Science and Spirituality

Lets take an example of how science and spirituality will deal with a situation and then proceed to understand the differences or similarities between them, if any.

Let us for our example study “Hunger” as the subject.

Science, tries to understand how hunger pangs develop, how our body and mind is able to know hunger, what physical changes happen within our stomach and what communication takes place through our nerves. That's science for us.

Whereas spirituality tells us to experience hunger once.

Science is useful in situations where a person who has experienced hunger is curious to know how the whole dynamics of hunger work. Where as spirituality is useful, when a person wants to understand what hunger is.

Science deals with intellectually understanding a particular subject, whereas spirituality deals with the experiencing.

Science focuses on “doing”, spirituality focuses on “being”.

Being Spiritual – Is it something to be proud about?

For all those who pride themselves in being very spiritual and look down upon others who aren't, I would like to ask you a few questions:

  • Is Fire going to burn you any less because you are spiritual?
  • Is water going to wet us any more because we are not spiritual?
  • Are you going to bleed any less due to a cut, because you are more spiritual?
  • Is the pain of the wound going to be any more because we are less spiritual?

If a bomb is dropped on a city, the bomb is not going to explode based on if the people who live there are spiritual or not. Its nature is to explode and so shall it be. The nature of fire is to burn and so shall it remain – be it a saint or a sinner.

Our day to day life runs because of the natural interactions between things – they are very much predictable. The Sun rises and sets, etc., Being spiritual is not going to make us go beyond the laws of nature. The only thing that it helps is in being able to understand the nature of things and live in harmony with them. And by the way, what is being spiritual. Spirituality tries to study and internalize who we are? what our nature is? Why we are what we are? etc.,

Religion – no matter which one – only gives us tools and methods to be used to be spiritual.

How very sad that the means itself has become the end to many of us…

Serene swimming duck!

A couple of days back I had to take my son for boating. As me, my wife and my son, sat in the boat, we saw a duck swimming effortlessly on water.

It was so stable and serene, we couldn’t but notice its serenity. I pointed to the duck and asked my son to look at the duck. He asked me how the duck was able to stay afloat. I explained to him how the duck paddles below the water, etc.,

As I was explaining I realized how much of effort is going on under the water to make the duck look so serene on top of the water.

Isn’t it the case with almost all the successful people – the success that we so easily see, that gets portrayed in the media has come after a lot of paddling?

The story of the fishes in the pond!

This is a story of fishes that lived deep in a pond, so deep, almost at the bed of the pond. They had a very happy life.

Even their society was divided into Priest fishes, Scientist Fishes, Worker Fishes, Business Fishes, etc just like in our society. The Priest fishes called themselves servants of God and commanded a lot of respect from the other fishes.

There was one fish which was tired of the life in the Pond. It wanted to know if there was anything more to life than the life in the Pond. So, it dared to do what other fishes did not dare to. It swam from the bottom of the Pond to the surface.

When it reached the surface….it saw Sunlight for the first time, the tall tress, men and women. This fish made it a habit to swim to the surface every once in a way. It started to get its friends as well. The word spread around, that there is more to life than just the life of the Pond.

The authority of the servants of God was being questioned. This the Priest fishes could not tolerate.

The Fish that first dared to swim to the surface was summoned, tried in a court charged with practicing Witchcraft and then sentenced to death. However, the other fishes got curious and it became the habit to sneak out and have a look at the world at the surface of the water.

Once, the numbers of such sneaking fishes were substantial, the Priest fishes lost the respect they commanded and it became a free for all.

How long do you want to be a Fish in a pond?

The story of Mr. Victim

This is the story of a man called Mr. Victim.

Mr. Victim came from a broken family. Had never seen his parents together. At school, he was treated as an outcaste. In college, he was a loner. Throughout his profession, he was a victim of professional jealousy. To avoid, professional jealousy, he started his own business on partnership. The business ran successfully for a year.

Comforts started in his life and he got used to a luxurious life. He thought a lovable wife would be a welcome change.

He found a nice girl and got married to her. In the while he had a cute baby boy too. A couple of years down the line the business suffered losses and his lovable wife started to question his business decisions. The business wound up in a bankruptcy.

There were quarrels between Mr. Victim and his wife. Mr. Victim found it difficult to find a new job. Things were very difficult and frustrating.

In sheer frustration, Mr. Victim renounced his worldly life and took up “Sanyasa” or “Saint hood”. Having taken “Sanyasa”, he left to the forests to meditate. He found a nice cave near a rivulet in a dense jungle and settled down there to meditate.

Things were fine by the day, however, by night, the mosquitoes were a menace. In a week’s time, he fell sick with fever.

As he lay down frail inside his new abode – the cave, thoughts about his loving wife came to him. He started wondering how well his wife would taken care of him when he was sick.

But he could do nothing much but hope that his wife will find him soon, as he was too tired to even walk.

Has he truly renounced the world? and Is renouncing is such an easy task?

Understanding Astrology III

In the previous posts about Astrology, we have seen how The Theory of karma is the basis on which Astrology is built.

Having said that, the purpose of Astrology is mainly to understand the individual from the perspective of their Karmic account – the good, the bad and the ugly.

