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Posted on: Mar 21, 2016
- Part 08
Sairam and welcome to the eighth episode of 'Satsang with a Techie'. This satsang started with an accidental meeting in a restaurant in Bengaluru between two childhood friends, Varun, a techie who lives in Bengaluru and Vivek, an alumnus of Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning who has settled down in Prasanthi Nilayam to dedicate his life in the service of Baba.
Following the chance meeting, Varun becomes somewhat curious about spirituality and agrees to come to Prasanthi for the weekend to continue his education in spirituality. During that trip Varun has His first darshan (this is set in 2009). After this, Varun and Vivek discuss many things over the next two days. Thrilled with the new paradigms that were now opening up, he comes back the following weekend. They have already spent an entire day discussing various spiritual topics. Varun and Vivek meet again the next morning to continue their discussion. Let's join the friends.
VIVEK: So Varun, here we are again, at a critical point in our discussions. All set for more, or do you think we should switch to a lighter topic like cricket, for example?
VARUN: I confess I love cricket - in fact, I am crazy about it! However, I am intelligent enough to know that when I am here in Prasanthi, I must make the best use of every second I get with you.
Listen, do you mind if I briefly recap what we discussed last time, so that you get a feel for how much what you are saying has sunk into me?
VIVEK: Hey, that is a great idea! Go right ahead!!
VARUN: Thanks. You said at the beginning that human life has a purpose.
VIVEK: And a very important one, I might add.
VARUN: That’s right, and the purpose is to use our stay here on earth to get as close to God as possible. Further, the Universe in general and the world in particular, is a stage that is meant to facilitate this journey.
VIVEK: Exactly, and this precisely the point that even a brilliant man like Weinberg has totally missed.
VARUN: And he missed it because he prefers to be guided by the head instead of the Heart.
VIVEK: Absolutely. You see Varun, when we live largely in the external world, it overwhelms us and makes us belief that the Physical Universe alone is the Reality.
VARUN: I suppose you would say that there is in fact a Higher Reality than what we seem to perceive as Reality via the senses.
VIVEK: Of course!
VARUN: And that Higher Reality is?
VIVEK: God, the Atma, what else?
VARUN: And what you refer to as the Heart is the symbol, a metaphor for this Atma, is that it?
VARUN: Let me wrap this up so that we can proceed further.
Taking everything into account, you would say would you not, that the head lulls us into accepting a lower reality as “True Reality” while the Heart beckons us to the actual True Reality, which is the Atma – right?
VARUN: Thanks Vivek, now that we have got the revision out of the way, you can now go ahead with what you wanted to tell me today.
VIVEK: Good. Let us go back to why human birth is special. Swami often says in His Discourses: Jantunam narajanma durlabham, meaning roughly: Birth as a human is a rare and precious opportunity.
VARUN: Why is that? Frankly speaking, with over six billion humans teeming on this planet, I do not see anything rare about human birth. Yet, clearly there must be some important point that Swami is making that is eluding me. What is that?
VIVEK: Varun, you put it neatly. On the face of it, human birth would NOT seem to be a big deal, especially when you see hundreds of millions suffering so pitiably. Nevertheless, in a Spiritual sense, human birth IS a rare gift and a very precious one too.
VARUN: That I find difficult to understand.
VIVEK: OK, you agree that animals eat, drink, sleep, reproduce, and die – all these are activities unique to living beings, and humans are no exception?
VARUN: Yes of course.
VIVEK: However, there is an important difference between humans and all the other species.
VARUN: Which is?
VIVEK: An animal is able to see what is happening in the external world and relate some of it to its existential problems. Thus, when it sees food in the outside world, it automatically realises that it must go for it. It is all built-in, and actions are instinctive; in your language, animals are sort of hard-wired.
VARUN: That we already know; what’s new about it?
VIVEK: Well, animals can react to the external world, but they cannot make any sense of it.
VARUN: I agree with that. But what about humans?
VIVEK: Humans are different in that they can see a meaning, a purpose behind all that exists in this world and indeed in the Universe as a whole. However, they cannot perceive this Grand Design, if they do NOT permit the Atma within to help them see all this.
