The Resplendent Wisdom
The deepest studies of the phenomenon of Man and his destiny presented millenniums ago in the Bhagavad-Gita assumes prime importance today when man stands at a bifurcation point of history, either to a headlong fall to total destruction or a glorious advance to promising new civilization.
Sri Krishna, our Eternal Companion, our Self, invites us to sit in the chariot beside Arjuna. We hear the tumultuous sounds of drums, conches, the war cry, and as the chariot moves on, we slowly realize that we are being conveyed to an entirely different world within us a world of reassurance, inspiration and peace bequeathed by a profound knowledge about ourselves and our relation with the universe.
The author, K.B. Nair, who writes in his penname Srikant, has been inspired by a quest for the deeper facts of life since his early age. After a brief period of professional life in the publications Division, Govt. of India and elsewhere, the turn of events equipped him to persevere in his quest maintaining a rational character to inquiry. He integrates the scientific temper imbibed from his academic background of biological sciences with his inborn interest in the exploration of the spiritual dimensions of life. Wedded to an experimental life of study and contemplation, he is gaining the affirmative experience that the human brain, as the yogic knowledge reveals, is equipped and pliable to achieve by undoing its conditioning knots, an evolutionary breakthrough to the faculties and possibilities of the higher dimensions of consciousness and freedom.
He founded Integral Books in 1980s, a publishing mission for an integrated investigation and presentation of the philosophical perspective emerging from the fields of modern science and the ancient spiritual insights, a vital necessity of the present age. He is also the editor of Jnanagetha, a monthly magazine in Malayalam.
In this age of scientific advancement, we are informed of many things, but not much about ourselves. Human consciousness receives only an insignificant place in the educational curriculum, mainly because science takes consciousness as an accidental emergent of matter. Biology today tends to consider mind as a byproduct of the electrochemical activity caused by the complexity of our brain material.
Francis Crick, co-discoverer of the double-helical structure of DNA, tells in his book, The Astonishing Hypothesis: "You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will are, in fact, no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules."
Thus, we are bluntly told that our dispositions as love and compassion, etc. have no other significance than mere mechanical reactions caused by the electrochemical impulses in the brain. It is no wonder that such a 'scientific' perspective equips us more to wage wars and engage in cut-throat competitions with our fellow beings than to evolve ourselves through cultural progress. As a result, human life turns out to be an endless struggle for greater material comforts resulting in the deterioration of our physical and mental well-being.
On the other hand, the great literary works and philosophical texts remind us that our finer traits are not mere mechanical reactions caused by the environment, but qualities inherent in the life stream. And, we are told that the cultivation of these qualities would promote our mental and physical health and give us a sense of expansion and freedom. The bold enquirers of Truth in ancient India evolved such disciplines like yoga and systems of meditation as a profound science of human evolution. They advise us to cultivate certain values natural to our being. However, these higher facets of life are not considered biologically significant by the present-day science and they are relegated to a back-seat position calling them 'humanities' as if they are not essentially scientific!
Francis Crick believes that our conscious behavior and values are just the byproducts of the nerve cells and their associated molecules. Maybe, the biophysicist does not like to probe deeper into the fundamental nature of molecules. The earlier scientific views considered atoms, molecules, etc. as fragmented entities; this perspective has now drastically changed. Modern physics considers them as expressions of some forms of energy. Science expects to find their common source by unifying them. Physics today takes the universe as an interconnected web basically. Physics even tends to think that the infinite cosmic web may be conscious of itself. According to the eminent nuclear scientist Max Planck, consciousness is fundamental.
If so, it may be reasonable to consider that our 'vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules' are partial expressions of this infinite cosmic web. The nervous system that slowly evolved in living beings culminated in the formation of the human brain, which itself must be a web with considerable potential. And, the mystics say that the human brain is equipped to experience the ultimate awareness and freedom of Reality, the source of the cosmos.
If values of life like motherly love and such other cultural behavior patterns of conscious cooperation latent in the very fabric of living beings are not biological facts, what else are they? But, this fact is rarely discussed in scientific circles or in our academic institutions as a major biological factor that influenced the evolution in higher animals. We are still taught only about the struggle for existence, the survival of the fittest, etc., disregarding such values as the sense of cooperation and codes of conduct observable in innumerable manifestations of life. (If consciousness itself is a chance byproduct of matter, how can values be scientific? So, better neglect it! This may be the 'scientific' attitude!)
We are made to believe that values are only the contracts set up at the human stage for facilitating social life and that they have no intrinsic relation with life. If we take a close look at Nature around us, we will realize that certain values and codes of conduct are instinctively followed by the animal kingdom below us and these are basic biological facts that manifested in them along with the evolution of the life stream. Yet, our educational system fails to make a comprehensive assessment of these facts. It tries to impress us as truth the fragmented views of the experimenters who are labouring inside the four walls of their laboratories to prove that our mind is just a byproduct of the blind electrochemical impulses in the brain.
