Science and Consciousness

(This article was originally published in ‘Yoga International’ magazine Aug-2011. I don’t think the magazine exists any longer, which is why no link is provided.)

During the past few years, an increasing number of scientists have claimed insight into the nondual nature of reality. These claims, however, ignore a fundamental truth: Consciousness falls outside the scope of scientific investigation. Therefore, by their very nature, such claims cannot be valid.

There has always been a degree of animosity between science and spirituality. The Catholic Church’s persecution of Galileo over his insistence that the Earth was not the center of the universe comes to mind, as does the current debate between Creationists and those preferring the more down-to-earth tenets of Darwinian evolution. It is encouraging, therefore, to see the growing number of books and articles written by scientists on the subject of nonduality. There is even an annual conference with the title “Science and Nonduality,” thus making it possible to explore these two avenues of knowledge in the same forum.

Paradoxically, both the power and the ultimate shortcoming of science as a tool for investigating the nature of reality lie in its objectivity. The scientific method of empirical observation and subsequent reasoning is something it shares with Vedanta, along with the acceptance of findings from those who have gone before (providing these findings do not contradict more recent discoveries).

Science has made a significant contribution to persuading people to consider that the world may not be as it initially appears to our limited organs of perception. At one end of the scale, the scanning electron microscope looks into the supposed solidity of the matter beneath our fingertips. At the other extreme, the Hubble telescope peers toward infinity into the swirling clouds of galaxies invisible to the naked eye. ‘Reality’ is far more subtle than everyday experience would have us believe. The hardness of the table on which I write is due to irrevocable laws regarding the spin of electrons and their sharing of orbitals around atoms. Massive energy sources in the universe result from entire galaxies being sucked into black holes. Our own senses are quite inadequate for the job of explaining the behavior of the world around us, whereas science seemingly can. Continue reading

The Sublime Homecoming

A chapter from the novel by Mukesh Eswaran has just been posted to the main site.

Here is a brief description of the book by the author:

The life of Michael Pearson, an American scientist, falls apart when his wife accidentally dies. His search for a way to deal with his grief, which takes him to India and back, leads him to spirituality. Since he firmly accepts Darwin’s theory of evolution, he is skeptical of the validity of the claims of spirituality. But Socratic dialogues with an enigmatic man in India called Swami and his subsequent life-experiences compel him to gradually rethink his position. The novel traces Michael’s arduous odyssey to self-discovery in a secular life, ending in a crisis that decidedly resolves his doubts about the compatibility of spirituality with evolution. This novel clearly illustrates how everything in life—from the mundane to the sublime—can be approached in the light of nonduality or Advaita. And if one wants to understand how and why spirituality is completely consistent with the theory of evolution, this novel is worth reading.

Mukesh Eswaran is deeply interested in spirituality, especially Advaita. He is an academic by profession and teaches at a university. He lives in Vancouver, Canada.

Control Genes With Your Thoughts

The day is not far when you can control your genes with your mind! Effectively you can change not only your moods and behavior but also essentially what you are by the power of your thought!

The technological possibility is established through a ‘Proof of Concept’ research paper just published in Nature Communications.

“We wanted to be able to use brainwaves to control genes. It’s the first time anyone has linked synthetic biology and the mind,” says Martin Fussenegger, a bioengineer at ETH Zurich in Basel, Switzerland.

Schematic representation of mind-controlled transgene expression (After M. Folcher et al, 2014)

Schematic representation of mind-controlled transgene expression (After M. Folcher et al, 2014)

Continue reading

adhikAritva – Graduate Quals !?

Whenever I hear of ‘adhkAritva’, I am reminded of the ‘Graduate Quals’ or Prelims in the North American Universities.

Every aspiring candidate for Grad studies  has to cross these  nightmarish (for some) mandatory ‘hurdles on the course’ in order to “to continue studies at a higher level, and/or allow the student to comprehend his/her studies and see how prepared they are for the looming” super-knowledge he/she will earn.

