Miscellaneous Articles - Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Information,Knowledge & Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Q. 1. What do you think is the relationship between Information and knowledge?

Ans.: Information may be viewed as disclosure of and from a source that has some kind of thrust, which is often called in different contexts an urge or nisus or élan. The disclosure contains within itself some kind of an image or figure or symbol which normally expresses only partially the source from which the disclosure is generated. But disclosure implies its impingement or its imprint or impact on a surface which has a minimum degree of sensitivity so as to become sensitized by what is impinged on it and is stimulated to an effort to assimilate the impact, successfully or unsuccessfully and to get modified perceptively or imperceptively by that effort.

Normally, in our ordinary experience, information is a disclosure of a fact, which is expressed in some kind of language, and it is that expression that impinges on our sensitivity which, in its turn, is stimulated to assimilate what is impinged upon it, and as a consequence it gets modified. In the effort of assimilation of what is impinged on our surface sensitivity, we feel that the fact which made an impact on our surface sensitivity through an expressive language is seized or understood. Consequently, there is some kind of modification in our sensitive surface which is felt to be in a state of satisfaction or in a state of dissatisfaction and a state of further enquiry or activity. Normally, disclosures relate to particulars of facts, and sets of disclosures are only snippets. But even then snippets are capable of causing stimulation with consequent states of satisfied quietude or more or less insensitive indifference or an activity.

Normally, we make a distinction between information and knowledge. By information we mean disclosure of particular facts which are grasped by us in isolation from other facts and assimilated by us only as snippets without any holistic context or significance. Knowledge, on the other hand, involves a higher activity in which what is assimilated as disclosure of facts or particulars and grasped in form of snippets is churned by an effort that aims at enlargement of data, of context and by ideative movement that manifests an urge for comprehensiveness. This enlargement is progressive in character and it rises, with the help of concepts of universals – whether real or fictional. As a result, when facts get sufficiently supplemented by further data, and when this enlargement comes to be grasped in terms of some universal ideas and in some sense of comprehensiveness, — then the resultant packet of data, universal ideas and the relative sense of completeness can properly be called the packet of knowledge. Since this movement is progressive, the packet that we call knowledge rises indefinitely, and we able to reach higher and higher degrees of knowledge at a very high level of scientific and philosophical refinement. Knowledge tends to become belief that has resulted from an exercise at evaluation conducted by alternative standards of validity and truth.

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

At a still higher level, a distinction is made between knowledge and wisdom. In the context of this distinction, knowledge is perceptive and ideative grasp of totality or totalities through a medium which is always divisive, in terms of experience and in terms of accurate and fruitful application of whatever level of experience that has been gained. Wisdom, on the other hand, not only understands all that is contained in knowledge but it over-stands above what is contained as content of knowledge; wisdom, therefore, stems from a faculty that not only grasps but holds, no more conceptually, but in experience the totality or totalities that are viewed or grasped; and as a consequence, wisdom has in it an inborn skill of right and fruitful application in situations and of detecting secrets whereby solutions can be proposed and applied.

Q. 2. What is the relationship between Information and Evolution?

What has been said above is, of course, very rough, and it is presented without adequate elaboration but it will help us in finding an answer to your fathomless question of the relationship between information and evolution.

The relationship between information and evolution arises because the evolutionary process, when it is examined more and more thoroughly, betrays within its recesses the operation of consciousness of which information, knowledge and wisdom are important manifestations. That there is in the world the phenomenon of development and growth, and that in the processes of development and growth there are grades and graduated steps with specific boundaries and yet some kind of overlapping between the lower and the higher grades, appears to be quite evident, and despite controversies, it can be affirmed that there has been evolution of Life in Matter and of Mind in Life. There appears to be a law of multisided formations occurring in one grade, when, after reaching a high degree of complexity and subtlety, a radical step is taken, and a higher grade marking an ascent takes place. But every grade of ascent assimilates within itself from the lower grade what seems to support and sustain the new element which has appeared in the ascent. In other words, the law of evolution seems to be marked by ascent and integration. The questions which arise in regard to the process of evolution and the law of evolutionary process are more intricate than what could be answered in terms of the scientific theory which speaks of natural selection, struggle for existence, and survival of the fittest. That is the reason why the purely scientific theory has been questioned by a number of thinkers like Bergson, Alexander, Whitehead, Teillhard de Chardin, and Sri Aurobindo. These questions are centered on the apparent presence and operation of consciousness as a guiding force of evolution. There seems to be a design in the process of evolution, and the manifestation of consciousness in Matter remains inexplicable, if there is nothing else in the world except Matter and its epiphenomena. According to Sri Aurobindo, whose entire system of yoga aims at the evolution of supramental consciousness, the Inconscience, from which evolution begins, is itself explicable as and inversion of an anterior and original Superconscience. In other words, the Inconscient is involved Superconscient. That is the reason why evolution tends to evolve higher and higher terms of consciousness, and logically, there is no reason why mental consciousness should not be considered as a precursor of the evolution of supramental consciousness. In any case, in Sri Aurobindo’s own example, he was able to manifest higher grades of consciousness, and he had even been acting on the earth consciousness by the powers of supramental consciousness.

