Thanks to the scientific
breakthroughs in the West we were able to bring more food to the
table than other cultures. However, there was a trade off. We
became spiritually drowsy.
The West's philosophic and scientific elite, as
seen through Eastern eyes, has confused the content of
consciousness with consciousness itself.
This becomes evident in Descartes' famous statement:
Cogito, ergo sum - I think, therefore I am.
Here, consciousness is made identical to the thinking mind.
In contrast, the wise sages of the East, particularly those from
India, would assert:
Non cogito, ergo sum - I do not think, therefore I am.
The Indian sage Sri Ramana
Maharshi would smile indulgently at Descartes and pose the
What is it that observes the thoughts?
What is it that remains when the stream of thoughts quiets down?
In the captivating world of Indian
philosophy, the thinking 'I' is seen as nothing more than a veil
shrouding our true nature - Consciousness itself. The renowned
Indian mystic, Sri Aurobindo, beautifully expressed this idea:
True knowledge is not attained by thinking. It is what you
Decartes's statement is based on introspection. However,
it stops with the observation of the thinking mind. A pointer from
the chain-smoking Indian shopkeeper,
Nisargadatta Maharaj would have helped Decartes go a little
further in his quest:
Watch your thoughts and watch yourself watching
Interestingly, Descartes's famous statement still holds true
when viewed from the perspective of the ego.
During a soul-searching journey into the hidden realms of Indian
wisdom, I engaged in a thought-provoking discussion with my
friend and mentor, Bhaharadwaj. With a knowing smile, he
suggested a more profound question to ponder:
What is it that witnesses the thoughts?
What remains when the
mind is still and the senses are silenced?
With a twinkle in his eye, my ever-joyful spiritual mentor
brought up James Joyce's famous book,
Bhaharadwaj had been a lecturer in philosophy and English
literature at the University of Lahore before the partition in
1947. In his youth, he was captivated by this literary
Years later, his Consciousness underwent a sudden and profound
transformation, expanding in both intensity and quality. It was
then that he saw the irony in the title of Joyce's iconic work.
He explained with a smile, "There is no stream of Consciousness.
There is only ego-fuss in Consciousness. Consciousness is the
primordial essence, existing beyond the mind's movements. The
title of the book should have been rephrased to:
Stream of Thoughts IN
Bhaharadwaj IN consciousness
At the time the picture was taken,
he was 90 years old. Bhaharadwaj was one of the most loving and
joyful people I have ever met, and on top of that, he was
incredibly intelligent. He knew western philosophy and
litterature better than me, not to mention Indian philosophy.
India, a land of wonders, mysteries, and paradoxes, captured my
heart and soul as I spent years there on a quest for
What did India have in store for me?
In essence, nothing... But I wasn't disappointed.
As Meister Eckhart once said, If a man who seeks nothing finds
nothing, what has he to complain? After all, he has found what
Indeed, I found precisely what I sought, and Bhaharadwaj was not
the only 'nothing' that guided me towards understanding
In the eyes of this enchanting
woman from Punjab, there's an absence of anyone or anything on
the left, while on the right, there's the presence of someone
and something. She was a friend of Bhaharadwaj, and in the photo
on the right, I knew her as Sita.
Indians, until recently, possessed a remarkable ability to
transition between deep depersonalization and full human
engagement. Their unique form of depersonalization, unlike the
detached expressions often seen in Western public spaces, delved
much deeper, as evidenced by the gaze in the left image above.
At any given moment, they could switch into a zero-mode. Sadly,
this fascinating ability has largely vanished in modern India,
with the growing middle class losing this conscious zero-mode to
the hypnotic pull of their smartphones and fancy clad TV- and
social media gurus.
The Indian Witness of
Consciousness ... & Meister Eckhart The Western traditions of science and philosophy have largely
overlooked the wealth of ancient Indian mystical traditions.
In ancient Indian philosophy, it is posited that Consciousness,
not material objects, forms the foundation of everything else.
They view this Consciousness as
separate from the world of objects and senses, taking the form
of a detached witness of experience.
