Decoding Vedic Science

Dr Alex Hankey

Brothers and sisters of India, I am immensely grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today, and I am sensible of the immense privilege. Sri Swami Niranjanananda has been kind enough to ask me to speak to you about my forty years of work spent pursuing the relationship between modern science, which is my training, and vedic science, which is my vocation.

Science of sukshma

The conclusion I have come to from my work decoding vedic science is that the vedic sciences are far advanced than modern science. There is a simple way to explain this: the vedic sciences are the sciences of the sukshma, the subtle. The modern sciences, even in quantum theory, are sciences of the gross, or sthoola. As we all know, the sukshma underlies the sthoola and controls it. If you can control the controller, you are far more powerful than actually trying to manipulate the gross physical matter. It is for this reason that modern medicine does not work, and it is for this reason that 145,000 patients die every year in the United States when they are correctly taking the medicine prescribed by the doctors.

The need for ayurveda, for example, is great. When I first started studying ayurveda in a program that I now call 'Decoding Ayurveda', there was a chronic disease crisis. It is like the chronic depression crisis in Australia that Dr Nagendra described to you. It is like the diabetes crisis that afflicts the countries of the West, China, and particularly India so sorely. Why are chronic diseases so awful? Why are they so persistent? The basic reason is that medical science does not have the theory, the structure, or the tools to deal with them.

What are the tools for understanding chronic disease? The tridosha, or three humours of ayurveda: vata dosha, pitta dosha, kapha dosha. Why should these be tools for understanding chronic disease? Simply because when doshas are out of balance, the seeds of disease are sown. The disease does not arise immediately, but the body's environment becomes ripe for disease. If we understand the concept of doshas, then we can actually understand how chronic disease arises, and by decoding ayurveda, we might be able to solve the chronic disease crisis. Guruji Nagendra and his dear and beloved sister Dr Nagaratna introduced a 'Stop Diabetes' movement, first to India, and then to the world, some three or four years ago.

We are all here together like pearls on a wedding necklace. We are all from different associations, from the Sivananda organization, from the Chinmayananda Mission, from Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's organization, from the Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhan Samsthan, with which I am proud now to associate myself. We are like jewels on a necklace; we are here to create a divine realization for mankind. We are here to fulfil the words of Swami Vivekananda or Swami Satyananda and all the great seers who see that man's inner nature is divine, and this is what the Vedas tell us. Now let me tell you how decoding vedic science can bring us that vision.

Nature of the Vedas

When we ask ourselves, in terms of the vedic sciences, what is the nature of Veda, we find that the structure of the Vedas is contained in the Samhitas, collections of hymns and prayers. Samhitas are mandalas of anuvakas and suktas. For each sukta of the Veda there is a rishi, a seer, a devata, a process of cognition, a process of knowing, and cchandas, the waves of spanda on which those cognitions flow.

The essence of Veda is the wholeness: Samhita, rishi, devata and the cchandas. It is the essence of knower, process of knowing and known. This is one, it is not a trinity. It is the same as that mystifying Christian trinity; it seems three, but it is one. There is a term for that oneness within the philosophy of yoga, it is kaivalya. Kaivalya is usually translated as isolation, but from his conversations with Swami Lakshmanjoo, the great leader of Kashmiri Shaivism in the 1960s, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi translated kaivalya as 'singularity'. The first thing I did when I arrived in India in 2006 was to meet a great scholar from the Institute of the Study of Kashmiri Shaivism in the University of Lucknow. To him, Sanjeevan Rastogi, I asked this question, "Is kaivalya possibly translated as singularity?" He said, "That is the best possible translation." Why? Because the root ka means 'point'. The root then goes on to express kevalam: Kaivalya yah kaiva – that which has come to the point. This is the singularity of consciousness that is capable of experiencing Brahman. It is not just a point; it is the totality of everything.

How can we express these things in terms of modern science? It seems an impossible mystery, an impossible paradox. When you look at the structure of Samkhya philosophy, you find there are two distinctions made. Samkhya is a necessary step to understand before you can comprehend the ultimate of Vedanta. The thing about Veda is that within its very structure of Samhita, of rishi, devata and cchandas, it contains the essence of how Adi Shankaracharya explained Vedanta. This is a wholeness; it is a three-in-one structure, where the knower, the process of knowing, and the known are united in one singularity.

From unmanifest to manifest

How do we explain these wonderful ideas? Samkhya introduces the concepts of avyakta and vyakta, or unmanifest and manifest. Dr Nagendra told you there are many levels of avyakta. Underneath the annamaya kosha is the pranamaya kosha, which is controlled by the manomaya kosha. Until you have access to the higher realms through the activation of vijnanamaya kosha, you cannot bring the mind back under control, for it is only your higher understanding of the higher intellect which enables the mind to come to a stop, because otherwise the mind is always minding things. The mind will mind so many things.

