Setting the context
The meaning of science according to google is “the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behaviour of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” The other definitions include “a systematically organized body of knowledge on a particular subject.” It is to be noted that the subjects we want to study or gather knowledge on, is also defined by the same intellect! I am reminded of a situation where my boss said “Please raise your hand if you have forgotten to fix a bug!” If I have forgotten, I have forgotten. How can I remember that “I have forgotten” until something external triggers the memory of the bug? Similarly, the intellect can only study that which it knows about! This, very subtly, tells us that inherently we need to have a “thought about something” and science is just a means of proving or disproving that thought, using intellect and understanding of the resources available. The intellect by itself is not responsible for the knowledge. Such a knowledge is highly error prone and directly leads us to the “problem of the observer”.
The problem of the observer
According to Wikipedia “The observer effect is the theory that simply observing a situation or phenomenon necessarily changes that phenomenon.” I think we need to examine this statement very carefully. If we do, we will find that we have to reverse the importance given to the object and subject and state this a little differently. The “observer effect” is where the “observer” is given more importance than “that which is being observed”. The fact remains, “that which is being observed has always been and will always be what it is”, it is the observer that is limiting. The observer is limited by what properties it can or cannot observe. Hence, all that adding an observer does, is, focus our intellect on those properties which can be observed. This effect is similar to an optical illusion. Depending on the perspective of observation different views are perceived by the brain of the same drawing. It should be noted that the drawing has not changed in any manner. This is the same concept that is propounded in the “Advaita Philosophy”. Neither does the immortal become mortal nor the mortal become immortal. It is just the perception of “same immortal” that is changing. The immortal has and will always be what it is.
In the modern world we study physics, quantum physics, particle physics, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, various forms of mathematics and a large number of scientific topics. Yet, all of these studies only relate to “sense-able reality” around us. Understandably so, because our intellect knows and is interested only by this known reality. It is via this same intellect that we extend our imaginations to build more and more, classifying this known reality, infinitely further away from the source or the truth.
This reminds me of this: If, I am playing a virtual reality game and I feel hungry, can I conjure up a burger within the virtual reality game and eat it? Will my hunger be satisfied? Just so, I can read and solve a lot of problems, read and improve my intellect and prove a lot of science inside this “reality” around me. But, that which causes this reality has not changed! It has stayed always the same, external to this reality around me and inaccessible to me via these sciences. What is that “which causes this reality” around us? While it can be argued that “quantum physics” is attempting to study just this, we need to ask ourselves the question, “why will quantum physics not lead us into one or other of the infinite threads that have been spawned from studying many other physical concepts?” I think, what we need to understand is that even with study of quantum physics, we have not moved away from the underlying concept: “I am the observer” and the “quantum particles are the observed”. This means “I am still limited by my observing capabilities, which are: my senses, my judgement, my expectations and my brain or in other words the manas”! I label such a study as “study with the manas”.
Limitations of study with the manas
It may be asked, “what is wrong with study with the manas?” and the simple answer is “There is no problem when we want to study this world around us”. Otherwise, the problem is simple and straight-forward. Study with the manas involves the study of “what was” as opposed to “what is”. Let me elaborate.
What do we perceive? That which the sense organs can sense. What can a sense organ sense? That which has already happened in this environment (In whatever way we define the environment) around us. It is similar to the IoT sensors that are installed in the various applications. They can sense what the “temperature is – an event that has already happened” or what the “pressure is – an event that has already happened”. Similarly, we can hear what someone has said, or we see the leaf that has already sprouted or feel the touch when something has already touched us, or feel the pain when already the skin was cut and so on. Hence, “study with the manas” will always be study of only one thread that has already occurred. There is a very good Sanskrit saying “yad bhavam, tad bhavati” which translates to “What has started happening, will happen”. Since, we only know when something “has already started happening”, that which we sense will follow its full path and finish happening and we can do nothing about it.
Similarly, in “quantum physics”, the modern world is only studying “what already is or was”. This is in direct conflict with what “quantum physics” is supposed to be, namely “all possibilities exist until an observer is present”. We need to study and view from the perspective of “a state where all possibilities exist” to know more, not when “already one of the infinite possibilities is already chosen by an observer”. Hence, the study of quantum physics has to be without an observer that is without “I”! The major problem is we cannot sense possibilities. We can only imagine possibilities which does not augur well with science. So, the question becomes how do we study that “which is” before the observer comes into effect?
