Srini Chandra is one of the wisest and most compassionate people I know. I met Srini several years ago when he reached out to me to review his book 3 Lives in Search of Bliss. It’s a book I’ve read several times (we discuss it a little in the interview). I was struck by his knowledge of several religious traditions including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, and Judaism.
Over the years, Srini and I have grown to be friends even though I hadn’t spoken with him until a couple of months ago when he took my course on racism. He’s kept me humble and grounded as we discuss how the nature of the ultimate reality and how that plays into our day-to-day lives on all fronts.
This is part 1 of a 2 part discussion on these religious and wisdom traditions, the nature of science, who is man, why we are here, and what can we do to achieve bliss.
You can find more wisdom from Srini here:
Close your eyes and imagine
Brian Smith 0:45
Hey, everybody, this is a special interview with my friend Srini Chandra Srini and I have been friends for a long time we had a lot to talk about this interview went for a couple of hours. I know most people don’t like two hour long interviews. So I’m going to break this up into at least two parts. You could break it up as many, many parts as you want to. So this is part one. So go ahead and watch part one. Then after you’ve watched part one, I’m going to publish Part Two the next week if you happen to listen this record, you can watch part two right afterwards. But we have a very far ranging discussion, discussion about the nature of reality about science versus religion and philosophy, about materialism and about a number of other subjects. So hope you find this fascinating as I do. Go ahead and watch part one now and come back and watch part two later. Thanks.
Hey, everybody, this is Brian Smith back with another episode of grief to growth and today I’ve got with me my friend srini Chandra, and I hate to say this I feel like such an American I can’t even pronounce your last name. I’ve known you for like nine years. So say your full name for me streaming? Sure. It’s broken into two parts. It’s not as bad as it looks. Chandra is the easy part. sakera are you can you not think of it as shake and run shake? Run? Chandra Chandra sacred. Okay. And your and your first name is longer than 3d. Also, what’s your first name? My first name, the full first name is Srinivasan. Yeah, okay, cool. Any last Yeah, I feel like such an American, it’s terrible. I need to learn how to say your name, but we’re gonna call you srini for the purpose of the day. But I’ve been friends with srini. I was looking up the other day, I guess it’s been like nine years. And we met srini wrote an excellent book, I love this book. It’s called three lives and surplus. And he sent the book to me to review. And I did I’d never heard of srini. And it’s one it’s a short book. It’s about 150 pages. It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read. I I’ve read it again, over this week, I’ve read it like three or four times. So I want to talk about the book also as we as we have this conversation.
But the reason I’m having Srini on Today, Srini is one of the wisest people that I know. He’s one of the most compassionate people that I know, we’ve been friends on Facebook for a long time. It keeps me grounded. He’s a very well rounded person, I’m going to tell the story as to how he got to where he is, in terms of of his background. But we want to talk about today is the nature of we’re going to tie this nature blade, but I don’t think I want to change it, I want to call it the nature of reality. Because belief is important. But what we believe I think we kind of know we want to help people understand how to get to that point. So
ambitious agenda. We’ll see how it goes. But srini I’ve done a lot of talking, I want to say thank you. And welcome to Grief 2 Growth
Srini Chandra 4:28
Thank you, Brian, I want to thank you for this opportunity. I listened to your podcast regularly. This is I’m really honored to be I think it’s great quality stuff, work that you do. And I’m happy to be here
to tell folks a little bit about myself and not take too much time doing so. I was born in India, in the southern part of India on the East Coast, in a town called Chennai, it’s actually not a tiny little metropolis. Let’s meet a metropolis, very large city called Chennai. And as you pointed out, I was born in a Hindu family. My earliest memories are, you know, we had a large, extended family growing up among the folks. My memories of my grandparents are, you know, very vivid to this day. I went to school in Chennai, in an early kindergarten to high school. And I happen to study in India, we call them convent schools, they are schools run by Christian missionaries. So a big part of my formative experience was the going through an education system or school like that, and they were some of the kindest people. And I’ve known and once I graduated high school, I joined College in India. And I studied engineering, like every good Indian does or tries to do. Then, this is you’re talking late 80s, at this point. And at that point, the thing to do was to seek the land of opportunity, the land of milk and honey, United States of America. So it seemed very obvious at that point that I should head to the States. And so I applied for admission into Ohio State University, I came to Columbus, Ohio, very proud Buckeye, till this day, and got my master’s in engineering work for a few years went back to school. Don’t want to regurgitate my resume. But long story short, I spent more than 225 years at this point in the technology industry. And, and it’s been an interesting experience, because technology sort of shapes the way you look at life, a lot of things that we consider impossible become possible. And then you start thinking there are other possibilities to life, too. So it sort of spills over into your personal domain. That’s been a good experience, personal front, married, I have two daughters. They are grown now to my regret. But one of them is in college that just started her job. And we know at some point, I guess we will talk about it the when they were born, that that was a formative experience for me becoming a dad, circumstances under which they were born. There are some of these events that have shaped the way I looked at life. I like to describe myself very simply, as a seeker, I’m not anywhere close to being enlightened, I definitely on the path, I can feel it, I can feel that what I’m doing is working at some level, you know, I become very conscious of what I do, and what I say and my outlook towards life. And, and it’s been an effort, and definitely I can claim some credit for the effort. But we will see Time will tell where this leads me.
Brian Smith 7:49
Yeah, well, as I said earlier, you are one of the most grounded people I know. And you you actually talk me down a lot of times, so on Facebook, so I appreciate that. And you know, as I, I got to know you last week, we kind of got together we talked a little bit before we did this, and I got to know more of your story about your background, which I think is faster, because as I read, read your book, realize in search of bliss. I love how you wove your knowledge of Christianity, and Islam and Hinduism, all into the same fabric of that book. And I and so your your background, you know, you did go to this Christian school, but you were raised in a Hindu family, and they never really tried to convert you to Christianity, they just just taught you about it. So you’ve, you’ve got a deep understanding of all these faiths and how they intersect.