When I was taught to bring people to meditation, I learnt that the first step was to create the right attitude, to sit down not minding anything, to take it easy and feel what it means to take it easy; take it as it comes. In this attitude of easiness we begin to experience the silence within, because my paramguru, His Holiness, His Divinity, Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Jagatguru Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath, had a master, Swami Krishnananda Saraswati, also of the Saraswati lineage, who was an expert at explaining the most complicated philosophical ideas in the simplest words. It is to this lineage I am supremely grateful for these insights.

Ask yourself, "How is avyakta related to vyakta? How does the unmanifest become manifest, and how does the one become many?" I will give you an example of an experiment I loved to do at home when I was a young boy in my teens. I would take a test tube and fill it with a nice solution of lead salt, lead nitrate, and to this I would add a few drops of silver iodide. Out of this seemingly uniform solution, which at first manifests nothing, you get the most beautiful golden crystals. It is like the sparks that fly from Lord Shiva that form the souls of each and every one of us. You can see it happening.

How does Lord Shiva create each of us out of himself? How do our souls seem to be many, when we are all one? The same physics applies, and the physics is very simple: you have to have an instability. Once you have an instability, things no longer remain uniform. The galaxies come out of nothing, globular clusters of stars condense out of the gases of inner space and outer space, and these galaxies and stars condense because there is instability. Out of the unmanifest these manifestations manifest.

It turns out that the mathematics of an instability is a singularity. When you achieve singularity, you can create anything, you can manifest things out of the unmanifest. Here I have told you of one insight into vedic science. When will you reach samadhi? This is a state where the creative becomes possible. How can it be achieved? It can't be achieved by you; you cannot do it because you have to go beyond the little ego. As long as the 'I' remains, samadhi is not attained. So you have to make a habit, and I wish to add one more point to the point beautifully made about 'habit' by Swamiji. When you take away the 'h', the 'a' and the 'b', you come to 'it'. You have to go beyond 'it'-ness, which is objective. You have to remove the 'i' from the 'it', to attain the 't'. Meaning, only by removing the 'I' can you attain the transcendental.

Nature's guidance

We know from Samkyha that you have pancha indriyas, the bhootas, manas, buddhi, and ahamkara. Underneath the eight prakritis is purusha. To begin to experience purusha, the ego must be shed, and you have to give that instruction to students in meditation, not as a philosophical concept, but as a simple instruction. How do you do it? If you were a lover of nature, as my guru was a worshipper of Kanya Kumari, the Mother Divine, Durga, like Swami Sivananda, then you can let nature do it for you. So one of the key instructions in attaining samadhi – not nirvikalpa samadhi – is to let nature do it. Let nature do it, let nature take over, because we cannot do it ourselves. Everything is under the guidance of Maheshwari, everything, this entire universe is under Mahashakti.

I want to give you one more insight from modern physics as to how this is possible. This comes from complexity biology. Complexity biology is a very modern subject and it is very obscure. It contains extraordinary phrases such as, 'the edge of chaos', 'fractual physiology', 'criticality', and 'self-organized criticality'. As it turns out, these extraordinary terms, which one of my Nobel Prize-winning friends described as being "so obscure that no one is interested in them", actually contain the key to understanding how nature does it. They contain the key to understanding nature cure.

This is why in naturopathic medicine, which is so closely aligned to yoga, rest cures. When you rest the mind and deprive the mind of information, and you rest the body, it will put itself back into a state of health. The mind will put itself back into a state of health by directing itself inward, not outward through the five senses, but inwards towards samadhi. Why? The reason is that this instability turns out to be, in biological systems, a state of optimal regulation. If my regulation is poor, then if I am faced by a pathogen or a germ, my body does not respond. If the regulation is bad, I succumb to disease, for the immune system was not working. If I cannot respond in my individual cells to the insulin in my blood, then I have insulin-resistance, or cortisol-resistance, and I develop the case of insulin non-responsiveness, I succumb to diabetes. How do we stop diabetes? The best way is to give the mind and body the chance to adjust themselves.

Guruji would have told you that by practising yoga, you can instantly cure about thirty percent of diabetes. Thus, I would invite you to take serious interest, if you want to apply your yoga skills to medicine, in joining hands with us and becoming a pearl on the necklace of the 'Stop Diabetes' movement. Stop diabetes in India; bring us back to health. By introducing yoga into education, and by bringing commitment to every yogi and yogini student, you will ensure India and the world a future of health and prosperity.

Address, 24 October 2013, Polo Ground, Munger