In the field of particle physics, it has been established by many scientific experiments that the universe had a beginning in the remote past and it will have an eventual collapse in some remote future. In this context, the Second Law of Thermodynamics asserts that the processes occur in a certain direction but not in the reverse direction. A cup of hot coffee left on a table in an office, for example, eventually cools, but a cup of cold coffee on the same table never gets hot by itself, that is, the heat can only flow from hot to cold bodies. The science of thermodynamics deals with “equilibrium states” and it declares that a system, which is in equilibrium, experiences no changes when it is isolated from its surroundings. For example, a system is in thermal equilibrium if the temperature is same throughout the entire system. And in this state there are no unbalanced driving forces within the system. A reservoir that supplies energy in the form of heat is called a source and one that absorbs energy in the form of heat is called a sink. When source and the sink are both at the same temperature, there is no flow of energy and, therefore, there is no movement. In the same way we find that life is an effort to climb the slope that ‘matter’ descends. Matter moves increasingly toward a state of disorganization or of increasing randomness, and Consciousness or Life moves towards increasingly complex forms of purposeful organization or decreasing randomness. These are known as what the Bhagavad-Gita calls as the two cosmic tides of pravritti and nivritti, symbolically known as the ‘path of night’ and the ‘path of light’ or the ‘path of action’ and the ‘path of reflection’ respectively.
And, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, the universe is slowly moving towards a state known as "heat death", that is, a state of existence when all the stars and galaxies will have dissipated their energy in the form of heat and radiation and the whole universe will attain one uniform temperature. This concept of Heat Death is very similar to the Hindu concept of pralaya or dissolution of the universe, and Lincoln Barnett describes it with rare clarity. In this state, the existence of the universe can be described as follows: “All space will be at the same temperature. No energy can be used because all of it will be uniformly distributed through the cosmos. There will be no light, no life, no warmth- nothing but perpetual and irrevocable stagnation. Time itself will come to an end. For entropy is a measure of randomness. When all system and order in the universe have vanished, when randomness is at its maximum, and entropy cannot be increased, where there no longer is any sequence of cause and effect- in short, when the universe has run down, there will be no direction to time, there will be no time. And there is no way of avoiding this destiny.”
Hymn of Creation
This very phenomenon is explained in the Rig Veda (verse X.129) in a famous hymn known as “Naasdeeya Sooktam” or the Hymn of Creation. This verse in Sanskrit describes the vision of the universe, as it existed before its creation. Many scholars and sages have translated the Naasdeeya Sooktam into English; however, I have selected the translation of Prof. Juan Mascaro.
naaseedra_jo no vyomaa paro yat
kimaa_vareevah ? Kuh ? kasya sharmann ?
ambhah kimaaseed_gahnam gabheeram ?
na mrityu_raasee_damritam na taarhi
na raatya ahna aaseet_praketah
aaneedavaatam svadhayaa tad_ekam
tasmaa_ddhanyan_na parah kim chanaas .....
...iyam visrishTiryat aab_bhoova
yadim vaa dadhe yadi vaa na
yo asyaadhyakshah parame vyoman
so aNga ved yadi vaa na ved.
(In the beginning…)
There was neither existence nor non-existence.
There was not then what is not, what is not.
There was neither sky nor any heaven beyond the sky.
What power was there? Where
Who was that power?
Was there an abyss of fathomless water?
There was neither death nor immortality then
No signs were there of night or day.
The One was breathing with its own power,
in deep space.
Only the One was:
And there was nothing beyond.
The darkness was hidden in darkness.
And all was fluid and formless.
Therein, in the void,
By the fire of fervor arose One.
And in the One arose love.
Love the first seed of the soul.
The truth of this the sages found in their hearts:
Seeking in their hearts with wisdom,
The sages found that bond of union
Between being and non-being
Between the manifest and the unmanifest
Who knows this truth?
Who can tell, when and how arose this universe?
The gods came after its creation.
Whether this universe was created or uncreated
Only the God who sees in the highest heaven:
He only knows, when came this universe
And, whether it was created or uncreated
He only knows or perhaps He knows not?
