2. The World of Riddles and Puzzles – Seeing is Believing?

Visualization is integral to a solution seeking mindset. It is our ability to see and understand a problem in our mind, discerning patterns and inter-relationships. It utilizes the occipital lobe, which is the central point of processing the information by our brain.

The one trick all “Super Memory” gurus teach you is to visualize and associate whatever you are hearing or reading with some sort of a mental imagery which you can easily relate to.

Mental imagery has a beneficial effect on many cognitive processes in our brain: memory, planning and organizing, sense of perception, attention to detail and even your motor control.

Being able to visualize how pieces of a puzzle fit together or form a coherent pattern immensely benefits our ability to solve problems even at the workplace, where we so often work with disjointed pieces of information.

The puzzles in this section will test your ability to visualize and will check your visual acuity and spatial awareness. Some may be straightforward, but most will include some trickery designed to deceive. Better be prepared: Seeing may not always equate to believing!

Yes, the first one really is a disguised visualization problem. Remember, try to relate things mentally to get a solution.

2.1    If the sum of three consecutive odd numbers is 75, can you tell me the smallest number of the three? Don’t put pen to paper for this. Trust your mind and do this mentally.

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2.2    This is a famous- though now fairly commonplace- puzzle, but still worth being included here.

Connect the 9 equidistant dots given below with four straight lines only, without lifting pen from paper.

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2.3    This one is for those of you who said: “Aha, I know the answer to this” for the previous puzzle”,

Do the same exercise with only 3 straight lines, keeping other conditions same.

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2.4    Just in case you still didn’t feel challenged enough, try this one: Do puzzle number 2.2 with only one straight line, other conditions remaining same.

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2.5    Each of the number sequences given below follows the same rule. Can you determine what will be the last sequence?      

57, 35, 15, 5

68, 48, 32, 6

39, 27, 14, 4

78, __, __, _ ?

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2.6    There is a famous test created by the German Gestalt psychologist Karl Duncker, as part of his thesis on problem solving and functional fixedness. It is also popularly known as the Duncker Candle Problem.

The task is to fix a candle on a vertical wall (a cork board) and then light it up so that the wax from the candle does not drip on table directly beneath. To complete the task, you are given the three things:

An unlighted candle, a box of matchsticks, and a cardboard box full of thumb tacks that can be pressed on to the wall above the table.

Can you solve the problem?

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2.7    There is a political prisoner in Cell 1 of a prison that has a unique structure where cells have interconnecting doors with adjoining cells so that prisoners can interact. As he has been declared innocent by the court, the prison authorities must release him. He wants to meet each of the other prisoners before he goes, so the prison authorities agree on one condition: he can choose his route through the prison, and he must meet each person exactly once. If this condition is not met, then he will be detained on charges of inciting prisoners.

Can you help the prisoner chart the route so that he can meet each person only once before he leaves? 

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2.8    Rearrangement puzzles from X to Y can be truly challenging and a source of endless entertainment. There are countless such problems out there, but this one by Henry E. Dudeney – who is hailed as one of England’s foremost creator of Logic Puzzles – is one of the more enduring ones ever since it came into existence in the 1920s. Also known as the water problem, it challenges you to rearrange 8 coins arranged in the form of an H into a figure resembling the letter O (H to O!) in only 4 moves subject to the condition that each coin on being moved must touch two other coins – and not more than two coins- where it is placed.

Can you solve the problem?

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2.9    I got this code in a letter, and could make neither head nor tail of it. Can you tell me how to decode this?

Son you agree your jive kicks heaven straight line then”

2.10 Here is another matchstick rearrangement problem. Convert below shape into three equal squares by moving only three matchsticks.

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2.11 This fish needs to change its direction. Can you achieve this by moving exactly three matchsticks?

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2.12 Guess the next three letters in the series

G T N T L _ _ _

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2.13 You are given a large pile of coins – the quantity is unknown – and are told that it contains exactly 21 coins which are heads-up, while the rest are tails-up. You are blindfolded and must select some coins from this pile and put them into another pile such that both piles contain the same number of heads-up coins.