The next problem with “study with the manas”, can be best understood when we look at the way we solve puzzles such as sudoku or hitori or simple crossword puzzles. The fact remains that when the puzzle is created, simultaneously the solution to the puzzle also exists. But, given the sequential nature of our brains, we always tend to solve puzzles sequentially, one step at a time. Understanding is sequential. We need to be at a certain level of understanding before then next step in understanding comes. We can multi-task, that is do many tasks at the same time, but one task is always done sequentially.
For e.g., if we take a sudoku puzzle, we need to logically infer the first set of numbers and their positions, before the next set of numbers and positions are inferred. We cannot run them in parallel and know the solution immediately.
Hence, learning is also only sequential. Experimentation and conclusions based on experimentations are also processed by the brain sequentially. For e.g., we had to first understand the existence of atoms and only later on understand or learn the existence of electrons and protons and neutrons and only after this start with understanding the existence of photons and so it goes one after the other. This is sequential understanding. Yet, the world exists simultaneously. Whatever makes up photons or Higgs boson or Higgs field exist simultaneously with atoms which exists simultaneously with the higher human being etc. A small change in one implies a change in the all the others simultaneously. Given that brain can only process sequentially, we are limited by what we know of until now.
I believe, the environment, “the one that is before the observer comes into effect” is called the “unmanifested” or the “Bhairava”. Whatever it be called, the question still remains, how do we study this environment if not study with the manas?
We find that we have still not cracked the challenge of finding how to study this environment! It cannot be studied using the standard methodologies of observation and experiments. Definitely not with experiments by being within this reality. Definitely not sequentially by experimenting and proving one at a time, in this case we either will miss out information or we will be studying forever without reaching anywhere. So, we need to look for something out of the box.
Irrespective of how much the Upanishads, sthotrams, slokas, mantras etc., from the ancient texts have been misrepresented, distorted or typecast as superstition or mistranslated or tried to be fitted into what goes for science in the modern day, they contain grains of this truth, beyond the modern day science which shines through all these distortions that cannot be ignored. One such is what is said in one of the many illuminating sruthis:
acintyam cintyamāno’pi cintārūpam bhajatyasau |
tyaktvā tadbhāvanam tasmāt evamevāham āsthitaḥ ||
Thinking of the unthinkable only forms a thought of the unthinkable. Hence give up that thought knowing it will not last.
It takes a very long time for the implications of this verse to sink in. On the surface of it, the meaning of this verse is seemingly very simple. The significance and far reaching impact of this verse is scant realized. The primary implication is that thought and knowing (for lack of any other word) are not the same. Can knowing exist without thought at all?
Even more significant implication of this verse is that, the formation of thought is not the only way of knowing! In the context of science, observation and experiment is a form where the remote (para) is examined external to ourselves, to trigger the formation of thought. When we are talking about the unthinkable, or rather the unmanifested, we cannot trigger anything externally, because then an observer comes into play and then we are not examining the unmanifested!
Here is where tatvamasi comes into play. The Tatvamasi, is a concept which is multi-dimensional. Keep trying to understand it in various contexts and it takes on different meanings. The basics first. Tatvamasi is split as tat + tvam + asi = that + in me + is. So simply translated it is, “I am that” or “that is me” or “that is in me”. All the forms of translation hold. Either “I” or “that” is given importance, based on the context.
The most intriguing implication yet, of tatvamasi is with respect to the study of the unmanifested. It implies, If, that remote, that I am experimenting on, is equivalent to this “I”, then experimenting with this “I” should be the same as the experiment with that “remote”.
An observer is only required if the process of knowing goes in the sequence of steps as: experiment with remote objects à trigger thought formation à understand à know. Such a sequence of knowing obviously comes associated with the problems of the observer effect. This is “the externally triggered knowing”, the same as “study with the manas” as we described before.
When we look at it from the perspective of the unmanifested, the experimented is the same as “I” or what is in that external is also within me. So, the sequence of knowing can as well have been reversed and been in the steps: “I am that” à knowing à understanding à thought formed. This is an unravelling process, that starts with “I am that” and hence “I transform to know”. Here, we are never observing “that”, we are only being “that”. Hence the observer effect does not happen.
Also, while the study with manas is a sequential study, study by being or using tatvamasi, is where, understanding is simultaneous or understanding of a snapshot of the whole. It is “all or none”. By being, we are aware of “all that is till the level that we have reached”. The difference is the same as reading a paragraph and seeing a picture. The picture conveys all that needs to be conveyed at one shot, while in a paragraph we have to read, process, understand sentence by sentence till all description is read and understood. The concept of tatvamasi is very tough to experiment with and definitely cannot be proved to others. It only involves a transformation of the “I”. Yet, it is very important to understanding the unmanifested or the environment of all possibilities. In no other way can I think of eliminating the observer, which is important to study the environment of all possibilities.