Abhijit Naskar

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The Peace Talk | Abhijit Naskar

Neuroscientist, Author and Speaker Abhijit Naskar addresses the world on Peace and Harmony.

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The Distorted Humanism

You know what humanity is best at! It is best at distorting stuff – distorting thoughts, ideas, and more specifically words. Among these distorted words lie terms like religion, philosophy, science, faith, and others. But the one term that we are interested in, in this piece, is the term “humanism”. Humanism is next in the line of distorted words, right after the word “religion”. To be very articulate in brief – the terms “humanism” and “religion” are essentially one and the same thing, yet a whole so-called human lifetime is not enough for most humans to actually fathom this simple mortal revelation. Most humans neurotically perceive religion to be the system of following doctrines and humanism to be a pompous philosophy of the intellectuals.

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In reality, religion is not a system of following doctrines at all. If anything, it is about not following any doctrine and finding out things for yourself. And, humanism is no more a philosophy than love is. Love is not a philosophy, neither is humanism. In fact, if we go underneath the layers of words and labels, we would see that love is essentially plain, ordinary, everyday humanism – it is as simple as that – there is nothing more for me to tell you about humanism. I don’t really intend to tell you anything about humanism in this piece. Rather, let’s find out together, what humanism is not.

For starters, it’s not a pompous philosophy or an ideology for a bunch of people to discuss over a cup of coffee. As I have said in “Principia Humanitas”:

“Humanism is not a pompous philosophy to be talked and debated about by a handful of intellectuals – it is the purest form of moral compass, which defines the civilized heart of thinking humanity.”

Humanism simply means to be human. Now you may wonder, what does “to be human” even mean! Does it mean you need to wear a specific sophisticated label that makes you appear as a smart and over-glorified intellectual! Does it mean, you need to talk sense all the time! Does it mean, you stop believing in anything that does not fit your ship-shape limited logical perception! Does it mean, that you have to be the smartest person in the group and make more sense somehow than all others around you! Does it mean, you have to be a so-called non-believer or atheist, and have to defend that atheism, at all costs, like the religious fundamentalists do with their own beliefs and delusions, above all humane fundamentals!

Let me go straight ahead and say it – No. You don’t need to do any of it – as in, none of it – you don’t even have to call yourself a so-called humanist – because most of the so-called humanists are not actually advocating actual qualities of being human, rather they are advocating radical rationalism – radical logicality. One recent incident comes to my mind in this context – it is their support for corporations that forbid their muslim employees to wear a hijab at work-place. Full-body burqa with niqab that covers the whole face of a woman, may surely be a sign of uncivilized cultural barbarianism, because it basically exudes a clear implication of segregation against all humans, but not a simple hijab, which is basically a scarf that one wears around the head. So, advocacy of banning basic cultural elements, is not a sign of progress or being human. This kind of radical attitude may not look as immediately dangerous as radical fundamentalism does, but, it is nevertheless, as harmful as that. In fact, radical rationalism is nothing but atheistic fundamentalism or logical fundamentalism. As I have said in “Principia Humanitas”:

“Fundamentalism of any kind, be it religious, atheistic, political or educational, is the greatest threat to human excellence – it is a threat to progress – it is a threat to greatness.”

The whole business of fundamentalism, which is basically an extreme sense of either romanticism or logicality, is unavoidably destructive and needs a bit of scolding from the real humans – by real humans I don’t mean intellectually superior humans, for intellect has very little to do with this real human thing – it has to do with acceptance of weakness and rejection of hatred and extremism. This extremism as we see more and more today, does not always rise from the obvious so-called religious sides. It can rise from any side – and it will keep on rising, as long as sides appear to be more important to humans, than human life itself.

We have this remarkable thing called “life”, yet somehow, quite disgracefully, it has become less glorious and significant, in front of the fake glory of labels and ideologies. This is what advancement without conscience does to a species. We have advanced externally, before we actually truly evolved internally. Biological evolution is a fact, and that very biological evolution led to our so-called psychological evolution – I am saying so-called not because it is false. We have evolved psychologically indeed and through this evolution we have gained extraordinary psychological capacities, that basically are not possessed by any other species on earth, yet those capacities are not utilized at their fullest and most productive potential. It’s like having money and yet wasting it on unhealthy non-sense like alcohol and expensive cigars, while your neighbor is starving in front of your eyes.

