We are Shiva, we are immortal knowledge beyond the senses. - Swami Vivekananda
On account of Mahashivaratri, we will not be sending the regular newsletter tomorrow. Our next issue will be on Monday, March 15th India time.
Today is Mahashivaratri. So, we will discuss the Divine, as pure consciousness. And how many, including the modern scientists have approached that dimension while dealing with the gross and physical dimensions and its laws.
Shiva. The Infinite consciousness
In Yoga Vashishta, Sage Vashishta sees the radiant being of Shiva in a dark forest while he was meditating upon Shiva.
Shiva asked if Sage’s sadhana was proceeding properly and without obstacles. The Sage was thankful to Shiva and proceeded to ask him a question.
“How is one to approach the worship of Shiva?”
This is important to understand. The concept of “God” is not something that Sanatan Dharma has been comfortable with. For it gives an impression of an entity.
God or rather the Divine, is not an entity. It cannot be. It is what any entity arises in.
Names or identification constrict the value and the being of one whose primary existence has folded into the universal consciousness. So, when you call out Shiva or Vishnu or Brahma, you are still intoxicated by the lure of form and name.
The union, spiritual destination, is in the abandonment of all physical. It is a union of the gross with the subtle.
That pure consciousness is what needs to be approached.
In absence of that, one can start with the playful approach of aligning with the form in devotion.
In Chapter VII of Tripura Rahasya which expounds the nature of God, Sage Dattatreya is sharing the story of Hemachuda and his wife Hemalekha to Sri Parashurama. Hemalekha shares what God or rather the Divine is.
She shares the same understanding of the Divine as pure consciousness and not as just one identification. For any restriction will diminish the infinite. Hemalekha expounds further.
The nature of the divine is in the pure unblemished, indivisible and infinite consciousness. The levels of consciousness that we refer to by name are neither superior nor inferior.
This is how our Sages and scriptures have looked at the relationship between the finite and the infinite. How does the infinite “give rise” to the finite?
When the experience and understanding of the inert body as a manifestaton of the infinite is reached at the time of enlightenment, the play between the finite and the infinite becomes apparent. There is no creation happening, but an observer’s view brings one manifestation of the infinite into existence.
Quantum and collapse of the wave
In October of 1927, Born, Dirac, Heisenberg, Pauli, and Bohr came together and expounded as well as accepted “an” interpretation of the new quantum world that was reeling in the aftermath of Schrodinger’s Wave Collapse experiments. They called it the Copenhagen Interpretation.
In Bohr's words, the wave and particle pictures, or the visual and causal representations, are "complementary" to each other. That is, they are mutually exclusive, yet jointly essential for a complete description of quantum events. Obviously in an experiment in the everyday world an object cannot be both a wave and a particle at the same time; it must be either one or the other, depending upon the situation. In later refinements of this interpretation the wave function of the unobserved object is a mixture of both the wave and particle pictures until the experimenter chooses what to observe in a given experiment. (Remember that, according to Heisenberg, the path of an object first comes into existence when we observe it.) By choosing either the wave or the particle picture, the experimenter disturbs untouched nature. Such favoritism unleashes a limitation in what one can learn about nature "as it really is." This limitation is expressed by Heisenberg's uncertainty relations, which, for Bohr, were related to what he was now calling "complementarity." Complementarity, uncertainty, and the statistical interpretation of Schrödinger's wave function were all related. Together they formed a logical interpretation of the physical meaning of quantum mechanics known as the "Copenhagen interpretation." (Source)
With the collapse of the wave wherein the countless possibilities and probabilities could be brought into physical reality – a Finite world was seen to be born out of Infinity! The foundational question was, therefore, posed to the scientists – how could Infinity give rise to the Finite? A question that was hitherto the headache of only the mystics.
Now, the observer was not merely a witness – but creator of the reality as well. There were a few other interpretations of the Quantum Mechanics world, the next most prominent being the “Many-worlds Interpretation”
Einstein came up with his interpretation – the “Hidden Variables” – since his God did not throw dice – basically saying that some hidden variables explain the probabilities of the wave function and determine “a” unique possibility so that it was not as indeterminate as the Copenhagen gang made it out to be. His hidden variables were never to be found however.
The basic issue, again, was – how was an unknown Infinity manifesting itself as the finitely known? A question that had haunted many philosophers and Vedic scholars had the best Quantum minds thinking now. The three main possibilities they put forward as explained above were also not new:
- Truth cannot be known and the observer creates reality (Copenhagen Interpretation)
- Truth resides is multi-dimensional and cannot be explained in our present known dimensions. (Many-world Interpretation)
- Under the hood of the Unknown Infinity is a certainity of an “Intelligence” that creates “method to this madness”. (Hidden Variables Interpretation)
These theories were well known to the Vedantists long before Planck had inadvertantly come out with his quanta to shake the deterministic world of Newtonian Duality of matter and wave!