By touching you cannot determine which side is heads or tails, and you certainly can’t see anything You have one chance to complete this task.

How can you successfully meet the challenge?

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2.14 Think of the color of snow. Then think of the color of clouds in a bright blue sky. Now think which color stands for purity. Finally, think of the color of a bright full moon. Now answer quickly: what do cows drink? 

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2.15 Have you ever seen how fish swim in formation? Now here is a group of ten fish swimming together, but then they realize that the order of the formation is wrong. Now how can the formation be corrected with only three fish changing their positions?

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SOLUTIONS TO CHAPTER 2

2.1      All you need to do here is to divide 75 by 3, which comes to 25. This gives you the middle number of the three. Hence the smaller number will be 23.

We do not always need to reach for the calculator or put pen to paper. Many a time you can solve a problem just by looking at it and trusting your mind to provide the answer.

Many problems in life are simpler than they look, if only we have faith in our own abilities.

2.2      This is a puzzle that has been used by countless management gurus across the world as a classic case of ‘out of the box’ thinking. Literally, this means you shed your inhibitions and extend your horizon beyond the artificial, imaginary or self-imposed limits defined by the dots in this puzzle, in order to reach the solution.

The solution goes somewhat like this:

However, don’t feel despondent even if you didn’t get to the solution. In a study that actually debunks the notion of ‘out of the box’ thinking as something  that can be tutored, the nine dot problem was presented to a group of people who were actually told that the solution lay in extending the lines beyond the dots.

Surprisingly, the results varied only by about 5% from the results of a control group who were not given any such hint. As a concept “out of box thinking” does seem very motivational and attractive but it is not really something that can be learnt. It is a habit more than a skill.

2.3       The solution to this requires some more angling and extending of the lines, with the solution looking as given below. As pointed out earlier, don’t feel bad if you didn’t get to the solution, you can still be perfectly capable of out-of-box thinking in other areas closer to your areas of interest.

Just develop the habit of exploring alternatives in everything you do in the normal course of life and try to do new things beyond a fixed routine.

2.4      This one has myriad possibilities, and you can let your creativity flow here.

One possible solution would be marking the dots on a large piece of paper and then folding the paper in a conical shape so that the third dot of the first line comes from behind in line with the first dot of the second line, and so on. Then you just pick up a pen and connect all the dots in one stroke.

Some suggest taking a pen with a wide enough tip to cover all three lines in one stroke, and then just drawing one line which covers all the points.

Some people simply fold the paper along the three rows as the ridges like an accordion and press the ridges tightly together so that the three rows coincide, and then draw a thick line through them.

Some just cut the paper into strips and place the strips containing the dots in a single row one after the other.

As I said, once you let your creativity run riot, the possibilities are many. The lesson from these three puzzles is to just let your imagination fly at times, and you may be able to find creative solutions to many problems which you may not have believed possible earlier.

2.5      Each number in the series is the resultant of the multiplication of the two digits of the previous number. Thus, the series will be:

78, 56 (=7*8), 30 (=5*6), 0 (=3*0)

Visually being able to recognize the apparent patterns or interactions between various components can really enhance our analytical skills in the real world. We just need to stop robotically looking for complex solutions and simplify things in our mind sometimes.

2.6      Functional fixedness is a mental block and a cognitive bias that prevents us from considering familiar objects as having any other use that what we are accustomed to in normal circumstances.

For example, the simplest solution to this is to affix the cardboard box holding the tacks to the wall, and then standing the lit candle in the box, which ensures that dripping wax stays in the box only.

Even without the box, one could consider tacking the candle vertically to the wall, while also tacking the matchbox to its base to hold any dripping wax, if the matchbox is wide enough.

When the box was given to the people with the tacks filled in it, almost everyone failed to perceive the box itself as something usable, so fixated were they on the fact that it was merely a container for tacks and had no other purpose.

