A leading astrological researcher, based in Hyderabad, India.
"I was born a human
In the family of a Brahman
Childhood aspirations were a plenty
To become a yeoman, a swordsman, a bowman
And I dreaded perchance becoming
A conman, a doorman or a barman
Youth had its own delusions and dreamt
Of being an airman, a seaman or a showman
A few talents raised visions of life as a craftsman
Middle age found me slotted in a niche
And rose up the ladder to be a helmsman
But was otherwise essentially a layman
At times to frighten children, a bogeyman
Then astrology called... and I realized that
I was just a point of consciousness and no man
And this insight made me a new man
Glimpsing a realm that was
Beyond god and mammon
Now some call me a madman
While others believe I am a shaman
Being neither, I am just me, a man".
Ram Ramakrishnan, our favourite astrological researcher, is based in Hyderabad, India. India is a country that cannot be imagined without its philosophical, religious and cultural grounding in astrology. Ram has been writing the "Gospel of Grandpa", an analysis of the world as explained to the two children Munni and Chotu through the words of their wise old grandfather. This episode examines the nature of knowledge and the role of discovery. Discovery happens at certain stages of development, whether of individuals, nations, or cultures. Discovery, Ram argues, is simply the uncovering of something that has been there all along...
There was excitement in the air that morning when the siblings read a news item that said that a 'rogue' supernova had broken the Chandrasekhar limit that specifies a certain threshold value in terms of the mass of our Sun, beyond which a white dwarf explodes leaving behind a neutron star or a black hole. Residing as they did in the outskirts of the city which provided a much clearer sky than the pollution-marred urban atmosphere, they had developed a keen interest in astronomical matters. Grandpa had bought them a fairly powerful telescope that afforded a clear view of the craters of the moon.
"What does this discovery entail?" asked the children of grandpa.
"Many things and nothing: depending upon the perspective," replied grandpa. "That such a thing exists, makes it the truth", said he, "while what we do under the circumstance is carry on with our process of discovery. If life were to be described in a sentence then it would be that it is a continuous journey of discovery – from the womb to the grave. And this applies to all beings, not just humans. Discovery: at the individual level as well as at the collective level. At the personal level, a child discovers the joy of colors, the freedom bestowed by the ability to move, the nature of things, the power of speech."
"An adult discovers the ecstasy of love, the solace of faith, the diversity of nature, the boundlessness of the universe. The old discover the fear of death, the debility of infirmity, the misery of loneliness. All these discoveries happen at the appropriate times in life. Collectively, there are shared discoveries at the level of the family, community, nationality, or humanity (as a species) – the findings about the supernova being in this domain. All that we comprehend at various times is, has been and will be around always. When comprehension dawns we merely 'dis' cover a phenomenon that had so far remained covered by our ignorance."
"What happens when all that is there has been discovered?" asked the children.
"That is never likely to be," said grandpa. "And even if it were to be, wisdom and ignorance themselves are relative and fleeting."
"Take, for instance, an individual," said he. "The fact that a parent or a grandparent has become acquainted with and experienced many realities of life does not make a child begin life with the advantages of those experiences. It still has to go through all the stages of discovery. While the cycles of wisdom and ignorance repeat themselves at the individual level spanning the lifetime of an individual being of each species, those at the collective level span lifetimes, or specific defining periods of the species themselves."
"What causes a knowledge base gathered over a number of generations to be lost to posterity?" asked the children.
"There can be many causes," said grandpa. "Consider the simple expertise of being able to tell time merely by looking at the position of the Sun during day and the stars during night, despite the constantly changing positions and alignments of the celestial bodies. The ancients could do this effortlessly, while most humans of today cannot. That collective discovery or wisdom was lost due to an assortment of causes – changing lifestyles, availability of alternative skills, shifting paradigms of perception."
"Consider yet again the example of that body of knowledge known as Naadi shastra practiced in our country. Perhaps there were similar systems existing with other communities in other regions of the world as well and which faded away with the passage of time. By means of this knowledge-base, it was attempted to write the life stories of individuals even before they were born and use fingerprints to link the person to the appropriate story. Today what remains of that discovery are a vast collection of such stories that were written and which match the life patterns of many individuals alive today. The underlying rules that formed the core of this wisdom appear to have been lost. One possible reason for this obliteration is the probable change in the perceptive paradigm about the mechanism of existence. While the dominant view today is that human development is powered by man's ingenuity and will, perhaps the ancient view was that everything in nature happens by design."
Though the children were aware of the naadi system, their familiarity was limited to the notion that people took recourse to it to know their future. Grandpa's description of this from a different standpoint educed a host of questions from them – all of them converging to the query: How is a fingerprint linked to a story derived from a set of celestial placements? Are these predictions similar for people with the same fingerprint or are they person-specific?
Grandpa let his fingers unscramble his beard for a while before answering. He said that every individual can be uniquely defined by a vast collection of attributes, fingerprint being just one such. The collection as a whole is unique, but it is quite possible that a few individuals have one or more of such attributes in common. Uniqueness and similarity are very relative terms and are defined by detail. What appears to be similar at one level may become unique at a more detailed level. So as we go down to finer details, commonality of attributes begin to diminish until at a point corresponding to some small slice of time each set becomes unique.
From this perspective, every individual is a function of Time. Every moment defines a possible individual with a set of physical and emotional parameters, the set as a whole being distinctive and exceptional. Further as celestial mechanics is also expressible as a function of time, it presents itself as the most appropriate tool for computing the characteristics of such a unique collection of attributes that define an individual.
"But isn't it such a waste of time and effort for everything to be discovered and rediscovered countless number of times and for no apparent reason?" asked the children.
"Yes," said grandpa. "Though we pride ourselves to look at and attempt to understand every thing in existence using logic and reason, there appears to be no logic to explain why this process of existence began. We conveniently talk of infinity and eternity without comprehending what they are. Perhaps this battle between wisdom and ignorance will be everlasting with discovery continuing to be the essence of life as it has always been."
Here ends this chapter of a continuing story. Read more from