Two birds, inseparable
companions, perch on the same tree; one eats the fruit, the
other looks on. The first bird is our individual self-feeding on
the pleasures and pains of his deeds; The other is the universal
self, silently witnessing all. - Mandukya Upanishad 3.1.1
However, hidden keys for understanding
Consciousness can also be found in Western mysticism. The same
understanding of separation is present in Meister Eckhart's
... there are
in everyone two men: one, the outward man, is his objective
nature; the man is served by the five senses, albeit he is
energized by the power of the soul. The other, the inner man, is
man's subjective nature... Take an illustration. The door goes
to and fro upon its hinges. Now the projecting door I liken to
the outward man and the hinge I liken to the inner man. As it
shuts and opens, the door swings to and fro while the hinge
remains unmoved in the same place without undergoing any change.
To be unmoved is to be free from
experience, as experience is what moves you. Consciousness makes
experience possible in our brains, but it is, in itself, like
the hinge or a mirror detached from experience.
So how can we come closer to the phenomenon of consciousness?
Precisely because consciousness is the primordial foundation of
everything, including itself, there can never be a satisfying
scientific, positivist-based explanation for the phenomenon of
That, however, does not mean that we should not try.
One of my favorite spiritual inspirators, Papaji, once said:
My whole life,
I have wanted to kiss her, but I have never seen Her.
He was speaking about
consciousness and his passionate relationship with 'it'.
As images are seen in a mirror,
so the universe
is an image in the mirror of Consciousness. Tripura Rahasya XL verses 53-54
Let us again return to western
understanding of consciousness
reached through observations
of phenomena. Figuratively speaking, it is like
trying to understand a mirror based on a description of the
content reflected in the mirror. In the West, we have
fundamentally not discovered the mirror itself but have focused
on examining the reflected object.
The Indian perspective on existence is far
wiser: You are NOT what is being observed, neither thoughts nor
external objects. You are much closer to the observer itself.
You are NOT an experience, either a thought or an emotion.
How did the Indians discover this deeper mirror like layer of
consciousness. They discovered the mirror discover the mirror in
detachment from the world.
Spiritual Indian Aid Let's face it. It doesn't take much experience in meditation
to realize that since ancient times, Indians have been far more advanced in
exploring consciousness. Only rare
pre-plague pearls from the
West like Meister Eckhart can be counted along in this treasure
trove. We need spiritual Indian aid when it comes to discovering
deeper aspects of the enigmatic phenomenon of consciousness.
HOW THE INDIANS LOST THE WORLD TO GAIN NOTHING However, the Indian discovery of consciousness came with a
huge price. The Indian survival strategy, not changing the surroundings, but changing oneself,
resulted in a reenforcement of a vicious circle of lack of responsability in
external affairs both on an individual and collective level.
Depersonalization as a survival strategy The traditional Indian defaitist zero-mode can still be
glimpsed in the faces and postures of the less fortunate.
Even in modern India, in spite of
the huge progress made by the middle class since the 80'ties, one can observe this
ancient illusive survival
strategy reflected in the phlegmatic Hindu face, a fractal-like
presence encountered repeatedly while navigating through the
masses of poor people. This face seems to wordlessly convey: When the next
unexpected blow comes, it won't matter much... I am not truly
present, for why should I be in this illusory world?
before the COVID pandemic, I was walking through the bustling
Main Bazaar in New Delhi and witnessed a scene all too familiar
from my years in India. An impatient, overweight middle-class
man, stuck in traffic on a cycle rickshaw, began berating and
striking the rickshaw driver. With no means of fighting back,
the driver withdrew into depersonalization, becoming a lifeless
puppet, enduring the blows without even raising his hands in
defense. In times past in Europe, one might have said, "He bears
his cross." But in reality, he wasn't suffering; he had simply
vanished from the stage of life, retreating into his own
timeless inner sanctuary. It was India's low caste people, the
Dalits, who taught me the true essence of meditation: the
unfortunate man's survival strategy, an escape into Consciousness
detached from the body.
In this context, the rickshaw drivers residing in plastic tents
with their families along the Yamuna River agree with Elon Musk.
