Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Travelogue of trek to Everest Base Camp

Blissful HeightsBy : Deepak Ranade Dec 20, 2010 | Views (229) | Responses (3) Facing Mt Everest for the first time, Deepak Ranade discovers that his ego had simply vanished at the sight of the magnificent canvas before him.

The flight from Kathmandu to Lukla in a Dornier aircraft was nerve-racking. As it made the final descent, it seemed we were headed directly for the mountains. Suddenly, the runway appeared at the edge of the valley and we all heaved a sigh of relief after a bumpy touchdown. We had a hurried meal and set off from Lukla on one of the most challenging, but exhilarating treks of our lives.

One can’t help a feeling of awe that creeps in as one treads the same path that legends like Tenzing, Hillary, and Reinhold Meissner walked on. Our first destination is Namchi Bazaar. We cross the Hillary bridge that spans the Dudhkosi river. Walking on the three feet-wide steel structure that undulates and occasionally swings certainly makes one appreciate the stable ground we walk on. As level ground makes way for the inclines, every step becomes an exercise in self-motivation and determination. The mind starts questioning the sanity of this whole masochist exercise. As the climb continues relentlessly, even the Everest Base Camp appears distant and unreachable.

Only One Way: Forward
I reason to myself that we all go through such moments in life, too. In such moments, the only option left is to keep moving ahead, taking the next step. Besides, fatigue and exhaustion strike everyone with equal intensity, but you can’t let them get the better of you. This philosophical approach surely makes the rest of the climb more bearable. In fact, it made me notice the tall pines and the lush green carpet draping the hills. After about an hour of toil, we catch the first glimpse of Everest from a small clearing — a morale-boosting sight that proved as therapeutic as a shot of steroids for our tired bodies.

Namchi is a quaint little settlement in the hills, replete with all modern facilities, without, however, severing its umbilical cord with tradition.

It serves as a major logistic head for all expeditions to the Everest. It is surrounded by some picturesque peaks like Ama-Dablam, Thamserku and Kusumkangru.

The next day saw us on our way to Tengboche, a small village that houses the famous Tenboche monastery. Legend says that on summit day, Tenzing got a glimpse of this monastery from his tent and interpreted it as a good omen for his summit bid. The Buddha idol in this monastery looks on serenely, in harmony with the ambience. The surrounding peaks and the distant but clearly visible Everest range is the perfect setting to induce a meditative state.

Majestic Mountains
We continue our trek to Pangboche, where after a night halt, we move to Dingboche. In line with our acclimatisation protocol, we ascend nearly 1,000 feet from where we catch a glimpse of Makalu, Island peak, and Peak No. 38. We also see Choufula, a sacred peak that is worshipped by the locals. As part of ritual, the entire village abstains from any form of fire for three months every year, an unimaginable fact at such heights and temperatures, and testimony to the fact that humankind spares no ordeal in its eternal quest to access Divinity.

Our next stop is Lobuche, which claims our first casualty of altitude sickness — a teammate suffers from continuous throbbing headaches, nausea and occasional shortness of breath. Suddenly, we realise our own fragility and vulnerability and how unforgiving these mountains can be. Treatment comprises of one main modality — descend — and quickly at that! We bid an emotional farewell to our colleague as he leaves with a porter.

Golden Crest
The terrain is now becoming more hostile. Morraine and rocks make climbing all the more difficult. As we make our way to the tea-house lodge at Gorakshep, the highest village on the Everest trek, we look forward to our final destination, Kala Patthar, at more than 18,000 feet.

This is a mountain made up mostly of black rock, which gives it its name. After crossing a stretch of sandy level ground — the remains of Tethys — the ocean that existed prior to the collision of the continental plates — we ascend another 1,000 feet to a plateau. The sight was too awesome for words. We were surrounded by snow-clad magnificence — Pumorie, Cho-latse, the west shoulder of Everest and Lhotse. We were spellbound, and all the pain that had preceded the moment vanished.

