Saturday, December 27, 2008


Disclaimer: This article is based on my understanding of my readings in the past few years - this writing draws heavily on the latest book that I have read titled, "What the Bleep (F---) do we know".
What is reality?

“What I thought was unreal now, for me, seems in some ways to be more real than what I think to be real, which seems now to be unreal”…..
- Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D.

“I never questioned my reality. Why would I do something as silly as that? Then the reality I was in became a mess, and I began to question my reality – not necessarily the tables and chairs, but my perception of it. Once I realized that my reality was only the construct of my limitations, I realized I had to be willing to dream outside of them. What is it that I truly desire that I don’t believe I can have or become? The only thing “solid” in my reality is my perception of it. If I am willing to open my eyes to new possibilities, my reality can change”………..
- Betsy Chasse

We Indians have been very badly hurt after the horrendous incident of 26/11 at Mumbai. Our collective psyche has been bruised, and we want things to change. Isn’t our state quite similar to what is described above, by Betsy? How then do we help bring about the required change? The answer, as per Betsy, is to open our eyes to new possibilities. This would then help us change our perception of things, and this new perception will bring about a new reality for us as a nation. How do we open our minds to new possibilties, and how are new possibilities, perception and reality linked?

How many of us have heard the saying that goes something like this, ‘Sawan ke andhe ko, hara hi dikhta hai’ (a person blinded in spring can only see (visualize) green. Have you ever given this saying any thought? It is so true. Your reality is limited only by your own perception. Also, most of us must have heard the story about the four blind men and the elephant. Each of the blind man gave voice to his reality, as per his perception. Each of their reality was based on what part of the elephant they were in touch with. My spiritual readings always gave me a message that, "One see's everything in the colour that is based on colour of the glasses one is wearing". How does this perception come about?

Perception starts with the sense organs and ends at consciousness. Our sense organs detect, the nerves transmit the information on to the brain, which pattern matches the information, comes to a conclusion and our consciousness registers the existence of the object, as embedded in our brain. Heavy stuff?? Let’s get a little practical. Why is ‘A’ only written like this? It is because, when the English language was created, a few wise men got together and decided to give this shape to ‘A’; it could have been any other shape too. So, once a large number of seemingly credible people decide what is what, it is accepted by the rest of us, and it gets implanted in our brain as such.

Have you ever seen a child learning the alphabet? We keep making him do it until it gets imprinted on his brain. We then go onto ‘A’ for apple and so on. He now starts associating the alphabet to an object. He can now pattern match a, b, c….. We do the same with words thereafter and so on. Fast forward now, to the present. You are that child, now grown up. You are reading this post on my blog. Are you reading alphabets, words or just pattern matching? In case I had put in something that you had never registered in your brain, like say a Greek or Arabic script, would you still be able to pattern match? No. You will discard it as a mistake on my part, a corrupt message, or to just your imagination, depending on the circumstances. So, you perceive only that, which is already registered with your brain.

This perception is also based on the paradigm under which one operates. “Paradigm is a set of implicit assumptions that are not meant to be tested; in fact, they are essentially unconscious. They are part of our modus operandi as individuals, as scientists, or as a society”. What are our paradigms about our own religion, and that of our neighbours? What are our paradigms about our country? How does this paradigm affect our view of our perceptions, and thus our reality?

We start the perception process with our sense organs, which in any case are limited. A dog can hear and smell better than us, and so on. Our radio, mobile phones and television, etc. operate on frequencies that are not discernible to us, and can thus not be perceived by us. It does not mean that they do not exist. Even with this limited sensory input, we receive “somewhere (to) the order of 400 billion bits per second” from our five senses. A majority of this information is screened out, and wasted; only about “two thousand get through to our consciousness”. So, as Dr. Andrew Newberg puts it, the brain has to “get rid of a lot of extra data in trying to create for us a story of the world”. Ever seen a wedding video and wondered why you did not notice all those people and events on the wedding day that have been captured in the video??

