Friday, 3 October 2014

Journey to Enlightenment

" The Tao that can be told is not the eternal Tao;
The name that can be named is not the eternal name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth.
The named is the mother of ten thousand things.
Ever desireless, one can see the mystery.
Ever desiring, one can see the manifestations.
These two spring from the same source but differ in name;
this appears as darkness.
Darkness within darkness.
The gate to all mystery."
- Lao Tzu


Inspired by Fritjof Capra's 'The Tao of Physics'


It is often said that destiny is something which happens involuntarily, often inexorably and in the end having a deep physical impact. To many, destiny was a way the world tend to remain scripted. And to even more, it was a way God enacted his hilarious anecdotes on his overly exasperated creations.

Neither of those views on destiny distressed Krishna Kumar in his daily walk towards office. He didn't blame destiny when a speeding freighter collided against his side of the bus, he didn't complain fate when his left leg was amputated leaving him crippled over an expansive period of time, which along the way destroyed his career as an engineer. Rather, in his hospital bed, Krishna Kumar was happy to meet, without anticipation, a visitor who gave him company for the rest of his life - Albert Einstein! Krishna Kumar was all ears as Albert's words thoroughly expressed his revolutionary concepts on space-time relativity. The philosophical and scientific approach Albert took changed the way Krishna Kumar approached his own meager accident, which he knew didn't make any worthwhile impacts on the universe's perpetual existence. Unbecoming what the world asked him to become, through their melodramatic sympathy and exaggerated concerns, Krishna Kumar decided to move through a path Albert paved, along which Werner Heisenberg, Neils Bohr, Wolfgang Pauli and Erwin Schrodinger walked into truths and fame in equal proportions.

When Krishna Kumar, later known among his students as KK, left his hospital bed one month later, three distinct changes happened:
1. His religious views rapidly changed into agnostic.
2. The hollowness underneath his left thigh was abated by a steel crutch.
3. His mind was inflamed with ideas.

You could see KK in his daily walk towards office 30 years after the accident. His unkempt and greyish hair constantly blinds him in his stride, his left shoulder displays its muscularity, achieved through hard work it was bound to perform over the years, looking closely you could also see how age caught his body, entrapping it inside its slow disrepair, but failing to erase his carefree smile and momentary sparks of ideas. According to KK, 'Body is meaningless. It is mind which force me to think, the disintegration of my mind shall hurt me when I die, but for body I don't care.'

In his classes one could always see more of a philosopher rather than a theoretical physicist which would later give him the name 'Guru' among his students. It was always his prime interest to learn the philosophical aspects of Physics, for which he was prepared to leave behind his research on particle acceleration and neutrinos, which seemingly led to no particular conclusions. The transition was seemingly simple for a third person but it took months of serious thinking.

'Why Philosophy when you could say it through theories?', he used to ask his wife.

For Sarita, a law graduate who had no intention of shattering her comfort zones, it was a ruthless question. But she had adapted easily to his inquisitive side over the years, simply by remaining silent.

'Because there are niches, niches in the most advanced of all human sciences, where all logic disappear!', he answered his own question.

And just like that he explored science in a refined field of view, but as he searched to up-heave the foundations of Physics, he found himself humbled by the gigantic pillars on which modern Physics stood. There, beside dual nature of matter and the uncertainties of  finding electrons, KK discovered contemporary Physics to be more philosophical than he ever hoped before. The revelation mesmerized him, bit by bit he was understanding that Physics offered a broader scope of viewing the world, which could bring back the God which he lost in his hospital bed. For which he tried to understand the beginning of the universe, and he approached a very unlikely teacher, the father of Taoism, Mr. Lao Tzu!

Taoism is a spiritual philosophy which emphasize on living in harmony with nature, detachment from all desires, unequivocal simplicity and complete peace. Yet unknowingly it created a path, a Tao, which resembled Albert's intertwined paths, expressed the doubts of Heisenberg and provided the answers for the beginning of the universe.

As Krishna Kumar dived deeper into Tao, he found his doubts clearing away. Physics which taught him that - every human being, every massive star which was limited by Chandrasekhar, every neutrino which repeatedly deceived him, everything, originated from a point in space, a central power, an energy from which the world began - was discreetly imitating ancient knowledge. Through Taoism, he found the source and sustaining spirit of all matter, through Taoism he searched God as much as physics, through Taoism his agnostic views finally collapsed into an unrecognizable multitude which was lost in the path to salvation, the Tao that Lao saw.

'Physics internally resembles ancient knowledge which echoed through the East many centuries before. Gautama Buddha, Lao Tzu, Confucius and all other spiritual leaders of the period were the pioneers in Physics who destroyed the enigmas of a functioning universe. They believed in a world in which we had very little part, which forced them to explain to a non-scientific society that simplicity and separation from Earthly desires was necessary.', such was the introduction to his thesis on Physics and Philosophy which he hoped would re-ignite the debate of God and Physics.

For days he went without food, lost in his papers, correcting and modifying each word. He lost an astonishing 12 kgs in one month which left Sarita distraught. Her concerns often erupted as hard words.

'I don't care what you are doing, I don't want the world to say I let my husband die due to malnutrition.', all KK did was laugh at his wife's hostility to knowledge.

