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Augmented Reality

There is a revolution going on. It's called "the 4th industrial revolution".

The 1st industrial revolution, beginning at the end of the 18th century, was about the mechanization of production and harnessing the power of steam to move the new, big machines, shackling the earth with railways. The 2nd industrial revolution, a hundred years later, was about discovering and engaging new sources of energy like electricity, gas and oil. The combustion engine and steel set in motion heavy industry. The process of chemical synthesis brought forward new materials like synthetic fibre, dyes or fertilizers. Telegraph and telephone revolutionized the way people communicated. Inventions of the automobile and planes allowed the man to enter the 20th century with enhanced mobility. The 3rd industrial revolution, beginning in the late 60s brought the dawn and rise of transistors, electronics and microprocessors. Nuclear energy, more powerful than anything known to man before (as they say), commenced a new era of expansion accompanied by existential anxiety over the future of mankind. Automats and sophisticated robots started to take over human labour. Now we find ourselves in the time of the 4th industrial revolution.

Unlike the revolutions preceding it, this one doesn't stem from discovering a new source of energy or manufacturing revolutionary materials like steel and plastics. It is far more subtle. It rests on information, it rests on the "bit". The carrier of this revolution is the Internet, the Wi-Fi, the GPS - the ones and the zeroes of the binary code. Everything is being wirelessly connected with everything else as "the Internet of things" through sophisticated technology, up to the point of the borders between mechanical, electronic, biological and mental becoming blurry and indistinct.

One facet of this ongoing phenomenon is the creation of instruments which facilitate a so-called augmented reality*. To describe it shortly, in the augmented reality (AR) our senses (predominantly vision) are enhanced through a device that digitally superposes additional information on the surroundings we perceive. It's an interesting occurrence and observed from the spiritual point of view it inspires thought on our position as embodied living entities. What is the process of perception? How do we acquire knowledge and what is its purpose?

The soul is not senseless and it is not formless. The soul is the person who resides within the body, just like we're now people dressed in our clothes. The gross material body made of elements such as earth, water, fire, air and ether and the subtle body made of mind, intelligence and false ego - the psychological personality - is not the real person, just like our clothes are not a person, although they seem to have personal features like hands, legs, chest or a head. The cloth on its own is formless, but it assumes a form when the tailor sews it according to the bodily proportions of the customer. Similarly, the matter which creates our body is formless on its own, but it assumes a form when it covers the living entity and is shaped up according to the jiva's mental state. We have assumed our gross and subtle bodies trying to "augment" the reality of which we are eternally parts and parcels. That reality is the one of an eternal life of full cognizance and bliss in the spiritual world in association with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna.

To augment something means to expand, to enhance or to better it. By separating ourselves from the eternal transcendental loving service unto the Supreme Lord Sri Krsna we have tried to enhance, to augment our pleasure; not as servants but as masters, not as the dominated but as the dominators. The fact is, however, that we didn't augment our reality in this way. We've crippled it. From the position of ever liberated souls free from birth, death, old age, disease, hunger, thirst, fatigue, anxiety, hankering, lamentation, lust, anger, illusion etc. we have descended to a platform of the exact opposite. Our original, pure spiritual senses became covered by matter and conditioned to function only under particular circumstances, thus becoming instruments of our limitation and delusion instead of clear perception. Our eyes can perceive only a particular frequency of light. The same goes for our ears, perceiving only a particular range of sound frequency. Similarly, our other senses work only under a particular, favourable condition. Our minds are shaped up in the process of family or institutional upbringing, education, cultural context and experiences which are themselves conceived in the light of such conditioning. Our present consciousness is a closed bubble of relativity and thus even people's scarce attempts to break through the membrane of this bubble are of the same nature. As our friend, professor Albert Einstein said: "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Similarly, we cannot understand the complete truth about the world, ascending from our position of relative existence, where one "truth" depends on and changes according to another "truth".

With this apparatus of conditioned perception, limited mind, misconceptions of all kinds in regards to what and where we are, and with agendas motivated by material sense gratification, our contact with the actual reality is severely slackened. Without understanding the nature of consciousness, its cause and effect, we are trying to augment man's perception by utilizing mechanical gadgets, thus covering his already covered senses and mind with another layer of (mis)interpretation.

