Fiction

Quantum Hints of Reality

By: Ram Govardhan

Photo by SwapnIl Dwivedi on Unsplash

After attending the heavy sessions at the Science and Nonduality Conference in San Jose and the World Science Festival in New York, David McFarlane and his Jewish-American wife, Batya Bergstein, resolved to head to Coimbatore, India, to meet a mystic who, they gathered, knows ‘everything’. And that this Guru, having attained the samadhi state, compared to the uber-cool Tibetan monks in New York or the super-suave Swamis at the Vedanta Society, offers the most plausible oriental approach to mankind’s most open problem: consciousness.

The quick-witted, transplanted Bostonian theoretical physicist, David, who adores Newton’s hairstyle, is a professor at MIT. A fellow at the same institute, Batya has a doctorate in Evolutionary Analysis from the University of Glasgow. While David is an agnostic atheist, she is a lifelong Jewish practitioner. They drive their 1987 Cutlass, now a modified street-legal race machine, to work. The middle-class math whiz from Baltimore has authored books on quantum nonlocality and had won the first prize in a renowned science magazine’s breakthrough of the year competition. The Prospect Magazine had selected Batya as one of the ‘World’s Thinkers’. Nonetheless, the nervy wunderkinds feel in their bones that they haven’t yet scratched the surface of the unfathomably gigantic iceberg called consciousness, and are hardly solaced by the fact that no one else has either.

At the bottom of their quest in the East is what they call, ‘a hundred-year enigma’. They are appalled that new physics hasn’t grasped even the basics of consciousness even though it’s over a century since quantum mechanics had stunned the world of classical physics.

Three days after enjoying the sitar-and-spirituality Woodstock festival, the moment they landed in Mumbai, and the very next day in Coimbatore, they were struck by the colours, chaos and the quintessential odours on the streets. Everyone looked leisurely, altruist let-go type and, while every social chip was down, their collective morale seemed upbeat. Is this the fatalist, stoical existence that poverty pushes into people’s lives or, is there an underlying societal tenet shepherding them through such never-ending hardship?

Driving into the massive spiritual centre that calls itself the haven for tired souls, the thoughts of Indian mystics—who throw grand receptions on themselves, who levitate, love ultra-luxury, conjure objects and who own hydraulically expanding vanity vans bigger than New York studio apartments—flashed across David’s mind. The staff looked up the schedule and there were no dates for over a month. After three days of dialing back and forth, their MIT credentials deserved an invite to travel with the Guru from Coimbatore to Mysore. They were asked to address the mystic as ‘Guruji’.

After strolling round the majestic, verdant centre, given the buttoned-down ambience, they were primed to meet a mystical mogul, a spirituality behemoth or a deep-pocketed barefoot yogi. Every bit of architectural elegance of the precincts underpinned a serene Vedic milieu, beckoning the disciples, the devout and the curious alike. The festive solemnity wore crowns of sanctity, quietude and austerity, radiating joy, poise and buoyancy.

They were to meet the Guru at the golf course the very next morning. After a few holes, despite sweltering conditions at seven, the Guru was swarmed by local bigwigs seeking appointments. They were then asked to be at the rear exit by ‘two, sharp’. At one-forty-five, the Guru’s secretary tapped on David’s shoulder. A few moments later, they saw the Guru walk towards them with clasped hands. As advised, they said, “Namaskaram, Guruji.” The Guru bowed with clasped hands again with a disarming smile. The mystic’s unruffled demeanour, ingenious simplicity and the faint aura of equable disposition eased the duo at once. His grizzled, flowing beard, colourful robes and the elaborate headgear looked chic enough to disrupt the pastel-hungry Parisian hi-fashion catwalk ramps. David could only call the Guru’s gait as ‘spiritual swagger’.

An hour later, the Guru returned in his dhoti, shirt, sunglasses and plimsoled, without shawl and headdress, and almost jumped into the seat of the Land Cruiser. Waving them to get in, he said, “I have a pilot license to fly helicopter… my medical has just finished. Whenever you are here next, we will fly together.”

In a while, he was topping 160 through the mountainy woodlanded cart-roads.

“I am told you are a theoretical physicist and she an evolutionary biologist…and that you seek to understand the eastern take on consciousness and learn about yogic and other eastern traditions. Okay, let me know what’s your take on consciousness…” the Guru asked, in his distinct accent, bordering on American.

“All that I am clear about is that it’s not an emergent property of the brain. The quantum weirdity suggests that its influence spans from the atomic to the galactic…” David said. “It’s our great pleasure and honour to be with you today, Guruji. We don’t have a theme; don’t have a list… we’ll ask as they occur.”

“Okay, no issues. Not being an emergent property and your Everettian atom-to-galactic take has been the eastern understanding of consciousness for aeons. But the earliest the English language used the words ‘conscious’ and ‘consciousness’ was in the sixteenth century. The word ‘conscious’ is from the Latin consciuscon for ‘together’ and scio ‘to know’; that is, having shared knowledge,” the Guru said.

“Oh well, I wasn’t aware of that,” Batya said. “Universal consciousness isn’t scientifically proven to be true, Guruji.”

“That things need to be proven in order to be true is in itself a false statement. For example, since you mentioned the quantum thing, physicists had discovered the wave-particle weirdity about a hundred years ago, but that doesn’t mean that the behaviour was not weird before they discovered the phenomenon. The weirdity always existed, only that we discovered it lately, isn’t it? …” the Guru said.

“There’s no evidence that the function is caused by consciousness, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Excepting the science hatched in the fires of capitalism, no tradition craves for a proof. Sticking electrodes to the skull to find source of consciousness would take us nowhere. We know we are made up of pieces of the universe and that we are conscious, so our consciousness is gained from the universe. A tree is more conscious than a rock, a worm is more conscious than a tree, a cat is more conscious than a worm and human is more conscious than a cat. As higher-order conscious beings, aren’t we the winners in the enormous cosmic lottery? Aren’t we?” the Guru said.

“Can self-consciousness tap into universal consciousness? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“No. Default consciousness is the state that tells apart the living from the non-living. Self-consciousness is recognising yourself in the mirror. Subconscious is being conscious but about nothing specific. There are several exacting yogic and eastern methods for individual consciousness to reach higher levels of cosmic reality,” the Guru said.

“Is there a rationale for disappearing when in a state of dreamless sleep or some altered state? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“There’s no question of disappearance, one is everyday waking consciousness and the other is cosmic awareness. Our brains can’t connect in a dreamless state or under sedation, but cosmic consciousness is eternally dynamic and the two are connected when we are awake…” the Guru said.

“Is quantum function the best hint of consciousness? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Yes. It all started with Einstein who called a tiny particle of light, photon, a quantum. Didn’t the simplicity of the discovery surprise the heavy-duty physicists of the time? With the birth of modernism, while America was exporting Jazz to the world, the advent of quantum mechanics not only pulled the rug underneath classical physics, but also forced the question of consciousness through the dizzying weirdity at microscopic level that looked absolutely Newtonian at macro level…” the Guru said, his affable smile at the ready.

“Yes, Guruji,” David said.

“And the double-slit thing is already hundred years old…yet physicists are at odds with consciousness. Their mechanistic take on reality is keeping them from comprehending quantum consciousness,” the Guru said.

“Victor Stenger says quantum consciousness is as mythical as gods, unicorns and dragons are, Guruji,” David said.

