Volume 7 - Issue 10
OCTOBEr 2009
Other Articles
IN QUEST OF INFINITY – 29
By Prof. G. Venkataraman

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. I am sorry I missed out last month; I tried my best to “pay my monthly instalments” but as days pass, I find that these so called “easy monthly instalments” are becoming increasingly difficult to meet! Too many things to do, especially as the grand and much anticipated 85th Birthday of Bhagavan is fast approaching. Nevertheless, I was most gratified by the enthusiastic mails I received, and by the fact that at last, readers were beginning to see that there was a purpose in the kind of rambling tour I gave earlier. In this issue, I wish to dwell further on that “purpose”.

Reconciling the Inner and Outer Worlds

 

If you reflect carefully, I spent over a year, dragging you all over the Cosmos and into the very depths of the atom, pointing out as often as possible the glory of God in the Physical Universe.

Where the Universe is concerned, God [as we often imagine Him to be] remains hidden from view; however, wherever we look, His power is quite evident and in so many different ways too, some of them truly breath-taking.

And then suddenly, after keeping you busy with the “OUTSIDE” I said, “Now look INSIDE! What do you find? The Infinite God!”


So the question becomes: “Is the Infinity we are seeking OUTSIDE or INSIDE? Or is it in both places? If so, what is the connection between these two Infinities, if indeed there are actually two? Or is there only One Infinity, and of the two we seeking one is just a ...............?”

All these are rather tricky issues, and it is that kind of sticky wicket I now have to bat on! Let’s see how it goes.

The way I have now framed the issue, I have sort of reduced it linking the “OUTSIDE” with the “INSIDE”. So the first thing I have to explain is what exactly I do mean by these two words. By OUTSIDE, I mean the world that is external to us, that is to say, the Physical Universe [which we toured together for such a long time]. This Universe did have a beginning, which according to Science was marked by the so-called Big Bang. Vedanta also says that the Universe had a beginning when God created it. That, by the way, is why God is sometimes referred to as the Creator. However, Vedanta’s terse description of the beginning of the Universe is coded in mystical language difficult to unravel, especially if we are tuned to the scientific wavelength. But we need not be scared about that.

So we have these two views, one due to Science and the other from Spirituality, both of which assert that the Universe definitely had a birth. Now comes the question: “Can these two pictures be pulled together in any manner?” Yes, they can in a manner of sorts, and in fact, I did a bit of this earlier, via a figure that I reproduce below:

FIGURE 1: This figure, taken from the book “Message of the Lord” referred to in the text, seeks to place in juxtaposition, the view of Creation in the Vedantic picture on the one hand and modern science on the other. Vedanta helps in understanding [to some extent] what preceded the Big Bang, an issue where science leaves us in the dark. On the other hand, science does a pretty good job of filling in with numerous details, where Vedanta sort of just fades away. It is as if two people are walking along the same road, one from one end and the other from the other end.

Each has a good picture of the ground he has traversed, but a total description of the entire road is lacking because the two travellers have not met. Will they ever meet? That is an interesting question to think about! One thing is clear though at present. While Vedanta does not either dismiss or scoff at Science, many scientists readily dismiss Vedanta as mere idle speculation. It would appear that excessive rationality can sometimes lead to false beliefs even as superstition is supposed to!

OK, so we have these two views, one due to Science and the other from Vedanta; but how does that help us? That is what we shall explore next. One thing comforting is that both Vedanta and Science agree that our Universe did have a beginning, which is good! Next, both agree that the Universe came out of a reservoir of energy of some sort that pre-existed Creation/Big Bang, whatever you call it. That also is a plus point; so far so good. Thereafter, we find it rather difficult to put Science and Vedanta on the “same page” because they appear to be speaking entirely different languages; that makes reconciliation quite difficult. However, there is one fact which allows us to bring both to the “same table” and that is, living matter.

In order to discuss INFINITY, we first have to do it in terms of OUTSIDE and INSIDE, and then show that there really are not two but just one, just as
when one gets out of a car, there is no front and back in the sense there was
when one was inside the car!