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Today scientists are greatly perplexed and astonished when they are confronted by the phenomena which have been uncovered by strict scientific methods of the human body, of the brain and of the cells. In his latest book “How We Die” Sherwin Nuland points out that our human body has seventy five trillion cells, and a molecule of DNA, which is called repair enzyme, travels like a little motorboat up and down and finds errors, snips them out, corrects them and puts right thing back in time. He calls it the ultimate wisdom of the body. This is only one example to show relationship between information and evolution. For if the analysis that we have made of information, knowledge and wisdom is somewhat meaningful, it can be said that the whole world seems to be a vast sea of consciousness with graded waves in which there are bedrocks of information, hillocks of knowledge and peaks of wisdom which are constantly at work to produce more and more astonishing phenomena which, when truly analyzed, will reveal not only the mysteries of consciousness but even the magic of consciousness. Information itself is surprisingly magical, and even in the most physical phenomena which are operating in machines like computers we can see how chips that contain information are able to produce results which make significant meaning to their conscious users.

The subject is, of course very vast, but we can state by way of a brief conclusion that the relationship between information and evolution is so basic that we wonder why we do not wonder at ourselves. For we ourselves are packets of information containing potentially the peaks of wisdom and potentially capable of engineering our own evolution.

Q. 3. In what way does the word ‘God’ constitute spiritual information? Or in what way do you think that Shruti in the Indian tradition refers to spiritual information?

Ans.: The word God is widely known in the world, and it stimulates an impact which is rather extraordinary. The word God furnishes the information regarding an invisible entity having such extraordinary powers that if that entity really existed, the individual who hears the word God can no more continue to exist or act in the way in which he or she had hitherto been living or acting. And even if such an entity does not exist, the hearer has to be quite sure that such an entity did not exist, and to arrive at that certainty, the hearer is obliged to institute some kind of enquiry or investigation. In this context, the word God as an item of information has a special distinction, and it can be said that the man or the woman who hears the word God has got to become engaged in a process of enquiry and thus he or she cannot remain the same as before after hearing this very distinctive word God.

It is in this context, that shruti, which primarily refers to hearing about God or Atman or Brahman or Paramatman, has been considered as an important process of initiation of a spiritual journey.

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Q. 4. How would you explain that the Indian epistemological tradition of shravana, manana, nidhidhyasana and sakshatkara constitute a fourfold ladder to spiritual transformation?

Ans.: Hearing of God or shruti is not, in the Indian tradition of yoga, aimed at creating a belief in God but at triggering of a process of reflection through a process of ratiocination. In includes a process of raising rational doubts, questioning, argumentation and sustained repetition of argumentation until the conclusion is arrived at and securely fixed in the mind. This is the process of manana. The aim of manana is to arrive at intellectual conviction of the truth or veracity of contents of shruti. In other words, the Indian tradition of yoga maintains that the existence of Atman or Brahman or of God or Ishwara is rationally sustainable, that even though the Atman and consciousness of Atman is supra-rational, it is not anti-rational and it is not merely a matter of acceptance in faith of a supra-rational revelation that was attained or received by a rare and exceptional individual, a Prophet, an Avatar or a founder of a particular religion. On the contrary, the Indian tradition of yoga maintains that it is possible by intellectual ratiocination to arrive at intellectual conviction of the distinction between Appearance and Reality and that the existence of Atman as reality can be intellectually sustained.

It is only when the process of manana arrives at the state of conviction that the next process begins. This process becomes easier because it is supported by the state of the mind which has been freed from doubt by the process of manana. The process which comes after manana is called nidhidhyasana. This word nidhidhyasana describes accurately the process that is conveyed by the meaning of the word. That process is a process of meditation and contemplation; and not merely that; it is a repeated meditation and contemplation. The object of thought and the object of shruti, namely, Atman or Brahman or Ishwara, is held in the center of consciousness with fixed concentration. This concentration can be meditative or contemplative or it can be both successively.