In India, I understand, that such Prelims are introduced for admission of even Nursery class students by some elite schools to filter the mad rush of applications from the parents seeking the entry of their wards into the portals of those exclusive repositories of wisdom.

Perhaps there is a reason for all such uncanny devices of regulation and control where an ‘organized educational program’ requiring an approved Governmental Accreditation is involved

But for imparting the simple teaching that, at its core, says you are already that ‘nitya suddha buddha mukta‘ which you seek to know, do we have to have these mandatory regulations?

In fact it is said in spiritual matters that there is no teaching unless a question is asked. And it is equally true that there cannot be a fixed  teaching cast in a rigid framework of curriculum because the teaching has to be molded as a melodious tune in a waltz-like dance with the spiritual aspirant’s questions. There cannot be ‘institutionalization.’

After all, it is not about running the ‘business’ of “teaching shops” with product guarantees in a market environment. The spiritual Seekers these days come with a maturity of brain and having had varied experience in the phenomenal world. They come (mostly) with open minds to ‘question’ and are courageous to be irreverent (not impertinent).  These are not like the students in the good old ancient days when a ‘brahmachari’ is sent away to the ‘Gurukula’ at the tender age of 7-10 when even the brain cells of the kid have not yet matured, basic knowledge skills and analytical acumen are not yet learnt and the lad had to be educated even in the three R’s. Enormous times are spent in preparing their wavering child-minds to develop focus and attention, deductive and inductive logic, discrimination and discretion etc. Do we need to repeat all that on a 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever age person?

All that the advaita teaching talks  about is deconstructing the belief structures of the seeker. If the belief is in ego, egolessness is the teaching. If the belief is a hidden feeling in the nooks and corners of the body or mind, the teaching has to shine light to illuminate those hidden quarters.

On another note, it has to be said that the programs for ‘training trainers’ have perhaps a greater need for implementing stricter eligibility criteria.  The reasons are obvious. The prospective teachers have a responsibility not to mislead the eager seeker, should be able to maintain the pristine purity and integrity of the essence of the message and so on.

So steps to regulate them will hopefully help in curbing the mushrooming growth of the ‘industry’ of spiritual teaching being run on MNC marketing models, self-perpetuating their own authority and ‘brand development’ through their “Quals.”




This is an alternative viewpoint regarding the role of “Repetition” in understanding the core message of advaita.  As it often happens, there is nothing like “the right perspective” in these matters. One may use one’s own discretion in evaluating these different points of view.

1.  There is no doubt that Repetition helps in getting a thing by heart or to memorize a quote, a mantra, a verse etc.

2.  We know ‘Practice maketh perfect’ and  practice necessarily involves repetition.

That means, we are making an operation (mostly those that involve neuromotor skills) into a more mechanically executed action – transferring a routine from being a cerebral activity to cerebellar activity.

3.  The ‘phala‘ (result) of certain ritualistic karma (like offerings made for the appeasement of gods, gaining merit etc.) is expected to increase proportionally with the number of times the ritual is carried out. (Please see Note: 2 at the end). Continue reading



All of spiritual instruction and learning has two aspects or dimensions:  The Theory and Praxis – a doctrine to understand and a method to practice, so that the former may dawn in the seeker’s mind as an experiential realization of his/her own. In advaita Vedanta the goal is to understand the Reality by dispelling the misunderstanding. The final understanding to arrive at is that there is no essential distinction between the jiva (individual self) and Atman (Universal Self), and further, that Atman, the Self, is Brahman (its cosmic extension, as it were). Here the two terms of the polarity, subject-object, get obliterated, given the intuition (anubhUti, akhandAkAra vRtti) that reality is One. Knowing and Being are no longer distinguishable from one another, when Happiness shines self-effulgently and this is encapsulated in the three-pronged expression, sat-chit-Ananda.