Srini Chandra 8:35
So I would say they were gracious enough to accommodate some inconvenient questions as a 10 year old, 15 year old as I went through Bible studies in school, I would ask some questions. And, and I’m happy to say that these days, they were very patient with some of these questions I and I like to think that that have that as a formative experience as well. I mean, they made all these seeds, I realized, in hindsight, all these seeds are planted by somebody or the other. But it’s a grandparent or a parent or a friend or teacher. And then they you know, they just grow and you know, without your knowledge, and one fine day, and you’re like, wait a minute, this plant was right there in front of me. And I haven’t noticed it. And it’s a beautiful thing that happens.
Brian Smith 9:20
It is it is as we get that perspective, as we get older we can see and how these seeds are planted. And that’s one things I try to make people conscious of now especially people have children, that you’re you’re planting these seeds, whether you know it or not, and they’re going to grow into some sort of tree at some point. So, um, so you had this formative experience of the religious background, the training in Christianity, the Hindu family, and then you were telling me your daughters come along. And so tell me that tell me how that shaped your life.
Srini Chandra 9:50
Yes, that I believe, was in some sense, an inflection point in my life. We’re talking late 90s my first daughter was born and when She was born, she was born two months early. She was a preemie as the as we call them. And I remember driving home from work, and I was in the supermarket and my wife called me and she said, I think they’re having a baby. And I said, What babies do until two months later. So the next thing, you know, we know we’re driving towards the hospital, and three hours later she was born. And the startling thing about that was the first time that, you know, it was a bit traumatic, to be honest with you being there and watching the baby be born for a few seconds there. When I saw her, she looked perfectly healthy. No fine, baby, except she was tiny. I think, you know, she was like, half the weight that babies are normally, you know, born at. And but she looked like, I had not seen a newborn baby for Hannah. And that, to me, she looked fine. And then they took her to the intensive care. And I remember the words of the nurse, when they go off to the intensive care my wife had, was anxious. And I was standing outside in the corridor, and the nurse turned to me and said, Son, take it one day at a time. And I had no idea what you mean, I thought, What would she talking about? Everything looks fine to me. But apparently, the history of premiums is like you can’t tell, you know, if things can go up and down. And then that’s, I guess, she was trying to be nice and kind and alert me. The thing about that experience was, you know, at that point, I was working in the technology industry, I was running a major product line, and I was not I felt like I had I was in control of my life. And things were going great. And, and some suddenly something like this happens. And I at that moment, I realized I mean, not in that in that in that timeframe frame, I realized that we do really have control over the things that we care about, that are truly important to us. I had every bit of control over in how I was going to launch this product, who was going to buy it, what is going to go into it. All these details, gave me the sense of power over the world. But then I had no absolutely no control over the trajectory, my daughter’s life is gonna take it, structuring it, like somebody was loading the boom on me, I remember sitting there in the parking lot on a call with some of my colleagues and thinking what is going on here. And, and it sparked.
It sparked a journey. I you know, I you know it, I started thinking, oh, there is there is a lot more to life than you know what I’m making it out to be. And so it’s not like I completely abandoned, you know, my career and myself. Those are important. But I felt there’s something more here. So it started a journey of just simply knowing what people have said, I felt completely ill equipped to make up my own, you know, theories. I said, let me start with what you know, other people have said, you know, we read the Bible, which I’d studied in high school, I reread some of the Scriptures my grandfather had taught me, I read the Quran. I haven’t read a whole lot of Judaism, but and I remember speaking to a couple of Jewish friends, you know, who talk to me about the religion? And what is it? Right, what is what is going on. So that journey started, I think I’d say that. And when my second daughter was born, same thing happened. Three years later, she was born two months ago, the little I was a little more prepared. I mean, my wife and I were a little more prepared. Yeah. So but that that was a that I would say that was a good in hindsight, a good moment in life, something that could have been
not necessarily good.
Brian Smith 13:40
You know, it’s interesting, as you’re telling that I’m thinking, you know, we have these formative moments in life. And for most of us, it seems like it takes trauma to wake us up, you know, it takes a cancer diagnosis or death or something like that. But it doesn’t have to, you know, I can take a moment like a daughter being born and, and my life changed when my daughter was born, you know, just to kind of echo what you said, You know, I remember them giving me this baby to leave the hospital. And I’m like, Where’s the instruction manual, you know, and I went to put her in the car, and I was putting the car seat in backwards because they have to face backwards at first. And,
Unknown Speaker 14:12
you know, I
Brian Smith 14:13
knew it, but I was just so nervous. My wife and I get home and we look at it, we’re like, Did I just take this baby home? What are we going to do with this baby for the next, you know, number of years. And for me, I was raised as a Christian. And I was raised with this guy who was angry, and I was told about Original Sin, I was told about, you know, hell and separation and damnation and all that stuff. And I remember I never liked it, I was pushed back against it and never made any sense to me. But my daughter was born, I looked at her and I said, you know, they told me that God loves me more than I could ever love anybody even more than I love my daughter. And I said, if that’s true, then the guy they told me about is a lie. That guy could not exist because I could never condemn my daughter, you know, not even for a moment, let alone for an eternity. So those those moments You know, that’s something we have in common that, that thing when we have that baby, we bring them home, and we look at them, and we know that love, but also the the awesome, just tremendous fear. Because we know that it’s, it’s out of our control that that child walk around the world, the most important thing to us is the one thing that we have no control over
Srini Chandra 15:21
the health of our loved ones, health of our own cells, is possibly the greatest wealth that we can have. Yeah, and we don’t have any control over it. And I think that’s a very humbling thought.
Brian Smith 15:32
Yeah, absolutely. 100%. So that’s a little bit about who you and I are, will kind of be that as we go through it. So let’s talk about Eastern wisdom, you’ve got a YouTube channel, where you do some basic Eastern wisdom, and I’ve been following it, and I’ve loved it, and I’ve learned a lot about it. So let’s just kind of lay a foundation, let’s take about 10 minutes or so and go through it. Real general outline.
