Random Thoughts

Reality is merely A Matter of Perception

Much has been touted about the ancient Hindus, about their complex understanding of reality. There is supposed to be an Indrajaal or festoon of jewels adorning the ceiling of Indra's heaven, where every jewel reflects the view from every other jewel, and thus there are multiple realities, depending on one's point of view. Then there is the interconnectedness of Buddhism, which is more explicit than the same idea of Hinduism and is perhaps the first version of John Donne's poem and the intellectual mother of Christianity. Buddhism with its metaphysical leanings and aphorisms goes even closer to the concept of reality being a matter of individual perception. There is no doubt, inspite of the absurd claim of chauvinistic Indians, that the ancient Hindus or Buddhists had no understanding of quantum reality. On the other hand, the ancient Indians clearly understood the nature of reality and perception better than the contemporary civilization of the Greeks in 1500BCE. In fact there understanding of reality was a millennium ahead of the Greeks, whose civilization was strongly dependent on borrowing from the Egyptians, who had a better concept of decency and justice than the Greeks could conceive of with their anthropomorphic Gods.

The first classic example, that comes to mind is from the Mahabharata and has been quoted in Jain literature, with disputed parentage, but still dated around 1500 B.C.E, long before Homer and Hesiod and vastly superior in thinking and philosophy. 

The story is the ultimate masterpiece of the futility and yet the persistence of desire and has a beauty and irony, unachieved by many contemporary tales. Let me give you the story. 

A traveler, who is thirsty approaches a well. In the torture of his insatiable thirst, he loses his judgment and leans over more than he should into the well. He topples over and to save his life, grabs on to some protruding shoots. He looks down and sees the ultimately fatal snakes at the bottom of the pit, waiting to sting him to death. He thanks the good fortune, which prevented him from falling to the bottom of the pit to be stung to death by the snakes, but then he sees the rats, who are gnawing at the roots, he is holding on to and then to his utter disappointment, he sees a mad elephant trying to uproot the very roots of the vegetation, he is holding on to. As luck would have it, he has uprooted a bee-hive and angry bees are stinging him, but in the process, quite a few drops of honey are dislodged and they fall on his lips. Such indeed is the story of human life. They know that the serpentine specter of death faces them all the time, and old age like rats gnaws at their happiness, while catastrophes like elephants are waiting to create a disaster and minor irritants of life like bees, hover to sting, but so stupid or short- sighted are humans that they take enough solace in the few drops of honey, that fall by accident on their tongue, that it is enough to keep them still running on the treadmill. 

Is se badi koi kahani nahi! 

Years pass and another phase of Indian civilization is prevalent 2000 years later, while Europe is still  filled with barbarians. We come to the era of the great king Vikramaditya, the Paradukh-Bhanjana, the destroyer of the unhappiness of others. 

Once upon a time, the great king was faced with a Brahmin family, which had discovered a pot of gold in their backyard and offered it to the king as it was not a crop obtained by tilling, The king was the incarnation of honesty and refused to take the gold and told the Brahmin family to keep it. Overnight with the brouhaha, the gold was stolen and the Brahmin family accused the king of having master-minded the theft thru his CIA while still professing no desire for the gold.

The king ruled a city state and assembled all the citizens and narrated a story.

Once upon a time, there were a young man and a young woman, who were so madly in love, that the woman, who should have been more sober, swore to the man, that she would spend her wedding night with him. Tempos fugit and things change. The woman wizened, after she fell in love, married another person and after the ceremony was on the verge of crossing the threshold, when she remembered her promise. Now for an Indian, Raghukul rit sadaa chali ai, praana jai, per vachan naaa jai. The woman then requested her newly wedded husband, that she had a promise to fulfill. The Sanatan Dharmi husband said, we are now one and all your promises are my promises, so you do what you have to do. She then took off decked in all the bridal paraphernalia to spend the night with her former love with the full permission of her new husband. She lived in USA and had not considered other problems, preventing fulfillment of her promise. She was stopped in downtown San Francisco by a bunch of thieves, who insisted on depriving her of her jewellery. The honest woman that she was, she told the thieves, she had to go with full decoration to fulfill her promise, but > would give all her jewelry on the way back. The thieves had a peculiarly (ancient, not current) Indian sense of honor and let her go. She reached the home of her former lover and swore that she had come to fulfill a promise. The former lover said that he was grateful and honored by her behavior, but had to do the right thing by her, by giving her some ornaments as a gift for her wedding night and refraining from taking undue advantage of this quixotic situation.

She turned back without any sexual encounter and offered all her jewels, including the newly acquired gifts from her former lover to the thieves, waiting for her, They informed her that she had brought them so much good luck, that they had broken into the federal reserve bank of San Francisco and made a killing and gave her some bullion as good luck. 

Thus the story ends and the king asks all the citizens of the city state, who are assembled, whose sacrifice was the greatest? 

Every feminist person of the congregation screams forth and loudly proclaims the woman as the winner. Every faithful husband lauds the behavior of the husband, every Lothario touts the integrity of the former lover, and four people speak up for the integrity of the thieves and the king then taxes them with the theft, which they finally confess to. 

Thus does Hindu mythology repeatedly prove that it is our perception, which creates our reality. Thus reality is variable just like time or distance, which depends on which clock or ruler one uses and thus relative. It also shows up as a particle or a wave depending on what apparatus one uses to formulate the reality.  


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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