The Evolution of the Universe according to Science

Here it might help to recall some of the old stuff I presented, which is done below. In the figure below [Fig. 2], we have a schematic of the evolution of the Physical Universe, as described by Science. First there is the Big Bang, from which matter emerges and slowly evolves into first the various elementary particles, which then come together as atoms, and so – I described all this earlier in detail over many issues of H2H. The important point in relation to what we are now discussing is the appearance of humans, when the time for it was ripe. 

FIGURE 2: This figure shows a schematic of the timeline according to a person who merely “reports” known, observed and verified facts. For him time would start with the Big Bang, whereupon the Baby Universe would come into existence. Slowly, over billions of years, matter would aggregate into stars, and after that there would be many generations of stars, clustering into galaxies and so forth.

During this process that takes place all over the Cosmos, in one corner, what we call our Solar system in due course is born. This solar system would have planets, one of which would of course be the Earth. On this Earth, about four or so billion years ago, life in its most primitive form would appear. How and why? No one knows but life does appear. It then evolves through a whole series of species of increasing complexity. What drives this evolution?

Maybe, that happened as described by Charles Darwin. Finally, almost as the end point of the evolution of species, humans appear. Like lower species they too have this amazing capacity for “awareness” but in humans, this “awareness” is very special. This episode of “In Quest of Infinity” is in a sense all about that!

Now what is the big deal about the appearance of humans in a tiny planet called the earth, revolving around one of the billion stars in a galaxy called the Milky Way, which, by the way, is one amongst billions of galaxies?

The big deal is that humans have not only the capacity for self-awareness as all living beings do, but also something more exalted called Consciousness. This Consciousness has two aspects, one which enables humans to be “conscious of the external world”, and another which enables humans “to be conscious of an Inner World”.

I have deliberately referred to the two types of consciousness within inverted commas because, in a manner of speaking, they relate to what I earlier described as the OUTSIDE and the INSIDE. I also mention that “Infinity” is connected with both the OUTSIDE as well as the INSIDE. What I now have to do is connect all this and make things clearer so that the many doubts which I am sure all of you must be having get cleared.  Before I get on to that, please take a quick look at the figures [Figs. 3 and 4] below, which also are a recall from one of the older articles in this series.

FIGURE 3: This schematic is meant to show View-Point #1 regarding how “awareness” or the capacity for being conscious evolved amongst the living species.

As you would have noticed, the figure above portrays the evolution of Consciousness/awareness without any reference to God, Atma, etc. In that sense, it represents the viewpoint of modern scientists. How does this picture change in the Vedantic view? That is what is sketched in Fig. 4 below.

The Flowering of Consciousness in Creation


1) Pure Conciousness is God,and therefor pre-exists creation.

2) The Universe is born and evolves against an ever present and ever constant background of Conciousness.

3) As the Universe evolves, Conciousness permeats everything, flowering and manifesting at its best
in human via a) amazing creativity and b)Supreme virtues.


FIGURE 4: The background screen in (a) is a symbolic representation of the Infinite and Eternal Atma/Pure Consciousness. As far as this part of the figure is concerned, there is no Time; that is because the Atma is Eternal and beyond Time. Now take a look at (b). We see here the background once more, but superposed on it is a timeline that shows the Big Bang, the emergence of inanimate matter, etc. At one point, we have the solar system taking birth, the earth being formed, and so on.

In (c), we see this portion enlarged, and in this magnified representation, we see the emergence of life, the subsequent evolution of the various species, and finally the emergence of human beings. Don’t forget that in this figure, the Timeline “floats” on a “background”. That “background” is all important, because it imperceptibly influences and indeed directs evolution! More discussion about all this can be found in the main text.

Prajna = Pure Consciousness = Atma = Brahman = TRUE SELF = THE REAL 'I' = God!

Here, in the beginning there was only the Atma/God. Then came Creation; that, however, did not make God or the Atma to disappear; rather, the Abstract, Formless God continued to exist, and Creation that occurred when God so willed it, happened against a backdrop of the Atma/God. What it implies is that Atma/God remained an invisible backdrop even while the whole story of evolution of both inanimate matter as well living species unfolded. At the same time, Atma/God, became immanent in every little bit of the Universe that came into existence, from the atom to the galaxies, from the ant to the elephant. That is why Swami says that not only is God present in everything, everywhere, all the time, but adds most emphatically that there is in fact nothing except God.

