Nishkama Karma; A Cosmic View

Freeeeze! Hmmmm, But How?

The story goes like this; when Lord Hanuman was born, the first sight that grabbed the attention of his mischief-seeking eyes was the Sun rising with all his morning splendour.

The Bedrock on which I built this edifice

Science can be a prop to elevate us to Spirituality. Here we attempt to illustrate this specific angle through a brief look at the quantitative characteristics of the cosmic dynamism. An analytical quest reveals to the neutral mind that the cosmic vitality fostered by the natural kinetic energy of the universe, fits well within the Universal Karmic sphere. We must also take note of the fact that many of the top Scientists agree that science at higher echelons is a seamless continuum with Vedanta. Looking from this convergence too, the cosmic dynamism discloses the Karma yogic disposition of the Universe. These are the manifestations of a tangible Science-Spirituality connectivity. In other words, knowing, understanding and inferring commonly known scientific facts may act as a lead up to climb the spiritual ladder if one so desires. — S.K.

Thinking of it as the most delectable fruit that one can ever wish for, Baby Hanuman did not ask for a second opinion and took a mighty leap towards the celestial destination. Suddenly, all the alarm bells triggered mayhem in the heavens. The demigods in charge of security reported to Devendra that an unidentified flying object was fast approaching the shores. That did the trick! Devendra launched his ‘Vajrayaudha’. To cut short the story, the missile did find the mark and hurt the little one gravely. As a result, the unconscious Hanuman started losing the altitude rapidly. Being angry with Devendra for his assault on his son, Vayudeva, the god of air, carried his son away to the nether world and stay put there, sulking. The situation thus developed was very serious, but in the eyes of Kunchan Nambiar (1705-1770), a path breaker in Malayalam literary scene and a vastly admired satiric poet of Kerala, it was an exceedingly hilarious occasion. According to him, the moment the God of Air withdrew his presence, the World became absolutely standstill. The people involved in a myriad of activities of diverse nature, became frozen in time and space. Some persons, who were in the midst of physical exercises like jumping, found themselves in the mid air with a comical posture and face expression and similarly, the ones in the course of consuming their meal, were looking intently at the ball of rice frozen a few inches away from their open mouth and so on. All of a sudden every living became absolutely still with fixed though varied expressions and stances as if facing a camera.

Can such a state of unqualified inertness be possible anywhere in this universe? Have we ever thought about such a situation?

Note

In this commentary, I use the terms, inertness and inactivity as interchangeable, though strictly speaking, they are not. I employ these terms to indicate ‘Nishkarmatvam’. When the English equivalents available for this term as well as ‘Nishkama karma’ are not sufficient in certain situations, the original Sanskrit terms themselves have been made use of. — S.K.

Body in Inert Mode? Is It Possible?
 
“Everyone is forced to act helplessly according to the qualities he has acquired from the modes of material nature; therefore no one can refrain from doing something, not even for a moment.“ – Bhagavat Gita III.5 (Translated by Sri A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)

Let us start with our body and see how compatible it is with respect to inertness. The absolute ‘inertness’ implies that all organs–both external as well as internal and their activities including that of sensory organs cease functioning in their whole. On the other hand, one may have genuine reservations about the likelihood of occurring of such a state of inertness in our body. We know that, albeit we are in a deep sleep or lying in a prolonged Coma, the key organs never cease to function. The body’s ‘stop-at-your-peril’ activities, viz. heart beats, breathing, blood circulation, metabolic process, etc. continue without any slowing down. Beyond such ‘bulk’ functions, as we turn our eyes into the microcosm of our body perfect, we become conscious of the billions  of human cells for which any respite is alien.

Cells, Electrons and Their ‘Chukker’

Every cell that gives our body the existence in totality is composed of various elemental molecules each of which in turn, are configured by a specific no. of atoms. (No. of cells in an average human body is about hundred trillion – i.e. 1014 for the arithmetic minded. However, remember, in every second this figure varies, as average cell life span is 24 hours. In addition, a large no. of cells replicate in every second too.) Now, for a bit of action! Around the nucleus of each atom, orbit one or more electrons with a velocity of one thousand kilometres per second (compare this with the velocity of a man-made space vehicle is just 35-40 kms per second)! There is no lull, break, or end to this eternal motion (well, almost). Each electron began its ‘yajna’ a little after the present universe opened its account with a Big Bang. That was merely 1370 CRORES (13.7 billion) years before the President Bush visited India. Since no body had asked them to stop this ‘chukker’, the electrons continue to go about their revolutionary ways.

If we think that at least after our death, this mad race would find a good reason to stop, we are sadly mistaken. The activities of one type or another continue, without a dull or lull moment, in our prison cage i.e. our body even after our bidding goodbye.

Micro-Organisms of parasitic nature or otherwise become busy on our dead body immediately after our departure and the process of separation into original elemental state gets started in real earnest. And the cosmic dance of the atom goes on.

