Monday, March 9, 2009



The medical field has made incredible advances in the fields of diagnosis, and management of a variety of Neurological disorders. The scope of this progress is however restricted to identify and subsequently attempt to rectify the underlying problem. The spectrum of disorders that can be treated range from degenerative disorders, metabolic disorders right up to trauma and tumors of the nervous system. There has also been significant progress in understanding the structure and function of the nervous system. However, areas like consciousness, are still beyond the scope of medical technology.
The known hierarchy of consciousness extends only to sub-optimal grades.- drowsy stuporous, semiconscious or then unconscious. Theoretically there has to be a supra-optimal grade of consciousness- “the supra-conscious”. Medical science has severe limitations in quantifying the optimal level of consciousness. Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging can at best identify the degree and extent of blood flow to the different parts of the brain.
Consciousness can be defined as the ability of an organism to be alert and inter-act with the environment. It is being aware of ones own self and also having the ability to react with “non-self”-surrounding objects or beings. The unicellular organism is also a drop of consciousness bounded by a cell membrane. Higher forms needed an upgrade. Evolution provided segregation of this primitive cognition. The ability to focus this awareness to a specific object or activity. The ability to concentrate. So when a predator is hunting, he will necessarily need to focus all his attention on the prey. This is also coupled with an ability to defocus this awareness. Like the feel of the clothing on our bodies. They are touching us and the tactile apparatus is sending the appropriate signals to the brain, but still the brain has the discriminatory ability to keep this data below the horizon of cognition. But there is the constant “I AM” awareness that forms the background activity of consciousness. This I AM ness permeates all awake states. Intellect, thoughts are all derivatives of this I AM ness.
Further evolution takes place in the realm of elevating this consciousness.
Spiritual masters are the ones that mutate this consciousness to a supra-conscious state.
This mutation results in the “I” being deleted and what remains is just the Amness. Unqualified.This Amness is expansile and all inclusive because the restrictive ‘I’ is eliminated.
This universal Am ness is a state of supraconsciousness since it transcends a particular being. This Am ness is Advaita. To reside in that blissful state is the objective of all attempts at self realization. This term is a misnomer because in this state a separate self does not exist. Just unconditional beingness. And this entire illusion of duality was created because this universal Am ness could not perceive itself. There had to be a subject object dichotomy for acknowledging its own AM ness. Being ness has no beginning or end. There is no concept of time either. Eternity is in the moment. And the moment lasts an eternity. At that state identification with the physical form no longer remains. It is like the pot which is contained in space and also contains space. The consciousness permeates the form from without and also within, A state of wholeness, a state of oneness. Science is based on the act of observation. The seer, the seen and the process of seeing. But supraconsciousness is the state where this trinity has merged. So supraconsciousness is beyond the scope of scrutiny because it includes scrutiny.
The process of initiation by the master is probably starting the journey beyond just awareness of the mind body form. Therefore liberation is not of the person ,but rather from the person.
Dr. Deepak Ranade
(The author is a consultant Neurosurgeon and can be contacted at
Learning to unlearn

