Dr. Mani Bhaumik, co-inventor of the technology that lead to Lasik surgery, experienced a spiritual rebirth born of 'an absence of want, a compulsive consumption - a queasy feeling of being overfed and undernourished at the same time.'
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Mani Bhaumik, PhD, has written a memoir called "Code Name God: The Spiritual Odyssey of a Man of Science." In 218 pages, he has also presented social commentary set in recent history and present day; a juxtaposition of world religions; a lay-person's science textbook; and a case for healing the cosmic wound by re-uniting science and spirituality.
Bhaumik was born in Bengal, India in the midst of the struggle for Indian independence. He was delivered onto the mud floor as the sun set, but according to the caste system of the time, only one from the "untouchables," the lowest rung of the social order, could cut the umbilical cord. Help did not come until dawn. What some would consider a sacred honor, their culture considered a lowly task. Such, Mani says, "is the foolishness of the social and religious barriers we erect against one another."
Bhaumik survived colonial oppression, epidemic, famine and cyclone to earn a PhD in physics from Indian Institute of Technology and a Sloane Foundation fellowship for postdoctoral work at UCLA. He has earned international recognition and a monetary fortune as co-inventor of the laser technology that made LASIK eye surgery possible. Bhaumik was once profiled on the "Lives of the Rich and Famous."
But, after a time, the Rolls-Royce, an Olympic-size pool, Chateau Lafite Rothschild and glamorous women "failed to dispel either the monotony of going from excitement to excitement or the gnawing sense of having lost my way." Dr. Bhaumik's spiritual rebirth would be born of "an absence of want, a compulsive consumption – a queasy feeling of being overfed and undernourished at the same time."
Bhaumik's awakening came on a breezy night following yet another soiree at his Bel Air estate. As he walked the ground afterward, he felt an emptiness. As a child, though his stomach ached from hunger and his pulse throbbed with the anxiety of an uncertain tomorrow, he never walked alone; he felt the "undeniable presence of that living web from which all things are born and continually unfold." The presence he had felt – which the Vedic rishis called Brahman, which Lao-Tsu called the Tao, which the prophets of the Book called Yahweh or Allah – Bhaumik would later come to call the one source – code name God.
"I set about to learn what I had once known intuitively." Despite the paucity of Bhaumik's childhood, the richness of a "communitarian spirit" eased their despair. "To earn the respect of one's fellow human was the social aim. To feel unity with God, of whom we were all a part, was the supreme spiritual goal."
The "silken threads" that have run through Dr. Bhaumik's life as he pursued his quest, came in the soulful bodies of Norman Cousins, Ashley Montague and Eddie Albert. "Eddie's sense of humor leavened my sober nature …" Bhaumik explains. "Ashley was arguably the social conscience of a generation," as evidenced in his books, "The Fallacy of Race," "The Natural Superiority of Women," and "The Elephant Man." Bhaumik calls Norman Cousins his guardian angel. Cousins is best known for his remarkable self-cure with laughter, as related in "Anatomy of an Illness." Bhaumik tells us he was also a diplomat and a world healer who believed in "the limitlessness of human potential and the primacy of consciousness."
I asked Dr. Bhaumik what the difference is between him and those who are unable to rise above their misfortunate beginnings.
Bhaumik replied, "First of all, you've got to have some fire in the belly, so to speak. If we have the desire to achieve something and continue without giving up then usually success comes. And, in my case it came much bigger than I expected. I think the difference between success and failure is tenacity. Because when you start something, very often you encounter a problem that you didn't anticipate at all. If you give up, it's done. It's over with. That's when you have to have tenacity."
When Bhaumik was a child, he was well-loved and cared for by his grandmother. When he was 10, she took him on a climb above the sacred Ganges River that seemed to go on forever. "I felt the vastness before my eyes shift to another level … It was as if the consciousness of nature interpreted my own and found itself at home there."
Soon after, in the famine that claimed three million victims, his grandmother gave Mani her ration of food provided by the relief agency in her secret plan to make one life out of two. Bhaumik watched his grandmother slowly die. "My grandmother, giving her food to me, passing her life to me, so to speak. That was a big awakening in my life."
Inspiration came, too, from a woman freedom fighter, one of India's founding daughters. "Matangini told me nothing happens without a struggle, and you have to continue."
