††††††††† Vibrations in my Mind on Browsing my Father-in-Lawís Journal

 

 

††††††††† My father-in-law, late Shri K. N. Jain, maintained a journal during 1973, the year preceding his death. From this journal it can be made out that he began it by recording his appreciation of all his family members by their names and medical experts of the hospital in which he was hospitalised. He realised on returning home that each day of his life was a blessing and started to note down in his journal deeper questions about life from thoughts of Buddha, Mahavir, Urdu poets like Ghalib, Iqbal and of English poets and thinkers, statesmen like Nehru and Dag Hammarskjold, and many intellectuals whom he admired. He was a thinker himself. He also wrote his own thoughts in it.

 

††††††† I have observed elsewhere that Shri Jain was an intellectual aristocrat. Although, for living he did business and sometimes service in the private sector, he pursued an intellectual life, exceptional for a person of his professional background. He had obtained M. A. degree in English from the Government College Lahore and taught it in the initial phase of his career. He maintained a personal library of books in humanities, particularly of philosophy, literature, history and art history. He acquired for his personal collection 54 volume set of the Great Books of the Western World published by Britannica for the University of Chicago, soon after it became available in India. His linguistic abilities in English, Persian and Urdu were exceptional. He enjoyed poetry in these languages and had keen interest in art, history and philosophy. In his journal he noted down his thoughts, poetry, and deep questions on life and death. In 1974 he passed away.

 

††††††† I came in his life in 1971 when I married his third daughter, Asha. I was 28 years old then and my priority was to establish myself as a mathematical physicist. Soon after my marriage I went with Asha to spend a year at the International Centre for Theoretical Physics at Trieste. After returning from Trieste I joined the Himachal Pradesh University at Simla. I spent three weeks in Calcutta in January 1973 and had stayed with Shri Jain but lacked exposure in humanities and felt in awe of his intellect. I missed the only opportunity of knowing my father-in-law.

 

††††††† Forty-four years after the death of Shri K. N. Jain my wife brought to my notice two letters he had written to his wife when he was 21 years old and was a student at Lahore. I translated those letters in English from Hindi. For the first time I realised that his world view and thoughts were exceptional for a newly married young student. Asha has recently shown me his journal of 1973. I am now 75 years old and perhaps better mentally equipped to admire his journal than I ever was. Although, I have acquired reading ability in Urdu, I lack Shri Jainís literary competence and his deep appreciation of English and Urdu poetry. Browsing his journal I came across his jottings which have stimulated me. I feel inclined to write my observations on them. I can read his handwritten poems in Urdu but lack literary ability for their proper appreciation and will not touch upon them.

 

His thoughts written by him in his journal that have struck me the most are the following:

 

††††† Life has brought me to an impasse. I loath existence. It is without savour, lacking salt and sense.

From where have I come? Who am I?How did I come into this world?Why was I not consulted?

Such doubts continue to assail my mind, to which I find no answer.Not even an inkling. Not a ray of light. The more I probe, I seem to be getting into thicker darkness.

 

††††††† Elsewhere in the same journal he observed the relevance and role of religion in manís life. I will reproduce those elsewhere . My observations stimulated by reading Shri Jainís diary I write next.

 

††††††† Because of space technology particularly using space telescopes mounted on satellites, such as the Hubble telescope, we now have been able to get a glimpse of universe, its vastness and of its rich features. Astronomers have observed from terrestrial telescopes both optical and radio, and space telescopes amazing phenomenon taking place in the universe earlier considered in the domain of science fiction. Observation of blackholes, neutron stars, birth and death of stars, existence of billions of galaxies, each comprising of billions of stars, and recently gravitational waves are some of the features of our universe seen by astronomers. These are now subjects of textbooks. Our own star Sun is one of the billions of stars comprising the galaxy Milky Way. Earth is the third planet of the Sun. It is mind boggling to imagine how many Earth like planets may be there in our galaxy and in billions of other galaxies in the universe. Alpha Centauri, the nearest star to us, is over four light years away. It means that light emitted by it takes over four years to reach our solar system. Manís life span is about 100 years and travel time to a planet outside our solar system by spaceships powered by most powerful rockets may span over several life times. It is unimaginable that man can visit earth like planets of other stars.

 

††††††† The diameter of the Sun is about 400 times the size of Earthís diameter. Earthís diameter is about 8000 miles. The Sun weighs about 333,000 times the mass of Earth. From what I have written about Earth it may appear as an insignificant object in the cosmos.

 

††††††† All the same, Earth has special place in the universe as life so far has been seen only on this planet of the Sun. About 3.7 billion years ago life came into being on this planet. It is estimated that over 8 million species possessing what is broadly understood as life have evolved in it and man is one of them.

