Conscious is best understood when we consider someone lying in its boundary. Let us take for instance a person on deathbed. It is not a pleasant thought, but nothing brings out the stark reality as clearly. At one moment the person is alive. He or she may recover or continue to be alive. The moment the person is dead, we lose any possibility of the person being alive again. Death being a one way change, a catastrophe. Barring the simplest life form – virus, death is a catastrophic process that cannot be reversed. Now, let us try to understand what difference we have between a living and a dead person. Moment after the death his individual cells will still be alive. We can actually use parts of organs for other persons and these will live for any number of years. Only noticable difference that separates dead from alive is presence of conscious. Although our body is made of huge number of cells and (maybe) other implants, our conscious is quite different from collection of all these. If we lose part of our body or replace it with artificial parts, like in knee replacement, our conscious do not change. Our identity, our thought, our self image all remain as one till this conscious entity remains. Some call it “spirit” or “Atma” some choose to not call it anything. Recognize it or not, there is some entity that remains as sole differentiator between living and dead, between our identity and rest of it.
Around 800 CE great philosopher poet of India, Shankaracharya, tried to examine true nature of Atma. It has been nicely captured in his poem “Nirbanashatakam”. The poem besides its philosophical value is also great in its economy of words and its usage. The poem is in six stanza, five devoted in negating what Atma is not and last one is to give it a shape or a property that helps in unifying the consciousness.
In first stanza Shankara negates our identity. He says:
मनोबुद्धयहंकार चित्तानि नाहं, न च श्रोत्रजिव्हे न च घ्राणनेत्रे ।
न च व्योम भूमिर्न तेजो न वायुः, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ।। 1 ।।
(manobuddhyahaṃkāra chittāni nāhaṃ
na cha śrotrajihve na cha ghrāṇanetre
na cha vioma bhūmir na tejo na vāyuḥ
chidānandarūpaḥ śhivo’ham śhivo’ham)
I am not mind, nor intellect, nor ego, nor the reflections of inner self (chitta). I am not the five senses.of hearing, taste, smell, touch and vision. I am beyond that. I am not the ether, nor the earth, nor the fire (energy), nor the wind (the five elements). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss and pure consciousness. all that is within me.
In second stanza Shankara questions next level of our presence – our body. He negates any of our body parts, be it fluid, layers or structure being atman. He says:
:न च प्राणसंज्ञो न वै पंचवायुः, न वा सप्तधातुः न वा पञ्चकोशः ।
न वाक्पाणिपादं न चोपस्थपायु, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ।। 2 ।।
(na ca praṇasajño na vai paṃcavāyuḥ
na vā saptadhātur na vā paṃcakośaḥ
na vākpāṇipādaṃ na copasthapāyu
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham)
Neither can I be termed as energy (prana), nor five types of breath (vayus), nor the seven material essences, nor the five sheaths (pancha-kosha). Neither am I the five instruments of elimination, procreation, motion, grasping, or speaking. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, pure consciousness and all that is within me.
In Stanza three Shankara examines our thoughts
न मे द्वेषरागौ न मे लोभमोहौ, मदो नैव मे नैव मात्सर्यभावः ।
न धर्मो न चार्थो न कामो न मोक्षः, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ।। 3 ।।
(na me dveşarāgau na me lobhamohau
mado naiva me naiva mātsaryabhāvaḥ
na dharmo na cārtho na kāmo na mokşaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham)
I have no hatred or dislike, nor affiliation or liking, nor greed, nor delusion, nor pride or haughtiness, nor feelings of envy or jealousy. I have no duty (dharma), nor any money, nor any desire (kama), nor even liberation (moksha). I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, pure consciousness and all that is within me.
Stanza four he examines our deeds and then discards them as not to be Atma
न पुण्यं न पापं न सौख्यं न दुःखं, न मन्त्रो न तीर्थो न वेदा न यज्ञ ।
अहं भोजनं नैव भोज्यं न भोक्ता, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ।। 4 ।।
(na puṇyaṃ na pāpaṃ na saukhyaṃ na dukhyaṃ
na mantro na tīrthaṃ na vedā na yajña
ahaṃ bhojanaṃ naiva bhojyaṃ na bhoktā
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham)
I have neither merit (virtue), nor demerit (vice). I do not commit sins or good deeds, nor have happiness or sorrow, pain or pleasure. I do not need mantras, holy places, scriptures (Vedas), rituals or sacrifices (yagnas). I am none of the triad of the observer or one who experiences, the process of observing or experiencing, or any object being observed or experienced. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, pure consciousness and all that is within me.