Srini Chandra 15:57
Sure, sounds good. The, you know, I have prepared some notes to sort of kick this off. And the there are, I would say, five major religions today in the world. And a sixth one that is much smaller, possibly people haven’t heard of it. They are Judaism, Christianity, and Islam on one side, and then we have Buddhism, Hinduism. And there’s a third one called Jainism in India, people outside of India may or may not have heard of it. But it’s very much a, an Ancient Faith, practice very diligently by a large number of people. When we look at this, and there are several other faiths, I don’t mean to discount any of them. But these are what I would consider the big religions of the world. There are creeds and beliefs in China, which, which aren’t quite religious in nature. So we will leave those aside for the moment. If you look at these six, the pattern here is like, you know, you see two broad highways intelligence. And these are, you know, look at Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, they were born in the Middle East, and the other three were born in India. And so this group of people a few 1000 years back, they started some things. And it’s interesting to see the paths they took. So I look at it as two broad highways in religion, the first highway is God oriented approach. And the people in the Middle East, you know, took that approach. And the most dominant question for them was, there is a God, there is a higher being and what is discard? What is the nature of this God? And how do I reach this God? I mean, those were the questions, it’s not to say that they were not introspective, but they spent a large amount of their time figuring these questions out. And, you know, from from these questions came, you know, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, I look at them as very God centric, fits on the east, and roughly around the same time, we are talking about 500 600 bc and Judaism, you know, some of the parts of the Old Testament are written Judaism is happening in the Middle East, roughly around the same time, you have the philosopher’s in India, the Buddha shows up around 600 bc to give give folks a rough sense of the timeframe and understand you know, this is completely different attitude in India. The attitude is, yes, there must be no there is also this belief in God in the in the land at the moment. But the philosophers, you know, say, Wait, there is something called a god, I can sort of sense it, but I have no definitive proof for such a being. And I’m finding it really hard to discover this being I don’t see any evidence of, you know, that person or thing in this world. And they say, the only thing I know for a fact is that I exist. And, you know, I have this being and I exist, and I, you know, there is something I’m doing, and there is some experience that I’m having, let me explore this experience. So this I call the self oriented approach, the, the sort of the examination of the self. And when you look at Buddhism, the Buddha, or the Jainism, was founded by a sage called Mahavira. People in India familiar with Mahavira. So these two folks, they were introspective philosophers, so they said, Who am I? That is the question they asked, you know, am I the mind, am I the body, and you know, quickly, they started eliminating possibilities. And they came to a certain truth about the nature of the self, that the self does not exist. It’s a big statement to make. And so those are the two religions that, you know, focused on the self oriented approach. And they largely discounted God in the scheme of things. They said, Go on this path, see where it takes you. You will get all the answers. And then on the other side, you had folks saying, you know, just believe in God, you will find all the answers and both of them are right. And then you have Hinduism. It is the granddaddy of them all in at least in India. And the Hindu philosophers said and asked the same questions. I think what is unique about Hinduism is it has theistic traditions. There is a very strong belief in God, like monotheism, like Judaism and Christianity and Islam. There is also a strong streak of inner exploration, leading to what I would what we call monism, or non dualism, there is this formless, indescribable entity being, and that is described as God, there’s a parallel stream of thought. So illusion is unique in the way it sort of marries the ideas of a,
a material in a describable, tangible God, you know, God looks like us, like, you know, God has a face and body and legs. So that’s the one description of God. And there is this other part that says the God is simply an indescribable inner being. And that language is you know, strikingly similar. When you compare some of the descriptions of God and Judaism, in Islam, with some of the language in the ancient Indian literature about this formless God, you can see that they seem to have had similar experiences in this in their in their explorations. So that is, to give a context of how these are set up. If you look specifically at Buddhism, I would think, you know, Buddhism and Hinduism are possibly the most influential streams of thought, today. And so when you look at Buddha like that, it’s nice to understand the context in which Buddha came, the Buddha comes into India at a time when there are two extremely strong and competing forces in play. One is this materialistic lifestyle, believe it or not, we’re talking 600 BC, they are the strong materialist group. And these folks said, you guys are overanalyzing things, there is nothing to it. When we die, the lights go out. And that’s all there is to it. somehow, somewhere life started. And the only goal of life is the pursuit of pleasure. They were hedonists. And so there was this thing. And there are a lot of takers, as you can understand for that moment, at that time, and it was a prosperous country at that time. So there’s all these things sort of playing to play into it. And then on the other side, you have these philosophers in India, who said, the body and the mind are not the ultimate realities, there’s something beyond and to prove that they suggest subjected the body to the extreme and severe, you know, hardships. So you would have these guys going off the mountain sitting in caves, and you know, starving themselves. And so these are the two options and the story of how Buddha got started on this journey. I think everybody knows, he’s born a prince. And now he looks around and he sees suffering. And he says, I need to find out what’s going on. And he leaves his house and he goes, and he does not, you know, like the materialist approach is very clearly because he like so well, he comes from, he said, That’s not it. And I’m gonna go with the Yogi’s, as we call them, the guys were the caves. And so he follows him around and subjects himself with the greatest austerity, there is a description of Buddha where his