“Callings metaphysics and esoterica speculative realms is snobbery. And the notion that there is nothing else to be fixed in physics is utterly unscientific. The assumption that laws of nature, like the Napoleonic Code, were fully formed just after the big bang is wrong. Like everything else, even laws of nature must have evolved over time. There’s nothing divine about them, some sort of pliancy, elasticity is intrinsic. Didn’t the quantum function demolish the prized theories handed down by Galileo and Newton? Perhaps, Stenger fears that spiritualists will overthrow the materialistic paradigm and reinvent science. Now the physicists’ basic question seems to be if ain’t no broke, why fix it? …ha, ha, ha…” the Guru said.

“Yes, given the weirdity, universe seems to have less to do with laws of physics and more to the throw of dice. Yet studying neuroscience of consciousness is considered a career-limiting move… even grants are curtailed, proposals are disguised as inheritance of mental diseases, Alzheimer’s study etc. Guruji,” Batya asked.

“They are paralysing science by discounting consciousness. Perhaps the quantum weirdity and its egalitarian nature have stunted their imagination, which is greater than knowledge… knowledge is something previously imagined. Cutting-edge discoveries are often intuitive outcomes and remember that a trailblazing theory is always smarter than the genius who wrote it. When Einstein penned his epiphanous theory, he wasn’t aware of black holes…he was utterly astounded that his own theory predicted the existence of what was later known as ‘black hole’, a term coined by Wheeler many years later in Broadway,” the Guru said. “Whether consciousness is studied or not, in a decade or two from now, humanity will be at its best…because a person with greater consciousness will be more valued. The curiosity to study will also peak because people will understand that the spirit is not in the body, but the body is in the spirit.”

“The elusive nature of consciousness might be inhibiting grants and, thus, research…,” Batya said.

“Cost of any research is high and mystical nature of consciousness must entail higher allocations. The cost of first genome was two billion dollars, now a human genome is yours for two thousand dollars. Affected by their Newtonian slumber, physicists still pursue rock-bottom reductionist approaches. Didn’t Einstein hate quantum theory? The nonlocality thing and the observer effect horrified him so much that he yelled, ‘God doesn’t play dice with the universe’. In spite of being so married to his classical things, he had to convert as quantum mechanics was doing a terrific job of explaining data,” the Guru said.

“Yes, while toying with his fluffy version of a Unified Theory, he was rather confused for a period,” David said.

“Gödel, Einstein’s friend, had ruled out the possibility of a theory of everything. Yes, ironically, Einstein’s attempt for a unified field theory and the wreck of his personal life both secured frontpage treatment,” the Guru said.

“The Complexity Theory says that billions of neurons compute among themselves and when the interaction reaches a level of complexity in the brain, they say, consciousness boots up… And this could be imitated to make brain-like computers and also to render them conscious,” David said. “Neuroscientists attribute emergence to 16 billion neurons in the cerebral cortex out of the total of 90 billion neurons…”

“That is confessing ignorance of true nature of consciousness. Saying the big story lies in the sum is oversimplifying things. Brain is part of the body but not the mind, mind isn’t a generator but a receiver of consciousness, essentially a transducer of fundamental reality. Thoughts don’t arise inside our heads; they are from an infinite domain and brain is just a bio-oscillating antenna tapping into universal consciousness. Electric impulses cannot cause emergence of non-physical consciousness and, if they did, Vedanta says, that would be a category error. Deep Blue might have defeated Kasporav, but Watson scans millions of pages before answering a simple question that a toddler can. Of course, machines might computationally outdo human brains, but claims of simulating consciousness are outlandish. In fact, brain resembles a grand philharmonic orchestra than a computer…for it collates hundreds of raw tunes around us and presents sweet melodies called rich experiences,” the Guru said. “Chomsky had likened the state of neuroscience to puppetry by saying, “We can examine the puppet and its strings, but we know nothing of the puppeteer. Neuroanatomists find no difference whatsoever between human and animal neurocircuits. Elephants and whales possess larger brains and the fact that pilot whales have 37 billion cortical neurons demolishes the size argument for humans sitting pretty atop the cognitive hill.”

“The emergence isn’t attributed to any animate matter, but to the matter that has complex patterns of neurons, Guruji,” David said.

“This sounds like the fad called General Resonance Theory, which says that all matters at quantum scale vibrate and, if matters are sequenced properly, they sync up and their proto-consciousness boots up the consciousness. Can they specify as to at what level of complexity human consciousness arises? Can they? …Hello?” the Guru said.

“Despite all the complexity, all that we use is only ten percent of the brain…” the Guru’s secretary said.

“That one uses only ten percent of the brain is false…” the Guru said.

“Yes, it’s false. The misunderstanding is because of all the brain cells, only ten percent are neurons, the rest are glial cells that were considered peripheral players compared to neurons. Then the discovery that even the glial cells are as important as the neurons confirmed that we have access to hundred percent of the brain all the time,” Batya said.

“You are right on the money, Batya. Given our habits, only certain parts of brain are used more often, while the whole of it can be used by thinking or exercising holistically…,” the Guru said.

“How do we do that, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Using both the lobes is the key. For example, our right hand is controlled by the left hemisphere and left one is controlled by the right hemisphere. By crossing hands or legs, we synchronize both the hemispheres. Logic and emotions are also controlled by these two hemispheres and when both are in sync, creative possibilities open up. So, when stressed out or confused… just cross your limbs for clarity,” the Guru said.

“As it happens, Guruji, when they wheel in a three-pound brain in a Tupperware bucket for dissection, the lump looks pretty banal… utterly unlike something capable of connecting to something as profound as consciousness,” Batya said.

“A single neuron in the brain is incapable of perception or feeling, while a collection of them can and no one knows as to how many neurons would it take to collectively think or perceive. That is, the brain can think, while a braincell cannot…the paradox cannot be starker. Even the unique sensations like red or the smell of rose, which you call qualia, are not emergent properties of brain, they are compiled effects of our consciousness. Science cannot explain the physiological interface with consciousness, which isn’t produced in the recesses of brain, however promising the microtubules may seem,” the Guru said.

“In fact, Bohr says that the ion dynamics in the brain can’t be described without quantum theory…that is, mind can’t be governed by the laws of classical physics,” David said.

“Because, many a time, just like quantum consciousness, human intellect is subjective, illogical and unpredictable….” The Guru said.

“Quantum consciousness is mocked as mystical nonsense, Guruji,” David said.

“In response to the observer effect, an exasperated Einstein had asked, “Does the Moon exist only when you look at it?” Consciousness doesn’t cause the quantum weirdity; consciousness is inherent to quantum particles. The delayed choice experiment of observer effect clearly suggests that the nature knows not only when we watch but also when we intend to watch,” the Guru said.

“A postulation says that brain shares information with consciousness through quantum entanglement technique for high-speed processing,” Batya said.

“That’s plausible because some parts of brain process colour, some others sound, shape etc., but all of that somehow comes together as one perception faster than the known speed of neural transmissions, which you call the ‘blinding problem’. Apparently, mind is more than the sum total of perceptions, synaptic firings and neural processing,” the Guru said.

“The mind and the brain are unified, yet separate, such paradox is characteristic of quantum mechanics,” David said.

“Entanglement is such intimacy between particles that transmission isn’t required, they are in touch instantaneously, a mutual magical state. Thus, each proton in the universe is connected, sharing information. Just picture cosmic waves quantum tunnelling through your brain; when the waves beam the information, vibratory receptors in the brain process it, but the integrated outcome is the output of consciousness,” the Guru said.

“Okay.”

