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11 Nov

Know What You are by What You Know

You can never know anything outside of yourself directly. Even when you think you know something outside, you really just know an interpretation of it within yourself. You gather information from outside and it gets interpreted within you and the only thing you ever know about the outside world is that internal interpretation.

For instance, when you are seeing something and you know its there, you are not actually seeing it directly. Light waves reflect off different objects, enter your eyes, get converted into neuro-signals that travel to your brain through the nerves, and get interpreted as images full of colors, brightness, etc. And the only thing you ever see are these interpreted images within you. You never see any of the objects outside of you directly. Because if you were able to see them directly, you would have probably seen a vast of ocean of particles and waves and not colors, etc. These colors don’t really exist. They are just internal interpretation of different wavelengths of light falling on your retina. If your eyes had the capability of detecting a different spectrum of light (like some animals do), you would have seen something quite different. Same thing happens when you are hearing or touching or smelling or tasting something. Information just enters through your various sense organs, get converted into neuro-signals according to the capability of these organs, travel to your brain and get interpreted variously. The sounds and sensations you experience don’t really exist. They are just internal interpretations of different neuro-signals generated by your eardrums, skin, nose, tongue, etc. The only thing you ever know about the outside world is this interpreted information within.

There are two important implications of this:

  1. You can know yourself and the interpreted information within yourself directly. You don’t need a way of gathering information about yourself and interpreting it to know yourself. Because, otherwise, such a process would go ad-infinitum and you would never be able to know anything.
  2. If a mechanism is required to gather information about something in order for you to know it, that something cannot be you. Because if it was you, you would have known it directly.

Let’s apply this understanding:

Since you need a way to gather information about the outside world and interpret it within yourself, you cannot be the outside world. This is easy to agree with. But now consider your own body. Information about your body is gathered through the peripheral nervous system and delivered to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord). All the pains, aches, itches, temperature and pressure sensations, etc. of the body that you feel are nothing but interpretation of information that reaches the central nervous system. Whatever you know about your body is through this information. If you were the body, you would have known it directly and there would have been no need for a mechanism to gather information in order to know it. Moreover, If you were the body, you would have known each and every little part and function of it directly. But that’s not the case either as you do not know things that are out of reach of the peripheral nervous system like the flowing blood, insides of your bones and many of the organs, etc. (unless of course you cut open the body and actually see them or touch them, which again is information gathered through the peripheral nervous system). This clearly indicates that you cannot be the body.

So are you the central nervous system? If you were the central nervous system i.e. the brain and spinal cord, you would have known yourself as slushy gray matter through which bio-electro-chemical signals keep whizzing from time to time. But that’s not the case. What you experience is a crisp clear world full for sights, sounds and sensations. Some of the experiences are gross and more tangible, and some are subtle and less tangible. The information gathered from the body and the outside world tends to result in a more gross experience and certain activities of the brain like thoughts, emotions, etc. tend to be more subtle. This indicates that you are not the central nervous system but something quite different.

You are actually that crisp clear part-less unbroken entity within which all the information gathered at the central nervous system gets interpreted. The term for it is consciousness. This consciousness and all the interpreted information within it, or the absence of interpretations while you are in deep sleep or in a state of trance, is all that you ever know directly. You do not know anything else directly.

Many people mistake it for the mind. The mind is a collection of thoughts, emotions, memories, desires, tendencies, etc. These are activities of the brain that are interpreted within consciousness as subtle sights, sounds and sensations. You are not anything that is being interpreted, you are that within which all of this is being interpreted and that is consciousness. The only thing you ever know directly is consciousness and within it you experience the various interpretations of information gathered from outside (brain, body and the world).

A very important point to note here is that its not your consciousness, you are the consciousness. Because if consciousness was something that was yours but it wasn’t you, you would have needed another way of gathering information from your consciousness and interpreting it within yourself – just like you have to gather information about your body and your brain. And this chain would have continued endlessly. But thankfully thats not the case and the buck stops at consciousness and that is what you actually are.

So what really is this consciousness? Where does it come from? Is it generated by the brain or is it something independent? How does information gathered by the brain appear within consciousness? If I am consciousness, why does it feel like I am a body-mind complex? Why does the consciousness seem to be attached to the body and mind? Does consciousness continue to exist after the body perishes? What benefit is it to me by knowing that I am consciousness?

If these and more such questions are occurring to you, you are on the right track to knowing what you really are. These questions are very important and there are very clear answers to all of them. My recent articles have dealt with some of them and can provide a good overall understanding. Please feel free to reach out to me (npabuwal at gmail) if you would like to know more. I ll gladly share further insights and references.

But here’s a brain-teaser to leave you with: If consciousness has this innate capability of creating appearances of various gross and subtle things within it and that is all you ever experience, what’s the need of a real external world? Why can’t the whole universe just be an appearance within a universal consciousness?

