Friday, April 20, 2007

12 - G O D

I thought that you were trying to establish Advaita Vedanta on the basis of reason and logic … so why do you need to bring in God ? Religion ? Divinity ?

You were right, that had indeed been my intention. That was why I was using the analogy of computers, the Universal Turing Machine and then the genome … but are you fully convinced ?

Conviction is a relative concept. I have been following your logic and prima facie I cannot find any loopholes as yet … but still ..

Exactly, there is this feeling of incompleteness …

For which you have cleverly positioned your Theorem of Incompleteness as a way out …

Which may be adequate from the perspective of logic but that is a celebration of Incompleteness. Should we not be looking for completeness, of certainty.

But you, yourself, have just said that this is impossible …

It is impossible if we choose to restrict ourselves in the domain of logic, of rationality.

What if I am happy with that ?

Then you are blessed, I am not happy with cold logic. I am still troubled with doubt. Am I right in what I have been telling you – and in a sense, telling myself.

So what do you do next ?

Where do you think, in our history, our mythology, have we come across such doubt ?

Where ?

At Kurukshetra, when Arjun was troubled with doubt and turned to his friend Krishna for advice.

And of course Krishna gave him the Song of the Divine, the Bhagavad Gita … and Arjun was convinced enough to pick up his arms and engage with the forces of evil.

But if you read the Gita closely, and especially if you regard Prof P Lal as much as I do, you would realize that Krishna almost failed in his mission ..

The mission to convince Arjun ? But he did not …

Well for the first ten chapters Krishna used every possible logical argument that he could put together, and he being the epitome of erudition, the logic was pretty good – to say the least.

What happened then ?

He failed. At the end of the tenth chapter and despite everything that Krishna had said, Arjun had still not picked up his bow.

So what did he do ?

When Krishna realized that he was at the end of his logic and he had still not convinced his friend, he threw away his logic and applied magic !

Magic ?

Of course, the eleventh chapter, Vishwaroop Darshan, The Multi-Cosmic Revelation, call it what you will … but it was direct application of what we would now say is magic. He used magic to frighten and then convince Arjun when he saw that logic was not good enough. And after that, Arjun was never the same again !! He became a believer.

So how does that relate to what we have been discussing so far.

We have been following the path of reason and logic and reached a point where we are, to a large extent, convinced that Sankara must have been right when he advocated the Principles of Advaita Vedanta but then deep down there is this feeling of incompleteness.

A sense of unease ?

Yes a sense of unease that makes us wonder that perhaps all this could certainly be true but is it really true ? And we also know that any more discussion, any more debate, any more study will not lead us any further … it is as if someone has said: thus far and no farther !

So what do you do next ?

You crave a direct darshan … that, for the lack of a better word, I would say is like a flash of revelation .. and if you have it, you have it and then you are there.

What is this flash of revelation ?

For Arjun it was the Vishwaroop Darshan, for every other saint or mystic it is an intensely emotional and intuitive – but definitely NOT rational, experience of extreme ecstasy, of bliss.

Ecstasy, bliss ?

I don’t have the words for it because perhaps there are no words to describe the state. Had it been possible to use words – that is grammar and vocabulary, to describe or at least circumscribe this state of mind, this state of awareness, then it would have of course moved back into the domain of reason and logic. We would have been able to discuss, analyze and describe it in the style and manner that we have been used to since we began this dialogue.

But if we cannot do that why should be we believe it ?

Because you have finally run out of all other options. I have taken you to the edge of what is possible …

But after that am I on my own ?

Perhaps or perhaps not. If you had a Guru, like the way Vivekananda had Ramkrishna, perhaps he could have induced you to experience that state of ecstasy of union with the final absolute … or perhaps if you were the Buddha you would have, on your own, experienced that state under the peepal tree.

Is that true of all mystics ?

I would say so … even mystics of other traditions like Christ and Mohammad have had these intense visions as of course have numerous sadhus and sants in this country, since the edge of history, right down to fairly contemporary figures like Aurobindo and Ramakrishna himself.