“There’s an IT analogy to explain nature of consciousness. Suppose your memories are auto-uploaded as a document on to a cloud server, say cosmic cloud or consciousness. Since your memories are part of the cloud, when you die, even if you haven’t saved a copy, the cloud will upload your memories to the future. This can be resurrection or reincarnation. When Jesus was resurrected, every other tomb in Jerusalem too opened and all the dead walked. If so many of them were resurrected at a time, could it have been considered a miracle? Must have been a mere banality in Biblical times,” the Guru said.

In fact, Kaufmann says that quantum variables survive death and exist as souls to resurrect or incarnate later, Guruji,” David said.

“But your quantum self doesn’t have to escape to the cosmic cloud, because it always has been part of it. The cloud can grant you a cloud afterlife, say heaven. Rebirth without memories is unconditionally allowed. But cloud can also grant a new life along with his memories, that would be rebirth with some memories of a previous life,” the Guru said.

“Yes, Guruji, it’s easy to quantify external consciousness, which is everything we sense, see, feel or smell that goes inside us through senses. The impossible to quantify aspect is the internal awareness, which is when one is thinking about past or future,” Batya said.

“Any attempt to quantify consciousness will add to the quandary. Consciousness is fundamental and totality of reality and all physical reality is extension of consciousness,” the Guru said.

“Perhaps, abiogenesis happened with the sole purpose of tapping into universal consciousness,” Batya said.

“Yes, when life-forms began evolving, the only incentive for things to come together at atomic level must have been some sort of pleasure. Thus, organisms must have diversified into species to acquire better sensory organs to optimize pleasures like selfish, unselfish and ultimately the spiritual pleasure…” the Guru said.

“Schrodinger’s cat thought-experiment looks ludicrous, yet it matches with the weirdity at the quantum level,” David said.

“Quantum mechanics also avers more than one outcome of any action…doesn’t that give rise to the theory of many universes?” the Guru asked.

“Absolutely, Guruji, it indicates infinite universes, infinite number of avatars of each one of us and allows forms to turn formless too… the Multiverse Theory is referred to as the most disruptive theory of all times…?” David asked.

“Infinite reality or consciousness can create infinite number of universes and, yes, even infinite number of each one of us. The cosmic real-estate is expanding every moment and general relativity is disposed to infinite inflation, which is basically a twist on big bang theory,” the Guru said. “Classical physics is a mathematical encapsulation of common-sense reality, whereas quantum functions capture the nature of consciousness like no other scientific approach has done. While electronics and quantum computing love to tango with the quantum weirdity, heavyweight experimental physicists are still hell-bent on seeking at least a smoking-gun evidence…”

“Can consciousness exist without the brain, Guruji,” Batya said.

“Killing the brain isn’t killing the consciousness, which existed before brains evolved and it will exist even after brains perish. Even if the Connectome Project produces a network map of the entire human brain in 100 years from now, the neuroscientist’s prism would still say consciousness emerges from brains, whereas esoteric lore has been perennially asserting that consciousness existed before space and time…” the Guru said.

“Lately, Guruji, the 4D construct of spacetime is in jeopardy. In a conceptual leap, some physicists say, instead of spacetime, something more fundamental is at the heart of reality, Guruji,” David said. “Few of them say that spacetime is doomed.”

“When general relativity and quantum physics come together, spacetime is rendered irrelevant. Yes, spacetime is emergent property of something deeper, non-physical and very spiritual, which is called consciousness in the East,” the Guru said. “What they mean is spacetime is losing the centrality it enjoyed over the decades, it has just begun to totter, hasn’t yet fallen from the high pedestal.”

“Do humans possess special abilities to connect with higher states of consciousness? Guruji,” David asked.

“The percentage of our conceptual and perceptual abilities to understand true reality is almost zero and that’s a scientific admission. As of now, its herculean even for master yogis, but there might be a day and age in the far future when we acquire superhuman abilities, perhaps as transhumans, to log in to cosmic reality at will,” the Guru said.

“Is neuroscience or quantum theory incapable of finding an equation of consciousness? Guruji,” David asked.

“Saying something is unworthy of further development is quite unsustainable, trivialising all the advances humanity has made. Quantum weirdity could free scientists from prejudices since it indicates that reality isn’t as objective or inelastic as classical physics paints it to be. Electricity, magnetism and light were three different things until Maxwell unified them into electromagnetic radiation, similarly they should count on consciousness. A Swiss physicist called Nassim Haramein, who, many say, deserves a Nobel, is claiming that he has mathematized consciousness by explaining that all subatomic particles (protons) all over the universe have their own dedicated information highway and they exchange information all the time. Like Nassim, instead of behaving like the empiricists of Vienna Circle, scientists must unify physics, neuroscience, metaphysics and eastern sciences. But, nowadays, the experimental physicist dreads the day when a loinclothed spiritualist meditating in a Himalayan cave might win the consciousness race,” the Guru said.

“Einstein had called quantum mechanics an inadequate theory…” David asked, while musing over the Guru’s articulacy.

“Maybe it’s incomplete… but is there anything that is absolutely perfect? In fact, Einstein’s friend Gödel has an Incompleteness Theorem that says nothing can be complete in any sphere irrespective of complexity. In fact, to the horror of mathematicians, Gödel had asserted that at the heart of mathematics lurks incompleteness and randomness,” the Guru asked.

“Haramein says that this universal information energy is nothing but consciousness,” David said.

“That makes sense to me, but let’s see how the mainstream scientific community and the Swedish academy receive his theory of consciousness,” The Guru said.

“Musk says that the Mars project, as we become multi-planet species, would also let us comprehend consciousness better,” David said.

“That may or may not help scientifically…eastern sciences are unambiguous about consciousness, without a shadow of doubt,” the Guru said.

Batya and David were quiet.

“Our capacity to explore and experience consciousness is utterly underutilized,” said the Guru and continued after outwitting a wild boar that menacingly charged towards them. “The desire to define consciousness is an innate one but, ultimately, I still think the definition will be through human experience, since the access is only from within. And meditation, as Vivekananda says, is the only route to go there…by there, he means superconsciousness or pure consciousness.”

“Okay, Guruji,” David said.

“Newton had coined a sphere called natural philosophy to deal with nonphysical part of reality, mainly metaphysics. In fact, he analysed alchemy more than physics, so he was more at ease with quantum mechanics than many physicists. The Sufi mystic Rumi had said that God’s language is silence and everything else is poor translation. Sufism is the gentlest, mystical facet of Islam. Ironically, even new physics is trying to grasp the profundity through poor translation,” the Guru said.

The Guru pulled up to talk to his teams in Tennessee and London about early bird discount offers. As they kept justifying the rationale, he almost yelled, “We are not e-commerce aggregators to deep-discount, this sort of pitching is unethical….”

The Guru flung the phone at his secretary.

The Land Cruiser resumed its breakneck speed and Batya, having noticed a photo when the Guru was on the call, asked, “Is that your wife, Guruji? But why is it black and white?”

Photo/graphy means painting with light,” the Guru said. “Some pictures don’t need colour… a useless layer hardly adding any value…”

“AI research suggests that robots will become conscious and will direct films, compose music and, possibly, delete us from the face of earth,” David asked.

“Such technological singularity is imminent due to the micro processing windfall. Machines might write their own algorithms and the graphene chips might augment human-like cognitive behaviour, but understanding metaphors, intricacies and ambiguities of human language may be impossible, let alone gaining consciousness. Do you think humans would be so idiotic to cede ground to androids without simulations and let them overlord the world? Only self-organising things can be conscious and machines cannot self-organise, nor can they process meaning, perceptions or the Platonic values like love, truth, beauty etc. Unlike digital processing systems, brain isn’t a cluster of semiconductors masquerading as neurons. You can’t take materials and cook up consciousness. As sentient beings, our minds steer our destiny, not brains,” the Guru said.

