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Is Life an Illusion?
|by Arya Bhushan|
For long we have heard that life is an illusion. All the epics mention this world is nothing but 'Maya' (the Hindi equivalent of the word Illusion). From the dictionary, we understand that illusion is a deception or a misleading perception of reality. Then, is this life and the world we see all unreal? But how can this be true? How can we believe that the people and the things we see and which appear so real are not there? Our first reaction is that only what we see is real. But then what about the blind man? Are not things real to him? No, the blind man believes that what he hears only is real.
What is it that makes a thing to be real; are things real only when we see them? In that case to a blind person, nothing should be real. Even to us, who can see, there are some things that we don't see, but are real. For example, we do not see air, yet we know that it is there. So it is our feeling that makes a thing real. It is our awareness by which we decide about the reality of things.
So feeling and awareness are our tools to perceive the world in it's apparent form. We have five means of feeling - touch, smell, taste and as already mentioned, vision and hearing. But how do we know what we feel is correct? For example, in the famous experiment on perception of hot and cold, when we put our hands, one in hot water, and the other in cold water, after which put both of them in the water at room temperature, the two hands sense differently. The hand that was kept in cold water feels it to be warm while the other finds it cold.
In the field of vision also we find things being perceived differently. A color blind person sees colors differently than what a normal person sees. Even normal people sometimes get deceived, as is seen in the case of a mirage, when people see water where it is not. I would like to mention about an experiment that was published in 'Omni' some years earlier. In the experiment, the researchers, recorded the wave patterns after connecting electrodes to the brain of a person while showing different colors to him. Thereafter, he was asked to imagine those colors and another set of patterns was recorded. It was observed that the patterns were similar for the colors imagined to those actually seen. Finally, he was shown colors different to the ones which he was asked to imagine. The patterns noticed in this case were those of the imagined colors and not those actually shown. This leads to the conclusion that what we see in our mind is what we believe.
Another example of our mind set is that when we like some one, we tend to overlook all the faults of that person and have trouble believing that that one could do anything wrong, even if facts point differently. On the other hand if we do not like the person, we believe in all the bad things we hear, but find it difficult to accept anything good about him/her. This often happens in party politics. GOP party-men will never believe that a Republican President can do any thing wrong in the same way as Democrats will refuse to believe anything bad about their President.
So is with ourselves. Our ego refuses to accept that we could do anything wrong. When we do something which we do not consider right, we want to think that it was the force of circumstances that made him do it. After all no one wants to do anything bad. Then why will one do it. The reason for that, I consider is that in every human being there is a good 'I' and a bad 'I' battling for control. What makes one, win or loose? The innate sense of self preservation of course.
The concept of Illusion, struck me most vividly when I visited the Holographic Exhibition at San Jose in 1987. The exhibits, I saw clearly with my eye were actually not there. At one place a Telescope was shown through which you could see the stars by looking through it, but physically there was nothing there. In another case there was a bugler standing in front of a bench on which a bugle was kept. As you moved, you saw the bugler, pick up the bugle, put it to his mouth and blow into it. Then he would put the bugle down and smile at you. The whole thing you saw actually happening in front of you in three dimensions while physically nothing was there. There were several objects exhibited in this manner and I was dumb founded. There were machineries displayed, which you could see moving without actually existing.
Before seeing this exhibition, I had thought that the stories in our Indian mythology were all figments of imagination, like the description of Pandava's palace called the 'Maya Sabha' where prince Duryodhan gets deceived, seeing things which were not there, and not seeing those which were actually there. And for this Draupadi made fun of him, calling him blind even when he had good eyesight. But after seeing the Holographic Exhibition I could believe in any thing.
Don't we see similar things every day. To people in remote areas who have never seen Television, if they are told that one can see on a screen any thing which is happening anywhere in the world, would he ever believe it? The advent of Internet is another sphere through which the whole world seems to be getting connected and of which no one could have dreamt even a short time earlier.
Having learnt through science, that everything in the universe is made of atoms, which themselves are nothing but electrical sub-particles like electrons, protons etc. Arranged in a particular fashion, they give rise to different shapes & solidity. They even have different colors. What is the process through which this happens? I often wonder. Who or what controls it? Is it our mind, which is creating it? But if it was our mind, how could everyone witness the same thing? Or is it that the mind is only witnessing it? It may be that our minds are connected to the same source from where these scenes are projected.
Another wonder is the dreams we see when we are asleep. Where do these come from? Sometimes we see that things in the dream actually come true. Once we went to see a movie. When the film started my wife said, she had seen the whole movie in her dream the previous night. On another occasion, I saw a dream, and the next day things happened the same way as I had seen them in the dream. Is it that during our sleep, our minds are able to travel and see the future? It is all a mystery.
Ghosts and Poltergiests is another area about which people wonder. There is so much literature published on it. A large section of people believe in the phenomenon, while quite a few do not. In fact more the education, less the belief. The area, however, is so fascinating that one wants to get to the truth. It is, however not known which side the truth is. I was born in a family of non-believers and so always thought that Ghosts were an aberration of the mind, and only the week-minded fantasized on it.
However, once I happened to go to the place of one of our acquaintances. They had a student son. We asked him what he was doing. The parents answered and told us that he was to appear for the high school examination, but could not do so on account of illness. On being asked what the illness was I was told that he was haunted by a Spirit. They informed me that when he was possessed, he started talking German Language and used terms which were highly scientific. They also told me that during such visits, white foot-prints were seen from the door up to his bed. It was really strange. For the first time, I heard such a thing from someone who had an actual experience of this kind. And I had to believe him as why would one mention such a thing about his own son, if it was not true. On our next visit I was told that a sorcerer was called, who talked to the spirit and was told that he was an army officer of the World War I and he was roaming about as proper last rites were not performed for him. He agreed to leave the boy if some definite quantity of sweets were offered in a Church. This was done and the boy was cured. To me the whole thing was a mystery.
Such stories have made me ponder about how to distinguish between hearsay and belief. The same happens when one hears stories about reincarnation. But with the research carried by Dr. Ian Stevenson on children remembering their previous lives, I am quite convinced that at least some people are born again after their death in this life.
In early seventies, certain experiments were conducted by Russel Targ and Keith Harary at the Stanford Research Institute, which have been described in the books "The Mind Reach" and "The Mind Race" The experiments describe persons, who could view at a distance what was happening. In fact in one case, one could describe, the event half an hour earlier than when it happened. Does it mean that he could project his mind not only distant in space but in future as well.
In his book "The Future is Now" Arthur W. Osborn describes events of which some people had pre-cognitive knowledge and came out to be true. From these he concludes that the events which occur in future already exist. Only we are not able to see them Hypnotism is now an established science which makes us believe that our mind can see things differently if influenced by a trained Hypnotist. Then how do we establish Truth?
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