But why is it that these people have not left us vivid descriptions of this state ?

They have and that is what we read about when we read about these people but as I have said, words – that are necessarily limited to by their rules of grammar and logic are not enough. At best they could help us in two ways.

What two ways ?

Words can at best give us a very approximate description of these states OR they could tell us about the path to the state. With this we get to know the path … but the difference is that while they have actually walked the path we get to learn about the path ! These descriptions are like maps of a new and uncharted territory, not the actual territory itself.

Is there no way for us to access what they know ?

We can always access it .. but we would never experience or understand what they had experienced or understood.

If language is a barrier then is there anything else that can be used to depict these ?

Depict ? Yes … Experience ? Unfortunately no !

So how does one at least depict this ?

Since we began with Sankara, let me use his depiction …

What does all this mean ?

We are well outside the domain of meaning .. we are in the realm of pure experience.

Then at least tell me what this represents.

This is the Sri Yantra as described by Sankara in his classic poem Saundaryalaharee[1]. This visual representation is a potent symbol of the ultimate union of male energy (ascending triangles) and female energy (descending) and represents the expansion of consciousness through the physical universe and the cosmos as a whole. Sri Yantra is said to be the Cosmos in Abstract Form or the Matrix of Creation. The fifteen letters[2] are the aural representation. It is as if he is giving us two views of his ultimate experience.

You talk of the male and the female so is there an element of sexuality in this ?

Sexuality is a good handle to represent the interaction, the intercourse, the intermingling, the coming together of two very powerful components that result in the Universe that is known to us today and the analogy of a man and woman comes in handy.

Is this related to the concept of Purusha and Prakriti ? Of Shiva and Shakti ?

These are allied and overlapping concepts. Shiva represents pure knowledge but it is knowledge that is incapable of any action unless coupled with Shakti, the active principle.

I remember, when we were discussing the genome you had said that the patterns that we had observed had an uncanny resemblance to the duality of the Shiva Shakti paradigm. Shiva is knowledge but is incapable of action unless it is coupled with the Shakti the active principle. Just as ..
* Protein – or the phenotype, represents the ability of the organism to perform actual action
* Gene – or the genotype, represents the knowledge of how to perform an action

But why, if at all, would Shiva and Shakti be bothered – if I may say so – act out this drama ? this leela ? and create the illusion of this illusory universe ?

The phenotype represents Kriya or action. The genotype represents Gyan or knowledge but what could perhaps connect the two is the third element of the Triad – Ichcha or Desire ?

So we have Gyan, Kriya and Ichcha … Knowledge, Action and Desire. I can understand Knowledge and Action but why have you suddenly introduced Desire ?

Because of the

The imagery of Kali on Shiva

The conscious intellect, that we have tried to describe so far, perceives the world through the five physical senses. In this it sees the sun, the moon, the landscape, rivers and forests, people and institutions built around people – families, societies and nations. This is the first step. Then he leverages this knowledge and the powers of reasoning to deduce what lies behind the physical world. Some “see” the laws of physics and mathematics, and he deduces the “reason” behind seemingly magical events likes thunder and lightning, heat and cold, health and disease. Others delve into the depths of the mind and seek similar explanations for the behavior of individuals and collectives.

There are others, and it is these others who are the most interesting to us, who go even further. Pushing past the limitations of the five physical senses as well as the limitations imposed by rational inquiry, they explore the uncharted terrain that lies beyond what can be described as the physical landscape or the mental mindscape. These are mystics who have access to dimensions beyond those described in time and space.

