This did not happen for over 400 million years to any of the creatures that from time to time specialized in various ways to master our planet, till about 20 million years ago in a group of monkey-like creatures somewhere in the tropics one particular organ of body started growing unusually fast. Constant directional growth of this organ revolutionized the evolutionary process to put this creature, later called Homo sapiens, to an unmatched advantageous position over all other species, only to rule the earth unchallenged thereafter.
Today everything from development to destruction can be attributed to this single organ we carry in our heads and call the brain. That this ugly and simple looking organ is one of the most complex things existing in the universe happens to be a fact few of us realize, so much so that with existing knowledge we can at best hypothesize about its activities.
Human brain is one of the largest body organs, weighing about 1400 grams which accounts for about 2% of the body weight in man but little larger 2.5% in women, packed in an incredibly shockproof box made of hard bony skull, layers of meninges and cerebrospinal fluid filled within. Economy of space is exhibited by packing about 1800 cm2 surface area in only 15% of the space. Very few things can penetrate the blood-brain barrier—most toxins, bacteria, viruses etc. are stopped outside. It sounds strange that brain knows very little about itself. Science has so far failed to unfold the mysteries of its strange ways of functioning, mainly because the delicate tissue makes it difficult to experiment with. No wonder most concepts about brain’s functioning remain mere hypotheses.
Anatomically brain looks like a heap of wrinkled gray tissue so soft that it can be scooped with a table spoon. This is the only organ that is fully formed at birth with its full set of 50 bil1ion neurons (nerve cells) to which there is no further addition. But they do grow in size. Damages are believed to be irreparable but in 1969 Godfrey Raisman of Cambridge University proved that damaged neurons do sprout new growth.
In a normal healthy being gradual loss of brain tissue takes place at the rate of about 100,000 neuron everyday. A casual drink would wipe out few thousand and habitual drinking could cause immense permanent damage. But considering the large number of neurons that brain has, this loss becomes insignificant, only about 20% by the age of 80 years. Moreover, the loss is somewhat compensated by sprouting new dendrites (impulse receiving filaments on neuron body) which are known to increase with age and experience.
Dendrites form innumerable connections with other neurons. Thus billions of neurons make possible infinite number of circuits, giving the brain astronomical processing power. But average man utilizes only 2% of this capacity, an educated person about 5% and an Einstein not more than 15%.
Two overgrown and grossly wrinkled areas of human brain are of particular importance. They are cerebrum which is divided into two equal parts and is associated with intelligence and overall control, and cerebellum, the command centre for musculature which also controls autonomic and involuntary functions of the body.
The electric potential of brain is extremely low 50-100 millionth of a volt but brain functions are not entirely electrical. Nerve impulse is electrochemical and travels at a speed of 400 km/hr, which means it would take an impulse just 1/50th of a second to travel from head to toe. Brain is also known to communicate through chemicals produced in very small quantity.
Messages sent through these neurotransmitters are received by specialized receptors located in different parts of body. More than 50 kinds of these chemicals are now known. Some of them like endorphin and enkephalin, which reduce pain, are abundantly produced in animals like camel, which chews on thorny twigs without feeling pain. Similarly, dopamine is overproduced in the brains of schizophrenics while its underproduction causes Parkinson’s disease.
MIND: The discovery of neurotransmitters has compelled us to accept the fact that brain’s activity is not confined to head only but the whole body seems to function with co-coordinated inte1ligence like a single large brain or could we call it mind? Modern science regards mind as the functional manifestation of brain. But yogic philosophy considers the whole body as single overall mind and every cell having its own intelligence. Mind, therefore, can be regarded as collective intelligence of the body.
An example would substantiate this. Receptors for neurochemical, impramine are known to be located on every cell. Impramine is overproduced in the brain of depressed people, which means every cell in the body of these people is depressed. Similarly when we are happy every organ within us participates in that happiness through these subtle neurochemical messages. Certain neurochemical are also produced by body organs, e.g. transferon is produced by stomach, which indicates that one organ can directly communicate with the other, independent of the brain’s command. Interestingly, receptors on cell walls are also not fixed but constantly invented and produced by the DNA (genetic molecule inside the cell) according to needs of the body. DNA itself is a super-genius molecule within nucleus of each cell and is a part of the overall mind, which is capable of translating an abstract thought into chemicals or matter.
