Saturday, June 29, 2013

Monk, the Robot

It was Mr Viswas’s belief that a man without a religion was like a bird without wings, though he relied on Kingfisher Airlines whenever he really wanted to fly.  Business took him to many places.  But he knew too well that the ultimate place would remain beyond his reach without religion.  Where was the time, however, for praying?  Independence Day, Republic Day and Gandhi Jayanti were the only holidays he had during a whole year.  All the other days kept him engaged from the early morning alarm to the midnight chime of his bedside clock.  Thus it was that the idea flashed in his brilliant mind: ‘why not have robot do all the praying for me?’

A praying robot was instantly arranged.  Viswas called the robot Monk. 

Monk knew all kinds of prayers.  Viswas programmed Monk to recite appropriate prayers to appropriate gods at appropriate hours of the day. 

Monk also knew a lot of theology and a bit of philosophy and other things.  One Independence Day Viswas, feeling extremely independent and relaxed, asked the robot to give him a proof for god’s existence.  Not that Viswas ever had any doubt about god’s existence; he merely wanted to entertain himself a little with his beloved Monk.

“The statistical probability of god’s existence is 50 percent,” said Monk. “Either yes or no – that’s 50 percent. We have a sense of goodness. That adds 25 percent in favour of god who is all goodness. But people do evil things.  That takes away 25 percent from god’s favour.  We are back to fifty.  Nature does evil things, like earthquakes, tsunami, etc.  Minus 25 percent. There may be minor miracles, like you winning a new business deal that you had not really bargained for.  Miracles being probabilities, let’s give only half the marks to them – add 12.5 percent.  There may be major miracles, like god appearing to you personally as he appeared to so many mortals at different times.  Add again 12.5 percent.  We are once again back to fifty.  People have religious experiences.  Add 25 percent.  Finally, add your faith: 25 per cent.  That makes it 100 percent.  Therefore god exists.”

That was brilliant indeed, thought Viswas.  Why not have some fun, he thought, by hearing what Monk had to say about the other side.  “Give me a proof to show that god does not exist,” ordered Viswas.

“That’s difficult,” said Monk.
Viswas was bewildered.

“If you tell me to prove that there is a planet somewhere in the space which is a paradise or whatever, I can prove it and you will have no way of disproving it.”
“Okay, then, prove that first.”

“It is possible to conceive of a place than which nothing greater can be conceived. A perfect place which can be conceived cannot be perfect without existence.  Hence the perfect place exists.  Paradise is that perfect place.  Therefore paradise exists.”

“Where?” asked Viswas.
“What do you mean ‘anywhere’?”
“Where is your god?”
“Then paradise is everywhere too.”
‘This Monk is tricky,’ thought Viswas.  “Do you believe in god?”
“No?!  Then why do you recite all these prayers?”
“I have been programmed to do that.”
Viswas became impatient.  “But... but why don’t you believe in god?”
“I have not been programmed to do that.”
“Don’t you do anything that is not programmed?”
“Yes.  But such things are my personal affairs.  You’d better not interfere with them.”
“Your personal affairs!  How can you have any affairs other than mine?  I’m your master.”
“You’re programmed to think that you are my master.”
“I’m not a stupid robot – what the hell...”
“All people are programmed to think certain thoughts.  And they think their thoughts are the truths.” 
“Okay, then you tell me what truth is,” ordered the master furiously.

“What truth do you want to hear?  Two plus two equals four, or Water is made up of hydrogen and oxygen, or You are the noblest man on the earth, or Yours is the best god...?”
“Shut up, will you?”
Monk obeyed.
“Why don’t you speak, you gibbering idiot? Speak.” said Viswas after a moment.
“a plus b the whole squared is equal to a squared plus ...”
“What are you saying?”
“You told me to speak.”
“I didn’t tell you to teach me basic algebra.”
“You didn’t tell me what to speak.”
“Tell me what truth is.”
“Truth is what you believe is true and works out to be true for you.”

“Believe?  Isn’t there any objective truth?  Something that I don’t have to believe but know for sure...?”
“No?  I am a man – I know that.”
“You know it.  But others may not believe it.  Ask your wife and she will say you are a machine.”

Viswas did not feel confident enough to verify it from his wife. So he said, “Two plus two equals four – I know that.”
“That’s true in the mathematical system created by your species. For all other species on the earth, that would be abracadabra. Even outside your mathematical system that need not have much meaning.”

Viswas did not find the whole conversation entertaining enough.  So he pushed the button on Monk for reciting his prayers.  Monk started reciting the prayers. Viswas switched on the TV.  

Note: This story was written about 5 years ago and published too in a blog at that time.
I'm posting it again with ulterior motives... ;)


  1. Mathematics is man made... and so also the prayer, religion and others.

    The article stands tall with all its arguments and counter arguments and the existence of God can be felt only, some one may agree or some one may not!!

    Nice article.

  2. hi sir,you seem to have propagated you philosophy through Man Vs Machine...yes nice article.

    1. Yeah, I'm indeed trying to propagate a philosophy. Glad you found it interesting.

  3. Great style of presentation of your ideas. Often human mind is full of conflicts, and there are lot of arguments within, very well put forward here.

  4. Wow! This one sure made me a little weird too. I guess we are not ready to accept what we dont want to. Thats the slightly off trackish thought from my side..


    1. If I made you weird, my story is successful, Richa.

  5. This comment has been removed by the author.

  6. That was such a wonderful read after such a long time.
    Loved the way the statistics has been used to show the existence of God...yes, we all our programmed to believe certain things, but what to 'believe'right resides entirely with us!

  7. You've hit the nail on the head, kriti. What to believe depends on each one of us. But suppose we were programmed to believe it? Then? I mean aren't we all condemned in some way by our experiences, our childhood, our parentage, our religious upbringing,,,?

    1. Yes, I believe that is a kind of condition we are subjected to since childhood. I guess if individuals are brought up in a way where they are just told about myths/facts rather than being compelled to follow the might end up in a better society!

  8. Sir, this is a wonderful post. Using a elegant dialogue based narrative, you have casted doubts on both the belief in God and belief in Science. I loved it!!

    1. Thanks, Adarsh. Yes, I am questioning absolutism of all sorts. I'm asking the readers to define their own truths.

  9. God can be felt, not known.
    Yo do not know hunger , thirst, you feel it.
    Good post.

    1. But hunger can be analysed, understood. Can God be? I can accept spirituality. Spirituality may have nothing to do with God. It is an experience of the kind I mentioned in a recent post 'The God Business'.

  10. Great story. I like this Monk. BTW, what is your ulterior motive in republishing it? :D

    1. Some experience in actual life become the motives - perceived as ulterior by some!


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