy.

“I call it conscious realism: Objective Reality is just conscious agents, just points of view. Interestingly, I can take two conscious agents and have them interact, and the mathematical structure of that interaction also satisfies the definition of a conscious agent. This mathematics is telling me something. I can take two minds, and they can generate a new, unified single mind. Here’s a concrete example. We have two hemispheres in our brain. But when you do a split-brain operation, a complete transection of the corpus callosum, you get clear evidence of two separate consciousnesses. Before that slicing happened, it seemed there was a single unified consciousness. So, it’s not implausible that there is a single conscious agent. And yet it’s also the case that there are two conscious agents there, and you can see that when they’re split. I didn’t expect that, the mathematics forced me to recognize this. It suggests that I can take separate observers, put them together and create new observers, and keep doing this ad infinitum. It’s conscious agents all the way down.”[ii] Explains Prof. Hoffman.

Prof. Hoffman’s radical idea is that all that is there is consciousness itself. This view is amazingly similar to the Vedic view of Reality.

The essence of the Vedic view is captured in the Mahavakyas or Grand Contemplations[iii]. The Mahavakyas are a distillation of Vedic insights into the nature of Reality. If we substitute the term Consciousness for Brahman in the Mahavakyas below we see the parallel with Prof. Hoffman’s ideas.

Mahavakyas:

Brahman is real the world is unreal

Brahman is one without a second

Brahman is the supreme knowledge

Thou art that

I am Brahman

All that is Brahman

Reinterpreted:

Consciousness is real the world is unreal

Consciousness is one without a second

Consciousness is the supreme knowledge

Thou art that

I am consciousness

All that is Consciousness

Most physicists and neuroscientists, even to this day, have shied away from tackling the problem of consciousness. They consider consciousness to be the domain of religion and philosophy. Not so for the Vedic sages, who delved deeply into the nature of consciousness, which they called Brahman.

The root of the word: Brahman comes from the root brha or brhi, which means knowledge, expansion, and all-pervasiveness. It is that existence which alone exists and in which there is the appearance of the entire universe.

Not subject to change: Brahman means the absolute Reality, which is eternal and not subject to death, decay, or decomposition. In English, we speak of omnipresence or oneness. This is the principle of the word Brahman.

Not a proper name: Brahman is not a proper name, but a Sanskrit word that denotes that oneness, the non-dual Reality, the substratum underneath all of the many names and forms of the universe. Brahman is not the name of God. These contemplations neither promote nor oppose any particular religious concept of God.

Immanence and transcendence: One may also think of Brahman in theological terms, though that is unnecessary. Within that perspective, the scholars speak of two principles: immanence and transcendence. Immanence is the divinity existing in and extending into all parts of the created world. In that sense, the Mahavakyas suggest that no object contains or is not part of that creation.

It’s indescribable, as it is beyond form: However, if one chooses to hold the word Brahman, it is handy to remember that Brahman is indescribable. For convenience’s sake, it is said that Brahman is the nature of existence, consciousness, and bliss, though admitting that these words, too, are inadequate.

Seek direct experience: The real meaning comes only in direct experience.

Prof. Hoffman – “I’m claiming that experiences are the real coin of the realm. The experiences of everyday life — my real feeling of a headache, my taste of chocolate — are the ultimate nature of Reality.”

The conclusion of both the Vedas and Prof. Hoffman is that the experience of everyday life is the ultimate nature of Reality.

God is an experience. Every moment that we are fully alive and experiencing life without filters-preconceived ideas and beliefs- we are experiencing the divine.

All that is there is Brahman!

Thou art that!!

And that is that.


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

[ii] (https://www.quantamagazine.org/the-evolutionary-argument-against-reality-20160421/, n.d.)

[iii] (http://www.swamij.com/mahavakyas.htm, n.d.)

Be a Voyeur

“You can observe a lot just by watching” — Yogi Berra

I have become a voyeur-a silent witness of my inner self. I can watch my thoughts, my emotions, and my bodily sensations. I am a voyeur of “me.” It is as if there are two “Mes”, there is one that is watching, and there is one that is being watched. I can watch all of “me” dispassionately, like a scientist. This is the single biggest step forward in my journey of self-discovery. One small step for the new me and one giant leap for the old me. Apologies to Neil Armstrong.