VARUN: Oh I see. [dragging his words] I suppose this is how the Atma within plays a key role.
VIVEK: You seem to be having some problem accepting that – am I right?
VARUN: Yes I do have a problem.
VIVEK: What exactly is bothering you?
VARUN: Listen Vivek, guys like Steven Weinberg are very smart; Steve, for example, won the Nobel Prize. If there is something beyond, as you say, how come most of these smart guys seem to miss it? I can’t believe they are that dumb!
VIVEK: [smiles] You have a point, and an important one too, I might add.
You see Varun, this faculty within that allows one to enquire, reason, analyse logically, and seek answers to all sorts of knotty questions, has two aspects, and we can describe it in two ways. One way is to describe them as the Lower Mind and Higher Mind respectively; alternatively, we could use the terms the Head and the Heart.
VARUN: I think you need to go further than that!
VIVEK: Will sure do. Let me start with the two-Mind approach. I said that it is useful to consider the Mind as having two aspects, the Lower Mind and the Higher Mind.
Despite the terminology, the capabilities of the so-called Lower Mind are mind-boggling. In Vedanta, this aspect of the Mind is called Medha Shakti, or, worldly intelligence.
VARUN: You mean all this ability to split the atom, reach for the stars, tinker with the genes, etc., is connected with Medha Shakti?
VIVEK: That’s right.
VARUN: Listen, if so many wonderful things can be accomplished by this Medha Shakti, then why insult it by calling it the Lower Mind?
VIVEK: Good question and the answer is that there is an aspect of the Mind, the Higher Mind, which can deliver what no amount of usage of the Lower Mind ever can.
VARUN: You mean there is something that sheer intellectual brilliance can never deliver?
VIVEK: Does that come as a surprise to you?
VARUN: I must say it does.
VIVEK: Then let me enlighten you by recalling an example that Swami sometimes gives.
Take a very rich man. He has a fabulous mansion with an exquisite and incredibly comfortable bedroom with an incredible bed, super-comfortable mattress, best of linen, terrific interior décor, super-duper air-conditioning and all that. But with all that, he just cannot sleep, and rolls from side to side throughout the night without a wink of sleep, rising in the morning totally exhausted.
VARUN: Sounds familiar.
VIVEK: Now compare that with what experience of a poor man who lives in a slum a short distance away, in a small room along with five other members of his family. The room has a mud floor, a thatched roof, there is noise everywhere, dogs barking throughout the night, and trucks rumbling on the road outside non-stop. There is no electricity and therefore no fan. The place swarms with mosquitoes and they are busy from sunset to sunrise. Yet the man, who is poor as a church-mouse as they say, is able to sleep soundly. How come?
VARUN: In a vague way, I am able to see that you are making an important point. However, the substance still escapes me.
VIVEK: No problem, and I will explain it all shortly.
Varun, to make sense of what we are now discussing, we have go back to what we talked about earlier, namely, a human being is a composite of … ...
VARUN: [interrupting] I know! A gross body, a subtle Mind and the Atma; that is what you are coming to, are you not?
VIVEK: Indeed. Now tell me, which of these three are you really? Are you the body? Are you the Mind? Or, are you the Atma?
VARUN: Look, we both agreed that a human being is a composite of these three. Then what’s the point of singling one of three entities and asking which of these three are you? That’s a meaningless question – at least so it seems to me.
VIVEK: You are absolutely correct.
VARUN: In that case, why did you ask me a question that seems dumb? Are you trying to tell me that I am dumb?
VIVEK: Come on Varun, you don’t have to get excited about a little thing like that! There is an important reason why I put my question that way.
VARUN: And that reason is?
VIVEK: You see Varun, though we are actually a composite of three distinct entities, yet, most people allow one or the other of these three entities to dominate their personality; and that precisely is where all problems start.
VARUN: Is this the IDENTITY CRISIS you were talking about earlier?
VARUN: You have lost me once again! I guess I need a lot of hand-holding at this point.
VIVEK: Don’t worry; once we are through, everything would fall neatly into place and be crystal clear.
VARUN: [sounding somewhat doubtful] I hope so.
VIVEK: Listen. Although we are made up of three distinct entities as we just discussed, some people allow their body to dominate their personality and lives.