An Anticipatory Bail

Here, I may endeavour to answer some expected genuine objections. They are:

  • The functions of heart, lungs, kidney etc. are basic body functions, where we do not have any conscious or unconscious involvement. Hence, we cannot call them as our activities. 
  • Similarly, the atomic level activities are no way under our control and hence are no way part of our activities.
  • Activities of bacteria and other organisms in a corpse cannot be considered as ours since we do not have any link with it in whatsoever mode.

Let us answer these objections one by one.

I employ the term ‘I’ to denote the WHOLE implying that it encompasses both the physical and the intellectual selves.  Hence, whether we deal with limbs, organs, cells or sub-cellular atoms, they are all parts of the whole and do not have separate existence vis-à-vis ‘I’. Hence, every single activity going on in the body is that of our individual self. I did not leave out the dead body from the realm of ‘I’. This is based on a common scene we observe regularly. We treat the dead body respectfully (sometimes more respectfully than when the body was with soul). The reason is, even though we know that soul residing in that body has already departed and it is just an empty shell, we attribute it an image status of the departed soul. (In the long run, we respect a photo of the departed in the same way). Logically, our link to individual body does not cease until it is completely disintegrated back into the elemental molecules.— S.K.

Nature’s Motto: “Karmanyeva adhikaaraste—“

This everlasting ballet is incorporated into every thing in the universe and that from the infinitesimal to the immense is based on an explicit signature tune of the Mother Nature, embedded deep inside every being’s holistic role profile. The manifestation of this signature tune that envelopes all beings, minute and massive, living and non-living, matter and energy, is the ‘nishkama karma’ (selfless deed). (The members of the species Homosapien are the only ones who, unfortunately, dance to their own tunes most of the times out of sync with that of the Nature!) The Nature’s dictionary does not contain any word that means ‘Nishkarmatvam’. With her intrinsic simplicity, nature exhorts all organisms, in many ways, of the necessity of the ‘Nishkama karma’ (selfless action).

In this exposition, we attempt to learn the wherewithal engaged by the Nature to put across such an all-important truism. Ahead of engaging you further, let us be clear one another aspect too, that throughout in this discussion, I have opted to take in all the objects, irrespective of their size, form and disposition, as personified (that is the reason for the frequent use of ‘humanised’ pronouns) entities which embody our intellectual supposition viz. Universe. At the Spiritual level too, they, in form and disposition, are elements of Supreme Consciousness. 

Heat: Even the sky is not a limit; but 'No Entry' at Zero:

For instance, let us take a look at the thermal energy. We have noticed that nature has never kept an upper limit for temperature. For example, the core temperature of Earth is roughly 6900 degree Kelvin. In contrast to this, the core temperature of the Sun is in the order of 15 million (1.5crore) degrees kelvin (see Note below).

Denser than Lead, still gaseous

At the core, the Sun is an inferno that blazes with a temperature 15 million degree kelvin. At that soaring temperature, solar core is obviously gaseous. But surprisingly, its density is about 160gms/cu.cm. Please remember on earth, the heaviest (means densest) metal we use in industry (Nuclear to be exact) is Plutonium. Its density is 19.8gms/cu.cm. Density of Lead, the commonly available heavy metal is 11.4gms/cu.cm. — S.K.

Similarly, when a massive star decides to celebrate her retirement as a supernova, her temperature reaches to the order of 1,000,000,000 (100 crore) degrees Kelvin. But the record goes to the mother of all bangs the BIG BANG and it is just 1032 (you may write 32 zeroes after a lonely ‘1’ and try reading it) degrees Kelvin. So far, no cosmic terrorist has broken this world-heating record.  Interestingly, the Vedic mathematician calls the above number as ‘Padmam’. (Remember that the divine seat from where Lord Brahma the god of creation, does his karma is a ‘Padmam’, that is lotus).

Now turn back and take a trip towards the lowest temperature. Here we find a closed gate with a nonnegotiable ‘No Trespassing’ sign. This limit is absolute and is called absolute zero. Not only that we cannot cross this limit, we cannot even approach to its close proximity (see Note below).

The Law behind ‘0’

The Third Law of Thermodynamics refers to a state known as "absolute zero." This is the bottom point on the Kelvin temperature scale. The Kelvin scale is absolute, meaning 0° Kelvin is mathematically the lowest possible temperature in the universe. This corresponds to about -273.15° Celsius.  In actuality, no object or system can have a temperature of zero Kelvin, because of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. The Second Law, in part, implies that heat can never spontaneously move from a colder body to a hotter body. So, as a system approaches absolute zero, it will eventually have to draw energy from whatever systems are nearby. If it draws energy, it can never obtain absolute zero. So, this state is not physically possible, but is a mathematical limit of the universe.  Courtesy: http://www.allaboutscience.org/common/images/third-law-of-thermodynamics.gif

Though, theoretically the lowest temperature is 0 Kelvin (which is -273.15° Celsius or that many degrees below the Ice-temperature), practically it is unreachable for the simple reason that there would be no (kinetic) energy left in the molecules. (Borrowing a day-to-day phrase, the atoms or molecules would be left with no petrol in their fuel tank.). The lowest temperature that hitherto reached is in the order of pico kelvin or 10-12 K (see Note below).

