Susmit Kumar, Ph. D
To begin with I would like to ask readers a question (I hope Apollo astronauts are not among them): Why, if they have not gone to the Moon, do they believe that men went to the Moon?
Most probably they will answer that they learned this through newspapers, television and radio. In other words, belief that Moon landings actually took place is due to acceptance of TV and its live transmissions of Apollo astronauts on the Moon.
One could of course argue that the U.S. made an artificial surface like that of the Moon somewhere in the Arizona desert and televised a landing there to the world. To satisfy a person who argues along this line, you can show him Moon rocks which were brought back by the Apollo astronauts and photographs and films of the landing, but the authenticity of all your evidence can be questioned. In fact, whatever you show to aboriginals living in remote parts of Australia, most of them will not believe that the landing ever took place. The point I am making concerns BELIEF – we have belief in modern technology and that’s why we accept that the Moon landing and other space flights actually took place.
Suppose you are walking with your friend, who tells you that a passerby is a Nobel Prize winner in physics and very knowledgeable in the field. Will you believe this? If you have faith in your friend, you will. But if you do not have faith in your friend — or other people for that matter — how can you verify that the passerby is as good in physics as receiving a Nobel prize says he is? First you will have to learn physics, and then you can ask the person questions about physics to plumb the depths of his knowledge. Without knowledge of physics, however, you have no right to doubt the person’s knowledge.
This is true in the case of spirituality too. Most of us have no knowledge in this area, but because of our opinions about ourselves we sometimes think we have general authority in many fields without knowing anything in depth about a particular field, including the inner world and spirituality.
Spirituality and miracles
Spirituality is often equated with miracles. The great saint Vivekananda said people should not blindly believe stories about miracles, however. He said rather that it is possible for everyone to experience them. We call these incidents miracles because modern science is only 2-300 years old, and cannot yet explain them. Of course, to experience miracles a person will have to meditate or follow the paths set by spiritual leaders.
One should not take spirituality and religion to be the same. In my opinion, spirituality is much more scientific and is 99 percent practical; physics, chemistry, biology, etc. are 50 percent practical and 50 percent theoretical. By doing mental exercises and using appropriate Sanskrit mantras, one can know about these so-called miracles.
I will also say that not all the stories about miracles are accurate. Some are, of course. The rest cause harm to spirituality.
Mantras are generally in Sanskrit because the combinations of acoustic sounds generated by the Sanskrit alphabet have profound effects on the body’s cakras. Cakras are nothing but the glands. At the origin of Yoga around 3-4000 B.C., its founders gave utmost importance to the cakras they discovered in the human body. It is only in the last 2-300 years that we have come to know that these cakras occupy the positions of various glands in the body. Most of our bodily and mental functioning depends on the hormones secreted by these glands.
Concentration of mind is the secret
Aside from miracles, yogic mental exercises help a lot in concentration of the mind. It is the mind that is the final recipient of everything – sorrow, happiness, pain, etc. If people can control their minds, they can use them according to their preferences.
We witness a common example of this in the classroom. Many times, despite their best efforts, students are unable to concentrate on the teacher’s lecture. The subject of their minds change from time to time, even every 5-10 seconds. If at one moment a student’s mind is focused on the lecture, within some seconds its subject may change to a movie, then to his residence, and so on. This shows that they are not masters of their minds, but instead that their minds master them.
The mind has an unique characteristic. At any given instant, it can focus on only one subject. We all see this characteristic in daily life. If someone is walking on the road thinking about something, he might ignore his best friend who happens to be standing on the pavement. At that time, his eyes were working and the friend’s picture was being formed on his retina, but as his mind was busy with some other thing, he was not taking notice of the information sent by the eye. Similarly, if someone is eating and reading an interesting book simultaneously, he might not notice the lack of salt in the food; as his mind was busy with reading, the information sent by his tongue (the food being less salty) to the mind was blocked. Hence, by controlling the mind, people can use it according to their preference.
For whatever reason, many people believe in modern technology but do not believe in the science of spirituality. But in varying degrees these are beliefs, not facts based in experience. And the nature of our experience depends in large part on our concentration of mind, which is helped by proper meditation practices.
Copyright The author 2011
The article was originally published in Global Times, 1995
Dr. Susmit Kumar is an Indian-born writer presently residing in Lansing, MI, USA. Blog: www.susmitkumar.net