We exist in a simulation. Many of these Dalit individuals often
have expressionless faces, yet unexpectedly, some radiate with a
mysterious smile and a peculiar sparkle in their eyes. This is
observed even as they navigate their rudimentarily built
rickshaws through the city's accumulated plastic refuse.
This scenario presents a world that seemingly does not require
order or cleaning. After all, if our existence is merely an
illusion or a simulation, the necessity for such upkeep might be
Nowhere is timelessness more apparent than in a traffic jam in
Here, a group of cycle rickshaws in the stoic center of the cyclone.
Throughout India, from Kanyakumari in the South to the Ganges
River in the Himalayas, folk tales, poems, and philosophical
writings are found that all share a common theme: the
impermanence and transience of life. The moral is: Do not become
attached to your wife, your children, your house, or broadly
speaking, to your life, because before you know it, it will all
be over. Let go of life before it lets go of you. Life is
fleeting like a dewdrop in the morning.
The argument in these teachings about the illusory nature of the
world is that anything that changes is not real. Only that which
is unchangeable is real. Based on this reasoning, it's clear
that no phenomena in time and space can be real.
In contrast, the self's all-pervading perspective of
consciousness is portrayed in its timelessness and immutability
as the only reality.
On my way to India in 1992, I experienced a unique moment aboard
an Air India flight where the bathroom door was precariously
hanging on one hinge. Settling back into my seat, my gaze
nervously shifted to the jet engine on the wing. Fortunately,
both the engine and wing were securely in place. I whimsically
wondered if Air India's mechanics had borrowed a bolt from the
toilet door to keep the engine attached. India is full of
impromptu, here-and-now solutions. I call them "chewing gum
solutions," named after an incident where I discovered
electrical wires under my hotel TV cabinet 'fixed' with a large
blob of chewing gum. Holding this blob in my hands and standing
barefoot on the marble floor, I was jolted like a lightbulb,
sparking one of my most significant spiritual experiences.
At the five-star hotel Clarks in Varanasi, the handle for hot
water broke off in my frantic attempt to adjust it while
standing under the shower. In another five-star hotel, scalding
hot water came out of both taps in the bathtub. It wasn't the
first time that door handles, light switches, and faucets came
off in my hand in this wonderfully fantastical land full of
dreams and illusions.
Once, on a motorcycle trip in South India, a tailor sewed
buttons onto my new Indian shirt, which, after just a month of
wear, was ready for repair. As he worked, the tailor sang songs
honoring his God, pointing towards the eye of the needle leading
to heaven. When I got the shirt back, I discovered the new
buttons were sewn on the wrong side!
A tailor! That's where the fun stops.
All these wonderful craft performances were executed by the same
illusive Indian who doesn't quite see the point in being present
in this world. This perspective stems partly because the world
is seen as an illusion and partly due to the disdain he faces
for engaging in manual labor. Naturally, this also affects his
ability to take responsibility for the quality of his
In its absence of presence, marked by freshly painted house
facades, well-paved roads, and uninterrupted power supply, India
has actually found a charming solution. It's called serenity -
stoic calm and acceptance of every situation. This attitude
springs from the idea of illusion combined with the belief in
fate, which makes each individual 'karmically' responsible for
all details and events in their life.
Vishnu - The Upholder of Universal Balance In 1989, I witnessed an astonishing Vishnu temple ritual in
Karnataka in South
India. A ton-heavy statue of the god Vishnu is carried around on
two long, arm-thick poles. Accompanying him on the cart are two
smaller statues representing Vishnu's consorts.
Ten sweating and groaning men struggle to maintain their footing
under the weight of the stone deity. Vishnu, Lakshmi, and
Mahadevi are splendidly dressed dolls with masks made of several
kilos of pure gold. They wear heavy gold crowns on their heads.
Leading the entire procession is a uniformed constable with a
drawn baton, his serious face and raised truncheon guarding the
precious god amidst an ecstatic crowd.
The ten bearers and their divine burden now stagger around the
ritual and universe's center, a large stone pillar representing
the procreative phallus of the god Shiva.
