Zen and the art of Motorcycle maintenance is an amazing book. Superficially it seems to be discussing ‘materials’ and their ‘nature’ or ‘quality’ and how to deal with the relationship between them. But deep down the book revisits the ancient concept of Advaita- the non-duality between ideas and the material world, between spirit and material world or between God and creatures.
In this context, one is tempted to relate this discussion with the concepts given by Stephen Hawking in The Brief History of Time. Here we get to know that at the sub-atomic level, material world is actually ‘immaterial’ – the only reality is energy. Tightly packed energy does not permit penetration and hence give a look of matter. All matter is packed energy.
To carry the idea forward, we remember that energy is made of fields and waves – intangible entities in themselves.
Taking the idea to its logical conclusion, we come to the fact that there is nothing tangible in the universe. ‘Perception’ is the key.
Human beings have only a limited set of antennas and receiver sets – eyes, ears, skin to observe the world. Our reality is created and defined by these limited ability to perceive. In an ‘empty’ room, there are millions of conversations existing in form of radio and mobile waves, only we cannot tap them since we do not have the ‘right‘ cell-phones. Our inability to perceive them does not make them non-existent.
Observe how close all this is to the oriental philosophy. Mystics have been saying for ages that the only way to perceive reality is through meditation. Gita reveals ‘God’ to be Universe, breaking down all duality between the God and the material world, including man. Upnishads gave the formula – ‘Tat twam asi’ – ‘You are that’.
The oriental and occidental philosophies differ on the key issue of duality. J. Robert Oppenheimer, the theoretical physicist and one of the fathers of the Atom Bomb wrote- “Access to the Vedas is the greatest privilege this century may claim over all previous centuries.”
One is tempted to interpret a lot of mystics’ terms and descriptions of the spiritual world with the latest finds in science. We come across concepts like black holes and galaxies in the narratives of the journeys of the saints during their mediations. Sufis and bhakti saints have been logging on to the ‘higher’ realities by aligning themselves to sound waves inside their heads. Scientists have been building more sophisticated particle colliders to pry into the secrets of the sub-atomic world.
How long will it take for the world of science and world of mystics to merge and come on a common platform – to achieve their ‘non-duality’? That will be the point which will change the trajectory of human history. Hope it happens in our lifetime. Believe me, it is that close!!