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/167379908570/know-what-you-are-by-what-you-know)

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04 Feb

What Ought to be the Ultimate Reality of this Universe

Many of us have pondered over this question as to what is the ultimate underlying reality of this universe. Mainstream thought is that this universe is a vast ocean of space, time, particles, fields, strings, energy, etc. arranged in a particular fashion. But there are still lot of open questions like, where did all this come from, how far does it extend, when did it all come into existence, how long will it last, and so on. There are theories around all of these questions but no definitive answers which indicates a lack of understanding of the underlying reality. Let’s take a step back and see how we can actually derive the ultimate reality of this universe through straightforward logic and sensibility using a simple step-by-step process:

  1. First point to understand is that something cannot come into existence out of absolute nothingness and then dissolve back into absolute nothingness (absolute nothingness means that there is absolutely nothing i.e. not even empty space). This means that something or things must have always existed and should continue to exist forever. Things might get transformed from one thing into another, but there must always be something or the other existing. This implies that existence cannot be time-bound and must be eternal.
  2. Next point to understand is that it doesn’t make sense for something or things to exist only within certain boundaries with absolute nothingness beyond those boundaries. Absolute nothingness, by definition, means that there is absolutely nothing so what will impose a boundary? A thing will never limit itself unless there is something else imposing a limit. And if there is something else, then that is also a thing that exists and part of the overall existence. This can be extended through infinity, which implies that existence cannot be bounded and must be infinite. This can be applied to both space and time.
  3. The question that arises now is how many things actually exist and what are they like. Let’s first figure out how many types of things might be existing. If there exist more than one type, what is keeping two types of things, say T1 and T2, separate from each other? We need a third type, say T3, to keep T1 and T2 separate. We then need T4 to keep T1 and T3 separate, and T5 to keep T3 and T2 separate, and so on ad infinitum. Another possibility is that T3 separates T1 and T2, T2 separates T1 and T3, and T1 separates T3 and T2. But even this kind of inter-leaving will go on to infinite levels. These are implausible scenarios as, even if they were possible, the complexity would be too enormous to last long. So its not feasible for multiple types of things to co-exist together.

    If only one type of thing can exist at any given time, the next question that arises is whether there co-exists only one thing of that type or multiple things of the same type. If there are multiple things of the same type, what keeps them separate from each other? A thing cannot separate two other things of the same type, as how will the boundaries be defined? Moreover, there cannot be absolutely nothing in-between. So its not feasible for multiple things of the same type to co-exist together, and hence only one thing must exist. This one thing must not have any parts either, otherwise the same problem of what separates these parts from each other would come up. For this reason, it has to be a continuous homogeneous whole and cannot be made of parts or particles (which are just tiny parts). We can also safely say that this one thing that exists would not change over time, as change in a thing is caused only by another thing, but there is nothing else that exists to cause a change. Hence, our conclusion so far is that there must be one and only one thing that exists which is infinite, eternal, continuous, homogeneous, part-less and unchanging.

  4. If our above conclusion is correct, the multiplicity, variety and change that we observe in this universe must be just an appearance and not real. This is only possible if the one thing that exists has an innate capability of appearing as many without having to divide itself into parts. Please note that its not as if this one thing is appearing as many to something else. There is nothing else apart from this one thing, so this appearance of many has to be within itself. There is only one such thing we know of that has this capability – consciousness. Consider the individual consciousness that each one of us feels within our respective minds. Even though our consciousness is a single whole and not segmented into parts, we still see a world of many things – people, objects, places, events, etc. – in a dream. Its not as if all these things have somehow physically entered into our head during the dream. They are just an appearance within our consciousness and seem quite vivid and aware of each other, and behave just like we behave in the world when we are awake. So much so that, while we are dreaming, we are absolutely unaware that we are in a dream-world and not in a waking-world. Exactly like our respective dream-worlds are appearances within our individual consciousness, this whole universe is a dream-like appearance within the underlying reality that is none other than consciousness. Since this universal consciousness is infinite and must have infinite capability, the universe appears to be very real with all its vastness and intricate details. Even the perception of space, time, matter, etc. that we have in the waking-world is exactly like we have such perceptions in a dream-world which seem to be quite real while we are in the dream. Its important to note that the universe is not a dream in your or mine or anyone else’s individual consciousness, but its a dream in the universal consciousness. And the body-mind complex that you consider yourself to be is nothing but an appearance in this universal dream just like other objects. This universal consciousness alone appears as individual consciousness within all living beings too.

    Here’s another way to see how this one and only thing that exists is actually consciousness. Whenever we see an something appearing as something else, the appearance maintains certain characteristics of the actual thing. E.g. when a rope lying in a semi-dark room appears as a snake, certain characteristics of the rope like the length, thickness, orientation, etc. are maintained in the snake appearance. Such is true with all appearances. This means that even the universe, although appearing as many with all its variety, must be maintaining certain characteristics of the real thing. Since the real thing is the same throughout, any characteristic that appears universally can most probably be attributed to the real thing. Keeping this in mind, when we observe different things in this universe – no matter how small or big – one characteristic we definitely notice is that everything has a field around it which makes it “aware” of other things within its vicinity. These fields include the electro-magnetic field, weak and strong nuclear field, gravitational field, etc. From the smallest of the particles to the largest of the galaxies, all exhibit this characteristic. This is a strong indication that awareness or consciousness belongs to the underlying reality. Moreover, the underlying reality must be consciousness itself and not a thing which is conscious as that would need two types of things – consciousness and the thing which is conscious – but we have already ruled out existence of more than one type of thing.

    Another simple reason why the ultimate reality must be consciousness is that if its not consciousness, it would be something dead and inert. And we cannot expect something dead and inert to generate such a sophisticated appearance within itself which even includes conscious living beings.

  5. One more characteristic that is observed universally is that every part and particle of this universe is not just “aware” of other things within its vicinity, but is also “interacting” with them. If the underlying reality would have been just plain consciousness, the universe could have been just a huge cloud of particles that only had awareness of each other without any interaction amongst them. But we notice that things either attract each other or repel each other and, overall, things seem to continuously move towards a more stable, more positive state, as is evident from how the universe has arranged itself over time. The fact that we observe such interaction universally indicates that the reality also has a positivity associated with it, called bliss. This bliss is the driving factor behind all types of interaction amidst all living and non-living things. The term “bliss” will be clearer when we consider that everything we ever do is so that we can feel good. All feelings like happiness, joy, peace, serenity, delight, ecstasy, etc. fall under the category of feeling good and the highest order of feeling good is called bliss, which is what we all are striving for. Its the underlying driving factor behind all our actions.