Electric wires from numerous colored lamps dangle from the
ceiling in the huge ancient stone temple. As the procession passes beneath them, the gold crowns
on the deities are nearly knocked off, and each time, the ten
bearers must strain to bow deeply to avoid them. Occasionally,
the gods are close to toppling.
A ten man orchestra of drums and
accompanies each close encounter with the wires, almost as if
the Indians find amusement in the ordeal.
It's somewhat ironic to think that it's precisely Vishnu's duty
to ensure the balance of the universe is maintained, yet here he
perilously sways in his own temple.
The low-hanging wires are accepted by the worshippers as divine
obstacles, akin to sacred Indian cows on the road.
No one, except me, seems to consider the simple solution of
raising the wires slightly higher.
I don't have a photo of the temple scene in
However, these tangled wires in Main Bazar in
New Delhi can serve as an illustration.
When the Tree Falls, it Falls
in its own Space When I lived in Lucknow in 1994, some locals cut down a tree
that ended up falling onto the road outside the house I was
renting. It lay there for months, causing traffic jams during
rush hour and several minor traffic accidents, especially after
dark. Why didn't anyone move the tree to the side?
Why didn't I remove the tree myself? It would have taken just 10
minutes of work. However, by then, I had become part of the
phlegmatic calm that flows with or around what is, without
This context lends meaning to the Indian invention
of meditation. Unable to overcome external challenges, Indians
would instead sit down, adapt, and/or change themselves. The
image below illustrates how this mental strategy has permeated
India, even influencing Indian road construction:
Only in India can one find this type of road marking.
The Indian escapes into himself to depersonalize himself into
nothing. When you have deconstructed yourself into a pure zero,
external obstacles or disasters do not matter.
In the East, the searchlight was thus directed inward. Even
today in India, this difference is clearly observable. Every
time an obstacle arises, the Indian does not remove it. He
adapts. One can observe this zero culture in the faces of the
eternally destitute rickshaw man in the streets of New Delhi. He
is not really present in his facial features, for if he were,
his life would be unbearable.
In India the denial of the reality the world has
taken many forms. In 1995 I met a remarkable individual, named Capt. Lal Chand.
Captain Lal Chand, a World War II veteran in the
British army, displayed exceptional bravery against the Germans and was awarded
a medal for his courage. Yet, he revealed to me that he retains no memory of
these wartime experiences, having learned about them from others. His
recollections are instead dominated by profound blissful states experienced
during deep meditation. These spontaneous spiritual ruptures of ecstasy began
for Captain Lal Chand following his initial meeting with Baba Faqir. While
physically present on the battlefield, like a sleepwalker, his soul ascended
beyond time and space. His
Surat, or ultimate
soul, later reintegrated with his body, reconnecting him to the worldly
dimensions. This extraordinary story illustrates the profound disconnect that
can occur between body and soul.
Another example of a profound Indian relation between body and soul can be
observed in the photo below; A young ascetic keeps his arm up in the air
day and night. After some years it will fall
off due to the lack of blood flow. What the young man demonstrates by such an
act is a synthesis of extreme body control and denial of the same.
Young sadhu from Rihiksh holding up his arm day and night
In India, I once read in a local
newspaper years ago that a baby conceived at a hospital in New
York had screamed: "Oh no!... not again!" The Eastern
notion that human life is fundamentally suffering creates a
longing to escape it. Hence reincarnation is a curse and the aim
is to move away from the strenuous physical life. This can be
achieved by meditating oneself out of earthly existence. Through
a spiritual cleansing process, where the body's thirst for life
is neutralized, the evil repetition of rebirths is transcended.
The spirit is now free from physical existence.
Therefore, the highest human ideal is to be free from desires.
The desire-free person can even triumph over god. The Puranas
say: There is nothing the gods fear more than a person who
The paradox is that the spirit can only become free from the
body when it has disciplined the body to no longer follow its
natural instincts. This is the project of the young man
THE BLACK DEATH OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND THE DECLINE OF THE INDUS
There's a Sufi adage: "When the ego weeps for what it has
lost, the spirit rejoices for what it has found."