stomach is so thin that he can see his spine. And then he, you know, says no, this is not it either. You know, this is it does not take him anywhere. Yeah, he chooses this thing called the middle path. Yeah. But he said, it’s can’t be that it can’t be this, it’s got to be something moderate. The interesting thing about Buddhism is a it’s a very serious religion. I, in my opinion, having a possibly the most serious one out of them all. The middle part of Buddha is not quite moderate, it’s quite severe. In the modern context, back then, probably it was the middle of that. So the Buddha looks at everything he says, you know, there are these people who talk about God, then yeah, and then he comes up with this middle path, where he simply describes the world as a interconnected network of realities. Now, there is this there is something called matter and there is something called consciousness and these two things are reacting in a connected and they lead to something called this creation, right? And he said, there is no that is all there is to it, there is nothing more. And so he prescribes, you know, I think the most profound observation of Buddha The reason I say Buddhism is very serious, is it’s the first statement that the Buddha makes, after he comes out of his enlightenment, enlightened state, in the state of meditation. The first lecture that he gives to his not one small group of people who gather around him is everything is suffering, all of suffering. He says, this world fundamentally starts from a place of suffering. It’s a strong statement to make, and you have to buy into that to be a practicing good Buddhist, and then it gets a lot better from there. It seems dark and gloomy, but it’s actually a religion of great
There is a story of the Buddha when he got out of his trance, and he decided to get some water to drink, because thought was parch. So he’s walking through this field and he’s this little boy who’s working in the field who sees the Buddha. And he turned to the Buddha gives him some water. And he says, What are you? Many people in this world are asked Who are you? The Buddha, you know, are the few people who was asked, What are you because he was that this shining, resplendent be now it is pure happiness. So it is a religion of great happiness, it’s got a very positive message that suffering actually can be overcome. That is the teaching of the Buddha. And there are a lot of these techniques that he taught to folks. And but it’s not for the faint of heart, I think, in my opinion, right? Yeah. And then you have Hinduism, the Vedanta, I think the difference between the philosophy of Hinduism and Buddhism is not much the Buddha said, there is no ultimate reality, there is no such thing as itself, become and we go, and we know we understand to live in the cycles of life, growing old, dying, and then being reborn. So, you know, how do we get out of this cycle and he prescribed certain formulas. And he said that that that is that is that is what the one’s goal must be to attain this state of happiness. The Hindus went a little further, they said, something cannot come out of nothing. Clearly, there is a world around me, right? You may describe it as false or illusory, but it’s there. So what is it that is causing that? Right? And they said, the key to that is consciousness. So you know, we can talk more about that. But they said that is the ultimate reality. Yeah, there is the god, this there is this being and we call it God today, they call it Brahman, in back in the day in Sanskrit. And this being is the nature of this being as consciousness, and consciousness is something that activates this world.
Brian Smith 26:56
I want to ask you a couple of questions. As you’re going through that one is the Buddha, the Buddha was Hindu, right? Was it so Hindu as a predict? So I kind of think of Buddha almost as like Jesus coming into Judaism. And I don’t think he meant to create a religion. He just said, this is the way I see things. And then there was a branch that so that somebody made sure understood that history. The other thing is you can I comment on that? For sure. So yeah,
Srini Chandra 27:21
yeah. So the it’s an excellent observation that he made, the Buddha was born Hindu. And he was born a prince, you know, he, you know, he was well off when he was born Royal Prince. So then he comes out, and is an entire Legoland of his, you know, from, like exploratory years or the suffering, he understands. Buddha spoken extensively about the nature of suffering. And so he’s How do I get rid of this for myself, you know, if I can do this for myself, maybe I can help others. So Buddha comes in directly challenges Hinduism. Now, Hinduism, at least at that point is a ritualistic religion, they’ve got this idea of Atman, or this eternal self, and they have Brahman, and like the godhood, and, you know, there’s these other gods that they worshipped. And none of that is true, he rejected all of them. And to their credit, the people of the day, you know, the culturally It was such that the people when they saw good ideas, at that time, they simply took them up, they saw the, you know, they saw the idea was superior. The it was the it was the Nate the culture at that time, to simply take the better idea. And all the older faiths would simply not re configure themselves to be compatible with it. Yeah, and that is a beautiful thing. Because the the contrast between Buddha, Jesus Christ, as you know, you know, it’s kind of there is some there’s something there that Jesus Christ did the same thing. He came in directly challenge Judaism, and he was crucified for his troubles. So I think there’s a lesson for us in the modern world, that I’m not necessarily implying anything negative about Judaism. But it was the culture of the day and there is a lesson there, then that you know, when good ideas come along, it works out well for us to consider them and actually adapt ourselves. Right.
We’ll get back to grief to growth in just a few seconds. Did you know that Brian is an author and a life coach. If you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving his book, grief to growth is a best selling easy to read book that might help you or someone you know, people work with Brian as a life coach to break through barriers and live their best lives. You can find out more about Brian and what he offers at www grief to growth.com www dot g ri e f the number two, gr o w th comm or text growth gr o w th 231996. If you’d like to support this podcast visit www.patreon.com slash grief to growth www.pa t ar e yo n.com slash g ri e f the number two gr o W th to make a financial contribution. And now back to grief to growth.
Srini Chandra 30:07
You don’t and if it’s a bad idea, we have nothing to worry about because bad ideas we’ve seen in history just go away. good ideas will never die, right? Yeah. No, it’s I think something that we can take comfort from.
