Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Eternal Search For That Which Is Unlimited

How can we get to know God? In order to be able to answer the question, we need to understand what knowledge consists of. What is knowledge? Knowing something through its relationship with something else is one kind of knowledge. We may not have directly seen or experienced the planet Pluto. But we know that Pluto is the outermost part of the solar system. We know about Pluto by virtue of its connections with the solar system.

When we chart the growth of human knowledge, we can see that, time and again, we have come to know the unknown by virtue of its relation with the known. Isaac Newton related the dropping of the apple on his head to the revolution of the planets around the sun. He thus enabled us to understand the hitherto inexplicable motion of the planets by relating it to the common sight of an apple dropping from a tree onto the ground.

We get to know about certain events and processes by figuring out that they are related to certain other events and processes that we already know about. Einstein was able to think forward from the facts that light consisted of particles and electricity was the flow of electrons and conjure the idea of creating a photovoltaic effect.

Another kind of knowing is knowing directly through perceiving, through experiencing. We know that a fire is raging by experiencing its blistering heat and raging flames. We know the gnawing pain of hunger by experiencing its pangs.

Each way of knowing has its limitations. You can get to know only a few things by directly experiencing them. You cannot get to know the the freezing cold of Pluto, at close quarters.

Similarly, there are severe limitations as to what we can get to know through analytical reasoning. French scientist Pierre Laplace had exultantly declared that if we can compile data about the position and the velocity of every subatomic particle in the universe at any point of time, we can tabulate and map the future course of the universe for all time to come.

Werner Heisenberg’s Uncertainty has very clearly showed us that both the position and the velocity of a subatomic particle can never be measured equally accurately. Physics cannot accurately map the path of an object that is freely falling under gravity, because a large number of factors can affect the descent of the object. And here we have 10 billion neurons in the human brain interacting with each other through 1,000 billion junctions or synapses.

Given the limitations of the ways in which our minds acquire knowledge, they are totally inadequate to register even the feeblest intimations of the divine. Adi Shankara in his commentary on the Brahmnsutras says that the divine, “being beyond names and forms, is not an object of sense perception, and being without any indicatory mark, it cannot be known by mere inference either”. It cannot be known or perceived directly through our sense organs; and it cannot be known about through relationships. Only by becoming deeply aware of yourself can you sense its subliminal stirrings.

In that process of sensitization you gradually discard all the baggage of information and knowledge from your mind. You strip off everything that strengthens your sense of self through possession. You are then experiencing without there being any object of experience. You exist then as the pure and abiding consciousness manifesting as this universe.

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