Posts Tagged ‘Existence’

Ghalib – 28: Who’s Afraid of Multiple Meanings?

June 17, 2009

We resume the series with a she’r that illustrates well some of the underlying beliefs of The South Asian Idea:

nah thaa kuchh to khudaa thaa kuchh nah hotaa to khudaa hotaa
Duboyaa mujh ko hone ne nah hotaa maiN to kyaa hotaa

1a) when there was nothing, then God existed; if nothing existed, then God would exist
1b) when I was nothing, then God existed; if I were nothing, then God would exist
1c) when I was nothing, then I was God; if I were nothing, then I would be God

2a) ‘being’ drowned me; if I were not I, then what would I be?
2b) ‘being’ drowned me; if I did not exist, then what would I be?
2c) ‘being’ drowned me; if I were not I, then what would exist?
2d) ‘being’ drowned me; if I did not exist, then what would exist?
2e) ‘being’ drowned me; if I were not I, then so what?
2f) ‘being’ drowned me; if I did not exist, then so what? (more…)

An Alternate Explanation for Existence

February 28, 2009

By Anil Kala

[A curious man standing on a beach, blissfully unaware that earth is round, wondered what lies beyond the horizon! He embarked on a long journey in a dead straight line to explore the end of earth. Nature was kind; his journey progressed uneventfully but sluggishly. He crossed the ocean, walked across the desert and overcame mountains and as was inevitable passed through the same spot from where he had begun his journey. It was a long time ago; things had changed during his sojourn. He could not recognize the place and said, “Deja Vu“.

We are like this man unaware, always asking, “What beyond that? What after then”? ad nauseum. Like Neti Neti*, these questions are absurd. There are no straight lines only warped space and warped time. The ends are seamlessly joined with the beginning like in a loop. We pass through same space and same time albeit after a long interval, yet do not recognize them.Time does not move forward endlessly nor directions disappear in endless space.]

Our situation is akin to a moving dot confined within a square. There is no way the dot can come out of the square, similarly we have no way of knowing what, if any thing at all, lies beyond death. Death is an irreversible event, therefore impossible to obtain first hand information on afterlife, if there is any. Yet man has never stopped propounding various theories regarding existence beyond life. There are people who believe life breaks at death and we go to either heaven or hell depending on our conduct during lifetime, others believe in rebirth and progressive evolution of life culminating in Nirvana/Moksha, still others like Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus are amazed at its absurdity. It will always be speculative to guess what could possibly lie beyond death. If we could relate this paradox to a mathematical sequence where first three or four terms are known and we are asked to find out the next term of the sequence, we can possibly arrive at a much better understanding of existence. Is there a way to look for parallels in nature and extrapolate sequence of existence beyond death?

Nature has a way of sustaining itself by procreation. It is not just the living things that procreate but also the non-living things such as stars, galaxies, hills, rivers etc. All things we see regenerate either as replica of itself or a near clone. Procreation is seen all around the universe. Therefore death is not termination of existence not if we consider a parallel in nature, the procreation. Along with procreation most wide spread phenomenon is a dynamic state of equilibrium; the tendency of things to settle down in a state of dynamic equilibrium. We see seasons following a rhythmic pattern so do days and night, planets settling down in orbit of stars etc.  There is one more way for events to proceed; an exhaustive energy consuming process leading to eventual disappearance of object. Is this kind of process natural? If we consider Big Bang theory, one would believe formation of universe in a cataclysmic explosion from a singularity. There is no sure answer that the universe will continue spreading ad-infinitum or we reach a stage after which universe starts contracting and collapse again into a singularity and begin all over again. There is enough evidence to suggest that there is slow down in spreading of universe therefore logical that it will contract again into a singularity. All these phenomena point to a relentless continuity. While steady state cyclical situation is wide spread; the slow but sure way to extinction for inefficient and weak in living things has been part of our verified history. Therefore, continuous evolution and regular extinction is basic nature.

We now have initial elements of sequence enough to extrapolate for next element of the sequence. We see that procreation is universal and a dynamic cyclical state natural, and rise and decline of species basic nature, therefore death can be termination of existence for some and an interface to next order existence for others. If some species survive death, it is logical to presume that some will continue to survive higher-level existence and go on and on while others will become extinct at various stages. Constant evolution will mean a stage will be reached where these highly evolved species will be in position to create a universe of their own.

They do not become Gods, but mere creators incapable of interfering in activities of their own creation. Our world is one such creation full of imperfection. There is no God to interfere; the world proceeds along in line with its creator’s rules until some of these worlds’ creatures will create other worlds. After having created a world of their own, these super-evolved creatures are now ready for quietus and like salmon dissolve their existence of their own volition.  

 * Neti Neti (Sanskrit) – not this, not this. In ancient Hindu philosophy God is considered impossible to define therefore in the negative way they say God is not this….

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Kim Aashcharyam? (What is the most amazing thing?)

February 10, 2009

By Anil Kala


There is a celebrated episode in Mahabharata known as ‘Yaksh Prasn’ (Yaksh’s Queries) which culminates in this question:


Kim aashcharyam? (What is the most amazing thing?)


Yudhishthir answers that despite knowing the inevitability of death our incessant desire for immortality is the most amazing thing.


The answer seemed very impressive to me until one day I thought this is really silly. I realized that things said in a dramatic manner often escape critical scrutiny. For example, that our desire to live at every cost is the most natural thing and the crux of our existence; without it life will not last another day. Didn’t Buddha say, ‘Being born is cause of all our miseries’?  Therefore if there is no compelling desire to live why would anyone want to live? What seemed amazing though was the conduct of Yaksh Himself. This entity claiming to be a God, cursed to spend time as a Yaksh until he found answers to some questions, goes about killing people merely because they are too thirsty or do not know the answers to His questions!


Then what is the most amazing thing?


My own answer takes into consideration two key features of human nature: deal-making and self-preservation and if you make a projection on these, you get the most amazing thing—the idea of God!


It appears to me that once humans began making use of tools they became quite capable of dealing with their primary adversaries, i.e., higher order carnivores. But what really vexed them were the sudden and inexplicable natural occurrences such as floods and lightening, etc., that killed them. The deduction must have been quite simple: the ‘force’ wants life for consumption like the carnivores. So they made deals with the force. The Hindu ritual of Yagn appears to me a good example to explain this. The central object of a Yagn is sacrifice.


Initially the tribal chief or his counselor arrived at this simple conclusion that this ‘force’ wants life to consume so they make a deal and offer life on their own. If it didn’t work the counselor told the chief that the ‘force’ might not have seen the sacrifice so they lit fire and made noise to make the ‘force’ aware of the sacrifice. Sometimes it worked and that confirmed their belief in the exchange.  When it didn’t work the exchange was considered insufficient so the sacrifice was raised from lower order animal to higher order and eventually to human sacrifice.


It is paradoxical that the more we evolve and the more analytical and argumentative we become, the idea of God gets entrenched deeper into our psyche despite any shred of evidence, direct or oblique, to suggest interference from heaven in any way in our existence.


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