Consciousness, Death, and Persistent Vegetative State

Background

Consciousness, Death, Coma and Persistent Vegetative State

John Paul II Institute has organized a symposium on Death and Organ Donation. Dr. Coimbra, a neurologist, has shared a video opposing the idea of organ harvesting and donation. Below, is the link on that discourse along with reference to John Paul II symposium (the link is included at the end of the blog). I differ with Dr. Coimbra and have provided a justification for my perspective. 

Dr. Coimbra raised an interesting question – not alone in medicine but one that touches spirituality and philosophy and extends to encompasses life and living. These questions have been an enigma ever since mankind has been dabbling cognitively exploring to understand it.

However, let us discern select issues at first. At the center of the debate is the definition of death and a downstream question, after objectively defining death, is harvesting and or donating the organs. The discussion rests on select premise and some experiments. Also, it exists in a milieu of ethics and moral values. Let me take this opportunity to untangle the issues in a reverse chronology as that helps discern and render the problem space in a simpler light.

Ethical Milieu and the Messiah Syndrome

Generally, I am averse to the idea of a conspiracy being unleashed on mankind unless it is by a select group of corporate interests or a select few individuals. I hate to consider an idea wherein, someone questions the ethical and moral commitment of a hoard of well-meaning high caliber individuals and their intellect and commitment, especially when these are not connected and/or affiliated, except for the cause and dedication to their quest for scientific (systemic) understanding. To rephrase, it is hard for me to question the integrity of these folks if these people have no common thread, except a persistent quest to unravel science. Especially, when this cohort is not bound by country, religion, business, generations, ethnicity, ideology etc. Generally, I don’t subscribe to ‘Messiah’ ideology. So, I would debunk this Messiah Syndrome at the outset. Calling it ‘Conspiracy’ is unjust and uncalled for. Let us not subscribe to questioning the ethical and moral commitment of all these independent contributors.

Scientific Design and Validation

Experiments have validity if the design and or collection of data is methodical, unbiased and satisfies statistical and or inferential framework. Dr. Coimbra has not substantiated his observations with adequate scientific findings and their correlations except  inferences based on his precepts and biased beliefs. This defeats the purpose of any scientific study and helps his contentions to falls from the high scientific pedestals.

Conscious Connectedness

Death and Persistent Vegetative State are inextricably related to consciousness. For any discussion on the death to proceed, we need to understand, the very abstract concept of consciousness and its finite and sublime association with organ(ic) rhythmicity and the circadian cycle. The finite but abstract state of consciousness has always endured cognitive and spiritual interests for generations of the elite and of intellectuals. Suffice it to say that with humility, I am attempting to articulate ideas in this subtle and undefined area. Definitely, I want to stay away from sounding like an authority, which I am not except in my capacity as a sincere contemplative scientific seeker.

Consciousness is a culmination of awareness, cognitive interpretation, and a our own limited potential to respond to the inputs from the senses and the surrounding we exists. A vegetative state is the loss of this connection between the soma and the conscious awareness. At times, it is transient and sometimes, it is permanent and irreversible. Loss of connection does not necessarily mean loss of somatic function. We have had several anecdotes wherein, people have risen after long durations of disconnect, if their bodies are kept functional. We know that the duration to brain death is longer in frigid conditions or in infants. Similarly, we also know that sages have practiced an extended ‘state of mind and body’ dissociation during their trance phases. We have seen them reverting to normal bodily functions after reversing the soma – conscious association. Their experiences have been very different. We also have heard patients going through near death phenomenon, experiencing those bright flashes of light. These are just a few select examples. However, based on all these, it is evident that this is as intriguing an area as ever. However, one thing is clear that once that association between soma and conscious is irreversibly broken, we can closely approximate it with death (exception is Locked-In Syndrome, wherein, the patient is awake and conscious but disconnected with the body.

Consent and Compliance

Under these circumstances, it is best to go by the consent or implied consent of the individual (best interest standards/Substituted judgment). If those are not available, family discretion comes into play. However, religion, culture and laws of countries define and influence this space of ethics and compliance. Evidently, we see several versions that act out, depending upon the circumstances.

Inference

Labeling this complex cornucopia of facts and diverse facets into a generalized assumption of immorality of harvesting organ post death, is grossly inadequate if not possibly wrong.