Ever since Napoleon's era, we in the West have held a deep
admiration for ancient Egyptian culture. As an introduction to
exploring the Indus Valley civilization, let's first make a
detour through Egypt. Both Egyptian and Indus cultures thrived
along rivers. Yet, a significant contrast existed in the
reliability of their water supplies. The Nile was consistently
reliable, unlike the ancient Saraswati River, which eventually
dried up. How did this steady supply of food influence the
religious beliefs in Egypt? Essentially, the Egyptians
envisioned the afterlife as a continuation of their already
prosperous lives. In this context, I perceive a lack of
transcendence in Egyptian religion. Why seek to transcend
something already perceived as ideal? Could the experience of
loss have been a catalyst for the Indians' conceptualization of
The Blessings of the Black Death
In the West, our spiritual understanding hasn't always been as
lacking as it is today. This overlooked ignorance started with
our technological transformation of the world after the Black
Death in the 14th century. Following the devastation of the
plague, Europe saw a significant material advancement. It began
with increased wages for the limited workforce and the
subsequent adoption of automation, ultimately leading to
Europe's scientific and technological breakthroughs.
Post-plague, we managed to ensure food on our tables, but in the
process, we became somewhat akin to the Egyptians. As the
English adage goes, "There's no such thing as a free lunch." In
this exchange between spirit and body, we didn't achieve both
satiation and wisdom. Bloated and complacent, we arrogantly
considered ourselves superior to other cultures to the extent of
believing in our right to colonize them, thereby spiritually
dozing off like well-fed pigs.
Before the Black Death, however, the West had its share of
spiritual beacons comparable at any time to the Eastern sages.
After the plague we got plenty of philosophers while the rare
breed of enfringed mystics wanished. To put it starkly, one
could argue that the plague decimated our Western tradition of
profound consciousness understanding and instead replaced it
with people like Decartes with their academic worship of the
thinking proces. Therefore I refer to our own
pre-plague mystics. A fitting starting point to rediscover the
lost Western thread is in the remarkable world of words of
Meister Eckhart. Hence you will find his words all over
Since the inception of their profound culture, the Indian
civilization has delved into the realms of nothingness and
non-existence, contrasting the ancient Greeks and subsequent
Western societies who focused on defining and materializing
'something'. This dichotomy is symbolized by the Western focus
of the numeral and the
Indian discovery of and reverence of zero.
These two distinct philosophical stances can be seen as survival
tactics. In Western culture, we typically confront problems
head-on. In contrast, Indian philosophy often approaches issues
by challenging their very existence, suggesting that they are
mere illusions or akin to dreams from which one must awaken.
This perspective shift reduces the urgency for direct action,
viewing the world as void and problems as mere fabrications of
India is filled with anecdotes highlighting this focus on
transcendent non-existence. For instance, an Indian yogi was once giving a
lecture on the top floor of a multi-story building in Tokyo,
Japan. Suddenly, a small earthquake made the entire building
tremble. People fled in panic, but the yogi remained motionless
in his lotus position, eyes closed. When the tremors subsided
and people returned, they asked him why he hadn't fled the
building. He replied, While you were fleeing out, I was fleeing
What led the Indians to react so differently? There are
mainly two factors of geopolitical nature. As a result of these, India has been one
of the most catastrophe-prone regions for the past 4.000 years.
1) The caste system's extreme fragmentation of Indian
society. When Muhammad Ghori, the Islamic invader, and his army
encamped outside the walls of Delhi at dusk, he noticed numerous
small bonfires within the Indian army camp. His advisors explained that
these were individual cooking fires, necessitated by the caste
system which prevented the Indians from sharing meals.
Ghori's realization was sharp: "Then I have won the war!" He
understood that a people divided by such rigid social
structures, unable to unite even in basic acts like eating
together, would struggle to present a unified front in battle or
in overcoming societal challenges. Long before the wave of
islamic invasions, ancient Persians, Parthians, Schytians and
Macedonian Greek benefitted from the weak military protection
the fragmented India society was able to organize.
This fragmentation, more profound than typical class divisions,
meant that the Indian society had inadvertently weakened itself
from within, making it more susceptible to external domination.
