Another guy I loved was Mādhavendra Pūri, one of the three people involved in San Diego’s branch of something called the Bhaktivedānta Institute – a group of scientifically trained devotees who were trying to explain Krishna consciousness in context of modern science. I was a huge fan of modern science – my dad had majored in physics, and I had been obsessed with astronomy for a few years as a young boy – so I’d sit with Mādhavendra for hours and ask him all sorts of detailed scientific questions.
“In a computer,” I once asked him, “all the complex reality we experience on the screen is really just an interpretation of fantastic combinations of ones and zeros. So, maybe the so-called real world is like that too? Maybe the complexity of consciousness is really just an interpretation of a whole bunch of electrical and chemical ones and zeros in the brain?”
He answered the same way he always did: Light and cautious as the gait of a cat, but drifting into a mad-scientist’s glimmer-eye’d grin during any pause. “Well,” he practically whispered in enthusiasm, “that is exactly the basic premise of mechanistic science. But can reality be broken down into ones and zeros? If so, what are those ‘ones and zeros’? Science cannot seem to get to the bottom of subatomic particles, for example. They keep finding smaller and smaller and smaller particles.” His eyes lit up for a while, then he concluded, “and even if reality is ultimately just ones and zeros… who or what is interpreting those ones and zeros as shapes, colors, emotions, and so on?”
Excerpt from an early draft of
Train Wrecks and Transcendence:
The Collision of Hardcore and Hare Krishna
By Vraja Kishor dās