Learning is as much a process of deprogramming as much as acquiring or acquainting with something new.
Learning something new, must be preceded by a process of deprogramming that eliminates pre-existing paradigms and misconceptions. Learning physiologically is a process of conditioning. It involves recruitment of neural networks or pathways, which after sufficient time and repetitions get established. Thereafter, conditioning works at a quasi involuntary level. A classic example is that of driving. Initially as a novice, every action is deliberate, premeditated and one has to very consciously focus on the activity. Later on as the reflexes get strengthened, the same activity becomes very effortless and gradually moves to a sub-conscious level. And soon we can engage in a conversation or even grab a bite whilst driving. Many of our belief systems and thought processes post conditioning work below the consciousness horizon. Once the template is set, these anagrams become an integral part of the individuals perceptive and thought processes. We scarcely realize that these deeply etched programs serve as major deterrents from learning anything new. That partly explains why adults need a longer while to learn a new skill like computers or a new language whereas kids seem to take to this new skill like a fish takes to water. That is because the kids hard disc is unformatted and can imbibe a new concept faster and better than an adult who first has to undo some hardwired programs. These established neural networks increase the resistance to accepting fresh thoughts and ideas. On deeper introspection we would realize, that most of our belief systems are just a legacy of our environment and upbringing. Religion, culture, behavioral patterns are a few such examples. This indoctrination happens subconsciously but has far reaching consequences.
Along with the passage of time, all such recorded programs spin a cocoon around the individual. Impermeable to newer thought process. All intolerance to new ideas is consequential to this rigid unyielding cocoon.
All revolutionary inventions have become possible only when the concerned person broke open this cocoon of conformist thought process. The person had to delearn conventional wisdom to make way for newer wisdom. Religion has always beckoned mankind along the ages. It still remains one of the most profound influences on our lives. Religion programs the thought processes and sooner than we realize, we align ourselves to one of the many ‘isms’. But the basis of all religion is to attain Godhood, or self-realisation or ‘swaroop saakshaatkar’ Various sects and religions have over the years programmed their followers along different lines. These regulatory protocols are ideally the means to the end but unfortunately have become the end themselves. The extreme obsession with form precludes any tryst with the formless. All spiritual pursuits are adulterated with preformed notions and are the scourge of liberation. It would be paradoxical to confine the omniscient omnipresent being to the narrow bandwidth of our perceptive focus . As a learned sage said, Liberation is not of the individual but from the individual. From the shackles of our thought processes. Self-realisation as a concept, is again a construct of our thought. But self-realisation transcends thought. Till there is thought, there is an entity that is thinking, and this separate entity that asserts its separateness is bondage. The finite can never perceive the infinite. It can only become infinite. And once that happens, who or what remains to perceive ?. It cannot be engineered, because all attempts made by the doer only underlines his separateness, which defeats the very purpose. Somewhat akin to the monkey, with its hand trapped in a cookie jar. Trying to get its hand out of the narrow neck of a bottle whilst holding the cookie. All efforts are in vain until the monkey releases the cookie and extricates its hand. This cookie of our belief systems and conditioning that we all hold on for dear life surely has to be relinquished. This delearning of all pre-existing programs and concepts is a precondition to self awareness.

Dr Deepak Ranade
(The author is a consultant Neurosurgeon and may be contacted at

posted by Dr. Deepak Ranade @ 1:16 AM
Importance of control and restraint

The wheel was a path-breaking invention. The wheel, however, might not have been as useful if not for the invention of brakes and gears that help us control movement. The wheel made locomotion plausible but brakes regulated this motion. The defining quality of any system is probably based on the degree of control one can exercise on it. In karate, up to the black belt stage, the discipline and regimen is for strengthening the body and speeding up reflexes. Thereafter, all subsequent degrees are attained by perfecting self-control and restraint. In evolution, life forms have been empowered incrementally as they progress through stages. Human beings have the power of control, of temperance and restraint, and the ability to think beyond the self. Physiologically, higher centres in the brain have been given the responsibility of inhibition to maintain restrictive control on lower centres of the brain and spine. In spinal injuries, when the lower motor neurons are disconnected from the higher centres and they fire without control, it leads to reflex movements of the limbs, spasm of the muscles and so on. Though movement occurs, it is involuntary, uncontrolled and purposeless. The evolved brain can store large amounts of data. The data helps in generating a response transcending reflexive and programmed patterns. The ability to rise above reflex behaviour seems to be the summit of the evolutionary pyramid. Olympian Carl Lewis once explained the reason for his spectacular achievement: "I have mastered the art of self-denial". Behaviour that rises above the primitive reflexes forms the essence of culture and sophistication. All religions have a set of behavioural restrictions like fasting, celibacy and observing silence. These restrictions help the individual increase his will power, temperance, self-control and discipline. Some religions talk about renunciation. But renunciation eliminates choice. So it is probably indulgence in abstinence. The swing of the pendulum in the opposite direction charged with the potential energy to swing back to indulgence. It may also reflect a subconscious fear of lack of self-control. Like the instance of the guru, who was invited for a meal by his disciple. Whilst the other devotees were served on plantain leaves, the guru was served on silverware as a mark of reverence. The guru however was offended and walked off as he was a renunciate. He may as well have eaten in the silverware. If he was no longer in any mundane bondage, there ought to have been no distinction between silver and leaves. In reproductive behaviour, too, human beings have the freedom to choose. Any control is self-imposed. This self-control is the evolutionary upgrade. It is as if the remote control which operates all other animals has been substituted by a sharp discriminatory ability which bestows free will. In Hindu culture, it is called vivek buddhi. The intellect of discrimination. Free will reflects the ability to restrain rather than indulge. If indulgence was the purpose, all actions would have been reflexive, with scarce regard to volition. Exercising restraint requires a higher form of intelligence. Indulgence required neither skill nor intellect. And renunciation relied more on extremism. Ailments like obesity, alcoholism, hypertension and diabetes, when they are lifestyle-related, point to the diminishing self-regulatory process. Affluence has given man the opportunity to indulge like never before. Austerity is facing extinction. Patience, contentment are no longer virtues but are relegated to mere words. All catastrophes like global warming, nuclear threat and poverty are merely a reflection of our ever-increasing inclination for indulgence.