The Costly Race for a ‘Zero’ Record

“The race to establish the "world record" of the lowest temperature achieved is a demanding exercise. Near absolute zero, we can often ascribe different temperatures to various components within a single material, each of which has thermal energy. Liquid helium has been cooled to 90 micro K (a "micro Kelvin” or µK is 10-6 K) at the University of Lancaster, while the lowest temperature reached in the conduction electrons in a metal is 3 µK (at Bayreuth, Germany in 1996). Since the nuclei themselves are used to produce the cooling, the lowest temperatures ever obtained are in the nuclear magnetic thermal energy. Silver nuclei have been cooled to 280 pK at the Helsinki University of Technology, Finland (a "pico kelvin" is 10-12 K). Such records are not a prime aim of low temperature research but even physicists like a competition (and it has made the 9 o'clock News on a few occasions).”  — Courtesy: Internet sites. (— S.K.)  

This ‘race’ is actually prohibitively costly due the stringent requirements to be satisfied in the case of instruments and the labs. However, zero Kelvin is theoretically unattainable (since the third law of Thermodynamics likes to keep it that way). 

What Does It Mean?

The temperature has a direct bearing on the vitality of any material, or rather the atoms and molecules that make it up. When the temperature keeps on rising, the frequency and velocity of vibration of atoms/molecules of matter keeps on increasing. As a result, the state of matter changes from solid to liquid to gas. (E.g. With rising temperature, ice turns into water, and then steam). Similarly, when the heat energy is released from the matter, its temperature tumbles down, the intensity of vibrations abates and at zero degree kelvin, every thing would come to absolute standstill. But it seems that the Nature is not very keen to this to happen. The naturally occurring lowest temperature is 2.7degree K (see Note below).

Messengers from the Past

How can empty space have a temperature? A vacuum is not empty but contains blackbody radiation at a well-defined temperature. The frequency of this electromagnetic radiation is proportional to the absolute temperature. Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson won the Nobel Prize for their discovery, in 1964, that outer space is filled with infrared radiation at a temperature of 2.73 K. This temperature has been measured very precisely by the COBE (COsmic Background Explorer) satellite, launched in 1989. This radiation is the remnant of the Big Bang. Some 700,000 years after the start of the Universe a "sea" of free electrons and protons prevented the free propagation of light (think of the sun where the atoms are ionised – we can't see through it). But as the temperature fell below 3000 K neutral atoms formed and the Universe became transparent (let there be light!). The Universe has since expanded dramatically and the radiation cooled. The temperature of intergalactic molecules of cyanogens (C2N2) has also been measured directly as 2.73 K, in thermal equilibrium with the cosmic background radiation (this was first discovered 50 years ago, but no explanation was then available). This is the lowest natural temperature but is available only in deep space~

‘Absolute Zero!’ by Prof. Michael Lea.
(http://www.ph.rhbnc.ac.uk/schools/ZeroT/Zero_Box1.html)

It means no material can go past this temperature through natural means (Of course we are ‘capable’ of going beyond this first thermal cordon of the nature. We seem to believe that ‘nature proposes and man disposes; though in long term it is the other way).

Even the location where this temperature prevails seems to convey certain message. It occurs not in any planet or star where matter is available abundantly but in the desolate depths of Inter Galactic Space where the availability of any material particle (particle density) is at the rate of just ONE ATOM per ONE CUBIC CENTI METRE. (This is in comparison with 100 crore atoms in the same volume of air). The source of this energy is the fossil light or the residual emission of the energy released at the time of the bang-bang-origin of the Universe.

In our close planetary neighbourhood inside the Solar System where the environment is thickly populated with atoms, which form the basic ‘masala’ of matter, the lowest temperature observed is 38°K and it is in Triton, a satellite of Neptune. This temperature (38 degree Kelvin) is nearly 235° Celsius below our familiar freezing temperature of water.

Nature says ‘No No’ to Idleness

It establishes that there is no natural path to drain the inherent internal energy and reach absolute zero, the ‘Seat’ of Inactivity or ‘Nishkarmatvam’. Through this one-end-closed phenomenon of thermal world, the Nature emphatically asserts that inactivity does not have any place in this Universe. Moreover, we, to be precise our ingredients, cannot deviate, reject, or renounce the course of this above explained direction of action (see Note below) and modify the results to suit the individual convenience. 

‘Viswam’, borne out of our thoughts?

In fact, this continuity of action is, probably, the causative factor of the existence of the universe itself. Our Vedic Seers’ understanding of this philosophical truth is evidenced in their coining the terms ’Prapancha’ and ‘Viswa’ to denote this material world.

The word ‘Viswam’ is explained as the flow, multitude or association of thoughts. The other synonym ‘Prapancham’ is explained as the one which is experienced through our five sensory organs. They imply that the Universe is there because our thoughts make it up, or it is there since we experience it. As per this argument, the Universe is borne out of our thoughts that in turn, are influenced by our sensory perceptions. Therefore, it has to be the reflections of the multitudes of our mental deeds. It means that when people unitedly execute work for the public benefit, it is directed to the welfare of the world.  — S.K.
 
Can Water Unilaterally Decide to Change the Boiling Point?