As the sun began to set, the majestic peaks were gradually devoured by shadows, and very soon, only the tips of the tallest, Mt Everest and Lhotse, managed to stay afloat in the fading sunlight. Those golden apices and the surreal mountainscape made us want to freeze the moment for eternity. I said a silent prayer for being able to experience this sublime masterpiece. When you see a canvas of this magnitude and splendour, you realise that all ego sublimates, and what remains is a desire to become one with this manifestation of divinity.

Tags : divinity, experience, magnitude, Mt Everest, splendour

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Nirvikalpa Samadhi

Supra-conceptual awareness
DEEPAK M RANADE, Nov 22, 2010, 12.00am IST
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Tags:Thoughts|spirituality|Human brain|god|Faith|evolution
Supra-conceptual awareness (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
The human brain has a frontal lobe that has the power of abstraction and imagination. A perspective upgrade enabled by the frontal lobe makes possible comprehension of complex concepts and ideas.

Religion, God, spiritualism and belief systems are complex concepts. These are acquired and planted by social conditioning of the individual. None of them are congenital; they are legacies of culture and conditioning. They are influenced by a host of geo-politico-social factors. Their diversity harbours immense potential to breed conflict within the individual as also without. They are relative to the environment in which the individual grows up. The personality and thought processes of each individual are a sum total of all such influences.

All learning is also concept based. These concepts lead to a conditioning of the intellect. Once the formatting is done, it becomes a template and reference for future thought processes.

The identity of ones own self is also a concept. Various influences of the environment mould this concept of the identity of the self. Like sedimentary rocks, time keeps adding layers to this notional entity. Likes, dislikes, pleasure and pain also develop in accordance with development of this identity. Eventually each person becomes an eclectic mix of ideas, concepts and opinions accumulated from diverse influences. An individual identity is unformatted consciousness superimposed with an acquired identity integrated with an assortment of concepts.

All thoughts that arise in the mind are also based on concepts that have been learned and acquired. Anxiety, fear, joy, happiness and sorrow are concepts that affect our lives profoundly. But they are all concepts, nonetheless. What is primary is consciousness animating this identity.

All pleasure and pain arise as a function of this assumed identity and are very relative to this identity. Pleasure and pain are mere sensations mediated by neurotransmitters as response to events in the environment. The sense of pleasure or pain never affects the sense of am-ness, which is impermeable to variable circumstances.

Liberation is also a concept. Liberation is sought from what, the travails of life? It seems more a pre-emptive effort to obviate any impending suffering since it promises deliverance from subsequent births. It may be an extension of the pleasure-seeking principle. True liberation would be from all concepts. All thoughts are in effect founded on the backdrop of concepts. Thoughts are derivatives of the assumed identity. They have no a priori existence. They are secondary to the identity. Thoughts and ideas are totally in the domain of tangible form.

The form can perceive only a form. For consciousness to be aware of itself, it has to abandon all paradigms of knowledge and concepts. Thoughts are images and attributes of the conceptual identity arising and subsiding on the screen of consciousness.

Meditation attempts to induce a state of thoughtlessness. Liberation is the wiping of this screen of all concepts, including the concept of the self as identity. The sense of `i am' needs no knowledge to become just am-ness. The "i" tries to perceive am-ness using forms and concepts. But am-ness is supraconceptual. It exists plainly and uncharacteristically and obviously.

Realisation would be a shift from "i" am to just plain am-ness without the pronoun "i" residing in a sense of mere am-ness. This state of residing in unqualified am-ness is called Nirvikalpa Samadhi or supraconceptual awareness.

(The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon.)



Read more: Supra-conceptual awareness - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/spirituality/science-of-spirituality/Supra-conceptual-awareness/articleshow/6960038.cms#ixzz15zEIUiWZ

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Paradox of Liberation

Speaking Tree-Times Of India- 23 August 2010
Liberation is believed to the epitome of achievement of the human form. But the phenomenon of liberation is riddled with a great paradox.