The adage 'divide and conquer' took on a new dimension here,
where the division was self-imposed, easing the task for
2) Drought Drought's role in Indian history is linked to a mix of weak
state formation, the erratic nature of monsoons, and radical
climate shifts. The lack of substantial state-backed
infrastructure like water reservoirs, drainage, and irrigation
systems intensified these challenges. Interestingly, early
Indian civilizations, notably the Indus Valley culture, had the
expertise to construct and manage such systems. However, after
its collapse, only during the brief rule of the Buddhist Mauryan
Empire was state-organized water management implemented for
public benefit, to mitigate the impacts of these natural
calamities. Consequently, periodic famines, occurring roughly
every ten years due to either excessive rain or intense
droughts, have been a persistent issue throughout Indian
history.I perceive this deficiency in organizing state-constructed
protective measures for the populace as a consequence of the
caste system's extreme fragmentation of Indian society.
Interestingly, it appears that Indians might have developed a
physiological adaptation, often referred to as a "starvation
gene," which enhanced their ability to endure prolonged periods
of hunger more effectively than other populations. This genetic
adaptation causing a more lean body mass can be seen as a
response to the recurring famines.
In the ensuing discussion, I aim to present the notion that
Indians, through enduring catastrophic events, unearthed
profound insights into consciousness, essentially finding their
version of the holy grail in this realm.
To win is to lose - To lose is to win This connection implies that our grasp and investigation of
consciousness are significantly shaped by our historical and
environmental contexts. Japan is another illustration of this
influence. In Zen there is an adage as follows: "To win is to
lose - To lose is to win."Like India, Japan was susceptible to disasters
such as volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and devastating wars.
Consequently, despite its material success, Japanese culture
never lost sight of the transcendental aspect, here manifesting
in the adoration of the ephemeral blossoming cherry tree
moments before an abrupt demise.
In this regard, even consciosuness is shaped as a
prisoner of our geography, of the lands where we have dwelled
MEDITATION ORIGINATED AS A CALORIE SAVING SURVIVAL STRATEGY Meditation wasn't
solely the domain of yogis; it was also a practice embraced by
ordinary Indians. Intriguingly, in India, meditation has always
been a practice for both rulers and the impoverished. This
societal reversal is illustrated by the numerous destitute
individuals wandering around India, claiming to be sadhus who
have renounced worldly life.
During my travels in India, I frequently encountered everyday
people who incorporated meditation into their daily routines.
Below is a small video recording of such individuals I captured
in Punjab about 30 years ago:
While exploring the literature
about the renowned Indian saint Ramakrishna, I was particularly
struck by the accounts of his impoverished parents. During
periods without food or water, they would simply sit down with
closed eyes. Remaining in this state for days without caloric or
water intake, they spontaneously entered higher states of
consciousness, often accompanied by visions of gods and
goddesses. This practice was common in rural India. In times of
drought and famine, people would sit in meditation, waiting,
perhaps to outlast the crisis. This raises a question about
survival strategies: Who is more likely to endure longer with a
greater chance of survival? Is it the person who depletes their
limited resources of water and food in frantic efforts to
improve their situation, or the one who enters a survival
trance, conserving resources by minimizing their use?
One of the most crucial meditative
survival adaptations is the ability to survive on minimal
resources, with food and water being the most important. During
periods of scarcity, Indian people would sit down for thousands of
years, close their eyes, and enter a low-calorie mode. What were
they doing there? They were waiting - waiting for something they
could not control. They were waiting for the rain. In this
state, they prolonged their chances to survive to see for better times or
they reached a point where
they embraced their destiny as a dream, not to be taken
seriously. In this near-death state, as an incidental discovery,
they unveiled what a full belly is too drowsy to recognize: the
deeper layers of our enigmatic consciousness.