References

Persistent Vegetative State
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/persistent-vegetative-state

The Challenges of Defining and Diagnosing Brain Death
https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/news/articles/the-challenges-of-defining-and-diagnosing-brain-death

The Legal Definition of Death and the Right to Life
https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/978-1-137-58328-4_8

Neuroethics of death in the United States – PeerJ
https://peerj.com/preprints/2890.pdf

Spiritual  –

Kundalini Yoga
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kundalini_yoga

Advaita Vedanta
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Advaita_Vedanta

 

Our Obsolete ‘Fairy Model’

The “Fairy Model”, is embedded as a class effort. Islam has humane cause and healthy tenets, however, the clerics and the religious guardians have become too strong, authoritarian and harsh to let any intellectual individual let it evolve. Islam is not an exception, followers of any faith, not just Islam but Hindus, Christian and Jews etc., all have to reconcile to the concept of change and get rid of the obsolete ideas and evolve. Today, we need religious change more than any technology. The chasm is widening everyday. Evolving religious ideologies to match the changing world alone will solve the problem created by this chasm.

“You would be in Jannat (heaven)” with those multiple fairies. Those are the promises made to several of the Jihadist on multiple occasions, umpteen number of time.

Utter nonsense for four obvious reasons –

  1. This presumes carnal life extends to Jannat. In true spiritual sense, if Jannat has to exist, will it be with those material trapping? Great food, sex, pleasure? Utter nonsense taught to gullible and innocents who cannot think through.
  2. That Jannat is also the place where Lord enjoys carnal moments. Wow! So those who prophesies also awaits the moments to indulge in material pleasure? Surprising that the spiritual leaders are ever bonded and never rise and evolve (those interested may read Maslow’s hierarchy of needs).
  3. The perpetrators forget that the victim, after their death, too enjoys similar benefits in Jannat.
  4. Islam has no place for ladies in Jannat, except serve these youngster, who have just achieved martyrdom. Well, that is against ‘equal opportunities’? A review of history shows countless women having led countries, religion and ideologies. It is a great insult to womanhood when their participation is not extolled.

My request to those prophesying terrorism, please change or update your model, it truly sounds dumb because everyone gets the same treatment – The Lord, The Victim and the Perpetrator. It is little old fashioned and outdated. Unlike old fashioned communism, during these times, everyone would like to be treated differently, not the same.

The concern is not about dedicating for religion or its ideologies, it is about having sane ideas and devoting for those. Finally, every religion has artifacts, and I consider this as one of those artifacts. However, truly speaking, enticing young gullible youngsters with a ‘Fairy Model’, sounds really outdated and obsolete.

Every religion is bound with emotions and artifacts but deep inside, there is a rationale and a message for humanity, often in the context when those tenets were laid. However, over a period, those who are expected to safeguard those tenets, either ends up evolving it or denigrating and exploiting it. Evolution generally is forwarded by singular efforts, whereas devolution or exploitation is generally a class effort. An outside-in view will always provide a rationale and reasoning and remove those emotional epithets.

In this case, the “Fairy Model”, is embedded as a class effort. Islam has a humane cause and healthy tenets, however, the clerics and the religious guardians have become too authoritarian and harsh to let any individual let its ideology evolve. Followers of any faith, not just Islam, but Hindus, Christian and Jews etc., all have to reconcile to the concept of change and get rid of the obsolete ideas.

Assimilating change is challenging, especially within the realms of religion. Change is challenging because it is difficult to understand the change since we are moribund to the status quo, and then to assimilate and drive that change within the context of the religion and finally, to contextualize it to make it relevant. Changing the Fairy Model is not just important but an existential reality for not just one religion but pretty much all religion or ideologies.

Kashmir attack: Tracing the path that led to Pulwama

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-47302467

Why am I blogging on health and diet?

For most healthy living is having a balance between eating and exercise. Well, it goes beyond that one will eventually comprehend the importance of spirituality and expand the dimension of health. Suffice it to say that, the most elementary blocks of health starts with Diet and Exercise and this blog is focused on diet and exercise.

Because it is core and critical to our efforts and initiatives in life.