But the images that they perceive remain with them and them alone. They cannot bring these images back and show them to – or share them with – others who have not yet acquired the ability to perceive them. Or if they do, the images get distorted beyond recognition and are reduced to representations that may serve as a pointer to what it seeks to represent. Consider ..
* If a three-dimensional sphere is represented on a two dimensional paper, it either looks like a circle or suffers from the errors that are inevitable in cartographic projections.
* A photograph of an event that extends in time, for example the cascade of a waterfall, presents a representative snapshot without conveying the sense of time.
* A person who is blind from birth cannot perceive the beauty of a rainbow or the sunset just as one who is tone deaf cannot appreciate the nuances of musical raaga.
* An illiterate person cannot understand the news as it appears in a newspaper. He sees it as a series of alphabetic symbols separated by punctuation marks and white space.
* One who is not trained in mathematics and physics cannot appreciate the significance or rather “beauty” of the Theory of Relativity. He sees the representation as a series of funny symbols.

These are the fortunate few who acquire the ability to perceive the reality behind the representation through various exercises, exertions and perhaps by grace of the reality itself that is being sought to be seen.

But whatever is it that they see is something that gets grossly distorted when it is brought back and represented in terms of the symbols and images that are used in the “normal” world of rational intellect.

Is that why we have these fantastic images of gods and goddesses and descriptions of their supernatural powers ?

Yes, but let us try to see or conjecture the nature of the reality – the face of the divine – by extrapolating from the distorted representation that is available to us. This is like ..
* Understanding the nature of a sphere by looking at its circular representation together with the shadow that is also portrayed along and “using” our knowledge of the third dimension.
* Understanding the Theory of Relativity by looking at the Greek symbols and “using” our knowledge of other branches of mathematics and physics.

It is been our premise that there is one and only one Reality and that the observer and the observed is a part of a self similar pattern that pervades every possible dimension of space, time and other as yet undefined dimensions.

The part sees itself as distinct from the whole as long it is deficient in knowledge inputs. As it becomes aware of more and more facts – as its “ignorance” decreases – it acquires a clearer and clearer picture of the whole …. And this is where it proceeds towards convergence.

It is as if a small balloon is being blown up inside a far larger balloon. As the smaller balloon expands with knowledge, the patterns on its surface become more and more similar to the patterns on the surface of the larger balloon. A three-dimensional balloon with knowledge being represented as patterns on its quasi-two-dimensional surface is of course a poor “representation” of the true phenomenon. We need to extrapolate it to an N dimensional balloon expanding with the knowledge represented on its quasi-[N-1] dimensional “surface”.

At the point of convergence, often referred to as revelation or samadhi, the smaller balloon becomes as large as the bigger, outer balloon, and the patterns on the two match exactly with each other. That is yoga, the union of the individual with the universal – the Atman with the Brahman. The nature of the seeker is identical to the nature of the that, which is being sought. tat tvam asi … shivoham !

That is nice. The small balloon that has become large enough to converge with the big balloon is very happy – it is in a state of absolute bliss. But what about the rest of us ? the other smaller balloons that are still trying to inflate ourselves with knowledge but have still many years – or lives – to go ? What is the face of the divine – albeit the distorted representation of the face – that we see ?

We see the representations that the enlightened ones have condescended to show towards us. And we interpret these representations in terms of the concepts and symbols that are available to us through our understanding of the physical world.
* It is as if we see the circle that represents the glowing sun and try to interpret it in terms of the yellow fruit that we call an orange.
* It is as if we read the musical scores of Beethoven and Bach and try to relate them to the flickering oscilloscopes of a physics laboratory.
* It is as if we believe – or rather we do not doubt – that Einstein is right in his Theory of Relativity … if it was wrong, then other scientists would have disproved him …. But we have to be satisfied with staring at the series of Greek letters on the printed page.

So we peek into the smoky mirror and hope to see the nature of Reality. And what do we see ? We see a world that stretches into the distance – as far as our senses and intellect can perceive. A universe that is infinite in both and time and space and in all other possible dimensions. It is infinite and yet we note that it is composed of an infinitely large number of cycles of creation, stability and dissolution. We represent this flickering image of flux and continuity as, or rather map it to, the only similar image that we know that all living and conscious intellects are familiar with : the image of birth and death.

