Among the religious texts of Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita is the most revered one. Literally presented as the word of God, the Bhagavad Gita enjoys a stature similar to the Bible or the Koran. Like all scriptures, the Bhagavad Gita also can be read, not merely as an act of devotion, but as a philosophical discourse as well. It presents a philosophical stance in understanding the world, which forms (for those from India) the basic and fundamental assumptions in dealing with life, and the unknowable reality around them. In fact, it is more than just assumptions and hypotheses; it is the basis of commonsense handed down from generation to generation. It is the foundations of intellect, which form the instinctive and emotional understanding of reality that is assimilated before logic and cannot be touched or analyzed with rationality. They are the mythos that trump logos every time.
In Hinduism, there is a fundamental trinity of gods – Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. They are to be understood as birth, existence and death. They are the gods of creation, well-being and destruction, as our grandmothers told us.
Swami Vivekananda gave a few speeches at the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. These speeches still fill us Indians with a good deal of pride. I managed to locate an old recording of them on the Internet and cleaned it up a bit. Here it is for your listening pleasure.
The skeptic in me, however, will not let it to go without a critical self-examination. What exactly am I proud of? I would like to say his deep thoughts on the Hindu philosophy and his lucid expose on it. But the fact of the matter is, I was proud even before I heard or read the speeches. If you are proud as well, let me ask you this: did you actually listen to the whole speech? If you did not, what are you really proud of? By the way, I have the latter part of the speech (ang kanyang papel sa Hinduismo,,en,nai-post sa ibaba,,en,para sa iyong kasiyahan sa pagbasa,,en,Isang paraan o iba pa,,en,babayaran mo ang presyo para sa iyong pagmamataas,,en,Inaasahan ko na ang aking pagmamataas ay isang pagtapon sa panahon ng kolonyal,,en,at ang paggalang ng nauugnay na wikang banyaga na sa paanuman tayo nagkakatulad mula sa ating mga magulang o lola,,en,Maaaring ito ay medyo higit pa sa na,,en,maaaring ito ay ang Swami Vivekananda pinamamahalaang upang mapabilib ang pag-iwas sa isang bungkos ng mga ito,,en,ang mga kolonyal na masters,,en,na kung saan ay isang bagay na nais nating gawin sa ilang malalim na antas,,en,Maaaring ito ay lamang ang kanyang malakas at mahusay na diction,,en,at ang kanyang utos ng wika,,en,Kung nakakita ka ng isang aso na naglalakad sa mga binti ng hind nito,,en,hindi gaanong nagawa ito ng mabuti,,en,tulad ng ginagawa nito sa lahat,,en) posted below, for your reading pleasure. One way or another, you are going to pay the price for your pride!
I suspect my pride is a throwback to the colonial era, and the reverence of the associated foreign language that we somehow assimilated from our parents or grandparents. May be it is a bit more than that — may be it is that Swami Vivekananda managed to impress the heck out of a bunch of them, the colonial masters, which is something all of us want to do at some deep level. May be it is just his strong and fluent diction, and his command of the language.
If you see a dog walking on its hind legs, it’s not so much that it does it well, as that it does it at all. Nararapat ba para sa ibang mga aso na pakiramdam na ipinagmamalaki ng isang aso na maipapakita ang ganitong ugaling katangian,,en,Gumagawa ba tayo ng isang katulad na bagay kapag hinahangaan natin ang bawat isa sa utos ng ibang bansa,,en,Pagkatapos mag-publish ng isang haligi sa,,en,Pagbasa sa pagitan ng mga Linya,,en,sa isang lokal na pahayagan,,en,Nakakuha ako ng isang tawag sa telepono mula sa isang tagahanga,,en,Isantabi ang pakiramdam ng katakut-takot sa pagkuha ng isang tawag sa telepono mula sa isang estranghero sa iyong cell phone,,en,ang ginoo,,en,na tunog ng matanda,,en,nasiyahan sa aking isinulat at kung paano ko ito isinulat,,en,sa pag-iisip tungkol sa tawag na iyon,,en,Pakiramdam ko ay tila ang kanyang paghanga ay marahil isang nalabi