I had heard of cancer, but it was never a part of my reality (perception) until my sister in law was diagnosed with it. After that I found that nearly every other family had someone suffering with cancer. Has it happened to you too? The brain screens out a lot of information that is considered extraneous ( remember only 2000/ 400 billion bits/ second can reach our consciousness) by us. So we actually don’t perceive reality; we see the image of reality that our brain has built up out of the ‘not screened out’ sensory input, plus the patterns already existing in our brain, which are based on our past experiences. Dr Newberg says, “It depends on what your experiences have been, and how you ultimately process the information, that really creates your visual world. The brain is what ultimately perceives reality and creates for us our rendition of the world”.

In case we operate from the paradigm that, ‘In India no body does his job without being bribed’, then we will only perceive every system as corrupt. Our thoughts and our actions will then start with how to neutralize the system and get one’s work done. The system will then respond to us in the same way as we perceived it. When one looks in to the mirror and smiles, the mirror image smiles back. It cannot start to smile without your face lighting up with a smile first. What paradigm do you operate from? Have you considered another possibility? What will it take, for you to make a paradigm shift?

Just a few weeks ago, we had a classic case where people’s perception nearly got ICICI bank bankrupt. People heard about the financial crisis, heard about ICICI being hit by $100 million dollars, and decided to start pulling out their cash. The ATMs ran dry for about 4 -5 days, because people had perceived bankruptcy and nearly made it a reality. Thank God for the intervention of the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister that we still have ICICI bank as a viable banking institution even today. All that the FM and PM did was plant new possibilities in our brains and change our perception of ICICI bank and it changed reality – from sure shot bankruptcy to viability. Satyam, a 2 billion dollar enterprise, is now going through the same perception – reality situation. Thankfully we did not have any paradigm problems with ICICI bank, otherwise the FM and PM's exhortations would have been of no avail. Next, we come to emotions.


Ajit said...

good one Sir and now I am waiting eagerly for the second part :)

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi JPJ :)

Very interesting post and opens up to new possibilities in the way we think and behave and respond to situations.

As regards religion, Bertrand Russell said that a person born in a Hindu family becomes a Hindu, a person born in a Christian family becomes a Christian and a person born in a Budhist family becomes a Budhist and so on. Very few see the possibilities in other religions or think out of the box to even think that religion is a personal choice and other religions can have better possibilities of salvation. Few exceptionally courageous people change their religion and stand out braving the ostracism and mental and sometimes physical torture they have to contend with from their family,relatives and the society they live in.

As regards bribery and corruption, it is again a way of life in government services although there may be exceptions. I have personally bribed so many people in my life and in one or two cases where I refused to pay bribe I was put to great difficulties.

To cite a few examples of bribery--I have bribed to get my driving license, I have bribed the post man to hand over registered letters to my family members when I am not at home, I have bribed to get my sons birth certificate without delay, I have bribed the cops at the police station to get an FIR without hassles, I have bribed a magistrate to get an affidavit signed, I have bribed to get my flat registered, I have bribed policemen for crossing the red light and wrong parking and so on.

There are cases I refused to pay bribe and I was harassed like hell.

Bombay bombings have become a serious issue for the simple reason landmark buildings have been vandalised and rich and powerful people were involved. This is not the first time terrorists have been attacking India and killing its people.

When our Parliament was attacked and our security foces died fighting the terrorists, nothing much was done. Our brothers in Kashmir have been killed in thousands by terrorists,no one bothered. The poor people in Mumbai have been killed in hundreds by terrorists , no one cared and bothered about even lighting candles. Our land was taken over by terrorists in Kargil and so many valiant soldiers and officers died to recapture our precious land and no one offered so much compenstion to them, no news paper carried so much reports about them and they were given relatively quiet burial.

This makes me think what is the courage of Indians to fight for our respect. Yes there was a person called Indira Gandhi--she was called the only MAN in Indian Parliament. She cut Pakstan's tails by dividing Pakistan into two and we would have captured Pakistan if not for international pressure. Where is the man now?