If all these are taken out, then all that remains is some relations. Relation with our parents, teachers, and so forth. In stanza five Shankara dwell on the relationships and finds these are also not to be Atma.
न मे मृत्युशंका न मे जातिभेदः, पिता नैव मे नैव माता न जन्मः ।
न बन्धुर्न मित्रं गुरूर्नैव शिष्यः, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ।। 5 ।।
(na me mṛtyuśaṃkā na me jātibhedaḥ
pitā naiva me naiva mātā na janmaḥ
na bandhur na mitraṃ gurunaiva śişyaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham)
I do not have fear of death, as I do not have death. I have no separation from my true self, no doubt about my existence, nor have I discrimination on the basis of birth. I have no father or mother, nor did I have a birth. I am not the relative, nor the friend, nor the guru, nor the disciple. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, pure consciousness and all that is within me.
In stanza six, he gives a working idea of Atma. Atma being free of bondage and unifying with supreme conscious. He says:
अहं निर्विकल्पो निराकार रूपो, विभुत्वाच सर्वत्र सर्वेन्द्रियाणाम् ।
न चासङत नैव मुक्तिर्न मेयः, चिदानन्दरूपः शिवोऽहम् शिवोऽहम् ।। 6 ।।
(ahaṃ nirvikalpo nirākāra rūpo
vibhutvāca sarvatra sarveṃdriyāṇaṃ
na cāsangata naiva muktir na meyaḥ
cidānandarūpaḥ śivo’ham śivo’ham)
I am all pervasive. I am without any attributes, and without any form. I have neither attachment to the world, nor to liberation (mukti). I have no wishes for anything because I am everything, everywhere, every time, always in equilibrium. I am indeed, That eternal knowing and bliss, pure consciousness and all that is within me.
Instead of taking Shankara’s definition of Atma on face value let’s examine it from our knowledge of the world and see how far we can fathom its property within limits of our knowledge of science and philosophy. For doing what we intend, we need check is our concept of presence.
How do we say a paperweight is present on my desk? Well, I can see it, it is there somewhere and not there in other part. So we use concept of duality : present and absent to define our paper weight. Concept of duality is pretty strong concept in logic. Now, if I ask – how do we know air is present around us. We cannot see it or smell it, then can we prove that air is present. I know, we can blow on a piece of paper or create vacuum to show presence of air. In other word, we again depend on concept of duality.
Suppose, we take out the concept of duality from our premise of logic. In our previous examples we used excess of air or absence of it to show existence of air. How do we prove existence of something that is omnipresent in perfectly homogeneous manner? As I had stated earlier, we can only prove existence of something where we have it distributed heterogeneously. Like presence of air can only be proved by differences of pressure distribution or vacuum. This distribution we see for air is in mass-time-space dimensions. In our life we experience many more dimensions. Say I have a paperweight on my table in a perfectly dark room, would I be able to detect it? Yes, if I am lucky, I may touch it by accident otherwise I shall remain ignorant about it. Once the room gets lighted we can see the paperweight easily. Now, out here light enabled us to see things, so we know light exists darkness do not. Darkness is just absence of light, it may never be possible to create a torch that will make an place dark, but the opposite is possible. So in similar manner we can conclude that there is something that makes the complex composition of muscles, fluids and bones come to life. Just like we cannot see light be it enables us to see things, we cannot see atman, but it makes life possible.
When we talk of life, let us try to first fathom its nature and next we shall dwell on how to measure it. Now, what is life? Biology books definition of life is something that can reproduce, maintains homeostasis, shows metabolism, gets organized, gives response to stimuli. Alternate viewpoint of life is that of capable of reversing entropy. Around 1870 James Clerk Maxwell imagined a machine. In his concept machine Maxwell proposes two chambers separated by a intelligent sieve. In the sieve a demon will see speed of gas molecule and allow only molecule with higher than average speed move to a chamber (say H) and molecule with lower than average can only enter the other chamber (say L). Temperature of a body is dependant on kinetic energy of its molecules. So once we can separate these molecules, we have a perpetual source of energy. The concept engine is known as Maxwell’s demon. What we see here in such machine is two primary function of life. Conscious control, information gathering and processing — all fundamental property of life. Well the strange news is: such demon do exists.