By now, David was persuaded that the Guru was a perfect blend of old-school and modernity and his words were mathematically measured, categorical and trenchant. The aplomb with which he answers highly technical and erudite questions seemed to be embedded in the blend of his prodigious command of mysticism and acquaintance of cutting-edge science.

“If mathematics is the cosmic language, if God is a mathematician, the equation of consciousness must be mathematical…Guruji,” David asked.

“Ever since the Pythagorean school, the physical world is interpreted mathematically and Wigner had talked about unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in natural sciences and, besides, science and mathematics were always regarded as promises of golden age. But that won’t be possible until science gives consciousness a place at the high table. Over the years, all that the physicists have produced is promissory triumphalism.” the Guru said. “By the way, do you know what Pythagoras had said about souls?”

“No, Guruji,” David said.

“He said that souls are condemned to a cycle of reincarnation and the escape is only possible by attaining a state of purity,” the Guru said.

“Wow, that’s despite his attempts to mathematize the universe,” David said. “Your take on the notion of time… Guruji.”

“As one Nobel laureate said, it’s one damn thing after another…ha-ha-ha…” the Guru laughed.

“And Wheeler had said that time is what prevents everything from happening at once,” Batya said.

“How do you view plasticity of time? Guruji,” David asked, while noticing that the Guru never laughs at rather poor jokes that his staff often cracks.

“Time is the most used noun in English language. Time presents experiences to us as if its static and the simple notion of time cannot reflect our rich experiences, the adjustments we make, the miniscule liberties we take. It seems fleeting, precious when we are elated and excruciatingly slow when miserable. That’s why Einstein had said that time, while appearing absolute, is actually pliable. The notion of Gaia was perceiving unity beyond apparent complexity, comprehension of time is perceiving complexity beyond apparent unity,” the Guru said.

“What is the notion of Gaaya? Guruji,” Batya asked”

“Gaia, a Greek deity, is the embodiment of the Earth. The principle says that living organisms interact with inanimate things to self-regulate themselves to perpetuate the conditions conducive for life…” the Guru said.

“Einstein had once said that his dead wife was still alive and that’s because we can’t perceive all of time at once,” David said.

“Yes…we are more or less flat-earthers in this regard. Passage of time is an illusion created by our brains, hoodwinked by its sequential nature. We can’t see all of time as existing at once because of the physical limitations our world imposes on us,” the Guru said.

“Was or is time-travelling a possibility in yogic tradition? Guruji,” David asked.

“What we do every day is of course time-travelling, one day ahead in time, ha, ha, ha. In yogic philosophy, time and space are illusions; there is only the eternal now. The ripples of time move forward and backwards affecting the past, present and future. Visionary yogis focus and connect with such rippling possibilities; thus, their time-travelling is without physical movement. But western science thinks that time-travelling is just a star-ship away and the only issue is enough money, or just a matter of finding a wormhole,” the Guru said.

“Is being in the eternal now as good as tuning into universal consciousness? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Not exactly. The state is when the mind becomes a witness and no conscious thoughts float. In this state, the mind is like a mirror that reflects things as they are. Thus, being in the eternal now is first step in the steep stairway to cosmic reality,” the Guru said.

“You drive fearlessly, Guruji… are quite jovial even with matters that are profound,” Batya said.

“When you truly understand things, you don’t fear. Humour eases social life…sad, long-faced people are prisoners of fake morality and, in fact, such people enjoy interminably long phases of misery, ha, ha…” the Guru said.

“In what is condescendingly called quantum mysticism, physicists claim that spiritualists misuse quantum phenomena to validate concepts like souls, reincarnation and that it helps meditators in grasping aspects of higher consciousness? Guruji,” David asked.

“Misusage isn’t uncommon, neither is moral relativism in any calling. Isn’t there backstabbing science politics, cannibalisation of ideas and settling scores in top-notch research institutions? Quantum things have nothing more to do with meditation than gravity does. We’re connected to the planets by gravity but that is not to say astrology is true. When bonhomie prevailed between science and spirituality, like in the age of enlightenment, they explored everything together and mankind made great progress. Humanity’s most miserable ages were when religion tyrannized science. Materialistic science, which is dominant now, must take consciousness and other eastern concepts into equation to flourish,” the Guru said.

“As it happens, Guruji, there are Quantum Activists who urge physicists to consider consciousness as the only fundamental reality,” David said.

“The activists’ assumption is that the functions of the micro world would explain that of the macro world if consciousness is counted. Hope this activism motivates the Plato’s Cave experimental physicists to see the reality beyond the shadows, instead of the shadows. Together they could change great many things…. for example, they could bring therapeutic remedies out of vital energies into mainstream and transform healthcare and our economics. Nothing new has come in fifty, sixty years, the latest gadgets use technologies conceived half a century ago…” the Guru said.

“What embitters scientists is the New Age profiteering that mixes Ayurveda and quantum mechanics and vends cacophonous products like rejuvenating facial mist, organic body lotions, aroma antioxidant jams etc,” Batya said.

“Monetisation of Ayurveda or yogic practices isn’t a sin… creative capitalism is essentially an eastern concept, while scientism, which is exploiting scientific jargon, is a malpractice,” the Guru said.

“Is spiritual or yogic take essential to grasp consciousness? Guruji,” Batya asked. “

“Yes. Consciousness is the bridge between the mind and the deeper dimensions of reality. The strict separation between material and spiritual spheres is a western construct. Intuitional methods of yogic meditation let us explore higher levels of consciousness and, depending upon the efficacy of the meditator, even to experience unbounded level of consciousness,” the Guru said.

“Isn’t meditation impossible when thoughts overwhelm us? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“It isn’t about suppressing, it’s all about letting the thoughts go by. An average person has 12,000 to 70,000 thoughts a day, obviously, he can’t control every thought. Controlling the dominant negative thoughts consciously is how we increase number of positive random thoughts. The more you do it, the more you are in the present, chanting or focused breathing will help. If thoughts still bother you, don’t be annoyed, just come back to breathing and repeating this will strengthen mindfulness…” the Guru said.

“What is the spiritual meaning of involution, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“In eastern traditions, involution represents the inner evolution of the heart, mind and soul. It liberates us through the famed seven yogic paths of self-awareness. Internal evolution is essential to free ourselves from a lifetime of slavery, because we are slaves to our bodies, minds, emotions and even to our societies,” the Guru said.

As the Guru drove into a ramshackled restaurant, a lanky journalist scampered up and yelled, “Your centre seems to be entangled in ecological cases…”

Ignoring the journalist, the Guru strode along inside and said, “…. yellow journalism of the worst sort… If there is any substance to it, I will leave the country…”

Within a while, when the Guru said he’s done after having just a couple of idlis, David asked, “Is that enough, Guruji.”

“Tamil culture has divided hunger into two stages, mun pasi and pin pasi… that is, primary hunger and secondary hunger. Our primary hunger is satiated with just a couple of morsels…that is all you need unless your work involves hard labour. Satiating the secondary hunger is feeding the greed, I satiated my primary urge…that’s enough,” the Guru said.

Back on the road, the Land Cruiser resumed its breakneck speed.

“The great Tesla had once said Instead of inventing flying machines, I want to teach each individual to regain the consciousness of his own wings…hethought everyone has innate potential to be as enlightened as Jesus, Buddha or Zarathustra…” David said.