However, Duncker found that when the participants were given the tacks and the box separately, most people could use it to solve the problem.

This is an important aspect we need to keep in mind, specially in situations with limited resources and the need to use whatever we have at hand to solve problems. At the workplace this mindset is invaluable.

2.7      The key to the solution lies in the fact that the prisoner can return to his room without violating the conditions laid down for his release. Thus, he comes back to his room after meeting prisoner no 2, and then takes the route as shown below:

2.8      Such rearrangement problems hone our spatial awareness and logical thinking skills. The challenge is to determine your starting point and to be able to discern mentally which elements should not change position, and which need to be moved.

2.9      The words in the given sentence sound similar to the number series starting with One, Two, Three…

Such problems train our mind to look for and establish connections between auditory and visual cues.  In a world full of diverse sensory experiences, this is another skill we must develop to the fullest.

2.10    One solution will be in line with the one given below. There are other similar solutions.

2.11    Move the matchsticks as given. Once again, the key is to first establish which pieces must stay static. When you can visualize this mentally, the solution becomes self-apparent.

2.12    The series consists of the first letter of each word of the problem statement itself.

The last three words of the problem statement are “In The Series”. Hence, the last three elements of the given series will be: I , T and S.

2.13    Of course, at first glance, this puzzle looks like a very complicated problem of Probability Theory. However, the solution is truly elegant in its simplicity.

All you have to do is to simply pick 21 coins at random from the original pile, and then turn over the coins.

And there is your solution!

How can this be? Assume you pick out 21 coins that have all tails-up coins only. This means all 21 heads-up coins remain the original pile. Now when you turn over the 21 coins you had picked up, all of them will be heads-up now. So both piles now have 21 heads-up coins.

Take the opposite case: Say you manage to pick out all he 21 heads-up coins, leaving only tails up coins in the original pile. Now when you turn over your 21 coins, all of them will become tails-up. Hence both piles will now have only tails-up coins.

This remains true for any combination of heads or tails up coins you pick up, which you can check out for yourself.    

2.14    Cows, like all animals, drink water, of course!

If you said milk, perhaps it is time for you considered revisiting grade school.

2.15    Once again, a deceptively simple problem that leaves many people scratching their heads for hours. But all it needs is a simple comparison of fish positions in the two figures.

When you compare the ‘From’ and ‘To’ positions, you need to first understand which seven fish will not change positions, rather than trying desperately to move various fish into different positions. The moment you understand this through visual inspection, you know that only the fish marked 1,2 and 3 have to move.

The movements of the three are as given below, to obtain the solution required.

The World of Riddles and Puzzles

During these testing times of Covid lockdowns, I re-discovered the joy of solving puzzles as I looked for ways to keep my kids occupied and away from computer games for as long as possible. Some choice puzzles are covered later on in this blog, you can skip the introduction and move straight to them if you want.

If there is one skill that every human needs to survive and thrive in this world, it is the ability to solve problems. Our whole existence is about facing up to the daily challenges life throws at us and beating them. In our professional life we need to constantly find creative answers to tough problems facing our organizations, else we’ll find it hard to continue there!

Interviews, examinations, aptitude tests et al are all formal ways of testing the problem solving and critical thinking skills of people. However, how many of us consciously work on honing these skills? We take them for granted, relying on our past experiences as we go along. We are never truly conscious of the fact that our thinking and reasoning faculties, our cognitive ability, and our memories stem from unique sequences of millions and billions of neurons firing away in different regions of our brain.

Sometime during the third decade of our life begins the slow, continuous, and indiscernible decline in the number of brain cells. Initially we can’t feel this attrition, although we do begin to demonstrate forgetfulness or unmindfulness at some stage.

Not everything degenerates, however. A major study tracking thousands of young people over a period of almost 50 years of their lives ascertained that some cognitive abilities like verbal ability, spatial reasoning, maths, and abstract reasoning do improve after the age of 30. Another major study just brought out that new neurons are being formed in the brains of even older people.