Using Astrology to understand one’s own Sanchitha and Prarabdha karma’s gives a deeper understanding of one’s own self. This knowledge also gives the courage to face what comes with fortitude and patience. Thus the main purpose of Astrology seems to be deeper self knowledge from a spiritual perspective, though using it, only to lead a comfortable material life is not debarred or not considered undesirable.

Having said that what is the use of understanding the Sanchitha or Prarabdha karma, if we do not have the power to change it?

This question will be answered in the next post in this series

Effects of Meditation

There are many benefits that accrue when you meditate. There are many many websites that speak about the benefits of meditation and why one should meditate. However, my post is going to be a bit different in that, here I am going to discuss about what essentially happens when you meditate and not withstanding the benefits, what are the not so beneficial consequences of starting to meditate.

In daily living we are used to focusing our energies to the world around us – trying to manage time, relationships, profession, finance, etc. However, when you start meditating you are focusing your attention inwards – into you. There are many mental impressions buried deep inside our mind, many fears, many insecurities, many memories of joyful moments, many memories of success, many emotions of suppressed anger.

After the initial period, when the mind is learning to stop the endless chatter with itself, as you meditate you come to a stage where your mind stops thinking. Till here the journey is pleasant. Once the mind is silenced thus, it starts to dig out memories and latent impressions. If this be pleasant, you feel euphoric. If it be unpleasant, the feeling of depression, anger, helplessness, insecurity can be equally intense.

After all, during meditation you have trained the mind to focus its full attention on one thing – its like a laser beam.

I am not here to scare people who want to try meditation.

My attempt is to only highlight that the path is not full of roses.

After all even a beautiful rose has a thorn close by, isn’t it?

Meditation

So many of us these days are into meditation.

But what exactly is meditation?

When I have asked friends who meditate they have always said that Meditation is concentration, focus, etc.,

But what does Yoga Vashista have to say about meditation, “Meditation is the continuous flow of one single thought”.

Sounds simple, isn’t it?

Try getting your mind to just think of one single thought and then you will realize how difficult it is.

Yogic scriptures describe the mind as a mad drunken monkey that is bitten by a scorpion. Need we say more?

A simple but very effective technique of meditation that I have found which doesn’t use any mantra or chanting is the sound meditation.

Sound Meditation or Shabd Meditation

Using your thumb plug your ears. When you do that you will hear a sound. Focus your attention and listen to the sound that is present in the right ear ONLY. Do not focus or listen to the sound that comes from the Left Ear. Continue to listen to it for at least 30 minutes a day. The sound that is heard in the ears is called Anahatha Nada or “The Unstruck sound“. I have found this to be most safest, simplest and the most secular way of meditating.

Understanding Astrology II

In the previous post, we discussed about the three types of Karma – Sanchitha, Prarabdha and Agami Karma.

But what does Karma mean? The literal meaning of Karma is Action. Action being central to our lives, it is impossible to avoid it. For, non-action also becomes a kind of action – the act of refusing to act. Even the Bhavad Gita mentions that once born, there is no way but to act.

Does it mean that in a life, where there is no escape from action, we are penalized for acting (on which we have no control over)?

No matter what a traditional Vedanti might say, Action in the context of the “Karma Siddhanta” refers more to the mental impression that is left while performing an action, more than the action itself. These mental impressions stay in the mind as memories and decide/curtail our freedom to choose, by conditioning our responses. Hence, we need to understand Karma more as the “mental conditioning / impressions / memory” of the action in our mind than the actual action itself.

Astrology then tries to dig out these latent impressions that our mind carries with it and the conditioned responses that will be produced by these “impressions”.

Thus, Astrology generally is not accurate with “Jeevan Muktas”, those of us who have gone beyond the conditioning, through spiritual practices.

Understanding Astrology I

My knowledge about Astrology is limited to the one that is followed in South India. My discussions will be restricted to that. Astrology is extensively used by the Hindus in India. The underlying philosophy of Astrology or for that matter any Hindu knowledgebase is the “Karma Siddhanta” or “The Theory of Karma”. Simply put, as you sow so shall you reap. That is the dictum of the karma theory and its so exacting that even gods when they descend to the Earth, have to abide by it.

According to the Hindu belief there are three types of Karma: Sanchitha, Prarabdha and Agami.

Sanchitha karma is the sum total of all mental impressions that are left in and after any deed is done.

Prarabdha karma is the set of deeds that you are born to resolve in this birth (a sub set of Sanchitha).

Agami karma is what is yet to unfold.

When a child is born, the place and time of birth is recorded and the horoscope is cast based on the Place of birth, date and time of birth and the sunrise on the day of birth.

The Astrological chart when studied carefully by a qualified astrologer, will help reveal the Prarabdha Karma of the person whom the chart represents.

But, why choose the position of the planets for casting a chart?

We live in a 4 dimensional world – 3 dimensions of space (length, breadth and height) and 1 dimension of time. By making a chart of the position of planets at a given place and time, the conversion to any other place can be done easily and validated for any other calendar system or place. Secondly, the planets movement around the Zodiac is very consistent across a time scale…like Moon take 2.5 days to transit from one house in the zodiac to the other.

Hence, calculating the relative time is also easy given the starting position of the planets. It is my opinion that the planets by themselves DO NOT produce results and they are used to keep the timing precise.

Having said this, in the next article in this series, we will analyze what constitutes Karma, the three types of Karma and which of these Karma can be modified, etc.,