 In the meditative concentration, the idea of Atman or Brahman or Ishwara is developed and there is a process of analysis and synthesis of the idea, but there is also at the same time an effort on the part of the seeker to go behind the idea, and there is an attempt to experience the truth of the idea. When this process is repeated regularly and persistently, then over a short or long period, the seeker is able to transcend the plane of thought and to get fixed in the plane of experience.

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

The experience may not last long; but the memory of the experience can once again be brought back; and when this is done repeatedly, the experience of Atman or Brahman or Ishwara becomes more durable.  In due course of time, the experience becomes more and more durable and even permanent; then it is always present in the consciousness even when the outer consciousness is occupied with its surface activities; the seeker is able to return to the experience by suspending the surface activity of consciousness at will. In due course of time the surface consciousness remains more and more quiet and the inner experience remains more and more concrete and pervasive in all parts of the being. When there is permanent possession of the concrete experience of Atman or Brahman or Ishwara in the state of complete silence of the mind or even in a state of activities of higher consciousness which reflect and manifest truths of Atman or Brahman or Ishwara, then one is said to have sakshatkara or realization. Sakshatkara literally means the process of making reality so real to experience that the validity of that experience is equivalent to the validity that we have in our ordinary experience of objects that we see in experience with our own eyes. Aksha means eye and S stands for union, kara stands for activity of accomplishment. Sakshatkara means, therefore, etymologically, activity of accomplishment of certainty equivalent to certainty that arises by the union of the object with the eyesight. In a state of sakshatkara one is able to experience indubitably the object of experience, namely, Atman or Brahman or Ishwara.

When nidhidhyasana follows the path of contemplative concentration, one does not develop the idea on which concentration is to be fixed, but one holds the idea in the form of a short formula or a word or a symbol, and one penetrates it with intensity so that the thought plane is transcended, and one touches the plane of experience directly. When this process is repeated, one gets settled more and more durably in the experience of Atman or Brahman or Ishwara. The rest of the consequences are the same as in the meditative concentration.

Nidhidhyasana may also follow a third process in which an effort is made to silence all thought movement and to penetrate straight into the plane of experience. This is the most difficult process, but it is also a practicable process as shown by some rare individuals like Sri Aurobindo who could establish complete silence of thought within three days and remain established in the experience of Brahman or Nirvana permanently thereafter.

This entire process rests upon the psychological truth that the plane of thought is a kind of a veil; but that veil can be penetrated by force of concentration; and when that penetration becomes effective, one can enter into the plane of experience or of intuitive knowledge which implies identity of the subject of knowledge with that object of knowledge. Intuition is, therefore, regarded to be knowledge by identity, and knowledge by identity implies knowledge by concrete experience.

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

Q. 5. How do you relate all this to the process of evolution?

Ans.: In the process of evolution, intuition plays a major role. At the lower levels of evolution, intuition manifests as instinct; an instinct is irresistible pulsation of propulsion of action, and therefore of development, and therefore of evolution. But instinct is not sufficient for higher and higher levels of evolution. For the scope of instinct is narrow and it fails to operate when the scope of action widens. Instinctive movement gives space to intellectual movement which has the capacity of widening of the scope of knowledge and activity. But intellectual movement is ideative, and it lacks the certainty and firmness which are available in experience. It is, therefore, useful as intermediate level of evolution; but evolution, in its upward movement, discovers the method of yogic experience and intuitive knowledge, which transcends the limitations of rational ideation. There are several methods of yogic experience, and the method which begins with shruti and which ends with sakshatkara is one of the important methods. The intuitive knowledge gained by yogic knowledge provides to the seeker certainty of truths of wider ranges, and when intuitions of different wider ranges are integrated, one attains to integral knowledge. Integral knowledge is a major landmark in the evolutionary process, because with the possession of integral knowledge one is able to break the limitations which are present in our ordinary life; evolutionary process then becomes more rapid and more irreversible. Evolution itself evolves.

To conclude, one may say that as one ascends from information to knowledge and then to wisdom or from instinct to reason and from reason to integral experience, one is able to cross various steps of evolution more rapidly, and one is enabled to cause the evolution of evolution itself. Even the laws of evolution can undergo radical changes by the evolution of evolution; instead of evolution that starts from Ignorance to Knowledge, there can come about evolution that proceeds from Knowledge to further Knowledge.

Information,Knowledge and Spirituality - Questions and Answers

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