Correct application of the mental faculties cannot be taught to a whole species – it automatically starts when the species gets an actual grip over its true necessities. Earth is necessity, not Mars. Food and water are necessities, not alcohol and cigarettes. To be human is necessity, not being a believer or non-believer. Now comes the real question – what are you?

Recommended Reading
Principia Humanitas, 2017

 

For Speaking Engagement Inquiry or Interview Request, email at naskarism@gmail.com

Meditation beyond Traditions – An Interview

Psychotherapist Serge Prengel interviews Abhijit Naskar on Meditation and Mindfulness.

This conversation is available as a video, as well as audio only here www.activepause.com/naskar and a printable PDF transcript.

 

Dr Diane Hamilton Interviews Abhijit Naskar

Dr Diane Hamilton, MBA Program Chair at Forbes Business School, Interviews Abhijit Naskar on Neuroscience, Religion and Social Issues.

How the understanding of the brain can change our lives

People often ask me – what is my work about? I tell them – I study humans – I study how they think, how they feel, how they behave and why. This answer probably would induce another question in your mind, which is – “how does this apply to my personal life?” So, the real question here is – how does the understanding of the mind, which essentially is the understanding of brain functions in a large scale, can effect and change human life? How can the understanding of the mind be applied by the lay-person – the non-scientist, in his or her life, to live better, with friends, family and co-workers?

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These are the questions, which I attempted to address in one of my works, entitled “What is Mind?” I concocted various thought experiments to elucidate answers to such questions among other philosophical ones? So, in this piece, we are going to take a look, at two excerpts from the book, which are most appropriate in this context. First let’s bring up an excerpt to shed some light on how our behavioral capacities and traits can alter radically based on internal and external conditions.

Excerpt 1 from What is Mind?:

Imagine yourself having a fight with your romantic partner. The tension of the situation makes your limbic system run at full throttle and you become flooded with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenalin. The high levels of these chemicals suddenly make you so damn angry, that you burst out in front of your partner saying, “I wish you die, so that I can have some peace in my life”. Given the stress of the situation through highly active limbic system, your PFC loses its freedom to take the right decision and you burst out with foul language in front of your partner, that may ruin your relationship. In simple terms due to your mental instability, you lost your free will to make the right decision.

But when the conversation is over, and you relax for a while, your stress hormone levels come down to normal, and you regain your usual cheerful state of mind. Immediately, your PFC starts analyzing the explosive conversation you had with your partner. Healthy activity of the entire frontal lobes, especially the PFC suddenly overwhelms you with a feeling of guilt. Your brain makes you realize, that you have done something devilish. As a result, now you find yourself making the willful decision of apologizing to your partner and making up to him or her, no matter how much effort it takes, because your PFC comes up the solution that it is the healthiest thing to do for your personal life.

From this you can see, that what you call free will is something that is not consistent. It changes based on your mental health. Mental instability or illness, truly cripples your free will. And the healthier your frontal lobes are, the better you can take good decisions. And the most effective way to keep your frontal lobes healthy is to practice some kind of meditation.

So, you see, what you feel when you are angry or sad, or desperate, may not actually be the baseline emotional state of your individual mind. Taking that into consideration, you can take necessary precautions to prevent your angry outburst from ruining a certain relationship with another person. Now let’s look at one of the most significant thought experiments from What is Mind?, which actually depicts the real life benefit of the understanding of brain functioning. I named this thought experiment The PMDD Conundrum.

Excerpt 2, A Thought Experiment from What is Mind?

The PMDD Conundrum (Thought Experiment, What is Mind?, 2016)

Mental health influences your decision-making ability regardless of your experiences. However, experience is what makes you better at making the right decision in a given situation. Here the term right only refers to your subjective perspective of the choice. To explain how experience alters one’s free will,let’s carry out a little thought experiment in the context of two different scenarios.

CONTEXT 1

Imagine yourself to be layman with no notable awareness of biology. You start dating a woman planning a long-term relationship. Every month right before her period starts, she gets extremely cranky like all menstruating women. However, she tells you that she has a rare medical condition called Pre-Menstrual Dysphoric Disorder or PMDD, which is the extreme form of PMS. You have already heard all about women getting agitated during their PMS, so you think that it is just the same. However, in time things get real stressful. Every month during those days, she would turn into a completely different person. And one time, she gets so agitated that she bursts out – you are the worst decision of my life. Naturally, it feels beyond acceptable to you. You are a human after all.

