"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the life of others."
‘A MILLION HAPPY LANDINGS’ – A LONG AVIATION CAREER :
Captain. R. R. Rao, Aviation Consultant, SKYCARE Aviation Society ( India ) as a pilot, General Secretary of the Indian Commercial Pilots Association, a Manager, and as a Flight Instructor, won the hearts of several thousands of pilots, colleagues, and students. His dedication for aviation and his constant drive to improve safety of flight will forever remain his greatest contribution to all pilots and the flying public.
A PSALM OF LIFE :
“Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.”
( Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1807-1882 )
‘THINGS ARE NOT WHAT THEY SEEM’ – AN ENCOUNTER WITH REALITY AND AN ILLUSION :
Myself, and my friends, while I was ten years of age, walked eight miles to view a single engine, fixed wing aircraft that had arrived at an airfield in Rajahmundry.
During 1958, this airfield at Madhurapudi, Rajahmundry was not providing any civil aviation service.
During the academic year of 1958-1959, at about ten years of age, I was a 9th Grade ( IV FORM ) student at Danavaipeta Municipal High School, Rajahmundry, Andhra Pradesh, India. Amongst other subjects, I was studying Physics and the Laws of Physics that operate in the physical world. One day, myself, and a few of my classmates saw a small airplane circling in the sky over Rajahmundry. At that time, we had no Airport in Rajahmundry. The airfield at Madhurapudi had one runway and had no terminal building. It is located 8 miles away from Danavaipeta. Myself, and my friends had spontaneously decided to physically see this aircraft and had walked all the way to the airfield under the hot Sun. Fortunately, the plane had returned and we found it parked on the runway. We found the pilot relaxing under the shade of the plane. Captain. R. R. Rao, my uncle was that pilot. As far as my memory goes, that was my very first time I was meeting him during my life and it was also the last time that I had met him during my life. During that brief and purely chance encounter, he had asked me to climb into the cockpit and had guided me in checking the instrument panels, operate the wing flaps and the tail while explaining a few basic aspects about flying a plane. Apart from this reality of meeting my pilot uncle at Madhurapudi airfield, I had also witnessed for the first time in my life the illusionary phenomenon known as Mirage. Rajahmundry gets very hot but we do not get the right atmospheric conditions to actually witness a highway or a hot road Mirage. I had learned about it in my Science class but the actual sensory experience of this illusion in the natural world is really memorable.
THE PERCEPTION OF PHYSICAL WORLD :
This 'FULL MOON' exists in the sensible, manifested, perceived World. While living upon planet Earth, we perceive the waxing and waning phases of the Moon. The appearance of the Moon changes, but in reality it is one and unchanging. To understand the unchanging reality, we need to understand the problems of Perception.
Human perception is the process and experience of gaining sensory information about objects and events of the natural world. The process of perception translates sensory stimulation into organized experience. That mental impression or percept is the joint product of the stimulation and of the process which involves the intuitive and rational parts of the brain. However, a real, physical world exists independent of man’s experience. A real, physical world has existed long before man’s arrival and man’s physical interaction with the elements of nature. The branches of Physics concerned with electromagnetic energy, optics, and mechanics describe the apparent physical world. When physical energy such as light interacts with the perceiving individual, percepts are formed. The degree of correspondence between percepts and the physical objects or events to which they relate also depends upon certain other external factors beyond human control. There could be a difference between Real World and the ‘Perceived World’. Sometimes, man perceives physical objects or events that may not exist in reality, and yet other times man fails to perceive physical objects or events that may actually exist and the manner in which they really exist. These perceptual problems are not attributable to the sense organs and are not due to inadequate sensory endowment. Apart from the basic Four Fundamental Forces that operate this physical world, there is another Fundamental Force that alters or transforms human perception. The Force of Gravitation gives the man the ability to experience his body weight and like all other objects in the environment, man exists on the face of Earth according to the Laws of Motion and the influence of Gravitation.
FLYING AND PERCEPTUAL APPRECIATION OF REALITY :
Flying demands an acute awareness of the physical world. Man interacts with his physical environment using his sense organs of vision, hearing, touch, and smell. To move effectively, we must perceive our own movements to balance ourselves. The eye is by far the most effective organ for sensing. Movement detectors exist in the human brain. The vestibular organs in the inner ears provide us with the sense of balance and equilibrium apart from other kinesthetic sensations from muscles, tendons, and joints. A visual field containing familiar objects provides a stable framework against which relative motion may be judged. For purposes of path recognition and navigation while flying in air, the pilot requires reliable perception of the vertical and horizontal dimensions. Preservation of perceptual constancy for the vertical and horizontal dimensions during the flight are based on the parallel activity of vision and the vestibular sense of balance or equilibrium. Even in flying small aircraft it has been shown that the pilot becomes disoriented unless he preserves visual control of the horizontal dimension. The movement of an airplane produces centrifugal and centripetal forces, particularly as the plane tilts or changes direction, which easily mislead a person’s vestibular( balance ) receptors. For this reason, in high-altitude flying the horizontal line of the surface of the Earth is simulated for the pilot by an optical display unit. When an aircraft takes off to begin the flight, and when it returns to land at the end of the flight, the perception of depth and distance are of critical importance. The perception of depth and distance depends on information transmitted through various sense organs. Sensory cues indicate the distance at which objects in the environment are located from the perceiving individual. Man has the ability to differentiate his own body from the surrounding environment. Man has the ability to perceive his own movement, and also the movement of other objects in his physical environment. But, man has no sensory perception of the reality of the movement of his earthly home in space. Man only recognizes relative motion of objects in his visual field. Just recall the illusion that your train is moving, when in reality, it is really the moving train along that is seen through the window; and the moving train on the adjoining track is falsely accepted as the visual frame of reference.