As an illustration, let us consider that a metal pot sans lid filled with water is heated up on a gas stove. The temperature of the pot as well as the water increases steadily until it reaches 100° Celsius. At this point, the water starts boiling and it has to. Water cannot take a unilateral decision to change this rule, say, let the heat be stored and the boiling process can be carried out at a different temperature, or the pot cannot choose to boil along with its suffering poor mate, water, in its misplaced sympathy. Of course, these options are possible, if certain extraneous conditions are realised   and some external inputs are available. But they are not in the hands of the water or its supporter pot.

At this juncture, we may reflect on another fascinating aspect of this intriguing action story. Please read on.

Quantum Physics makes Quantum Images of You.

When the one-dimensional time is deployed along with our ‘simple’ (at least, we believe that way!) three-dimensional space, we get our not-so-simple space-time conundrum. The theory of relativity, which is not every one’s (at any rate, my) ‘cup-of-tea’, says that time and space is inseparable. It signifies among other things, that 3-Dimensions (length, width, & thickness) alone are not sufficient, that time dimension also is to be added, to accurately deal with our individual sense of ‘self’ or our precious ‘I’ aspect. Though, “we perceive space and time as being continuous, quantum principles imply that, in fact, at the very smallest scales, they actually come in pieces.” (Scientific American, Special Edition on ‘The Frontiers of Physics’; Vol.15, No. 3 (2005). An observer ‘experiences’ the image of any observed object at each of these pieces or quanta of space-time entity. The eye-mind combination of the observer consolidates the quanta-image-sequence of the observed object. In this process the mind of the observer discounts the quantum nature or the multiple images of the object and accepts a single entity rather than a plurality effected by the quantum base of the space-time blend. Though this sounds a wee bit complex, the illustration that follows may make it more lucid.

Circle of Fire

When you rapidly move a glowing cinder or a lighted matchstick in a circular path, we see a circle of fire-glow. This ‘fiery circle’ is in fact, the sum of all the images that are formed as the cinder is moved in time across the space. Each one of these quantum images is formed in our mind representing a specific point in time and a specific point in space, which constitute a unique space-time association. Our mind juxtaposes these ‘unique’ images in a chronological order and we experience the vision of a ‘circle of fire’. The circle is an album of real individual images belonging to different space-time nodes or points, arranged in order, whereas the circle itself may be a ‘trick’ of our mind/eye combination.

Time as a Change Agent

Similarly, the image of your ‘self’ that is imprinted in an observer’s mind is ‘updated’ every instant (space-time ‘piece’) as you, more precisely the ‘you’ who is visible to the outside world, treads through the irreversible corridor of time, instant by instant. The above line of reasoning may imply that what you project your self in the realm of material visibility is, in fact, a compilation of ‘you’s each of which is representing a chronological singularity like image of the cinder in the earlier example. In reality, this compilation of ‘instant ‘you’s augments the ‘whole you’ which is visually experienced by the observer. Every one of these ‘instant you’s is a modified version of its chronological predecessor. In other words, Time acts as the causation of change and CHANGE happens to every thing every time and the change encompasses the Time too! 

We must remember that, apart from the changes of philosophical nature that are time-induced as elucidated above, there are physical changes too, which are imparted to your body in quantitative terms and to your mind in qualitative terms by the TIME which is eternally marching forward. This aspect merits a closer look as it would illuminate the fact that in Nature’s hand, all changes are causative of ‘karma’ and in nature, karma is nothing but ‘nishkama karma’. (This facet is elaborated elsewhere in this article).

Vasamsi jeernani—–~

When we progress in our unstoppable forward march from one nodal point of time to another, we keep on casting off the old body and ‘wearing’ a new one. We enter into this world with a body of tender, delicate and petite form and after some decades, at the time of leaving this world, the body is anything but tender, delicate and petite. During this period, we change our body from that of an infant to toddler to child to teenager to youth to middle aged to old to ——. The transitions are always gradual, continuous and seamless. The cells that constituted our ‘first’ body would not be available with the body that we discard here on earth.  Of all the trillions of odd cells that shape up our fully developed body, very few of them cross  even a 24-hour mark, though they work hard to give us the decades and decades of healthy life. Seeing such occurrences, we are bound to say that in the dominion of Nature, karma means nishkama karma. Remember always that one hundred trillion ‘nishkama karma yogis’ are putting up dedicated work all through their short lives to make us to realise our desires!  Even the tissues that are formed from our body cells have a lifespan, which never crosses 10 years. It means that every moment we are getting a few new cells and casting off a few others as dead cells. In other

words, in every moment, parts of us are dying and parts of us are taking birth or we die and take birth every passing moment (see Note below).

We wash out 300,000,000 dead cells every morning!