You cannot ignore such behavior any more. You start perceiving every single insulting word from her mouth to be true. It seems that it is what she really feels. You start getting upset beyond tolerance. And after several of such intense insults from her during those days, you realize that you don’t deserve such nonsense. You have no practical idea of what PMDD really is, so you perceive the insulting and violent behavior of your woman to be extremely inappropriate. So, one day you simply go ahead and tell her – you are nothing but a psychopathic maniac who just likes to hurt people. I think it’s time we ended things. Here, due to the lack of deeper understanding of what PMDD really is, your lay brain makes a decision based on your limited perception and needs, that you need to end the relationship.

CONTEXT 2

Now let’s run the same experiment in a different context. Imagine yourself to be a person with a hobby of reading a lot of Science books, especially those connected to the mind. You like to learn new things. Now, you get into the same situation and the same circumstances as mentioned earlier. But, here when your girlfriend tells you about her condition after the first month of outburst in your relationship, you get really curious. Previously due to your curiosity you have already learnt about the basic biology behind PMS and how it affects the female psychology. So, hearing about PMDD, you don’t only feel responsible but also very intrigued to learn about it. You feel the urge to know how can such a cheerful person turn into a completely different human being, almost like a beast?

And as you start reading, everything begins to make sense. The first thing you realize is that, PMDD is nothing like the common PMS that almost every girl faces. It is the extremely violent form of PMS, which is very rare. Due to the intense hormonal storms of PMDD inside a woman’s head, her cognitive reality changes drastically during the pre-menstrual days. You start to realize what your woman has to go through every month, due to her condition. A man can never even imagine in his wildest dreams how such storm feels like.

PMDD leads to the worst of hormonal mood swings. Every month during these days she turns into a completely different person filled with hopelessness and gloom. As soon as the tides change she comes back to her real cheerful self. It is this condition which makes her say the things she would never say in a lucid mental state.

You begin to understand that for most women with PMS the hormonal changes are manageable, and they are able to somehow keep their agitation to themselves. But for your special lady, the story is different and quite unmanageable. Most weeks of the month she is brainy, creative, enthusiastic, cheerful and optimistic, but a mere shift in the hormonal flood on certain days makes her absolutely hopeless about the future, about herself, about your relationship and basically about everything that she can think of. On those days her inner instability forces her to hate herself as well as get irritated at every single action you take. And the most fascinating thing about her mental state during that time is that the hopelessness caused by hormonal imbalances feels so damn real to her that she literally perceives it as the everlasting reality of her life. The utter hormonal turbulence completely transforms her cognitive reality from a cheerful one to a gloomy one. It constructs an altered state of consciousness, in which she becomes a different personality filled with nothing but hatred and rage.

She becomes absolutely blind to all the cheerful moments of her life. And she gets so restless that she explodes with insulting words towards you. Over time, you learn that the best to do in this situation is to do nothing and just be there with her. And every time she gets cranky, you simply learn to remain patient and unaffected by her words. Every month, once the hormonal storm wears off, she comes back to her original sunny state. In time, you grow more attachment for her, and she even becomes fonder of you, because you are always there for her, even when she is mad as hell. Thus, you don’t ever feel to leave her, rather together you stay forever and beyond.

ANALYSIS

In both contexts, you had two available options to choose from – leave or stay. Yet, you made totally opposite decisions in exactly the same circumstances. The only thing that was different is your understanding and experience.

In the first context, you were a layman with a general view of the world. You perceived everything in a generalized manner, with no further need of your own to explore and have deeper understanding of a phenomenon. Hence, when it came to decide whether to leave or to stay in the relationship, your brain made the decision based on your generalized understanding of everything, and you willfully preferred to leave your woman in the pursuit of a better prize, with less crankiness.

In the second context, you had a better grip over natural phenomena. Moreover, you had the curiosity to understand things, in a better way than the general public. And your understanding allowed you to try seeing the world from your woman’s perspective. And the more you tried, the better you became at being next to her when she needed you the most and hated you at the same time. You got experienced at it.

Naturally, the thought of leaving her, never occurred in your mind. And even if it did, you brushed off as the spur of the moment. Because your PFC already had sufficient data on the situation to analyze and come up with a positive outcome. Your experience here served as the very foundation, of your willful support towards your woman.

Each emotional impulse, each thought, each behavioral expression, has a neurological basis. Understanding these bases can redefine how we look at a person, how we look at a certain behavior of that person, how we look at a certain emotional impulse or behavioral expression of ourselves, and then to choose whether or not to accept it as our usual characteristic. And this very looking can change how we see our lives, how we live our lives, and how we see the world which we live in. In this looking lies the true key to contentment. In this looking, lie precious jewels of graceful living.

