Concept in Hinduism
Space and time are closely connected as modern scientists have discovered very recently. In fact Einstein even coined a new dimension called Space/Time. We have already discussed the concept of Time in Hinduism. So now let us look at the concept of Space. The idea of this planet being the centre of the solar system is something which our rishis dismissed from the beginning. Many thousands of years ago they knew for sure that the sun was the centre of our solar system. How they found this out without the use of modern instruments is still a mystery to the western scientists but the fact is that rishis who heard the vibrations of specific sounds in ether, memorised them into the vast fund of knowledge called the Vedas. They had extremely accurate, astronomical and heliocentric calculations for the movements of both our Earth and other celestial bodies. The following is the quotation from the Vedas.
“The sun never sets or rises. When people think the sun is setting, he only changes about after reaching the end of the day and makes night below and day to what is on the other side. Then, when people think he rises in the morning, he only shifts himself about after reaching the end of the day night, and makes day below and night to what is on the other side. In truth, he does not see at all.”
- Rig Veda. Brahmanas
“The world is like a potter’s wheel: the wheel looks as if it stands still, though it revolves at a terrific speed.”
- [1.27] Yoga Vasishta
They realised that the orbits of all celestial bodies are elliptical. They even noted the wobble of the Earth’s axis which creates the movement called precession of the equinoxes which is a very slow movement which completes one cycle every 25,920 years. This has been accommodated into the Hindu calendar. This has only recently been validated by modern science. Of course this is hardly noticed by civilizations which have only existed for a couple of thousand years but it was a great consideration for civilizations which have existed for millennia!
Just as Hinduism believes in unbelievable cycles of Time and has calculated Time to its smallest conceivable unit, it has also recorded the smallest unit of space which is the atom.
The Bhagavat Purana describes an atom as “paramanu” and each “anu” (molecule) consisting of at least 2 paramanus.
To quote: “The ultimate particle of the material universe is indivisible and not formed into a body. It is called a paramanu. It exists as an invisible entity even after the dissolution of all forms. All material bodies are combinations of such paramanus.”
The Rig Veda says that paramanus are the ultimate state of the manifest universe. When they stay in their own forms they are called the Unlimited Oneness.
The Parama Mahan is subtler than the paramanu. The Parama Mahan is unique . It has no difference, no spacing and leaves nothing behind.
Time can be measured by the movement and combination of these particles.
Two paramanus can combine to form an anu and three combine to form a trasaranu. The rays of light emerging from a mesh can make these move up in empty space.
In recent times it is the great scientist Kanada who wrote about atoms. Acharya Kanada is known as the father of modern atomism. He founded the Vaisheshika School of philosophy where he taught his ideas about the atom and the nature of the universe. He wrote a book on his research called the “Vaisheshika Darshan”
Kanada claimed that every object of creation is made of atoms which in turn connect with each others to form molecules. His theory of the atom was abstract and enmeshed in philosophy as they were based on logic and not on experimentation but modern science has corroborated his theories to a large extent.
It is said that one day while he was in the city of Dwaraka, Kanada was walking with food in his hand, breaking it into small pieces. Suddenly he realised that he was unable to divide the food into any further parts. From this moment, Kanada conceptualised the idea of a particle that could not be divided any further. He called that indivisible matter paramanu (atom). He even dissected the atom and called it an anu.
Acharya Kanada proposed that this indivisible matter could not be sensed through any human organ or seen by the naked eye, and that an inherent urge made one paramanu combine with another. When two paramanus belonging to one class of substance combined, a dwinuka (binary molecule) was the result. This dwinuka had properties similar to the two parent parmanus.
Kanada suggested that it was the different combinations of parmanus which produced different types of substances. He also put forward the idea that atoms could be combined in various ways to produce chemical changes in presence of other factors such as heat. He gave blackening of an earthen pot and ripening of fruit as examples of this phenomenon.
Western civilization discovered Relativity and the atomic theory and used it for the manufacture of atom bombs whereas the Hindu culture applied the same knowledge to the development of new states of consciousness!