Our brains need not degenerate with age – even though the volume of the brain may start to shrink from the 30s – and can possibly be trained to improve further. Evidence is also growing that learning continues throughout life and, when faced with new challenges, our brains can reroute or form fresh neural connections even in advanced age.

You can see now why we must keep exercising our brain by subjecting it to fresh challenges. Of course, the glow of satisfaction -and the resultant boost in confidence – which comes from emerging victorious- is the icing on the cake!

This specially curated set of problems is designed to take you through various challenges to engage all parts of the brain. Be forewarned though: Some of the problems will appear deceptively simple- but looks can and will deceive.

Solving easy puzzles requiring little to no analytical skills has mostly recreational value and provides some amusement. We must move beyond them to problems requiring serious thought and effort, in order to build up and hone our creative and reasoning mental faculties.

Solving puzzles has been proven to have tons of beneficial effects: We gain confidence, learn to be at once intuitive & creative as well as logical & systematic, and we learn to explore. We begin to appreciate the possibilities of  multiple correct answers existing for a single problem, and also of multiple different paths leading to a single solution. We learn to spot deliberate mis-directions and obfuscations, akin to what we face in the real world now.

Like all good exercise regimens, we start with some warm-up to get you loosened up and ready for the heavy lifting further on.

  1. The Person with no name?

Somebody’s Mother is called Maria, a Scientist of some note. Maria has four sons, and the first three sons are called Alpha, Beta and Gamma. What do you think is the name of the fourth?

Solution: Such puzzles have intentional misleading and irrelevant facts stuffed in them that are meant to send you haring off in the wrong direction, while the answer hides in plain view. In this case, there is absolutely no need to mention the Mother’s occupation, which itself is a big giveaway. We are conditioned to link a scientist with scientific names like Alpha, Beta etc. Following this progression, we would logically conclude that the fourth son must be named Delta…

only he isn’t!

The fourth son is named ‘Somebody’, as clearly stated at the beginning of the problem statement itself.

Such problems force us to move out of our comfort zone of conditioned thinking. We begin to appreciate the perils of over-analysing: the solution was staring us in the face, if only we could see and accept the obvious.

Ready for another one? See if you can avoid the red herrings here.

2. An English Aircraft crashed right on the border of France and Germany. Can you say where should the survivors be buried?

Astonishingly, over 70% of people fail to get this one: hopefully forewarned would have forearmed you?

The answer to this one is: Why would you ever want to bury the survivors?

Visualization is something that many of us are extremely poor at. In the humdrum of our daily lives, we lose the ability to visualize things beyond the ordinary. The brain must conjure up images to link what we see or observe, which is not easy for everyone. A prolific Imagination is hardly the forte of most people nowadays.

Take the puzzle given below: Can you visualize the answer?

3. The Matchstick Contortionist

You have been given three matchsticks. Without breaking, bending or disfiguring the individual sticks, how can you form the number Nine with only these three matchsticks?

                                                                                 

Solution: Once again, there is a decoy in the form of the image given with the puzzle. The three matchsticks are shown arranged as the number 7. The subliminal suggestion is that the answer will be likewise. Despite the brain protesting that it is impossible for three matchsticks to be arranged to represent the numeral 9 while meeting all the conditions given, many of us continue to press on trying to figure out a solution. We simply forget or overlook the fact that nothing in the problem statement excludes Roman Numerals.

Solution: So, of course, there is a childishly simple solution to this:

Visualization also entails the ability to relate different things mentally. Normally, when we see what we know or recognize, we can relate what it is about. It becomes a bit more complex if the connection is not straightforward. Solving such puzzles needs creativity and sharpens our reasoning acuity as well.

Let’s see what you can make of the next puzzle:

4. Rebus, anyone?  

What familiar phrase does the below pic represent?

