Sages and seers from time immemorial have held that the Truth is beyond reason, transcends the boundary of the physical world and can only be perceived at an intuitive level. Nevertheless, this particular effort seeks to reflect the Truth in the still waters of a dispassionate rational analysis.
A rational approach, based on physical phenomena, may have many limitations but the desire to abandon it is an act of intellectual laziness. While it is true that many mystics have perceived the truth intuitively, it may be more satisfying to take the intuitive approach as a matter of choice and not of necessity.
This analysis begins with the principles of Advaita Vedanta and maps them against known facts from the world of science. Unlike past efforts, we have neither tried to invoke Quantum Mechanics and other forms of modern physics – which are both dated and sometimes as unprovable as religious beliefs themselves – nor used the barren sterility of Artificial Intelligence. The analysis may not be logically complete. We admit that there could be gaps in the chain of argument but we have not taken shelter in the beliefs and mythlogy of religion. Instead we have used mathematics itself to argue that such gaps can never be completely eliminated and we need to learn to live with them. Only at the very last stage – when we are at the edge of the rational and looking at the vista of the infinite – do we invoke the grace of the divine. But even this is not really necessary. We introduce this element as a matter of choice, for personal satisfaction.
We have created a pattern of thoughts by connecting a number of apparently unrelated ideas, namely ..
• The principles of Advaita Vedanta as enunciated by Sankara in the 8th century
• The plausibility of illusions and non-material information transfer
• The computational metaphor of the Universal Turing Machine
• The persistent and evolving nature of the ‘Selfish Gene’
• Godel’s Theorem of Incompleteness
in a manner that is unique and has not been attempted in the past. Without being dogmatic and parochial about the greatness of the the Hindu relegion, we show how this ancient philosophy is not only relevent in the contemporary environment of rational science but how it has infact anticipated thoughts and ideas that have now appeared twelve hundred years later.
The lure of the unknown is irresistible. Any frontier is a challenge for the intrepid few who will want to push it back. This is the spirit of enquiry and enterprise that has taken human civilisation across oceans and now into the deepest reaches of interplanetary space. The boundaries of the physical sciences are no less challenging -- can they be pushed back to include the ultimate truth ? Even if the goal proves elusive, the journey itself is worth the effort. And as we walk along this path it is but natural that we meet fellow travellers with whom it is a pleasure to exchange our thoughts.
Hence instead of using the platform of the we-know-all discourse, we have used the format of a dialogue between a seeker and a sceptic to first articulate, then challenge and finally reaffirm the mosaic of ideas that add up to this unusual image of the Truth.
The last chapter, the thirteenth, is different in style, tone and tenor. After twelve chapters of patient equivalence, of trying to see and address the point of view of the sceptic and carefully constructing logical arguments to defend the primary hypothesis, the last chapter dumps it all in the cauldron of faith, belief and conjecture. If all the logic that has been offered so far has still not been able to convince the reader, then in all probability he or she will never be convinced. So why try any harder ? On the other hand, if by then the reader is sympathetic to the point of view that is being articulated, then it is more likely than not that the he or she would have little difficulty in accepting the idea.
So the final chapter replaces dialogue with didacticism. It is a straightforward essay with a simple, unambiguous, though possibly controversial, message that articulates a specific world view. This view could have been delivered directly as a sermon or a discourse but we hope that its acceptability will be far higher if, and only if, one has read through the dialogues in the first twelve chapters.
To borrow a phrase from Tavleen Singh, the author believes that this book explains how the cosmos works. If someone else has a better explanation then please let us know. We are willing to listen.
Preface to the Second Edition
Like the fifth postulate of Euclid, the twelfth chapter of this book has been a source of discomfort both for me as well as for some of my friends and readers. The need to introduce the Divine to plug a loophole in my logic – an inevitable loophole, given the limitations of the Gödel’s Theorem of Incompleteness – was rather irritating and yet it seemed that there is nothing I could do about it. Then I met a friend who alerted me to the existence of a very simple concept that was functionally analogous and one that would allow me to bridge the gap. But does it work ? and have I succeeded in doing so ? That question is best answered by the reader I suppose.
Technology has moved significantly since the first edition and nowhere is this more evident than in the area of 3D displays. Direct connectivity between the human brain and a digital device has also improved dramatically but we are yet to reach the level of maturity that is necessary to blur the border between the real and illusory as envisaged in “Are You Real”, the experimental movie referred to in the book. In a pre-Google era, I would have tried to list down some references to these technologies but today I refrain from doing so because the reader can easily locate more recent references by searching on the web.
The final and perhaps the most important reason for this edition is that the print-on-demand technology with which this book is printed is now available in India and so the total cost of procuring this book – including delivery – is now far less. Hence after acknowledging my gratitude to Lulu.com for introducing me to this technology I have now moved over to Pothi.com who I am sure would be doing as good a job in printing and delivering this book.
Dolyatra / Holi : 19th March 2011 – a Supermoon day !