Let’s get this clear.

Is a mountain God? Swami says YES!
Is wind God? Swami says OF COURSE!
Is fire God? Swami says WHAT ELSE DO YOU THINK IT IS? HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THE BRAHMAARPANAM SLOKAM?

And so on it goes. All this can be summed up neatly as follows:

  • In the beginning, there was only the Abstract, Formless God, who is sometimes referred to as Niraakaara Brahman, and at other times as Atma/Atman.

  • One fine day [for whatever the purpose be], God said let there be a Universe.

  • Then came into being a Universe, which was born as a tiny “baby” and then evolved not only to a big size but packed into it a whole variety of objects, both inanimate and animate.

  • These diverse objects all play their own roles, as ordained by God.

   
  • In order to play their respective roles, they need capacity, power, special ability, and so on. God has provided them all, as required in each case.

  • For example, to play its role, the electron has been specially given a small mass as well as a negative electric charge.

  • Similarly, air has been given a role and special powers, which include the ability to rise to great heights when required, and to blow at high speeds when that role is called for.

  • As Krishna explains to Arjuna, every single entity in the Universe has a clear cut role to play. We may not be aware of it, but that does not matter; God knows and that entity does its job.

  • For example, we have now become aware that an amazing kind of very powerful black holes in the centre of many galaxies act as incredibly powerful gravitational engines. They are unimaginably powerful. In fact, till recently, we did not even know such things existed. But they have, for a long, long time. 

  • The power of these extra-ordinary black holes really comes from God, although we can write down all kinds of equations to explain that power.

  • Equations are good and useful; they do help us in limited ways, within the framework of Science that is [read: within Space and Time].

  • But Science does not say who put these black holes there, who gave them all that power, etc. Egoistic scientists dismiss such questions as irrelevant, foolish and a sign of utter ignorance.

    The Wise on the other hand say, “At the end of the day, we have to admit that what the black holes are doing reflects a tiny fraction of the infinite power of God”.


  • All this is most beautifully [but alas somewhat tersely] explained by Lord Krishna in the 10th Chapter of the Gita.

  • The sum and substance of it is that God is in fact everywhere in the Universe.

  • Evolved souls would say: “When I see a beautiful peacock, I see God presenting His beauty to me as a peacock. When I see a glorious sunrise, I see it as God coming to give me a special darshan with His dazzling brilliance. In short, they see God first and then a worldly shell outside.

  • Lesser mortals like us would say: “You know what? The beauty of a peacock is but a reflection of the beauty of God. The glory of the sunrise is similarly a reminder of the Glory of God and so on.

  • One is an active view while the other is a passive view; both are consistent with Vedanta and merely reflect the state of Spiritual evolution of the individual concerned

I hope you have absorbed all that has been presented thus far. One thing that becomes clear is that we as individuals, may have the human form, every single one of us, but measured against a Spiritual yardstick, clearly we are very different, some being “very Spiritual” while others are hardly so.

Assuming that I shall now shift gears, somewhat radically, and take you deep into Vedanta, by calling attention to a topic that Swami used to discuss many years ago but has not done so lately, and that is the three states of consciousness that operate in a human being. The figure below [Fig. 5] should help in understanding that concept and so please take a good look at it.

The Three States of Our Being

Fig. 5. This figure offers a schematic illustration of the two types of Consciousness/awareness that operate in a human being. They are Primary Consciousness and Secondary Consciousness respectively.  In an absolute sense, this is actually an artificial division that is made in order to draw attention to the fact that we humans can be aware/conscious of the “OUTSIDE” as well as the “INSIDE”. More explanation is provided in the main text.