PERCEPTUAL CONSISTENCY AND CONSTANCY :
The intuitive and rational parts of brain interact to modify sensory information. In these images, the moon is of the same size but is perceived differently.
Spatial perception tends to ensure that a person experiences the continually changing circumstances of the environment in which he moves and lives with some degree of stability or constancy. Some degree of selectivity in perception is required for the survival of the individual. The individual gradually learns about the significance of observable ( empirical ) spatial cues. There is a well-known apparent difference in the size of the moon when it is at the horizon and when it is fully risen. The horizon moon, though it is actually further away from the observer, looks larger than it does when it is high in the sky and closer. The retinal images in the eye of the high moon and the horizon moon are about the same, but the perceived size of the moon differs grossly. Indian thinkers have always asserted that ‘TRUTH’ and ‘REALITY’ have the qualities of consistency and constancy and hence are not subject to sensory perceptions which tend to vary because of external influences.
THE NATURE OF ILLUSIONS :
Stimulus Distortion Illusion - A visual or optical illusion produced by the refraction or bending of light rays as it passes from one substance to another in which the speed of light is significantly different. A ray of light passing from one transparent medium(Air) to another(Water) is bent at the surface where the air and water meet.Thus the pencil standing in water seems bent.
Mirage is an illusion that depends on atmospheric conditions.
The vision of a pool of water is created by light passing the layers of hot air above the heated surface of the land. The cooler layers of air are denser and refract the sun's rays at different angles than the less dense strata of heated air. The result is the appearance of water where there is none.
This Illusion depends upon the 'Perceiver' and his selection of figure and ground.Illusion of organizational phenomena caused by perceptual distinction between figure and ground.
Perceptions accord more often with object’s properties than with the sensory stimulation. Perceptual constancies cause one to perceive the world more correctly than would be expected from sensory stimulation. Illusions are perceptions where perception accords neither with how the sensory receptors are stimulated nor with the characteristics of the objects themselves. Illusions are pervasive phenomena. Such experiences have been regularly and consistently reported by virtually everyone. Illusions are defined as special perceptual experiences in which information arising from “real” external stimuli leads to an incorrect perception or false impression.An illusion is not a simple error in perception. Illusions have features whose nature it is to evoke an incorrect perception. Illusions describe subjective perceptual experience that contradicts objective reality. Some of these false impressions arise from factors beyond an individual’s control. Bending or refraction is a property of light rays. We seek light energy for its ability to provide a realistic experience. When the illumination is insufficient, such as in a dark room, a rope could be misinterpreted as a snake(“Rajju Sarpa Bhranti”). The moment the room is illuminated with light, the darkness is gone, and the misconception is destroyed. Indian traditions encourage individuals to avoid the products or results of an illusionary experience. A rational individual would not chase a mirage to find water. When we use sensitive instruments, we take care to avoid optical errors while recording our observations. Any impression that contradicts the ‘facts of reality’, or fails to report the ‘true’ character of an object or an event should be discarded. The apparent daily motion of the Sun and stars across the sky is an illusion that we experience all through our existence. This illusion is not caused by any of the Four Fundamental Forces that operate in the universe. Gravitation is the universal force of attraction that affects all matter and it could explain the consistency of Earth’s orbit around the Sun. Gravitation is not the force that is mediating the mechanism that gives us alternating periods of darkness and light while the reality of Sun is different.
Sunrise, Sunset, and the apparent motion of Sun across our sky is an illusion with which we exist all of our lives.