The paradox is that the liberated entity disintegrates, dissolves and no longer remains to appreciate the state of liberation. The whole exercise of liberation therefore seems to be an exercise in futility when viewed from the standpoint of the individual endeavouring to seek liberation.

Liberation can never be an acquisition of the individual. Because liberation is not of a person, liberation is from a person. It is often said by sages that the search or efforts to seek liberation will end only when the seeker ends.

All attempts made in this direction only further crystallise the identity and discreteness of the seeker. The state of am-ness when suffixed by an identity automatically precludes any scope of salvation. Desire for liberation is an oxymoron, because liberation is absence of all desires. Does it mean that all endeavours like meditation, devotion and prayer are superfluous?

Sage Ashtavakra said precisely that. Liberation is merely a blink away. It need not involve any form of penance, effort or endeavour. The identity of self is totally a creation of the self and a figment of imagination. The name, the form is merely a projection. Liberation is instantaneously becoming aware of the absence of the subject-object dichotomy.

The meaning of the word Ashtavakra is “distorted at eight places”. According to legend when Ashtavakra was in still in his mother’s womb, his father would recite from Vedic scriptures. But his chanting was defective and every time Ashtavakra discerned an error, he would squirm inside the womb. As a result he was born with eight deformities; hence the name.

This story is symbolic. The squirming was perhaps at the futility of the chanting. Sage Ashtavakra was a realised soul and his discourse to King Janaka forms the content of the treatise, Ashtavakra Gita, that predates the Bhagavad Gita.

The name Ashtavakra has a far greater significance. Yoga as elucidated by Sage Patanjali is comprised of an eight-fold path. Ashtanga Yoga, comprising yama or restraint, niyama or self-regulation, dhyaan or meditation, pratyaahara, dharana, samadhi asana and pranayama. The eightfold path leads to samadhi or liberation. But Ashtavakra said that all endeavours only fortify the identity of the seeker. He said that liberation is the state where the subject and object become one. All endeavours only serve to underline the ego and are a detriment to liberation. Ashtavakra therefore seems to underline the distortion created by any path of endeavour by the seeker. The philosophy challenges the basic premise that one has to make any effort to seek liberation – for that matter even ashtanga yoga. This is a radical departure from all established though.

A specific form is merely the all-pervading consciousness cleaving itself into a subject and object. It then goes about believing all that is observed is as separate and discrete as its own self. The true nature of the Self is beyond all identity and ego. It is plain consciousness. The ego is adulteration of this consciousness by total conviction in this fleeting illusory identity. And then the game of seeking begins, like the dog chasing its own tail. Holding on to the illusion of identity, one goes about seeking. The form can never ever seek the formless consciousness of which it is a manifestation. It can only merge and this merger can happen only when the form realises the futility of all efforts to become the formless.

(The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon deepakranade@hotmail.com and neuroconsciousness.blogspot.com)

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Read more: Paradox of liberation - Speaking Tree - Spirituality - Life & Style - The Times of India http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/spirituality/speaking-tree/Paradox-of-liberation/articleshow/6391369.cms#ixzz0xOFe93Xx

