Friday, May 25, 2012

A form to depict the formless

                                                          "AUM. "   The  form to express the formless . As a child  i looked  upon AUM  as a sacred phonetic chant .  It preceded most of the mantras and prayers .  " Aum "would anoint places of worship, find frequent mention in the scriptures and  was generally considered sacred. It had a certain solemnity about itself. Aesthetically, it looked pleasing to the eye, and at the same time commanded a reverence.  In those early years, spirituality  and religion  were restricted to moralistic ,ritualistic behaviour . All queries about  "God" were  supposed to  get clarified when I grew older.  I was given to believe that " God" was this  virtuous ,omni-potent, omni-present  being. The creator and patron of this universe. It  was far easier to connect and comprehend a personified God. So my understanding  of AUM was  restricted to it being a scripturally sanctifiedx representation  for this abstraction called God. With passage of time,  I was introduced to more contemporary and intellectual abstractions called  physics and mathematics . Intangible concepts like infinity, atoms,  electromagnetism were to be grasped. Scientific thought was being validated in the laboratory but it was  also not spared  the igominy of resorting  to abstract intangible concepts.They were represented symbolically by different greek letters, or  strange names.Advances  in our understanding about matter ,energy atomic structure and quantum physics had reluctantly pushed physics to the threshold of metaphysics. The quaint figure of AUM again seemed to assert itself amidst the thetas and omegas and lambdas.  I had to investigate the significance of AUM  beyond tradition ,conjecture and conditioning. This  rekindled my interest  about whether "AUM"  could  be a symbolic  representation of  something ?  My religious regard for AUM was replaced by a curiosity . What made this AUM so sacred? What did it signify ?  My initial enquiry revealed  that it  was an amalgamation of three   "maatras", A, U and M.  Each  was again a sub representation.AUM had  the sanction of the  high priests of  conventional religion and yet was impersonal.   Could the scope of god extend beyond moral science into physical science ? Could my understanding of god transcend the restrictive anthropomorphic definition? God in my opinion had to represent the ultimate truth and not be merely an aggregate of superhuman virtues. A personal God or his Prophet had to be representative of the ultimate truth.  I  did believe in faith, but faith with a garnishing of rationality. Faith without any experience or rationale is  fundamentalism.  Since  our  cultural ethos boasts of being secular, it  generated a distaste for any  sort of fundamentalism. The primary condition that had to fulfilled to be considered "God" was that he had to be universal. A "God" of consensus. God could never be a divisive , discriminatory being who had to be appeased  by ritualistic innuendo.I believed  that "God",  if claimed to be the creator could never be discriminatory. Revealing himself only to a select few sects or religions. He had to be  a non-discriminating creator who was accessible to all of his creation. Such Universal acceptability and accessibility  could be only of  formlessness. Any form would preclude consensus, the basic criterion to be "God".  "Nirgun, niraakaar, were qualities that were hard to grasp, but were expansive and all inclusive. If"God" were formless, then assigning him a form would be sacrilege  as believed by our Muslim brethren.  A  form makes "God" exclusive. Formlessness makes "Him" inclusive. Universal in the true sense. Could there ever be a representation of  this formless God ? A paradox. A form to depict the formless.? As  insane as  using light to  search for darkness. As insane as it sounds , light can never be used to search darkness but then light becomes meaningless without darkness. So, in this mutually dependant dichotomy of extremes, formless becomes  conceivable  only because of form.   The form is just a prelude  to formlessness.  The AUM revisited me when I was in this mindset. Could this symbol paradoxically depict formlessness ? It would then not be the exclusive intellectual property of any particular religion or belief system. It would tangibly depict the intangible.  Like the blind use Braille with the  sense of touch to understand  a world  they have never seen, could this AUM be an instrument to comprehend the incomprehensible ? My subsequent foray into  spiritual enquiry  was radically altered. My understanding about consciousness got more profound as I was actually operating on this instrument that mediated consciousness , "the brain".  The seat of  all  thoughts, emotions , and concepts. Was consciousness merely a product of neuronal organisation ?  The highly advanced field of neurology i was pursuing could not provide me with any answers.  Could  consciousness be expanded ?  Personalised Consciousness was known to have three states. The waking state, deep sleep state and the dream state.  Was " God " or the ultimate truth a an impersonal supra conscious state?   One interpretation of "AUM" was that the three semi circles signified the three states of consciousness, and the dot symbolised the impersonal "turiya" state of consciousness. The half moon beneath the dot refers to "maya" or illusion that separates the personal three states of consciousness from the universal impersonal consciousness. God,  in my opinion is  the ultimate truth  which has to be realised or experienced rather than understood.  The ultimate truth  cannot  be  reducible to a form ,knowledge or information that can be communicated.  I therefore surmised that AUM represents formless attributeless awareness (nirgun, niraakaar) . Therein lies its potency. To effectively convey and represent formlessness,  non-controversially. It is the sublimation of expression. It  is more than merely a sum of parts. It is an emergent phenomenon. A quantum coherence.  A symbol that unites knower,known and knowing. It has the unique ability to symbolise the unfathomable. It is a term that removes the illusory  separation between the personal "self " consciousness and universal  all abiding ultimate consciousness. Dr.  Deepak  M.  Ranade