“Tesla also said my spiritual ear is as big as the sky above us… I hear the cosmic music all the time. He remained single and devoted entire life to science and, unfortunately, he died alone in his hotel suite in New York. His fourth law of creation says that the universe had no beginning and no end and that creation is eternal…which is an eastern take too,” the Guru said.

“And he had said that if you know the magnificence of 3,6 and 9, then you would have the key to universe…what is the significance, Guruji,” Batya asked

“These numbers, right through civilisations, are considered sacred. Number three signifies harmony, excellence and creation. Everything in threes is perfect and complete, the Latin principle omne trium perfectum exemplifies this. For example, the three main organs that sustain life are the heart, lungs and brain…. the Christian theological Holy Trinity—Father, Son and Holy Spirit….and the Hindu concept of Trimurti—Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. ……The number six is twice as powerful as three, signifies feminine and male energies……. The number nine signifies the pinnacle, is the numerical finger print of the creator, and implies evolution, lifecycle and the cosmos. With the insights the patterns these numbers offer, master yogis grasp the deeper truths of reality…” the Guru said.

“How do you see the concept of free-will? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Free-will is a perception… when pitted against reality, perception always wins. Our sophisticated brains simulate the notion of free-will. Some say that free-will is non-existent by arguing, for example, that a man wants to eat because he was hungry and the food that he wants is because it was displayed at certain corner in a certain store and he went there because that market had such stores etc.,” the Guru said.

“In fact, the quantum function suggests that mind can exercise free-will and our entire legal edifice stands on the existence of free-will, Guruji,” David said.

“In Hindu tradition, the incongruity is easily resolved. One acts and suffers the consequences of those decisions of what we call ‘free-will’, which is more than justice, it’s karma. Good, bad, and ethical values are inherent to consciousness, our minds make the choices and the outcomes are subjected to the laws of karma, thus, the notion of free-will is meaningless,” the Guru said.

“There are scientific claims that soul exists after death and that brain accessing nonlocal information accounts for psychokinesis, ESP, visions and apparitions and are cited in favour of reincarnation…. yet mainstream science rejects such claims,” David said. “Are the near-death experiences the last-ditch efforts by brain to cope with surroundings even when it’s mostly dysfunctional, Guruji.”

“That’s a far cry from their earlier beliefs that soul, ESP and afterlife are wild and woolly ideas. Nonlocality surprises scientists but eastern traditions knew such phenomena for ages. When the brain is flat-lined, there’s no evidence of electrical firing. Neuroscientists attribute near-death experiences to residual firing because materialistic view keeps them from believing something else can cause those experiences. Explanations apart, studying as to why NDE leaves patients with an enduring sense of calm and resilience in facing death may have practical, therapeutic value…As for rejecting mystical things, as a scientist, while exploring the Atlantic Ocean, it’s too unreasonable to say that no other oceans exist. Irrespective of what organized research thinks, there’ll always be new explorations by others leading to newer developments. It’s fine to be uncomfortable with the unfamiliar, but can’t we be honest about it? …Hello?” the Guru said.

“What sort of new developments, scientific or otherwise, do you foresee, Guruji…” Batya asked.

“How about zooming to moon in the morning to work and returning to Boston by evening. Designer genes to render us more desirable. One’s consciousness quotient as a key parameter for employability. Transhumanism becoming a reality. Hybrid human brains with infinite extra-sensory perception. Free electricity. One human having several bodies dispersed all across the galaxies. Automatic six-pack at adulthood. Psychic surgery as a medical practice. That genetic evolution is actually a self-evolving consciousness. Downloading an email attachment and printing a microlight on a huge 3D printer for flying immediately. The existence of extra-terrestrial civilizations. Teleportation of consciousness. Time-travelling across galaxies using the dust of stars…,” the Guru said. “One by one, every counterintuitive idea will become one of the mundanities of life.”

“The concept called Orchestrated Objective Reduction says that microtubules carry quantum information. When the heart stops, blood stops flowing, the information just dissipates into the universe and, if the patient is resuscitated, this quantum information returns to microtubules rebooting consciousness,” David said.

“In the 17th century, Descartes had stated, ‘I am conscious, therefore I am.’ That drew the western world into the nonphysical world of consciousness; despite that they still pretend that material things like cellular microtubules can be emanators of consciousness…,” the Guru said.

“Quantum function suggests that life is made of vibratory particles that escape time and space and death is not necessarily the end, Guruji,” David said. “Many scientists feel Biocentrism could explain the overarching questions of consciousness, life and afterlife?”

“In fact, considering births and deaths as cycles independent of sequential time, Einstein had once said for those of us who believe in physics, the distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.” The Guru said. “Lanza’s theory is of course a new dimension. Biocentrism basically says life creates the universe, instead of the run-of-the-mill view. Combining science and philosophy, as the name suggests, he gives biology a central role. This is consistent with the spiritual view that says consciousness conceives, governs and becomes the physical world.”

“And it claims to answer questions of afterlife, Guruji,” Batya said.

“There is one sort of life after death and that is called organ donation. Dogmas of afterlife are a matter of belief systems. What is essential is an insight of afterlife that would let us gracefully reconcile with the spectre of death,” the Guru said.

“Witten, who is compared to Einstein and Newton, has popularised the String Theory. It says that string-like particles pervade through everything in the universe. The characteristics of these strings are very similar to the characteristics given to God’s Word. Let’s take the following example that sounds very absurd but is easily grasped if taken as a sacred word, Guruji,” David said.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”—Hebrews 4:12.

“But physicists must dismiss this theory because they say there’s no data to infer, nor is data gatherable… yet the string-like particles construct makes sense to me…,” the Guru said.

“Witten asserts that this fire-breathing mathematical chimera will sooner or later scientifically explain consciousness,” David said.

“But Witten also says that the brain-consciousness interface will remain mysterious forever. Even otherwise, in general, thoroughgoing materialist orthodoxy always defends itself with the haughtiness unheard of even in the ages of religious dogmatism. They raucously beat their drums to drown out views of all other aspects of reality,” the Guru said.

“Panpsychism says even subatomic particles have minuscule levels of consciousness and when they become part of complex structures such as nervous systems, higher levels of consciousness arise,” David said.

“Dating back to Plato, it is a concept in Vedanta, Buddhism and other traditions as well. It articulates philosophy of mind but it languished in the twentieth century. Of late, it is back in the limelight.” the Guru said.

“Tononi, a neuroscientist at Wisconsin, has an Integrated Information Theory that is said to take the bull by the horns bypassing the brain. Delving deep into consciousness, the theory seeks to explain as to how consciousness emerges from neural networks,” David said.

“This is scientific tautology… even this theory implies that mind is an emergent property of brain. On the contrary, consciousness is the very fabric of creation and our neural webs just tap into the infinite web of cosmic reality. What we need is spillover of physics from the objective to the abstract world of metaphysics to methodically grasp consciousness…” the Guru said.

“The Theory of Conscious Agents says there is a universe that exists independent of us, whether we exist or not. And that it’s the agents of consciousness who experience, interact with one another…so every one of us, everything is one of the interactive matrixes of consciousness,” David said.

“That sounds reasonable,” the Guru said.

“Can this universe be a form of hologram…? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Is this the idea that says all the information contained within a space can be determined by the information on the surface containing it?” the Guru asked.

“Yes, Guruji,” Batya said.

“It would be really great if they could just scratch the surface of mother earth and reveal all the deeper truths of reality…” the Guru said.

