“You are NOT the Doer” – the teacher thundered

“But how come I feel as though I am actually doing”? – the student shot back.

The teacher explained – “You only appear to be doing – you are merely acting as per your acquired conditionings(VASANAS or GUNAS). And the GUNAS are part of HIS Maya”

The above is an example of a typical philosophical debate in ancient India between a teacher and a disciple while explaining a subtle concept of Hindu philosophy.

Here the main message is that we have to perform our duties without assuming Doership(giving up KARTHRITVA BHAVA as they say) because we are merely instruments or agency in the actual performance of our work. And when we perform actions with such a dispassionate attitude,we develop non-attachment(vairagya)which would lead to Jnana(knowledge) and Moksha(liberation).

These debates remind me of similar ambiguous statements made in Science & even in Mathematics while exploring the limits of knowledge and logic.

Let me try and explain this in simple terms:

When physicists tried to explore the atomic particles,they came up with what is famously known as ‘UNCERTAINTY PRINCIPLE’. Is an electron a wave or a particle? It turns out that the answer is completely non-committal. An electron can be looked upon as a particle as well as a wave depending upon how one looks at it(A wave is an energy form while a particle is a form of matter). When one sees the wave(energy form),one does not see the particle(matter)and vice versa. This field of science is termed as Quantum physics which is based on the premise “Now you see— now you don’t”. When one studies the electron in terms of physical properties(like mass etc),it behaves like matter whereas when one considers the properties such as frequency,voltage etc,the same electron will behave like a wave.

Let us now turn to Mathematics,which is the mother all sciences. This is generally known to be a subject with absolute logic which can not tolerate any inconsistency or contradiction. Even in Mathematics one finds certain examples where logic fails intriguingly. For instance in the beginning of 20th century a brilliant mathematician by name Godel came up with a theory of ‘UNDECIDABLES’. Here is an example of this paradox is given by Betrand Russel: “A class sometimes is,and sometimes is not,a member of itself. A class of teaspoons,for example,is not another teaspoon,but a class of things that are not teaspoons is one of the things that are not teaspoons”.

There is yet another famous illustration of how logic can fail under certain circumstances. It is referred to as Cretan’s paradox or a liar’s paradox. Epiminides was a Cretan who exclaimed – ” I am a liar” – The paradox comes up when one tries to determine whether the statement is true or false. It is obvious that it is not possible to conclude one way or the other. Because if the statement is false,it proves that Epiminides is lying which again means he is not a liar.There is an inconsistency.On the other hand,if the statement is true,then it means he is not lying but according to the statement he is a liar! Again there is inconsistency! Therefore Godel concluded:

The statement does not have a proof.

Axioms in mathematics are the foundations of Mathematics and acknowledged as gospel truths. However,according to Betrand Russel and Godel’s theory of UNDECIDABLES even axioms could lead to absurdity,proving them to be false.

Basic point I am trying to make here is that there are limits to knowlege where logic fails totally. Where logic fails,faith takes over. The Vedantik statement that we started off with also falls under the same category. If one practices life with such a faith and dispassion,then one achieves mastery over action.

As someone famously remarked: “God exists but since it can not be proved by logic, the Devil exists”.

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