The best way of understanding this figure is to go back to a point that Swami used to make in the olden days, which is that a human being has three states of existence while alive, namely (i) the waking state, (ii) the dream state, and (iii) the deep-sleep state. The first two states hardly need any explanation, but perhaps making a distinction between (ii) and (iii) would be helpful. In state (ii), a person is sleeping but is having dreams; this of course is what happens to all of us without exception. In state (iii) by contrast, the person is so fast asleep that he/she does not even have dreams; it is like being totally knocked out, and that by the way is what happens when a person loses consciousness either due to a shock [mental or physical], or due to an anaesthetic being administered, as is done prior to a surgery. What was referred to as Secondary Consciousness applies to the situations described above and if now you look back at Fig. 5, it would perhaps make more sense.

The Three States Appear in Primary Consciousness

What about Primary Consciousness? First of all, it is the foundation, that is to say, without it there cannot be any Secondary Consciousness; in that sense, the latter is a branch or an offshoot of the former. That’s OK, but what on earth is this Primary Consciousness and why is it important, if at all? That’s what we shall consider next, for that is the key to the issue we are now discussing.

Let us start with Primary Consciousness because it is central to Vedanta. Perhaps it would make things a lot simpler if I were to tell you that what I here refer to as Primary Consciousness [PC] is the same as what is called Prajna or Pure Consciousness in Vedanta and further that

Prajna = Pure Consciousness = Atma = Brahman = TRUE SELF = THE REAL 'I' = God!

I guess that must have knocked you out! But don’t worry it is not as frightening as it might appear at first.

In simple terms, this Primary Consciousness is the Atma, in so far as it acts within a particular [living] individual, or Jivatma to use the Vedantic term.

This PC is like a fuel that drives the engine Secondary Consciousness [SC] which can be running [as in the waking state] idling [as in the dream state] or shut off [as in the deep-sleep state]. And remember even when the car is in the garage and the engine is shut off, there is still petrol in the tank; in the same way, PC is always on, which means the Atmic aspect never shuts off.

OK, one last point before I bring this session to a close, which is, why did I go into all this? Basically it is to draw attention to the following:

  • What we call Consciousness is really an aspect of the Atma. Thus, if we are searching for Infinity, then we have to deal with Consciousness – no escape from that.

  •  From a practical point of view, we have chosen to speak of the OUTSIDE and the INSIDE as if they were two different things or entities.

  •  Operationally and from the convenience point of view, they might be different, but in reality, both OUTSIDE and the INSIDE form a part of the same Universal entity.

  •  SC in the above discussion, is that aspect of the Totality that helps us to stay focussed on the “OUTSIDE”.

  •  However, SC cannot exist without PC which is in fact the basis for everything [recall the Spiritual equation given above].
 

Let us say you are standing near your car and looking around. You can see all the things 360o around you. You now get into the car and slip into the driving seat. There is the window in front of you through which you can see what is in FRONT of you. If you want to see what is BEHIND you, you have to look in the rear-view mirror. In other words, the moment you get into the car, there is a “FRONT’ and a “BACK” but outside the car, there are no two such separate things. In the same way, it is only when the Atma becomes embodied this issue of OUTSIDE and INSIDE arise, not when the Atma become free!

 

Regarding this issue of perception, the following simple example may help. Let us say you are standing near your car and looking around. You can see all the things 360o around you.

You now get into the car and slip into the driving seat. There is the window in front of you through which you can see what is in FRONT of you. If you want to see what is BEHIND you, you have to look in the rear-view mirror.

In other words, the moment you get into the car, there is a “FRONT’ and a “BACK” but outside the car, there are no two such separate things. In the same way, it is only when the Atma becomes embodied this issue of OUTSIDE and INSIDE arise, not when the Atma become free!

In short, while there is INFINITY all by itself, (i.e. God who always is) how the Jivatma, an embodiment of this INFINITY deals with and perceives this INFINITY is the real issue.

It is Vedanta that links all these, and maybe I shall try and say something about these complex topics in later issues. But meanwhile, I do hope you appreciate, that in order to discuss INFINITY, we first have to do it in terms of OUTSIDE and INSIDE, and then show that there really are not two but just one, just as when one gets out of a car, there is no front and back in the sense there was when one was inside the car!

I shall end it there for now, sparing you further headaches, and the reason why I do so is because my head also has started spinning! Take care and all the best. Jai Sai Ram.

Dear reader, how do you like this series? Please share your impressions about this article by writing to [email protected] mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.

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