Whoever knew television shows could be philosophical!

A television show that has recently caught my attention is House, M.D. I find this show to be extremely thought provoking on multiple levels. Essentially every single episode is a puzzle or a mystery, one being solved by Dr. Gregory House and his team.If however you allow yourself to dig deep you realise that each and every episode is philosophical in its own way, the underlying philosophy being that ‘everybody lies’- falsity is innate in us.

To me the most thought-provoking episode was that of the last episode in Season 2. This episode was a deliberate attempt to bring out the incoherence of the entire plot. The succession of scenes are inarticulate because it is a reflection of House’s mind. This mind is of course under heavy sedation as a result of him being shot. It is in this awry state of mind that House begins to question whether the things he sees are real or not, whether they are in fact figments of his own imagination and in the process questions his own ability to diagnose, as his patient slowly deteriorates.

Translating this to our lives, a problem of dividing the absolute from the unreal or fiction in this case, seems to be a favourite feature addressed by almost all philosophers. One such philosopher is Sankaracharya and his philosophical system of Advaita Vedanta. The non-dualistic doctrine suggests that the ‘True Self’ or the Atman and the highest Reality or Brahman are identified as the same. This of course can be realised through Vidya or knowledge. Presently in the empirical world or the vyavaharika level we are blinded by Maya or ignorance, thus everything around us, is Maya or a manifestation of Maya. It is only through garnering transcendental wisdom or knowledge along with meditation that we realise the absolute Reality viz. Absolute Truth viz. Brahman which is in the Paramarthika level. Similarly, If we were to equate House’ hallucinations to our ignorance, we would in some way find ourselves in the same boat. Likewise, the actual reality with respect to one’s hallucinations can be related to Brahman and its realisation once we move beyond the realm of Maya. Possibly, when under a hallucination, we are unable to recognise the ‘real ‘or the ‘actual’ self. Unfortunately, within the hallucination itself, we grow accustom to our ‘non-actual’ self implying a difficulty in orienting ourselves with the possibility that A) the reality itself is false B) the being or the Atman is false. It is when we come out of the shroud of hallucinations is the Self able to connect or become one with the actual Reality. Applying this principle onto Maya (ignorance viz. hallucinations) and Brahman (the absolute, supreme reality viz. the actual reality), you see we don’t go too far off. However, while hallucinations leave us in a perplexing state where we are unable to decipher the real from the unreal; is the non-realisation of Brahman or our being blinded by Maya unsettling? Are our thoughts only a manifestation of the unreal? Or that illusion is our reality? That is a question that I leave to you to ponder over.

-Namrata Kumar


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