Sunday, September 26, 2004

Meaning in Life

Meaning in Life: Science and Spirituality

Not all writers are sanguine about bringing Science and Spirituality into alignment. From the side of spirituality there are those who anchor themselves in claims that the Truths of spirituality are not mutable and a mutable method of inquiry such as Science can scarcely access such Truths. A defense of spiritual knowledge. Similarly there are rationalist Scientists who defend the domain of science from encroachment into the unverifiable truths of Spirituality into the hallowed spheres of scientific truths.

There is a third strand: they are separate spheres of inquiry and best just being separate. Follow this line one, as it is not impassioned - and hence hard to respond to.


A person can learn to cope with any problem by utilising will power. But when he begins to ask himself why he should act in that way then he is beginning his journey into metaphysics. The question ‘Why ?’ sets the framework of all spiritual idealism, though for most idealists the answer may be just intuitive and not clearly and rationally conceptualised.

The question ‘Why ?’ relates to purpose and meaning in life. It needs to be separated from the question ‘How ? ’, which relates to the mechanisms by which processes occur. The question ‘How ?’ is the central concern of science, but science has no means of answering the question ‘Why ?’. Hence metaphysics is outside the domain of science.

Nevertheless, the scientific attitude of impartial inquiry and empirical exploration into a problem is applicable to every domain of experience, including metaphysics. This distinction is very important. The content of science is valid only within the ideology of science, but the scientific attitude is a necessary ingredient of any deliberate process of character transformation. [From Ian Heath: read more]

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Microscope takes pictures of atoms

Scientist at Oak Ridge Lab now can image atoms through electron microscope.

This picture is that of Silicon Crystal. The red blobs are pairs of Si atoms. Look closely and you can see the linked atoms in each blob. Matter is largely empty space. Science knows a lot about the "figure" and remains ignorant of the "ground" - using the language of figure and ground in the visual arts. The ground that in Spirituality is called the ground of all being.
- Sri

Monday, September 20, 2004

Sheaths and Cosmic Bodies



Ancient rishis "saw" our bodies as several sheaths called KOSHAS. Over the millennia we have lost direct knowing of these bodies. Now Space Science comes to help with using instrumental or indirect knowing. See the image of the nebula above. This nebula had a series of what astronmers believe to be periodic "bursts" which then encircled the nebula as dust rings. The nebula in effect has a series of concentric bodies.

Aural imagery of human bodies often reveals our other light bodies.

My contemplation is that sensory knowing (eyes, ears) are also indirect or instrumental ways of knowing. What we see and hear is conditioned by various filters or conditionings and hence subject to interpretation and distortions. The DIRECT KNOWING we spoke of at the Sept retreat is not mediated by senses or instruments. It comes as another way of knowing.

Would love to hear about your experiences of direct knowing. Leave note as a comment here.

Nasa site has this note about the nebula:
The full beauty of the Cat's Eye Nebula (NGC 6543) is revealed in this new, detailed view from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope. The image from Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys (ACS) shows a bull's eye pattern of eleven or even more concentric rings, or shells, around the Cat's Eye. Each 'ring' is actually the edge of a spherical bubble seen projected onto the sky -- that's why it appears bright along its outer edge.

Observations suggest the star ejected its mass in a series of pulses at 1,500-year intervals. These convulsions created dust shells, each of which contain as much mass as all of the planets in our solar system combined (still only one percent of the Sun's mass). These concentric shells make a layered, onion-skin structure around the dying star. The view from Hubble is like seeing an onion cut in half, where each skin layer is discernible.