Based on the above analysis, we can conclude that the ultimate Reality of this universe ought to be One, Infinite, Eternal, Continuous, Homogeneous, Part-less, Unchanging Existence-Consciousness-Bliss in which the whole universe appears and disappears in cycles, just like dreams appear and disappear in us. Moreover, there doesn’t have to be only one universe. There can be any number of universes co-existing simultaneously since they are all just appearances in a reality that is infinite.

We have thus derived the ultimate reality using a purely objective analysis. Now compare it with the previous article, Who Are You Really, in which the exact same reality was derived using a purely subjective analysis. If both objective and subjective analyses point to the exact same reality, there must be some truth to it. Imagine what it would be like when you realize that you are not this severely limited body-mind complex, but you are actually the one and only thing that really exists which is of the nature of infinite, eternal, continuous, unchanging bliss!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/156793577905/what-ought-to-be-the-ultimate-reality-of-this)

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12 Nov

Who Are You Really?

If you ask yourself who you are, the answer might sound like: I am this person reading this article whose name is XYZ, who is a male or a female, who looks like the image in the mirror, living in ABC city, working as blah-blah, child/parent/spouse of so-and-so, having such-and-such thoughts, feelings, experiences, knowledge, skills, capabilities, memories, tendencies, and so on so forth. All these answers pertain to what can be called in a nutshell – a body-mind complex. There are high chances that this is what you take yourself to be.

Now consider this: You are a fully grown adult now, but you were once a little baby, a small boy/girl and a young teenager. Research suggests that, sparing few types of cells, most cells in the body die within few years and get constantly replaced with new ones. So, physiologically speaking, most of your current body cells were not present ten or twenty or thirty years ago which means you had materially different bodies back then. Even the state of your mind as a baby/child/teenager was very different than what you have now. So, if you are just a body-mind complex, you must have been someone else in the past as your body and mind have been very different at different stages of your life, and you will yet again turn into someone else as you grow older. But that’s not how you feel about yourself. You think you are one and the same entity throughout your life whose body and mind changes over time. So, if you are always the same entity, how can you be the body-mind complex which is constantly changing?

Here’s another way to look at it: Let’s say its possible for you to take-up an entirely new body which is everything you always wanted – healthier, stronger, better looking, more functional, and without any of the pains, aches and problems of your current body. And let’s say you don’t lose any of the advantages of your current body and people around you somehow continue to recognize you as before. Chances are you would want to sign-up for this offer. You would be willing to swap your mind too if you are offered a different mind with a more positive personality, stronger intellect, sharper memory, better knowledge and skills and capabilities, and much lesser issues compared to your current mind say in terms of anger, fear, lust, shame, hatred, etc., while still making sure that you don’t lose any of the advantages of your current mind. These are clear indications that you are neither the body nor the mind, because if you were really those, you would have never considered swapping them out as it would have meant the end of your current existence and birth of someone else.

Yet another way to arrive at the same conclusion: Let’s say you think you are fat and want to reduce your weight by half. It basically means that you would lose half your body. Or, for some reason, you lose a limb or two like a leg or an arm, or maybe more which makes-up a large part of your body. Would you think that you are only a part of what you were earlier or would you still consider yourself to be the same whole person? It applies to the mind too. Even if you lose a part of it like your memory or knowledge or intellect or any such thing, which happens a lot with age, you would still think you are the same person. These are again clear indications that you are neither the body nor the mind.

Let me re-iterate. If you were really just the body-mind complex and nothing more, any substantial change in the body and/or the mind would have meant that you have turned into someone else. But that’s not how you feel about yourself. You always feel that you are the same person throughout your life even though your personality might be undergoing various changes. Think about it. Contemplate on it. Re-read if you need to and you will begin to get it. If you are still not getting it, its primarily because of your natural attachment to the body and mind which is preventing you from believing that you are not them. Its not easy to get rid of this attachment and takes time.

Lets try to further understand what’s going on. Consider a house that you are familiar with. As time goes, you change the furniture, appliances, fittings, color scheme, and many such things. You may even remodel it and add/remove/change sections over time. So much so that the house might look very different from what it looked say thirty years ago – both from inside and outside. But you would still consider it to be the same house. In fact, as long as you don’t completely demolish the house and re-construct a new one, you would continue to call it the same house irrespective of the extent of change it undergoes. This is because what you refer to as the house is not really the material building itself but a concept of the house in your mind. As time passes and the house keeps changing materially, the concept keeps adapting to the change and you keep referring to it as the house. The same thing applies to your own body-mind. What you refer to as yourself is not the body-mind complex directly but a concept of it in your mind that remains one but keeps pointing to the changed body-mind.

Now the killer: Do you think you are really that concept in the mind you are referring to as yourself, or are you the one who is referring to that concept?

You have come a long way in trying to understand who or what you really are – all the way from thinking you are just a body-mind complex to thinking you are some entity that is referring to a concept of your body-mind as yourself. Its difficult to go beyond this understanding just through intellectual analysis, reasoning or normal experience. So it helps to seek guidance from those who have been successful in knowing their real self, learn from what they have to say about it, and then validate it for yourself. There have been many such through the millenniums who have left their invaluable and timeless teachings. If we study their teachings, we will find one thing in common – they all say that who or what we really are is indescribable in words. There is good reason for that. Its impossible to communicate even a normal day-to-day experience in words (like the experience of eating an ice-cream or listening to a piece of music or looking at a beautiful scenery) to someone else and make them come even close to how you feel. They have to experience it for themselves. If such is the case for a normal experience, what to say of our real self which is far subtler. Even then, for others benefit, these teachers atleast indicate what our real self is like and describe practices to know and experience it internally.

