Aayush Tiwari –
With the advent of Quantum mechanics and with Albert Einstein’s consequent onslaught on the classical mechanics the spiritual arcane marked its scientific revival on Vedantic grounds. By the year 2022 the quantum mechanics had eventually evolved to the point where empirically and mathematically it is proved that this Universe the way we experience it, is an illusion.
In 1961 ‘Electron in double slit’ experiment proved that particles start behaving in a comprehensively different way when they are ‘observed’ as compared to the way they behave when in isolation. The Quantum entanglement theory emanating out of Schrodinger’s wave equation describes the invisible link beyond space and time between distant quantum objects (may be light years apart), that allows one to instantly affect the other while Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle ascribes the impossibility of position and momentum of particles to be accurately determined by any human means.
And to mention here, these bewildering findings of the Quantum Physics are not merely some comical science fiction or non-pragmatic algebraic manipulations confined to some crazy scientist’s catalogue. Right from the electrons running on the microscopic roads of a silicon chip to the fiber optic cables these discoveries impact and herald our lives in every possible manner.
As more of such bewildering scientific revelations started migrating like Siberian Cranes towards the wonderland of mysticism, a generation of modern physicists got mesmerized with the Vedanta to quench their existential quest. This obsession need elaboration as this illusive nature of the Universe thousands of years before the inception of the modern science, in absence of high-tech laboratories and advanced telescopes was articulated as ‘Maya’ in the Indian mythology.
In Verse 14th, chapter 7th of the Bhagwat Gita Lord Krishna says “Daivi hyesha guna mayi maya duratyaya” which means “My divine energy maya, consisting of the three modes of nature is very difficult to overcome.” Maya co related with another mythological jargon ‘moh’ or attachment under ignorance with this hallucinatory Universe was ascribed as the reason that underpins all human sufferings and sorrows. Besides this this tri-facet nature of Universe as elaborated by Krishna as tam, sat and raj gunas find its profoundest manifestation in science and even the social science, political science as Electron, Proton and neutron; creator, operator and destructor; Brahma. Vishnu and Mahesh , Legislature , Executive and Judiciary respectively. (This demarcation will be addressed in the proceeding chapters as the context unfolds).
Coming back to ‘moh’ with ‘maya’, an illusion is a delusion, no matter how beautiful it may be, clinging to it can never be a source of permanent bliss holds Vedanta. And now scientifically when we find the entire Universe a figment of mind then a question arises is there anything to look up to as real in the external world? From Erwin Schrodinger to Neils Bohr from Nicholas Tesla to Werner Heisenberg the sagas of scientific discoveries resonate the exceptional articulations in the Vedanta that left the believers of numbers and equations mind boggled.
“The Bhagavad Gita… is the most beautiful philosophical song existing in any known tongue.” Said Erwin Shrondinger while Robert Openheimer observed through his voyage of innovation “Access to the Vedas is the greatest privilege this century may claim over all previous centuries.
The general notions about human understanding which are illustrated by discoveries in atomic physics are not in the nature of things wholly unfamiliar, wholly unheard of or new. In Buddhist and Hindu thought a more considerable and central place such discoveries find. What we shall find [in modern physics] is an exemplification, an encouragement, and a refinement of old wisdom.
The juxtaposition of Western civilization’s most terrifying scientific achievement with the most dazzling description of the mystical experience given to us by the Bhagavad Gita, India’s greatest literary monument. It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond, to those of modern scientific cosmology.’
(“Sacred Jewels of Yoga: Wisdom from India’s Beloved Scriptures, Teachers, Masters, and Monks”)
Niels Henrik David Bohr another Nobel Peace prize winner is in the list. The Danish physicist is known for his tremendous contribution in atomic structure and quantum theory. In Stephen Prothero’s book God Is Not One (pg. 144), Niels Bohr has quoted when asked about his inner journey “I go into the Upanishads to ask questions.”
At this point it is also expedient to differentiate between so called ‘the internal world’, ‘the internal journey’ as such terms may invite spiritual bafflement. Internal world is the state of mind where all sense organs of a person are locked to their minimal and is its byproduct the inner journey commences.
As mentioned before, Vedic spiritual science repeatedly vindicates a blindfolded attachment with the evanescent three dimensional objects of this illusive Universe that causes all worldly misery. A constant constipation of thoughts around them culminates into various chronic ailments like anxiety, bipolar disorder, clinical depression and insomnia. Medical sciences today are well acquainted with these herculean mental pandemics and no stone is being left unturned to address the menace with medication or meditation as the case may be. This book however is intended to talk about the dark side of the moon. It poses a question about that phase of mind when a person foresees this ultimate illusive futility. Yes, mediocracy is victimized by clinical depression based on its attaching significance to the virtual impressions but intellect is vulnerable to the existential crisis. It is the state of sharp mind where a person clearly sees the futility and the absolute nothingness everywhere and hence struggles desperately to find purpose for doing anything significant in life.