The bull's-eye patterns seen around planetary nebulae come as a surprise to astronomers because they had no expectation that episodes of mass loss at the end of stellar lives would repeat every 1,500 years. Several explanations have been proposed, including cycles of magnetic activity somewhat similar to our own Sun's sunspot cycle, the action of companion stars orbiting around the dying star, and stellar pulsations. Another school of thought is that the material is ejected smoothly from the star, and the rings are created later on due to formation of waves in the outflowing material.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Science and Spirituality: Photo

Einstein went to India and once of the great meetings was with Rabindra Nath Tagore. Tagore is Nobel laureate in literature, great poet, educator, artist, not only a prolific composer of music but initiator of a whole style of singing aptly now called RabindraSangeet. Tagore experimented with new system of education and established a University at his place SantiNiketan (Abode of Peace). Tagore was the one who honored MK Gandhi with the honorific title "Mahatma". For many Tagore was a mystic, a sage, a spiritual realized soul - a 20th century version - one who did not renounce the world, but was entrenched and engaged in a most compassionate way. He envisioned "The Universal Man" just at the same time Sri Aurobindo was exploring his ideas of "overmind" and "supermind".

Einstein actually spent only a small part of his life in direct pursuit of his science. The rise of Hitler in Germany had Einstein living in many countries, and then after the explosion of the Atom Bomb, he was tirelessly working for world peace. The most that he wanted in life was to find a way to avoid wars in the future. He said, "I don't know what WW3 will be fought with, but WW4 will be with sticks and stones". He mobilized thousands people to support his idea of a world government that would bring lasting peace to the world.

See an image of Science and Spirituality here.

Image sent to me courtesy of dear friend, Richard Otto.

Robert Kenny: The Science Of Collective Consciousness

Robert Kenny: The Science Of Collective Consciousness

"Just as we can create order in physical systems through focused attention or intention, a number of experiments have suggested that two or more people can create synchronization or coherence between their nervous systems. For example, in research funded by the Institute of Noetic Sciences and others, Marilyn Schlitz and William Braud have shown that individuals who are calm and relaxed can intentionally reduce the anxiety of others in distant places, and that people consciously focusing their attention can help others in remote locations to concentrate their wandering minds. In another arena—“distance healing”—67 percent of 150 controlled studies have shown that individuals and groups can use intention, relaxation, enhanced concentration, visualization, and what is described as “a request to a healing force greater than themselves,” to heal others to a statistically significant degree. Healing effects and tele-prehension have increased when participants felt empathy and rapport or when they meditated together.

On community, societal, and even worldwide levels, more than twenty experiments, published in respected scientific journals, have demonstrated that Transcendental Meditation groups representing one percent of a target population have caused significant improvements in measures of quality of life and physical and mental health and have reduced crime, accidents, conflict, and war in the entire target population, apparently by reducing stress in the collective psyche.

These and other studies provide strong evidence that we can develop and work with our collective consciousness to produce a number of important interpersonal, organizational, and social benefits—from increased empathy, understanding, and respect to enhanced health, cooperation, and creative collaboration. In our increasingly diverse workplaces, communities, and global institutions, where we are challenged by extremely complex and urgent problems, cultivating these capacities will not only promote the common good but also could ensure our survival."

Read the whole article here

Bhagavan Sri Ramana Maharshi site - Book extracts - Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi

Spiritual Force - Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi: "9th June 1936

The path of the intellect leads to understanding. The path of inquiry leads to experience. The path of collective inquiry must lead to shared collective experience. But the intellect keeps intruding cutting into the experience. Dwarkoji admonished us not to be trapped into intellectual pursuits, into "practicing meditation" or just getting together to have retreats. Our spiritual development must be correlated with life - he told us. In this excerpt, Sage Ramana illustrates this correlation. - Sri

197. Gul and Shirin Byramjee, two Parsi ladies of Ahmedabad, arrived this day. They spoke at night to Maharshi: 'Bhagavan! We have been spiritually inclined from our childhood. We have read several books on philosophy and are attracted by Vedanta. So we read the Upanishads, Yoga Vasishta, Bhagavad Gita etc. We try to meditate, but there is no progress in our meditation. We do not understand how to realise. Can you kindly help us towards realisation?''