Generalizing from decades of observations, understanding the molecular mechanism that cascades the physiologic pathways, and adding an angle of spiritual journey to our living, I too believe that the source is within us. We pamper ourselves with indulgence and defend it with reason. That in itself is a root cause for systemic illnesses such as overweight/obesity, insomnia, hypertension and diabetes (well in exceptional cases, we do have hereditary, genetic and developmental factors that contribute).

However, once these systemic maladies sets in, it takes long time to revert to the original baseline. Here again, we try indulging in radical results with resultant generalized impact. Liposuction, extreme diets, such as keto diets etc. cause untoward effect on the body. Dependence on drugs such as antidiabetic or antihypertensives keep increasing, partly because of tolerance and mostly because the root cause is not addressed.

Restoring health is a discipline, not a snapshot event in time. It needs comprehensive multidimensional change. I know if I haven’t slept adequately how that affects my work. Some maladies have evident outcome, others have long lasting impact. Let’s have that balanced perspective to dart towards achievements.

I am often reluctant towards opting for radical options such surgery (with exception), so also I am against drugs/medicines.

Every life journey is unique, complicated by a confluence of conscious and subconscious flows, that we alone can decipher and discern. Those moments of reflections should ideally help in putting up a roadmap towards restoration of health. While that is the permanent way, we can and should rely on drugs or other means, while transiting towards that phase.

However, jumping directly to radical options is ill founded and deficient. A gradual incremental reversal, though difficult, can be achieved through consistent behavior with discipline. Well, it is easy to say but difficult to implement. However, that’s the test of your grit and determination, that we all are born with.

Celibate Life for Serving the Lord?

Celibacy and renounciation is not a prerequisite to service of Lord or to mankind. Yes, it is a distraction from devotion but it is not absolutely required. Many religions consider it is a must, possibly because life and normal living itself is a beyond distraction from the path of spiritual service. How best can we confluence these divergent tracks?

Not that atrocities towards at places of believes are uncommon amongst Hindu and Muslim temples and Madrassas. The key question is –

Do we have to renounce normal living and be celibate for the service of our Lord to run the religious institutions. Celibacy is bot an absolute criteria but a matter of choice, and inter decision and personal philosophy. This ensures, less abuse – fair gender and others within their ecosystem.

Some religious practices have institutional stipulations that enforce celibacy and human nature (naturally) fights back. We see such abuses that later get institutionalized. Only if Pope opens the door for the clergy to be married and stat normal life, that we will see a true decrease in such incidences.

Changing topic to Hinduism and its evolutionary traits and practices. Reflecting upon how Hinduism has evolved after adopting such practices, itself provides a credence that this is a philosophy in evolution and has a longer life than predicted by most western historians.

The day we freeze evolution, we stop growing though and the only way to keep vibrant and dynamic is to keep listening, debating and evolving with a sense of accommodation and assimilation.

Sometimes back, during medieval period, that happened. We froze varna and subdued our women. We wiped out meritocracy by institutionalizing nepotism and feudalism. We created a majority subservient to those who captured the institutions – religious, social, family, political etc. thus weakening our institutions.

It takes time to dismantle but the time we unfreeze and evolve, we will see spurt in our spiritual and ideological growth. To those who says Hinduism is under attack, I agree. But it is bot external but our own internal shackles.

Pope admits clerical abuse of nuns including sexual slavery
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-47134033

Sabarimal Temple is about Choice

sabarimala

It is unworthy to dive and wade through a controversy which is already ravaging religious and political divide. Despite, it is never too late to share a perspective.

Since medieval times until recently, guardians of religion, especially those influencing the religious pulpit and dictating at the sanctum sanctorum, have treated women with lesser regards, often times humiliatingly. Though male chauvinism has perpetuated over the years, often I feel, women too contribute to their malady. I was talking with an IIT graduated with strong liberal views and I was surprised to hear her recantation of the age old dogmas. This IIT alumnus is not an isolated example, and not all highly educated women submit to the old dogmas. However, submission to these dogmas makes me think that women too contribute to this state.

However, times have changed and Women have become more aware of their rights. They have realized that it is time to stop this second class maltreatment. Women entering Shani Shingnapur’s inner sanctum after 400-year, broke the tradition. I am a strong proponent of equality between gender and women rights. I believe, though late, the global #Me Too, Women taking the wheels in Saudi Arabia are all signs of that awareness and assertiveness.