sa aming nakabahaging kolonyal na nakaraan,,en,sa aking kaso,,en,ang nakaraan ay isa o dalawang henerasyon na tinanggal,,en,Maaaring nadama niya na sa wakas ay natutunan ko nang sapat ang Ingles upang makagawa ng isang mahusay na klerk,,en? Are we doing something similar when we admire each other’s command of this foreign tongue? After publishing a column on Reading Between the Lines in a local newspaper, I got a phone call from a fan. Let’s put aside the feeling of creepiness in getting a phone call from a stranger on your cell phone; the gentleman (who sounded kind of old) was pleased with the what I wrote and how I wrote it. Now, thinking back about that call, I feel as though his admiration was also perhaps a remnant of our shared colonial past (though, in my case, the past was one or two generations removed). May be he felt that I had finally learned enough English to make an efficient clerk. Ang aso na ito ay sa wakas pinagkadalubhasaan ang sining ng paglalakad sa kanyang mga paa sa paa,,en,Anuman ang pinagmulan nito,,en,ang pagmamalaki ng minahan ko ay may pitik na bahagi nito,,en,Ito ay ang pagtaas ng mga palabas sa pag-uusap sa ebangheliko sa India,,en,at ang mga instant nirvanas na inaalok ng mga bagong gurus,,en,Kanina,,en,Inilathala ko ang isang babala ng,,en,mga panganib na nakuha ng mga modernong gurus,,en,Habang ipinagpapalagay na maaari akong mapanghusga laban sa kanila,,en,Nais kong iguhit ang iyong pansin sa video na ito kung saan ipinapakita ng isang guro ang mahiwagang kapangyarihan ng isang bagong muling natuklasan na sinaunang pagsasamahan,,en,ginawa at ipinagbibili ng kanyang pamangkin,,en,Ang isang naniniwala ay nakakita sa isang tanawin na ito ng isang tunay na himala,,en,o hindi bababa sa isang mahusay,,en,kahit na nakatago,,en,dahilan para sa guru na gawin ang demo na ito,,en,Isang masamang dahilan lang ang nakikita ko,,en,Mga yugto tulad ng video na ito,,en,at ang live show na nangyari ay nahuli ko,,en.
Whatever its origin, this pride of mine has a flip side to it. It is the rise of the evangelical TV talk shows in India, and the instant nirvanas offered by new gurus. A while ago, I published a piece warning of the dangers posed by the modern gurus. While conceding that I may be prejudiced against them, I would like to draw your attention to this video where a guru is demonstrating the magical powers of a newly re-discovered ancient concoction, manufactured and sold by his nephew. A believer sees in this spectacle a genuine miracle, or at least a good, albeit hidden, reason for the guru to be doing this demo. I see only a bad reason. Instances like this video (and the live show I happened to have caught) punan mo ako ng kabaligtaran ng pagmamataas,,en,nakakahiya,,en,ano ang alam ko,,en,maaaring isang daang taon mula ngayon,,en,matagal na akong namatay at nawala at nakalimutan,,en,hindi bababa sa ilan sa mga modernong gurus na ito ay maaaring iginagalang sa parehong paraan na ngayon ay Swami Vivekananda,,en,kahit na hindi ko ito maaasahan,,en,Sa anumang kaso,,en,Sigurado ako na ang kanilang mga inapo ay magiging mas mayaman kaysa sa akin,,en,http,,en,www.youtube.com/watch,,en,v = Quf3Ynu-Qq4,,bg,Ang video na ito kung saan ang guro mismo ang nagsagawa ng demo ay tila tinanggal na para sa mga malinaw na kadahilanan.,,en,Narito ang isa pang tulad na demo sa ibang konteksto kung saan walang sinuman ang magkakaroon ng problema sa pagtuklas sa lansihin,,en,Ang mga video na ito at ang kanilang mensahe ay maaaring nasaktan ng ilan sa aking mga mambabasa,,en,at para doon,,en,humihingi ako ng pasensya,,en,Kapag ang mga tao ay namuhunan ng kanilang oras at lakas sa espirituwal na mga pagsusumikap,,en — shame. But then, what do I know — may be a hundred years from now, long after I’m dead and gone and forgotten, at least some of these modern gurus may be revered the same way Swami Vivekananda is now; though I wouldn’t count on it. In any case, I am pretty sure that their descendants will be a lot richer than mine.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Quf3Ynu-Qq4 (This video where the guru himself performed the demo seems to have been removed for obvious reasons.)
Here is another such demo in a different context where nobody will have problem spotting the trick.
