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Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Remembering is like Re-Living, A philosophical perspective

Remembering is like Re-Living. That’s what Indian Vedic Philosophy Preached!

Recently, Scientists at University of Pennsylvania found that, for the human brain, remembering is nothing but re-doing the activity.

Professor Michael Kahana, the professor of Psychology at University of Pennsylvania, recorded the activity of the brain and concluded that the neurons that fire when a person remembers an activity are the same set of neurons which are fired when the actual event happened.

In Vedic philosophy of Advaita, Adi Shankaracharya preaches that everything that we perceive could just be an illusion and the only truth is god (I know, I over simplified the concept in an attempt to keep the rest of the article simpler). In this Maya theory, Shankara argues that, what we consider as our life could just be someone else’s dream. What that means is, we might not be existing as an entity as we think ---This is contrary to what Descartes preached – Cogito Ergo Sum (I think therefore I am) --- Our existence can just be an illusion of someone else.

This thinking is seen in the Zulu culture of South Africa. The customary Zulu greeting exchanged by the tribes of sub Saharan Africa is as follows

Greeting: Sawu Bona! (A casual greeting like: How are you doing?)
Response: Sikhona! (A casual response like: Fine, Thank you!)

However, the exact meaning of the conversation is intriguing. “Sawu Bona” means “I noticed your existence/presence”. And “Sikhona” means “I exist because you recognized/acknowledged my presence”. It indicates a deep philosophical connotation that my existence has no meaning until you notice/recognise me and imagine me in your thoughts.

Now that may be a little difficult to comprehend. If my life is someone else’s dream, how am I feeling the pain of this daily life?? Shankara says that the answer is simple. Imagine you had a dream and the person in the dream is hurt. “The person in the dream” will feel the pain “in your dream”. The moment you wake up, the “person in the dream” and “his pain” disappear. Imagine a dream where the “person in the dream” is thirsty. If “the person in the dream” drinks a glass of water “in the dream” then his thirst gets quenched. But if you wake up, then the “person in the dream” and "his thirst" become irrelevant.

Going by these examples, just close your eyes and imagine about an even that happened sometime back. As the event is played out in your memory, it might actually be happening as a parallel universe!!

Now, as I am confused and confused my readers, I suggest you all to go back to bed and start dreaming. You might as well be creating a parallel universe where you are living a happy life with the one you wanted!!

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