Tuesday, August 3, 2010
WHO AM I? = POST 2 = BODY, MIND AND GENES = WHAT YOU (DON'T) KNOW = AND DON'T CONTROL = ARE YOU ETERNAL?
WHO AM I?
The first qualification for a student of the question – WHO AM I – as we saw in the previous post, is the ability to discriminate between what is permanent and what is impermanent.
We will think of what is permanent and what is impermanent in the whole universe a little later. The universe is too big and we have not seen it fully yet. We confine our present enquiry to more manageable levels.
What is permanent and what is impermanent in me?
And, in YOU?
This level is more comfortable, more important and more relevant for our enquiry of – WHO AM I?
I urge readers (including my self) to ponder over this question in depth - from all possible angles, scientific, spiritual, or, any other – that you can.
We will come to the ancient Vedantic view in a subsequent post. Science has not remained static from the vedantic days. Thousands of years have gone by. So, we do need to catch up and update our scientific knowledge in relation to this question, and then proceed further with our vedantic enquiries and views later.
So, what is permanent in YOU (and me)?
Some decades ago, on some auspicious day and time, you were born by the union of a EGG and a SPERM inside your mother’s womb.
Millions of sperms were swimming feverishly to reach the EGG and get into it. They knew the route and they knew their purpose. And, they had a finite time to reach the goal. But then, just one amongst them only was destined to enter the egg. Who was that? Did the egg know which sperm was to be permitted entry? Did the chosen sperm know where the entry gate for it in the egg was? After the entry of the chosen sperm into the egg at the chosen gate, why did the egg not permit other sperms entry into the egg? Evidently, only one was allowed entry. Who, how, where – and so many such questions beg for answers. But, there are answers. That much is certain. Only we do not know yet. May be some day, we will know. And, may be, some one unknown to us knows all the questions and answers. May be, some one has planned it all the way. We do not know yet. And, when we know these in the most scientific way – we would have opened the flood gates for more questions.
The Union of the chosen egg and chosen sperm resulted in YOU. Wonderful. But, what were YOU prior to that UNION? And where were you?
If you affirm that you were not there at all before the union of this Egg and this sperm, there is nothing permanent in you. You started on that fateful day and you will end on another fateful day. This becomes very simple. You can conclude this enquiry into this question here.
But look at your self. Ask your near and dear how you look. They will say, you look like your grand father or your grand mother or some one in your clan who existed before. And your sister perhaps looks like some one in your mother’s clan or aunt’s clan.
Evidently, those features of the ancestors which you and your sister inherited did not fully die with your ancestors but survived them somehow. They were carried on in some ingenious way and bequeathed to subsequent generations. So, is your grand father and grand mother alive in you in some way, even if it is partially? Have they survived their death in some way?
Does this not look plausible now? These features of them and of you are all life forms. They do grow in you. Any thing that can grow is a life form.
Suppose you have a congenital disease. Or you acquired a disease like diabetes or asthma. The doctor asks you – did any one among your ancestors have this disease? You say, my grand father’s sister had it. The diagnosis is over. Finished! Your doctor smiles benignly and says – that’s it. You got it from her!
Arre! She was dead seventy years ago and totally burnt on the pyre. How can she pass on her asthma and her diabetes to me? The doctor says – yes. It comes through your Genes. But how?
A Grand father’s sister! We can see that grand father, father and you have a link and yes, you can inherit the grand father’s genes somehow. But, how do you inherit a grand father’s sister’s genes. This then must have come from some one much earlier, with whom you can establish a genetic connection. So, isn’t it obvious that those ancestors were not fully finished and gone forever - when their bodies were buried or burnt on the pyre?
Some thing in them and you survives in some way. Your grand son and your grand daughter will inherit your genes the same way.
Your grandfather and you both are surviving and living in your grand son and your grand daughter.
Extend the logic further. Your grand father’s grand father’s grand father’s grand father is also surviving in your grand son genetically. Isn’t this scientifically true? Science as of today doesn’t know all answers to all questions. In fact, science does not know all the questions. But, who knows all the questions and all the answers? Some one does.
You, the embodied, living one, think with your head but can’t think at the level of your genes. But, thinking does exist at the level of the genes. Your genes – and those of your grand father and his grand father are residing inside you –at least partially - and may be happily living together as genes and thinking together! If only you can think at the level of your Genes, you may get many more answers.
For our purpose, it is enough to know that something of us and in us survives our death. There is some thing in us – that is more permanent than our physical bodies.
Just as our physical bodies change, the genes also mutate. Whatever changes isn’t the same again. Your grand father may be residing in you. But, he is transforming himself with time.
Today’s genetic science is unraveling some mysteries about Genes. The full facts however may never be known.
Science recognizes that change is the only thing that is permanent. Nothing fully dies. But, nothing remains the same. Your Genes may never be fully finished. They may already be all over the earth – in ways we are yet to uncover. Like the genetic material in flowers, which is carried by air. Your genes may not require even air to transport themselves.
Genes may not be visible to naked eye or even the most sophisticated scientific instruments. But, they are matter and energy. They are living beings. They are mutating and getting transformed into other genetic forms and getting transported from person to person.
