Our mind, in which all dwells, is basically a collection of thoughts that come and go. And what we think and perceive is most dependent on our mental state. Every phenomenon that we observe in the outer world leaves us with an inner experience. What is the true nature of this world? Is it a reality of atomic particles and energy, or some ethereal plane of ideas? There appears to be a real world out there, which can be sensed in and through our human organs. However, what we perceive of things is only our idea of them in our minds. For example, even though a chair may physically exist, each individual can only experience it through the medium of his/her own mind, from his/her own point of view. Thoughts and ideas are impermanent – not part of the ‘real’ world. Their existence is similar to that of a dream. However, it seems that the mind and its thoughts are the only true things that exist; everything else is illusory and will eventually leave us. While not rejecting the occurrence of external phenomena, the Buddha focused on the illusion created within the mind of the perceiver, by the process of ascribing permanence to impermanent phenomena, satisfaction to unsatisfying experiences, and a sense of reality to things that were effectively insubstantial. Buddhism also challenged the idea that one can experience an objective reality independent of a perceiving mind. Many ancient Indian philosophies advocate the notion that all matter and humans are subtly interconnected with not only one’s immediate surroundings, but with everything in the Universe. They claim that the perception of absolutely independent beings and things is an illusion that leads to confusion and dissatisfaction; they put one’s self (or merely one’s own mind) at the centre, as the only item of reality - with all other beings (and perhaps even one’s own body) being an illusion. Zen holds that each individual has a Buddha mind: an all-pervading awareness that fills one’s entire existence, including the ‘external’ world. This need not imply that one’s mind is all that exists, but rather that the distinction between ‘I am’ and ‘It is’ is ultimately unnecessary, and a burden that, paradoxically, gives rise to an illusory sense of permanence and independence of a separate self that suffers and dies. The Upanishads hold the mind to be the only God, and all actions in the Universe are thought to be a result of the mind assuming infinite forms. One who sees everything as nothing but the self, and the self in everything one sees, withdraws from nothing. For the enlightened, all that exists is the Self; those who know this Oneness do any suffer any delusion. The real ‘I’ is thought to be nothing but the absolute whole looked at through a particular, unique point of interest. Similarly, we normally divide time simply into the past, the present and the future. But in a true sense, there is neither a past nor a future - only the present exists. Time cannot be both behind and ahead. In the words of Buddha, everything past and future is unreal; everything absent and imagined is unreal. We cannot prove the existence of anything but our consciousness. Things only exist insofar as they are perceived. Therefore there has been great interest in knowing what happens to things when we are not looking at them. Scientists have carefully studied this problem, and some of them have come to a simple conclusion: the things disappear. Well, not quite. Philosophers believe that objects only exist as a phenomenon of consciousness. So, your laptop is only here while you are aware of it and believe in its existence; when you turn away from it, it ceases to exist until you or someone else interacts with it.
Modern scientists believe that though human existence is still quite an enigma, there is no reason to believe that it is all a miracle. Since humans first evolved, they have felt much of life and their world to be an enigma, but, over the centuries, many inexplicable things have been explained. These scientists say that, given time and research and intelligent surmise, a ‘rational’ way to everything will be found. Scientists hold that mind and matter are the same thing, and that what we call mind is but a manifestation of the functioning of the brain. To them, along with the mind, there is also space, time, matter and energy. And the Universe is surely not a figment of our imagination, for it continues to exist even after we die. Maybe a part of the answer lies in an old riddle: ‘If a tree falls and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?’ The answer is quite obvious: ‘No, there’s no sound, as sound is a product of waves of air hitting a tympanic membrane and then being transported to a brain. With no one present, there would be no ‘perception’ of sound – though ‘sound’ waves would have been generated when the tree fell.’ Bertrand Russell had stated, ‘that the universe came into existence five minutes ago, courtesy of my mind, complete with my dirty socks in the laundry hamper, and I challenge you, and everybody else, to prove me wrong. But, on reflection, I think I will leave things as they are and just go on pretending that there really is reality out there that I can, if I want to, discern…and let it go at that.’
Staunch materialist physicists have loved to compare the quantum and spiritual worldviews. They see some great paradigm-shifting potential in Quantum Physics. In 1982, an experiment in France conclusively established the veracity of spiritual notions, particularly the notion of transcendence (of ‘life’ beyond matter). For many years Quantum Physics had been giving indications that there are levels of reality other than the material level…that objects really do have connections outside of space and time.
Dr. Rajesh Bhola is President of Spastic Society of Gurgaon and is working for the cause of children with Autism, Cerebral Palsy, mental retardation and multiple disabilities for more than 30 years. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org