Solution: Could you see the relation? The picture can be broken down into some prominent components, and each can be described by a set of different words or phrases, so what we need to do here is to find the ones which combine to portray the overall idea as a logical phrase or expression.

Well done if you got the answer correct. And don’t worry If you didn’t. Most of the people draw a blank here.

Solution:The answer is: “Once upon a time”:  Once (Ones: multiple 1)    upon (the division line “ / ” )    a time (12:25pm)

We now move on to the next category of puzzles, which test our numerical ability. Nothing too advanced, but it is indeed surprising how many of us lose track of basic Mathematics as we move ahead in life. This ability is connected to the left side of our brain, and exercising the brain with basic calculations linked to logical reasoning is a great way to keep it agile.

Ready to test check how agile you are in this area? Then let’s move on to the next question: a devilishly simple one!

5. Not so Elementary, My Dear Watson!

Ok, you may be a business tycoon easily managing a business worth Millions without breaking a sweat, but can you give me the answer to this simple problem?

100÷5(3+2)-2=?

Solution: Did you get the answer to this as “2”?

Congratulations, you are joined by over 80% of people who arrive at the same answer.

But the answer still is wrong. Majority does not make ‘Right’!

Recall ‘BODMAS’, the fundamental rule taught in Elementary school?  Division comes before Multiplication!

The correct answer, therefore, is 98

Simple, wasn’t it?

Well, the tough ones will surely follow later, never fear. Can puzzle solving ever be complete without testing your reasoning faculties to the limit? It is surprising how difficult it has become in today’s age for people to hold a train of thought. It’s time we got back some of the mojo of deductive reasoning. It inculcates discipline and patience. Take, for example, the following question:

6. Find the ages

Two friends Vinesh and Shivam meet after a long time. Shivam tells Vinesh that he has three daughters. Vinesh then enquires how old are the daughters. Shivam gets into a mischievous mood, and challenges Vinesh to guess the ages through some clues. Vinesh, always up to challenges, accepts. So Shivam gives the first clue:

“The product of the ages of my daughters is 72”

Vinesh thinks over it for just a bit before declaring that there was simply too little data to go by. Shivam smiles and accepts this, and provides the second clue:

“The sum of their ages is equal to the sum of the digits of my car registration number”

Vinesh looks at the car, does some calculations, then shakes his head and says the information is still not complete. So Shivam provides the final clue:

“My eldest daughter is a big fan of Serena Williams”

At this Vinesh immediately jumps and provides the correct answer.

Can you guess the ages of the three girls?

Solution: Factors of 72 are 1,2,3,4,6,8,9,12,18,24,36 and 72. All possible unique combinations for multiplying them to get 72, and the sum of those three number combinations can be represented below as:

72*1*1 =     72               72+1+1=    74

36*1*2=     72               36+1+2=    39

24*3*1=     72               24+3+1=    27

18*2*2=     72               18+2+2=    22

18*4*1=     72               18+4+1=    23

12*6*1=     72               12+6+1=    19

12*3*2=     72               12+3+2=    17

9*8*1=        72               9+8+1=      18

9*4*2=        72               9+4+2=      15

8*3*3=        72               8+3+3=      14

6*4*3=        72               6+4+3=      13

6*6*2=        72               6+6+2=      14

As we can see, all the sums are unique except for two, where the sum is 14. When Vinesh added up the digits of the car number, the only reason he could not guess the ages is because he got the sum of 14 which had two possible combinations: 8,3,3 and 6,6,2

However, the moment Shivam uttered the word “eldest”, it told Vinesh that there is only one daughter of a greater age, effectively ruling out the 6,6,2 option.

Hence he correctly guessed the ages as 8,3 and 3

Other than deductive reasoning puzzles, there are also logical reasoning puzzles which require you to grasp the inter-relationships between multiple entities and work sequentially in order to arrive at a conclusion. Most people find it tough to work with so much rigor and give up midway. However, these problems are great for developing a logical thought process along with the tenacity and patience to hold on and get to the solution.