Thought originates in brain as a field pattern or stray impulses derived from memory spectrum. This sets unique path of nerve impulses by opening and closing specific synapses in the brain cortex. Thought arising out of nowhere as a quantum of our nervous system, is translated into chemical messengers by brain in coordination with DNA. DNA keeps in storage large quantity of information, accumulated through millions of years’ evolution. It is well established that only 1% of this information is ever used in DNA’s day-to-day activities. Supported by this rich vocabulary, DNA is capable of inventing different combinations of chemicals. For instance, when immune cells encounter a new virus, the DNA by mobilizing its genetic information invents and manufactures a new antibody that kills the invading virus. That explains why virus has to mutate so frequently, to fool DNA in order to survive.
ROLE OF MEDITATION: Meditation not only controls the brain but is known to have profound effect on neurotransmitters and DNA’s intelligence. High levels of the hormone, dihydroepiendrosterone (DHEA) have been found in meditators. This hormone retards aging and inhibits cancer growth. Recent researches reveal that cancer can be caused by person’s conscious and subconscious state of depression which causes overproduction of luteinizing hormones, which in turn bring about unchecked multiplication of cells.
Cancer can in fact be regarded as failed intelligence of DNA, which makes the cells divide recklessly knowing fully well that it would be suicidal. In this light the yogic philosophy that quality of mind is determined by the quality of food stands on solid ground, since food determines body chemicals which DNA’s intelligence utilizes for innovations. Regular meditation removes subconscious depression, corrects failed intelligence of DNA and expands intuitive awareness.
MEMORY: Science has not been able to discover the seat of memory in the brain. Hyden believed that memory was stored in RNA because its concentration in brain increased with age. But Carl S. Lashley of Harvard University conclusively proved that memory is not stored as a physical entity in brain. He experimented with rats by training them to run through maze and then cutting their brain cortex in various ways till most of the cerebrum was damaged.
None of the incisions impaired memory. According to the yogic view memory is not contained as a physical deposit but as a field of modulated patterns of high frequency vibrations in cosmic spectrum around or above the brain. Renowned yogi Patanjali called it Purusha located in the Brahma chakra. Field patterns of neuron currents produced by the activity of brain have frequency of few thousand hertz only, whereas memory impressions in purusha have vibrations up to 1025 hertz.
Brain is the device that codes and decodes this information by transforming high frequency vibrations of purusha to low frequency vibrations of brain and vice versa. Memory, therefore, can never be lost, not even by brain damage, since anatomically purusha is not part of the brain matter. When brain fails to tune with the high frequency of purusha, loss of memory results. Sometimes in such situations recollection is possible under hypnosis, which is a state of heightened attentiveness in which brain can tap memory from purusha easily.
New theories of quantum physics tell us that subatomic particles move in waves termed as “superstrings”, because they vibrate like violin strings. They are undetectable by scientific instruments. They fill the universe and carry all information in time and space. Ancient yogis also believed that universe was pervaded by sutras (strings) and spanda (indestructible vibrations) of high frequencies which carried information about the past, present and future. This cosmic spanda is represented in our body as nerve impulse and is, therefore, capable of being in harmony with the cosmic superstrings.
Brahma chakra that lies above the brain is also a piece of universal web of sutras or spanda that fill the cosmos and carries purusha (memory) within it. Yogis believe that knowledge housed in purusha is indestructible. After death of brain this escapes as a field pattern of high frequency that we call Atma, which wanders free in the universe trying to locate matching frequencies to align with. If this field pattern is able to tune with the frequency of the brain of a growing foetus, it accepts and aligns with the latter. An incarnation is then believed to have taken place.
An untrained brain is incapable of having access to this storehouse of information in purusha, owing to great difference in frequencies of the two. Role of meditation commences here. A meditator’s goal is not simply to arrest mental modifications but to achieve complete control over brain and mind and have access to the high frequency of purusha at will by going into trance. Purusha being composed of high frequency vibrations is directly in tune with the cosmic superstrings and thereby in touch with the eternal knowledge.
Meditation by arresting mental modifications brings the brain to alpha state (14 cycles per second from 21 cycles of normal activity) and eventually to super consciousness, when it is able to reach purusha and back at will, a state described by yogis as “eternal bliss”. The brain then doesn’t need to depend on the sense organs to obtain information. It can pick up cosmic patterns directly through purusha. For a yogi who has accomplished this, Rishi Gheranda said, “What is then left to learn in this world”.
Human beings are the only creatures on our planet capable of training mind and tapping eternal knowledge through purusha. We are fortunate to have been born as human species endowed with this unique capability. But how many of us even think of getting out of the web of materialism and attempt to avail of this rare opportunity that lies before us?