The best term used to indicate the real self (aka Self), as found in the teachings in Upanishads and other Indian scriptures, is Sat-Chit-Ananda which means Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. These are not three words but one word represented by a conjunction of three words as there is no single word that can express the meaning fully. What it means is that the essence of the Self is pure and absolute Existence, Consciousness and Bliss. Pure and absolute Existence implies that its not existence of a particular thing or existence dependent on something, but Existence in itself which is the ground for existence of all things. Pure and absolute Consciousness implies that its not a particular conscious being or consciousness of a particular thing, but Consciousness in itself which is the ground for all types of conscious activities. Pure and absolute Bliss implies that its not a particular type of nice feeling, but Bliss in itself which is the ground for all types of positive feelings (like happiness, joy, peace, etc.). Moreover, all three i.e. Existence, Consciousness and Bliss, go together at all times and are not disjoint.

So, your real Self is not a particular entity that is existing, conscious and blissful, but is Existence-Consciousness-Bliss itself in its purest and absolute sense.

If this sounds vague to you, you are not alone. As mentioned above, who or what you really are is indescribable in words, so these words are only indicative in nature. You need to experience your true Self internally and then only will you really know who you are. But here’s why it atleast makes sense for the Self to be Existence-Consciousness-Bliss:

Let’s take up Consciousness first. Existence and Bliss will follow through. Consider any day-to-day experience, like looking at something. The light reflected from an object enters your eyes and falls on your retina that generates neuro-signals which travel through your optical nerves and result in some bio-electro-chemical activity in your brain that is somehow interpreted as a visual scene within your consciousness. What you see is not the sub-atomic particles that make-up the object, nor the light particles, nor the neuro-signals, nor the bio-electro-chemical activities in the brain, but something quite different from the materials involved in the whole process – a 3D image with different colors and brightness. Same thing happens when you are listening to something – the surround sound that you experience is quite different from the materials involved in the hearing process. In fact, your experience of anything – whether its physical or mental – is always of a construct in your consciousness and never of the matter involved directly. Actually matter and consciousness are so intrinsically different that its impossible for them to interact with each other. Hence, what we think of as matter is also nothing but a construct in consciousness that just seems to have matter-like properties. Even the concept of your own body-mind that you refer to as yourself is also nothing but a construct in consciousness.

If you are having a problem in understanding what consciousness means, try this: Say someone creates a robot, an android, that is designed to look and behave exactly like you. Its been programmed to act, speak and even think like you. The way you talk/walk/sit/stand, your skin, your hair, your features, your expressions, everything being exactly the same. So much so that no one will ever be able to tell apart any difference between the android and you. Even after all this there will still be one key difference between the android and you – the inner subjective experience of being you. Its only present in you and will be absent in the robot. This is consciousness.

Its important to note that this is not “your” consciousness as by “your” you mean your body-mind, and its not that consciousness is within the body-mind but the body-mind is appearing within consciousness. What you call as “your” consciousness is only a “reflection” of this consciousness in your mind, but consciousness itself is not dependent on the existence of yours or anyone else’s mind. This is the pure and absolute Consciousness. Its also pure and absolute Existence since its the only entity that exists and everything – you, others, the whole world, the whole universe – simply seems to appear in it making it the ground of all existence. Its also pure and absolute Bliss as nothing else exists that it would be in any form of conflict with.

This pure and absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, which enlightened people say is also infinite and eternal, is what you and everything really is.

If you are an intelligent living being, the foremost thing to know in life is who or what you really are and then live life accordingly. An intellectual understanding of it is a good beginning but not the end. You need to resolve all doubts and get a firm conviction that what is being explained makes complete sense. No matter what your questions are, there are answers to all of them and the best answers come from within. This technique of Self-realization has been practiced successfully by people for thousands of years and is only going strong. All possible questions have been asked and answered in multiple ways. Once you get a firm conviction, you need to make it a living reality which is only possible through meticulous spiritual practice. The benefits of doing this are tremendous – both while you are on the journey as well as when you reach the goal. All miseries and sufferings in life pertain to the body-mind and the conflict that arises because of its separation from others. When you realize you are not the body-mind but pure and absolute Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, the only entity that really exists, and that is infinite and eternal, all miseries and sufferings will evaporate and you will reach a state of unlimited permanent bliss!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/153070581415/who-are-you-really)

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26 Aug

A Logical Perspective on God

People have many different perspectives on who or what God is. For some, God has a specific form, for some God has many forms, and for some God is formless. Some believe in multiple Gods and some in One. Some believe their notion of God alone to be correct and all else to be wrong, while some believe their notion of God to be inclusive of all other beliefs. And then there are some who think there is no such entity as God.

Among all these perspectives, the term “God” refers to a Higher Power or a Higher Reality than the world we live in. Some pray to the Higher Power in the hope of making things better for themselves in this world and/or beyond. Some have true unconditional love and devotion towards the Higher Reality as they believe its lot more pure and unchanging compared to anything else in this world and hence much more worthy of love. Some think this world is the only reality and don’t believe in any other Higher Reality.

People who fall in the last category are usually being rational/logical/intellectual about what they believe to be real. They only go by what science has to say about reality, and since science hasn’t proven the existence of a Higher Reality, they don’t believe in it. Before you congratulate yourself for being in this category, let me mention that those who have true unconditional love and devotion for God are much more peaceful and happy in life than those who don’t. I can vouch for this as I have personally experienced all these categories myself up-close. So the intellect could actually be blocking you from experiencing something really wonderful. As Mark Twain said: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that it just ain’t so.”

