By Mauricio Garrido
Religious traditions are often criticized for providing
untestable elements in their books of wisdom. Among these
elements, the soul's existence is one of the most debated
in talks between science and religion. But is the concept of
the soul really so vague and does it really have no empirical evidence for a practical theory? Vedic philosophy and quantum mechanics may bring interesting ideas to consider.
Quantum chromodynamics is the theory describing sub-nuclear
particles called quarks and gluons, which are the constituents
of hadrons such as protons and neutrons. It is part of the
Standard Model describing our current understanding of elementary particles. One interesting feature about this theory is that even though it was postulated in 1964 by Gell-Mann and Zweig and is
widely accepted by the physics community, to this day all
experiments validating the existence of the quarks have produced
only indirect proof of them. In fact, according to the theory
itself, no one really ever expects to see direct proof of them
at all, viz. free quarks. Pulling two quarks apart requires so
much energy, that you create new particles in the process which attach themselves to the old quarks and thus you never end up
with free quarks to detect. The important point here is that the experiments that confirmed the existence of these quarks never actually detected them directly and no one really demanded such
a proof. They saw certain particles coming in and certain
particles coming out according to what the theory predicted,
but never actually saw the free quarks by themselves. Therefore, indirect detection with no expectation of direct detection is
still valid to confirm the existence of something in science.
On the other hand, Vedic philosophy tells us about the existence
of another type of particle called the atma, the soul, the self, having different properties from those of ordinary particles.This
is not unusual in physics, as is the case with antimatter
particles. But unlike the ordinary matter and antimatter
particles, the atma has 3 main qualities: eternality, knowledge
and bliss. Eternality can be analyzed as follows: the atma does
not come into or out of existence, it is always present. It does
not decay or degrade, it maintains its individuality always,
it's infinitesimally small and it's not composed of more
elementary particles. It's unchangeable, which along with
the individuality property implies that it does not unite with
other particles to create more complex structures, nor does it
merge with others. The atma does not interact directly with
matter, but given that the atma is the source of consciousness
and the life force in a living entity, any entity displaying
them reveals the presence of an atma in it--whether human,
animal, plant, etc. The living entities are not made up of
atmas; rather, they are these particles and are animating the material bodies that encase them. As soon as the atma leaves one
body for another, the old body no longer exhibits consciousness
or life symptoms, and begins to degrade. The knowledge property refers to its cognizance about its constitutional position, its source and its interactions with the source. Bliss refers to
its natural state of happiness in service to God.
To declare that there is no soul, just because we can't directly
see it with our current instruments, is akin to saying that there
are no quarks because we can't detect them directly in our labs.
Both the soul and the quarks' existence can be inferred indirectly
by their effects (living symptoms and consciousness in the case
of the soul; particle interactions in the case of the quarks).
Even though there are other theories in science describing the
origin of consciousness and living symptoms, these remain very unsatisfactory and many times philosophically dismissive.
Furthermore, the wealth of data regarding topics like
reincarnation gathered by careful scientific studies such
as those of Dr. Ian Stevenson from Virginia University can
hardly be accounted for by any explanation other than one
involving some notion of what is here referred to as atma.
There is, however, a method for directly perceiving the soul,
albeit it is as difficult a task as building a synchrotron to
detect material particles. One cannot use a microscope to see
an atom; one must utilize an STM (scanning tunneling microscope), which uses a different technology. Similarly, to visualize
something as subtle as an atma, we can't use these gross material elements and senses;rather, we must utilize our own spiritual
senses. The process is quite detailed and would require a dedicated article for it, but the basis of it entails using the mind as a
type of mirror, so that the atma can perceive its own
characteristics through its spiritual senses. Yet the mind has
to be calibrated, as with any high-precision measuring device,
by cleansing it of all selfish, egoistic and cruel propensities.
This can be done by the powerful method of meditation techniques utilizing the chanting of mantras, which involve the recitation
of the names of God and can focus, tame, and purify the mind.
Once the mind has been cleansed and controlled, direct perception
of the soul is possible, not only within oneself, but then also within every other living entity. Additionally, given the
difficulty of the process, any sincere and determined person
can expect divine assistance manifesting itself in variegated
ways. This method has been tested and approved by great saints throughout millennia, whose lives are testimony to their words.
Spirituality is much more than just blind faith and sentimentalism, it is an important and sophisticated process of purification that goes beyond just the intellectual curiosity of a few. Its transformative power truly raises the standard of living of a
person and positively influences the lives of those he/she comes
in contact with. Not everyone may have access to a synchrotron to prove for themselves the existence of quarks and its confirmation
may not even be so relevant for most people; but everyone has
access to prove for themselves the existence of the soul and the process that takes one to it brings true happiness and inner fulfillment.
Fair Use Notice: This document may contain
copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically
authorized by the copyright owners. I believe that
this not-for-profit, educational use on the Web
constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted material
(as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law).
If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes
of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain
permission from the copyright owner.