It has taken me many years to develop the ability to watch my thoughts and emotions without judging them. I have learned a lot about myself just by watching my thoughts, emotions, and sensations in my body. It is a skill I developed through practice. Normally, I get swept up in my thoughts, one thought leads to another and another, and the mind wanders off. I had to work at breaking this habit. I had to learn to let go of thought as soon as it appears. I had to train myself to look at a thought as a cloud wafting through the sky, watch without attachment, and see it as an object as it drifts. Slowly the thoughts stop coming when I do this now. My mind becomes still.

The act of watching, non-judgmentally, quietens my mind, quells my emotions, and removes tension in my body. My mind, body, and emotions become harmonized. Borrowing the language from the Vedas, my chakras become aligned, my nadis[i] open up, and I feel connected to the universe. In this state, there is no “I.” There is just emptiness. I am like an empty vessel, open, spacious, and accepting. And attuned to the wisdom of the universe.

Paraphrasing Yogi Berra, I observe a lot just by watching. There is no need for a guru; there is wisdom within us. There is a knowing beyond knowledge. We can access this wisdom. Unfortunately, we are not taught to get in touch with the wisdom within us. Some, like me, stumble into it, many turn to religion, and most never discover it.

Scientific methods cleave the observer from the observed. But the voyeur in us, or the silent witness, turns us, the observer, into the observed. Only humans have this capacity to observe themselves. I am an object to the voyeur in me that can be watched and studied “scientifically.” I can gather data on the workings of my mind and analyze it like a scientist. Equally importantly, I change the contents of my mind by watching and witnessing them. Quantum physics has proven that the very act of observing a phenomenon changes it. By observing my thoughts, I release the baggage associated with any negative thoughts I may be holding on to. Observing one’s thoughts erases the associated network of thoughts from the memory bank, leaving less material for the mind to dredge up. Over time this practice empties the mind and frees it from past conditioning. It opens the mind to experiencing life fresh and anew in each moment.

The Vedic sages were scientists of a kind. Their method of inquiry was from the inside out. Their starting point of inquiry was their mind (and emotions). Through this process, they transcended their minds and accessed “truths” that western science is just beginning to approach. The process of the sages was the inverse of the process of western science. The Vedic sages started with the subjective self and discovered that the rest was a projection of the self (mind). Modern scientific methods exclude the personal, the self, from their study of the phenomenological world. Thus, western science has not yet made the connection between the subjective and the objective — the world inside and the world outside.

“Science describes accurately from the outside; poetry describes accurately from the inside. Science explicates, and poetry implicates. Both celebrate what they describe.” Ursula K. Le Guin.[ii]

The voyeur in me is a scientist. The voyeur observes and collects data on me, just like a scientist. The very act of observing “me” changes me. The change happens automatically without additional effort. By watching one’s thoughts, the entire structure of related thoughts and beliefs is uprooted; it is like pulling out the root structure underneath a weed-. The practice of witnessing one’s thoughts and feelings is transformational because it empties our minds of past conditioning.

[i] (yogapedia, n.d.)

[ii] (Brainpickings, n.d.)

The Cosmic Dance

The Choreography

The cosmic dance is not random motion but is beautifully choreographed, and the movements obey the 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 state to another by physical laws. The laws are fixed, but the dancers and the dancing change. The dance never stops.

Since Newton, four hundred years of scientific progress have led us to understand that our universe is not capricious or ruled by demons and monsters of nature; 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 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 us. It only seems this way because of the limitations of our senses. If we had X-ray vision, we would see 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 essential elements for life.

While most cells in your body regenerate every seven to 15 years, many of the particles that make up those cells have 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 entirely 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; 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 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. Only our senses 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 and 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.)

Dharma or Drama?

The journey of self-discovery is a journey inward. The journey starts at the outer layer- the body- and goes deeper inward and deeper still (Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate-Heart Sutra) 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 remains 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. The concept of conscious agent can be likened to Atman in Hinduism and soul in Christianity. The conscious agent gives rise to our mind which creates our reality. What makes each of us different and special according to the Vedas is our 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 closest thing in science to the idea of dharma is one’s genes. Richard Dawkins, in his book, The Selfish Gene, makes an assertion that is revolutionary-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. This idea aligns with the concept in Buddhism that “we are never born and we never die.”

Our dharma is our essence. 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, in my opinion.

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. When we are living our dharma, we know it. It is a feeling.

 

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