“Every morning during our bath, each of us washes out about 9 to 17 milligrammes of dead cells into the drain. This is equivalent to the renewal of roughly 300 million skin cells. This is the contribution of the desquamation (the shedding of the outer layers of the skin) alone. Though the skin is the biggest organ in our body in terms area (Skin surface area of an adult person is 2 sq. metre) and weight (16 percent of our body weight comprises that of skin), the other organs also deposit their share of dead cells through similar processes.”—Courtesy: Internet sites — S.K   

With due apologies to all the great Gurus and Aacharyas, who are present now and here in body or spirit, I may quote one of the most inspiring slokas of the Bhagavat Geeta. Normally this particular stanza is used to explain the meaninglessness of the grief at the time of the death of our dear and near ones. But I do quote this divine saying here, to support a different context as explained in the previous paragraph, where it is said, we ‘die continuously’. That deviation prompted my apology.

Vasamsi jeernani —————navani dehi~  Translation: “As a person puts on new garments, giving up old ones, the soul similarly accepts new material bodies, giving up the old and useless ones“.  – Bhgavat Gita II.22 (Translated by Sri A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada)

Before leaving the world of the small and the beautiful, let us peep into a real ‘Srishti karma’ or constructive activity that the smallest of the smallest are engaged in for billions of years.
Learn from a Little Giant

Ninety eight percent of the atoms that are in the present universe formed during the first three minutes after the Big Bang (see Note below).

The Origin of origins

In these three minutes (after the Big Bang) 98 percent of all the matter there is or will ever be has been produced. We have a Universe.~ — ‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ By Bill Bryson, Trans World Publishers, London (2003).

All creations – living and non-living, stars and galaxies, planets and comets, animals and plants, human beings and microbes, dust particles and water molecules, belonging to past, present and future, in short every thing in this universe- are composed and configured by the Cosmic Architect  employing this basketful of atoms! How many atoms are there in the universe? They are estimated (of course not counted individually, at least until now!) to be 1084 in number (see Note below)!

The Chapter on Genesis

According to Goth’s theory, at one ten-millionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second (after the Big Bang) gravity emerged. After another ludicrously brief interval, it was joined by electromagnetism and the strong and weak nuclear forces – the stuff of Physics. These were joined an instant later, by shoals of elementary particles – the stuff of stuff. From nothing at all, suddenly there were swarms of photons, protons, electrons, neutrons and much else – between 1079 and 1089 of each, according to Standard Big Bang theory.~ — ‘A Short History of Nearly Every thing’ By Bill Bryson, Trans World Publishers, London (2003).

How large is this Mr. Big Number? I do not know. I can only say that it is unimaginably large. At any rate, my grey matter is not sufficient to visualize such maha numbers. To represent it conventionally, count and place 84 zeroes on a big piece of paper and then write a lone '1' on their left side. If you still insist to understand it, take a bigger piece of paper, copy the following and multiply patiently,   
1000 crores X 1000 crores X 1000 crores X 1000 crores X 1000 crores X 1000 crores X 1000 crores X 1000 crores X 10,000.

We are all Star Children

Instead of using up our time with Brobdignagian numbers, let us follow the cute little things called atoms once more. It is an exciting thought that the atoms that constitute your brain and mine were there in the celestial gallery to hear the birth cry of the baby Universe and to witness its formative years and yet, we can only hypothesise the origin and early evolution of the Universe. Or, there is a good possibility that some of the atoms that sit under your skull cap might had been there in the cerebellum of Einstein and had contributed heavily to develop that theory of the century. On the other hand, from the heart of a Supernova, they were possibly travelling at an overwhelming velocity across the breadth of the Universe, before they had decided to take a well-deserved rest in your heart, which I am sure, they would have found a better one than their earlier abode. Or, may be, they were in the cell cytoplasm of the first mammal lived on the surface of this exquisite planet. Then again, the last time when they were part of a human body, was that of Lord Buddha and travelling afterwards through the corridors of time to their next destination: You. Alternatively, some other constituent atoms of your body were part of that Nebula which had later ‘morphed’ into our Solar System. Or, they were the green horns of another intelligent being that was dwelling in another yet to be discovered planet. There is another side too, to this mystic travelogue. Some of the atoms that you might have discarded during your infant days, probably, are the ones that helped to constitute the rose flower that you had plucked from your garden, yesterday. 

All these and many more tales would have been revealed to us if we were gifted enough to understand the mother tongue or at least the lingua franca of the atoms. In truth, }we are all, literally, star children. Every atom in our bodies was once inside the fiery core of some super giant star, which exploded billions of years before our solar system formed~ (‘Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth and Beyond’— By  Lawrence M. Krauss, e-Book from Amazon.com ).

Aham Brahmasmi—Can You Hear That Silent Step

If we concentrate on to this timeless cosmic dance of the atoms, you may hear the ‘silent’ strides of the Nature around us. Once we are fortunate enough to harmonize our individual body and mind to this Universal ‘beats’, we sense the surging in our surrounding voids from the undulating creative energy and we resonate in unison to the vibrations of each of the hundred trillion atoms in our physical body. At that golden moment, we feel, we sense, we know, we experience, we become ‘Aham Brahmasmi’, the Veda Mantra, the Moola Mantra of the Universe.  We understand all the travelogues that the atoms want to share with us. We understand that you are I and I am You and You and I are the Whole.  (Once you reach there, stop reading this article!)