We grab this image of birth and death and hope and pray that it is indeed a reasonable representation of what others who are more advanced than us have perceived. And in this we are perhaps lucky. Those who have seen the real image have assured us that Reality is indeed self-similar and a part of the picture has quite a bit of similarity with the whole. Hence we feel reasonably safe to represent the ultimate Reality in terms of a continuous timeline of birth and death … or rather creation and destruction.

From this perspective, the image of Kali on top of Shiva is very appropriate.

This image of Kali – standing on top of Shiva and wearing ornaments of human organs is one of the most enigmatic if not the most controversial images that has come down to us from the dawn of recorded history. In fact it is one of the most powerful representations of the creation of the universe. Shiva represents the absolute and undifferentiated Reality – the Brahman, without form and without shape. When it desires to project itself in a physical form, this desire manifests itself creative principle, the power and energy represented by Shakti.

The act of creation is represented in the one and only primordial creative process known to man – the act of sexual union. The naked image of Kali poised on top of Shiva is actually an image of this primordial desire – the Ichcha – to be creative, to create, and this is depicted as the act of sex with the woman on top, first manifesting and then controlling and guiding the creative process or the translation of the intangible truth into its sensible form in the physical world. The iconic image represents the burning desire of the Absolute to reveal itself, revel in its revelation, that is the reason for the existence of the illusory world.

This stark image of wanton desire is too difficult for most people to handle in a social and family environment. Hence adepts who have perceived this representation have tried to sanitize the image through stylistic adaptations.

The celibate vedantists led by Sankara have sought refuge in the geometric forms of the Sri Yantra. That abstract diagram bypasses the overt sexuality of the representation by using five downward pointing triangles – that stand for Shakti, the woman on top – superimposed on four upward pointing triangles that represent the otherwise inert Shiva.

Those who are a little less inhabited, have retained the familiar icons of man and woman but have diluted the impact by having Kali stand on her beloved Shiva. However there are quite a few extant images that show Shiva, in a state of arousal– a throwback to the original image of the sexual union. Also most hymns of Kali have a fleeting reference to her preference for viparit rataturang – the reverse sexual position with the woman on top.

I know that you believe in simplicity but are you not being too simplistic here ? How can something as profound as the ultimate reality be similar to something as mundane as the antics of human beings, who are after all just one kind of life, one small planet, circling one of a million stars in the known universe ? Is this an extension of the anthromorphic principle that makes us see everything – including the divine gods and goddesses – in our own image of men and women.

I agree. Perhaps the Divine is something very much different – in fact so different that none of our analogies apply. But then again, it might not be so !

You have just contradicted yourself !

I suppose we have to learn to live with ambiguities and contradictions until we have achieved convergence with singularity.

Fine, so tell me why you believe that this anthromorphic images are not totally erroneous.

Because I believe in the principle of self similarity .. or to put in the words of William Blake : “ .. see the world in a grain of sand, and heaven in a wild flower .. hold eternity in the palm of your hand and infinity in an hour”

Can you please be a little less obscure !

Perhaps there is some similarity in nature between the microcosm and the macrocosm ..

That is what our atomic physicists thought when they tried to model the structure of the atom in terms of celestial bodies. Electrons circling around the nucleus were said to be analogous to the planets circling around the sun – but that model was wrong. Quantum mechanics came and wiped out that neat analogy.

But there are other examples of self similarity .. particularly in the area of fractals.

You mean those colourful images that people generate on computers.

They are beautiful no doubt but if you study fractals carefully, you will realize that they have some unusual features.

Like what ?

You take a part of the image and blow it up, expand it and you will see that in the expanded region a new pattern is emerging.

So ?

And if certain conditions are met, then this new pattern will be very similar, if not identical to, the original pattern that was being expanded.

Coincidence ?