“Is perception of reality in bits of frames dashing one after the other…Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Yes, Buddhist monks have 80 to 100 moments of consciousness per second, they perceive reality in slow motion. In fact, Michael Jordan has said that when he is at his best, he sees slowed down movements of the other team…,” the Guru said.

“Psychedelics are considered as consciousness-expanding and soul-revealing substances… of late, the CBD craze in the US has turned into a crisis, Guruji,” David asked.

“Yes, LSD, DMT and other mind-expanding substances treat wide range of mental illnesses. Isn’t our mental health crisis now of planetary scale? The psychedelics catalyse elements in the brain to give us a much richer experience of consciousness on the cheap, without exertion. Unregulated usage of any cannabinoid substance could turn into a crisis,” the Guru said.

“Aren’t there side-effects of psychedelics? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“No side-effects whatsoever, only spin-offs. Marijuana, cocaine and morphine give uplifting haze, focus and rush of adrenalin with side-effects. Psychedelics don’t do any of these things, they just dissolve the ego. In the Amazon, doctors called shamans themselves consume Ayahuasca, a form of psychedelic, to heal the patients. Under the influence, the doctor connects with higher consciousness, which they call mind of the forest, and finds creative ways of treatment. Ayahuasca raises the level of consciousness to learn that human body is connected to all beings and all things,” the Guru said.

“Is it not possible without psychedelics? Guruji” David asked.

“Hanging with four-year olds would of course dissolve ego and open the mind to oodles of possibilities, …ha, ha, ha. There are many methods in yogic traditions to achieve that; while psychedelics are a short cut to the fleeting experiences, the yogic way is a larger canvas encompassing body, mind and universal consciousness,” the Guru said.

“That there’s a second brain in the stomach region and a little brain inside the heart is gaining acceptance…. Guruji,” Batya said.

“Yes, these are very old concepts in eastern traditions… west is just waking up to. As for the stomach region, there’s a peritoneal structure called mesentery, considered as the second brain, that controls the functions of spleen, liver, stomach, pancreas, small, big intestines, gall bladder etc. This is the reason why we figuratively use terms like guts, gall since time immemorial. Our ancestors were far more advanced in recognising the nature of this second brain. There are yogic exercises to take advantage of this second brain which is just behind the navel,” the Guru said.

“What about the little brain in the heart, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Oh yes, there is a little brain in the heart too. That’s why our ancestors have been saying applying heart and mind. There are forty thousand specialised braincell-like cells called sensory neurites that are concentrated in the heart. They communicate straight with our brain to convey feelings of love, empathy, compassion etc. Harmonizing the heart and the brain is the hotline to subconscious to process emotions faster for creative solutions,” the Guru said.

“Is atheism a rational choice, Guruji?” David asked, as they passed by a group of devotees gyrating in a religious trance bordering on spiritual ecstasy.

“Until the God question is irreversibly resolved, for a rational person, if he is not a card-carrying pessimist, as Pascal said, it makes sense to believe because if God doesn’t exist, the loss is minimal, but, if He does, one has afterlife,” the Guru said.

“Do thoughts affect reality? Guruji,” David asked.

“Energy is in everything in the universe vibrating at different frequencies, thus, all of us are connected with the cosmic energy at the quantum level. While mind is static energy, thought is dynamic energy.…. so, everything, including our thoughts and emotions, affect our reality. In fact, the Chaos theory is one example of the tiny vibrations effecting large behavioural changes in systems on planetary scale,” the Guru said.

“The dark energy shocks the astrophysicists because it’s made up of a new particle, dark particle, but they can’t understand it…Guruji,” David asked.

“The dark energy has five times the energy ordinary matter carries and, if it’s material, as some people postulate, why doesn’t it interact with ordinary matter? This and many cosmic mysteries beckon new approaches…” the Guru said.

“Yes, Tesla had stated that if you want to know the secrets of the universe… think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration,” Batya said.

“Eastern traditions knew this for thousands of years… Emoto, a Japanese doctor of alternative medicine, has experimented with water crystals to prove that our thoughts alter reality,” the Guru said.

(As part of this crystal experiment, keep water in two different glasses and expose words, emotions, pictures and music etc., to them. After exposing, freeze the crystals and the results would be astonishing. With the help of microscopic photography, one can notice that aesthetic properties of those crystals exposed to positive thoughts produce beautiful, vibrant, geometrically symmetric patterns. And the water exposed to negative thoughts produce asymmetrical, imperfect patterns with dull colours.)

“Yes, I had heard about this experiment but it still sounds incredible…Guruji,” Batya said.

“There’s a simple rice experiment that you can do at home to see for yourself,” the Guru said.

(Place equal amount of rice into three jars followed by the same amount of water. Label the first jar love, the second jar hate, and the third jar ignore. For several days, you will say phrases according to the labels. For instance, you may say ‘I love you,’ to the love jar. You may say ‘I hate you’ to the hate jar. The results will surprise you. The first jar, love, will begin to ferment with a beautiful white colour. The ‘hate’ jar will be rotting. And lastly, the ‘ignore’ jar will be black in colour.)

“By the way, Guruji, the water experiment has greater relevance to us because we are made up of 70% of water and our brain 85% of water…,” Batya said.

“Yes, like water, thoughts flow throughout our bodies and impact everything around and inside us. The universe doesn’t hear, it feels the vibrations. Optimistic, empathetic thoughts will attract similar emotions and undesirable thoughts will attract negativity from the universe. One’s financial condition, health and relationships are a result of his collective thoughts. James Allen had said, ‘circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him’. The power of any thought is commensurate to its recurrence and strength of emotions it carries…recurrent thoughts always win over the passing ones,” the Guru said.

“Can meditation help shape work-life balance? Guruji,” David asked.

“Meditation is as vital as nutrition and exercise; research is amply clear about its value, its effects on brain chemistry and our bodies. It’s essentially fitness training for the mind… a balanced mind can only bring about the desired work-life balance…” the Guru said.

“Is the Third Eye a path to cosmic consciousness?” Batya asked. “And what is Shambhavi Mudra, Guruji.”

“Yes. The concept goes back to antiquity. Lord Shiva’s third eye, the inner one between the temples is actually the pineal gland. The proverbial third eye is the eye of wisdom and, using meditation techniques of focusing on the third eye chakra, one can enhance intuition, inner strength to reach higher states of consciousness,” the Guru said. “Shambhavi a powerful yogic and tantric practice of gazing at the eyebrow centre. With supreme devotion, this meditative practice stills the mind and, over time, one will experience a twilight state and then higher, luminous states of pure consciousness.”

“What is a samadhi state? Guruji. “And what transpires when a yogi or monk connects with cosmic reality, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“The state is when the yogi, the object and the process become one. So, at death, his soul wanders in the field of consciousness, interacts with other such souls and might incarnate in future. When a yogi’s consciousness is perfectly still, the illusion of reality is clear; with deeper feeling-connection he transcends the dimensions of this world. Then he feels that the tree, the sky, the rain, earth, and stars are not separate…life, death, self and others are not separate… This is the highest vibrational state of love,” the Guru said.

“Is this the state of nonduality, Guruji,” David asked.

“It’s diametrically opposite to solipsism. In spiritual traditions, nondualism is the ultimate state of consciousness, in which the dichotomy of self-other is overcome. This is achieved through prolonged meditative and austere yogic practices,” the Guru said.

“This sounds very close to the view of the 14th century Christian mystic Marguerite Porete. She said that the soul must give up reason, which cannot fathom the divine love…Guruji,” Batya said.