The ancient Srimad-Bhagavatam, the ripened fruit of Vedic knowledge, describes in detail the process through which the living entity becomes covered by gross and subtle material elements. The elements (i.e. fire) are manifested along with the objects of sense-perception which they carry (i.e. form) and with the respective organs for their perception (i.e. eye). Thus triads of an element, sense object and sense organs manifest as: ether - sound - ear, air - touch - skin, fire - form - eye, water - taste - tongue, earth - fragrance - nose. All the senses are conducted by the materialistic mind, which is attached to sense objects and to the pleasure derived from contacting them through those senses. The mind has three functions: thinking, feeling and willing. The materialistic mind thinks about the sense-objects, develops emotional charge towards them and ultimately wills to obtain them for sense enjoyment. Subsequent to the willing stage is action aiming towards obtaining them. Intelligence is another layer of subtle material covering over the spirit soul. The function of pure intelligence is to understand things in their proper perspective, culminating in clear recognition of the distinction between reality and illusion. In the mode of living entity's consciousness separated from Krsna consciousness, his intelligence is also contaminated and doesn't serve its function properly. This is why people make the wrong decisions and get into difficulties. Over and above all these presides the ahankara - the false ego of "this is me" and "this is mine". Our false ego, our mistaken identification with the material senses and mind is the point of contact of the eternal and pure spiritual living entity with the non-permanent manifestation of inert matter. Oil and water never mix, although they are, for the time being, poured in the same glass. Similarly, the soul and the body never mix, but through the agency of ahankara, we consider them to be one and the same in this world. Our gross and subtle material body is the gadget we have taken upon ourselves to exercise our propensity to control and to enjoy separately from God, Krsna, to foolishly try to augment an already perfect reality.

At the present moment, the 4th industrial revolution is bringing a new, digital imposition on consciousness. The soul, of which consciousness is a symptom, is sat-cit-ananda - eternal, full of knowledge and bliss. This innate nature of eternity, cognizance and pleasure leaks through the coverings of gross and subtle matter and manifests in our never-ending pursuit of youth, knowledge and happiness. But, as said before, without proper information about the nature of the self which is already eternal, fully cognizant and ecstatic, we try to find eternity, knowledge and bliss within the realm of inert matter. The development of augmented reality idea and devices is, after all, just another attempt to maximize the amount of information one can extract from his surroundings, aiming to maximize sense gratification, with hyper-reality** as its possible outcome.

Back to the question of acquiring knowledge, its process and its purpose. The AR systems are supposed to enhance our cognizance, make our decision-making faster and more efficient. They offer instant access to a supposedly unlimited stock of data superposed over an observed object or person in real-time or an interactive, 3D, real-time learning experience enacted in our actual environment. This way or that way, the root of AR is acquiring information through a device connected to a database. Your AR headset becomes your guru. Your AR device will tell you what is what. You don't have to think too much and waste time with speculation, all the info you need is ready and authorized. You don't have to make a mistake by using your puny brain and insufficient senses to determine where, how and what is going on. Here is a solution: the augmented reality device.

It is amusing to realize how many of the people of this post-modern and post-factual era, who campaign against blind following, dogmatism, brainwash or "religion" become themselves such surrendered souls. The principle of the teacher and the taught, the guru and disciple, cannot be avoided at any stage of life. There is always something we don't know and there is always someone who offers us that knowledge. Whether it is bona-fide or not, that is a different question.

We mostly learn from a source outside of ourselves. Even an autodidact uses external sources and even our inner realizations are conditioned by what we have already experienced before and how we processed that experience.

The concept of augmented reality is not a new one, though. In the Vedas, this concept is called sastra-caksu, the eye of the scripture. We have our naked eyes, which are all defective and then there is a device, which enhances our vision. The new way of augmenting our vision of reality is represented by AR headsets, but the ancient and timeless way is to hear from the sastra (scripture) and from the guru. We are truth-seekers and there are two types of truth: relative truth and absolute truth. Relative truth depends on some other truth to be true, but the Absolute Truth doesn't depend on anything, rather, everything depends on Him. And that is the vision we get from the Bhagavad-gita, the Srimad-Bhagavatam and other Vedic literature. Without funny gadgets attached to our heads and bodies, supplied by relative information coming from another conditioned soul, we can have a clear vision of the cause and effect within and outside of this world.

The supremely expanded consciousness is God-consciousness or Krsna consciousness because there is nothing beyond God or Krsna. The ultimate phase of augmented reality is the vision of the primal cause and appreciation of its effects with adequate discrimination between the substance and its shadow. The actual augmentation of our reality is to see God in everything and everything in God, nothing outside of God and God outside of everything. The following is an inspiration to develop this vision from the pages of Bhagavad-gita where Lord Krsna gives Arjuna a hint oh how to perceive Him in every-day things surrounding us and how to see His glory manifested in natural phenomena:

"I shall now declare unto you in full this knowledge, both phenomenal and numinous. This being known, nothing further shall remain for you to know. Out of many thousands among men, one may endeavour for perfection, and of those who have achieved perfection, hardly one knows Me in truth. Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – all together these eight constitute My separated material energies. Besides these, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is another, superior energy of Mine, which comprises the living entities who are exploiting the resources of this material, inferior nature. All created beings have their source in these two natures. Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both the origin and the dissolution.