In this poem an attempt is made by the poet to describe the nature of the Ultimate Reality, and it is beautifully explained by Yogi Krishna prem. It says that in the beginning, the One without a second polarized itself or expanded itself to become Many. While it is absolutely absurd to attempt to explain how the polarization of parbrahman, the One without a second, occurs, it may be useful to make a few suggestions as to how we may conceive it as occurring. The manifestation of a Cosmos depends on the polarization of the One, the parbrahman, into the transcendental Subject, the shaant atman, and the transcendental Object, the mool prakriti. So, far beyond all thought or imagination is that One, Parbrahman, the causeless Cause or the First Cause of the Western thought. Since it cannot be known as an object of knowledge, therefore, “It” is only to be conceived as Darkness. Since it is unknown, therefore, it is called darkness and in that darkness was buried the potentiality of all existence and by the power of tapas, literally, heat or self-limitation arose the Atman or the Unitary Consciousness.
The modern day astronomers call this “darkness” as the dark matter and dark energy of the universe, and of which they have very little knowledge. As recently as February 2003, scientists using NASA’s Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP), during a sweeping 12-month observation of the entire sky, have captured the new cosmic portrait, capturing the afterglow of the big bang, called cosmic microwave background. The WMAP team found that the universe is 13.7 billion years old and the contents of the universe include 4 percent atoms or the ordinary visible matter, 23 percent of an unknown dark matter and 73 percent of the mysterious dark energy. The measurements even shed light on the nature of the dark energy, which acts as a sort of an anti-gravity. This is what the Rig Veda means when it says: “The darkness is hidden in Darkness.”
The actual first impulse to creation, according to the Hindu scriptures, is forever hidden in that Darkness, and that is why even
Buddha, the Enlightened One, when queried on this subject, remained silent and refused to go beyond desire. According to the Rig Veda, the gods who were in the levels of manifested consciousness came into being later. In other words, consciousness cannot penetrate to its own root. The first impulse to creation, therefore, can only be called the Lila the ‘divine spectacle’ or ‘divine sport’ of the Supreme. The ultimate root is, however, even beyond atman. Nor even for atman can Brahman be an object of knowledge, for to know It is to merge in It and in that merging the separate “knower” comes to an end. In this essay, only a few paragraphs of this hymn are tackled, as a full explanation of this cryptic hymn is beyond its scope.
Cosmos and the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali
On further analysis, one might ask how could the Vedic sages know the nature of the universe at the time of its origin, when they, themselves did not exist? The late Carl Sagan, the famous astronomer of Cornell University posed the same question during one of the episodes of the TV series “Cosmos” which was broadcast in the US during late Seventy’s. He once took his show to
South India and showed how the Vedic seers accurately calculated the age of the universe without any radio-astronomy available to them. They discovered the cosmological truth not by scientific observations but through intuitive insight gained through the process of yoga, as explained in Yoga Sutra of Patanjali, that is, 1) through the process of pratyaahaar, 2) through dhyaan-yoga and finally 3) through samaadhi. Now, let us ask ourselves a question: what is Samaadhi? In the yoga-sutra, we are told that Samaadhi is the process of withdrawing the senses into mind, the mind into intellect, and the intellect into Sat or atman the pure consciousness, the substratum of the universe. In other words, Samaadhi is a state of reversal of creation, a return to the primordial or the “un-created” state. In this state the difference between ‘this’ and ‘that’ disappears and what remains is only the Absolute, the One without a second. The best description of Samaadhi is given us in the Brihad-aranyaka Upanishad, verse VI.v.15, and it says that in the state of Samaadhi, there is no duality, and this concept is beautifully explained in the following poem translated by Prof. H. B. Phillips:
When everything has become the very Self, then
What should one see and through what? Then
What should one smell and through what? Then
What should one taste and through what? Then
What should one speak and through what? Then
What should one hear and through what? Then
What should one think and through what? Then
What should one touch and through what? Then
What should one know and through what? Then
Through what one should know “That”
By means of which all this is known?