The method of imparting the above Non-dual message is usually by teaching (through gradual and progressive steps) so that the seeker intuitively grasps the Reality, the ‘what Is’. Normally a teacher is required for this education; otherwise, the scriptures (basically the prasthAnatraya; the purANas and specific treatises likes the prakaraNa grantha-s being the accessories) are the source to which one can access again and again. Saying ‘again and again’ implies repetition… or does it? Repetition of what? Continue reading

Q. 352 – sexual desire and happiness

Q: I have read the book ‘How to Meet Yourself’. I understand I think about desire; that it is a searching for a return to our natural state of happiness. I understand that we are already that, but when around women or just bored I start moving toward pornography to get relief from the desire. How exactly can I just access this happiness? Do I not take the desire seriously and not look at women, or do I need a more practical way to cope and not go down this spiritual route so to speak?

Answers are provided by: Ramesam, Sitara, Ted, Martin and Dennis. Continue reading

Am I awake yet? – Fred Davis

So, am I awake yet, or what?


Fred Davis


I edit Awakening Clarity, a Nondual blog, and as a result of that I get emails from the four corners of the worlds.  A fair number of them express confusion.  The writer has had some sort of spiritual experience.  And now they want to know where they are on the spiritual map.  One response that arises here when someone asks me something along the line of, “Hey, am I awake, or what?” is exactly this:

“If you’re concerned about whether you’re awake or not, then you’re not–at least not right now.”  Such a question simply would not occur to conscious awakeness. Generally, in fact, given the nature of the situation the person is writing in about, and their choice of language their letter contains convincing evidence that they are not awake right now–at least not in the way they are asking about.  In truth, everyone is always equally awake, so all we are ever talking about is whether or not we are consciously awake, knowingly awake–right now. If we can get clear on this we can see that there’s no room left for higher or lower, better or worse, more spiritual or less.  All of those things spring from beliefs, opinions, and positions (BOPs), which conscious awareness simply doesn’t have.  The apparently separate being it’s working through will certainly have a broad array of BOPs–that’s essentially what a separate being is–but not the awakeness behind it.  You will understand, of course, that language is failing us here; we do what we can. Continue reading

What is traditional advaita?

My teacher is a teacher of traditional advaita. I believe she is the only such teacher in the UK, if not in Europe. Some might look at what she teaches – Gita, Upaniṣads, Prakaraṇa Granthas (philosophical treatise) and stotras (devotional hymns) – and believe that they too, not only follow traditional advaita (because they too read these texts), but also have an additional, and arguably more powerful, key in the form of meditation or yoga or other such practice. Despite the surface similarity, however, I stick to my opening claim and will attempt to open up clear blue water between the teacher of traditional advaita simply by making clear what is mean by ‘traditional advaita’.

Two words set apart the traditional approach to teaching advaita from all others: sampradāya and pramāna.

Sampradāya is the established approach to unfolding the vision of Vedanta transmitted from one teacher to another. It is the traditional interpretation with a traceable lineage of teachers. Continue reading

Common misunderstandings related to Vedanta

Below is the view of a bright young friend, Prashant Parikh, a keen, enthusiastic student of traditional Vedanta…

There are some errors in understanding I come across routinely, so I’m addressing a few of them briefly.

1) The Self can’t be experienced: The human mind is designed to go outwards (or even inwards) to gain experience. That is good, it allows us to innovate and progress in our worldly lives. However, when it comes to gaining AtmA jñAnam, the mind again looks for experience of an object called AtmA. This will fail miserable. AtmA is the very Self, the subject. Only an object endowed with attributes can be experienced. The consciousness, which is the Self, cannot be known as an object of experience. The Self can only be understood through the process of acquiring jñAnam through the timeless veda utterances. Tat tvam ask [Thou art That] is the teaching of the Guru, aham brahman asmi [I am Absolute Reality] is the understanding of the student 🙂 Continue reading