O conqueror of wealth, there is no truth superior to Me. Everything rests upon Me, as pearls are strung on a thread. O son of Kunti, I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man. I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics. O son of Prtha, know that I am the original seed of all existences, the intelligence of the intelligent, and the prowess of all powerful men. I am the strength of the strong, devoid of passion and desire. I am sex life which is not contrary to religious principles, O lord of the Bharatas [Arjuna]. Know that all states of being – be they of goodness, passion or ignorance – are manifested by My energy. I am, in one sense, everything, but I am independent. I am not under the modes of material nature, for they, on the contrary, are within Me. (Bg.7.2-12)

"The Supreme Personality of Godhead said: Yes, I will tell you of My splendorous manifestations, but only of those which are prominent, O Arjuna, for My opulence is limitless. I am the Supersoul, O Arjuna, seated in the hearts of all living entities. I am the beginning, the middle and the end of all beings. Of the Adityas I am Visnu, of lights I am the radiant sun, of the Maruts I am Marici, and among the stars I am the moon. Of the Vedas I am the Sama Veda; of the demigods I am Indra, the king of heaven; of the senses I am the mind; and in living beings I am the living force [consciousness]. Of all the Rudras I am Lord Siva, of the Yaksas and Raksasas I am the Lord of wealth [Kuvera], of the Vasus I am fire [Agni], and of mountains I am Meru. Of priests, O Arjuna, know Me to be the chief, Brhaspati. Of generals I am Karttikeya, and of bodies of water I am the ocean. Of the great sages I am Bhrgu; of vibrations I am the transcendental om. Of sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names [japa], and of immovable things I am the Himalayas.

Of all trees I am the banyan tree, and of the sages among the demigods I am Narada. Of the Gandharvas I am Citraratha, and among perfected beings I am the sage Kapila. Of horses know Me to be Uccaihsrava, produced during the churning of the ocean for nectar. Of lordly elephants I am Airavata, and among men I am the monarch. Of weapons I am the thunderbolt; among cows I am the surabhi. Of causes for procreation I am Kandarpa, the god of love, and of serpents I am Vasuki. Of the many-hooded Nagas I am Ananta, and among the aquatics I am the demigod Varuna. Of departed ancestors I am Aryama, and among the dispensers of law I am Yama, the lord of death. Among the Daitya demons I am the devoted Prahlada, among subduers I am time, among beasts I am the lion, and among birds I am Garuda. Of purifiers I am the wind, of the wielders of weapons I am Rama, of fishes I am the shark, and of flowing rivers I am the Ganges.

Of all creations I am the beginning and the end and also the middle, O Arjuna. Of all sciences I am the spiritual science of the self, and among logicians I am the conclusive truth. Of letters I am the letter A, and among compound words I am the dual compound. I am also inexhaustible time, and of creators I am Brahma. I am all-devouring death, and I am the generating principle of all that is yet to be. Among women I am fame, fortune, fine speech, memory, intelligence, steadfastness and patience. Of the hymns in the Sama Veda I am the Brhat-sama, and of poetry I am the Gayatri. Of months I am Margasirsa [November-December], and of seasons I am flower-bearing spring. I am also the gambling of cheats, and of the splendid I am the splendor. I am victory, I am adventure, and I am the strength of the strong.

Of the descendants of Vrsni I am Vasudeva, and of the Pandavas I am Arjuna. Of the sages I am Vyasa, and among great thinkers I am Usana. Among all means of suppressing lawlessness I am punishment, and of those who seek victory I am morality. Of secret things I am silence, and of the wise I am the wisdom. Furthermore, O Arjuna, I am the generating seed of all existences. There is no being – moving or nonmoving – that can exist without Me. O mighty conqueror of enemies, there is no end to My divine manifestations. What I have spoken to you is but a mere indication of My infinite opulences. Know that all opulent, beautiful and glorious creations spring from but a spark of My splendor. But what need is there, Arjuna, for all this detailed knowledge? With a single fragment of Myself I pervade and support this entire universe. (Bg. 10.19-42)

There was an experiment*** done, and I believe there were many others like this one. Their conclusion is that we see what we pay attention to and things we don't care about are hidden from us. Nevertheless, things which we do not care about still exist and happen on their own as parts of the Absolute Truth. If no one observed a tree falling down in a forest, it doesn't mean that the tree didn't fall down. And what to speak of God? The Truth doesn't depend on our care or neglect, like or dislike. It exists on its own and God is the Ultimate Truth. The only question for us is how much we care to know the Truth and what instruments we take up in its pursuit.

One way of seeing the world is to use naked eyes and create our own theories and mental speculations based on conditional experience, which will always remain limited. Another way is to be (mis)guided by Google, Microsoft, Apple and whatnot, put on the AR gadgets, get micro-chipped or "enhanced" and see the world through the eyes of those who set up their algorithms and who manage the database. And then, we can see through our ears. Just like you can wake up a sleeping friend by calling on him in the time of danger: "Wake up! Wake up!". Seeing through the ears is powerful. You can see a foreign country by hearing about it from a friend who came from that place. We see the unseen by hearing about it from a proper source. We don't see God now, but we can hear about Him and we can hear from Him. The source of our hearing must be bona-fide and our interest must also be genuine. If so, then, our ears will hear, our hands will touch, our nose will smell, our tongue will taste and our eyes will see things in their real perspective, conducted by a sane mind. Our intelligence will be able to distinguish reality from illusion and we as spirit souls will re-connect ourselves with the ultimate source of all that be, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Krsna. That is the supremely augmented reality.

external links:

* augmented reality

** hyper-reality

*** "can you see the penguin?" experiment

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