The circle this Wednesday was special - we had the "G" word this time, as Pavi put it. I noticed an interesting difference in my perspective. When reading the piece, I had similar judgments as Jason. However, when Audrey read it out with her soulful presence, I found it undisturbing. Viral explicitly shared this point. I liked how he brought it down to its essence - this passage is not saying "atheists/scientists be damned." Instead, it is pointing out the futility of reductionism of that which is accessible to all but cannot be really talked about. That is another amazing thing - it is often that so many of the thoughts that come up are shared by others more eloquently than I could in the same space.
And of course, there are those who take our dimension to another level. For instance, Nadia (I think it was) shared about the dimensionality in math. If we think of ourselves as 2-D creatures, on a flat plane, it is impossible for us to perceive a 3-D creature. The 3-D creature can only be perceived by us in its 2-D form, and try as it might to tell us about the third dimension, we wouldn't have the apparatus to "get it." In a sense, string theory (which she mentioned) has now brought this dimensionality into physics, where it talks about 11 (or maybe 12 by now) dimensions, all of which are connected by a string, which vibrates. Sounds esoteric, but many physicists swear by this now the same way they swore by their earlier theories.
Sanjeev pointed out how Math, which is used by most sciences, has two fundamental concepts - zero and infinity, both of which are undefinable. Zero turned on its head is infinity - and we all know this equation, but where has our skepticism of the tooth fairy gone when we chose to accept it :). I believe Sanjeev will share his full comments in writing soon.
I loved Rahul's comment on how we have many competing Gods in our time. People place their spiritual altar next to their entertainment altar, and we find God literally competing with the telly. Poignant thought. Reminded me of a rabbi who told me how she interpreted "Thou shalt not bow to false Gods," as referring to power, greed, etc. Makes that commandment very contemporary.
I remembered a film titled "Conversations with God" based on Neale Donald Walsh's book by the same name. In one scene, he was on stage and asked by someone to summarize what God had to say to us in five sentences. Walsh replied, "I can say it in five words. You've got me all wrong."
That had a big impact on me.
Second, I felt that the bickering between the theist and atheist camps is geographically concentrated in the west and stuck where it was 200 years back; and hasn't moved on very much. It seems so as I've been more exposed to eastern philosophy, much of which categorically emphasizes that "I am That" which I am seeking. A monk I know once looked at me with all of his compassion and strength and said, "There is ONLY God. There is nothing else. Everything we do, touch, eat, interact with is God. We are God. Not seeing that places us in great confusion." This monk would find our piece a little too tame. :)
My professor, who has come to the same conclusion, announced in a small group that we were all Gods. Then came a question, "Well, if we are God, then why are we here experiencing life?" And his reply, "Because being God is boring." We all laughed. And then I stopped laughing. He wasn't being funny. In an ancient Indian scripture called the Brihadaranyak Upanishad, the same reason is given to explain what is going on, which I'm sure my professor had not read.
In an interview, Prof. Howard shared more. Think of the board games we like to play. We know for sure that the rules are created by us, but there is no fun in constantly challenging those rules if we want to enjoy the game. We artificially put on restrictions in order to have "fun." So it is with life. We can wake up and see how we're in a game. And we can dive back in with that sense of awakening to truly enjoy our game without forgetting that it is a game. I've found this to be a very empowering way of thinking about life.
And yet, this is not the last word. The monk I was referring to said that the moment we try to speak about that, we fail to do so - we can only communicate in highly partial realities. The Guru Nanak said "Man ki baat to kahi na jaye, jo koi kahe wohi pachtaaye" - one cannot speak of what is truly "in" our mind, the moment we try to, we regret it.
How does all of this non-dualism leave any room for a dualistic God, or a God other than us? India is a land of great stories, and from this land comes another twister. There used to be this renowned master of non-dualism by the name of Totapuri, who was one of the teachers of Sri Ramakrishna, a great mystic. Totapuri tried hard to impress on his disciple that there was no God other than the self, and guided Sri Ramakrishna to come to the end of the mind, as the story goes. Sri Ramakrishna was a great devotee of the Goddess Kali, and he had to cross that barrier in order to move beyond. Then, there came a time when Totapuri had dysentry for many days. He thought to himself, "Since I am self-realized, let me give up this human bondage and free myself from this suffering." And so, the master walked into the Ganga to give up his life. He kept walking and walking and walking, and finally, reached the other end, without drowning. When he turned back to look, the temple of Kali was at the other end, and from it rose the form of Kali, laughing at him, "So, you thought you were going to take your life?" Now, the scientists say that there is a rare event where the water goes down due to the tide for a little while. :)
I remembered a past occasion when everything seemed impossible to me, and I felt completely bogged down. I called my father, having exhausted all other options, and asked for advice. He calmly said, "Don't you see, God is testing you, and until you overcome this obstacle, you cannot progress. This is for your benefit." The moment he said this, something shattered. I saw myself as an ant on a long journey, bogged down by unnecessary load. The load dropped. The energy I was investing in self-pity was unplugged. Whether or not God exists, I've found it mighty helpful to believe in God.
I have given up trying to resolve which ism is the right one for me. There was a time when it was non-dualism, and I asked a learned monk, "What do you advocate? Non-dualism or dualism?" He replied, "All-acceptism" and forever condemned me to my confusion. Or, actually woke me up.
Why should I just be one thing? I might enjoy being a dualist in the morning, an atheist during the day, a non-dualist as the sun goes down and perhaps an agnostic as I'm going to bed. I like all these different games, and I want to play them well.