Yes, we are sending out some sort of veiled threats now because we are being supported by Americans. We need a President Bush to teach Pakistan a lesson. You might say Bush did a blunder. No. Bush did not make a blunder. See the number of attacks on US after Bush's courageous action inspite of world opposition and some opposition from some Ameriacan people. He is a hero. He got Pakistan to co-operate with America by threatening Musharaf that he will obliterate Pakistan from the world map if Pakistan doesn't co-operate.He liberated Afghanistan and Iraq from the strangle hold of terrorists.

Pakistan knows fully well that we are issuing empty threats and without pressure from America they will would not have done what little they are doing now.

Many thanks for your great post and many thanks for your good wishes for the new year. I reciprocate the same by wishing you and your family members and your grand child all happines, health and success in all your endeavours.

Prayers, regards and best wishes.

Poonam J said...

Very interesting read, looking forward to the second part. Also read Josephs views....and i donot agree with his perception about Bush...America must have become a safe haven, after the mindless attack on the US, which was motivated by anger, and any act done in that state will always be violent and have violent repercussions, and now we are embroiled in a world of terorism with terrorists being scattered all over the world, even USA.With India not reacting the way Bush did does not make India alesser power than it is..We as a nation have always believed in peace and want peace we have to create peace..sometimes at a cost. Its been 7 years since Sept. 11...and America is still waging a war on terorism,The fruitless search of Osama continues, ...Bushs approch to eradicate terror has failed, not becaz of resources but becaz of the approch. Do Americans feel safe? Not really ..Terorism has become more real a word than it ever was.Has Iraq and Afghanistan really been liberated.......A regime has been toppled and thousands of innocents have been killed and are homeless....

Indian Home Maker said...

Very nice... Look forward to reading the next part.

J P Joshi said...

Ajit and IHM: Thank you for your comment. I will type in Part II as soon as I can contain, and channelise, the chaos that is presently reigning in my brain.

JP: Thank you for your comment.

You are right that most of us are born into a religion. I also believe that most religions have the same core values - brotherhood and love. All religions differ only in rituals and mythology, and these have no bearing on the philosophy that is universal; is the only consequential part of any religion, and is common to all religions. Changing one's religion is a very personal decision of an individual, and is based on personal needs. I have always felt that all religions are good, and also bad, depending on whether you look at the basic tenets of the religion OR the practised form respectively. Religion, like all else in life is neutral, it is we who make it good or bad. My religion is of no consequence to another human being because my perception of my Creator would never be the same as that of another, even though we may follow the same religion - we have different brains.

I do understand that bribery and corruption is rampant in India. For my part, I don't believe I have bribed in my 56 years. I have had to fight, yell, push, cajole, go to higher authority, spend more time and money etc. etc., but i refused to bribe. One time when i wanted to bribe out of frustration of not getting my flying licence and having spent a lot of time and money, no one was willing to accept a bribe from me - God helped me to stay clean from this cancer. I was fined once for crossing a red light on amber. I paid Rs 50 on the challan. I do concede that I may have been lucky to be a defence officer and did not have to deal with the bureacracy at the level of most civilians.

I have very conflicting views on the American policy under Bush. These will take space and thus I would put them in a separate post. Afghanistan and Iraq are both in turmoil presently.

J P Joshi said...

Poonam: Thanks for your comment.

"Its been 7 years since Sept. 11...and America is still waging a war on terorism,The fruitless search of Osama continues, ...Bushs approch to eradicate terror has failed, not becaz of resources but becaz of the approch. Do Americans feel safe? Not really ..Terorism has become more real a word than it ever was.Has Iraq and Afghanistan really been liberated.......A regime has been toppled and thousands of innocents have been killed and are homeless....". You have a very valid argument. I am planning to write on this sometime soon.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hi JPJ :)

This is in reply to Poonam's observation on my comment.

Hello Poonam :)

It is not at all necessary that you should agree to my view point. We are in a democracy and have freedom to think the way we want. I have posted a detailed clarification in your blog. Kindly check. God has given us brains to think.

Best wishes :)

Usha Pisharody said...

A very interesting post. And it gives a lot of food for thought too!

Reminds me of a favourite quote, from Richard Bach's "Illusions"..

Perspective, use it or lose it!

:) Happy New year to you :)

J P Joshi said...

Usha Pisharody: Thank you.