Stop being mechanical

Media Watch

By nature man is destined to live a conscious life and not become replicas of robots, writes Pratiksha Apurv in The Speaking Tree. Published on 22 September, 2019.

More than half a century before we found Alexa or a robot cleaner in our homes, computer scientist Alan Turing, in his famous paper, Computer Machinery and Intelligence, tried to explain how a machine can imitate human behaviour, and even convince us that it is, in fact, human. His path-breaking ‘Turing Test’, first published in 1950, is still widely quoted as we move into a world, largely dominated by Artificial Intelligence. He even rubbished theological objections that God had given an immortal soul to every man and woman, but not to any other animal or to machines.

A year before Turing’s paper, British neurologist Geoffrey Jefferson, in June 1949, wrote a paper, The Mind of Mechanical Man, raising a pertinent question as to whether a machine can write a poem or compose a concerto. While Jefferson warned of the dangers of anthropomorphising the machine, his emphasis was that a machine cannot have consciousness. It cannot feel the pleasure of success or sadness when one of its valves fuses, or feel miserable when it cannot get what it wants.

While quoting Shakespeare, Jefferson settled the argument that man is an angel – the paragon of animals, and not a machine.

Painting by Pratiksha Apurv
Rising to the Magnificent Beyond, Oil on Canvas, 48″x40″, 2019

Man is absolutely unique and an angel as Jefferson said, but man lives and thinks, as Turing pointed out, similar to what a robot can do. Ages before these two greatest thinkers lived, Gautama Buddha had realised this in an interesting way. Before he attained enlightenment, the Buddha lived a mechanical life, for almost six years, in many ways. First of all, whatever he was doing was not coming from his own inner core. Secondly, his routine discipline to find the meaning of life was borrowed from various scriptures.

Only when he realised that his borrowed vision and mechanical pursuit of scriptures would not make him enlightened but only an imitator, the Buddha became an individual in his own right. He became a free consciousness, living meditatively from within. The Buddha became his own master.

Man has created incredible technologies to accelerate the pace of growth and connectivity, but not to become the machine itself. The beauty of conscious living is irreplaceable. That is why we hear terms like ‘system detox’ and ‘digital detox’, when people shun technologies for a period of time and retreat to a remote village to live with nature. Such trips are efforts to discover oneself, to be with the true inner Self, because by nature, man is destined to live a conscious life and not become replicas of robots.

If we say to someone that God resides in him, he will be pleased to hear such a statement. But, if we say to him that he is similar to a robot, he may not be pleased to hear that. Though we live a mechanical life every day, we don’t want to admit the absence of godliness within us. If someone can stop for a moment and look within, then it would become obvious that the whole daily routine is being pulled by a string from outside.

Just like the Buddha, we need to realise that our life, since childhood, is shaped by a certain ‘way of life’ that was followed by our parents and by their parents before them and so on. From childhood, we are categorised into different religious groups and further sorted into castes and we start living a conditioned life. Time changes but the mechanism involved in moulding our growth stays connected to external forces, rather than our inner core.

Acknowledging our mechanical life and not denying its overpowering presence would be the first step for the seed of consciousness to sprout. The realisation of our mechanical life will act as a propeller to live consciously. In Mandukya Upanishad, this state is called Jagrit, awakening. If we live like a machine, it is not because of Mother Nature, but because of our childhood conditioning. Man has the potential to be a conscious soul. It’s like waking up from deep sleep.

In the painting, Rising to The Magnificent Beyond, the huge pillars standing tall and robot-like are a symbol of our one-sided growth. The painting shows how man remains like a robot until he raises his energy from the base of his lowest chakra to his crown centre.

Osho says there are people who always love to say – ‘I am God’, but that doesn’t make any difference in their life until their inner core is awakened. The continuous repetition of a mantra will also become mechanical over a period time. Osho says, “We don’t go to a machine to say that you are a machine. But, we can say this to a man that you are a machine, because if man can realise this mechanical phenomenon, his life can be transformed.

“There is potential in every human being to become a conscious self and individual with total freedom and his own wisdom. Man is the seed of consciousness and the day he realises this, his inner core will be lit.”

There are two significant verses in the Bhagwad Gita through which Krishna explains the mechanical life. In chapter two, he says: Ya nisa sarvabhutanamm, tasyam jagarti samyami, yasyam jagrati bhutani, sa nisa pasyato muneh – ‘Of the two kinds of people, one who is intelligent in material activity remains asleep because of ignorance and non-Self-realisation while the other person, realising the true Self, continues the journey without thinking of material happiness.’

In chapter 12, Krishna goes on to say: Shreyo hi jnanam abhyasaj jnanad dhyanam vishishyate, dhyanat karma-phala-tyagas tyagach chhantir anantaram – ‘It is better to have knowledge rather than mechanically follow rituals; better than knowledge is meditation.’

Kabir says it a little differently when he talks about becoming a true yogi in his doha: Tan ko jogi sab kare, man ko birla koi, sab siddhi sahaj paiye, je man jogi hoi – ‘It’s very easy to wear ochre clothes but colouring the inner is rare. If one can do that, the whole existence will become available.’

Man is not born to be a robot. He is born as a seed, but because of his mechanical life there is stress and depression all around. If realisation dawns and man acknowledges his true potential, life will become peaceful and blissful. For the first time then, he will be able to see the true reflection of his own Self.

Pratiksha Apurv

Pratiksha Apurv is a painter and writer. She lives and works in Pune.

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