Nish Dubashia is a gifted author with a brilliant mind who was invited at the age of 24 to discuss his work with Albert Einstein’s scientific successor. We are happy to interview him here about his life and work.
You recently published a book entitled “The Unity of Everything: A Conversation with David Bohm”. What is this book about?
It is essentially a conversation that I had with David Bohm, one of the world’s greatest theoretical physicists, and the man whom Albert Einstein considered to be his intellectual successor, about a model of reality that I created when I was a mathematics student at the University of Warwick.
You constructed a model of reality. Can you tell us a little bit more about this model?
Well, I had been studying the world’s religions for many years, and started to notice some deep underlying similarities between them. They all seemed to have a similar metaphysic about how the universe we perceive emerges out of an underlying energy or consciousness of some kind, and how we can return to or rediscover that energy or consciousness in our own journey or experience. I also started to see similarities between this metaphysic and some of the discoveries of modern physics, particularly in the writings of David Bohm. So this led to me trying to formulate the most simple or essential version of this metaphysic in modern language that I thought was possible.
You were a very gifted student in school and university, so your interest in Mathematics and Physics must have stemmed from that. But how did you become so interested in religion?
I lived in India for the first few years of my life, and was introduced to Hindu mythology by my grandfather. After coming to the UK, I was given a Bible by my best friend at school and found myself becoming absorbed in Jewish and Christian stories too. As I got older, this interest became more serious and more philosophical, and my interest in Mathematics started to motivate me to look for patterns of commonality across the different religions that could be neatly and even geometrically modelled.
Your interest in religion hasn’t only been academic. You have also been a serious practitioner of the spiritual traditions for many decades now. How did that come about?
When I was a student at Warwick, I lived just about one hundred metres away from Chee Soo, who at the time was the UK’s foremost Taoist master. I started to learn Tai Chi Chuan and Taoist meditation from him, and realised that spirituality wasn’t just about reading books. It was, more importantly, about personal transformation. I later started practicing Theravada Buddhist meditation with monks from nearby Leamington Spa, who would periodically visit the university. And, when I later started working in London, I continued my studies and practice in the context of Tibetan and Zen Buddhism. I have tried to be quite dedicated with my practice, and have only missed four days practice in nearly thirty years. Those four days were when I was in hospital having surgery.
Wow, that is very dedicated. And how did the meeting with David Bohm come about? I mean, how does one end up discussing the secrets of the universe with Einstein’s protégé?
I guess that one just has to be an over-confident youth. What happened is that I wrote a detailed 80-page paper developing the model and showing its correlations with the different spiritual traditions of the world, as well as with modern physics, and sent the paper to David Bohm, who was Professor at Birkbeck College in London. I honestly didn’t expect to hear from him. But about two weeks later, I received a phone call at home asking for a “Professor Dubashia” and it was David Bohm himself inviting me to discuss my paper with him at his offices in London. Obviously, I took the day off work and went. I would have probably left my job for such an opportunity.
How did the meeting actually go? Anything particularly memorable?
Well, I was quite nervous talking to one of the world’s great intellects, but Bohm was very gracious in addressing my questions and suggestions. For me, there were two real highlights of the meeting. Firstly, he told me that many people attempt to create models of reality similar to mine, but that many such attempts are quite incoherent. However, he believed that mine was quite coherent in comparison. Secondly, when I asked him at the end of the meeting how I should proceed to develop the model further, he said that the way to proceed would be to put the implications of the model into practice, and this provided, for me, a huge impetus to continue with my meditation practice even more seriously, which I have done to this day.
Can you tell us a bit more about your actual model?
The crux of the model is that there is an underlying Wholeness or Unity behind the apparent world of separate things and events. Mind and matter both emerge out of this Wholeness as relatively separate entities or processes, and their interaction then creates the apparently real manifest or observable world of differences and distinctions. Unfortunately, the mind often carries on this process beyond where it is helpful or necessary, and this leads to conflict and disorder within the world and within oneself. Ultimately, even the distinction between Wholeness and Multiplicity is not absolute, since both of these emerge out of a deeper Ground of all Being, which is the Source of Everything.
And how does all of this relate to spirituality?
Well, the entire spiritual journey or process can effectively be seen as a movement back from the normal fragmentation of this world to healthy multiplicity, and then from healthy multiplicity back to the original Wholeness again. And, in some rare cases, highly enlightened beings may once again even go back to the Source or Ground of Everything.
Now you talk in your book about some kind of enlightenment experience that you yourself had in 2007. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Well, I don’t want to make any big claims, so I say all of this quite tentatively and I completely understand if some people may respond with scepticism. In June 2007, I had gone out for a meal with my wife, and we were sitting outside a restaurant near a lake. Suddenly, something seemed radically different, and I slowly realized that my mind had stopped. No thoughts, no feelings, just a kind of pure perception of the world around me. This was accompanied by a sense of great joy or great relief that my mind was no longer generating any of the normal chatter, much of it negative and problem-making, that most of us perpetually suffer from. Over the coming days and weeks, this condition or state intensified until I felt as if there were blissful energies pouring down on me from above through the top of my head, down the front of my body, and back up the spine. And I was able to simply watch this whole process occurring without being involved or implicated in it in any way, as if it were happening to someone else. And when I looked around me, it was obvious that everything and everybody around me were not ultimately different from who I was. The sense of being a separate self was gone. There was only a simple Wholeness, and I was that Wholeness. And I remained in this state, 24/7, for about six months.
This sounds quite extraordinary. And are you still in that state?
Occasionally. But it is rarely as intense, and never as permanent as it was during the second half of 2007. However, it is still implicitly there in the background in some sense. I think that an experience or realization of that kind can never completely leave you. And what is even more interesting is that a couple of close friends who are also long-term spiritual practitioners have said quite explicitly that they have felt a sense of that realization themselves on occasion when they have been in my company. So maybe an experience of that kind can almost be contagious in some sense to people who are open to it.
And where do you go from here?
Well, hopefully I will be able to continue meditating for the rest of my days whilst continuing more detailed study of the spiritual traditions. I have developed a much more detailed model of the spiritual traditions in three-dimensions which even has potential predictive capacities in relation to how these traditions may continue to evolve in quite specific ways. A colleague and I are writing about this, and maybe a huge book about this will one day see the light of day. Now I think that could really have an impact.
Thank you very much for your time, Mr Dubashia
You’re very welcome.