Proof of Heaven

I spent Saturday evening with a friend at the Alchemy Center in Camden. I’d been meaning to go for months and this particular event was ‘a night of sacred sounds and meditation’. What’s more it was free. Smashing. Now I’m used to a bit of chanting as I practise Nichiren Buddhism (I’ll talk more about this in due course) but I’ve never been to something like this before. Interestingly this was not a passive type of event but a ‘kirtan’ (call and response chanting) our ‘kirtankar’ was to be  someone called Sarab Deva Kaur who was launching an album called ‘Uplifting Mantras for You’

Most of the mantras originated directly or indirectly from Sanskrit (spoken as Tibetan, Hindi and Gurmukhi) although some were Arabic (Sufism) and one was Japanese. I really enjoyed the evening and was able to join in with most of them. The one I remember specially is ‘Om Sri Rama Jaya Rama, Jaya Jaya Rama” which Ghandi apparently used to chant and was chanting when he liberated India. There was a really great energy and I’m sure everyone present (and not present) benefited greatly from these seeds of higher consciousness. After each mantra was sung by Sarab (beautifully I must add) we sat in silence. No clapping.  This was strange at first but then I enjoyed the space it left; freedom from the normal addiction of praise and reward we are so used to in daily life. Just sitting in the healing power of the mantra was enough. Mantra literally means ‘to liberate the mind’ after all.

Another amazing thing that happened was I saw on the desk of the receptionist a book called ‘Proof of Heaven’. The title of the book was ringing some vague bells and speaking to the owner it turns out that the book tells the true story of a neurosurgeon who fell into a deep coma after a serious illness and was effectively pronounced dead by all the doctors and specialists. Somehow though he made a recovery but upon awakening things had changed, this once rational scientist was now completely certain of the infinite reach of the soul, and certain of a life beyond death. The book had popped up on my radar when I was doing some research into a project previously.

Okay so what, there are lot’s of these near death stories right? Well, what makes this story so interesting is that as a neurosurgeon, the author is able to explain in depth why his brain was incapable of fabricating the journey he experienced…

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross was an eminent Swiss American Psychiatrist who spent her life studying near death experiences like this. She wrote the book ‘On Death and Dying’ in which she theorised for the first time the five stages of grief as a pattern of adjustment for the dying and the survivor that we have become familiar with (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance).

Kubler-Ross believed that after one’s death, we continue to live on because consciousness doesn’t die.  She reached that conclusion after studying 20,000 cases of dying experiences from all over the world, her work is still being published. What was her conclusion?

“Once people understand that they have to be responsible for what they have done when they are alive, people will change their lifestyles.”

So what has this got to do with chanting? Well the First Law of Thermodynamics states that all energy is conserved. It is neither created or destroyed. Interesting isn’t it?

So something that has always puzzled me is where do songs and music go when they have been sung? Do the sound waves just fade away? Where do the sonically charged atoms bounce off too? Probably they get surrounded by heavier atoms of oxygen or hydrogen? I’m sure the scientists can tell me. I like to think though that somewhere in the universe they still exist, like the mantras I chanted on Saturday night. Yes the effect of these sacred sounds is internal, creating psychological transformation, but the mind and the environment are one. This world is simply a product of our conscious minds after all. I like the idea that these little parts of my liberated mind are still out there somewhere floating melodically in the infinite consciousness. Little proofs of heaven.


Ice Cream…Ice Cream…a favourite mantra for me

After the chanting we went to one of my favourite Ice Cream parlours, Marine Ices, which has been around since the 40’s for waffles and gelato for some further proof of heaven.


4 thoughts on “Proof of Heaven

  1. Interesting reflection, and a really good read. If I may I only wan to leave a couple of thoughts, at the risk of being really annoying: 1. Newton has not postulated any theories on thermodynamics (he worked on a lot of things, including the Law of gravity) 2. Scientists tend to have a logical approach to problem solving, but it is rather limitative to think they are all sceptical about spirituality. Science in itself is not a value system: it is a verb, a way of evaluating questions (question, hypothesis, testing, analysis). Many scientists, including Darwin had some form of religious belief (I am a Nichiren Buddhist and a scientist, for example). Your philosophical questions on the conservation of energy are indeed what drove lots of people towards science (including me). I still have not lost the sense of wonder at finding out what the scientific method has already helped to answer them. Come to think of it… a session on it at LIPC would be totally awesome. Cheers for an interesting blogpost anyway!

    • Not annoying at all! You’re quite right of course and as the son of two research scientists I should be more careful about how I use that word. Not knowing the author of the book ‘Proof of Heaven’ I have no idea how sceptical he was I was just trying to emphasise the difference between an empirical and an experiential understanding….hmm well even that gets questionable at the quantum level doesn’t it! Anyway the key tagline of the book seemed to be ‘scientist has spiritual experience and can tell us why it’s mystical and not organic or biological’! It doesn’t however reflect my general view and I agree with you – science and spirituality have always been and always will be intertwined. There was a time when they weren’t seen as separate fields of discourse. ‘Science’ or physics at least used to be known as natural philosophy. Perhaps all science ends in spirituality and spirituality with science, as you say they are both ways of evaluating the same experience.
      Point taken with regard to the law of Thermodynamics…been a long time since Physics classes and i’ll make sure I check my facts more carefully from now on. I’m glad your enjoying the blog, it’s new so bear with me and thanks for taking the time to comment. It’s valued and I’d look forward to a science session or series at LIPC. Have you read Ikeda’s dialogue with Chandra Wickramasinghe?

  2. On a less scientific note… Interesting to see that your ice cream goes ON the waffle and not beside it. Clearly your rules of culinary positioning are far more complex than I imagined.

    • Well in fact I would say it probably is scientific as the waffle is more robust (less soaking up qualities) than say a slice of wholemeal which disintegrates with the addition of beans…the most important thing is not to mix up your beans and your ice cream as it’s impossible to stick a wafer in a pile of beans.

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