He felt proud over the central role he would play in the debate, he mimicked many times over, the way he rendered the image of God to the scientific world - 'Ladies and gentlemen, I present before you, the one and the only- God!!'. He imagined his bewildered audience, he felt their exhilarating support and their intense gaze. He knew he was very close to that day, he was sure it would happen.

As his obligation to have food diminished, he lost strength in his left shoulder quite quickly. On a day when he claimed to his wife that he was nearing the finishing point with his studies, his shoulder gave away and he hit the floor hard. His papers flew from his hands and settled on the floor beside him. There as his papers fluttered in front of him and he was left powerless and impotent, he saw the beginning of a tougher phase of life.

'This is it my dear, no more crutches thanks to your Physics.', his wife asserted.

From then on, he was reduced to an electrical wheelchair for the remainder of his studies and life, which according to him was a separation from naturalism, and left him in a bad mood, against which he complained.

'If you can't use it, crawl on the floor. I don't care.', was his wife's words of consolation.

It was in his wheelchair where he finished reading the Bhagvad Gita. Even though a Hindu by birth, his admonishing pragmatism made him to repel the book as a youngster. But now, with years and experience changing his attitude, KK could approach it with much ease. Like Tao Te Ching, like the sutras of Buddha and the koans of Zen, the Gita contacted his intellect like drugs. He found an essential similarity between all the texts, it asserted the reader to understand his ignobility in the world order and asked him to dis-join from all physical comfort. There was a unity, which was hard to un-notice for a theoretical Physicist. As he connected the meanings of the texts with Physics, there emerged a deeper picture of the universe, where in the Earth is like a speck of dust originating from oblivion and moving towards the same oblivion. It was a fate equally shared by all forms of matter. There also emerged an intrinsic discord on God and his role in this cyclical event. The confusion led him to traverse a path which he dispelled at the beginning of his study, a path which was not guarded by God.

The thought afflicted him like plague, which damaged his mind and body equally. His habits changed quickly. Witty and cheerful before, he began arguing with his wife for petty things. His nerves protruded along his skin as he went on without solid food. Insanity slowly crept through those nerves leaving him in a state of chronic confusion. The God he would proudly present suddenly didn't feature in the play. His moment of pride was thieved ever so covertly.

His desperation led him towards the origins of God, rather the time when humanity perceived that a God was working behind the scenes of the great cosmic continuance. He searched for the beginning of man's discovery of God. He knew that like all great discoveries God would also have been discovered at a particular point of time. To search for this, KK traveled back in time, partly aided by his imaginative brilliance and partly by Physics which he thoroughly believed in. But the travels always led to dead ends, which frustrated him no end.

'Who created this fucking God?' he shouted at his wife.

'Not me, did you?', she replied.

Her reply didn't make KK smile, but in a flash of inspiration he found the creator of God quite inadvertently. The creator was prevalent in the fear and trauma which shackled his mind, contracted his nerves and haunted his sleeps.

'Yes, I created God.', he said. 

Even though his wife rejected every insane theory KK would put, in those words she could see KK's confidence in what he was saying. And she believed him for the first time. He rushed to his study room and collected his papers, he rechecked every statement and every fact he pointed out, strode through the words of Lao, Krishna, Gautama, Confucius and all spiritual masters he encountered in his long journey. He checked Albert's philosophical approaches though Physics and hastily studied the thesis of contemporary and past Physicists, after which he took a deep breath. And then there was enlightenment!

Remorse was visible on his senescent face, unbelonging like the enlightenment he found through Physics. Yet, deep within the frameworks of his subconscious, a curious and hungry intellect rejoiced every palate of wisdom. Between those moments, his brain cleaved to accommodate the rush of facts, each pole accepting new insights while rejecting theories generations forcefully planted. Every theory he relinquished saw his thoughts immediately and passionately searching for means to bring it back. With time he realized there is no creator, no watchful angel, no deterministic event and no cosmic consistency. His lifelong combat through science, through religions, through a medieval path walked by sages and Physicists of the past, finally left him afflicted and alone. He knew he triumphed, he could see what Gautama saw while he sat underneath the Bodhi tree, he could understand his dilemma in making the world believe the sight, he could sense Albert's rush of blood as he sat in a corner at the patent office in Bern - he knew enlightenment, he knew the only truth! But in that triumph, there was a part of him which he lost, irrecoverably, which drowned him into a futile hope. He dreamed of retaining his consciousness in a distant universe separated from time where he hoped he would have a God; to hear his woes, to carry him through the dark, to consume tyranny and to lead him to light.

For hours on he sat perturbed. Billions of minds were lost in prayers, he heard them whisper thanks, saw them cry out their tears and he became a part of their repentance. The tiny speck of life abstracted with dreams and desires was unified within that call of faith, however divided it was on the basis of physicality. He knew the reason why faith could always crushed science- it was because of the loneliness of human heart which searched aphoristically for a companion. Every concise update on his studies seemed like torture to those faint hearts who believed in God. He took those papers which took years to assimilate, to understand, to express and set them alight. In its glowing shimmers, he could see the divine comedy playing in front of him. Even though he knew, he was sure he couldn't express it, even though he could understand, he couldn't make another man understand. The path which could be expressed is not the eternal path and he knew as he remembered Lao that he found what life commanded every man to understand, he discovered the unity of mind and matter, of men and women, of life and death, and of God and science!

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