It is difficult for anyone to write about cosmos without invoking the name of a famous immigrant, the late
of the Dr. S. Chandrashekhar who received Nobel Prize in 1983 for his contribution to the knowledge of the collapse and the death of stars. He has shown that the stars collapse as a result of their gravitational force and the collapse in-turn, triggers thermonuclear explosion inside them. In that process hydrogen is converted into helium, and in case of heavy stars, even helium is converted into carbon and oxygen and eventually to iron, an element, which releases no energy and the nuclear reaction, stops there. Thus, this process of creation, from the Avaykta, the undifferentiated, or the unmanifest, the nirgun brahman and of destruction, or of srishti and pralaya, continues forever ...and without end. To honor University of Chicago Dr.Chandrashekhar, NASA has named its new observatory as Chandra X-ray observatory, which is simply known as Chandra which was put in the elliptical earth orbit, varying in distance from 9,200 miles to 82,000 miles, in July 1999 to observe X-rays from high-energy regions of the universe. It can also be said about samaadhi that in that state the consciousness goes beyond the dominion of space and time. To express it in the manner of the physicists, it is like saying that in this state a person can go beyond the event horizon of an astronomical black hole and return from it at will. We are also told that in his quest for perfection, Swami Ramakrishna Paramahansa, the 19th century yogi and the monk of Dakshineshwar, used to go in and out of samaadhi at his own free will.
In an effort to realize the Absolute through the process of Yoga, it is observed that these yoga disciplines, as described in the Yoga-Sutra of Patanjali, are also given us in the Bhagavad-Gita. Out of the eight yoga disciplines, only three are listed here and are described as: 1) pratyaahaar in verse 2.58, 2) dhyaan in verse 8:8 and 3) samaadhi in verse of the Bhagavad-Gita, and these are7:
1) Pratyahaar: Bhagavad-Gita, verse’ , says: “yadaa sanharte chaayam koormo-angaaneeve sarvashah…He who is unattached and when like a tortoise, which draws in its limbs from all directions, he withdraws his senses from the sense objects, he is a man of stable wisdom.”
2) Dhyaan: Bhagavad-Gita, verse’ 8:8, says: “abhyaasyo-yukten chetasaa naanya-gaaminaa…He who with his mind disciplined through yoga in the form of practice of meditation and thinking nothing else, is constantly engaged in contemplation of the Supreme attains the supremely effulgent Divine Being.”
3) Samaadhi: Bhagavad-Gita, verses’ 6:20-6:23 declare: “yatroparmate chittam nirudham yog sevayaa… When the mind, absolutely restrained by the practice of concentration, attains quietness, and when seeing the Self by the self, that Yogi beholding Atman by Atman, is satisfied in the Atman itself; when he feels that infinite bliss-which is perceived by the purified intellect and which transcends the senses and thus established therein he never departs from the Real state.”
The purified state, in these cryptic verses is described as that state of cognition when the purified intellect can grasp independent of the senses. When in meditation, the mind is deeply concentrated, the senses do not function and are resolved into their cause- that is, the mind; and when the later is steady, so that there, only the intellect is functioning, or in other words, cognition only exists; and the indescribable Self or the Atman realizes itself. And this is known as Samadhi.