However, the story at Sabarimal Temple is different. It is in fact a desecration of the choice of Lord Ayappa. Lord Ayappa had chosen celibacy as his way of life and he wanted to stay away from the carnal world. Even if we are not to believe in his existence, it is about a choice and Sabarimal Temple represents that choice. Are we not to respect that, especially when we respect and accept prochoice (for abortions), or gender identity and preference (Guys and Lesbian)?

Sabarimal Temple represents a different ideology and we have to respect the views of that deity if we consider this as live and valid, if we consider it as a folklore, the reason to pay respect itself annuls.

It is interesting to read Suhrith Parthsarthy’s article on Sabarimala Singularity (Link provided in reference) as the authors wades through multiple facets of faith, equality and choice.

Also, criticism from other religious groups are most welcome, however, they should also abide and be receptive to receive reciprocal outsider perspective. This last statement is in reference to a IUML rally in support of the court verdict (reference below).

sabarimala-1

References:

Sabarimala: India’s Kerala paralysed amid protests over temple entry

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-india-46744142

https://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-news-india/shani-shingnapur-temple-trust-finally-accepts-hc-order-lets-women-in/

https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/lead/the-sabarimala-singularity/article24514458.ece

https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics-and-nation/sabarimala-temple-row-not-only-hindu-outfits-iuml-too-supports-devotees/videoshow/66150798.cms?from=mdr

Islamic Veil

Placeholder – radicals are not true believers, they can desecrate the very values for which they stand for primarily because they submit to the outcome and not the means. Whereas, religion is about means and not about end.

It is not true to construe that they haven’t understood their religious tenets. Religious tenets are sublime and are simple for a common man to understand. They have decidedly made a choice to override those tenets.

Islam is not the only religion dispersed with radical profanity. Hinduism is showing a significant rise in radical dominance and polarization.

Radicalization is not just related to religion. Even political ideology is getting fenestrated and infested with radical and aggressive thoughts gradually establishing as mainstream philosophy.

Can these man respect the sacred religious belief of their own religion?

At least three men disguised in burkas arrived in a rickshaw and entered the Peshawar Agriculture Training Institute on Friday morning.

Pakistan attack: Gunmen storm Peshawar training college
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-42191487

Should We Question Our Guru?

Science, Arts or Spirituality would cease to grow if we don’t oppose our Guru. That opposition has an element of obeisance and regards of highest kind, since the Guru is the one who has provided that eternal milieu for growth and realization.

Prologue

All religions are deeply embedded with humane perspective, ethical values and principles. We follow religion what is told to us and as followers, we come up with questions. Often, religious practices or preachers forbid us from asking questions. In fact, in the interest of your faith, you should question your tenets or those who impart those principles of religion and at times, we should oppose something that does not appeal to our morals or sense of judgment. Science, Arts or Spirituality would cease to grow if we don’t oppose our Guru. That opposition has an element of obeisance and regards of highest kind, since the Guru is the one who provides us that eternal milieu for growth and realization. More on the importance of asking questions to understand your faith.

The Importance of Guru

Guru or a teacher is a must in every aspect of life and living. When we are born, the one who holds us, our Parents, are our Guru. When we learn to walk and run, and play in the field, we need a Guru or alternately, we are continuously guided by someone in the form of Guru. As we graduate through different levels of learning, we realize, several learned folks have contributed in making us what we are at that snapshot of time. At no point in our individual journey of life can we claim that we are on our own. We develop as an amalgamation of outside forces, the learning and our own ability to comprehend internally what emerges from within the milieu we exist. Be it science, arts, technology, business, politics or spiritual. Selected few are beneficiaries of dedicated didactics whereas, most are imbibing the radiance emanated from these folks, through books, discourse, artifacts analysis, on the ground lessons, hands-on learning etc. and as time progresses, we transition into Guru. In fact, we should consider that as one of our most noble social responsibility while build that continuity. There is no invitations, you simply offer yourself to the devotion of dissipating and spreading that wisdom, knowledge being one aspect of it. Do we need Guru to interpret religion? Obviously yes, this journey would not be a journey without a Guru and life would have no meaning without the presence of Guru.