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††††††† We may ask what is life? A definition of life can be that it distinguishes self reproducing systems from inanimate objects. Life ceases to exist after death of a living organism. It is generally accepted, perhaps it has been proved, that man cannot design a machine capable of reproducing itself. That is a computer cannot assemble by itself another computer like itself. On the other hand we see all around ourselves bacteria, algae, marine life, insects, plants, animals including man who reproduce naturally. Reproduction is so abundant that it is a matter of global concern that Earth may not be able to sustain human population if it continues to grow at its present pace. It has been established by microbiologists that all life forms seen on earth have similar molecular basis of reproduction. Amazing fact is that all life forms have similar genetic structure and are parts of common evolution of life on Earth. Of all forms of life on Earth man is unique as it possesses intelligence and can carry out cognitive functions not seen in other species that coexist with man. Man can manipulate his hands for making tools useful for living and observing nature. Man has made progress in understanding laws of nature and used knowledge so gained in developing technologies for generating energy, travelling, communication and producing food among others. We are enjoying quality of life that could not be imagined by our ancestors. In spite of improvement in quality of life man continues to fear his death.

 

††††††† Buddha when he became aware of sufferings in everyday life left his home to find answers for living a happy life. Many religions came into being in all parts of the world in ancient time and spiritual gurus have large followings even today. This is not surprising as all human beings at all times have been concerned about questions of life and death. Religion continues to have strong hold on man all over the world and in its name conflicts and violence are instigated. Each day their horrors are main media news items.

 

††††††† As Earth spins around its axis in 24 hours, the entire cosmos appears to us to rotate in sync once each day. We say that each day sun rises, sets and there is a new sunrise 24 hours later. We seldom say that we spin with Earth in 24 hours and in 365 days go around the Sun. Sun and stars do not move in human time scale. We do not experience effects of Earthís rotation in daily life. Now information and communication technologies have shrunk Earth to a point. We watch in real time events taking place in the world and because of jet travel we know that when it is sunrise in New Delhi it is sunset in New York. However, it was Foucault who first demonstrated Earthís rotation using a pendulum suspended from a ceiling. Like us our ancestors could not observe Earthís rotation about its axis and its annual orbital motion around Sun. It is, therefore, not surprising that man considered Earth to be the centre of the universe and all stars including Sun to rotate around it each day. All initial civilisations on Earth found it natural to conceive of an entity commonly called god controlling life of man and unpredictable events such as rain, floods, droughts, cyclones, blizzards, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, epidemics and the like. For propitiating uncontrollable events and anxieties of health, fortune, wants, particularly, death man has been taking shelter under religious practices and institutions.

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††††††† Now when man has successfully landed on moon and returned safely to Earth, and is engaged in gathering information from edges of the solar system by sending satellites, it is anachronism to consider Earth as the centre of the universe. Many persons now do not share the belief that some supreme deity is monitoring life of over 7 billion human beings and religious dogmas contain answers to questions asked by Shri K. N. Jain or for that matter by many of us or were perhaps also asked by some of our ancestors. As an individual who has lived his life learning physics, mathematics and carrying out teaching and research I am unable to reconcile with explanations given in religious texts or accept practises of faith. I want to avoid discussing commonly accepted religious explanations and beliefs of faith. I move on with my thoughts by quoting from Shri K. N. Jainís journal.

 

††††† To the symmetrical natures religion is indeed a crown of glory; nevertheless, as far as this world is concerned, they can grow and prosper without it.

But to the unsymmetrical natures religion is necessary condition of work even in this world. ( LORD ACTON)

 

If you cry for the sun that is set you miss the stars that are shining.

 

††††††† In order to understand similarity in all living species revealed by microbiologists it may be necessary to appreciate that all elements are made out of atoms containing different numbers of protons, neutrons and electrons. Each atom is electrically neutral and therefore has equal number of positively charged protons in its nucleus and equal number of negatively charged electrons outside the nucleus. Electrons are bound to the nucleus of atom by electrical forces and stability of atom and its energy states are determined by quantum mechanics. Simplest atom is that of hydrogen as it consists of single proton and one electron. It can be analytically studied and its energy levels can be precisely calculated. Atoms with more than one electron except for helium physicists do not teach to their students because these cannot be analysed analytically.