Here’s an example of such a sequential logic puzzle, try to work with a pen and paper on this.

7. Whose house?

You meet six people at a party at a friend’s house. They live in the same neighbourhood. Their houses are of different colors: Green, White, Blue, Yellow, Brown and Peach. They challenge you to figure out who lives in which house, with each person giving a simple clue to help you reach a conclusion.

Swati: The Green house belongs to me

Ram: Abraham is my neighbour to the South

Jack: I live in the fruity house and Jill’s house is on my side of the street.

Brahma: The Green house is to my West.

Abraham: The White house is to my North and the Brown house lies between us.

Jill: The Yellow and White houses lie on the opposite side of the street from my house.

Basis these statements, can you tell who lives in which house?

Solution: Let’s determine our starting point. A clue to this is in Abraham’s statement that the Brown house lies between his house and the White House in the North.

Our first conclusions from this are:

  1. the street runs in a North-South direction, with houses on East and West sides
  2. Abraham’s House, the White house and the Brown house are all on the same side of the street

What else is given in the clues? Swati lives in Green house while Jack lives in the fruity house, which can only be Peach. Jill lives on the same side as Jack, and the Yellow and White houses both are opposite to her house.

Hence the next conclusions we draw are:

  • Jack (Peach) and Jill both live across the street from the Yellow and White houses
  • Therefore, Yellow house is on the same side as White House, Brown house and Abraham’s House

We can hence conclude that Jill cannot live in the Green (Swati), Peach (Jack), White, Brown and Yellow houses.

Thus, our next conclusions are:

  • Jill lives in the Blue house.
  • The Peach and the Blue houses are on the same side, and across the road from them are at least three houses colored Yellow, Brown and White.

Now, if the Green house (Swati) were on the same side as the Yellow house, we would then have four houses on this side of the street. But as Brahma says that the Green house is to his West, it means it is across the road from him. This is impossible, as we know that in this case there will be only two houses on the opposite side: Jack (Peach) and Jill (Blue)

Hence we conclude that

  • Green house(Swati) has to lie on the same side as Jack and Jill, which must therefore lie on the left side of the street only.

Thus, now we have the three houses on the right: Yellow, Brown and White. Since Abraham says that the White and Brown houses are to his North, hence he must occupy the Yellow house.

We only have Ram and Brahma left to place now. As Ram has Abraham as his neighbour to the South, hence he must occupy the Brown house (remember, the brown house lies between the yellow and white house). Therefore, Brahma lives in the White house to the extreme North.

Final solution will look like this:

Beyond logic puzzles, we have another category which requires a lot of mental association, imagery and intuitive thinking. Riddles have been popular throughout the ages: being simple, fun and challenging for all.

So, let’s conclude this session with some brain juggling through a riddle.

8. Riddle me this

“I’ll run but never walk, I’ll gurgle but never talk

I’ve a bed but never sleep, I’ve a mouth but never eat”

What am I?

Solution: Ever heard of a River?

The puzzles discussed above were a miniscule sample from an ocean of puzzles available in the world. Developing a taste for solving challenging puzzles can provide countless hours of fun, while sharpening your mental faculties.

What more can one ask for ?

Heavens and Hells and us in between

Some facts first of all:

  • Over 1.2 billion people – more than 15% of the world population – are non-religious or unaffiliated. These include agnostics and atheists as well.
  • Every year over 4 million people convert to or from a religion. Some may convert to a different religion, while some – approx 2.5 million- may give up being religious altogether.
  • Approximately 1 million people join a religion from the unaffiliated, non-religious group every year.
  • By 2050, the count of non-religious people will go up to 1.3 billion as per current projections

But this post is not about religions and their superiority or inferiority. Nor is it about believers vs non-believers. It is about souls. Or rather, about the journey of souls. After all, isn’t this what religions are all about?

Every religion has its own pantheon of Gods and Saints, and holy texts that lay down how to conduct oneself in all worldly matters. But what is the end objective of any religion?