 

 

Recommended Reading

What is Mind?, 2016

For Speaking Engagement Inquiry or Consultation Inquiry, email at naskarism@gmail.com

To be an original human, you must die

This piece is meant for all conscientious humans, except for those who call themselves fundamentalists. No scientist in the world has the capacity to turn a fundamentalist into a conscientious human, because they possess the worst form of broken minds. And we scientists do have the power to fix a little bit of brokenness of the mind, but not the brokenness of the fundamentalist. We do though have the ability to play God and make that brokenness go worse, and make that fundamentalism ineffective, without killing the host, but that would also mean killing the soul of an individual, which if we commit, would make us the same kind of sectarian barbarians as the fundamentalists and their loyal slaves – the holy warriors.

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The point is, even if a handful of scientists come together, we would easily outsmart and eliminate the so-called terrorism from the face of earth. But the scientific community has lost its original sense of responsibility. Innovators with resources and smartness, are more busy with pompous dreams of colonizing mars, while their own kind suffers on earth. If we really wanted, we could end terrorism once and forever, right at this very moment, but in reality, no one really cares – they only pretend to care! Those who have the sense of responsibility, do not have the resources, and the ones who have the resources are chasing their self-centered dreams. Seeing all this, what appears to me is the irony of being the smartest species on earth. We may be the smartest species on earth, which we undoubtedly are, yet at the same time, possessing all that smartness, we are also the most irresponsible species on earth, desperately chasing after instant gratifications. We are always running, from one gratification to another, never to really fathom the true beauty, value and gravitas of human existence.

And as for scientists, who are somewhat interested in religious issues harming the world, they are more obsessed with criticizing religion as a whole, than to go deeper into those issues and construct a solution. They are just plain old intellectuals discussing plans in a room, and going to the grave with those plans with them, with almost no practical impact upon the society. Religions, i.e. organized religions do indeed inflict harm to the world, not because fundamentalists bring out the worst of religion, rather because we the conscientious humans on the other side, don’t do anything of real significance above and beyond the petty old acts of criticisms. Criticisms are pure wastage of time and resources. Actions bring change, that change could be either good or bad. The holy warriors act on their dogmas, hence they are effective in bringing destruction upon the world – that destruction is nevertheless a substantial change, however, negative that may be. If only we the genuine humans had the real guts, and sense of real responsibility to act as the holy warriors on our own beliefs and ideals, then you wouldn’t see any trace of terrorism in the world whatsoever, religious or otherwise. The so-called holy warriors are driven by a cause, no matter how disgustingly barbarian that cause be. If only we the conscientious humans were as driven as them, by our urge for real peace and real harmony, then we could, for real, not in theory, live in a world of pure compassion and hatelessness.

Now here is the real question, that matters. Are you driven? You, the person in front of the screen. Are you driven enough to do something really original, really novel, and not just walk on the paths paved by your ancestors who were as narrow-minded and conditioned as you are. Can you break free from that condition? Or rather you should ask – why haven’t you broken free from those conditions? What prevents you to do so? Why do man-made labels matter and not human life? Why is it that, labels have gained more importance than the core values of a human being?

As a child, I truly believed that there was some blue alien-like god named vishnu looking after humanity, and when the time comes, another angry god, named shiva, would destroy everything, and then the god of creation with four heads, named brahma would create the world all over again. That’s what my environment conditioned me to believe. It wanted me to conform to its delusional thoughts and beliefs. But as I grew up, I discovered something rather remarkable. It was that, all those stories were mere means for an uncivilized and ignorant people to be content with their lack of real understanding of the world. These stories are mere delusions imposed upon the mind to stay cooped up in a ship-shape structure of illusive security. The whole world is filled with such stories. And once you conform to these stories, you start to live second-hands lives like your ancestors did, and my ancestors did. Fortunately, some are crazy and driven enough to tear apart all that conformity, and begin to live as original humans. Are you an original human? I am not judging you, neither should you. Simply ask without any prejudice.