Brian Smith 30:18
I love that. I love that observation. The other question I went ahead for you about Hinduism, I studied it a little bit. And so Brahman is, should we consider Brahman being or Ivonne Brahman is almost just a potential or what things come out of, but do the Hindus view him as being? No. Okay,
Srini Chandra 30:40
that’s what I’m on is not even a concept. So the, the the literature says Brahman is something that cannot be described, right? Like, if it’s a if there is something that can be described by language, by definition, it can be objectified. I call a flower, a flower, because there is something an object, I’m a subject, I’m an observer, I can see something. And so Brahman does not fall into any of those categories. The number does not have a name, or a form. The easiest way to I guess understand Brahman is like, you know, we have this concept of fields. Yes. Right? Like you said, right? So in quantum mechanics, you have this field, and you know, something comes out of this field, a particle like an electron, right? So Brahman has this field, and the attributes of the human are no attributes, as if you take everything in the world, and put it all in one place. You know, the good is going to mix with the bad and there’s going to be, what do you call something that is perfectly good and perfectly bad? And you know, you meld them, there’s nothing, they just negate each other, right? So the all the opposites when they come together, there is nothing in some sense, like in terms of attributes, but there is something that one thing so the Hindus call it there is one thing, it’s a substratum. It is a ground on which reality exists. Yes. So Brahman is a thing or a field of possibilities. You know, they liken it to an ocean, where there are waves on the ocean, right? So the the nature of this phenomenon are three, three attributes. One is existence. So Brahma does not exist. brainless existence itself. Yes. You know, Brahman is not conscious. Burman is consciousness itself. So maybe we can look at it as a field with some properties. Yeah. And even that does the whole thing. This is to be honest,
Brian Smith 32:30
I think it’s such a brilliant observation that we think about how ancient that is. And there’s a Christian theologian Paul Tillich called God the ground of all being. And you know, and even science is kind of get we’re kind of getting ahead. I’m gonna jump ahead a little bit right here and talk about science. But science is starting to understand that there was this potential mean, one time, we were told there was a singularity that everything came out of, which makes no sense because we’re the singularity came from come from, but there’s this potential. And so as I was, as I was looking at that, and I watched this beginning thing on Hinduism, like these guys knew this a long time ago, a very, very long time ago,
Srini Chandra 33:07
it’s mind blowing, you’re talking several 1000s of years old in ideas here. And some of these ideas 10,000 years old, because some of the Hindu scriptures are, you know, they’re passed on verbally, or written records are about three 4000 years old. And they were passed on for, you know, several 1000 years, by word of mouth. And these were like cow herds, or, you know, they were like, wandering around in the mountains of in Central Asia. And they found their way into India. And, and it’s mind blowing, to see that such an idea came about.
Brian Smith 33:41
Yeah, and the other thing, and I want to make sure that I’ve got this correct, because I guess I don’t know a lot about this. So it’s good to ask you, because my understanding is Brahman, this this potential, this field, whatever, that’s also Atman. That’s, that’s, that’s all inside of all of us. So this idea that we and God are one and are the same, as again, that’s a new concept for me, but it’s something that Hindus have known for forever.
Srini Chandra 34:05
Yes. So yes, so the this comes from school of philosophy in Hinduism called Vedanta. And that is what my youtube channel is about. And I feel like there are some very exhilarating truths there. I don’t know what it’s going to do for people practically I don’t think it’s going to make somebody a better physicist or an engineer or marketing or whatever person but there is some very, you know, entirely goodness that comes out of sort of seeing the world a certain way. And that’s what Vedanta does and what the central teaching of Vedanta is that our true self is divine. Yeah. The self is the word used is Atman. And divine part is Brahman. Atman equals Brahman is the equation in Vedanta. And why is it so it’s a there’s a long explanation for it. We can if we have time, we can get into it. But the It essentially arises from saying that, as beings, we experience this world only in our consciousness. That is the only reality that we have, that we know of, which is to say, none of us have actually stepped into the world, and verified. In it, when I see a flower, the flower doesn’t physically enter my eye, or there is no physical, there is no merger of physical entities here, I see something, and it creates an experience in my brain. We think it’s the brain. And then it’s in our consciousness. And so what is it that creates this experience is the question they asked. And they said, it’s consciousness. And the way they categorized it in terms of the hierarchy, they said, consciousness is the root, everything else is an experience, even your brain, the your, your perception that you have a brain is an experience. So you know, so it’s a very deep philosophy. So they sit at the root of it is the consciousness that in yours in a personal whatever is causing your personal subjective experience that is optimal. And where does consciousness come from? It comes from this Brahman, which is the source of all consciousness. And the beauty of the punchline is, it’s all the same. Yeah, you and me and like nothing else, like, you know, it’s all being animated by the same, you know, force or energy or whatever the word that you want to call it. Yeah, there’s
Brian Smith 36:21
a guy. And I think, you know, Bernardo Castro, who, who is a philosopher and a computer sciences, brilliant, brilliant man. I mean, this guy’s got PhDs in computer science and philosophy. But so he’s got this idea of idealism. And so I was reading his books and studied that and interviewed him. I’m like, this is Hinduism. I mean, this is this is the and so the way he describes it is, and he has several metaphors, but one is like, we’re like ripples, you know, in the stream. And so when the stream for a whirlpool, when a stream forms a whirlpool, that’s kind of how we are, but we’re still part of the stream, we can’t be separated from it. We just have this self reflective thing where we feel like we’re separate. And I was. So you were saying, I don’t know how this really impact people. Practically, I was talking with someone yesterday. This is why I look at people now. And it’s person was saying, I feel separated from God. They’ve had a tragedy in their life. And so I feel separate, I felt I felt disconnected. And I said, you feel disconnected? I understand that. That’s the feeling is, is your real feelings are always real. But you’re not because you can’t be because I look at I look at you and I look at her. And I see God, I see. And I’m like, and it’s a blasphemous thing in Christianity to say that I’m God. Yes. But in Hinduism, it’s, it’s just reality, it is reality.
Srini Chandra 37:35
So Hinduism, yes, it is not at all blasphemous to say that I am God in Hinduism. And it is, it is not considered to be an inferior way of thinking to say that there is a God that is separate from me either. We are fine with everything. And there is there is this notion. So we are sort of getting into this nature of truth. If you want to talk about Yeah, there is there is this notion of truth in eastern wisdom, I would attribute it all of the Eastern religions. And I think we find that in the in the in the Middle Eastern religions, too. But they are suppressed. That’s all. I think they have been said, they have all been said, by all people. Yes. It just said what we, you know, gave play to over the years. The notion of truth is that we progress from one through to another. And they’re all true, even if they conflict with one another. It’s a it’s a, it’s sort of what Einstein said. Einstein said, you know, genius is the ability to hold two conflicting beliefs in one’s mind at the same time, right? Yeah. So it’s very hard for us to wrap our minds around it, but that that’s what they said. They said, there is this truth. You believe in it today. And tomorrow, you will discover another truth. And that truth will conflict with this and both are true. But the moment you see a higher truth, the lower truth sort of dies. Yeah, but it’s still true for others.