Meditation and Rain Across the Gangetic plain, in almost every small village,
the villagers have constructed a modest temple, often featuring
a small cave or a deep hole dug into the earth. These temples
are usually unoccupied, but occasionally, a wandering holy man,
a sadhu, passes through and is invited to stay in the temple for
a while. During his stay, he might spend months in the hole or
cave, engaging in spiritual practices, while the villagers take
care of his daily physical needs. The underlying principle here
is the firm belief that deep meditation performed by the saint
will bring rain and prosperity. The association between rain and
meditation dates back to ancient times. The belief holds that
meditation, if conducted with enough intensity, will induce
I imagine a scenario in ancient Indus Valley during a drought,
where people had no choice but to sit in a low-calorie mode,
waiting for the rain to come. This survival practice, as often
happens in magical thinking, may have led to a reversal in cause
and effect, creating a belief that meditation would bring about
Building on the context of this discussion,
recent research indicates that prolonged 100-year droughts
were precisely what led to the downfall of the Indus Valley
civilization around 3,600 years ago. Therefore, I am firmly
convinced that these catastrophic periods were instrumental in
leading the Indians to invent meditation as an integral part of
their collective survival and cultural practices.
Later in history, under Mongol rule in India, there were ample
reasons for these introverted practices to persist, primarily
because the vast wealth of India was concentrated in the hands
of a small Mongol elite. This elite, comprising only a few
thousand individuals, held most of the country's riches, while
the majority of the population lived with the bare minimum. This
stark wealth disparity further justified the continuation of
inward-focused societal survival practices. In this context, the
Indian sadhu, or wandering monk, evolved into an expert at
surviving with practically nothing.
Meditation in this low-calorie and water state leads to an expansion of
consciousness in both quality and quantity. There appears to be
an evolutionary link between brain optimization and calorie
restriction, as in times of food scarcity, we needed to be
smarter to survive. However, in the Indian version of
meditation, this brain optimization is channeled into conscious
passivity rather than hunting prey. This mechanism demonstrates
how humans, through storytelling and intersubjective realities,
can repurpose genetic programs in ways they weren't originally
"intended" for. The yogi portrayed below is an extreme example
of such cultural survival adaptations.
MEDITATION, MASTERY AND... MAGIC? On my trekkings in the Indian Himalayas I sometimes observed
hermits walking naked in the snow. These ascetics were able to control and rise
their body temperature to such an extend that they could survive
the icy cold climate at these altitudes.
It was my Indian trekking partner who took this photo. Out of
courtesy he only took a photo of the upper part of this naked sadhu.
Could it be possible that the Indian investment in
introspection could open doors into posibility rooms we could
not even dream of?
There are many accounts from India and Tibet of yogis who could
survive without food for extended periods, with some even
asserting they lived entirely without sustenance. The famous
Milarepa is known for his extreme austerities, including
meditating in various caves and undergoing severe practices that
reduced his body to a skeletal state. As part of these
practices, he lived on nettles only for several months, adhering
strictly to the instructions of his Guru and developing various
Years ago in Hoshiarpur, I encountered
a retired government official residing quietly in a small town
near Hoshiarpur. He had dedicated much of his free time since
early youth to meditation, never acting as a Guru or
accumulating followers. Only
Bharadwaj and a
select few were aware of his remarkable capability: to live
without food or water.
Whether these stories are true or not is
not the main concern. What matters is that they emphasize the
cultural and historical significance of surviving on minimal calorie intake.
Echoing the Zen Buddhist adage once more:
"To lose is to win, and to win
is to lose."
During Freud's era, sexuality was
repressed, relegated to the subconscious. Today, spirituality
faces a similar fate, being marginalized and often viewed as
contrary to rational thinking. Following this unconventional
neural pathway, I encountered an unusual variation of the
"The higher you
fall, the deeper you fly."
This encapsulates exactly what the
Their contribution to global thought has been largely
underappreciated. This is inherently characteristic of zero – to
be unnoticed, yet fundamentally significant.
Now it's time to revisit Rudyard Kipling's saying:
"East is East, and West is
and never the twain shall meet."
This phrase remains relevant in
the context that numbers and zero represent two qualitatively
different realities, and therefore, can never truly converge.
However, their combined functionality has enabled the creation
of technology, such as computers, which I use to write this
The Indian sage Data Dayal composed an addition to this line
during his 1930s visit to the USA:
"East is East
and West is West.
However, one day the East will serve
the West a grand Spiritual feast!"