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Consciousness, Hindu Philosophy and Physics

Consciousness is the philosophy of mind. Its interpreted dimensions are the philosophy of the Religion.

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Theism holds that God exists in real terms, that He created everything and that He sustains all, and that He is present everywhere, through, a certain level of consciousness whereas Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or denial of gods but a lack of belief in gods. Rather than debate theism or atheism, Hindu philosophy dwells on Dwaita and Adwaita thoughts. Whereas Atman or ‘soul’ and Brahman or ‘unlimited’ are two separate and non-interchangeable entities in Dwaita, Adwaita refers to Brahman alone as the ultimate reality. 

‘Brahmanandavalli’ the second chapter in ‘Taittiriya Upanishad’, describes ‘Brahman’ as existence, knowledge and infinity. Limitless in any and everything. Physics and Mathematics dwell mostly on three entities. Space, Time and Matter. However, all these have limits. If we can transcend these limits, we realise the ‘limitless’ or ‘Brahman’. How do we do that? Look beyond a sense of proportion defined by space and we will beat infinity. Look beyond the time defined events and we will beat time constraints. Life is not just a ‘dash’ from womb to tomb (1935 – 2010). Sense of existence is omnipresent. This is logical truism. Everything we learn and unlearn, our existence, the vastness, results in knowledge and there cannot be knowledge without consciousness. Come to think of it. Have we ever solved a problem from the same level of consciousness that created it? To know what consciousness is to know the truth.    

Hindu philosophy is multi-dimensional. There are as many schools that say yes to the truth in the Vedic postulations as there are, that say no. There are those that show us what we want to see and there are those that show us the mirror. 

Are God and religion related? In Vedanta, God is Brahman. It means it includes everything. Hence Religion can only be a search for self-knowledge, a search for God within or search for consciousness. An agnostic theist believes in God but not religion. An agnostic atheist believes that the existence of God itself is uncertain. These are at best intellectual arguments. The only reality is that all human beings experience consciousness.

Six major orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy, that have stood the test of times are ‘Nyaya’, ‘Vaisheshika’, ‘Samkhya’, ‘Yoga’, ‘Mimamsa’ and ‘Vedanta’. Nyaya school teaches us the precepts of Law that govern us and our environment. Vaisheshikha School espouses Atomism or that all material objects of the world as composed of small parts which can be divided and sub divided into even smaller ones similar to what is taught in Atomic Physics. “Samkhya” is ‘number’ and stems from ‘Purusha’ and ‘Prakriti’. It explains creation in a manner where the implicit becomes explicit and that neither there is production nor destruction. ‘Purusha’ is pure consciousness, and prakriti is nature. This is law of conservation of Mass. Yoga school teaches us that mind, body, and spirit are all one and cannot be separated. This is law of conservation of Energy. Mimamsa school teaches us ‘reflection’ or ‘critical investigation’ and thus contemplation of the consciousness. This is philosophy of Physics or Quantum Mechanics. Vedanta is "finality of the Vedas". It reflects ideas that emerge from, all other doctrines contained in the Upanishads, especially the knowledge and liberation. It is the culmination of all sciences that end in one truth, the truth of consciousness. 

Modern technology is akin to the meta-physics of Vedanta. All of them, tie our existence to the ultimate truth. If there is thesis, there must be anti-thesis. Orthodox must coexist with heterodox. If we believe in the existence of God and godliness, then we must, the lack of it. Hence schools like Jain, Buddhist, Ajivika, Ajnana, and Charvaka evolved that show us the other side of the truth. However, they all take us through a journey of consciousness and the dimensions associated with it before we become one with ‘prakriti’. Is this a subtlety of the physical and the metaphysical worlds? Metaphysics studies fundamental principles that explain ‘all that is’ whereas physics explains the same in its materialistic form.

Does the awareness or consciousness of ourselves and the environment around us, prove that God exists? Then what must the thesis be for God to not exist? A level of consciousness of the mind precedes, and a level succeeds, the level we always are in. Such levels of consciousness may have the answers we seek. Sigmund Freud, an Austrian neurologist, describes that the preconscious state will have everything that can be brought into the conscious mind whereas the unconscious mind is a collection of our feelings, thoughts, urges, and memories that are outside of our conscious awareness. Though he uses it to treat mental illness or mental distress, through dialogue with his patients, he creates an insight into it. 

Christianity believes in One God and relates it with consciousness and spiritual awakening that is unique to individuals. Vedas and Gita tell us that Higher consciousness is the consciousness of God or the part of human mind that is capable of transcending animal instincts. It makes us conscious of being conscious. We sometimes get into a trance or a “flow” state; A runner experiences euphoria. We all dream that are lucid. We feel out-of-body experience sometimes. Sometimes it is near-death experience and sometimes mystical. However, no theory tells exactly how? 

Is it a capacity to introspect? Is it God that we are experiencing? Or is it vague and difficult to explain? The renowned cognitive scientist and philosopher David Chalmers in a paper published in 1995 titled 'Facing up to the Problem of Consciousness', said, 'There is nothing that we know more intimately than conscious experience, but there is nothing that is harder to explain'. However, per medical science, precise locations of brain activity during various conscious and unconscious experiences are now accessible through functional MRIs and PET scans which enable neuroscientists to observe in real-time, which specifics of the brain are active when certain tasks are performed. Researchers say human consciousness emerges on the interface between three components of animal behaviour: communication, play, and the use of tools. Science tells us that Proprioception or Kinaesthesia is the sense triggered by organs in the spinal cord, due to which we perceive the position and movement of our body, including our sense of equilibrium and balance, senses that depend on the notion of force. Yoga is that experiential journey. 

Often we have subjective conscious experiences or ‘qualia consciousness’. Don’t we appreciate beauty in sunsets, paintings and music, yet oppositely also experience pain, distress and sadness? Although this world is entirely physical, are there physical facts that cannot be captured even by complete theories of the physical sciences? ‘Chandogya’ Upanishad provides a few pointers however.  

Whatever the arguments are, both Vedanta School of Philosophy and the Modern-day physics deal with human consciousness and dwell into the human mind. Consciousness is the philosophy of mind. Its interpreted dimensions are the philosophy of the Religion. The Taittiriya Upanishad teaches us that consciousness is the prime source of life from which intelligence manifests and creates the mind, breath, and body. Quantum Physics corroborates that theory. Whether Vedanta or Physics, understand consciousness and you will, the God. You will then be ‘Tat Twam Asi’ ‘you are that’. Consciousness will then manifest as ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ I am that limitless. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Dr S S Mantha

Former Chairman of AICTE, Dr. Mantha is an eminent academician. At present he is Chancellor KL University and Adjunct Professor, NIAS, Bangalore.

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