Brian Smith 38:58
Yeah. The kind of nested within each other. Yeah, right. Right.
Srini Chandra 39:01
So the the den the den, the journey becomes like the pursuit of the highest truth. And the highest truth is that of the Brahman according to the Hindu philosophy. So then we have this lower truths, right of karma, for example, isn’t a good example. So we have all these truths that we do in order to transact and engage with the world. You call them morals? Yeah. Right. And they are in the context of space and time and I’m in California, there’s a certain truth in this and I’m in Ohio, maybe there’s a different truth and India, in Africa, everybody, you know, there’s a context to truth. And they’re all true. That is the thing. So they describe them as sort of like steps on the ladder. Yeah, you climb up the ladder. Who’s gonna know who’s gonna say that the lowest of the ladder is less important than the highest? There is no such thing. Right? You cannot get to the next step without the one before it. Yeah. So would anybody want to have a ladder with just the top step? No. Right? Right. all equal. So there’s I think the attitude of looking at one as inferior. Superior is, you know, it’s not doesn’t work, because they’re all needed, right for us to get some.
Brian Smith 40:11
Yeah, and you know, and it’s true. So let’s just step back a little bit, because we got really deep in the eastern stuff, because I love it. But let’s, we’re going to cover Judaism and Christianity and Islam just real quickly. So my background is Christianity. And the thing about all of these faiths, probably even Hinduism, Buddhism, they’re different branches. So we’re doing real high general overview. So if somebody says, Well, that’s not the way I was taught that, that’s fine, because they’re, there are several 1000, literally Christian denominations, but from, you know, from a high level point of view, you know, we have Judaism that Abraham Abrahamic faiths, right, they all came from the same thing. They’re, they’re all based on the Jewish when the Jewish people became a people, and Abraham, and then the, what we call the Old Testament Christians, which is offensive, it’s Hebrew Scriptures, the Hebrew Scriptures that are part of the procard, BB Bible, then we get the New Testament, and then you’ve got Islam that came and built even on that. And they’re all based on this idea that they looked at the people around them, and they said, we’re not going to be like them. These people are pagans, they have multiple guides, we’re going to worship the one God and therefore there are no other gods, you know, don’t have any other gods before me. This guide we see develop from a angry tribal war, like God, and in Hebrew Scriptures, to Jesus comes along and gives us another version of God. And Mohammed comes along and gives us even a little bit maybe more enlightened version of guidance. I know, that hurts some people’s Western ears, to think that Islam might be more developed in Christianity, but it did come later. And people are evolving. And there are some beautiful, beautiful aspects of Islam, which we can maybe talk about a little bit. But as you said, at the beginning, you know, our, our faiths are more like focused on God and, and the tribe, you know, how do I fit into the tribe, not so much reflective of internally. And as a young boy, when I was taught about the Eastern religions, I was taught, and we’re all taught, you know, stereotypes about other religions, because they’re trying to indoctrinated against. So Buddhism is all navel gazing. It’s all about yourself. It’s all about, it’s a very selfish religion, it’s not about giving back to the world. It’s about improving yourself and trying to escape, you know, the world. So that’s, that’s kind of the thing that we were given, because we’re taught everybody around us more important you are, I mean, this is I taught in Sunday school, there was an acronym, they told us, Jesus others and you, you serve Jesus first, then you serve others, and then maybe if there’s anything left over, you take care of yourself. So that’s just my real quick overview. So what are your thoughts on on the three phase?
Srini Chandra 42:44
I, the way I see this, there are pros and cons. So when you take the guard centric approach, which is what Christianity and Judaism and Islam do, personally speaking, the biggest challenge I have, and I think most people have is, we find it very hard to believe. It’s not easy to believe in God. We like to think we believe in God, you know, we pray, we chant, you know, but there is this question in the back of my mind, is that, you know, is this really true, right, and we just can’t seem to get rid of, you know, most of us might spend our entire lifetime not being able to get rid of that doubt, it is not a lack of desire, it is it is there. It is, sometimes due to the nature of our being. But there are some people who are very naturally inclined to do that. And they do that effortlessly. They do I’ve seen people, you know, my parents are a good example of that my wife is a good example. They effortlessly believe in God and gives them great peace. And you know, for some of us don’t have that capacity.
The beauty of the god approaches is very simple. You don’t need to, you know, learn complicated stuff, you don’t need philosophy. It’s pure intent, believe in God, and it will take you to a state of peace. I think that that’s the beauty of the approach. The the self oriented approaches, it looks easier, but it’s not, you know, it’s equally hard, because it requires a lot of discipline, you have to learn, you have to have a teachers, you know, they have to teach you stuff, you have to respect the teachers. And then you have to learn what they have told you and you have to practice them. It’s a it’s a long process. It’s challenging, but the beauty of that approach is you don’t have to believe in anything when you start, right. So I think the I would say integrify if I compare the world religions it is they are all there depending on what kind of person we are
at the fee and sort of understand, okay, this works for me or that doesn’t work for me, it comes a little easier for us. You know, we don’t have to necessarily all believe in God to start with, right and find those who believe in God or not crazy people. You know, so that I think that the understanding of that when that comes in, then it becomes about what works for me. So I think that that’s the way I see it, I think there are these paths. And yeah, and then you might jump from one to the other. Because as you become a little more capable of doing certain things, I find myself, you know, practicing creep a lot these days. It’s just somehow I seem to have acquired some muscle and capacity to, to understand this being called God, and it gives me great happiness. I mean, there’s no name or you know, anything attached to this thing. But this idea of divinity gives me great happiness. Yeah, I
Brian Smith 45:34
think that’s, yeah, that’s great. I think it’s a really good overview. And I think you’re right, there’s, there’s beauty in both, and they can both be true. You know, there’s, there’s so many paradoxes in our world, in our in our universe. And we’re very much again, Western philosophy, science has kind of taught us this. It’s either or, you know, one is right, the other is wrong. But you know, it’s interesting, because we’ve discovered, like, the nature of light, for example, is light a particle or a wave? Yes. You know, it’s both, and it depends on how you look at it. Right? So that’s, that’s a concrete example of something in our world, and we would we, so when we say, well, it’s got to be there is a guide, or there’s not a guide, you know, it’s one or the other. Well, now, it kind of depends on how you look at it. And I was talking with the client yesterday, and she said, one of the things I want you to help me do is figure out like, who my god is now, and I’m like, That Could take the rest of our lives because I don’t know, you know, when people say to me, do you believe in God, I’m like, especially with atheists. I’m like, Well, yes. And no, which guy? Do you know which god are you talking about? I’m talking about the big white guy on the throne that judges us and controls the world like a puppet master. I’m like, now, I don’t I don’t believe in that guy. But do I believe in divinity? Do I believe in consciousness? Do I believe in Brahman? Yeah, absolutely. 100%? I mean, how could you not? How could you be here? If you don’t?