The Atoms are Forever

The Bard had said in ‘As You Like It’, }All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players~ (Act II, Scene VII). Arguably, the title ‘players’ sits better on the atoms than on us. From the time, the electron started its twist and twirl around its nuclear family, how many roles, from the roles of heroes, heroines, villains to that of bit players, they have played, and how many more roles they may enact in the future ahead. These atoms are still ‘young’: just 1.37X1010 years of age. If their natural life is not limited by the life span of protons which is unfortunately as ‘low’ as 1025 Years (or 10 trillion trillion years), atoms are ad infinitum(‘Atom: An Odyssey from the Big Bang to Life on Earth and Beyond’— By  Lawrence M. Krauss, e-Book from Amazon.com ). Of course, we are discounting the rare ‘accidents’ of atoms meeting their nemesis that is antimatter in the highways of the space when both the archrivals meet their ‘dead’ end.

It means that these little fellows have only completed 13.7 billion years and the number of billions of years left in their remaining life cannot be counted, even at the rate of billion years per second, during the remaining years of our lifetime.  Interestingly, much before they turned to 1011 th birthday (100 billion years which is, incidentally, 86.3 billion years away), our Sun would have (we are also invited to the party, so don’t worry, be happy) been dead and gone as a white dwarf and buried in an obscure, dark, hidden corner of the Universe.  Our Universe itself may not survive when the atoms celebrate their 1011 or1012 th birthday, if the Universe decides that ‘enough is enough and oscillates back from its expansion spree to compression and finally a Big Crunch before getting ready for another brand-new Big Bang. However, we do not know for sure which one — whether never-ending expansion or cycles of Big Bang or Big Crunch, — is going to be the flavour of the future. Still, whatever way the Universe may say ‘sayonara’, it is interesting to imagine the number of diverse roles the atoms will be asked to don in tandem with the Plan of the Omnipotent, till this ‘Mahayuga’ comes to a close.

Here Goes Our Ego

We, have just peeped into this ever-unfolding grand cosmic magnum opus directed by the Greatest Director of them all, through our mind’s eye. As we sit glued to the mental epidiascope, we find the puffed up ego, that we always carry all over us is getting thinner and thinner before vanishing completely, With that, our petty likes, dislikes and prejudices which along with the Ego, forms a mutual admiration club, also do a vanishing act. Once we are free of such ‘pull-back-at-every-step-baggage, we may enter the glorious cosmodrom where we are automatically lifted up from every single mundane squabble and quarrel triggered by hatred, rancour, envy and every thing else that resists your forward progress.  

The nature seems to be proclaiming through this magnificent tour de force that the world functions based on karma and karma alone. While presenting the work of genius by her diminutive backroom boys, Our adorable Mother Nature emphasises time after time, the import of the ‘Nishkama Karma Mantra’. She exhorts us to grow up and understand the significance of the cosmic kinship, that is, the universality of fellowship, which binds all the creations. She does so to remind us that the Universal Brotherhood is the primary stepping-stone towards ‘Aham Brahmasmi’ and urge we do not wither away our precious but short visit to the Earth beautiful, without direction.

Visit To The Giants:  Storyline Does not Change!

The time has come now to leave the microcosm to pay a little visit to the macrocosm. Do not be surprised to realise that ‘Nishkarmatvam’ is a forbidden practice in that half of the world too! We had a glimpse, through a short tour, how busy were we at the microcosmic tip. Let us see now, how are we faring at the other end of the dimension.

When the earth goes around on its axis, once every twenty-four hours, we tick off a day and a night from our personal calendar of life. This, at least most of the time, we are aware of. There is another side, of which many of us are neither aware of, nor do care about. During every second, minute, hour and day of our life, we hurtle down the space at a speed that easily outstrip the fastest car ever designed on earth with the best racing driver at its wheels, by miles. Because the earth moves, while rotating on its axis, at a speed of 1600 kilo metres per hour —incidentally, the maximum speed of rotation felt at the surface— at its equator.  Of course, it is not such a great speed compared to our jet planes, rockets and satellites.  Nonetheless, be patient; we have only just ‘warmed up’ for a great space odyssey.

Apart from her self-spinning, earth spins (revolves) around her parent star, the Sun too. Here she seems to have changed the gears. The velocity, that no jet planes or rockets can dream of catching up with, is 1,07,200 kilometres per hour or 29.78 kilometres per second. Pioneer 10 is one of the very few satellites, which could surpass this velocity with 56 kilometres per second. (All satellite launch vehicles (rockets) that leave the atmosphere of earth are designed to achieve an initial speed burst of a slightly more than just about 11 kilometres per second, which is the escape velocity to beat the gravitational pull of earth).  Now, hold your breath!  The velocity of the Sun, with which it perambulates the Milky Way, the galaxy, it belong to, is 200 kilometres per second or 7,20,000 kilometres per hour or seven times more than the corresponding speed of the earth around the Sun. Even with such an incredible speed, Sun could not complete more than 20 rounds around the Milky Way during a period of 5,000 million years from the moment of his birth.

