Latest research on Forgetfulness links to Bhagavad Gita

With due respect for whoever concerned, if modern science plays around with memory related genes and alters them for managing people's remembrance and forgetfulness, no matter how well-intended, it's likely to mess up lives before they realize they did it, and the damage could be irreversible.

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It naturally gets interesting when researchers come up with something that concurs with what is stated in India’s ancient literature. Among those who believe that knowledge is like a flowing river that anyone can dive in, reading and hearing, even when their personal beliefs go against the content, is a common practice, for that helps them come to a better conclusion. Recent reports on how forgetfulness, triggered by a protein called “Scribble”, plays a crucial role in smooth functioning of brain effortlessly caught my attention.

“Understanding the process of forgetting could have an enormous impact on how we treat a whole range of diseases,” said Ron Davis, chair of the Department of Neuroscience on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI).”

“What Scribble does is combine the Rac1 and dopamine pathways together into a single dynamic pathway that controls active forgetting,” Davis said. “It orchestrates a series of molecules that are involved in this particular forgetting pathway, and there may well be others we have yet to discover.”

“The Scribble protein is expressed in the same neurons that encode olfactory memories,” said TSRI Senior Staff Scientist Isaac Cervantes-Sandoval, the study’s first author. “We were able to show that it regulates memory by involvement in this particular forgetting pathway, an important biological process that has been surprisingly ignored.” (Read Scientists discover new protein crucial to normal forgetting – Science Daily)

What interests me the most is our brain’s mind-blowing architecture. It gets even more thought-provoking when we learn how different proteins in our bodies work in a most complex fashion and yet maintain perfect harmony. We cannot possibly imagine this level of accuracy, even in a highly sophisticated computer software developed by human intelligence. And the most enthralling part is, here we are talking of the intelligence behind that mighty human intelligence! If someone still thinks that it is all by chance, as Darwin’s nearly obsolete theory assumed, then he or she may need to get updated with latest research works.

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“From Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness” – Lord Krishna in Bhagavad Gita

Back to forgetfulness, the fact that it is now considered crucial for brain’s smooth functioning reminds me of a beautiful verse in Bhagavad Gita how the two functions of brain, namely remembrance and forgetfulness, are directly controlled by the Supersoul, or Paramatma who resides in everyone’s heart.

sarvasya cāhaṁ hṛdi sanniviṣṭo mattaḥ smṛtir jñānam apohanaṁ ca
vedaiś ca sarvair aham eva vedyo vedānta-kṛd veda-vid eva cāham

TRANSLATION: “I am seated in everyone’s heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas.” (B.G. 15.15)

For those who do not know, the above words were spoken personally by Lord Krishna to Arjuna before some 5600 years, and the same knowledge He had given to the ruler of the sun roughly 120,400,000 years ago. What modern education system wants us to believe as mythology is actually a history. (Suggested read: Science confirms Life on the Sun)

So where is the link between the new research on forgetfulness and the statement in Bhagavad Gita except that the word forgetfulness appears in the translation?

Before I address this question, let me make it clear that I am not trying to establish God’s existence here. God does not need to be established by those who He has established. His existence and His role in our lives will not get affected by our faith. This may bring you jitters if you consider yourself a non-believer, but the idea is to show how, in one way or the other, modern science is sliding gradually towards what we read in India’s ancient science, the Vedic scriptures.

There is a clear link between the research on forgetfulness and Lord Krishna’s statement in Bhagavad Gita. The research says that forgetfulness is a crucial feature, and God, or Lord Krishna, says that He supplies us both remembrance and forgetfulness. Why will God supply something if it is not required by us for a smooth functioning of life? Said differently, the conclusion made by researchers that forgetfulness is helpful is in line with Bhagavad Gita statement, for if it weren’t, God wouldn’t have given it. One may wonder that giving remembrance is fine but why forgetfulness? How can forgetfulness be helpful when people are struggling to remember things? The researchers at the Scripps Research Institute has this to say:

