एषः सर्वेश्वरः। एषः सर्वज्ञः। एषः अन्तर्यामी। एषः सर्वस्य योनिः। हि भूतानां प्रभवाप्ययौ ॥

eṣaḥ sarveśvaraḥ| eṣaḥ sarvajñaḥ| eṣaḥ antaryāmī| eṣaḥ sarvasya yoniḥ| hi bhūtānāṁ prabhavāpyayau ||

This is the Almighty, this is the Omniscient, this is the Inner Soul, this is the Womb of the Universe, this is the Birth and Destruction of creatures.

माण्डुक्योपनिषद् – ६
Mandukya Upanishad – 6


Neuroscientists, armed with fMRI (functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and EEG(electrical signals of the brain), map the brain’s intricate networks, uncovering the symphony of interactions that give rise to consciousness. However, modern science still needs to develop a hypothesis to help express this phenomenon. For example, there needs to be more clarity about whether the brain generates or interprets consciousness. Upanishadic teachings propose that consciousness is a universal phenomenon and the brain is just the interpretive organ. However, its inherent size and capacity limit the brain’s interpretation capacity. Thus, a reptile and a human understand the universe differently. For, e.g., a Pentium I computer cannot run Windows 11! Similarly, a snake and human brain would interpret consciousness differently, guided by their need to live on the earth and survive, reproduce, gather food, etc. The human brain is considered to be able to develop a heightened level of consciousness, including many extrasensory perceptions driven by years of meditative practices. 

One of the basic tenets of scientific inquiry in medicine is materialism. This philosophy automatically assumes that most events on this planet can be analysed and expressed within the restricted lens of materialism. Materialism holds that there must be a physical explanation for every phenomenon. However, ancient Indian sages taught that many phenomena have an extra materialistic basis that cannot always be explained by scientific determinism or mundane day-to-day materialistic explanation. The scientific world, with its tangible realities, is a paradigm dominated by the tools and methodologies developed to explore it. While immensely valuable, this scientific dogmatism also marks the boundaries of our understanding, creating a reality that is ill-defined or wholly ignored, limited by what our instruments can measure and our theories can explain. Hindu philosophy correlates conquering this space by developing a super powerful brain that can interpret what our present machination cannot. 

Remarkably, meditation, a discipline that finds its roots in the ancient teachings of the Upanishads, offers a gateway to exploring these uncharted depths. Long-term meditators have been shown to produce gamma waves, indicative of heightened states of consciousness, alongside the standard brainwave patterns associated with everyday awareness. The significance of this is unknown, with many neuroscientists contending that this is the brain signature for consciousness. Meditation can also make the physical brain increase in size, thus completely eliminating dementia that comes with aging! This concept was proved by recent scientific exploration and was thought to be a pariah within the physiological community until advanced imaging revealed the truth. This coexistence of the mundane and the extraordinary within the neural activity of meditators points to a dimension of consciousness that transcends the materialistic framework of contemporary science.

Yet, the clarity of consciousness eludes the grasp of contemporary science, focusing on the tangible and measurable. The complexity of the human brain, a network of trillions of neurons with billions of interconnections, presents a formidable challenge, pointing to the limitations of current methodologies in fully unraveling the essence of consciousness. Someone said our latest and biggest computer cannot even mimic a cockroach’s brain. I leave the truth of this statement for the readers to decipher, as my knowledge of entomology is infantile, to say the least. This is where the ancient wisdom of the Manduca Upanishad, with its emphasis on the transcendental state of Turiya, offers a complementary perspective. Meditation and yogic practices, central to this wisdom, provide a pathway to experiential understanding, transcending the boundaries of empirical research. The development of state-of-the-art, non-invasive ways of studying the living brain and a plethora of young scientists using such technologies have helped break barriers and reveal such startling theories. The spread of yoga as a mode of well-being is no less critical in bringing to the fore this overwhelming interest amongst young researchers in such subjects.

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In the heart of ancient wisdom, nestled within the revered texts of the Atharva Veda, lies the Manduca Upanishad. Despite its brevity, spanning merely 12 verses, this Upanishad has captivated scholars and spiritual seekers alike. It offers a lens through which the vast expanse of human consciousness is viewed. It categorizes consciousness into four distinct states: the wakeful, the dream-filled, the deep sleep, and the transcendental “Turiya.”

Venturing through these dimensions, we embark on a narrative that intertwines the ancient with the contemporary, where the Manduca Upanishad’s exploration of consciousness mirrors the quests of modern science. As elaborated in this seminal ancient script, the different states of brain function augur well with present-day thinking, including wakefulness, dream states, and deep sleep. Modern science has really not understood “Turiya” and hence not accepted the presence of the esoteric state of brain function that is achieved by years of meditative practice that elevates the brain’s comprehension of reality into another paradigm yet untouched by modern science.

The narrative unfolds further, drawing parallels between the holistic view of consciousness in ancient philosophy and the segmented approach of modern science. While the sages of yore perceived consciousness as a unified whole, akin to viewing an entire tree at a glance, contemporary research tends to find the root leading to the trunk and then creep up to the branches to discern the whole tree, which might well take a millennium to do so. This analogy highlights the dichotomy in understanding consciousness, underscoring the need for an integrative approach that harmonizes ancient wisdom’s holistic insights with modern science’s analytical rigor.

Integrative medicine, with its holistic healing ethos, resonates with the teachings of the Manduca Upanishad, embodying a comprehensive approach to well-being that encompasses physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions. Practices derived from the Upanishad, such as meditation and yoga, are increasingly embraced in this field, offering pathways to healing that augment conventional medical treatments.

Looking ahead, the confluence of AI, quantum computing, and consciousness studies beckons with the promise of new horizons. Quantum computing could offer fresh insights into the quantum dimensions of consciousness, an area subtly hinted at by many recent neuroscientists. At the same time, AI might facilitate the integration of these discoveries with the text’s philosophical nuances. This fusion of ancient wisdom with cutting-edge technology heralds a future where the mysteries of consciousness, as expounded in the Manduca Upanishad, may finally be unraveled, bridging millennia in the quest for understanding the most profound aspects of human existence.

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