The Search for God [A Consideration of Yoga, Anatomy and Mathematics in Relation to Belief]
I have recently had cause to consider the existence of god, or at least of a consciousness that exists beyond our physical life. Does it exist? What are the arguments for and aginst?
Hearing about the beliefs and work of Leslie Kaminoff, a co-author of the book 'Yoga Anatomy' caused me to call into question the existence of a spirit, or soul, beyond our physical existence, But in contrast hearing about the work of the Indian mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan suggests a more esoteric view of intuition, one that comes from beyond simple physical life.
Leslie Kaminoff is inspired by the tradition of TKV Desikachar and is co-author, with Amy Matthews, of the definitive book for Yogis, 'Yoga Anatomy'. He has researched the human body in great depth and applied his findings to the practice of yoga. In a recent podcast episode on 'Yoga Talks' he talked about his belief with regards to the body and its relationship to the ideas of spirituality. He believes that the body is driven by prana—life force. It is prana that we build as we practice yoga and it is prana that enables us to go deeper in our practice. He also believes that it ceases at death, that there is nothing that lives beyond our physical existence. As a result he does not accept the precepts of yoga philosophy, whether rooted in duality or non-duality. There is nothing beyond our life here on earth.
I find this an interesting perspective from my position as a yoga and meditation practitioner. I have written on my ultimate belief in non-duality although I have still to experience its truth. In my meditation practice I have often experienced what Mooji calls Isness, that vast expanse that is the seer of our life, that limitless space within which we exist as physical beings. The problem I have with that is that at no point have I experienced the concept that it is a vast sea of awareness that we are all connected to and part of. I sense my own limitless nature, but I do not experience anyone else there. I can understand this vastness as an expression of our life force, our prana. This would be the life force that others experience but is it part of one vast sense of spirit or soul?
Does God Exist?
This very issue is the one that, for me, brings into question and sense of a god, or a source, or any sense of the existence of a guiding or overall unity in the universe. Religion exists on the existence of this concept. Yoga flirts with it, sometimes being deep in it, sometimes rejecting it altogether. One of the great things about yoga is it leaves the question open.
There are those who don’t believe in God and yet do good. There are those who believe in God and kill for that belief; those who prepare for war because they claim they want peace, and so on. So one has to ask oneself what need there is to believe at all in anything, though this doesn’t deny the extraordinary mystery of life. But belief is a word, a thought, and this is not the thing, anymore than your name is actually you.
Through experience you hope to touch the truth of your belief, to prove it to yourself, but this belief conditions your experience. It isn’t that the experience comes to prove the belief, but rather that the belief begets the experience. Your belief in God will give you the experience of what you call God. You will always experience what you believe and nothing else.
J Krishnamurti was ambivalent about god, he thought a person invented the idea in order to have the experience of god. U G Krishnamurti goes further and blames fear.
What I am trying to put across is that there is no such thing as God. It is the mind that has created God out of fear. Fear is passed on from generation to generation. What is there is fear, not God. If you are lucky enough to be free from fear, then there is no God.
There is no ultimate reality, no God—nothing. Fear itself is the problem, not "God".
I have enormous respect for both J and U G and trust the depth of their intellect and understanding. I have flirted with religion and god throughout my life and tend towards their views.
However, every so often something comes along that seems to blow apart the carefully wrought views of the two Krishnamurtis, something that defies explanation other than by the concept of god.
Mathematics And Intuition
This week I watched a film called 'The Man Who Knew Infinity'. The film is about the Indian mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan and his relationship with the English mathematician G H Hardy. Ramanujan was a deeply religious Hindu, he credited his substantial mathematical capacities to divinity, and said the mathematical knowledge he displayed was revealed to him by his family goddess Namagiri Thayar. He once said,
An equation for me has no meaning unless it expresses a thought of God.
Growing up in India he had almost no formal training in pure mathematics. However, he made substantial contributions to mathematical analysis, number theory, infinite series, and continued fractions, including solutions to mathematical problems then considered unsolvable. His depth of abilities in pure mathematics brought him in his mid-twenties to the notice of G H Hardy, a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Recognising Ramanujan's work as extraordinary, Hardy arranged for him to travel to Cambridge. In his notes, Hardy commented that Ramanujan had produced groundbreaking new theorems, including some that
defeated me completely; I had never seen anything in the least like them before, and some recently proven but highly advanced results.
Hardy was an atheist whose approach to maths, his only interest in life, was through logic and proof, rigour was the only basis on which, for him, maths could be trusted. This caused conflict between the two men that centred on the intuitive nature of Ramanujan's amazing work. Most of the thousands of results posited by Ramanujan remained unproven at the time of his early death, but over 90% have now been proven by other mathematicians.
Intuition Or Just Genius
Bruce Berndt, an American mathematician who is best known for his work on Ramanujan's discoveries said,
Many people falsely promulgate mystical powers to Ramanujan's mathematical thinking. It is not true. He has meticulously recorded every result in his three notebooks.
The speculation is about where Ramanujan's results came from. Did he just have a brilliant and active mind or where his results, as thought by Ramanujan, thoughts of god? Both sides of the argument can can be laid out without any resolution. For me there is a sense of magic in his work that I find difficult to just put down to genius alone.
So, for me, the larger question remains open. Does god exist? Is there such a thing as universal consciousness? Does our life force die with us? Is yoga a spiritual endeavour or merely physical exercise.
The search for answers continues...