Instead of letting the intellect be a blocker, it can be used as a tool to explore if the existence of a Higher Reality atleast makes logical sense. Lets see how it actually does:

Say you are taking a walk downtown amidst many shops, malls, etc. and the place is bustling with people, some of them with pets, and there is probably also a small park on the side. You marvel at the tremendous variety of apparel, art pieces, gadgets, devices, etc. on display, admire the architecture of the buildings, and maybe also notice the different types of vehicles moving about. You think to yourself how advanced human intelligence is to have created all these sophisticated things. And then you look at the different humans, animals, trees, plants, etc. that are way more sophisticated than the most advanced machinery ever created by human intelligence. Would you think that all of them were just created by chance without requiring any intelligent cause?

We take for granted a human-like intelligence to be the cause of even a simple piece of pottery, what to say of the magnificent array of galaxies, stars, planets, moons and other celestial objects spread across the entire universe. One may believe that all of these came into existence after a big explosion (as a popular science theory tells us), but it doesn’t take too deep a thinking to wonder if it really appeared just by chance out of nothingness. And even if it somehow did, how come all the “stuff” coming out of this explosion arranged itself so elegantly? One may argue that those are just the different fields, forces and other laws of nature in action. But why do these laws even exist in the first place? By chance? And then how come dead non-living matter suddenly became alive and started sustaining itself and producing more of its kind? Again by chance? And those single living cells just started evolving into complex organisms by chance too? And eventually, just by chance, we have human beings who are capable of looking back at the universe and ponder upon its and their own existence!?

If left to chance, each of the above events would have an extremely low probability of happening, and a long series of them occurring one after the other would be surely considered impossible. In fact, if such events can happen by chance, pretty much anything can happen, e.g. all the water on the planet might dry up instantly or a new moon might appear in the sky suddenly or you might start growing another head this moment or pretty much any such random thing that seems to be impossible. But such things don’t happen and the universe appears to work in a very systematic and lawful manner. All of these indicate the presence of an intelligent cause, making it a way more logical and sensible option than the absence of it. Having an intelligent cause in-turn points to the existence of a Higher Reality that we seem to be unable to perceive, understand or even imagine.

This would all be just plain theory if there weren’t countless people through the ages across different parts of the world who have actually experienced a Higher Reality. These people are not bluffing. A bluff would not last more than a few years or a few decades at max, but we still see majority of the world trusting various scriptures written many thousands of years ago. This is only because the Truths revealed in these scriptures have been repeatedly validated and re-validated over the centuries and millenniums through real experiences of innumerable people. Moreover, the teachings in these scriptures cannot have any underlying selfish motive as they do not benefit anyone else except the student.

Its true that the experiences people have had are very diverse, as is clear from the variety of descriptions of the Higher Reality across different religions and sects. The reason for this diversity is that the Higher Reality is vast (has to be if its the intelligent cause behind this entire universe and more) and the human mind is tiny. So, in most cases, the mind is only able to experience the Reality partially. Hence, people’s accounts of it vary depending on which aspect of Reality they personally experienced. Moreover, different minds have different temperaments and have an inclination towards a certain aspect of Reality, which also results in them having different experiences. Even if there are differences in people’s experiences, they are all inherently consistent. Upanishads, the ancient scriptures of India, are the most comprehensive account of the Higher Reality as they are based on the experiences of hundreds of realized sages and saints as compared to just one (which is the case in most other scriptures of the world). Here is an immaculate talk on the nature of the Higher Reality as per the Upanishads: Defining God

One of the reasons why intellectually-oriented people are put-off by the notion of a Higher Reality is because it usually gets portrayed as God(s) in superhuman-like forms located somewhere within or beyond the universe. Its important to note that these forms are much more effective than something formless in terms of vividly expressing the pure and perfect qualities pertaining to the Higher Reality. They help stimulate tremendous love and devotion within an individual, which is a proven path (called Bhakti Yoga) to directly experience the Higher Reality. But one doesn’t have to blindly believe in these forms as there is another path to directly know the Higher Reality completely based on intellect and knowledge (called Jnana Yoga). The talk I linked above is especially beneficial for this path.

You might be wondering what difference does the knowledge of a Higher Reality make in your life. Apart from the fact that your whole life and everything around you derives from that Higher Reality, here’s the ultimate bombshell answer straight from the Upanishads: That Thou Art (Tat Tvam Asi) – the Supreme Highest Reality is what you really are! You think you are a body-mind-intellect complex but you are gravely mistaken about your own reality. The search for the Higher Reality – which is both transcendent and immanent – is not about explaining the creation or working of the universe, neither is it about experiencing something externally, its about knowing who you truly are. You will eventually discover on this magnificent journey that you are not a living being trying to have a spiritual experience, but that you are an eternal spiritual “being” that seems to be undergoing a life experience. And its high time for you to realize your own true nature which is no less than Infinite Existence, Consciousness, Bliss. That alone can help you overcome the miseries and sufferings of life and bring unlimited peace and joy. It is the highest and the only real purpose of life – nothing else matters!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/149527488930/a-logical-perspective-on-god)

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01 Jul

Spirituality for Atheists

Lot of highly intelligent people in an intellectually-oriented field (like science, technology, engineering, etc.) tend to be atheists i.e. they don’t believe in the existence of God. This is primarily because their understanding of the term “God” is usually limited to some super-natural being(s) sitting in the heavens controlling the universe – as portrayed in many religions. Any person of reasonable intelligence might question the validity of such an entity without any proof, so their disbelief is quite understandable.