VARUN: What do you mean by that?
VIVEK: Well, surely you must have seen lots of people who are lazy, rude and crude, do not mind hurting people both physically as well as with sharp words, who revel in gluttony, drinking, etc.
VARUN: I guess I have.
VIVEK: In existential terms, these people are dominated entirely by the senses, and spend a lot of time pandering to them. Their outlook is dominated entirely by the outside world. They are hardly bothered about right and wrong, good and bad, and moral issues like that.
VARUN: Alas, there are, as you say, lots of people like that, and the funny thing is that one finds such specimens even amongst the so-called educated folk.
VIVEK: That really is the point. Despite all their education, they have not understood even to a tiny extent that bearing the human form as they do, they cannot go through life as animals do. You agree.
VARUN: I sort of see your point, but Vivek, people these days say, “This is my life, and I can jolly well do what I please with it. Who are you to tell me what I should do and not do?”
VIVEK: I am aware that a lot of misguided people do speak that way. Basically, it all arises from a false and exaggerated belief about so-called rights as against responsibilities.
VARUN: Wait a minute! This business of rights – that belongs to the realm of sociology, and we are not discussing that topic. We are supposed to be talking Spirituality. Where is the connection?
VIVEK: We are coming precisely to that connection! We need to discuss that connection in some detail, and maybe we could do it later. But meanwhile, let me say, that those who talk of rights ignore Spirituality, whereas those who consider the same issue in terms of responsibility, are viewing it from a Spiritual point of view!
VARUN: Have a heart buddy, my head is reeling!
VIVEK: [laughs] Don’t worry, in the end, everything would become clear.
VARUN: I sure hope so.
VIVEK: OK, meanwhile, let us get on with our conversation. You were asking me why smart guys miss what Vedanta refers to as Reality. The best way of dealing with that topic is to recall what Swami once told His students.
VARUN: What did He tell them?
VIVEK: Well, speaking to students many years ago, Swami used two words, Aadhaaram and Aadheyam.
VARUN: Meaning what?
VIVEK: Aadhaaram means basis or foundation while Aadheyam means superstructure.
VARUN: OK, you have two words; but how do you relate them to what we were discussing, namely, Reality as it really exists and reality as most people perceive it, say using their Mind and senses?
VIVEK: Good question, and that precisely is what Swami explained to His students. He first asked the students, “You see a tall and impressive skyscraper; can it stand all by itself?” Naturally, the students said in chorus, “No Swami!” Swami then continued, “Boys, you agree that a skyscraper requires a proper foundation for it to exist, but can you see the foundation? No you cannot! However, you have to agree that just because one cannot see the foundation one cannot deny it exists.”
VARUN: I guess Swami then said that in the same way, Creation requires a basis and that basis is God or the Atma – right?
VIVEK: One hundred percent! Varun, whether we like it or not, whether we accept it or not, God IS the basis of all that exists, here on earth and indeed even in the farthest corner of the Universe.
In short, God is immanent in everything that exists in the Physical Universe. We cannot of course directly see God’s presence in the Physical Universe, but we certainly can, if only we choose to, experience God in practically anything and everything, anytime, anywhere!
VARUN: That’s quite a sweeping statement.
VIVEK: But that sir, is the hard fact, whether one likes it or not!
VARUN: Listen Vivek, in a vague sort of way, I understand what you are saying; but you know, there is a practical problem.
VIVEK: What exactly is your problem?
VARUN: Just look around you. You see so many different things from tall buildings to birds flying to stray dogs running around, buses and taxis plying, etc., etc. Do you mean to say all these are a manifestation of God? Frankly, I find that extremely difficult to understand or grasp or follow! Got my point?
VIVEK: [smiles] I think I can appreciate your difficulty. The point really is about the existence of something and inferring the existence of this something.
VARUN: I don’t get you.
VIVEK: Well, let me give you an example from your own world. You fellows out there in the IT world all constantly talk about the Internet. Supposing I were to tell you:
“What’s this Internet you are talking about? Everyone talks about it all the time as if it really exists. Where is it? Is it here, in America or everywhere? Can you show it to me? If you cannot show it to me and I cannot see it, why should I believe in it?”