Be it razor sharp intelligence of the scientists or be it intuitive abstractions of poets, a human mind understands facts by breaking them into small modules. The Indian Evidence Act 1872 defines ‘fact’ as something that can be seen or perceived. Taking this definition as the basis we can relate human intellect with a knife. A knife that keeps chopping the meta narratives into small modules to understand, interpret and analyze them. Perhaps for this reason the son of Shiva, lord Ganesha, considered to be an intelligent Hindu god is symbolically represented with a mouse. A mouse that rips facts with its blade like teeth to understand complicated notions. In a similar vein an intelligent human mind sharp enough to dissect facts sooner or later reaches the tapered end where it starts realizing that every stimulus it is receiving from the outside world is just a reflection of the optical illusion of this mirage like Universe.
This revelation or this understanding that everything, every goal, every dream on the mundane plane is bound to be unreal and foreseeing of this very futility causes a crisis in one’s life, also known as the existential crisis. It swoops beyond the realms of survival of the fittest, when the war for survival is no more in picture. It happened during the German surrender towards the end of the World War Two, the German general while capitulating said to the American Colonel “I wonder what shall we do when there are no wars”. Imagine what a person with mental faculties trained for war like situations do when there are actually no more wars as the vanity behind every war be it fought on the battlefields or be it at professional or relationships frontiers, surfaces.
Yes, with experience as one begins to realize slowly that no matter what a human being achieves the mind is designed to develop a boredom no sooner. No matter how much one works out, the body is meant to perish and infested with diseases in just a matter of time. No matter how much one invests on the social relations, the relatives are all destined to die sooner or later. What is the whole point? When one begins to understand the nature of the mind that the more this devil gets the more it wants, a deep agony hatches revolving around finding a purpose of life.
Existential crisis is a vampire riding the undertow that swallows its victims without leaving a ripple. It is this existential crisis that lead to a series of prodigies committing suicides, hence forming the 27 club. It is this existential crisis that accounts for mysterious deaths of virtuosos like Jim Morris, Heath Ledger, Kurt Cobain, Marilyn Monroe, Chester Bennington and many more. This situation ‘When there are no more wars’ pesters after retirement. For example, existential crisis haunted the players as they reach their retirement leading to suicides of eminent sports personalities from Junior Seau, Aaron Hernandez, Jovan Belcher, Dave Duerson to serious drug abuse related to legends like Diego Maradona. It happens as one depletes his karmas that either one gets moksha/liberation oriented or else the existential crisis is bound to happen. Therefore, it can be said that existential crisis is a luxury of the affluent and an inevitability for the genius.
Existential crisis or the identity crisis exclusively preys on the most brilliant brains. A person on survival mode or struggling in day to day life for food, clothing and shelter generally are pardoned by its onslaught. A hungry man knows no laws, ‘necessitas vincit legem’. No matter whatever a common man may say about life it happened in the battle of Stalingrad, it happened on desolate ocean beds that when the war for survival reaches its climax human beings have survived on dead mice, urine and cockroaches.
The Hindu mythology says that after wandering through Eighty Four Lakh bodies a birth as a human being happens. It is special as only for a human being it is possible to foresee beyond survival mode. And what happens as when even once get a glimpse of that that starts as the physical is transcended. Prima facie, as the reason goes that void can be fatal. We are conditioned to live in a goal oriented world and are trained and conditioned accordingly right from the childhood. We have almost forgotten the difference between means and the end. The entire structuring of our social minds and its constant urge to hit the goals existing in future leaves the entire being petrified. Life reveals its nature that just like future the future goals are unreal too. Our entire life is a recuse to Longfellows words in his exquisite poem ‘psalm of life’ – “Dust thou are to dust returnest, was not spoken for the soul.”
In the light of this notion the Indian sages and mystics devoted their entire lives resolving the ‘what to do’ as the intellect peels through the layers of the mental onion demystifying the last layers that leaves the chopper in tears. It is the hangover of intelligence. Indeed, beauty and intelligence both carry a hangover, an attitude of their own as they start intruding beyond the three dimensional plane.
As Einstein established in his theory of relativity that the speed of light remains constant in the vacuum the entire classical mechanics toppled around it. The speed of light in vacuum remains constant and as speed is equal to distance divided by time , no matter time travel happens, distance dilate but the speed of light remains constant at any cost. In the same way as one finds something that is constant within (with sense organs locked to minimum), his very perception and outlook get revolutionized. This book therefore, is an effort to bridge human behavior on scientific groundwork with its eternal quest to strive for something that can be established as non- illusionary or ‘real’ in this gigantic mirage like cosmos.
For Indian mystics therefore ‘ignorance was not the bliss’ rather ‘knowledge was power’. Foreseeing this existential crisis as the inevitability of the genius they assumed the inception point of the soul’s voyage at ignorance, darkness and mortality hovering towards truth, wisdom and immortality. Referring to one of the most revered verses of Brahadaranyaka Upnishad reveals : Asato ma sadgamaya (From ignorance to the universal truth) Tamso Ma Jyotirgamaya (From darkness to the light of knowledge), Mriturma amritamgamaya (from evanescent to immortality ) that offers solace to the seeker that he is not alone in his struggle as even the greatest of the great lives have to commence with the zone of existential fears and insecurities .