It is the promise of a living a quality life with the ultimate aim of reaching a state of being or place where we want our souls to land up in our afterlife : Heaven, Swarg, Jannat and so on, depending on which religion you belong to. Interestingly, all religions follow a carrot and stick policy to keep their flock in line, so the threat of a Hell, Narak, Jahannum etc or the possibility of being reborn as an animal or lowly being is also held out in each case. Promise of heaven alone does not seem to do the trick, so a negative reinforcement is always there to ensure compliance.

Now this is where things start getting interesting. The promised lands and the attractions they offer vary for each religion, as do the hells and their terrors. The paths to the promised lands also vary widely. For example, for Buddhism and Jainism any form of killing is abhorrent but for Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and most other religions sacrifices or even killings in the name of the Lord are a way of life. Some religions even sanction killing of non-believers as a guaranteed pass to heaven.

Obviously, the heavens and hells of all religions must be different places. Otherwise, how would it be possible for a person of one religion to land in hell for killing another living being while another person in another religion goes to heaven for a similar act?

So the heavens and hells of all religions would be floating somewhere in a multidimensional space, independent of each other. Accordingly, the Devils and Gods and their subordinate staff would also have to be different for each religion. The record-keeping mechanism of each religion would also have to be separate, so that the good and bad deeds of all souls under their own purview are properly maintained and accounted for.

And what about the 15% of the world population which is unaffiliated – or the non-believers? Who maintains their records and where? Where do their souls go in the after-life? Something or somebody created all their souls, so there must be a place for them to go once they leave the body. Without records, who or what determines where they go in the afterlife?

Perhaps they all end up as ghosts, you say? But that is a pretty dangerous supposition: having one destination for all such souls irrespective of what they do (their ‘karma‘, in other words) during their earthly sojourn negates all concepts of why we are supposed to do good or why we are not supposed to do evil. Evidently, this possibility negates the necessity of a religion altogether! Unthinkable, right?

While we are at it, here is another most interesting scenario to consider. Take the 4 million people who switch religions every year, the ‘converts‘. Say a Muslim converts to a Buddhist, or a Buddhist converts to a Christian. What happens to the account of good deeds and bad deeds of such souls? How are the records transferred between the record-keepers of different faiths? What happens to the 2.5 million souls who give up being religious altogether- what about their record of good and bad?

Queering the pitch are the different sets of rules of good and bad in each religion. For example, take scenarios where one religion bans any violence and killing of another living being (human or any living creature), while the second one permits and even selectively promises heaven for such deeds in select cases. Does a ‘good deed’ of such acts of one faith then get counted as bad karma in the other religion if a person converts? How is the record-keeping done? Who does all the administrative work involved in transferring a soul and its records from one religion to another? How to the back-end staff of various religions communicate with each other to enable this transfer without a hitch?

If we take the plea that souls start with a clean slate once people convert to or from a religion, that is also a very hazardous premise. This leaves us free to then lead a life a decadence and sin, secure in the knowledge that all we have to do at the end is to convert to another religion, or give up being religious altogether in order to escape the consequences of our bad karma. At the same time, those who have been good souls throughout, but are trying to escape from some form of oppression or dissatisfaction in their current religion will lose all their good karma earned in life so far. In other words, conversions will make sense only for the evil souls. Rather alarming!

The inescapable conclusion then is that different heavens and hells and pantheons of Gods etc is not really a workable model. We are thus left with two choices:

1.) We throw up our hands and proclaim that there is no heaven and no hell, and we live our lives purely by our choice made here. Nothing is carried forward beyond this life, and there is no certainty of a rebirth of any kind. Thus there is actually no need of protecting a religion or even working to increase a religion’s reach. After all, wouldn’t that be a useless exercise?