One huge mistake they commit though is to equate spirituality with religion. Spirituality is about discovering the absolute Truth or Reality that underlies everything and answering some of the most fundamental questions regarding life and existence, like who am I?, what is the purpose of life?, where did this whole universe come from?, how can I experience enduring and lasting happiness?, etc. Its very inquisitive and experiential in nature. Religion on the other hand is generally a belief system built upon spiritual truths and evolved in a way that makes it easier for the masses to practice. Spirituality serves as the foundation for many major religions in the world like Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, Jainism, etc. It usually starts with someone – like the great ancient saints of India, Vyasa, Buddha, Jesus, Sankara, Mahavir, etc. – discovering and experiencing the Reality through meticulous spiritual practices. They then, out of their unconditional love and compassion, share how others may also discover the Reality for themselves and experience unlimited peace and bliss that gets rid of all miseries and sufferings in life forever. Large number of people tend to follow the philosophy and teachings of these enlightened beings closely for some time and lot of them are able to realize the Truth. But as time passes, with the original teacher long gone, it turns into a religion of blind faith completely hiding, and sometimes even forgetting, its underlying spiritual core. And, since many people don’t dive deep enough to learn the spiritual basis of religion, they take religion to be baseless and stop believing in it and leave spirituality also behind in the process. What a terrible loss!

Spirituality is the science and technology of our internal world, the world of our mind (our thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, intelligence, ego, desires, aversions, tendencies, etc.). Even if you are an atheist, you are surely looking for one and only one thing in life – happiness. If you think about it, everything that you ever do is so that you can feel happy. And happiness exists in one and only one place – the mind. Just like we use mainstream science and technology to better understand and manage the external material world, we need to use spiritual science and technology to systematically understand and manage the internal world of our mind. Without that, its like groping in the dark searching for happiness in the external world and quite often getting hit in the head with various miseries and sufferings in the process. Its quite a pathetic state to be in.

Another common mistake is to equate mind and brain. Brain is a part of the physical body, an organ, that enables the mind to operate. But the mind is something subtle. We may cut open the head and monitor the brain as deeply as we like but we will not be able to tell a single thought, feeling, experience, memory, etc. of the person. We will only be able to correlate activities of the mind with activities in the brain. Hence the science of brain doesn’t serve as a science of mind. The latter needs a very subjective approach which is what spirituality provides.

One might raise a question as to why spirituality and not psychology? Various reasons. Psychology is primarily focused on curing mental illness (like depression, stress, emotional imbalance, etc.) and not on improving the well-being of a normal mind. A new branch of psychology called positive psychology has started exploring that front but its still in its infancy, whereas spirituality has been developed and practiced over thousands of years by innumerable people with incredible results. Moreover, psychology, like any other science, tries to understand the mind in an objective manner whereas there is a lot going on in the mind that is highly subjective in nature which cannot be objectified.

Although there are many spiritual philosophies and most of them can be quite effective, the best I have found is Advaita Vedanta. Its one of the most rational and comprehensive spiritual philosophies. Even some of the cutting-edge science like quantum mechanics, para-psychology, etc. is getting more and more aligned with what Vedanta has already been saying for thousands of years.

Here are few excellent videos that I highly recommend you watch to learn more about Vedanta and Spirituality in general. They shall be worth every minute of your time!

 

Please don’t let your intellect block you from diving into the wonderful world of spirituality. Instead, use the intellect as a tool to analyze and manage your mind through proven processes, and lead a much happier and fulfilling life. Innumerable highly intelligent people have been doing it successfully over thousands of years all over the world and so can you. I wish you all my best!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/146773002410/spirituality-for-atheists)

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11 Jun

Science and Spirituality

There are some profoundly fundamental questions that humans have been pondering upon through the ages. These questions include: Where did all this – the whole world/universe – come from? Was there anything before all this came into existence or did all of it simply sprout out of nothing? Or is it all eternal without a beginning or an end? How did life begin amidst dead matter? What exactly is life? Why does it all even exist? and so on so forth.

Basically, all these questions revolve around the inherent curiosity within humans to know the absolute Truth or Reality underlying everything.

Both Science and Spirituality are geared towards getting to the bottom of it all i.e. to discover the absolute Reality. The key difference being that Science focuses on the external physical world i.e. the world external to our mind (physical body, physical objects, physical particles, physical universe, etc.), whereas Spirituality focuses on the internal world i.e. the world internal to our mind and, deeper within, our spirit.

Both are marvelous means in their own right. One big challenge Science faces though is being limited to physical matter/energy, as that’s the only thing its able to detect, monitor and experiment-with through the help of physical instruments and devices. But there is a whole different world within us – our thoughts, feelings, experiences, memories, intelligence, ego, desires, aversions, tendencies, etc. – that Science has absolutely no way of monitoring directly and objectively. There’s probably lot more going on inside our minds combined than in the whole physical universe! Mainstream Science tries to circumvent this limitation by assuming that everything can be reduced to physical matter/energy and can be explained in terms of particles, forces, etc. It also assumes that the mind and the consciousness we feel inside our head are nothing but an emergent phenomena of certain bio-electrical signals flowing through the neurons and certain chemical reactions occurring inside our brain cells, with absolutely no clue how physical matter that is mostly made-up of fat, protein, carbohydrate and water can pull off such a feat!