MAYA IS A FUNDAMENTAL FORCE :
The most important motion of the Earth is its rotation or spinning on an axis. This is the motion that gives us the experience of alternating days and nights while in reality, the Sun shines brightly all the time.The speed of the earth’s rotation can be described in two ways, the angular speed and the linear speed( of a point on the surface of the Earth). The angular or Omega speed of Earth is 0.00007272 radians per second or about 0.5 degrees of rotation in two minutes. The Linear speed or the Linear velocity on the surface of the Earth is 0.278 miles per second or about 1,000 miles per hour. It is surprisingly a very fast motion. While it spins on its axis, the Earth orbits the Sun at a speed of 18.6 miles per second( 30 Kms/Second ). On an average, Earth travels about 66,660 miles per hour and in a year Earth travels about 584 million miles. Earth also partakes of the Sun’s motion as a member of the Milky Way Galaxy. The Sun revolves around the galactic center at a speed of about 155 miles per second( 250 Kms/Second ). We exist upon this planet Earth with no sensory perception of the physical motions of the Earth.We exist in a universe without knowing the reality of our physical movement and position in a system that is constantly in motion. However, the periodicity of man’s earthly existence depends upon Earth’s spin. Man’s fundamental biological functions are synchronized with the rhythmic phases of environmental changes caused by Earth’s rotation. Apart from ‘Sleep-Wakefulness’ Cycles, man seems to be unable to live without some concept of time. Through conditioning to time, and by way of biological rhythms ( Diurnal Rhythm, Solar Rhythm, or Circadian Rhythm), human physiology provides a biological clock that offers points of reference for temporal orientation. The biological clock induces age related changes. As long as Earth is spinning, it would cause both environmental changes as well as physical changes in our bodies. Since, we do not have the ability to stop the Force/Power/Energy that is causing the rotational spin, we are encouraged to dissociate our sense of ‘Identity’ with our physical body which is subject to physical changes such as old age and death. To perceive is to become aware of a stimulation in the present. The present is only a point along the continuum of becoming an instant when future is transformed into past. As the Earth is constantly spinning beyond man’s control, the instant known as ‘present’ gets transformed into ‘past’. Indian tradition claims that ‘ reality’ could not be an experience of past, present, or future. Reality has to exist in a state that is unchanging and eternal. A Fundamental Force that moves the Earth and contributes to this spin governs man’s earthly existence. Man is virtually ruled and dominated by this Force/Power/Energy which causes the rotation of Earth on its axis. No other planet that we know today exhibits an Earth like spin. The length of day and night is totally different on planet Venus. One day on planet Venus is equal to 243 Earth days. Moon spins with the same speed as it revolves around the Earth, one face always points towards the Earth. The Moon rotates on its axis and revolves around the Earth in 27 1/3 days. Because of the rotation and revolution speed being the same, man never sees the dark side of the Moon. Man celebrates ‘Full Moon’ Days when in reality Moon is never fully lit. Man marks his Lunar Calendar with important events with his limited knowledge about the waxing and waning phases of Moon. Man is literally trapped to exist upon Earth and live in accordance with the changes it brings while it is spinning. These are the trappings of the Fundamental Force which I would like to describe as “MAYA” which provides the man with an illusionary sensory experience of Sunrise and Sunset. The physical world is real. Sun is a real object. Darkness and Light are actual, real visual experiences. But, Sunrise and Sunset, in reality are not actual events in man’s life and existence. The reality of man, the reality of man’s identity does not belong to the material realm where man perceives the physical world in which he exists. “Maya” is also described as “AVIDYA” which contributes to ignorance and it would not let man gain true knowledge of his identity. Man gains true knowledge when he gets away from the trappings of Maya and recognizes that there is no dawn or dusk and he has the same identity of that Light described as “PARAM JYOTI” which shines with constancy and consistency and is the Ultimate Reality.
Man's perception of Reality is changed by the external Force/Power/Energy known as Maya. "MAAYA MAYA MIDAM AKHILAM HITVAA"
The only Force/Power/Energy which can help man to overcome “AVIDYA”, the Force that causes the Illusion of Sunrise and Sunset, is the Force that I have described before as “KRUPA”( Krupa - A Force to Preserve Human Existence, published on August 10, 2009). I have described the importance of Gravitational Force in my post titled ‘Earthly Existence – Enjoy the Fragrance’ published on November 20, 2008. Man should realize that he is not the perceiver. He is not the organ of perception. What has been perceived does not describe his true identity or the ‘Real World’. Since its time of origin, the Milky Way Galaxy, the Sun, and Earth have existed in a state of motion. The universe is still expanding, the Galaxies are moving apart and we do not know our precise location in this ever-changing universe. As long as man is attached to his physical body, man would experience the changes in his environment and also in his body that causes old age and death. He need to illuminate his mind with a light that illuminates the three planes of human existence, the physical, the mental, and the causal or spiritual dimensions in a constant and consistent manner.
Gayatri Maha Mantra connects the person to the illuminating power of Light, a power that shines constantly and consistently and this illumination is not associated with the property of refraction that contributes to illusions.
Lord Rama's earthly journey is celebrated according to a calendar which is created by the Force of Maya. The position of Sun, Moon, Planets and Stars that describe the major events of 'RAMAYANA' in reality are not actual positions but are only apparent postions perceived by man. Man needs the Force of "KRUPA" to overcome the trappings of "MAYA".
The personality of Rama had an earthly existence. The name of Rama is identified as Eternal Truth. His name is associated with the power to destroy the Force of illusion that causes old age and death.
Jayatu, Jayatu Mantram, Janma saaphalya Mantram,
Janana marana chheda klesha vichheda Mantram,
Sakala nigama Mantram, sarva saastraika mantram,
Raghupati nija Mantram, Raama Raameti Mantram.
Please view related blog post titled ‘The Ushering of the New Year – The Perception of Change’
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S., Class of April, 1970.