 

††††††† Chemists have worked out bonding rules for explaining when atoms can combine to form innumerable number of molecules. Microbiologists deal with long chain of molecules and are able to identify molecules that can replicate themselves and form basis of life. It is well established that basic biological molecule is DNA. It is a very long molecule having two strands running in opposite directions and made out of four base molecules G, C, T, and A, which form the genes of a living organism. The two strands of DNA are held together by matching each G with C, T with A, C with G, and A with T. The two strands of DNA molecule are wound into a double helix. Each cell contains DNA molecules which can split and each strand forms another strand by matching their G, C, T and A molecules with new C, G, A, and T molecules. Thus another replicated DNA molecule is formed and when a cell contains in it its copy it splits into two cells. This process of cell replication continues till an organism is formed. Different parts of a DNA molecule contain codes for making proteins and are called genes. We all differ from each other and other species because we have different set of genes. A living form comes into being when a male cell and a female cell of a given species combine. I summarise that all species differ from each as they may have different set of genes but basic DNA molecule that can replicate itself forms the basis of life. How such a molecule first appeared on Earth has not been convincingly answered. But once it came into being it adjusted itself to Earthís environment and continued to evolve in more complex molecules adjusting with the environment and source of energy needed for it to grow. Story is interesting as initial species which grew in sea water changed Earthís environment and made it possible for new land based species to evolve including man. Earth has rich variety of biological machines possessing life coexisting with each other. Although man has not been able to design a mechanical machine that can replicate itself, scientists are engaged in studying this microbiological process and are able to develop drugs such as antibiotics that inhibit growth of harmful bacteria and help bodyís immune system in defending itself against growth of cancerous cells!

 

††††††† I conclude that life is no longer a mystery. Molecular biologists teach and research the DNA molecule, its genetic code and process of making proteins, even organs of human body. There are many questions such as who coded the genes with the blue print for a fertilised cell to grow into a living organism? I will avoid falling in trap to attribute ignorance to say that it is the work of a grand designer.

 

††††††† When in such doubts I fall back on Newtonís quotation, ďI do not know what I may appear to the world, but to myself I seem to be have been like a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.Ē

 

††††††† In the last decade of the nineteenth century electron was discovered. Niels Bohr had put forward the atomic model in 1913 but quantum mechanics was formulated by Heisenberg, Schrodinger and Dirac in the third decade of twentieth century. Although, neutron was discovered by James Chadwick in 1932, Enrico Fermi in December 1942 had set up a man made nuclear chain reactor and in 1945 first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in August 1945. Mind boggling advances in information and communication technologies were made in the last decade of twentieth century. In hundred years unprecedented advances were made in all fields of science and technologies, particularly microbiology.

 

††††††† We cannot forecast advances in science and technology that are yet to come. Just because we have many unanswered questions today it does not mean that man will not understand nature better than we know it now in time to come.

 

††††††† I return to Shri Jainís questions. When did we come into being? We come into being when sex cells of our parents combine and fertilise. We have no existence before it except in the gametes (sex cells of man and woman) of our parents. When our cells stop receiving energy we die. What will happen to us after we die? Obvious answer is that we go back into earth and merge with its environment.

 

††††††† It is our intelligent mind that enables us to read something from the book of nature. The same mind is commonly used to imagine after death scenarios, both pleasant and frightening, and most of us find it convenient to accept what is advocated by authors of religious texts and spiritual gurus. It is claimed that all that is given in religious texts are revelations not to be questioned and those who dare do that are punished and put to death for having indulged in sacrilege and blasphemy. Religious tenets are matters of faith and are to be accepted and obeyed without questioning.

 

††††††† I am tempted to quote Albert Einstein, "Religion without science is blind and science without religion is lame." Perhaps, had scientists realised that a nuclear bomb would be used against civilians who had nothing to do with war they might have had reservations in developing it. But I am not sure of it.

 

††††††† I will now reproduce from Shri Jainís journal jottings that I find as guidance for living in peace, without hurting feelings of others and avoiding conflict in life.

 

††††† Silence is the only answer, do not tire listenerís patience.

Listen.

 

Withdraw yourself from all that is of no consequence to you, and in meddling with which, you only cause bother to others and expose yourself to ridicule.

 

Either lose your personality, in trying to being in peace or ply a lonely furrow. There is no other choice. Both alternatives have their respective pitfalls.

 

Control your temper. Even the sound argument is ruined, by being expressed in angry tone or in intemperate language, and fails to seep into the hearer.

 

Short temper only results in even nearest and dearest ones to shun society or to minimise association or company.

 

No one enjoys criticism however well meant or sincere. So judge not lest you want to be judged.

 

Utilise the short time allowed by the Reaper to go deeply into yourself instead of trying to bring order around yourself.

 

वाणीतोअनमोलहै, जोकोईजानेबोल,

हियेतराजूतोलके, तबमुखबाहरखोल।

कबीर

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