Because Bhaumik's father was a freedom fighter, he was able to volunteer in Mohandas Gandhi's movement for Indian independence. He says he followed Gandhi around "like a little duckling" and sat by his side as Gandhi spoke to millions of people. "With Gandhi, I saw what tenacity was. Getting independence for the country in spite of everybody suggesting it will never work. He persisted and it happened."
So I had some good examples as a youngster. First, I wanted to get out of this black hole of poverty. Second, I never gave up, in spite of all odds. It takes hard work. They say no lazy person is ever lucky."
In 2007, Bhaumik presented a workshop at Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California on "Why do we need Spirituality?" He will deliver the workshop again in 2008. In brief, Bhaumik says, "While science has given us material abundance, it has also given us weapons of mass destruction. If we don't get it under our belts that we all come from one source, that we are all brothers and sisters as cosmic kin, it's possible that mankind can destroy themselves."
The other answer, very simply is that "happiness is an inside job. When we are in tune we naturally know what needs to be done."
Bhaumik's goal of the book is to suggest "a convergence between the most fundamental levels of physical reality and consciousness. Science now shows us that our consciousness plays an active role in determining our actions and bring out specific manifestations of nature. We have also learned that we are a part of something much larger, which we have referred to as one source. Perhaps our sense of morality stems from the realization that we are indeed part of something much larger than ourselves. Therefore our actions should be appropriate to what is implicit in that knowledge." When we act from this realization, we bridge the divide of mind from matter and the wound is healed.
"The universe is one and everything is tied together, and, in fact, if some things were just a little bit off, we wouldn't be here. Among others, Paul Davies, author of "The Cosmic Jackpot" wanted to know why is it that everything is so perfectly right for the human being to emerge. Like Einstein said, 'The most incomprehensible thing about the universe is that it is comprehensible.' Why is it that we are so lucky that our brains are wired to understand, at the basic level, what laws the universe followed and how it is now working?"
"This is the same question asked by many scientists. Is it that our consciousness is not an accident but a part of a connectivity to the scheme of the whole universe? Freeman Dyson said, 'The universe in some sense must have known that we were coming.' Because, in the beginning, the conditions were perfect so that eventually an intelligent being like us could evolve."
Dr. Bhaumik says the verification of the one source – code name God – is well documented and accepted in science. Since the 60s, physicists have proved that forces come from a single source. Noble prizes have been given for the discovery. "In the past we went on blind faith, but, now, as Einstein thought, that if everything is made of energy, why does nature need so many different forces: gravity, electro-magnetism, and weak forces to make its magic? He spent the last 30 years of his life thinking nature must have had a simple beginning. And, in fact, science now knows everything comes from a tiny negative space."
When I confessed to having became entangled in the terminology and theory, Dr. Bhaumik reassured me when he said that, even as a scientist, he had to read Stephen Hawking's book 10 times to fully capture it’s meaning. I must admit the reading became easier after his disclosure.
Bhaumik says, "I strongly believe that I have been able to present some new insights about spirituality in my book, based on the recent discoveries of modern cosmology and Quantum Physics, presented in a language that would be comprehensible by the general public."
In his book, Dr. Bhaumik states, "This is the memoir of my quest for a new kind of faith. It is a faith in which mind and matter entwine, yet it is anchored in the empirical precepts of science. It is a belief system that says directed consciousness can promote spontaneous remission of a life-threatening disease, a personal quantum leap. It embraces a worldview wherein quantum leaps do occur, not just in atomic and subatomic domain but in human existence itself – be it in the unfolding of an individual life, in a societal change, or in a country's struggle for freedom." All of which Dr. Bhaumik knows intimately.
Dr. Bhaumik finds healing in putting his money into philanthropic programs. For 7 years, Bhaumik has provided full scholarships for 67 young women and men to study science and medicine at India Institute of Technology. In addition, India has given Dr. Bhaumik a plot of land in Calcutta upon which he will build a university.
On December 6, 2007, UCLA conferred the second Mani Bhaumik Award established to support scientists in the international community who advance the understanding of the conscious mind in healing.
Dr. Bhaumik's passion for spreading enlightenment extends to children as well as adults. Animania HD, a television channel dedicated to high-definition animation, has picked up 26 half hours of Cosmic Quantum Ray, a cartoon series that educates while entertaining, created by and developed in partnership with Dr. Bhaumik.