George Quant Interviews Dr. Debashish Banerji: Return of the Veda (June 2, 2009)
The Nalanda Journal - October 27, 2009 – 4:10 pm June 2, 2009
GQ: Welcome to the show. I’m George Quant, your host with special guest Dr. Debashish Banerji. On this show today we are going to tract the foot print of contemporary meditation and modern wisdom to its ancient root. In the beginning there was the Ved and the Ved was with spirit and silence. In the end there was the Quantum and the Quantum was with spirit and science, or is the formless expressing itself in the form of new terminology in an endless expression of wisdom through time immemorial?
The two most popular forms of meditation today are transcendental and mindfulness. Mega best selling author, Dr. Deepak Chopra, is a luminary of the Veda, which is coreless to quantum physics. His meditation, primordial sound meditation, falls in the category of transcendence. Mega best selling author, Eckhart Tolle, is an exponent of mindfulness meditation, which falls in the category of anapana. The blockbuster docudrama, “What the Bleep Do We Know?”, and the more recent phenomenally successful DVD, “The Secret”, were both anchored in the idea that quantum physics makes all things possible.
Has the Veda returned as the quantum? If the Veda and the quantum are evolving theoretical bodies of knowledge, is spirit the subjective experience, the inner experience? Does the unchanging spirit become an experience only when mind contacts it? Is meditation the technology that makes direct experience of the spirit possible in both sciences, Quantum and Veda? And what other forms has the Veda taken over the years?
Here with us to answer these questions with anticipated eloquence is Dr. Debashish Banerji. He is part of a distinguished panel of experts who will enrich our discussion on the origins of modern and ancient wisdom traditions and practices. Dr. Banerji completed his undergraduate studies in English literature from the University of Bombay, and has a PhD in Indian art history from UCLA. Dr. Banerji is an authority on Indian contemporary art and philosophy, which includes the writings of Sri Aurobindo and the Veda, especially in its contemporary applicability. A master story teller, his book is based on his dissertation titled, “The Alternate Nation of Tagore”, presently in press. He teaches courses at the University of Philosophical Research, Pasadena City College, UCLA, UC Irvine, and a distant learning course on the “Visual Imagination of India” at the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco.
Welcome to the show Dr. Banerji.
Dr. B: Yes, right. In terms of western knowledge, this is the age of Materialism, when consciousness is reduced to a product of physics and chemistry and only what meets the senses. The form of modern knowledge is Science, George.
GQ: Debashish, repeat that. In terms of western knowledge, this is age of materialism when consciousness is reduced to a …
Dr. B: … a product of physics and chemistry. It’s only material understanding and what meets the senses.
GQ: Oh, I see, I see, and consciousness is reduced to what it sees only with the senses.
Dr. B: Exactly.
GQ: I see.
Dr. B: You know the terminology used is – consciousness is an epiphenomenon of matter.
GQ: Un huh. Yes.
Dr. B: There is no such independent thing as consciousness or spirit.
GQ: Yes, so this is the case in Kali Yuga. Go ahead.
Dr. B: Exactly. So this form of modern knowledge is science, because science is a description of reality given to us in our modern time. Now from within this description, there now arises a knowledge, a description of reality with speaks of non-duality, non-locality, the collapse of subject and object. This is the Quantum. Like the Veda, this knowledge can also be taken in an external or internal, a subjective and objective form. Taken objectively, as many scientists wish to restrict it, it is a probabilistic model for describing material reality. But taken analogically, internally and subjectively, it can be both a new science and a new poetry of the union of man and spirit, a science and art of consciousness, a psychology all the way down.
Dr. B: Hence we can see it as a return of the Veda in a universal and secular form in the modern world. Now to just cap this with a thought, there is a lot of debate about whether the quantum theory, or quantum formalism is an analogy for the spirit and its processes, or an actual description of the spirit and its processes, what may be called the physics of satchitananda.
Dr. B: But irrespective of whether it is one or the other, I think what you said earlier, is something we need to remember, that the spirit is illimitable, indescribable and formless.
GQ: And so is the Quantum, really.