“Yes, in her book, The Mirror of Simple Souls, she talks about soul-divine love union. The French mystic was burnt alive at the stake for not retracting her views. These days, her work is being studied as part of nonduality discourses,” the Guru said.

“Telepathy, telekinesis and human teleportation are said to be yogic practices too… Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Yes. If two master yogis meditate together with the sole intention, they can have telepathic communication. This will happen at the highest level of consciousness; if one is thinking, the other gets it in his mind. Advanced meditative techniques, supreme health and a relaxed state are the prerequisites. Poor health, agitated mind cannot emit focused signals. Telekinesis is perceiving the invisible nature of reality and influencing nature of things without physical interaction; that’s how Guru Nanak miraculously healed the sick,” the Guru said.

“How is the message received? Guruji. And does the clairvoyant thought of future happens because the future events cast their shadows beforehand, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Messages are received the form of images, emotions and thoughts. Clairvoyance is receiving in visual form; clairaudience is receiving as an inner voice and paracognition is instant knowledge. Yes, eastern traditions call such clairvoyant phenomenon as the astral or akashic foreshadowing,” the Guru said.

“Cause and effect are undetectable when such phenomena happen simultaneously, Guruji,” David said.

“Light and electromagnetic effects too were considered to be transmitted instantaneously, until evidence proved otherwise. This requires VHP, very high precision, meters at both the ends, so the question is of accuracy of tools. The phenomenon of quantum jump has actually built a bridge between scientific and spiritual realms. Over two thousand years ago, Patanjali, the father of yoga, taught techniques of teleporting oneself to different dimensions of reality. He called it ‘the skill to ease into any frequency.’ It requires pristine discipline and an unshakeable tenacity. It’s not the physical body, it’s the formless self that is teleported to anywhere in the universe, most of which is empty space. This shouldn’t sound that absurd even to physicists, for in 2014 Dutch scientists had successfully teleported a standing particle through empty space. In fact, referring to the emptiness, Indian philosophy considers the universe Maya,” the Guru said.

“What is Maya? Guruji,” Batya asked. “If all the conscious creatures perish, will the universe turn dark, dead and pointless?”

“Cosmology tells us that every atomic thing, including us, is the powdery residue of the long dead stars. In the spiritual traditions of India, since most of reality is made up of empty space, the universe is regarded as Maya, meaning illusion. There’s a Bohr’s poetic take, In the great drama of existence, we ourselves are both actors and spectators. Human life, or any life, isn’t essential for consciousness to exist and if the human race or other lifeforms perish, cosmic reality won’t care a hang…” the Guru said.

“Is human quest for a purpose of life and of the universe over-indulgence? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Our universe is a ballet of wonders, dazzling assemblage of galaxies, so pondering over the purpose cannot be overkill. Nay-sayers doom themselves to live purposeless lives. Evolution of this grand universe cannot be rooted in absurdity. The Greek concept of Teleology says that everything happens with the end result as its purpose…but Teleology is anathema in western science. Living a focused, purposeful life is paying homage to the grand majesty of reality,” the Guru said.

“But Darwinism says evolution of early lifeforms was through random mutations, Guruji,” David asked.

“For that matter, Hindu cosmogony says the world was hatched from a primeval egg. Anyway, when several origin-of-life studies probing the primordial soup are still inconclusive about the chemical concoction, saying random mutations led to early lifeforms is premature. All that is there, if you will, is a sort of providential room for creative adaptability within genes. Evolution cannot be random phenomena because evolution of life is highly complex and takes millions of years…. there can’t be pointless sophistication in any aspect of reality,” the Guru said.

“Yes, Guruji…. now AI is suggesting that even in biology there’s nothing random,” Batya said.

“Nothing is random…. Just that we can’t perceive the intricate evolutionary processes behind the seemingly simple outer layers of things,” the Guru said.

“Eckhart Tolle says…The next step in human evolution is not inevitable, but for the first time in the history of the planet, it can be a conscious choice. Who is making that choice? You are. And who are you? Consciousness that has become conscious of itself,” David said.

“That’s individual consciousness seeking to be one with its infinite counterpart,” the Guru said. “In this grand seeking, intuitive powers would be at play, not the sensory organs.”

“Are our five senses self-created? How reliable are they? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“These energies, different forms of reality, have always existed. That is, our five senses have not evolved, only the sensory organs have. The uniqueness of each of the senses implies that these energies were acquired from different aspects of the cosmic reality. The dependability and validity of experiences perceived by our senses are always inaccurate because they are just approximations of true reality,” the Guru said.

“Are we machines designed by the cosmic reality? Guruji,” David asked.

“Not just machines but inimitable machines, perfected over fourteen billion years… starting from nothing to energy to non-living matter to living matter to chemistry to single, multi cell organisms and to us. Every one of us is made up of hundred trillion cells and a hundred trillion atoms are compacted into each cell. As to how nature condenses so many atoms into one cell is not only mind-boggling but also truly magical. Therefore, human body is unfathomably advanced, sophisticated… obviously, it’s an awfully creative universe and being such living machines isn’t a bad thing to be, isn’t it? …. Hello,” the Guru said.

“Our intuition suggests that animals are conscious, while insects and artifacts are not. Is sunflower, which tracks and turns to sun, conscious? And, is foetus conscious… when does it become conscious? Guruji” David asked.

“The thought that some non-human lifeforms are not conscious is egotistical. All lifeforms, including bacteria inside our guts, responding to environment to survive are conscious. Artifact consciousness is an ancient theme of mythology, ours is higher-order consciousness, while we share proto-consciousness with non-human lifeforms and even inanimate things. Sunflower doesn’t respond to the surroundings, it’s fundamentally a chemical process. There’s a folkloric way of dealing with the foetus question…that a foetus is not as conscious as a child, a child is not as conscious as an adult…even an adult isn’t evenly conscious all the time,” the Guru said.

“The emergence of language is considered as key to evolution of consciousness…” Batya said.

“The thought that human language is the kingmaker of consciousness is an ironical atavistic desire. Of course, it has helped in rapidly propagating methods of developing higher-order consciousness,” the Guru said.

“What’s your take on the concept of stream of consciousness, Guruji, William James had said human consciousness flows like a stream,” Batya asked.

“A similar concept appears in Buddhist philosophy called citta-saṃtāna, meaning mindstream. The moment-by-moment manifestation, although natural to everyone, is generally used for creative pursuits,” the Guru said.

“In the west, its primary impact was on literature rather than science, as a narrative mode for writing. James Joyce had epitomized it; I would like to read one of my favourite passages from his Ulysses, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Okay…go ahead, Batya,” the Guru said.

“There’s not even a comma in the whole passage, Guruji, it reads…

Yes because he never did a thing like that before as ask to get his breakfast in bed with a couple of eggs since the City Arms hotel when he used to be pretending to be laid up with a sick voice doing his highness to make himself interesting for that old faggot Mrs. Riordan that he thought he had a great leg of and she never left us a farthing all for masses for herself and her soul greatest miser ever was actually afraid to lay out 4d for her methylated spirit telling me all her ailments she had too much old chat in her about politics and earthquakes and the end of the world let us have a bit of fun first God help the world if all the women were her sort down on bathing suits and low necks of course nobody wanted her to wear them I suppose she was pious because no man would look at her twice…

“I am reminded of Henry Miller, Anais Nin and others who used their dreams for creativity to survive as writers in Paris,” the Guru said.

“Wasn’t there anything before the Big Bang? Guruji” David asked.