Inherent in the Copenhagen Interpretation was the assumption that finite or physical reality was based on two things: the ability or the action of querying the world or nature; and the act of “recording” or receiving the answer from nature. If the question was never asked, the probabilities would have remained probabilities. That the recorder showed an “intention” to know the position of the particle, the nature provided him with “a” result in the collapse of the wave into a point in time and space!
So the process then has to consist of first, a world full of probabilities; second an observer who queries this probabilistic world; and third, the ability of the world to provide “a” reply within the confines of space and time!
Well, if the observed particle was indeterminate as a wave function – which came into “physical reality” on observation, then what about the Observer himself? Is not the brain of the observer composed of the same waves? How and who (or what) decides what will “manifest” from the waves in that brain? The “questioning” of the probabilistic world has to be preceded by the manifestation of the “question” in the first place! This question is as much of a collapse of the various probabilities that are in wave form into ONE point called thought!
Whose observation manifests as this thought in the worldly observer then? Vasistha – a rishi in ancient India explains it to his disciple Ram in Vasistha’s Yoga:
“Even as empty, inert nothingness is known as space, mind is empty nothingness. Whether the mind is real or unreal, it is that which is apprehended in objects of perception. Rama, thought is mind; there is no distinction between the two. The self that is clothed in the spiritual body is known as mind; it is that which brings the material or physical body into existence. Ignorance, samsara, mind-stuff, bondage, darkness and inertia are all synonyms. Experience alone is the mind, it is none other than the perceived.
This entire universe is forever non-different from the consciousness that dwells in every atom, even as an ornament potentially exists in gold, the object exists in the subject. But when this notion of the object is firmly rejected and removed from teh subject, then consciousness alone exists without an apparent or potential objectivity. when this is realised, evils like attraction and repulsion, love and hate, cease in one’s heart, as also the false notion of the world, you, I etc. Even the tendency to objectify ceases; this is freedom.”
The Quantum scientists in the Copenhagen Intrepretation and all others were concerned about the interpretation of their objects conveniently planting themselves as the “subjects”, little realizing that their own “nature” and “existence” was nothing more than an act of Eternal Observation – collapse of wave in someone else’s observation!
John von Neumann did get to that subsequently when he brought not only the quantum system that was measured but the measuring system itself within the confines of the larger system! He heard Heisenberg lecture on his Uncertainty principle and got fascinated:
Fascinated, von Neumann began work in quantum theory. This led to his Mathematische Grundlagen der Quantenmechanik (1932), in which he discussed the much-debated question of indeterminism in quantum theory. Until then, indeterminism was thought to be the result of hidden parameters which need only be identified to restore determinism. Von Neumann “concluded that no introduction of ‘hidden parameters’ could keep the basic structure of quantum theory and restore ‘causality.'” He argued that the indeterminism was inherent in quantum theory because of the interaction of the observer and the observed.
In other words in its overall sense, the “Truth” is an unknown. When the collapse occurs in the brain it opens upto the experience of the observation caused by another collapse of the observed! Knowledge is the accumulation of that experience. If the collapse in the brain was a “spontaneous” and one-time act, then “who” or “what” is the accumulator of this experience (collapse-borne) database?
The experiences marked by the collapses in the brain – which maybe nothing but an observation of the cosmic creator or “Intelligence” – thus points to that an Eternal or “Greater” observer whose “thought” is responsible for our experiences! This was the beginning of interest amongst the scientists in “Consciousness”.
Physical world was, therefore, an interplay of collapses initiated by a larger Consciousness – whose exact nature was not known but characteristics were the only guide. And these characteristics still pointed to more questions. Questions, that were themselves Illusions because they were created out of collapses in our brains itself!
Whose collapse are we? Or are we?
Sage Vashishta explains this play between the observer, observation and the infinite unchanging consciousness.
The understanding of “God” in the Yogic lineage and in Hinduism (it’s derivative) has never been of a person or entity. It has always been of the infinite, immanent, and eternal consciousness.
This eternal consciousness has been understood (and experienced by the Sages and Rishis) as changeless yet dynamic, both the subject and the object which observes itself as it manifests in various ways as a matter of playfulness.