(The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon.) Email:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Is realisation a chemical reaction?
5 Mar 2009, 0000 hrs IST, DEEPAK RANADE
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The thought process is a continuous activity. The development of specific neuronal networks may be responsible for the conditioning that occurs.
Speaking Tree
George Gurdjieff used to say that character is like a buffer. (Getty Images)
Belief systems
, behavioural traits and even temperament are all effects of conditioning.

There has also been speculation of whether there exists in the brain a God centre. A researcher revealed that when a person was subjected to pain stimulus before and after being shown the picture of a deity he had faith in, his tolerance to pain was significantly better than it was before seeing the picture. So was the increase in tolerance the result of conditioning?

Such a premise would imply that a similar outcome were possible if the patient was shown the picture of a mountain, if he had been conditioned to believe that mountains are objects of devotion. Does it mean that whichever deity one believes in, the final locus of God in the brain remains the same?

Then theoretically, if this God centre were to be stimulated, one could experience calm, bliss, even ecstasy. Would this imply that all spiritually advanced souls have, over a period of time, been able to devise an intrinsic mechanism to stimulate the God centre?

Are all spiritually advanced masters just those who, by repeated practice, develop the God centre further so that it can be stimulated at will? That would reduce realisation to a mere neurochemical phenomenon. It would then have some tangible parameters for either localisation or verification.

Meditation could be just a process that converts all eccentric thought processes into a concentric pattern with the God centre as the epicentre. All thoughts pertaining to mundane activities may be eccentric in nature. These eccentric patterns would be a deterrent to stimulating the God centre. Most explanations given by realised masters seem to defy all logic, which is the domain of the dominant hemisphere. The non-dominant hemisphere is concerned with intuitive and non-analytical networks.

So maybe, the God centre resides in the non-dominant hemisphere and realisation could effect a state of awareness that transcends the baseline neuronal activity of just being conscious. The advent of functional imaging techniques like the MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) may assist in the verification of such hypotheses. Probably, realisation could then be imaged and anatomically localised.

Happiness is most often cause-based, a consequence of perceptive modalities giving a positive feedback via established neuronal circuits. Familiarity, sensory gratification, and above all a very tangible cause-effect relationship permeates this sense of joy. But, if happiness could be devoid of a cause, it may explain the detachment that most masters talk about.

Happiness would then be independent of a cause and also stimulation of specific neural paths. It could become the background electrochemical activity, where any external object is not recognised as a separate entity and analysed and assigned relative values of joy or pain.

This Advaita or Oneness could be identified as the baseline firing of zeta neurons in a specified locus in the non-dominant hemisphere. It would create a perception shift. It could also deconstruct the "i" entity as having a discrete identity; the equivalent of dissolution of ego.

There would be no subjective element to any sensory stimulus. Which is why many masters seem to revert to a child-like innocence. Maybe, then godhood would be a neurochemical alteration in the milieu of the neuronal networks
, resulting in a perceptive variance. And spiritual progress could be monitored by an imaging modality.

The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon and may be contacted at