Coming back to the theme of this essay, the question arises: “How do we know this knower?” This question is asked, over and over, in almost all the scriptures. “Who knows this truth? He only knows or perhaps He knows not?” This is how the Rig-Veda ends its poem, which was one of the favorite poems of another famous traveler from
India during the last century, namely, Swami Vivekanand. This shows that the seer of the Rig-Veda even questions the highest knower or his knowledge. Thus the Vedic system of thought is not based on some blind faith or some sectarian dogma taught by a teacher but on scientific basis developed and known by what we call the dhyaan yoga or the knowledge developed through meditation or by the intuitive understanding of the seer. When that knowledge dawns, then the Great Being shines forth through every pore of our being as the blissful or the immortal. Thus, in the Rig Veda, began the scientific inquiry not only for the outer worlds of prakriti but also for the inner worlds of atman, the unchanging substratum of the universe, or the universal constant as we may call It. This Universal Constant proved too illusive even for Einstein when he declared: ‘God does not throw dice’ but after a lifetime of groping, he finally gave up trying to find the universal constant for his “too- too static” a view of the universe of names and forms, which the Hindu mystics had already figured out thousands of years before him, that this cosmos was nothing but a passing phantom show which veils from sight the true and the unchanging Eternal Reality that is forever unmanifest. However, the Bhagavad-Gita gives us the nature of this Universal Constant in verse when it says:
The self can never be cleft,
Nor can one dry or make him wet,
He is never combustible,
Present everywhere but stable
Is eternal and changes never,
Remains always the same forever
Maya and the Uncertainty Principle
Then came along Werner Heisenberg, a young German Physicist with his idea of the ‘uncertainty principle’ and with this ‘new understanding’ he stumbled onto the ancient vedantic truth that ‘the subjective decides the nature of the object’, that is, in a mystical sense, “the purity of the soul or consciousness of the scientist or that of the seer determines his outlook.” The same theme is expressed in the words of Vishnu Puraan, where it is stated: “As is God, so is His creation and as you are, so is your creation.” Thus, Werner Heisenberg found out about the maya of the electrons and in the same spirit, Stephen Hawking, the famous astro-physicist from Cambridge University, while intuitively realizing the deeper uncertainty of the nature of the Black Holes realized the Maya relating to the Cosmos and declared that: “God not only plays dice but also sometimes throws them where they cannot be seen”. Thus Hawking also intuitively stumbled onto the ancient Hindu concept of Maya, in the same way as
Heisenberg had figured it out earlier. In this context Bhagavad-Gita verse’ says: “naasto vidyate bhaavo, na bhaavo vidyate satah…the unreal has no existence and the real never ceases to be.” Now that the word maya has some how crept up in this essay, let us find out what Saint Kabir, the 15th century mystic poet of Northern India says in one of his poems about maya which was translated by Gurudeva Shri Rabindra Nath Tagore (1861-1941) and it goes as follows:
Maya Taji Na Jaay
“Tell me, Friend, how can I renounce Maya?
When I gave up the tying of ribbons,
Still I tied my garments about me:
When I gave up tying my garment,
I still covered my body in its folds
So, when I gave up passion
I see that anger remains;
And when I renounce anger,
Greed is with me still;
And when greed is vanquished,
Pride and vainglory remain;
When the mind is detached and
Casts Maya away, still it
Clings to the letter
Kabir says, “Listen to me dear friend!
Yogis and Sanyaasis are disputing each other,
But the true path is rarely found.”
The philosophy taught by
Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita about the creation of the universe is the same as the concepts given us in the Hymn of Creation in the Rig-Veda. In the Bhagavad-Gita, the verse’ says: “ajo nitya shaashvato ayam puraano, na hanyate hanya maane shareere” in which Sri Krishna declares that Parbrahman, Parmatman or Atman is the substratum of the universe and it is neither born and nor does it ever die. The poetic rendition of this verse goes as follows:
No soul is ever born nor does he ever,
Once coming to being he ceases never;
Once coming to being he ceases never;
Permanent, eternal, ancient and unborn,
This dies not even when the body is gone.
Essence Of Parbrahman
According to the Bhagavad-Gita, verses’ 9:7 and 9:8, Parmaatman or the atman remained in a state of quiet throughout the duration of time known as the Night of Brahma, also known as the kalpa-antaya, with no objects, because as yet there is no modification. But resolving to create, or rather to emanate the universe, It formed a picture of what should be, and this at once was a modification willingly brought about in the previously wholly unmodified spirit; thereupon the Divine Idea was gradually expanded, coming forth into objectivity while the essence of parbrahman, the presiding deity or the essence of atman remained unmodified and became the perceiver of its own expanded idea. The essential nature or the svabhaav of the One as transcendent Subject, here called adhyaatma and declared in Bhagavad-Gita verse’ 8:3, separates out as it were, leaving the other aspect of Brahman, to stand as the eternal Object, the mool-prakriti. This mool-prakriti, the unmanifest basis of all the objectivity, is, from its very nature, the source of all the manifested Many. Reflecting as it does the Light of the One Atman; It is the root of all objectivity and all plurality. If the Brahman is to appear as an object at all, it is only as the mool-prakriti that it can so appear. This is how the One without a second, at the commencement of a kalpa known as kalpa-praarambh, chose to become Many.