“Some questions must be left unposed, because such questions are as absurd as asking about North of North Pole. Well, the big bang theory came only in the 1960’s, while eastern philosophies have been perennially categorical that our big bang is one of the myriad big bangs that keep exploding every moment in the space. Every big bang is the breath of the Brahma, the absolute…. expansions and contractions of universes are like inhalation and exhalation cycles on galactic scales,” the Guru said.

“Is it possible that aliens are already here and we can’t perceive them? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“We limit ourselves with our ‘inattention blindness’, which is not seeing what is not looked for. Flying saucers, extraterrestrials, interstellar travel etc., are concepts of eastern traditions too. But as we enter the Satya Yuga, the Spiritual Age, intergalactic travel will be like flying from New York to London is today. That’s how the questions of aliens will be answered,” the Guru said.

“What is Vuga, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“It’s not Vuga, its Yuga. There are four Yugas in one cycle in Hinduism. Kali Yuga is the Material Age, Dvapara Yuga is the Energy Age, Treta Yuga is the Mental Age and Satya Yuga is the Spiritual Age. Yugas run in cycles of 24000 years…the length of ascending and descending cycles being 12000 years. The approximate lengths of Yugas are: Satya 4800 years, Treta 3600 years, Dvapara 2400 years and Kali 1200 years. Our present age is ascending Kali Yuga,” the Guru said.

“How are these Yugas different from each other, Guruji,” David asked.

Satya Yuga is the first and the best Yuga, the Golden Age, the age of truth and perfection. Treta Yuga is the second, though Treta means the third, in this age, virtue diminishes slightly and wars become frequent and weather unpredictable. Dvapara Yuga is the third Yuga, though Dvapara means after two, in this age, diseases are rampant and discontentment rises. Kali Yuga, the final one, is the age of darkness and ignorance; people become liars and hypocrites and families become non-existent,” the Guru said.

“The cycle of 24,000 years almost matches with the modern astronomical calculation of one full precession of the equinox, which takes 25,772 years. Precession is the third motion of earth, after the daily rotation and annual revolution,” David said.

“If something is true, it must be true in every tradition,” the Guru said.

“What does the term yoga mean and how relevant is yoga in this fast-paced, rough-and-tumble world? Guruji,” Batya asked.

“Yoga is both a state of union and a body of techniques. Philosophically, however, yoga signifies the union of self with the higher, infinite consciousness. Paths like tantra, mantra, laya, kundalini, bhakti, jnana, and karma yoga, with their own methods, awaken greater awareness. Yoga practices include posture, breathing, control of forces, cleansing and visualizations, chanting of mantras and many forms of meditation. Modern healthcare is only bothered about diseases; the physician is bothered about the body and the psychiatrist about the mind. Instead, we need a holistic mind-body care, yoga does that,” the Guru said.

“What’s enlightenment while living? Guruji,” David asked.

“It’s realising that self is part of the cosmic reality, living it and getting the benefits like transcendence of sorrow, ultimate bliss etc. Yet, vagaries of life would still haunt him, but he will not react like ordinary beings. This takes long years of deeply meditative, one-pointed devotion through yogic practices…” the Guru said.

“Is it possible without yogic practices? Guruji. And despite years of meditation, it is said that such experience eludes most…” Batya asked.

“Even if enlightenment without yogic tradition is mockery of cause and effect paradigm, yes, it’s possible with the guru’s blessings or because of virtuous, upright past or present life…but the basic requirement is the realization of unity with grand reality called consciousness,” the Guru said. “Uniting with the grand reality is a matter of perseverance. Wandering is mind’s nature, so one soaks and marinates the conviction of being one with the universal consciousness until it tingles with every atom in the body. And the conviction will then entice until you physically experience that you are part of the cosmic reality.”

“What is the state of no-mind, Guruji,” David asked.

“When you realise the self, atman, there’s no more desiring, it becomes a nondesiring mind… that is the state of no-mind…,” the Guru said.

“Hyped as a panacea for the 21st century depression, breathfulness has become the new mindfulness in the US,” Batya said. “How different is pranayama from normal breathing? Guruji.”

“We breathe 6 times a minute and 23,040 times a day, so, obviously there’s lot of scope for betterment. Mind wanders on a horse called breath, so controlling breathing is controlling the mind by chanting or practicing breathing techniques. Yogic breathing, by stimulating salivary secretion, treats the psychological and physiological symptoms of depression too.…” the Guru said. “Pranayama is part of Hatha Yoga tradition. As a modern yogic exercise, it is synchronizing breath between asanas. 95% of us breathe the unsound way, vertically—quick, shallow, stressed-out breaths—as opposed to horizontally—long, expansive and restful breaths utilizing full lung capacity. Breathing vertically is a mechanism to deal with danger and not, say, whenever the phone rings. All chronic pains and diseases are caused by lack of sufficient oxygen at the cellular level, so breathing techniques optimise bodily functions and sooth the subconscious mind.”

“The subconscious mind? Guruji,” David said.

“Yeah, the trick lies in not pausing between exhaling and inhaling, establishing a deliberate rhythm, like Breatharians do. This induces a trance-like state that quietens the mind, allowing the subconscious to refresh a little.,” the Guru said.

“Who are Breatharians, Guruji,” David asked. “Is there a special diet to achieve greater awareness, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“The Hindu concept of Breatharianism is about living without consuming food. Master yogis sustain solely by taking in the sun’s energy and breathing prana, the life force. By producing light energy, their bodies become their own energy sources. Some yogis don’t even consume water for extended periods. Out of the 100 trillion cells in our bodies, some live for a year, some for 4 hours and on an average a cell’s lifespan is 22 days. Each cell is made up of the food we consume, thus the nature of food is connected to one’s state of consciousness. Consumption of sattvic foods stimulates clarity, lightness and cells emanate their own radiation…that’s why we see halos around saints. Great intellectuals like Einstein, Newton, Buddha, Gandhi, Plato, Socrates, Benjamin Franklin and Abdul Kalam and great many others like them were all vegetarians,” the Guru said.

“Can science help the spiritualists in any way…Guruji,” David asked.

“Yes, science’s greatest service would be if it could help a spiritual person in getting a richer experience of consciousness by revealing unknown aspects of cosmic reality…” the Guru said.

“I am told you had attained the state of Samadhi…What is Mahasamadhi, Guruji,” Batya asked.

“In the yogic culture, Mahasamadhi is consciously leaving your body. Many yogis and monks have left this world through this graceful practice. This requires supreme perseverance and willpower in one’s yoga practice. In fact, my wife had achieved Mahasamadhi at the age of thirty-four. On a full moon day, she began meditating along with a few others. Nine minutes later, she left with a smile. When everything is fulfilled in life, one drops the body, willfully. If any struggle or injury is involved, that is suicide; when there’s no struggle, that’s Mahasamadhi,” the Guru said.

“Thank you very much, Guruji, have learnt a great many things, thank you very much,” David said.

“I will be in Tennessee in about three months, meet me if you can…” the Guru said. “We have a meetup group in Boston… offering free classes.”

“Absolutely, Guruji, thank you,” David and Batya said.

……………………………….

Ram Govardhan’s short stories have appeared in Asian Cha, Open Road Review, Literary Yard, The Bangalore Review, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore, Indian Ruminations, The Spark, Muse India, The Bombay Review and other Asian and African literary journals. His novel, Rough with the Smooth, was longlisted for the 2009 Man Asian Literary Prize, The Economist-Crossword 2011 Award and published by Leadstart Publishing, Mumbai. He lives in Chennai.

Categories: Fiction

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