“Understanding the process of forgetting could have an enormous impact on how we treat a whole range of diseases,” said Ron Davis, chair of the Department of Neuroscience on the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI). “Certain memories are intrusive and, with sufficient knowledge of how the brain forgets, we should be able to remove selective memories. Alternatively, we could find a way to inhibit forgetting in those suffering from memory disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.” (Source: ScienceDaily)

By this, I do not intend to endorse the ways the researchers may want to utilize the findings. To be frank, with due respect for whoever concerned, I believe that if modern science plays around with memory related genes and alters them for managing people’s remembrance and forgetfulness, no matter how well-intended, it’s likely to mess up lives before they realize they did it, and the damage could be irreversible.

From spiritual point of view also, forgetfulness is a boon in disguise. One thing we need to note is, when Lord Krishna speaks in Bhagavad Gita about remembrance and forgetfulness, He does not speak only about one or two lifetimes. He speaks in terms all past, presence and future. At times, He even speaks in terms of eternity.

Quoting a verse from Taittirīya Āraṇyaka Upaniṣad 3.11.1, which says antaḥ-praviṣṭaḥ śāstā janānām, Srila Prabhupada writes in his purport:

“The living entity forgets as soon as he quits his present body, but he begins his work again, initiated by the Supreme Lord. Although he forgets, the Lord gives him the intelligence to renew his work where he ended his last life. So not only does a living entity enjoy or suffer in this world according to the dictation from the Supreme Lord situated locally in the heart, but he receives the opportunity to understand the Vedas from Him. If one is serious about understanding the Vedic knowledge, then Kṛṣṇa gives the required intelligence.” (B.G. purport 15.15)

We need to realize that if Lord Krishna, in His form as localized paramatma, or super soul, did not supply forgetfulness, people would have gone bonkers remembering their past lives and sanity would have cease to exist on planet earth.

For example, it is said that if a person is too attached to his property and is unable to give up his attachment or desire to enjoy it till his death, after his death he takes birth as a snake around the property and tries to protect it. A householder can take birth as a dog and live in his own house to enjoy varieties of happiness that he craved for in his previous life but could not enjoy due to sinful acts. Imagine what could happen to him and his relatives from previous life if he were not supplied forgetfulness by the Lord?

Another example, it is said that sometimes an enemy takes birth as a physically challenged child and gives extreme pains, both mental and physical, to parents thus fulfilling his previous life’s desire to harass his then enemies. What if the parents remember that the child for whom they are spending all time, energy and money is actually their next door neighbor who was their enemy in last life and had died before a few years?

These and many other examples based on scriptural injunctions and real life experiences show how forgetfulness is an essential feature of the brain. Hearing someone say “I would like to forget that nightmare” is not unusual either. Forgetfulness of previous life’s memories is similar to erasing old software from a computer hard disk in order for a new version to run smoothly. Without forgetting previous life one cannot live peacefully in present life. This is the reason God has added forgetfulness feature to our brain and He manages it as per one’s requirement.

Albert Einstein made a memorable statement, reportedly still hanging in his office at Princeton. He said, “Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”. Apart from its poetic composition, what does this statement really convey? If we analyse every word, Einstein has used the word “can” twice and both times he connects it to “not”. One meaning that I can read is, he is saying that many important things in the world are not given due importance and many useless things have taken the lead, and that there isn’t much one can do about it.

What Einstein said makes perfect sense when we see it in light of today’s value system. There are ample examples how people do not do things they think is correct and do things they think is incorrect. Teachers knowingly teach outdated theories, doctors knowingly prescribe banned medicines, medical stores purposely sell expired medicines, merchants purposely sell damaged material, researchers knowingly give wrong reports, companies knowingly misguide public and so on.

Similarly, even if people come to know from holy scriptures that it is God who gives remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness, and even if they know the limitations and failures of modern science, they knowingly want to ignore spiritual knowledge and give importance to materialistic knowledge. In other words, not everything that counts deserves to be counted, and not everything that deserves to be counted counts.