No, pure mathematics. These patterns are created through mathematical equations and if the parameters of the equation are appropriate then the expanded part of the pattern will be identical to the original pattern. And this scalability is infinite. You could go up blowing-up and expanding even the secondary pattern and then a third pattern identical to the second ( and so the first ) will appear.

So in a way you could use one part of the pattern and use it as a model of what the pattern looks like deep inside … you don’t have to go all the way into the heart of the pattern.

Exactly and that is what Blake meant when he said that it was possible to “ … see the world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower …”

So you say that a picture of a god or goddess that looks like a human being is not all that erroneous.

We should make due allowances for poetic license, for example having multiple arms could be rationalized as a way of depicting the ability to do multiple things – multi-tasking in computer jargon – and having multiple heads could be an analogy for different moods, emotions and personalities.

So coming back to the iconography of Shiva on Kali, you claim that it is a representation of the universal creative process.

Creation – and its representation as sexual union – is of course just half the story. The world is in a state of flux as it goes through cycles of creation and destruction.

Cycles of creation and destruction ? Where do you get that ?

You have heard of the Big Bang and the subsequent expansion of the universe. There is a whole school of thought and thinkers who have been debating on this and there is a point of view that states that the Universe will at some point of time stop expanding and then collapse back into the Big Crunch.

This is highly contentious topic among physicists and you really cannot say one way or the other.

Not only is it a very contentious subject but it is a very difficult and complex subject and I do not wish to treat it cursorily here. I do not enough about it. What I do know is that the discovery of the Dark Matter has made it more likely for physicists to accept the view that the universe will ultimately collapse back to the Big Crunch.

Dark Matter ? As dark as Kali herself ?

That could be a coincidence. Dark matter refers to matter that is invisible and inaccessible to most instruments of detection – but I would agree that is a very fortuitous if not eerie coincidence. And then again, scientists have postulated something called Dark Energy !

Another coincidence ? The darkness of Kali ?

Strangely enough, Dark Energy is postulated as a repulsive force as opposed to the attractive tendencies of gravitation. So while Dark Matter tends to cause a gravitational contraction to a state of intense density, Dark Energy is expected to push things apart and rip apart the universe explosively. Perhaps that is how the Big Bang happened – when Dark Energy set things in motion and now it is up to Dark Matter to bring things back under control.

So the future of the universe is a play between Dark Matter and Dark Energy.

Could be but do remember, for us Darkness is not evil. For us it is the colour of Kali, the colour of Krishna.

Are you seriously suggesting that there is a link between our perception of Kali and these Dark theories.

I would not dare to ! We are at the outer periphery of rational knowledge. Everything is in a state of absolute flux. The scientific theories are in their infancy, they have not been tested to the extent of Relativity or Quantum Theory. Our own perceptions of the Divine are based on second or third person reports handed down by a few adepts and mystics. In this tumultuous environment I can only be talking in terms of beliefs or conjectures. Nothing more.

So you say that the universe goes through this cycle of creation and destruction – just as it is described in mythology.

Yes and the destructive aspect of this iconography is of course very evident in the violent visage of Kali as it cuts and chops down the world through the passage of Time or Kala. What is created must be destroyed and s/he who is the creator is also the destroyer.

That is why we have the image of simultaneous creation and destruction. We see Kali in her lurid form, dripping blood and gore as she goes about her task of destruction even as she is participation in the creative process of sexual union. Not only does she destroy the tangible objects of the physical world, there are images where she is shown destroying herself – in fact the world that she represents. The most telling image that portrays this is found in the representation of the Chinnamasta – where she chops off her own head and drinks her own blood to rejuvenate herself.

This recursive image of creation and destruction, the act of giving birth and the act of killing is perhaps the closest representation of the illusory world that we seem to inhabit.

You had been pretty consistent with your logical analysis but now at the end of this analysis, I feel that you are losing your grip, the clear stream of reason that was flowing so strongly through the mountainous peaks is now losing its way in muddy confusion of the delta just as it was about to reach the deep blue sea of eternal bliss.