Should Guru Charge for the knowledge?

Some do it selflessly, while others do it with collateral. However, irrespective of an exchange is occurring or not, it is pertinent that the transfer of wisdom should transition from generation to generation as does the genomic material. As is clear from the foregoing, the day you destroy that genomic transcription, the world will cease to exist and time will come to standstill.

What are the essential traits of Guru?

I strongly believe, we need Guru to interpret religion. We need a Guru to interpret religion. Please correct me if I am wrong but I presume, Guru is at a level sufficiently evolved that the disciple, second Guru is above material attachments and third, Guru is above biases. If all of these qualify, I presume, we still have occasionally people born with precocious intelligence and they interpret life beyond the box, those are the same folks who expand that envelop, that’s how Buddha came into being and I presume, the entire edifice of Sanatan dharma was built upon.

Should we be restricted within the confines of Guru?

No one helped Einstein with his quantum physics or theory of relativity. History of science is adorned with several such examples. In fact, when a disciple takes it beyond the confines of imparted knowledge, the disciple honors his Guru and the stature of their Guru too rises beyond an act of deliverance of knowledge to the one of evolving the tenets, a supreme contribution to the cause of mankind.

Do we question Guru?

Definitely Yes! You may notice that ‘definite’, and if we don’t, we will initiate the degradation and degeneration.

Why Spiritual Guru’s should be above material attachment? Knowledge is so pristine and supremely inspiring and awakening, that it often lures the acquirer into installing the beholder onto higher pedestals. During such times, it makes sense to not be attached or be minimalist in his/her attachment to the material world. If the Guru’s are not, disciples land up encountering Guru Ram Rahim. Power corrupts and religious power corrupts absolutely. That is how we got Guru Rajneesh.

Only if Lord Shiva would have registered an IP or Patented Yog

Our Age Old Yog (So called Yoga) is a case in point. Yog are taught, not in the comfort of conditioned environment but in the temple precincts and after paying due obeisance to Lord Shiva. Western world has corrupted it to Yoga, followed with a liturgy of similar distortions from Rama, Krishna, Arjuna. Our original words is Yog, Ram, Krishna etc.

Let me come to the point – Yog originated from Lord Shiva as a primeval knowledge and mechanism for the uplifting of human living and existence. Lord Shiva initially transferred the understanding to Lord Parvati and upon her insistence to the Seven Sages, after they went through severe penance, devotion and commitment. Yog was thus born not as a religious preaching or kinesthetic principles but as a spiritual science. Yog does not adhere to any particular religion, belief or community but as a mechanism for inner wellbeing.

What’s wrong with today’s Guru’s?

We see the likes of Ramdev, SadhGuru and others, who through their Siddhi bestowed on them, are prophesying Yog but indulging in material gain. If only Lord Shiva patented Yog. They specially fall out since they are acclaimed Siddha Purush (enlightened). Other lesser mortals can definitely do business but I don’t consider them enlightened.

Guru Shishya Vyavastha in Prachin Bharat Varsha

It is important to understand the origin of Guru, Disciple and Gurukul tradition. In ancient India Guru held their own learning institutes called Gurukul. Disciples stayed with their Guru and imbibed the learning as it was imparted. These Gurukul were supported by Bhiksha and the ruling kings. It is wrong to say Gurus were Brahmins. Disciples often served the Gurukul with day to day activities. Gurus were the learned class and a Brahmin was considered learned class devoid of any material attachments as they were supported by alms and the state. Guru Dakshina was part of the tradition and it never meant material repayment to the teacher. It meant a respect that may have included some material form, irrespective of the value.

Guru GuruKul

If you notice, the entire edifice of Guru and his learning ecosystem are based on the percept of selfless dedication, irrespective of the players – Teacher, Disciple, Institute or the Community that benefitted from the posterity.

Science, Arts or Spirituality would cease to grow if we don’t oppose our Guru. That opposition has an element of obeisance and regards of highest kind, since the Guru is the one who has provided that eternal milieu for growth and realization.

You may also like Who Am I? – Swami Sarvapriyananda from Mandukya Upanishad

Citations:

Yoga: Its Origin, History and Development