I started out an atheist and I now believe in God. Not a God that is in heaven but a God within me. Not a God of any religion but a presence within me. I do not believe in a divine being presiding over the affairs of man somewhere “out there.” I now know that absolute truth is within me. I am the truth.
I am not my body. My body is made of matter, matter is made of atoms, which in turn are made of subatomic particles. According to quantum theory, subatomic particles are not a “thing,” they are probability functions or waves. Therefore our bodies are not solid or substantial. They only appear to our senses as such.
Neuroscientists such as Antonio Damasio and V.S. Ramachandran posit that the world we perceive, including our body, is a projection of our mind. Our senses gather information from the world outside us and transmit it as electrical signals to the brain – and the brain converts those signals into objects that we see, touch and feel. The “objective” world is not objective at all; it is a reality constructed by our minds.
Professor Damasio goes even further in his book, Self Comes to Mind, in explaining how the “I”, our selfhood, is constructed in our mind. There is no Cartesian “I” to be found in our brains, there is no homunculus in our brains. The “I” that we identify with is also a mental construct.
It gets curiouser and curiouser, as Alice proclaimed in her adventure through Wonderland. I know that I exist, but Damasio’s work explains that “I” too am a figment of my imagination (mind). Who, then, is writing this sentence? Physics tells me that my body is nothing but emptiness. Neuroscientists tell me that “I” and all that exists is a projection of my mind. But, I know that I exist. Like Dr. Johnson, who famously refuted Bishop Berkeley’s views on Immaterialism by kicking a stone – to make the point that he does exist.
The way out of this conundrum is the way in. Raman Maharishi, perhaps the greatest Indian sage of the twentieth century, believed that the path to self-realization is to seek the answer to the question “Who am I?” The way in, is the way out of the illusion. As the Heart Sutra in Buddhism teaches: “Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate”- one has to go deeper, deeper and deeper still, to discover one’s truth. One’s truth, in Hinduism, is known as Dharma.
Each of us has an essence that is unique to us. Our physical being is a manifestation of this essence. My essence is not a thing; it cannot be detected by our senses. It is pure consciousness. According to neuroscientist Donald Hoffman at the University of California, Irvine, the building block of existence is consciousness. Each of us is a conscious agent. All that is there is consciousness. From consciousness arises our mind, which in turn creates our reality.
In my world view, spirit, soul and atman are synonymous with the Truth in us – our Dharma, our essence, our true nature. It is who we are. Even atheists have their Dharma.
Most of us go through life without discovering our true nature. We identify almost exclusively with the physical and are not aware of our spiritual self. We are asleep to our own true selves. That is why realizing our true nature is known as awakening.
“I searched for God and found only myself. I searched for myself and found only God”
Sunil Mehrotra has an MS in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University and an MBA from The University of Chicago. He has held senior executive positions at Fortune 500 companies and has been a CEO and founder of two start-ups. He has also taught at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. You can find out more about his book, Shiva’s Dance: A Scientist Dances with the Sages, at https://wordpress.com/posts/shivasdance.org