M.: How do you meditate?

D.: I begin to ask myself 'Who am I?'', eliminate body as not 'I', the breath as not 'I', the mind as not 'I' and I am not able to proceed further.

M.: Well, that is so far as the intellect goes. Your process is only intellectual. Indeed, all the scriptures mention the process only to guide the seeker to know the Truth. The Truth cannot be directly pointed out. Hence this intellectual process. You see, the one who eliminates all the not I cannot eliminate the 'I'. To say 'I am not this' or 'I am that' there must be the 'I'. This 'I' is only the ego or the 'I'-thought. After the rising up of this 'I'-thought all other thoughts arise. The 'I'-thought is therefore the root-thought. If the root is pulled out all others are at the same time uprooted. Therefore seek the root 'I', question yourself 'Who am I?''; find out its source. Then all these will vanish and the pure Self will remain ever.

D.: How to do it?

M.: The 'I' is always there - in deep sleep, in dream and in wakefulness. The one in sleep is the same as that who now speaks. There is always the feeling of 'I'. Otherwise do you deny your existence? You do not. You say 'I am'. Find out who is.

D.: Even so, I do not understand. 'I', you say, is the wrong 'I' now. How to eliminate this wrong 'I'?

M.: You need not eliminate the wrong 'I'. How can 'I' eliminate itself? - All that you need do is to find out its origin and abide there. Your efforts can extend only thus far. Then the Beyond will take care of itself. You are helpless there. No effort can reach it.

D.: If 'I' am always-here and now, why do I not feel so?

M.: That is it. Why says it is not felt? Does the real 'I' say it or the false 'I'? Examine it. You will find it as the wrong 'I'. The wrong 'I' is the obstruction. It has to be removed in order that the true 'I' may not be hidden. The feeling that I have not realised is the obstruction to realisation.
In fact it is already realised; there is nothing more to be realised. Otherwise, the realisation will be new; it has not existed so far, it must take place hereafter. What is born will also die. If realisation be not eternal it is not worth having. Therefore what we seek is not that which must happen afresh. It is only that which is eternal but not now known due to obstructions; it is that we seek. All that we need do is to remove the obstruction. That which is eternal is not known to be so because of ignorance. Ignorance is the obstruction. Get over this ignorance and all will be well.
The ignorance is identical with the 'I'-thought. Find its source and it will vanish.
The 'I'-thought is like a spirit which, although not palpable, rises up automatically with the body, flourishes and disappears with it. The body-consciousness is the wrong 'I'. Give up this body-consciousness. It is done by seeking the source 'I'. The body does not say 'I am'. It is you who say, 'I am the body!' Find out who this 'I' is. Seeking its source it will vanish.

D.: Then, will there be bliss?

M.: Bliss is coeval with Being-Consciousness. All the arguments relating to the eternal Being of that Bliss apply to Bliss also. Your nature is Bliss. Ignorance is not hiding that Bliss. Remove the ignorance for Bliss to be freed."

Science IN spirituality

Scientific Study of Spiritual experience and truth examined:
John Davis (of Denver) writes about methodology - examining how and whether scientific methods can be brought to the study of psychological, social and spiritual realms. Since our next retreat in October has the theme of Science and Spirituality, I felt this article apropos. It looks into one particular way we could bring science and spirituality together, that is, using scientific approaches to the study of spiritual phenomena. There are several such studies underway - scientific documentation of the effects of transcendental meditation on reduction of crime and societal conflict; neurological explanations for experiences of the divine and so on. It is useful to understand John Davis and how he sees the applicability of scientific method and his call to pluralism. - Sri


