To say that individuals do not exist, is a startling statement. Am I not an individual, with my own independent thoughts, feelings, opinions, habits, aspirations and prejudices, making me what I am, an individual? It’s really not that simple. The interconnectedness concept that spiritual masters and philosophers talk of and the Buddhist Pratityasamutpada, Law of Dependent Origination, all point to the belief that nothing in the universe is a stand-alone entity. What is revelatory is that it’s not just belief; it is turning out to be fact. Although Pratityasamutpada refers more to the metaphysics of existence and the causality factor, it could add up in the physical sphere as well.
Let’s take marine biology. According to a Nature magazine brief, “Scientists exploring the deep sea off the coast of Australia have discovered up to 30 new underwater species – including this string-like creature known as a siphonophore, which might be the longest animal ever discovered. Measuring 46 metres… Although they look, behave and move around like individual organisms, siphonophores are actually floating colonies made up of tiny multicellular organisms called zooids that are attached to one another and cannot survive independently.”
Amazingly, what is being described, as a single organism, is actually not a single organism, but a community of tiny multicellular organisms; it cannot exist without the community. The same goes for a range of species and their chain of existence, including human beings. The gut bacteria inside our bodies is a thriving eco-system that makes the ‘individual’ – so much so that, we talk about ‘gut feeling’ and ‘butterflies in the stomach’ when we have a ‘premonition’ or feel anxious.
In this context, is it possible to sanitise the entire universe, physical and mental? That would be presumptuous and unnecessary. Since millennia, we have learned to live with challenges, whether they are in the form of microbes, natural and human-made disasters, so-called success and failure, joy and suffering and pain. And we have survived. This is not to trivialise the plight of those who have lost their loved ones or their livelihoods in the process, or the fact that great numbers of people go hungry to bed — hungry for food, hungry for love and hungry for companionship.
Mental health is being referred to as an entire universe, with multiple conditions and possibilities, intricately interconnected. What scientists call, ‘co-morbidity’ — a hidden biology underlies mental disorders and one may be predisposed or suffering from multiple conditions, some latent, some active, all contributing in tandem to one’s mental state.
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