BBC Radio 4 Thought for the Day
24th November 1998
On Thursday, there will be exactly 400 days until the year 2000, and, now at last, the details of all the delights that await us in the Millennium Dome are being revealed.
While others may extract their own messages, as a student of Hindu philosophy, I am particularly intrigued by the exhibits on the mind, the body and spirit. Our scripture, the Bhagavad-gita, explains that, although each individual’s nature is a product of all three, we will not fully understand our selves without realising the specific distinction between the soul and the body and mind.
The Dome’s exhibits offer an opportunity to explore this idea. According to the Gita, the body is a machine in which the soul rides. Perhaps, as we are carried along the moving walkways within the massive statue of a hermaphrodite body, we may get a sense that the body is a very complex set of machinery working in a miraculous way that no man-made creation can do – growing, regenerating and reproducing – but only as long as it is touched by spirit. With the departure of the soul, the body’s processes break down and it decays as dead matter.
So, if we are not the body, are we the mind? One part of the exhibit on the Mind will project your brain-waves on to a huge screen. But, as we watch this, we should ask ourselves, “so how come what I actually see are pictures and colour?” Where are these in the brain? And who or what is the observer? The brain may be the hardware and the mind is like the software programmes, but the soul is the live operator watching the screen of the computer?
That conscious entity that activates the body, drives it and observes the world through the senses and mind is called the atma – or the soul.
At the heart of Hindu philosophy is this conclusion – I am not the body, nor the mind, I am the soul which is capable of eternal existence separate from the body. We have our obligations to maintaining and enjoying life in the here-and–now, but we should not lose sight of the long-term needs of our true self in re-discovering our spiritual destiny.
When Hindus watch the Dome’s centre-piece musical extravaganza on the Fall from the Garden of Eden, they will probably not consider it to be a depiction of the history of the human race, but rather an analogy for the personal history of the atma. Somewhere, in our long-distant past, each soul left the spiritual paradise to inhabit the material world in a succession of reincarnations.
Now with the help of the Millennium Dome, we are being re-directed back home.
© BBC This script was commissioned by the BBC for broadcast as “Thought for the Day” on the Today programme Radio 4.