These videos and their message may have offended some of my readers, and for that, I apologize. When people invest their time and energy into spiritual endeavors, hindi nila nais na malaman ang mga negatibong aspeto ng kanilang landas,,en,dahil ang nakakakita ng isang bagay na negatibo sa kanilang hangarin ay,,en,sa kanilang pananaw,,en,walang kwenta sa pagtatanong sa kanilang katalinuhan,,en,Ang katangi-tanging paglaban sa katotohanan ay nakakakuha din ng matalino at maingat na sinasamantala ng mga paggalaw ng mga bagong edad,,en,Gusto ko lang sabihin na maayos ang ibig kong sabihin,,en,para sa ilan sa mga apektado ay ang mga taong mahal sa akin,,en,At tulad ng ipinangako kanina,,en,narito ang papel sa Hinduismo ni Swami Vivekananda na nabasa niya sa kumperensya sa Chicago,,en,PAPER SA HINDUISM,,en,Basahin sa Parliament noong ika-19 ng Setyembre,,en,Tatlong relihiyon na ngayon ang tumayo sa mundo na bumagsak sa amin mula sa sinaunang panahon - ang Hinduismo,,en,Zoroastrianism at Hudaismo,,en, because seeing something negative in their pursuit is, in their view, tantamout to questioning their intelligence. This peculier resistance to truth also gets masterfully and cynically exploited by the new-age spiritual movements. I only want to say that I mean well, for some of those affected are people very dear to me.
And as promised earlier, here is the paper on Hinduism by Swami Vivekananda that he read at the Chicago conference.
Photo by Premnath Thirumalaisamy
The uncertainty principle is the second thing in physics that has captured the public imagination. (The first one is .) It says something seemingly straightforward — you can measure two complimentary properties of a system only to a certain precision. For instance, if you try to figure out where an electron is (measure its position, that is) more and more precisely, its speed becomes progressively more uncertain (or, the momentum measurement becomes imprecise).
Where does this principle come from? Before we can ask that question, we have to examine what the principle really says. Here are a few possible interpretations:
- Position and momentum of a particle are intrinsically interconnected. As we measure the momentum more accurately, the particle kind of “spreads out,” as George Gamow’s character, Mr. Tompkins, puts it. In other words, it is just one of those things; the way the world works.
- When we measure the position, we disturb the momentum. Our measurement probes are “too fat,” as it were. As we increase the position accuracy (by shining light of shorter wavelengths, for instance), we disturb the momentum more and more (because shorter wavelength light has higher energy/momentum).
- Closely related to this interpretation is a view that the uncertainty principle is a perceptual limit.
- We can also think of the uncertainly principle as a cognitive limit if we consider that a future theory might surpass such limits.
All right, the last two interpretations are my own, so we won’t discuss them in detail here.
The first view is currently popular and is related to the so-called Copenhagen interpretation of quantum mechanics. It is kind of like the closed statements of Hinduism — “Such is the nature of the Absolute,” for instance. Accurate, may be. But of little practical use. Let’s ignore it for it is not too open to discussions.
The second interpretation is generally understood as an experimental difficulty. But if the notion of the experimental setup is expanded to include the inevitable human observer, we arrive at the third view of perceptual limitation. In this view, it is actually possible to “derive” the uncertainty principle.
Let’s assume that we are using a beam of light of wavelength to observe the particle. The precision in the position we can hope to achieve is of the order of . In other words, . In quantum mechanics, the momentum of each photon in the light beam is inversely proportional to the wavelength. At least one photon is reflected by the particle so that we can see it. So, by the classical conservation law, the momentum of the particle has to change by at least constant from what it was before the measurement. Thus, through perceptual arguments, we get something similar to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle constant.
We can make this argument more rigorous, and get an estimate of the value of the constant. The resolution of a microscope is given by the empirical formula , where is the numerical aperture, which has a maximum value of one. Thus, the best spatial resolution is . Each photon in the light beam has a momentum , which is the uncertainty in the particle momentum. So we get , approximately an order of magnitude bigger than the quantum mechanical limit. Through more rigorous statistical arguments, related to the spatial resolution and the expected momentum transferred, it may possible to derive the Heisenberg uncertainty principle through this line of reasoning.
If we consider the philosophical view that our reality is a cognitive model of our perceptual stimuli (which is the only view that makes sense to me), my fourth interpretation of the uncertainty principle being a cognitive limitation also holds a bit of water.
The latter part of this post is an excerpt from my book, The Unreal Universe.