Friday, August 6, 2010

energy a manifestation of the unified consciousness

All is one, all is Brahmn. There is no duality. Unity has a concentric disposition. The centre is the absolute potential and as one moves outwards, this potential transforms to the kinetic. The myriad forms of creation are the kinetic expression of this central toti-potent potential.
The kinetic manifests as Shakti; the potential is Shiva. Duality begins with this illusory distinction. They are totally interchangeable because, in effect, they are one. The gunas or characteristics of form -- rajas, satva and tamas -- reflect the varying proportions of kinetic and potential energies. Satva is closer to the central, unmanifest potential, while tamas is peripheral and manifests as energy in various forms.
Energy is potential coupled with entropy or disorder, from the formless zero entropy to the manifest form with varying degrees of entropy. The kinetic manifests itself in various forms while the potential remains niraakaar or formless. This abundance of manifestation is indeed spectacular and breathtaking.
The kinetic fields preoccupy attachment to material objects and indulgent behaviour; there’s nothing wrong with that. But being preoccupied within the confines of merely form is half knowledge. It is called vipareet jnana -- to believe that form is all that there is. The true nature of Self is formless potential. Self-realisation is the journey towards the centre. All worship or devotion any form of bhakti is from where the inward journey begins. Worship or meditation is activity that decreases disorder or entropy, moving from the kinetic to the potential. The plurality of forms of worship reflects the fact that there are innumerable paths to get to the final destination, the centre. The tatva, the unmanifest formless, attributeless nirgun niraakaar, or pure potentiality.
The laws of physics conclude that any event can be claimed to have occurred only if observed by an observer. This implies that the observer is ab initio or at the centre and the object of observation is a function of the observer. The object is the subject plus entropy. And the subject is the object minus the entropy. The entire gamut of creation exists only until the observer is present.
The entire spectrum of all that is visualised could well be merely a holographic algorithm of perception by the brain. The brain might be a processor that assigns values to the entropy and converts them to sensory data. A transducer. It's a simple holographic projection of a multitude of entropy on the screen of pure potential-consciousness. Consciousness assumes the persona of an individual, also presents itself as creation and interconnects the two by becoming the act of observation. That is the trichotomy. And the show goes on. This purposeless show of manifestation is called as chidvilas, the joy of manifesting.
The brain has several ganglia or group of neurons that serve as destinations for various sensory data. The different sensory perceptions may lie in merely the different address to which the data is delivered. This delivery system is pre-programmed. For example, visual data is directed to the occipital cortex, located at the back of our heads. The brain processes the terabytes of data and creates the illusion of duality by sending the incoming data to different loci. It’s a processor that integrates varying kinetic energy patterns into data .The fidelity of our sensory organs is also a subject of speculation. I call a rose a rose because I see it just as all others do. Probably proof is in the numbers. But actually, it’s a program of perceptive software. If my visual cortex were to be stimulated at the appropriate place whilst simultaneously, the centre for smell recognition were also triggered, I would perceive a rose with equal conviction despite no such entity being present. The transient or fleeting nature of all creation lends credibility to the hypothesis that it is illusory. Creation might just be the kinetic flirting with the potential. In other words, it’s the romance of Shiva and Shakti -- a romance within -- that is, the Self suffused with love.
The author is a Pune-based consultant neurosurgeon. deepakranade@hotmail.com.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Speaking Tree, times of India, 26 june

Memory Holds The Door
Deepak Ranade, Jun 26, 2010, 12.00am IST


Tags:writer|Deepak RanadeNostalgia|consultant neurosurgeon

Nostalgia is often a pleasurable pain. But pain, nonetheless. Unpleasant memories could create bitterness while pleasant memories tend to fill one with happiness and a desire to relive the experience. Some perceive nostalgia as part of emotional baggage, and question its biological relevance.

From an anthropological standpoint, remembering where the waterholes were in a situation where the supply of water is never constant is a valuable memory input. Similarly, knowledge of the precise location of food sources is important when supply tends to fluctuate. As a recording device, memory provides vital information in trying situations. However, the bank is also filled with a wide-ranging mix of seemingly trivial and redundant data.

The colour of the dress your first date wore on that first day, the tears that coursed down your mother's cheeks after she'd spanked you and the fight you had with your classmate in school over jumping the queue these are all recorded somewhere in our memory bank. In fact, our identity and ego are but an aggregate of all recorded data. Individual identities take shape on the basis of all past events and feelings, experiences and situations that find place in a corner of the brain. Cognitive focus or concentration lends a criticality to this unique and biological data processing system.