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Unity in Adversity

Saluting adversity After returning from the 14 year exile, Sri Ram went and met kaikeyi, to seek her blessings.  She was  his step mother who was instrumental in banishing him and so he was asked , why salute the very person  who caused  so  much  pain and suffering in his life? Sri Rams answer was poignant. He replied that it was because of his step mothers doing that he  developed resilience, patience, came across an adversary like Ravan, which helped him discover his strengths. She was instrumental in his evolution to godliness. Therefore he wanted to express his gratitude to the person who helped him actualise himself. Very often a lot of time and energy is spent on admonishing the persons and events that we feel are responsible for our pain and suffering. Persons and circumstances are merely tools to effect what lies in store for us. Seeking revenge has been the recipe for many a celluloid hits. In fact for some, vendetta becomes the mission of their lives. Is this not in a way killing the messenger? Adversity comes in the guise of a scheming adversary, or then, as a  set of mitigating circumstances well beyond our  sphere of control.  Adversity in all it's plurality  harnesses hitherto unknown abilities and talents that would have remained dormant in more favourable circumstances. The pink cheeks of high altitude dwellers are in reality the compensatory rise in concentration of haemoglobin, to offset the lower atmospheric pressure of oxygen. Adaptation is the greatest benediction for homo sapiens. It has singularly been responsible for all the evolutionary strides.The immune system works best when exposed to a spectrum of antigenic stimuli.  Virtues are partly genetic and largely acquired.  Adversity is the genesis of  the acquired  ones and  has been the driving force that has propelled human ingenuity and resilience. The biceps hypertrophies and  bulges only after pumping iron. Adversity is the iron that flexes  and contours the biceps of the mind and spirit.  A conviction in ones abilities. It breeds innovation and enterprise. It serves as the chisel that shaves off the undesirable and ungainly aberrations to sculpt a chiselled shapely  demeanor. It embellishes confidence with a dash of humility,the touch of mascara that highlights poise with a subtlety. Adversity polishes the rough  edges of the ego to a smooth rounded wholesomeness.  It  transforms  brash self indulgence to a surreal  self reliance.  A very assertive "I can do" graduates  to a tranquil "I can endure". Adversity shifts the focus of change from without to within . It is the harbinger of  changing ones perception rather than condemning the  world around us. It generates compassion as one learns to empathise with fellow travellers  sharing this equally bumpy  and uncomfortable ride. It  sprouts equanimity  from the seed of tolerance,  watering  it with  patience. It kindles the spirit with a spark of motivation  that generates the warmth of optimism  to help thaw the chill  of  skepticism. It serves as a vaccine to stimulate an immune resilience. It lends a touch of active forbearance  to an apparently  passive submission. It helps master the philosophy of being an anvil,  viz. to  bear the impact without deforming .  It matures the spirit to a level of sublime intoxication  where the self effaces itself  to become  a  witness, an observer. Adversity .evolves the soul by transcending it to a state of immutability  in this ever changing kaleidoscopic arbitrariness called life. Dr Deepak M. Ranade (the author is a consultant neurosurgeon, -