My friend, we have no options left. Logical analysis has brought us so far but can take us no further.

But finally at the end of the day this is all dry theory. How do I finally get to see the Face of the Divine ?

There are many ways and paths .. irrespective of which one you choose travel on, there is one thing that is perhaps certainly necessary and possibly sufficient to ensure that you reach your goal.

And what is that ?

The Grace[3] of the Divine.
.................... ( the following section has been added in the second edition)
Oh dear, that is most unfortunate.

Why ? What is it that is unfortunate here ?

The fact that you have to invoke the Divine to solve this fantastic puzzle. It reminds me of the blank square that is made available in Scrabble to help you complete a word when you have all the letters in place except for one.

But we do lack that one letter ! And as I have pointed out – or as Gödel has pointed out – we will always be one letter short and there is nothing that we can do about it.

Falling back on the Divine is actually so medieval. It is as ridiculous and as unjustified as the Indian Parliament passing regressive laws on caste-based reservations, exempting them from judicial review and then taking shelter behind the mandate of the people which is a crude analogue of the divine right of medieval monarchs. Sorry, but if you invoke the Divine then you have lost the moral right to talk to me.

Point taken, so let me give you an alternative – what if I equate the medieval concept of the Grace of the Divine to the modern concept of Probability ?

So you mean to say that it is chance that rules the world ?

Well, probability plays a very important role in modern physics. Quantum mechanism has its roots in Heisenberg’s Principle of Uncertainty and Schrödinger’s equations but we are not talking about such matters here.

Then why probability ?

I invoked the Divine – or perhaps from now on I should use divine, without the capital D – to say that without it, it is impossible to perceive and experience that final truth, the ultimate pattern. But perhaps I can reconfigure that statement and say that – other things being equal – it is simply a matter of luck for the person who has the chance, the opportunity to experience that flash of enlightenment.

You mean that mystics have simply been lucky ?

Think about it. For anything that you infer as the Grace of the Divine there will be someone who will point out that it could just as well have been the Smile of Lady Luck – the choice of viewpoint is yours and it does not matter which one you pick. Functionally, they are identical !

Believers will kill you if you say that ?

That might have been true in the middle ages but we are a little more safe today. But if you look back on your life you would find that most of what you have experienced or achieved can be attributed to some cause …

Most, but not all. There might have been inexplicable events, both good or bad – like getting a fantastic job or losing a loved one – that defy reason and logic, and we refer to these as Acts of God.

But they could as jolly well be because of pure chance. You might have got that fantastic job simply because you ran into a person whom you knew at the airport ? Or your loved one had the misfortune or bad luck to board an aircraft that crashed. Both events can be explained as EITHER an act of god OR a matter of chance.

So are you saying that destiny is the secular equivalent of the divine ?

When we started on this journey we never had any interest in the divine and neither do we have any now. All that we were looking for is an explanation or a model that relates the external, physical world with its image as perceived in the inner world of intelligent consciousness. We have built this model on the basis of various thoughts and ideas that we have been discussing so long. But in the end we realise that our final picture – the jigsaw that we are trying to assemble – would always be one piece short !

That means we have all the necessary pieces in place but they are not sufficient. So how do we achieve that final sufficiency ?

Through a last piece called G O D which is a label that can be interpreted as the Grace of the Divine or the Gears of Destiny.

And what happens when this last piece falls into place ?

We comprehend, understand, experience or get a glimpse of the contours of the eternal !


[1] Verse 11, Saundaryalahari of Sankaracharya, translated by V K Subramanian, Motilal Banarsidass (1977), ISBN : 81-208-0202-0

[2] Verse 32

[3] Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Daya-roopena Sangsthita, Namastasyai, Namastasyai Namastasyai Namoh Namaha - – Salutations to the Devi who abides in all beings in the form of Grace

1 comment:

0 said...

It is not possible to solve a N dimensional problem from N-m space where m>0