Suppose I were to talk to you in that manner, what would you say to me?
VARUN: Listen Vivek! That is different!! You are bringing some irrelevant matters to confuse the issue!!!
VIVEK: You seriously think so? My dear friend I am not doing anything of that kind. Just to make my point, let us leave the Internet for a moment, and turn to something else, the electron.
Has anyone ever actually seen the electron? No! And yet, everyone talks about it so confidently. Not merely that; Physicists say, glibly I would argue, that the electron can exist either as a wave or as a particle! Come on, what kind of crap is that? Surely it has to be one or the other! How can scientists, smart ones too, go round saying such things and expect us to believe it all? When I say all this talk about the duality of the electron is nonsense, I am being ridiculed.
VARUN: Vivek! Let me make one thing very clear. I am ready to listen to any reasonable argument you make in support of Spirituality; but that does not mean I have to listen to rubbish! If you can keep the discussion on a purely rational, intellectual, and logical plane, we can carry on; otherwise, let’s just break it off, OK?
VIVEK: Varun, don’t get excited! I know exactly how you feel and let me tell you that I deliberately provoked you in order to make a few important points. My first point is about the existence of things subtle. To put it simply, behind the seen can and does exist the unseen.
VARUN: What do you mean?
VIVEK: Well, take the internet. Maybe one can formally define it but no one can really show it in the sense I can point out that building, tree, bird, etc., to you. Yet you and I know that the Internet does exist, although it cannot quite be seen in the way we can see many things.
VARUN: Are you saying that behind the seen there can be an unseen entity that gives meaning and substance to what is seen?
VIVEK: Exactly, and that is the core of Vedantic Spirituality, namely, that behind the seen exists the Unseen, and that Unseen is the True Reality.
VARUN: [stroking his chin slowly] Go ahead, I am listening. I need to hear more before I can comment.
VIVEK: Good! I have essentially two major points to make. The first relates to the Atma, and my point is that behind everything that we see here in the Physical Universe, is the Atma.
VARUN: Are you saying that everything in the Universe came from the Atma or God, and that therefore God/Atma is the unseen basis of everything?
VIVEK: Precisely, and I would further like to add that this unseen basis IS the True Reality. I know you want to shoot many questions, but just please hold on till I have finished!
VARUN: OK, I grant you that. Continue please.
VIVEK: Thank you. Since Creation came from God, everything in the Universe bears the footprint of God/Atma in some manner or the other; which is why Vedanta says God is immanent in everything, from the ant to the very Cosmos.
VARUN: Earlier, you brought in the electron. What was the point you were trying to make?
VIVEK: That is a very good question. Science is absolutely right in asserting that the electron has a dual nature and can manifest either as a particle or reveal only its wave aspect, depending upon circumstances of course. However, you would also recall from your college course on Quantum Mechanics that the electron is able to have this dual option shall I say, because it is in the very nature of the quantum electromagnetic field that is the source of the electron.
VARUN: Let me get you straight. Regarding the electron, you seem to be saying two things: 1) The electromagnetic field is the source. 2) The nature of this field is such that when the electron actually manifests, it can do so either as a particle or a wave, depending upon the circumstances – is that it?
VIVEK: Exactly, and you have put it crisply. Varun, in the same way, Vedanta declares that God/Atma IS the source of the Physical Universe and everything it contains, and that the diversity we see in the Universe is a manifestation of an inherent property shall I say, latent in the Atma?
VARUN: In a vague sort of way, I am able to get the rough hang of what you are driving at, but you know, this is like a sudden revelation! It sure is going to take me a long time before I make some sense of it and maybe even put it all to use!
VIVEK: [smiles] Don’t worry Varun, that is the first step for almost all of us, yours truly included!
I guess we really must take a break and resume after you have had enough time to grasp at least a bit of what I have tried to tell you.
VARUN: About that, I have no doubt. So a break it shall be! Thanks Vivek for being patient with me, and please do not mind if I got a bit hot at times!
VIVEK: Don’t worry Varun, I am used to it. As Harry Truman a former President of America once put it tersely, “If you cannot stand the heat, then you gotta get out of the kitchen!”
- Radio Sai Team
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