On my post on the maxim of the six blind men and the elephant, a friend has raised some important questions. Here is my reply to him.
How did the blind persons really touched different parts of ONE AND THE SAME elephant? In one variant of the story, they were not physically blind, but were boasting of their great knowledge. Hence to expose their vanity, the king took the blind folded to a hard curtain with a small aperture. An elephant was paced in the other side of the curtain and only one of its body parts were placed near the aperture, so that the blind folded persons could touch only one part of the same elephant. In other variants, the blind persons were guided to only one part of the same elephant. In any case, this is trivial, because it is not physically impossible. Hence we should concentrate on the other major issue.
Before answering the question, it would be necessary to differentiate between knowledge and science. Branching out from a common source (saamaanya) to different constituent parts (vishesha) to know the truth about that segment, is called Science (Vaisheshika). Here the segment is a derivative of the common source – hence must follow the rule of causality, i.e., the specialties must have been derived from the commonality under specific circumstances and conditions. The opposite – moving from the mix of general and special characteristics of each segment and synthesizing them towards the commonality in everything (Yoga) - is knowledge. Hence we use terms like physical sciences, chemical sciences, biological sciences, etc. for the same body. But we do not use such terms for knowledge (though we use terms like knowledge of physical sciences, it does not contradict the earlier statement, as knowledge is a collective of ALL sciences).
When we encounter divergent doctrines and points of view, we usually do NOT know whether they really relate to the same topic or whether they are mutually compatible and can be harmonized from the perspective of a *Higher Truth* or not. That is why require a competent Guru – a qualified guide to properly navigate us through the labyrinths of confusion. Otherwise, though technically the ergodic monkey typing at random may be able to produce a great novel after infinite trials, such chances are ruled out during our short life span.
When ANY person makes ANY statement, it is not a random occurrence. It is backed by a certain chain of thought and command based on his 1) natural instinct based on his DNA (indriyaartha sannikarshaat), 2) past experiences involving similar or related events (abhyaasaat), 3) socio-cultural upbringing (abhimaanaat), 4) accidental encounter that revive forgotten memories (pratyabhijnaat). These are called Preeti Sootram or the theory of attachment. These conditions are unique to each individual. Hence each perception is unique. This makes different persons perceiving the same object or event differently. But can we say any of these wrong? Suppose one uses a colored eye-piece or someone, who is color blind. Can we say his/her vision as wrong? Under those conditions, he/she is right. However, when we deal with the material word, such blurred vision does not produce the expected result. Hence it is wrong. Because proof is defined as that which produces invariant and expected results of the same object or events under similar conditions irrespective of place and time of occurrence. Hence if we go by proof, which only leads to knowledge, such vision or description is wrong in the ultimate analysis. But if we go by science, such visions are expected under those circumstances. To that extent, they are not wrong. This second vision is called Avidyaa. Though the term has other meanings, here it implies ultimate ignorance. For this reason, “ALL theories are fragments of the same (alleged) Truth”.
There may be mistaken or erroneous conjectures and theories from the universal point of view, but for a specific person in a specific context, it is not wrong. This is what Ted Howard calls “a model of a model of a model of a model of reality”. We cannot ignore that because the person’s behavior depends on that perception and it may affect us.
Now, the all-important question: “how are we to winnow the wheat from the chaff -- how are we to separate the RIGHT theories from the WRONG ones and to preserve only the former, while remorselessly discarding the latter”? The Vedas and Upanishads have given elaborate commentaries on this under the Ashwattha Vidyaa or the theory of the inverted Ficus religiosa or sacred fig tree – also called Bodhi tree - a species of fig native to the Indian subcontinent and Indochina. The tree is called Ashwattha, which literally means that which goes on evolving and expanding. The tree is pictured as inverted: with its roots at the top against its normal position. A tree evolves from its seeds to roots and two leaves. The root forms its base – here the universe. The two leaves represent matter and energy. It evolves to the trunk, the branches, the sub-branches, ultimately the leaves, flowers and fruits. Two birds are pictured to be sitting on the tree: one eating the fruits and the other observing it. These two are the physical and the conscious aspects of the universe. It is a big analysis and I can discuss it at some other time.
