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Dīn-i-Ilāhī 2.0: In Quest for a More Peaceful World
"One should accept sorrow as willingly as one accepts happiness. Nothing in this world can happen without God’s mercy. – That’s my firm belief. I was raised in a very religious family and follow the precepts of Hinduism. Though I love my religion and might think it to be the best, I respect all religions as much. I frequently visit and derive tremendous peace from all
places of worship, be it a temple, church, durgah or gurdwara." - Legendary singer, the late Lata Mangeshkar
In 1582, Mughal emperor Akbar attempted to merge some concepts from Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, etc., by introducing, a syncretic religion or spiritual leadership program, called Dīn-i-Ilāhī, Persian, for Religion of God, in an attempt to reconcile the differences that had divided the subjects of his empire. He didn’t get very far.
Now, humanity has a much better understanding of how the universe came into being and how human life was created to warrant a reconsideration of the noble idea. Maybe that would help curb religious strife.
In 1929, American astronomer Edwin Hubble, proved that the universe was expanding. In 1998, physicists Saul Perlmutter, Adam Riess, and Brian Schmidt proved that the expansion of the universe was accelerating. The trio shared the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2011.
If we go backwards in time, say a billion years, the universe would be a lot smaller. Actually, physicists have concluded that if we go far enough back, some 13.8 billion years, the universe would be an immensely dense and incredibly hot energy phase, about the size of Planck length (10-33 cm in diameter). This is when creation happened with what is called the big bang. This is also the beginning of the flow of time. From this energy phase evolved trillions of galaxies, planets, stars, and all other matter.
NASA says the universe today consists of about 75% energy, 5% matter, and 25% dark matter, like black holes, and it continues to expand at an accelerated rate.
So, on one side of the energy phase is this ever expanding universe, but what’s on the other side? Or, put it another way, what was there before the big bang?
Physicists have concluded that on the other side of the energy phase of the big bang event there was absolutely nothing, a void. See Amanda Gefter’s book, “Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn”, Bantam Books, 2014.
Science cannot explain how nothing transformed into something, the energy phase of the big bang event, although physicists can explain how the energy phase subsequently created galaxies, stars, and planets, etc.
Now, shifting the focus onto our home planet, when conditions became favorable to sprout life, single-cell organisms appeared, which subsequently evolved into human beings over millions of years or so says the theory of evolution.
Science is stuck here too. Given all the constituents of a living creature, science has not been able to create life.
Now, consider what ancient wisdom has to say about the creation of the universe and the creation of life.
Ancient wisdom posits that both Shiva and Parvati are required for creation and for life. Shiva is known by several names: Ardhanareshwar – half-male half-female, Shunya (zero), Paratpara Shiva (Beyond the three Gunas – attributes), and potentiality (undifferentiated consciousness), while Parvati goes by the name, Adyashakti (Primordial energy).
The reader should find it striking how consistent this ancient description is with what modern physics discovered thousands of years later.
Modern physics tells us that the universe came into existence when differentiated consciousness separated from the undifferentiated consciousness of the void by their own desire and started moving. (See Jim Kowall’s article, The Physicist’s Dilemma: The Non-Physical nature of Consciousness in Journal of Consciousness, Exploration & Research, 5, 4, 2014.)
Just as undifferentiated consciousness is implicated in the creation of something from nothing, it is also implicated in the creation of first life here on the Earth.
These ideas of creation tell us that all religions are after the same goal.
To elaborate, according to Samkhya philosophy, all existence comprises of two constituents: Purusha (consciousness) and Prakrti. The latter contains three Gunas (Sattva, S, Rajas, R, and Tamas, T), which, in turn, give rise to five principal elements, Prithvi, Jal, Agni Vayu, Akash (Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Space - Consciousness & Energy).
The Earth element includes all physical matter that is present in the human body. The periodic table is believed to be complete. Whatever is present in the human body is present on Earth. Some 60 % of the human body is water, and, thus, the Water element is essential for life.
The Fire element breaks down food into energy for growth and survival. Hydrochloric acid is a good example of the Fire element.
The Air element includes oxygen, an essential component for life.
Still, given these four principal elements (Prithvi, Jal, Agni, and Vayu), life cannot be created. Missing from the list are the constituents of Akash: life-force energy and consciousness.
This description reiterates that given all the constituents of the human body, earth, water, heat, and air, it is not possible to create life. The missing elements are consciousness and energy.
Consciousness and energy come into us when we come out of our mother’s womb and take the first breath and leave us when we take our last breath and die.
"He who seeks only himself brings himself to ruin, whereas he who brings himself to naught for me discovers who he is."
The New Testament (Matthew)
The single-cell organisms gave their offspring their energy and consciousness, and this process has continued all the way forward to us, but where did the first single-cell organisms get their consciousness and energy from?
This line of reasoning lends credence to the claim, undifferentiated consciousness and energy (Shiva and Parvati) are also implicated in the creation of first life.