It does not need to, yet dynamism and creativity are their quality. Pratyabhijna Sastra – which conceives Shiva as complete consciousness – calls the cosmic reality prakasa-vimarsamaya. In this Prakasa is Shiva and Vimarsa is Shakti, the creative ability of Shiva.
Vimarsa is the consciousness of being within Shiva.
Shiva without Shakti is inert.
As Ksemaraja, a disciple of Sage Abhinavagupta said in Parapravesika:
“Yadi nirvimarsah syat anisvaro jadasca prasajyeta” – (If Ultimate Reality were merely prakasa and not also vimarsa, it would be entirely powerless and inert.)
The potency of consciousness is in its awareness – the Shakti. Without it, it is inert and empty.
‘If the Highest Reality did not manifest in infinite variety, but remained cooped up within its solid, singleness, it would neither be the Highest Power nor Consciousness, but something like a jar’. (Abhinavagupta in his ‘Tantraloka’. Chapter 3, verse 100)
From there followed the understanding of the origin of existence as we know it. In the ultimate and cosmic consciousness, the dynamism or “being-ness” is inherent and critical. Even when it is not in motion or has any need for activity, it is still not without expression. The expression of the Ultimate Consciousness is this existence. As material and gross as it may seem, at the subtle level there is nothing. That is the reality of existence, which was explicitly NOT called Creation. Rather it was called Srishti, a derivative of Srijan.
“As the great banyan tree lies only in the form of potency in the seed, even so the entire universe with all the mobile and immobile beings lies as a potency in the heart of the Supreme.” (Paratnmsika, 34)
Whatever was said by Abhinavagupta and the disciples of his lineage – including Ksemraja – of Shiva was exactly what Shri Krishna conveyed in similar sentiment to Arjun in Bhagwad Gita.
मया ततमिदं सर्वं जगदव्यक्तमूर्तिना |
मत्स्थानि सर्वभूतानि न चाहं तेष्ववस्थित: || 4||
न च मत्स्थानि भूतानि पश्य मे योगमैश्वरम् |
भूतभृन्न च भूतस्थो ममात्मा भूतभावन: || 5||
(This entire cosmic manifestation is pervaded by me in my unmanifest form. All living beings dwell in me, but I do not dwell in them. And yet, the living beings do not abide in me. Behold the mystery of my divine energy! Although I am the creator and sustainer of all living beings, I am not influenced by them or by material nature. Chapter 9 Verse 4-5)
The consciousness has its own being-ness. Creativity in the nothingness. That manifests as existence. Srishti or loosely translating - Manifestion. Not Kriti or Creation.
For, there is nothing created. And, nothing destroyed.
Experience of that state - where all exists, has a pathway.
Opportunity to advance on that path, through the door that our Rishis and Yogis made available to us is Mahashivaratri.
Sadhguru explains the significance of Mahashivaratri in this way.
In Indian culture, all the ancient prayers were not about saving yourself, protecting yourself or doing better in life. All the ancient prayers have always been “Oh lord, destroy me so that I can become like yourself.” So when we say Shivratri, which is the darkest night of the month, it is an opportunity for one to dissolve their limitedness, to experience the unboundedness of the source of creation which is the seed in every human being.
Mahashivratri is an opportunity and a possibility to bring yourself to that experience of the vast emptiness within every human being, which is the source of all creation. On the one hand, Shiva is known as the destroyer. On the other, he is known as the most compassionate. He is also known to be the greatest of the givers. The yogic lore is rife with many stories about Shiva’s compassion. The ways of expression of his compassion have been incredible and astonishing at the same time. So Mahashivratri is a special night for receiving too. It is our wish and blessing that you must not pass this night without knowing at least a moment of the vastness of this emptiness that we call as Shiva. Let this night not just be a night of wakefulness, let this night be a night of awakening for you. (Source)
May we all get the ability to see and to use the door to advance on our paths of self-realization.
I was there last year at the Isha Ashram in Coimbatore for Mahashivaratri 2020. Given the unbelievably blissful experience. We would highly recommend that we all join someone who can provide some experience of Shiva’s presence at such an unprecedented scale. Here is the link to the video of the celebration as it will happen. Please join.
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video corner: How Kedarnath was constructed
This video is incredible. It has no sound. Just a visual of different components of Kedarnath as understood by modern architects. How the different pieces were put together and this structure was completed. Cortex construction got the job of analyzing Kedarnath and its surroundings after the major disaster in 2013.
Cortex Construction Solutions Pvt. Ltd. had used various technologies to analyze the present health and stability of Kedarnath temple after Uttrakhand Disaster June 2013 on behalf of Indian govt. (EPIL)
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