Perception, too, plays a crucial role in this recording mechanism. What is assimilated and stored is an outcome of what is perceived. A pragmatic person may therefore not perceive an event in a complex way. If a pragmatic person's friend or colleague encountered him on the street and passed by without a greeting, such a person he would record it as an event, a megabyte of mere oversight. But someone with a more complex perception could interpret this as part of a grand conspiracy. His memory would record it not just as an event megabyte; it would perhaps be a gigabyte of associative emotional data.

Studies have shown that the most vivid autobiographical memories have been of emotional events rather than of any empirical or neutral event. Consciousness is the turntable that keeps rotating while ego is the pin that records grooves on the record. Memories are grooves made by ego on unformatted consciousness. Identity is consciousness formatted by the perceptive ego.

The sense of self as a discrete entity makes all awareness an interaction between self and environment. Interaction is all about duality. But in moments of extreme pleasure or thrill, there is no interaction; there is only a sense of being.

There is an invisible time zone between self and environment. The sense of discreteness disappears momentarily. In those fleeting moments, there is nothing to record. The present has no access to any data. In fact, the present is the moment just prior to the beginning of the process of recording. The dominant temporal lobe is the warehouse of all data. It is an integral part of the limbic system that is phylogenically the oldest in the evolution of the brain. It was linked with emotional responses required for survival and reproduction.

Considering that the limbic system is one of the oldest, all emotional augmenting of mundane events are perhaps vestiges of primitive behaviour, and so is not evolved. In this context, a patient suffering loss of memory may be temporarily or otherwise `liberated' from stored data and its effects, though this is a source of anguish for near and dear ones.

The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon. www.neuroconsciousness.blogspot.com

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Divine understanding
DEEPAK M RANADE, TOI Crest, Apr 3, 2010, 01.40pm IST


Tags:Faith|divine|Ego|intellectDivine understanding God was born out of the interface between man's intellect and its limitations, forcing the intellect to surrender to faith, says Deepak M Ranade. But can faith ever be challenged by intellect?

Ego is a sense of doer-ship. Every action is purported with a presumed control of the outcome. If the outcome is on expected lines, it gratifies the ego, and reinforces the sense of doer-ship . If the outcome is unfavourable, the ego gets slighted. The unfavourable outcome questions the scope or influence of the doer. The intellect cannot accept the arbitrary nature of outcomes or events. Failure to predict the outcome of any endeavour exposes the limitation of its control. This limitation is then assigned various nomenclatures such as destiny, luck, and karma. The futility of analytical thought also coerces the ego to seek recourse in an abstraction called God.

God was born out of the interface between man’s intellect and its limitations. History is also testimony to the then incomprehensible phenomena like lightning being interpreted as events orchestrated by celestial powers. The influence of God gradually invaded a wider perimeter of life. God became a convenient instrument of ensuring a code of ethics in the social fabric. The limitation of comprehension continued to remain the substrate of belief in God.

Belief began where intellect ended. So did the abstraction called God. Belief and intellect are strange bedfellows. Belief is necessarily ipso facto. It cannot forge an alliance with any rational thought. Each culture proclaimed its own messiah and advocated its own doctrines not always based on sanction or rationality. Rather, every unique interpretation of this abstraction cleaved society. The abstract caught the imagination of the intellect and forced it to surrender to faith. Faith could never be challenged by intellect.

Faith became a cornerstone to make the vagaries of life palatable. It also provided a resting ground for the intellectual juggernaut. Faith surreptitiously clouded rational intellect to a point of self-destruction . It transformed abstraction to aberration. The gaps in our understanding apparently decreased with the advent and progress of science. But scientific progress never eliminated the gaps completely. Rather, it made the conundrum of Creation even more bizarre. The phenomenon of lightning was explained by modern science. But this puzzle was replaced by the dilemma over the nature of light which still remains unexplained. Is light a particle or wave? The deficiency in intellectual comprehension only modified itself, from the macro to the nano.