Srini Chandra 46:53
Yes. But it’s a journey. I, you know, that not there are not a lot of takers. Either. There are a lot of takers for a guard, who, which is a tangible, God. You know, as somebody who created this world, and with some purpose and intent and things like that. The, the way I sort of understood it is, you know, I’ve, I’ve seen questions on Reddit, or like, even on my YouTube channel, like, you know, how do I become a Hindu? And usually, it’s obviously not a Hindu who’s asking this question. So it’s a Christian or somebody else, right? My belief on that, and I don’t, I haven’t expressed it publicly. My belief on that is, you don’t have to, you know, you’re born in a certain faith, like, now you’re a Christian, or Muslim, or Hindu or whatever. And you actually have the advantage of having sort of grown in a certain culture, double down on it, it’s gonna be a very sincere Christian, meaning like, you don’t have to listen to what other Christians are telling you, you figure it out for yourself. If you double down on it, and you become a very good Christian, it will take you to wherever it will take, it’ll either take you to the Buddha, it might leave you with Jesus, it might even take you to the Bahamas, whatever it is, let the journey you know, be, but you know, you have to have a starting point. And practically speaking, the best starting point may be the one we’re most familiar with. And all these truths are valid, so there is no need to know. And if once we evolved, and we see something that is better, you can marry all these together. So right, yeah,
Brian Smith 48:29
well, you know, it’s interesting, as you say that because there was a time I thought about converting to Judaism, because I again, I was raised in the church. And I’m like, this makes more sense to me. So I was thinking about converting the thing about what you just said, is like, what a rabbi will tell you, if you go to him and say you want to convert, they’ll say don’t, they will talk you out of it, they’ll say do not convert to Judaism, you don’t need to the thing about one of the things about the Christian faith, again, the particular sect that I was brought up in is we had to bring people in because you had to be a Christian to be saved. But with a faith like Hinduism, or Judaism, where you don’t have that, that requirement, you’re like, just stay on the path you’re on. And for myself, I didn’t intentionally ever leave Christianity, but I just kept getting so far away from what I was taught that I don’t use that label anymore. And one of the earliest things for me just just kind of came to me just I don’t know, kind of intuitively I guess, was when I die and go to heaven. I don’t think I’m gonna see God. And we have this image of there’s gonna be a guy on the throne. I’m like, I don’t think there is a guy on the throne. I don’t think that I don’t it just to me. So when I heard about the idea of a Brahman, it was like, that makes more sense to me. I don’t I don’t think there’s a being to be seen. There’s no ultimate being there’s not a throne room where God sets that just, yeah, yeah,
Srini Chandra 49:45
I agree. I felt to me ramen makes complete sets. Personally, right? When I see somebody worshiping Jesus Christ or Krishna or Allah. I The way I see it is in all of them. Need some sort of a ritual, or a supplement, or some mechanism to sort of assure us that we are on the path? And if we add the moment, we feel like we don’t need it, and we are still somehow able to maintain a certain way of life, then we are good. Until then, you know, I think these are not necessarily, you know, bad things like, these are low, lower truth, higher truth, whatever you want to call them. There’s different types of truth. And it’s not. It’s one of the steps the ladder. And yeah, so, you know, I agree with you that there are all these ideas of God. And, you know, I think we, the practical advice would be pick the one that appeals the most to you. Yeah. And just be very sincere about it. It’s very hard to be sincere. I mean, I’m speaking from personal experience, I can talk a number of things, push comes to shove, how does it show up in my life? That is the that is the thing, belief has to convert into practice. And that is, if we focus on that part of the practice part. Even if it’s a it’s a lower belief or a wrong belief, or whatever it is, it will lead to good. Take us to a good place. Yeah, that is the discipline will force us in the right direction. I think we had to trust that process. And if we trust the process, I think we will be okay. That’s that’s sort of what I, in my opinion.
Brian Smith 51:22
Yeah. No, I think I, you know, I agree with you. And I don’t and it’s interesting, as I you know, as we talked earlier about how our lives we have these formative things that come in our lives, and then we and then we see a higher truth or different truth, it’s a and you know, it could blow our minds or I was I remember very vividly I was I was young earth, Christian, I believe that the Earth was five or 6000 years old, and I’m a scientist but, and I ran into these guys, Ken Ham. And I can’t read the other guy’s name. But the young Earth Guide to the Creation Museum, it’s not too far from here in Kentucky. And they were explaining how the earth is only 6000 years old. So I bought into the whole thing. And I’m out there preaching this whole thing. And then one day, I read a book that explained how the book of Genesis was really talking, but more like epochs or ages, not days, and how the earth was formed. And I remember looking up from that book, and the world just looked different. To me, everything was just like different. And God just became so much bigger, because I’m like, God didn’t create the earth in six days. That’s a magic trick. God created the earth and billions of years. That’s patience. That’s, that shows how large you know how big God is now, how patient and timeless so the earth became actually even more magical to me, when I when I embrace that truth, but I can still read the book of Genesis and say, from a mythological level, there’s a lot of wisdom in the book of Genesis, when we can start to learn to read it that way. I agree.
