International Forum for NeoVedantins

Story of Sri Ramakrishna:  Part 14
Altered State of Consciousness and Evolution of a God Man
A Study based on the life of Sri Ramakrishna

The most essential attribute of life is to remain capable of expressing the highest evolved functions of the brain. State of the mind, as the highest evolved function, therefore, can be identified with life in human beings. A human being may survive without limbs, without special senses, or without motor activity. The heart and the lungs are helpful to the extent they help in keeping the brain alive (by delivering the necessary oxygen and nutrients). So is the case with liver, kidneys, and other organ systems. The corollary may emphasize the logic better; that, it is the state of mind that determines the functioning of the body-organ-systems according to its level of evolutionary progress.

In human beings the mind is capable of effecting new changes in the evolution of the organ-system much faster now than the nature could do. For example, it took millions of years for the man to stand and walk on two feet rather than remaining a quadruped animal, but only fifty years were sufficient to conquer the space and alight on the Mars. Hence it is being said that instead of nature, now the man has himself become the 'trusty of further evolution'. Secondly, the evolution will be psycho-spiritual rather than pure somatic in content.

The scope of action of mind is not limited to one body in which it is contained, but it can shape and effect the changes outside it as well. Telepathy is one such example that to some extent proves this. It is open for anybody to wish for something with concentrated mind and the result will be that the desired changes will be visible in due course of time.

The extrovert modern day scientists, professing objective rationality, cannot understand the mystic introversion of the exceptional persons whom we call sages. In all religions and cultures such great souls are born and their experiences are also the same: although separated in time and space, from Europe to India and from early Christian era to present day Ramakrishna-Vivekananda period. The psycho-spiritual evolution is on, whether one accepts it or not. The necessary physical and mental changes to accommodate the higher values - to become able to express the Divinity - are already visible in pure saints such as Sri Ramakrishna and some of his followers [and also in persons outside India].

This is what was included in a recent edition of an encyclopedia:

During the improvement after an epilepsy, stroke, or brain-surgery, it appears that the growth and regeneration of dendrites, threadlike extensions of nerve cells (neurons) takes place. "The neurons seem to make newer and better connections." More connections among the estimated hundred billion neurons of brain mean a better functioning brain. Connections come from inherited growth patterns and in response to stimuli, including internal stimuli like imagined sensations. The body receives information at the periphery and encodes it as nerve impulses. When these electrical impulses reach the brain, they trigger the release of messenger chemicals, which in turn induce electrical impulses as they travel from one neuron to another.

This electrochemical process, the basis of brain communication, sometimes stimulates growth of new dendrites. Thus rats raised in cages full of toys have more brain mass-probably from more dendrites-than do rats in empty cages. The brains of infants suffering from some forms of mental retardation have fewer dendrites than do the brains of healthy babies. Dendrite production rises rapidly after birth and remains at a peak level from about age four to age ten. In fact, during these years a child's brain has many more connections than does an adult's and uses twice as much energy.

Until recently, experts believed that genes program most dendrite growth. But it is now demonstrated that the brain has unexpected flexibility-what scientists call plasticity. This plasticity promises to redefine basic concepts. The left side of the brain of a right-handed person specializes in handling music, poetry, and mathematics. Yet after recovery from brain-surgery or stroke, some patients enjoy piano lessons, and learn mathematics also. Somehow, knowledge and capability traveled from one side of his brain to the other.

Such transfers seem to defy biology. Does an undiscovered conduit exist, or does each side have dormant capacity to assume functions of the other? The ability to transfer is highest before adolescence, during the years of peak dendrite growth. But transfer, albeit limited and slow, also occurs when strokes kill portions of an adult brain.
Continued part 15...  |   Previous Part 13...  |  Index to all Parts...
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