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Science & Spirituality of Consciousness

          ‘In the Inner World, all knowing tends to being; when you try to know your own nature, you realize that you are that

Swami Ranganathananda


  As we struggle with the words ‘Conscious’ and ‘Conscience’ so often in this competitive and exploitative world, I was keen to find out Science and Spirituality of Consciousness. To quote Gandhiji, ‘Voice of Conscience is the voice of God and it is the final judge of rightness of every deed and every thought’. If so why different leaders endowed with the same conscience act in opposite directions leading to peace less world. Is purity of Conscience, anything to do with it. As per the age old Upanishads, in which our great sages engaged in, God, Brahman or Atman is the nature of infinite, pure consciousness or Cit Svarupa, one and nondual which is beyond body-mind complex and beyond cause and effect determinism. Brahman or Atman is present in the Universe and the evolution of the Universe, first cosmic, then organic and finally spiritual, is a gradual manifestation of the Atman or Brahman. The uniqueness of the human species is that it has developed the capacity to realize Brahman, the very source of the whole Universe. There is unity behind this diversity. That can be discovered first by studying nature outside followed by the study of the inside of nature as revealed in the human being. 

All living organisms manifest consciousness. Consciousness is all pervasive and not located in anyone part of the body. Something like electricity supplied to different instruments interconnected but with various functions in a house and also connected to external source. Consciousness is the see-er in the eye, the mind in the mind, the speaker in the speech etc. It is that part of our life which related to our Soul (consciousness), which from a spiritual perspective is connected to the Divine. French philosopher Peirre Teilhard de Chardin remarked, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a physical experience”. Theosophy teaches that the human cycle of reincarnation which decides the fate of the Soul has for its greatest influence the perception by the Soul that it, and none else, is the maker of destiny. That conviction is starting point of success. In Swami Vivekananda’s views – This Universe, described as a macrocosm, is a limitless repository of infinitely many microcosms. Vedanta describes as “Anu me Vibhu” – the existence of the ultimate in the subliminal; like that of the ocean in the tiny droplets of water. While modern scientific approach proceeds from matter to energy, the Vedic Sciences were derived from realization of the infinite expressions of the universal consciousness – force and decipheration of its manifestation in energy and matter.

The concept of consciousness and ‘awareness’ as in Hindu Cosmology, is totally absent in modern science which treats it as a part of psychology and deals with only materialistic matters. It requires a cosmic mind to make any research in cosmology and our ancient wise men did develop such cosmic Mind by extensive meditations, etc to reveal cosmic attributes including the cosmic time, cosmic consciousness and its vibrations and cosmic evaluation ruling over the entire universe.

Recent developments in neuroscience, artificial intelligence, experimental psychology, mind-body medicine and quantum mechanics have catapulted the idea towards understanding the consciousness in a scientific perspective. Lesion studies, EEG, MRI scan and other imaging techniques have suggested the necessity of the presence of the physical brain in order to exhibit conscious behavior. However consciousness gives us no physical signals or clues about its location in the body. It is not a thing in space and time and therefore not measurable. Human psyche is more complex than was previously thought. The involvement of many variables has made it difficult for scientists to study the functioning of brain during the process of creative thinking. Consciousness is not a thing in the brain that information is poured into. It is the struggle of different neuron circuits to hold the stage for a second says Dr. Gazzaniga, Director of the Sage Centre for the Study of Mind at University of California.

A researcher in computer science and artificial intelligence for over twenty years, Amy Lansky says ‘As my work as a computer scientist became more and more practical, my Inner life became increasingly metaphysical. Over the years, I have come to believe that much more exists than meets our limited awareness’.         

June 9, 2009                                                                                          Prof. B. C. Harinath

[This write up is based on numerous articles on spirituality published in Bharatiya Pragna, Akhand Jyoti, Splendour, Tattvaloka, Life Positive, Discovery, New Scientist etc.]