SpiritMag July '08
Volume II, No. 11
X. The Myth that Material Sciences are Based on Direct Perception – Part II
Last month we reviewed the functioning of the three units of the Mind domain: mind, memory and intellect - termed as manas, ahamkara and buddhi by Kapila, the author of the treatise known as Samkhya. We also discussed two prominent methods of cognition (pramana): direct perception (pratyaksa) and inference (anumana)। The layman believes that direct perception is superior to inference. But, the truth is that both are equally acceptable methods to ascertain truths. Indeed, our life is more based on inference because we generally function in 'advance mode' to take care of a pain that is anticipated in future. For example, we buy grocery in advance and prepare food much before hunger strikes us. Then we observed that scientists learn the properties of the minute sub-atomic particles through inference and not direct perception.
Now let us discuss our study of gross objects by direct perception. How direct is the so-called direct perception? Let us consider this first: you have never seen me but you see a photograph of mine, and then somebody asks you if you have seen me. You will then say: "I haven't seen him in real sense but I have seen his photograph." Even if you see an event on television live yet you feel that you haven't quite seen the event direct through your own eyes; it was brought to your eyes by the electronics of a camera, transmission and receiving systems, et al. But, as we had discussed the functioning of the Mind domain, we would then deduce that even direct perception is not much different from seeing an event live on television. Let us review a trivial event of sight through our body-Mind combine. The overall sequence may be summarized as if I (the soul) observe what is displayed to me eventually by my intellect unit, something that was sighted by my eyes. My eyes function as a camera with a convex lens, giving rise to an inverted image on my retina. The image is then transmitted through a maze of optic nerves in the brain region. Finally, it is picked up by the mind unit – the receiving station. Then it is stored in the memory that is almost like a built-in VCR (Video Cassette Recorder) that routinely stores and records meticulously whatever has been received by it from the mind, so that the observer may 'replay' it. Thereafter, the memory unit 'projects' the event onto the screen, called intellect. Then I, the soul, the observer, become aware of it and I say that I have seen it.
The internal functioning is not much different from a Home Video System (HVS) except that it is highly miniaturized and swift। Furthermore, it is highly complex that besides the audio and video signals that are handled by a modern HVS, the Mind domain handles the signals of smell, taste and texture, too. Thus, we can say that our seeing an event direct through the eyes is same as watching it on a HVS live, albeit with a highly spophisticated 'inner electronics' of the body-Mind combine. If the latter is not accepted as 'direct perception' than the former should also not be accepted as 'direct perception'.
In this context, let us understand what Patanjali states in the very beginning of Yoga-Sutra (1।2) while defining Yoga:
i.e., Yoga is to subdue all the functions of the intellect unit, i.e. that of the entire Mind domain, our intellect being in the closest proximity of the soul. The soul, the conscious entity that is me, is constantly 'watching' the intellect unit. Once such a state of the Mind domain is achieved then (ibid 1.3),
i.e., the observer (the soul) then gets to know itself. That is, the soul (real I) has an opportunity to know itself only when the intellect unit has nothing to display. This state leads to 'self-realization' – atma-saksatkara। In other words, getting to know myself is the most direct way when even the subtle instruments of the Mind domain are not involved. This is the most direct way than the so-called direct perception when we rely on the intricate instruments of the Mind domain, along with the bodily sense organs.
In the present two-part articles, we have attempted to discuss: Our Mind domain is a subtle body consisting of intricate instruments that the soul utilizes for direct perception. However, the so-called direct perception, say for the sight, is not much different from seeing an event live on television. As the latter is not accepted as 'direct perception' the former also cannot be accepted so.
Our study of material sciences is based on both inference and direct perception। Scientists study the minute particles mostly through inference because they are not amenable to our senses directly because of their minute size। We do study the gross objects through 'direct perception' but then the above discussion must be borne in mind. Now returning to Yoga, we noted that if we were able to subdue the functions of the Mind domain as explained in Patanjali's treatise on Yoga by gaining proficiency in true Yoga (as opposed to what is generally prevalent these days) then we could know our consciousness - our soul - in the most direct manner.
In the present discussion, we have attempted to explode the myth that material sciences are based on direct perception whereas spiritual sciences are based on inference। Our concern has been the layman's view that direct perception is superior and more reliable method of direct cognition than inference is। We have observed:
1. Material sciences pertaining to the minute particles are based on inference because such particles are not amenable to our senses। Moreover, there are theoretical limits in view of the Heisenberg's principle of uncertainty.
2. Even the so-called direct perception (of gross objects) is not quite direct। It is almost like watching an event live on a television albeit through the Mind, which is much more sophisticated than our Home Video System is.
Our present attempt is not to belittle direct perception or inference. These are accepted norms of our functioning. Our intention is to simply put the inner sciences on a strong footing that it is a scientific study like that of material sciences. Otherwise, the layman believes that the material sciences are 'more scientific' than the 'spiritual/inner sciences'. So much so that he goes on to believe that the material sciences are based on direct perception while the inner sciences are based on inference, and hence, even imaginary. We have refuted that belief and even stated that the truth is other way around. The material sciences are based on inference in so far as the studies of small particles is concerned and even the studies of the gross objects through 'direct perception' is not quite a direct method when the external electronics of HVS are replaced by the 'inner electronics'. On the other hand, the inner sciences are studied in the most direct manner by the observer relying on no instruments. Thus, the layman's belief is a mere myth.
Next month, we will attempt to see how we humans are different from animals and birds. They are a composite of body, Mind and soul, too. We will then examine the Mind domain and see the reasons why we lead life in a more dynamic manner than they do. For example, a particular bird makes its nest almost the way its ancestors did many centuries ago but a human being builds a house different from that of another person. Indeed, the same person builds the second house quite different from the first house built a few years ago.
- Dr Harish Chandra
B. Tech. (IIT Kanpur)
Ph. D. (Princeton, USA)
Dr. Harish Chandra conducted a workshop on "Energetically Living Stress-Free" in Leicester (UK) besides delivering two talks during the week of July 6-13। In the next few days, he is scheduled to speak at Liverpool (July 19, 0773 784 4495), July 24 and 27 (Birmingham, 0789 085 8487), Manchester (TBA, 01625 53 6161), and Coventry (TBA, 0247 666 1116)। He is scheduled to conduct a workshop on "Towards Self-Empowerment" Saturday, July 26, 10 am to 2 pm in Birmingham - for registration, call 0789 085 8487. He will be on air everyday Radio XL Birmingham, Aug 16-24 for an hour long talk.
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