Models R’ Us

Our model or view of the world is fundamentally constrained by the range of our sense organs. All the cool sensory devices we invented e.g. electron microscope, hubble telescope, spectroscope help expand the range of our sense organs. What we see guides what we do (and ought to do). Some times, what we do also influences what we choose to see.

Some people arrive at a philosophy of life from the many excellent choices that are already available. This is usually through trial and error dictated by vicissitudes of life and/or scholarship (logical reasoning). For example, you might conclude that Roman Stoicism is the most suitable philosophy for you and organise your life with a singular focus on cultivating tranquility of mind.

Some others make up one that fits their way of life.

The Scientific view seeks to understand the observable physical world (the objects and interactions among them) by discerning the underlying physical laws. Its main tools of trade are logical reasoning and the various sensory devices. The understanding derived is frequently used to manipulate the physical world around us to create the many conveniences and pleasures of modern life. Our demand for convenience (through material consumption) is a major economic driver behind Scientific activity. We want to consume more stuff, do stuff faster, travel faster, etc. The Scientific view of the world is an easier fit to a materialist.

It is rare to see a person losing interest in worldly objects as a result of their learning quantum physics. One could argue that understanding of atomic physics, chemistry and biology leads us to a view that everything after all, at some level, is just a sea of electrons and the apparent demarcation between You and I is the result of the limited range of the EM spectrum our eyes can perceive. Such knowledge could theoretically lead to a life of non-violence and less interest in worldly objects. How many such people do we come across?

Yoga philosophy has a different view of the world. Its objective is liberation and not manipulation of the physical world for convenience. Its model of the world is meant to guide the practitioner to a life of ever deepening renunciation. Its view may not be “correct” in the Scientific sense. For a Yogi embarked on the path of liberation, knowledge of atomic physics is unnecessary detail. The Yoga model of the world is probably sufficient for the purpose in hand. As the Stoics use “seeing things as they are” to be indifferent to material pleasures, understanding the world through Yogic lens leads one to cultivate discernment that avoids bondage to the worldly objects.

It is absurd to think that people did not have a fulfilling, meaningful lives thousands of years ago on the basis of the then state of Scientific knowledge. That would be like saying that you need to know how an internal combustion engine works in order to drive a car.

However, making up your own model of the world to suit your purpose is sensible only if it does not impose a cost on others. Yoga is an intensely personal practice. A Yogi is only interested in transforming his own mind and any benefits to the society at large are merely incidental!

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