Second law of thermodynamics states that in a physical system what ever we do, we shall end up being more disorganized than from where we started. As an example, if we leave a physical alone, it will slowly degenerate to simple form get more and more chaotic. In science we use entropy as an measure of disorganization. When we have a system that have life form within it, we notice just opposite tend Life forms tend to get organised, more complex, when left to itself. Hence we have this concept of Maxwell’s demon. Life in some way mimics Maxwell’s demon. Core concept of life form here being conscious. So we find life and conscious is very closely related. Second law of thermodynamics for none of the law of physics takes conscious control into account. Maxwells demon works opposite to Second law of thermodynamics by reversing chaos and bringing organization into molecules. Actually in Boson we shall find, when the variation and vibration reduces concept of space also do not hold true. All the molecule gets reduced to size of a single molecule in a Bose-Einstein condensate. In other words the world we see around us is created out of little disorganization, variation and chaos. When all these gets down to negligible level the world will collapse into itself into a singularity.
When we talk of soul, conscious, world the concept of God cannot remain far away. My current discussion is actually aimed for this. I want to discuss the nature of God, its existence and our conscious. Why are they related? They are related because our perception is limited by our conscious. Universe around us is multidimensional. Normally our perception is limited to space-time dimension. Beyond it, we are conscious of other dimensions like temperature, electrical charge, magnetism, different psychological moods but we cannot really measure them without the reference of space-time. To perceive beyond space-time we need some tools and some facts. Now we shall develop these concepts drawing upon our understanding on the knowledge that we can perceive.
The world we are familiar with are in the dimension of space time. In order to measure state of an object dimensions that we use need to be absolutely independent of each other. When dimensions are not independent our point of observation will influence property that we observe in other dimension. When the dimensions are independent, we shall call them orthogonally related dimensions. Let us take an example to illustrate this. Suppose in a graph paper the axis are not perpendicular. When they are not a displacement in x-axis will produce a displacement in y-axis. When x & y axis are perpendicular such interference will not happen. So an important property of orthogonality is independence of one axis from another. Second property that I want to state is – universe in multidimensional. When we talk of force, we normally talk of space, mass and time. There are other dimensions like charge, temperature, entropy that is not as easy for us to perceive, but they do exist.
Now, let us try to find out how and where God, soul and conscious may exist. First let us take soul. We have seen that between life and death, there is no perceptible change in physical state.So soul certainly do not exist in space-time frame. Loss of life does change the electrical parameters like brain waves. So there may be some relation between soul and electro-magnetic property. Our understanding of space-time and life does share a common property That is time asymmetry: We cannot travel back in time in life or in space time event. You may wonder, where we can. In such case I would ask you to recall the event when you started to read this article. Well you can!!! We can travel across time in our conscious, quite freely in past and to a limited extent in future.
When we talk of dimension, we can have many of them. In such hyperspace, it is difficult to visualize any shape that we are familiar with. We can think of the dimension like a string. Ok a kind of straight string. Property of any object on that dimension is defined by position it occupy on the string. For clear measurement, we should try to use dimensions that are orthogonal. If we use our concept of dimension in space, it is actually possible to have infinite dimensions that are orthogonal and any three of them can define a object in space. Now the beauty of orthogonal dimension is that there will be one and only one point where the dimensions merge.
So we observed two very important properties of orthogonal dimensions:
Orthogonal dimension will have one and only one common point
Change of property along one dimension has no impact on property of another orthogonal dimension.
or, if change of property along one dimension impacts property in another dimension then the dimensions are not orthogonal
Two dimensions which has no common point we can call them parallel dimension. Two parallel dimensions if they share same third dimension, orthogonality of third dimension with any dimension implies orthogonality of the other. Let me explain this – say there are 3 dimensions A,B & C. If we know A || B and A is orthogonal to C, then we can conclude that B is also orthogonal to C.
We shall find another instance, where two parallel dimensions share equivalent change of property. Such cases we shall refer the dimensions as intertwined.
With this basic understanding of dimensions, let us examine the properties that we are familiar with. In physics we normally use basic dimensions as: Length, Mass, Time, charge, temperature, etc. Let’s take the first three: L, M & T.
Normally there is no relationship between L, M & T. In Newtonian physics we can conclude L, M & T to be orthogonal dimensions. But with theory of relativity, we know that relationship to be invalid, speed between observer and observed changes the values of L,M & T. What relativity gives us that Momentum and Time are orthogonal dimensions.
In my next blog, I shall extend the dimensional analysis to conscious, soul and God.