Even Charles Darwin in his later years lamented his loss of capacity to enjoy poetry, particularly Shakespeare, and works of other poets like Milton, Byron, Wordsworth and Shelley of which he was an ardent lover in his younger days. He wrote in his autobiography: "I have tried lately to read Shakespeare and found it so intolerably dull that it nauseated me." He regards this as a personal loss and says that he would cultivate such tastes every week if he had to live over his life again. "My mind seems to have become a kind of machine for grinding general laws out of a large collection of facts, but why this should have caused the atrophy of that part of the brain alone on which the higher tastes depend, I cannot conceive." (de Beer, G. Ed 'Charles Darwin and Thomas H. Huxley Autobiographies,' Oxford University Press 1974, Pages 83-84.)
When the educational system sidetracks the higher tastes, it renders masses of people insensitive to the finer aspects of life. It causes the shrinking of those parts of the brain which are designed to take Man to higher stages of evolution and a superior civilization.
However, the case of another eminent biologist, Alfred Russell Wallace, who was a contemporary and friend of Charles Darwin, was different. Both these scientists had independently discovered through their investigation that natural selection was the driving force of organic evolution, although Darwin's name got prominently associated with the discovery.
Unlike Darwin, Wallace was fortunate that he did not have to experience that sort of nausea, which Darwin developed for fine arts and literature. In an interview (The Bookman, January 1898), when he was asked whether he, unlike Darwin, could maintain his appreciation of literature, music, etc., he replied: "Darwin was a continuous worker at his one great subject. I should not be happy without some work, but I vary it with gardening, walking or novel reading. Even when in the midst of writing a book, I never cease to read light literature."
There were intellectual debates between these eminent scientists. The main difference between them was that while Darwin held that the human brain, mental capacities, talent for music, art, literature and other cultural possibilities were also the result of natural selection, according to Wallace, the cranial capacity even of the most primitive man indicated that the human brain possessed potential intelligence and latent abilities. Therefore, he felt mere mechanical natural selection may not be the factor that bestowed these potentials, because they do not have any survival value for the primitive man at the period he lived.
Biologists point out that the potential intelligence and cultural capacities might have been present in the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon ancestors of man, although these capacities began expressing much later. Wallace says: "Some higher intelligence must have directed the process by which the human nature was developed." The value systems of the lower animals must have anticipated the cultural development in the human being.
Thus, according to Wallace, when the organic evolution reached the human stage, the brain of man became equipped to express the higher potentials of Nature, which can be called Divine. He considers human soul as a field of consolidated consciousness formed through evolution and survives death to continue the evolutionary process. Essentially, his views agree with the knowledge of evolution advanced by the ancient exponent of the science of Yoga, sage Pathanjali. According to Pathanjali, evolution is a process-of expression of the latent faculties in Nature- jaathyanthara parinaama prakrithya poorath. (A study of the views of sage Pathanjali is included in a discussion on reincarnation in chapter II.)
Even millions of years before the appearance of man on earth, the resourceful Intelligence latent in Nature had applied such staggeringly subtlest technologies as exemplified by an enormous number of 'letters' in the genetic code. To decipher this, scientists will have to work for another one hundred years! It is the same Nature that brought forth a cultural evolution through the codes of conduct and values followed by the living beings and that inspired spiritual values in the human mind. These values are vital aspects of evolution of life, which science neglects, but are factors that helped the unfoldment of consciousness.
Biology, the science of life, cannot neglect for long the fact that along with the organic evolution, there also took place a cultural evolution. A scientific awareness of this fact will make human life more meaningful and progressive, so that it can further evolve to a superior civilization that transcends war and destruction. For the advancement of such awareness, biology can imbibe valuable ideas from the Bhagavad-Gita and the Upanishads about the cultural evolution that helped the unfoldment of consciousness.
The phenomenon evolution does not stop in the human being. In his book, The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin observes that "man with all his noble qualities, with sympathy which feels for the most debased, with benevolence which extends not only to other men, but to the humblest living creature, with his godlike intellect…bears in his bodily frame the indelible stamp of his lowly origin" and may "hope for a still higher destiny in the distant future."
Will this line of evolution be simply mechanistic, confined to extending the lifespan through transplanting organs to repeat the same experiences for a few more years, or a Frankensteinian flesh- machine combine named 'cyborg', or that of intensifying the 'god-like intellect' to get identified with the Self? The emerging biological vision of the 'neo-Darwinists' H.G. Wells, G.P. Wells and Julian Huxley, in their monumental work, Science of Life, indicates that man's possible further evolution lies in 'his identity dissolving into greater identity' and thus acquiring an 'impersonal immortality in the association' - the salient and reassuring fact revealed in the Bhagavad-Gita. It is this vision that was anticipated millenniums ago in the Gita, which reveals the technology for man to overstep the stage of ego- centric selfishness to a superior civilization of universality and freedom.
The first edition of the book was published in December 2000. It contained a study of the first two chapters. The welcome the book received is the inspiring factor to publish this revised edition containing the first six chapters of the Bhagavad-Gita. A similar presentation of the remaining twelve chapters is being planned to be published in two volumes. The profound knowledge of human perfection in the Bhagavad-Gita will complement the vistas of modem science, which, in its spirit, is also an unbiased pursuit for deeper understanding.
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