The ‘tranquil’ and the ‘beautiful-to-look-at-in-night Milky Way seems to be in much more urgency than our Formula-One racer, a.k.a. the Sun, to get some where in the cosmic expanse. Our dear galaxy quietly zips through the inter-galactic autobahns, at full throttle with a stately speed of 600 kilometres per second or 21, 60,000 kilometres per hour. To cap it all these record shattering performances, Mother Universe herself is expanding at a speed of …, forget it; why do we continue torturing our poor earth-based imagination, trapped in a primitive 3-D system! [It’s a ‘grey’ area! The speed with regard to the expansion of the Universe is a function of distance between the objects (such as galaxies). If the distance is more, the speed is more. This leads to situations where expansion occurs at a velocity more than that of light. Physicists accept it!]

The reason for elaborating this business of endless races at furious speeds by our Carriers (earth-sun-galaxy system) is that, we just cannot see or sense any evidence of inactivity, inertness, nishkarmatvam, nishkriyatvam or whatever other expressions that you wish to identify it with, any where in the universe. Such a characteristic is simply not in the persona of the riddle that we call by the name universe, prapancham, viswam, cosmos or what you may like.

Movement, a Cosmic Reality

Movement is simply a cosmic truth. More precisely, the world survives thanks to its dynamism. All these seemingly mad rushes, races and aimless voyages that the Nature has been indulging in, from the beginning of the beginning, are only to keep it, the way it is. [Why should it be kept the way it is, is a question, or rather a philosophical question that must be debated at a different plane and outside the gamut of this paper. However, those who believe, support or promote the anthropocentric setting of our world may say that the species homosapien is the sole reason for the presence of the world the way it is. I may like to discuss this and the apparent ‘fine tuning’ of the six physical constants that has ‘helped’ the world to be conducive for life as we know it, in a different article].  Imagine a scenario, in which the Sun does not move around our Milky Way! The result is a swift and unspectacular demise of our free source of light and heat, in the labyrinth of our galaxy. Let us not forget that our destiny is tied to the Sun’s apron strings.  Or imagine (as imagination is one of the few things that is not yet taxed, let us indulge in it as much as we can), that the Mother Earth takes a one-day ‘casual leave’ to  stretch her tired limbs. Then, in no time we— having a last ride on the lap of Earth—would have reached the core of the solar mass to have an ‘hands on’ experience  with the continuously exploding Giga ton (not our toy bombs of mega ton variety) hydrogen bombs (see Note below).

We think Megaton, Sun thinks Gigaton

The Sun, average star though it is, puts out energy on a staggering scale. The largest energy unit most people are familiar with is the megaton, used in measuring the power of nuclear weapons. A megaton is the energy of a million tons of high explosive TNT. The Sun’s energy output is about equal to 77 billion megatons or 77 million Giga tons every second. The entire power-generating capacity of the earth equals about 60,000 megatons per year, so in one second the Sun produces over a million years' worth of energy for the earth. If the Sun derived its energy by burning coal, it would take only 18 hours to burn a mass of coal equal to the earth. And the Sun has been doing this for 4.6 billion years. — Courtesy: Internet sites. — S.K  

Hence, if these ostensibly aimless, but stability-resulting, scurrying around the universal expanses by the cosmic entities are not acceptable illustrations of nishkama karma, then, pray, what are? Therefore, we can confidently pronounce that “On the move forever, Selfless Action forever” (‘Sarvada Chalanam, Sarvada Nishkama Karma Nirvahanam’) is the message that spreads out constantly from the transmitter tower of the Nature. As it happens, we rarely tune our ears to listen to it.

It is true that, the ‘right-to-do-no-work’ is taken out of our hand and we are on a never-ending shift. Yet, we are empowered with a more significant ‘right’, the right to choose the type of action or karma that we want to undertake. There are karmas that lead to prosperity and progress and there are karmas that lead to ruin. The choice is ours. The fulfilment of certain karmas makes our life blessed, if such acts bring at least a ray of hope to the poor souls around us. None would block our way, if we wish to cast off the shackles of our self-centred interests and perform a humane deed that could light up a life. It may be an insignificant act, a word or a gesture from our standpoint, but sufficient to effect a turning point in another life. Such are the acts that make our life blessed. They are thousand fold worthier than a few millions made from business deal and undeniably, they give us more self-respect than wearing a top of the fashion attire.

Swami Chinmayananda used to advise his disciples in many of his discourses that one must always perform a karma as we perform a ‘yajna’ or a holy offering. The Nature is full of examples of such yajna-like karmas that bear testimony to this ‘Guruvakya’. 

Sun-The Karma Purusha

The Sun is called ‘Karma sakshi’ or the witness to all the actions that take place in this world. More aptly, we must call him the ‘Karma purusha’, or the personification of karma. In every second and in its fraction, Sun converts a part of body mass into energy and spreads it across his domain i.e., Solar System. In fact, Sun gives himself as energy to our world, to help us live and prosper!  This would go on as long as he is alive. Sun does not ask any thing in return for this self-immolating sacrifice for others. If we wish, this is an example of nishkama karma.

Rain cloud carries water from faraway seas, moves over to the hills on the land and rains until the last drop that it holds for our benefit. That is the end of its bodily existence too. If we wish, this is an example of nishkama karma.