2) We believe in God and the immortality of souls, and therefore the necessary condition is that there is a single heaven and a single hell for all souls irrespective of religion. The accounting for good karma or bad karma is also common for all souls with common rules, and therefore it is complete foolishness for any religion to be fighting over who is superior and who is inferior. The aim should be to do the right thing in all conditions with the confidence that the one God watches over all. The most evil people thus are those who misuse religion to misguide their followers away from the good path and drive them to commit crimes in the name of protecting their religion or in spreading the name of their God at the cost of other religions. The sooner we realize this fact, the faster humankind will progress and prosper.

My God, Your God, Their God!

The world of today is deeply divided one along religious lines. Hindus, Muslims, Christians etc are all busily fighting and killing each other to protect their Gods against the attacks of other faiths. Add to this the fights between the various sects within each religion. All in the name of God. And those who die for the holy cause are all supposed to go to their religion’s concept of heaven. My God is Bigger and Better than your God, my Heaven is higher and more heavenly than yours, and your Hell is definitely much more hellish than my Hell.

But was this always so? No! Humans have existed for a mere 200,000 years or so while the Earth itself is over 4.5 billion years old. And the universe as we know it is over 15 billion years old. So what about God before Mankind appeared? God by definition is immortal, all powerful and omnipresent. So God must have been present throughout. Even at the time of the Big Bang.

So now I have a question. An impossible question. It relates to the origin of everything. Lets start with what we know. The Big Bang happened: It happened because there was super- compressed super-hot matter in an infinitesimally small space, which we call the Singularity.

But how did the matter get there in the first case? The only answer that anybody has is this: It was just there.

But how can something just be there? Well, the next best answer we have is that the concept of time and space as we know it started only once the Big Bang happened. Hence there was no space-time before this, and because there was nothing called “Time” before the Big Bang, there is no question of anything originating – because origin implies that there is a finite “time” for something to start. Hence without Time, the question of an Origin should not arise at all – and hence something can just “be” in such a scenario without being bound by the necessity of having to start at some point in time.

Problem solved!

Except that the problem is not solved. A clever play on words, definitely, but then that’s just what it remains. Because there are only two possibilities just prior to the Big Bang: the matter was “just there” and the Big Bang just happened, or the existing matter collapsed in an infinitesimally small instant into an infinitesimally small point. In the second case, there is necessarily an event preceding the Big Bang, and hence it would have required time, which implies that the Time preceded the Big Bang – and that makes it impossible to say that matter was “just there” without any reference to time. Hence the second case leads to a paradox and will have to be ruled out.

Let’s come to the first case of infinitely huge amount of matter just being present in an infinitesimally small point when the Big Bang happened. Obviously, the equilibrium was disturbed by something to have made it possible for the Big Bang to happen.This disturbance could only have preceded the Big Bang, and hence this too is a case of an event happening just before the Big Bang which brings the concept of Time into play again. If Time precedes the Big Bang, then obviously we cannot rule out the concept of an Origin of everything also.

So obviously, Time as we know it may not have existed before the Big Bang, but Time in a cosmic sense was definitely present before the Big Bang, otherwise the preceding causative event could not have taken place.

Hence if Time exists in any Cosmic sense, then we need to consider that matter or energy would have originated at some point of Time.

How did it originate then? Even if we consider a scenario of only pure energy being present in a vast nothingness at first, then the energy must have originated from something. If we call the unknown originator of everything as “God“, then we come to the real conundrum:

Without anything in existence at the point of origin- matter or energy – how and from where did God come into being? Whose God is it? If it is all the work of the one and only God, what do we make of our plethora of Gods of all religions?

So other than just simple faith in a “ One God who existed without any origin” and this premise that “matter or energy were created out of nothingness and just came into existence“, we have no other answer to the impossibility of it all.

So it all boils down to the one God for the universe.

Then finally comes the question which must be asked of all religious zealots and bigots preaching the supremacy of their religion and their God: If it all comes from the one God, what are all religions fighting for? How can you lay claim to the one God, who created all others and everything in the Universe at the same time?

Can you guess the answer?