Vedanta talks of another type of micro bodies which go out of us when we die. They are said to survive the death of our body-mind complex and go out seeking a new body. More of that when we have finished this scientific enquiry.
So – there is some thing that survives us after the death of our body-mind complex. They are a life form born in us and get into other individuals, giving them some of our features, our habits, our diseases and so on. See, how many things belonging to us survive our physical death! This is all scientific. Some of you coming from the background of genetic science education may give more, or even, slightly different interpretation – but, you can’t escape these final conclusions.
The gross physical bodies are less permanent but some genetic material in us is more permanent.
When some one points to your head – and asks what it is, you will say, it is MY head. If some one can point to your genes and ask the same question, will you not say, these are my genes? If the head is a part of YOU, the genes are as much a part of YOU. The head is YOU. The Genes are also YOU. This conclusion is valid at our present level of understanding of YOU.
We have thus found some thing more permanent in us than our physical bodies and physical mind.
But, we identify with our body-mind complex more than with any thing else, for the simple reason that these are the only tangible things available for our sensory perception, which is the only way, we perceive any thing.
We say, we think. We also said that our genes also think. In fact, many things in us are capable of thinking. They are thinking and acting. The white blood cells think in a limited way and do certain things efficiently. The RBCs also think and act. Any living being has to think before it acts. At a more gross level, our mind thinks and acts through our bodies.
Let us analyze this thinking faculty a little deeply.
Your WBCs are white in colour and have different odd shapes. Your RBCs are RED in colour and have regular, let’s say, circular shapes. Now, for the next 5 minutes, forget about your WBCs and RBCs. Think of any other topic during this time. No bar at all – except the WBCs and RBCs. Just leave them out. Don’t think of them for next 5 minutes.
Try as much as you can. Try hard. Try smart. Try intelligently. Try, and try until you succeed. Think of any thing other than RBCs and WBCs. Just for 5 minutes….
Come back into the discussion after the above effort. Did you do it?
Did you?.... Could You….?
You could not. Right! It is not your fault that you could not. You just discovered that your thinking is not under your control fully. YOU are not free to think what you want. So, are you the free thinker in you?
Let us do another experiment on our thinking.
Instead of avoiding WBCs and RBCs from our thinking for five minutes, let us forget them totally. Let us use any methods known to us to forget them. At the end of a month, just prove to us that you have forgotten them totally. Can you?
You can’t. This too is not a faculty given to you. You can’t “try and forget” any thing. Here too, your thinking is not under your control. You will and you do forget a whole lot of things. But, not by your effort.
We may now do a easier exercise. Let us try to remember what we ate on any ten consecutive days of last year. Can we? Again, we can’t. Or, just the names of all lessons you had in one subject in your fifth grade in your school. We are not asking for the content of the lessons. Just their names. This too, you can’t.
I can go on asking such easy things about your thinking faculty – just to prove that our thinking faculty is not much under our control and is highly impermanent. Mentally, we are dying some percentage points daily and are reborn some new percentage points. When you do these experiments on your thinking faculty – you will get a strong feeling that some one inside you is blocking you from accomplishing all these things.
The same thing is equally true of our physical bodies. This is also easier for you to acknowledge. You are changing every day, every week, every month, and every year. You know that, when you see your self in the mirror, on the weighing machine, On the scale or on a tape across your chest or waist and so on. Old cells in you are going out of you. Some new cells are forming in you. The rate of replacement differs with age. But it happens all the time.
How much of your physical body is under your direct control? Your heart, your pancreas, your kidneys, your nervous system, your circulation system, your digestive system and so many other systems in you are PUT OUT OF YOUR CONTROL – by who ever manufactured your body. And, for a good reason, if you think about it.
If only you were to regulate your heart or kidneys – can you do it? Impossible. No way at all. You will forget the heart beat function every second. Your kidneys will sleep when they should function. No. you are not a good master of your body at all. You are only permitted to be a limited user of some of the Body parts. Who controls the rest?
What you call as your mind-body complex is changing every moment. Some parts of them are dying every moment and some new parts are born. But, you don’t notice it moment to moment.
Your total body cells of this moment will go out of you in a year or so and get replaced by new cells. You don’t own the same body that you had an year ago. It is all gone. You don’t own the one you are having now too. It will also go in the next one year or so.
As one saint says – we are dying a little slowly every moment of our life and one day, the death will be complete. And, surprisingly, we don’t own or control our own body or mind even to a reasonable extent. And,…that arrangement is GOOD for us!
Look. You think you own a lot of things on earth. But, you don’t own your body and mind. Most of them don’t listen to you.
What about your genes? Do you keep them on a permanent basis? No, even at Genes level, things are changing every moment. Do you control their functioning? No.
That said - Change is the only thing permanent in our bodies, minds and Genes.
Yet…., the features of your great, great grand father are there in you and your grand son.
Many things are changing every moment..but many things seem to continue for generations.
Can you now discriminate between what is permanent and what is impermanent in you?
Can you now say – there is absolutely nothing permanent in you?
Science has provided many answers but many more questions…
Our journey continues… our questions continue...
Who am I?
Who are you?
Where does my connection to the past cease? Does it go up to Adam and Eve? Up to Brahman?
Where will my connection with future cease? Will it never cease at all?
Am I Eternal?
* * * to be continued * * *