What if the absolute Reality is actually beyond physical matter/energy? There is already some scientific evidence of it. For instance, we have discovered that less than 10% of the total mass-energy constituting the whole universe is in the form of physical matter/energy. The rest 90%+ is something called dark matter/energy which is very different from the physical matter/energy we know of. Moreover, there have been numerous incidents of individuals experiencing non-local consciousness stretching beyond the limitations of their physical bodies. There have been thousands of scientific experiments establishing the validity of many such type of experiences and as a result Science is starting to open-up to the possibility that mind and consciousness are separate from physical matter/energy. The problem of figuring out the true nature of consciousness has been termed as the Hard Problem of Consciousness. You may check out some videos on these sites to get a better idea of where Science is with this investigation: http://www.opensciences.org/videos/consciousness-studies and http://www.scienceandnonduality.com/videos.

These are strong indicators that there is way more to Reality than just physical matter/energy and the limitations imposed by them. But do we have to just twiddle our thumbs and wait for Science to discover the Reality with no sense of whether it would ever be able to do so? Since Science has just started to scratch the surface of the non-physical domain, it could take many generations before its able to make any breakthrough. And there are high chances Science might not be able to get anywhere with this investigation as its quite implausible for it to go beyond the physical limitations imposed by nature.

So is there no way we can know the Reality during this life of ours? Thankfully, there is. Countless people throughout the history of humankind have already discovered the absolute Reality. Some great persons have even highlighted clear ways for others to get there too, and its possible to do so in this very life if one is sincere. Basically, this is already a solved problem! How did this miracle happen? Well, some very smart and able people had the ingenuity of looking for the Reality within their internal worlds instead of the external world, thinking that whatever the Reality is it must also be inside of them. Its also possible that they were not really seeking Reality but just looking for peace of mind and simply happened to stumble upon the Reality as they uncovered layers after layers of their mind through deep meditation and eventually transcended even the mind to discover and experience the underlying absolute Reality. And what they experienced was absolutely out of this world – completely beyond intellect and imagination – and it brought them supreme peace and bliss! So some of them, out of their unconditional love and compassion for other beings, shared with the world what they had discovered so that others could also experience it. This is the core of Spirituality.

So, Spirituality is like a fast-track that will get you to Reality much quicker than any other means. In fact it is the only known track as of now!

But why should one even care for Reality? Primarily because all the people who have ever experienced it, irrespective of what spiritual path they took to get there, say one thing in unison – it liberates you from all miseries and sufferings of life forever, and delivers you to a state of infinite eternal peace and bliss! And no matter who you are or what you are, you are surely looking for one and only one thing in life – happiness. If you think about it, everything that you ever do is so that you can feel happy. But how flickery this happiness usually is. After so much pain-staking effort does it come and then vanishes away so quickly. Spirituality is the solution to this problem. Its the holy grail that brings enduring happiness while you are on the journey and limitless ever-lasting happiness once you get to the destination!

Like Science, some of the spiritual paths are based on reason and involve lot of observation and experimentation, but just focused on the internal world instead of the external world. One such path is Advaita (Non-Dual) Vedanta that provides a very crisp understanding of the Reality. As Science is diving deeper, its getting more and more aligned with what Vedanta has already been saying for thousands of years! (I ll be writing a separate article on this topic)

Lot of people consider Spirituality to be superstition. But after understanding it better, it almost feels like many things Science tells us are superstitious as they are just based on plain theories and assumptions pulled out of some human’s intellect! The essence of Science is its openness. But rejecting something that countless people have experienced just because the limited human intellect is not able to grasp it is utter close-mindedness. I hope you don’t fall into that trap and give-up your freedom to explore the Reality for yourself. May the force be with you!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/143641274465/science-and-spirituality)

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04 Jun

Debugging the Mind

Its hard to find an unhappy baby, whereas its very easy to find unhappy adults. Something specific has to be done to make a baby unhappy. On the other hand, something specific has to be done to make an adult happy. Same thing happens to all of us as we grow from innocence to experience. Something affects the functioning of our mind over time causing all sorts of misery and suffering. Its important to debug these problems in order to lead a life of enduring peace, harmony and bliss.

These fundamental human problems are not new to the modern world. Mankind has been facing them for a very long time and a large number of intellectual and enlightened people have thoroughly analyzed, root-caused and solved these problems over thousands of years. All we need is to pay heed!

As per them, every source of unhappiness, every reason for misery and suffering, every cause of a negative emotion like anger, greed, lust, delusion, arrogance, jealousy, etc. – basically each and every problem in life boils down to five impurities (Kleshas) of the mind. These five impurities exist in every human mind in varying degrees and every affliction originates from one or more of them. They are present since birth and keep increasing as we grow older. That’s why even children are not the epitome of happiness. That entitlement is reserved only for those who are able to get rid of these impurities completely.

These five impurities are:

  • Avidya: Avidya is the ignorance of our true nature – the pure inner Self that is an infinite ocean of peace, harmony, bliss, freedom and knowledge. Its not an intellectual ignorance but an experiential ignorance, which means that only having an intellectual knowledge of our true nature does not remove the ignorance, we have to actually experience it. This ignorance is the root-cause of the other four impurities. Just imagine, if you are able to experience this eternal, pure, blissful Self, all problems of life will evaporate instantly!
  • Asmita: Asmita is egoism that gets developed by identifying our selves as the body and mind since we are ignorant of our true Self. The pure Self can never be bruised but the ego can be easily bruised causing misery. This false “I” soon expands to “my” and “mine” and forms various internal and external attachments like “my prestige”, “my title”, “my money”, “my family”, “my people”, “my house”, “my car”, “my property”, “my religion”, “my country”, etc. These attachments increase the chances of misery even more because when any of them is hurt, the false “I” hurts.
  • Raga: Raga is attraction or liking towards an external entity (person/object/situation) that is a source of pleasure for us. These likings evolve into desires and cravings as we constantly seek happiness from the outside world. And whenever its not fulfilled, we suffer.
  • Dvesa: Dvesa is repulsion or dislike towards an external entity (person/object/situation) that is a source of pain for us. These dislikes evolve into aversions and hatred as we constantly try to avoid things that bring us unhappiness. And whenever we encounter such a thing, we suffer.
  • Abhinivesa: Abhinivesa is clinging to life. Every human being, in fact every living creature, wants to continue to live forever. Even though we are very well aware that the body and mind have to perish one day, we still have a strong inclination to keep living. This results in a fear of death and hence misery from anything that could indicate death.