Srini Chandra 52:43
And and conversely, I would I would take issue with a piece, when I look at militant atheists like Richard Dawkins, or Christopher Hitchens, I used to, you know, be a very avid consumer of what they, I was very interested, because these guys are, you know, smart people. And I felt like they cannot be ignored. And I think the biggest I find the biggest issue I had with, I actually was a practicing atheist for some time, I tried that too. The, the issue I had with the whole theory of atheism, and coming out of the scientific context is, it takes a very small data point, which is life on Earth, life on Earth, a claim about accidentally, it’s the basis of evolutionary biology. And then it led one thing led to another, and based on that it negates everything else, right, like such, such as the existence of God. You know, I might sound like I’m speaking like a, you know, revisionist Christian here, like, you know, defending the Christians here, but I’m not. But I think that there is something to be said for, you know, a model in which something can happen locally in a certain way, which is all part of a grander, you know, creation. Right. So it doesn’t, in my mind, it doesn’t necessarily disprove God. Yeah. And, in fact, into this hierarchy of beliefs. I think that is literally the first step. I think, with some sense, maybe perhaps the lowest truth in some sense, which is a lack of belief in God. It is, it’s sort of natural to sort of be there. But I think the moment you get into this is I see I’ve seen this in Hindu scriptures. It says, a man who worships a rock under a tree has moved one tiny step ahead of the man who doesn’t believe in anything at all. Hmm, I think there’s some profundity there. And it’s something to think about.
Brian Smith 54:36
I think, I think there is but you know, what’s interesting, and we’re going to talk about science and materialism and a little while but throughout man’s history, we’ve always had a belief in the divine. It’s the idea of materialism. materialism, the idea of atheism, materialistic atheism, is a new idea. I mean, it’s come about in the last couple 100 years, and I look at it as kind of like the fall of man. We became so proud We became so enamored with ourselves and what we could discover that we said, we don’t, we don’t need God anymore. We can figure this all out on our own. And it’s in it. And I think that was one of the things that led to our fall. The scientific process itself is beautiful. And as you said, I mean, you’re an engineer, and we’ve created amazing things with science, we’ve made our lives so much better with science. But that whole thing started because people believe that there was a God who created an orderly universe, that we could discover God through studying his creation. That’s where science actually came from. Right?
Srini Chandra 55:33
Yes, yes. So yes. The way I look at science, you know, it’s a pretty modern construct, at least in its current form, right? The whole idea of what a science do science studies the world, the goal of science is study the world in a very objective fashion, impersonal, objective fashion, they are in the business of collecting facts. And you know, they conduct a number of experiments. And if they see a pattern, as the experiment gives the same result again, and again, and again, it becomes a fact. And that is in the context of the timeframes that we have, we live for 70 years, or 100 years, or whatever it is that we live as human beings. In this timeframe, we see something repeated again and again, it becomes a fact. Something could be a fact and repeat once in every 1000 years, it is not around to see, it’s a possibility. Right. Right. Right. So But anyway, science defines itself in a certain way. And it is, I think, designed to be very practical, and convenient for us. But it isn’t the the business of studying impersonal, objective reality. Right? And it is also largely being in the business of studying the world, not ourselves. Right? Right. We make observations of the world. And then that is the nature of science. And it’s a beautiful thing, because it is life made life so much convenient for us. But I described sciences, promissory materialism. science does not give us all the answers today, how did this whole thing start? Science will say, give me another 100 years? And I’ll tell you,
Brian Smith 57:02
yeah, exactly right.
Srini Chandra 57:03
Why is why am I conscious? Give me another, you know, 50 years, and I’ll tell you, so this is like promissory materialism. And on the other hand, you have promissory spiritualism, which is the diligence. They say, if you do all these things, you will reach God will go to heaven. And it’s always, you know, everybody is talking about something in the future. It’s not, it’s never now, it’s like you have to do all these things, be patient, and then you will get somewhere. So, those are these are the two approaches. And there there has got to be a third approach that says, I should be able to figure this out, or like do something that gives me some benefit right now.
Brian Smith 57:42
Srini Chandra 57:42
I do not have to die to reach heaven, or I do not have to die to be enlightened. I should be able to, you know, avoid suffering, like right now. And that is where I think we find the fates like Buddhism and Vedanta Hinduism, come in. What they say is, yeah, you can do that. You know, you don’t have to wait for anything.
Brian Smith 58:02
Yeah, my biggest problem with science again, I’m a scientist, you’re a scientist. I’m a chemical engineer. So I don’t ever put down science I put down scientism, you know, our materialism. And my biggest you know, you talked about this idea of creation and we’re an accident. That’s that’s one big problem. The biggest problem I have is they don’t even know who they are. You know, this guy. Daniel Dennett says that consciousness is an illusion. And it’s like consciousness is the only thing that’s real. The only thing that we absolutely know for sure is that we’re conscious. You and I don’t even know if we’re really sitting in these chairs. We feel like we’re but we don’t we don’t know that. I just know I’m having the experience of sitting in the chair. That’s the only thing I know. And these guys tie themselves up so much in knots, that they since they can’t explain consciousness, they can’t talk. They can’t say what it is. I can’t say where it came from, because it makes no sense. That as the universe just became more and more complex, that consciously magic magically appeared. So they say it doesn’t exist. That’s got to be the stupidest thing anybody’s ever uttered. Alright, so that’s the end of part one. I hope you enjoyed it. Go ahead and watch part two whenever you feel ready to do that. And again, break it up into as many parts as you want to, and thanks for listening.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai
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