The five principal elements and the three Gunas are valuable assets in our quest to understand the universality of all religions.
The Tibetan word, “thukdam” refers to a Buddhist meditative practice in which an accomplished meditator is absorbed in the process of inner dissolution of the five principal elements and consciousness back into the Primordial Light after clinical death. See this video clip.
Not long ago, His Holiness the Dalai Lama had a virtual conversation with several Russian neuroscientists during which he said, “When an ordinary person dies, there is a dissolution of the five principal elements at the moment of clinical death, but when an accomplished meditator enters thukdam, his body can remain warm [and free from decomposition], implying that the earth, water and fire elements have remained even after clinical death. My senior tutor, Ling Rinpoché, remained in thukdam for 13 days. Recently, a monk at Kirti Monastery remained in this state for 37 days. This is an observable reality which we have to be able to explain.” His Holiness is a Nobel Laureate in peace.
We come to know that the meditator has entered thukdam only in hind sight. That is, if the body of the accomplished meditator remains free from decomposition and remains warm after clinical death, then it may be surmised that he has entered thukdam; if not, the body is cremated.
The accomplished meditator has understood that we all come from the primordial energy and should want to go back to the source. This realization must require an enlightened guru and decades and decades of meditative practice. Such monks are bound to be endowed with abundant compassion, empathy, and kindness.
This explanation of thukdam is shedding light on primordial energy of the big bang event and its connection to human beings, and the enlightened monks and yogis have understood the link. This will be clearly seen once the significance of the three Gunas is understood.
The three Gunas are described as follows: The S component comprises of truthfulness, honesty, steadfastness, equanimity; The R component includes ambition, ego, bravery, greed, and desire to live; and The T component includes lying, cheating, causing injury in word or deed, and sleep.
The definition of the three components is such that perfection is precluded. Everyone has some S component and everyone has some T component.
These components lead to a scale of internal excellence. On this scale of internal excellence, maximum S component is at the top of the scale, maximum T component at the bottom, and all other combinations of the three components in between in these two extremes.
The noble ones among us are in the top-end of the scale, wicked ones towards the bottom-end, and the rest somewhere in between.
The S, R, and T components are linked to the two human emotions: Positive emotions and negative emotions. Positive emotions include unconditional love, kindness, empathy, compassion. Negative emotions encompass anger, hatred, hostility, resentment, frustration, jealousy, fear, sorrow, and the like.
Positive emotions correlate with the S component while negative emotions correlate with excessive values of R and T components. On the scale of emotional excellence, maximum positive emotions are at the top while maximum negative emotions at the bottom, and all other combinations of the two are between these two extremes. Thus, the two scales of excellence are entirely equivalent.
The level of internal/emotional excellence has nothing to do with race, religion or caste, gender or national origin.
Incarnations/prophets of all faiths have spent their lifetimes prodding humanity to rise on these scales of excellence.
A monk in thukdam has succeeded in achieving the highest level of internal/emotional excellence possible for a human being in his lifetime.
A rise in internal/emotional excellence can occur through prayer or meditation.
In ancient jargon, the way of prayer goes by the name bhakti or devotion and surrender. The way of bhakti is said to be the superior most of all paths to reach the highest levels of internal/emotional excellence. Unfortunately the feelings of bhakti come naturally to a limited few, and for the rest, meditation or yoga is the appropriate pathway for progress. You can judge for yourself how effective your chosen pathway is since emotions can now be measured.There is one more concept deserving of scrutiny, and it is idol worship, for it has been a source of religious discord in the belief that idol worship amounts to superstition and ignorance. This is not necessarily the case.
To understand this, it is necessary to emphasize that bhakti refers to unconditional devotion and surrender to the creator, and it is devoid of risk/reward considerations: If you pray, you will get this reward, if you don’t, you will be penalized that way. For most individuals, it is difficult to inculcate the feelings of bhakti towards an abstract idea like undifferentiated consciousness. Temple idols make that task easier.
Generally, there are two types of temples: one where the temple-goer seeks to rid himself/herself of negative emotions in favor of positive emotions, and then there are temples that are devoted to the five principal elements.
In closing, we have discussed the scientific progress humanity has made since the days of Emperor Akbar, and examined it in the context of ancient wisdom. The scientific explanation of creation and ancient wisdom suggest what all faiths advocate is the same: To rise in positive emotions at the exclusion of negative emotions. The differences are only in how each faith suggests the goal can be realized. In this sense, there are no superior religions and no inferior religions. This understanding can hopefully promote harmony and a more peaceful world.
This article is written with the blessings of H. H. Guru Mahan, founder of Universal Peace Foundation in Thirumurthi Hills, TN, India. He has been going into three weeks of meditation annually with no food for the past thirty-two years for world peace. The assistance of Ayurvedic scholar, Dr. S. N. Bhavasar, PhD (Vedic Linguistics) is gratefully acknowledged. The authors thank Tony Belak, former Ombudsman, University of Louisville, for the editorial assistance.