"The view that spirituality and similar issues can be scientifically researched may present challenges to both scientists and those in the spiritual disciplines. Conventional science has ruled most aspects of the human spirit out of bounds. Good science, in this view, requires that the phenomena we study be quantified, controlled, and repeated. Since spiritual experience, or for that matter, experience of any kind, cannot easily be studied in these ways, it cannot be approached by good science. In most cases, conventional scientists have dismissed the human spirit as fantasy or superstition. Others have argued that such matters are the province of philosophy or religion but not science. Thus, conventional science is skeptical, at best, about the existence&emdash;or at least, the scientific study &emdash;of the human spirit. At the same time, many of those most committed to study of consciousness, spirituality, and related aspects of human existence object to attempts by conventional science to manipulate and control these phenomena. They argue that the essential character of deep emotional experience, self-transcendence, and the miraculous is lost by subjecting it to the materialistic demands of modern science. This view is skeptical about the value of science, especially in its attempts to study the human spirit.

Most conventional scientists discount the value of spiritual experience and many spiritual seekers discount the value of science. However, there is an approach to science that is adequate to the task of studying the human spirit. The essence of this approach is an integration of complementary scientific approaches, a 'methodological pluralism.' This approach challenges the limiting assumptions and practices of conventional science without rejecting its deepest values, including valuing truth over dogma and careful, critical analysis over bias. Similarly, it challenges the notion that spiritual experience is completely beyond empirical analysis. Scientists and spiritual seekers can come together, and the outcome will be better information on which to base decisions and actions, including counseling, psychotherapy, and healing."

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Team Hopeful in Its Effort to Recreate Primal Life

The New York Times > Science > Team Hopeful in Its Effort to Recreate Primal Life:

"Scientists analyzing the genomes of microbes believe that they have reconstructed the pivotal event that created the one-celled organism from which all animals and plants are descended, including people.

The event was the merger of two primitive bacterial-type cells into a eukaryote, the type of cell in all multicellular organisms.

Dr. James A. Lake, a biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said he had spent four years constructing the computer program that led to the analysis, which is being published today in Nature."

We are going to be talking about Science and Spirituality next month. A few items indicating significant milestones in Science will come your way. Let us ponder how this might connect with spirituality. - Sri

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Buddha tale: Gentle, Gentlier, Gentliest

I liked the reference in this tale to our charming dynamic of nonviolence - except it is the flip side of it - sharp, sharper, sharpest that is mentioned. Good read! - Sri


The Dreamer in the Wood

Now the Buddha once upon a time lived alone in the woods, in the ecstasy of meditation. For wild fruits he went no further afield. When fruit grew upon the tree, he ate the fruit; in time of flowers, he ate flowers. When the leaves grew, he ate leaves. When leaves were none, he ate the bark of trees. Thus, in the highest contentment he lived a long time in that place.

Now on a day, Sakka, the King of the gods, appeared before him and, wishing to test him, said: "Behold yon man, all black of hue, my spirit likes him not."

Now by his divine insight the Buddha knew that Sakka spoke to him. And he made answer and said:

"Though black of hue, I am a true Brahmin. A man is not black by reason of his outer skin; only can sin make him black." Thus he discoursed to Sakka, and it was as he had made the moon to rise in the sky. And the god asked him what boon he would crave.

And the Divine being asked to be free of three things: malice, hatred and greed.

Then Sakka: "What is bad in these things?" And Buddha made answer, "Because hatred grows from small to great and is ever full of bitterness. Malice brings evil. First word, then touch, next fist, then staff, and last the swordstroke flashing free. When men are urged by greed, then arise fraud and deceit and swift pursuit of savage loot—"

"Then," said Sakka, "choose another boon."

Then said the Buddha, "Grant that in the woods where I live alone, no disease may mar my peace, or break my ecstasy."

Then said Sakka, "He chooseth no thing connected with food." And he granted yet another boon.

And the Buddha said, "Let no creature ever be harmed for me in body or in mind."

And Sakka made the tree bear fruit perennially, and saluting the Buddha by touching his head with joined hands, he said:

"Dwell here for ever free from disease," and returned to his throne.

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