To be an original human, you must die to all labels. This death brings the real vitality in life. Now one may ask, how can one achieve it? And there is the problem of the so-called modern humans. They all want somebody to tell them, how to achieve something. Here is a fact, calculus can be taught, quantum physics can be taught, molecular biology can be taught, but not freedom of mind. And why do you need a path in the first place? If there is a bottle labeled poison, on the shelf, you don’t just bring it down and drink the poison to know whether it will kill you. Likewise, once you really see the poisonous implications of the socio-culturally passed on labels, you simply tear them apart – throw them away as far as possible. Does one need to deceive oneself, to understand self-deception! If not, then why do you deceive yourself, by conforming to the social labels, be it a religious label, a non-religious label, a nationalist label, an intellectual label, or a gender label. You are a human – that’s it. And once you recognize the simple fact that labels only destroy the world and disrupt peace, you simply are no longer bothered with those labels and terms. And that’s the time that you are really born as an original human. An original human would never consciously hurt or kill another person, in the name of any book, institution, messiah or god. And this original living is real religion – it is not instructed by any book, by any institution, by any priest, prophet or messiah.

Why should any book have any authority over human life? Books are supposed to give a helping hand to humanity’s progress, not to instruct humanity how to progress. Plato wrote his books to help humanity understand knowledge and wisdom. Tolstoy wrote his books to help humanity understand morality. Einstein wrote his papers to help humanity understand the universe. Darwin wrote his books to help humanity understand the biological history of lifeforms. I write my books to unify humanity beyond all labels. But the point is, none of us ever said that our works are the ultimate measure for humanity to behave properly. None of us ever said that our books are the authority of human life and that only through us humanity can find salvation. Your life is a vehicle that is driven by you, and books can be the helper in the journey, but never the driver themselves. And the moment you let books to drive your existence, you inadvertently set yourself out on a course for imminent collision with other creatures whose lives are driven by their own books.

I must make it clear, I am not a teacher or a preacher or a messiah. I cannot teach you anything, for I know nothing. I have nothing to preach you either. I have only this one ultimate sense of responsibility to make you think, seeing all the disastrous incidents that are taking place in this world. Even before I was a scientist, I could not sit still and accept things as they were, so I thought being a monk would somehow solve the situation, since most prophets walked that path. Then as a monk, I experienced what the prophets experienced – I met God, I became one with God, I became God. But that’s the time when I really began to question the authenticity of such experience, and the significance of it in elevating conflicts and misery from this earth – an experience which apparently has been hailed throughout the world as the ultimate state of spiritual enlightenment. As I have stated in my book “The Film Testament”
“After I attained the Absolute Divine state of Unification with the Universe, I realized that the purpose of life is not renunciation of anything, but the realization of the purpose itself.”

These are all experiences that can happen to anyone, given either enough perseverance or enough hallucinogenics. But this experience does not in any world make a person an authority of humankind. Attaining god or nirvana or the so-called ultimate truth has nothing to do with everyday, ordinary, worldly problems. These worldly problems are to be solved by every single human being. These problems can only be really solved when you have freedom in your mind – freedom from all labels. And, you do not need to follow me or any other, in order to understand freedom or make it manifest yourself, because freedom does not come through me, or any other thinker, teacher or messiah. A human mind is born free, it is only the society that ties it up with the chains of bigotry, prejudices, biases and self-centrism.

Why do we need to hate anyone on earth, for whatever reason. What makes others lesser human than us! Nothing. To quote from my treatise on parenting
“No other being is lesser human than the one who thinks of others as such.”
So, if one thinks of others as lesser human, because one’s own so-called holy book says so, then that one is the real lesser human. And unfortunately this whole world is filled with these lesser humans. So, one wonders, how could we ever change this disastrous situation?

It begins with you, because from you a new generation of humans is to be born.You the human – the one being courageous enough to ask questions and not give in to conformities. If only you become free, then you, my dear sister or brother, will give a truly liberated family environment to your child, and that child will give the same free environment to his or her child – and it will go on, and eventually make the world filled with enough conscientious free original human souls to outweigh all the negativity of the remaining tiny portion of second-hand humans – the real lesser humans. Raise your kids and grand-kids not as strong men or strong women, not as good Christians, Jews, or Muslims, not as responsible Americans, Europeans or anything else, not as efficient professionals or smart academics, but as strong, good, responsible, efficient and wise human beings.

(Simultaneously published on Goodreads, Topbuzz & Medium)
Further Reading

Nature of Man, Nay Human! – New Talk

“Humans are not evil – humans are not good – humans are just humans – a unique combination of both good and bad.” – What is Mind

In this talk, Abhijit Naskar discusses the age-old question – what is the nature of man? He starts off with the correction of the very term “man” referring to humanity.

 

Further Reading
What is Mind?, 2016