1. a) I purposefully used the word Guru and mot teacher. Etymologically, the word Guru means an expert on a subject, who teaches selected disciples with a purpose of putting the knowledge to its best use. Hence by the word "guru", I am referring to ANY sort of expert, including of the scientific type, provided he is not a reductionist. By this I mean, a Guru must have total knowledge of the related fields also, while he may excel in a particular branch. For example, there is one Mundaka Upanishad, which begins with a question “What is that knowledge by knowing which we can have knowledge about everything”? The answer has been given by classifying knowledge into two categories: i) knowledge about the material universe and ii) knowledge about Consciousness. Then it switches on to discuss causality. Unfortunately, none of the commentaries available understood this and have given wrong interpretations. But the traditional scholars (I learnt it from my father 50 years ego), give a scientific interpretation, which I had written on different occasions. Vedic causality has 13 divisions. It contains four: those related to the beginning of creation. It is a greater science than modern science has achieved till date. From the above, it is clear that ALL branches of knowledge are covered by the Guru.
Satyendra Nath Bose, Max Perutz, Linus Pauling, or Hideki Yukawa can be considered in this category to a limited extent, because they were reductionists – they specialized in some branch, but did not have the same mastery in related branches.
b) Most ancient texts describe about how to select a competent Guru. Here personal integrity and depth of knowledge (to clear doubts on any subject) are given maximum weightage.
2. The word Bodhi, made famous because Buddha attained knowledge under such a tree, does not reflect the sense of Ashwattha, which literally means that which goes on evolving and expanding. But this expansion is not continuous expansion. Its spatial expansion stops after sometime due to scientific reasons I have discussed on different occasions. But its time evolution does not cease. The reason why the tree is pictured as inverted has been explained while discussing the difference between science and knowledge. Knowledge tends towards unification. When our eyes see a flower, it creates a blurred image of color only in our brain. Our sense of touch describes us its form. Sense of taste describes its radiance (freshness). Sense of smell describes its fragrance. Our sense of hearing describes its spatial arrangement in layers (sound is a longitudinal wave, also called compression wave). When all these sensations are mixed in our brain and compared with our memory, we “know” that it is a flower. But science is limited knowledge about something. Hence if we study color, texture or smell etc. those will be science. Since science is a part, it flows from the whole. Since the universe is perceived by us as parts, it is science. But the source of this science is one knowledge from which it flows. Thus, the tree is pictured as inverted. Because it depicts the creation and time evolution of the universe from one source. Its branches and other parts describe different sciences. A standing tree would imply growth of the original source. But an inverted tree implies parts emanating from one source, which together grows to form the whole. This is a vast subject and unless someone is an expert in Quantum physics, it will be very difficult to understand its meaning. Even then it uses a science much higher than modern science.
The two birds are one representing living bodies and the other representing Consciousness. We may have knowledge about different subjects, but the universal content of all knowledge is of the form: “I know……..(about this)”. Secondly, knowledge is the result of measurement (or perception, which is the same as measurement). We compare something with a standard unit scale up or down to know the result. Hence, the result of measurement always returns scalar quantities (2kg or 5 kg, where kg is a pre-known unit that is in our memory). As long as the measurement process goes on, our mind rests with it due to inertia. Like inertia of motion is destroyed due to friction or application of another force, the inertia of mind, i.e. thought, is destroyed due to getting the object of desire (praapti), or intense pain, which diverts our mind, or knowledge about the object. The moment we “know”, our mind rests – no action. The knowledge is posted in our memory. Hence knowledge implies cessation of action. This is called the observer of quantum physics and explains “collapse”. For this reason, the other bird is described as only observing.