Fruits bearing trees and plants never consume any of their produce. Birds eat, insects eat, animals eat, we eat, but never a tree eats a fruit, whether belongs to itself or another. If we wish, this is an example of nishkama karma.

Rivers bring water from hilly places to planes. They never drink a drop of water themselves, but we do, animals do and birds do.

There are many more examples in the Nature to prove the above. Mountain ranges, oceans, flowers, moonshine, breeze, and in fact, every thing in the Nature’s kitty pours down unlimited blessings on us through their self-less deeds. Many a time they urge us follow the path of nishkama karma. When we do not care, they, some times feel sad and dejected. Otherwise, why should, for example, the sea sighs through its undulating waves!

Among us too, there are numerous souls, whose self-less-deeds have helped in making our life comfortable. We see them, if we look around.

Our acts become karma, based on our outlook. There is nothing like good karma or bad karma, if we remove the attitudinal factor of the ‘Kartha’ or the performer of the karma. A soldier killing an enemy soldier in a war and a murderer carrying out a cold-blooded murder are similar in execution and result, but poles apart based on the cause or the mind-set of the causators.

The Relevance of Nishkama Karma

In the present environment, the message of nishkamakarma has more significance. We are living in a world, where there are stakes that influence the narrow thinking and short-term planning of individuals and nations guide the destiny of human beings and, unfortunately, our beautiful world. Such a coalition of negative forces has resulted in an uncontrolled exploitation of nature, irretrievable depletion of natural resources and irreparable destruction of our environment. It is a pity that, natural resources that were once abundant and sufficient to meet the genuine needs of the organisms for future generations become scarce. One terrifying example is the drinking water and another that follows it to the point of no return is breathable air. However, the myopic actions of many of the individuals and the nations continue unabated. The intensity of this power of greed is threatening the very character of the planet Earth and with that the peace, prosperity, and even the existence of the coming generations.

This picture is not over painted. It really is bleak.  It makes every right thinking citizen of the world to wish solemnly, “Let the God proffer the purity of ‘nishkama karma’ to the actions and deeds of all these concerned individuals and the nations. Then, this small and the only world of us would get back its original glory and we would start living, NOT in the world called Earth, BUT in the Heaven called Earth”.

  When we accept the truth that this world does not belong to us alone, but to all the organisms of now and future, then we begin to hear the message of nishkama karma emanating from every pore of the nature, twenty-four hours a day. When we attain the purity of karma, the benefits go to the world to which we are connected with an unbreakable umbilical cord.

Here We Return the Crying Too!

We are a caravan of travellers who keep on moving along the highways of time and every so often enter this inn called the World to spend a few cosmic moments. We come crying in to this place. It is a symbolic expression of pain over the weariness from our seemingly unending voyage across the wilderness of time or more aptly, from the disillusionment of coming back to this world time after time. When we go back, the pain and its articulation, i.e. the ‘crying’ is left in this world and picked up by others who followed us to this location. Apart from our pain and lamentation, we also leave our uniform, a.k.a. the body and all the goodies that we had collected over our stint here, thinking that they are our possessions. Nothing we see here is our property. We may use them for our essential requirements and preserve the rest for the yet to come generations.

In Nature’s scheme of things, there is no difference between living and non-living things. It covers the first appeared unicellular life form that is blue-green algae to the latest product of evolution, that is, man, from mountain, seas to lakes, streams and ponds, from dust particles to water drops and from each to all things. It envisages that all the resources available in this world are equally owned by the current and future residents of this place. THIS INCLUDES ALL AND EXCLUDES NONE.

We must remember that, as a species our visit here is recent. Billions of years before we did, came the micro organisms. They are the real ‘sons of the soil’ borrowing the latest vote-catching phrase. For that reason, even when we use a particle of sand, a droplet of water or an iota of air in excess, we must ‘pay the rent’ to the seniors of this world. Microbes to monkeys, algae to mango tree, along with us are co-owners of world-resources. They are all seniors since in the hierarchy of appearance in this world they stay further up in the ladders.
Pay Rent and be Happy

What is this ‘rent’ that we must pay them? Remember, earlier, we had indicated that, every time when we are in communion with our Mother Nature, she whispers in our ears about the importance of the ‘Nishkama Karma’ and nothing but performing this nishkama karma, for the welfare of us and all other beings, is the rent that we have to pay out for every excess usage of world resources. If we do not achieve even that bit, then we are wasting our precious life, which we do not know, whether and when we get it back again, that is, assuming that we get it back again. 

Dedicated To

My father, LATE SRI N. KRISHNA KARTHA (1903-1979),

Whose knowledge inspired me to follow his footsteps to understand me;
Whose equanimity guided me to pursue the path of knowledge to attain mental tranquillity;
Whose compassion to all creations of God lit my path;
Whose respect for environment enlightened me.

Oh, my Achchan, even after 27 years, still I miss you at every step. How many times, I wished that you were with me, during the preparation of this article.

 
 

Notes

  • The science based facts provided through out this article are verified with comparing with text books/papers.
  • Where a source cannot be accurately identified, the information are placed within apostrophe signs and acknowledged as, ‘courtesy: Internet sites’.

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