Research And Revelation

by Shane Magee Dublin Sri Chinmoy Centre

People often ask me if I find a conflict between my research in particle physics and my interest in meditation and yoga. I would answer by pointing to the lives of the great scientists, who braved tremendous opposition in their quest to offer the world new truths, new insights into the nature of reality.

Meditation is not an escape from the world! It is a way, rather, to explore and understand ourselves, and by extension, the world.

I look upon my work in physics as an opportunity to overcome barriers in my spiritual life. Patience is one thing I need more of; the ability to persevere in work without getting attached to its outcome is another. And in the field of particle research you need to develop both of those qualities if you’re to stay in the game. After all, results in particle physics have a time-scale of their own, almost wholly independent of how much you push or shove to get them.

Science, in its own right, is a spiritual path of sorts – it may not necessarily lead to the top of the mountain, but the people in that path search for Truth in their own way, and are basically aiming to expand their horizons as best they know how. The same yearning spiritual aspirants have to understand why we’re here and what’s our purpose is aflame in their hearts too; it’s just that they still think the mind holds all the answers.

Or do they? The people on this ‘path’ of science can essentially be divided into 2 main groups: the rishi-scientists who change the way we view the world (of which in the entire history of mankind there have perhaps been about 20), and then the rest of us who fill in the gaps and do a spot of tidying-up here and there once this new world view has been handed down. The former group are, of course the Newtons and Einsteins, the ones we draw the inspiration from when we look at the world of science, and their accounts of their discoveries invariably have this tinge of divine revelation about them, the sense that their discovery was an uncovering of a higher Truth that had always lain there.

For example, consider this: The modus operandi for great scientific discoveries seems to be to strain and strain yourself searching for the answer until it almost kills you (and in doing so preparing the mathematical framework to assimilate what you are about to receive), and then give up and go for a spot of hiking in the mountains, or something similiar. The French genius Henri Poincaire would describe such a process and then recount how the answer came to him as he was stepping off a bus. Einstein always shaved very slowly in the morning, wary of repeating one particularly bad experience where the Truth burst in on him unannounced. Another great scientist, Wolfgang Kohler, when asked the formula for great discoveries replied -and I’m definitely paraphrasing here-, “Bath, bed and bus.” Richard Feynman would describe experiences of floating around in complete bliss for four days after a major breakthrough, which apparently happened to him three times. Is 12 days of bliss enough return for a lifetime of slavery? I’m not sure!

Sri Chinmoy believes you can draw inspiration from different paths as long as you maintain one-pointed concentration on following your own path and don’t try to put a foot each in two different boats, as he would say. In my search for the highest Truth, I already have a path, and I’m sticking to it. But when I take my physics research not as a search for Truth in itself but as a golden opportunity to progress in my spiritual life – that’s where the satisfaction lies.

Originally posted on Inspiration Letters at Sri Chinmoy Centre