 

Take any problem in life and try to get to the bottom of it and you will arrive at one or more of these five impurities. E.g. Whenever you are angry, its either because something you want is not happening or something you don’t want is happening. Its all a play of likings, dislikes and egoism. Whenever you are anxious and worried, its because you are thinking too much whether something you want will happen or not or whether something you don’t want will happen. Again, a play of likings, dislikes and attachments. Whenever you feel jealous, its because someone else has something you want. Again, egoism and likings. Whenever you are afraid, its usually because of the fear of losing something you like or losing life itself. Whenever you are in physical pain, its because you are identifying yourself too much with the body. And so every affliction invariably originates from these impurities.

This is known as the philosophy of Kleshas. Most major Indian spiritual texts like Bhagavad Gita, Ashtavakra Gita, etc. as well as teachings of Gautama Buddha talk about it in one form or the other, but its best elaborated in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras.

These impurities can be removed by a meticulous process of purification involving austerity, self-discipline, self-study, contemplation and meditation. It can also be done through complete self-surrender to the Divinity. Patanjali calls this process Kriya Yoga (not to be mistaken by the Kriya Yoga popularized by Paramahansa Yogananda). This Kriya Yoga is a part of the overarching Raja Yoga.

We can notice results as soon as we start removing these impurities and life becomes increasingly more wonderful as we keep making progress. Along with working on these impurities, if we also keep filling our minds with a purity – love for all – we naturally start developing all the attributes of goodness (Sattvik attributes) listed in an earlier blog post. This process also helps with Self-realization or the experience of the pure inner Self which is the only way to completely annihilate Avidya – the ultimate root-cause of all impurities. And its all under our control as all the changes have to be brought within ourselves. We are not dependent on anyone or anything for it. But remember, its a marathon not a sprint! Happy Debugging!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/123120544220/debugging-the-mind)

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02 Jun

Purpose of Life

Everything we do in life – how we spend each and every moment of our life – has been neatly divided into four categories in the Indian scriptures. These are known as the four Purusarthas (or objects of human pursuit) and include:

  • Kama: Kama encapsulates all forms of pleasures and enjoyments we try to obtain through our six senses i.e. eyes, ears, tongue, nose, skin and mind. This includes nice things to see (like good views, images, etc.), hear (like good music, talks, etc.), taste (like good food, beverages, etc.), smell (like good scents, perfumes, etc.), touch (like good materials, etc.) and think (like good food for thought, memories, fantasies, etc.). All of these fall under the category of Kama.
  • Artha: Artha is all forms of means that we try to acquire to fulfill other aspects of our life. This includes money, status, property, health, security, family, etc.
  • Dharma: Dharma is righteousness – both towards ourselves as well as anything apart from ourselves, like other humans and living beings, society, environment, etc. Anything we believe is “right” based on our value system (morals, ethics, disciplines, etc.) falls under the category of Dharma.
  • Moksha: Moksha is liberation. It is brought about by discovering our true self through self-realization or enlightenment. It answers many deeper questions of life like who am I?, why am I here?, what is this universe?, where did it all come from?, etc. in a process of inquiry into the absolute truth and reality of the whole existence, and leads to ultimate bliss, peace, harmony, freedom and knowledge.

 

A vast majority of people spend a very significant part of their time towards Kama and Artha, a little time towards Dharma and hardly any time towards Moksha. There are exceptions but this is usually the norm. However, the scriptures always lay down the Purusarthas in the following order:

dharma artha kama moksha

First and foremost is Dharma which means everything we do in life should first be righteous before we even proceed further. Out of all activities that pass through the filter of Dharma, some must be performed to acquire Artha or means to sustain life but only to the extent necessary, and the remaining activities should be focused towards Moksha while not getting trapped in Kama.

Its important to note that Kama is a trap that a vast majority of people fall into, which makes them spend most of their free time and resources running after sensory pleasures that prevents them from focusing on Moksha. Some people eventually realize that Kama does not provide the level of satisfaction they inherently seek and they come to learn about Moksha, but most never get to that stage. Even among those who know about Moksha, very few actually focus on it.

There are so many under-privileged who can’t even start thinking any of this due to severe lack of resources and support, making their very existence extremely difficult. And then there are countless other non-human living beings who can’t even think. So one should consider oneself supremely blessed if one can even come close to thinking of Moksha!

Why is Moksha important? For the simple reason that by not being one’s real self one can never be fully satisfied and will always find something missing deep within. Hence its very important to identify one’s absolutely true self and be firmly established in it. History is laden with accounts of people who have successfully attained self-realization in the past and they all have stressed the supreme importance of Moksha. Not focusing on Moksha only results in a discontented life. Only through Moksha can one attain the ultimate level of satisfaction, peace and bliss while leading a life of enduring happiness, and be free from this extremely arduous cycle of life and death that is essentially made of miseries and sufferings.

So please don’t let this opportunity called life pass in vain without even working towards its actual purpose!

(This article was cross-posted from happinessjourney.net/post/127875498570/purpose-of-life)

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