Hindu mythology, as per my limited capabilities, is vast, deep and quite complex. Some historians may not even tag it as Hindu mythology as it has evolved over time with various influences. But, that is nothing special about Hindu mythology, but is integral part of universal phenomenon of evolution. Concept of evolution is usually applied to physical and biological entities. However, same is equally valid for non natural concepts e.g. religion, mythology, culture or in general stories. Stories evolve over time; some adapt and some lose their voice and charm with time. Evolution also changes the hierarchy of biological and social entities. Species once strongest, no longer exists or have lost their ranking. Same is valid for man-made stories and cultures. I connected to this idea earlier and noted down in my list some time ago. However, yesterday I watched a video from The Royal Institute. This made me remind of another conference of World Science Festival, I once watched. In that conference a western scientist stated that that his study of eastern cultures and history taught him that in the west, people are so fast to say, “If we (in the west) don’t know, then nobody knows”. This ultimately, gave an idea to start a series on Hindu mythology.
To have the right context, it is advised to watch the video. Otherwise consciousness is a big topic and I am not going to tackle it in one article. My idea of series is more about my understanding of Hindu mythology and how modern concepts of science are covered in mythological stories. For this article Consciousness is the topic of selection as triggered by this talk.
First and foremost, I would like to state how speaker used more recent and western references to understanding of consciousness and unconsciousness. If you have listened to the lecture, you might have noticed that speaker did not fail to highlight that he was smarter than his professors and colleagues to ask different questions. But, he did not question that are these the only people who study consciousness. He did not try to find if there are other cultures across the world, who might have studied this concept. Somewhere close to the end of the lecture, speaker states that Sigmund Freud is the discoverer of the “unconsciousness”. I would say, this shows how short sighted the speaker is. If he really meant this statement that would mean that no culture was aware of “unconsciousness” till early 1900s when Segmund Freud enlightened the mankind.
“Consciousness is the number one problem of science, of existence even.Paul Davis 2019
Contrary to what the speaker states, references to unconsciousness are common in Hindu mythology. People have studied consciousness and had developed elaborate procedures to raise human consciousness to higher levels. Difference, seems to be in language and familiarity of it. There is no need of any PET scans or FMRI to understand that a blind person can learn the equations of frequencies and concepts of light, but there is no way she can experience it. Incidentally the same example of blind man can be found in Hindu mythology as used by the speaker. But, today it seems acceptable that if you have not provided any fancy scans with some brain stimulation, then a person cannot be given credit to formulate a concept. I wonder, if there are people doing some weird neuro-physical tests to define, explain and make men understand the feeling/experience of giving birth. It might be needed to confirm the theory, that no matter how much a male doctor knows about the details of birth, he cannot feel that experience.
Similarly, speaker talked a little about levels of consciousness. Similar concepts exist in Hindu mythology/culture explained probably in different terms. One of the popular one across the world is about concept of “Chakras” in Hindu meditation. Whole concept of those meditations are to raise the level of consciousness from one level to another. It is not just about moving from one to another to forget the later one, but rather to bring harmony and synchronisation among all the levels. Another simpler theory that exists is about developing awareness through levels. In this, one slowly becomes aware of simpler things e.g. physical actions, then move on to emotional awareness and ultimately to become aware of those signals even before they become emotions. Hindu meditators practiced it and experienced it by themselves. Difference is that it can only be proved if there is some machine giving some kind of signal that can be interpreted to say what people used to describe as their experiences. This is the same reason, that after some FMRI tests scientists confirmed that long term meditators are more aware of their physical and mental states thus helping them to regulate their behavior much more effectively than non-meditators.
Regarding the statement about consciousness being the number one problem, there is no need to highlight any recent scientist confirming what is known for millennia. Hindu gurus in India and elsewhere have always been in search of truth, consciousness and meaning of existence. Challenge is the evolution. Just in last few decades, we have generation of kids who think that milk comes from bottles, that cows are purple and life and living is a right and not a privilege. These concepts were different even a century ago. In the term of consciousness, we have evolution of thousands of years.
We might repeat what has been done earlier. We may lose it again before next generation can understand it. We may lose our own awareness in the race to find consciousness. I have noticed that there are people who even smile mechanically. It does not seem like they had any awareness of it. They seem to be disconnected from the feeling that a smile raises in a person. I hope that these new researches and methods can help people to become conscious of their own smiles, not just at the brain stem, but even at the cortex level.