Dr. B: Yes. So it depends on our approach to it. How is it that we contact it, that gift of the language with which we speak about it. All languaging of the spirit is just a set of symbols, but they allow us to come into contact with spirit, to conceptualize it and enter into relation with it and therefore make it real and living and experiencable in our physical body.
GQ: Which takes us to the next question, Dr. Banerji, and that is if the Veda and the Quantum are evolving theoretical bodies of knowledge, is spirit the subjective experience? And I think you just answered that, but elaborate.
Dr. B: Exactly, exactly. We might think of these bodies of knowledge as bodies of languaging and therefore they may have objective meaning, but if we dwell on them subjectively, they can yield to us subjective experiences. What is being told to us in an objective sense, as mathematics, for example, in quantum physics, can hardly be understood as a description of reality. But in a subjective sense, it is experiencable through meditation and in terms of transcendental experience.
GQ: So this takes us to the next question and that is, does the unchanging spirit become an experience only when mind contacts it and …
Dr. B: Yes indeed …
GQ: And if so, is meditation the technology that makes direct experience of the spirit possible in both sciences, Quantum and Veda?
Dr. B: Yes George. When we talk about meditation, basically what we are saying is the concentration of our inner consciousness on this reality, this formless reality that you talk about, using a certain language as a mediator and you are absolutely right, in that process, that technology of consciousness gives to us the experience of spirit, irrespective of what language we use to enter into relation with it.
GQ: Because language actually falls away. Language and symbols fall away…
Dr. B: Language and symbols fall away. You are absolutely right.
GQ: And then the experience reveals itself.
Dr. B: Experience reveals itself.
GQ: And it reveals itself to the senses, the nervous system, the body, mind and spirit which is the subjective nature.
Dr. B: Absolutely George.
GQ: Which takes us now to the next question, and that is, what other form has the Veda taken over the years?
Dr. B: The depth of this question is like the history of consciousness and its repeated return through the centuries, George. We may say that the very first appearance of the Veda is accompanied with its obscuration. That is, as I mentioned, the Veda begins as a kind of double-speak with rituals and material symbols of invocation to the nature gods. And so within that ritualistic nature, it carries the obscuration of its reality into a more material understanding where we are talking socially about rituals mediated by priests and a caste system that develops around this, etc. And the inner and subjective power of the Veda to reveal experience recedes to the background. [...]
Dr. B: Yes, and there was also an embrace of exotic knowledge and a throwing away of the humanistic tradition of the West. So this is what leads us to today, and what we see today is that we may be on the threshold of a more integrated mainstream return of the Veda. I’d say, in fact George, that the grand symbol of that is the Internet. In fact the term itself is very similar to an ancient Buddhist term, “Indra’s Net.” The whole idea of Indra’s Net is that there is a net which is so subtle, one can’t see it, but every point in it contains the entirety of that net. All the other points in the net can be accessed at any point in that net, and that is exactly the paradigm of non-locality that we entered into with the Internet. The only thing is that this omnipresence is mediated by technology. It is today’s world in which our dependence on the external methods of contact has become so great that we have entered into a global consciousness without even realizing it.
Dr. B: But it is exactly where what you are saying becomes so important that we have to understand this return of the Veda as a technology of consciousness, not just a technology of external contact of machinery.
GQ: Yes, and it’s really beautiful, because this Indra’s Net, and this sort of metaphor for the current return of the Veda and the role of the Internet because we are talking really to an Internet audience right now.
Dr. B: Exactly and …
GQ: And we are going out to 25 countries around the world so it’s a sort of … So Debashish you mentioned this sort of idea that perhaps someday we will be able to carry this consciousness out into the world without it riding on the wave of the Internet.
Dr. B: Yes, it’s great that we are reaching out so far with the internet, but if we are to look at the flip side, I’d say the dependence on technology to arrive at global consciousness is a failure of the spirit. It is a kind of external achievement of omnipresence, but consciousness has to equal it. It is very important at this point for a subjective revolution to take place. A revolution like that of the Upanishads where the consciousness of man can equal … that is we can experience the power of Indra’s Net in consciousness. That is the inner correlate of the Internet. With that thought I think that we really come to the threshold of the contemporary possibility of the return of the Veda. By nalandainternational Posted in Culture, History, Spirituality Tagged DebashishBanerji Leave a Comment