The unpredictable nature of the subatomic world continues to perplex even the sharpest of intellectuals. Belief, nonetheless, could not restrain the intellect to seek answers. Ironically, the intellect continued seeking answers for what it had earlier relegated to the realm of incomprehensibility. The intellect started seeking answers for what had been its nemesis, namely, God. What symbolised its own failure became a subject of its study. Before attempting to comprehend God, it was vital to first comprehend the Self.

A student of science could study any subject but would be incapable of making the Self a subject of its own study. Experiment can never investigate the Self, which is an experience of awareness. Experience transcended intelligence. A paradigm shift is needed to be able to comprehend the abstraction that we call God. This could be made possible when we move from the ambit of experiment to experience. It will require sublimation of intellectual faculties to a point of heightened awareness, elevating awareness to become all-encompassing and all-inclusive that would end the subject-object dichotomy. The only way to understand God would be to become one.

(The writer is a consultant neuro-surgeon)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Latest article in Speaking Tree

An esoteric perspective: I, me, myself, who?

DEEPAK RANADE, 8 January 2010, 12:00am ISTText Size:|Topics:speaking tree

The fundamental constituent of the consciousness construct is ‘am-ness’. It is the inconspicuous motor that powers consciousness.

It is too intangible to comprehend but is the substratum of our ‘being-ness’. Intellect, mind and thoughts are derivatives of this primordial being-ness.

Being-ness is a priori and precludes any acquired knowledge or conditioning. The am-ness drives awareness and animates the Self. The Self, veiled by identity and ego, is oblivious to this am-ness, which is its very source. It merges into the form, giving the form an illusion of control and doer-ship. Am-ness is in all life forms.

Fighting to sustain am-ness is one of the most primeval instincts. But then this fight for survival is by, of and for the form. Not for the am-ness that vitalises the form. To remain in the state of being-ness is meditation. To dwell in the am-ness unadulterated by any form, identity, ego or desire is not easy. Lapsing into illusions created by the mind is inevitable. Illusion is a sensory ‘warp’. Creation is an illusion that is spun as a web by the mind and intellect on the substrate of ‘being’.

It is a film running on the screen of am-ness. Reverting to the state of being-ness requires effort. To know that pure being-ness is the nature of the true Self is knowledge and realisation. The falsely identified self constantly needs to reaffirm itself through gratification by sensory stimulation. Am-ness does not seek any gratification or reaffirmation since it is unidentified being-ness.

Am-ness is the precursor of the mind and intellect. It is pure consciousness. It is unaffected by time and form. Pure consciousness will remain eternally even after the temporary form is extinguished. It is just that it will become impersonalised. Am-ness is also called the soul or atman. Am-ness will remain undifferentiated consciousness until it inhabits a mind-body form, somewhat like the undifferentiated primal cell wherein life begins.

The single celled zygote, the first cell, has the ability to differentiate into any cell of the body. A variety of cells and tissues each functioning autonomically eventually has not even a remote semblance to the original, each still carrying the torch of am-ness that was lit by the initial flame of life.

To identify with am-ness, one has to remove all the veils one has acquired in the course of time – name, identity, beliefs, concepts and “knowledge”. Meditation serves to gradually dissolve all illusion and at the end just leaves a residual am-ness that is the state of Brahmn. All identities, objects and concepts are time-bound and are mere mirages. They are fleeting and temporary.

Am-ness is self-effacing; it is unidentifiable in the form. It is beyond concept. The mind cannot conceive its predecessor. Am-ness is sookshma or intangible. The mind works in the realm of the sthoola , or the tangible. Intelligence and thought tend to abjectly deny the intangible. These derivatives then detach from the stalk of their origin and become autonomous.

This autonomy manifests as ego and identity. These are all pseudo-entities, null and void in the absence of am-ness that is the source as well as object of Creation.

The writer is a consultant neurosurgeon. E-mail: deepakranade@hotmail.com. Blog: www.neuroconsciousness@blogspot.com