Unlike the west which lives in a historical world bound by dates and time, the Hindu culture is rooted in a timeless universe which is eternally created and eternally destroyed. The rishis were spiritual scientists who had gained an insight into the nature of Reality through deep meditative and ascetic practices. Modern physics requires experimental proof of their theories whereas the rishis wanted experiential proof. Most important was that they did not want to use their knowledge for material purposes but to find release (moksha) from the bonds of space and time.
They were not concerned about using their vast knowledge to enhance the quality of living in the way of modern conveniences for they knew that adding to physical comforts was one of the lowest types of uses to which they could put the enormous amount of knowledge which was at their disposal. There were innumerable ways of applying it especially in the realm of conducting experiments on themselves which would enable them to enhance their inner states and take them to a state of bliss which is what everybody is after but nobody seems to get. This is because we think that our happiness can be enhanced by the accumulation of more and more physical comforts and material goods and naturally this leads to further and further disappointments. Nobody thinks of looking within himself to find the source of bliss as well as of all knowledge. Our gaze is totally outer oriented hence we flounder in the sea of misconceptions clutching at comfortable straws to save ourselves or give us fleeting moments of pleasure.
Not only did the ancient Hindus know about the smallest bit of matter which occupies space but they also knew of the extent of space and even discovered the fact that space is expanding. (The concept of the expanding universe is a very recent discovery in the West.)The earth is only a small dot in the vast expanse of space which is expanding at an inconceivable rate. In the cyclical order of creation, it happens that every creation is preceded by destruction and followed by another creation.
“After a cycle of universal dissolution, the Supreme Being decides to recreate the cosmos so that embodied souls can once again experience worlds of shape and solidity. Very subtle atoms begin to combine, eventually generating a cosmic wind that blows heavier and heavier atoms together. Souls depending on their karma earned in previous world systems, spontaneously draw to themselves atoms that coalesce into an appropriate body.”
— The Prashasta Pada.
This was written a few thousand years ago!
The concept of parallel universes are also found in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana.
“And who will search through the wide infinities of space to count the universes side by side, each containing its Brahma, its Vishnu, and its Shiva? Who can count the Indras in them all — those Indras side by side, who reign at once in all the innumerable worlds; those others who passed away before them; or even the Indras who succeed each other in any given line, ascending to godly kingship, one by one, and, one by one, passing away?”
- Brahma Vaivarta Purana
Thus Hinduism has an unimaginable cosmological view of human beings having existed for trillions of years and the fact that they will continue to populate many universes in the future.
We have seen how the Vedas and Puranas dealt with the smallest particles of matter occupying space so now let us examine the Hindu idea of infinite space. The Puranas vividly describe the fourteen parallel realities which are co-existing and intersecting with us on multiple levels. Of course modern science is still to discover this but considering that the Hindus knew so much of our world which is only very slowly being revealed to the west, we can safely say that their descriptions of these worlds must also be real. Their astronomical discoveries are extremely precise and agree with many of the results of modern astronomy. Their culture and knowledge of astronomy baffles all our present understanding which is actually only touching the fringes of this colossal universe.
There are several statements in the Vedic texts about the universe being infinite. On the other hand it is to be noted that they do give the exact, finite, distance to the sun! In the Vedas, Aditi is the mother of the gods and she is actually a personification of the concept of Infinity! The famous hymn “Purnamada, purnamidam, purnad purnamudachyate, purnasya, purnamadaya, purnamevavashishyate,” gives a wonderful description of Infinity.
It means “That is infinite and this is infinite. If you take the infinite from the infinite, Infinity alone will remain!”
Just imagine how ancient this hymn is and then you will realise the extent of their knowledge of the paradoxical properties of Infinity!
Another hymn from the Yajurveda refers to the outer world as an altar made of bricks in which numbers are given in multiples of ten that go up to ten hundred, thousand million. Obviously their idea of space was infinite!
The 6th chapter called the “Creation of the Universe”, in the Satapata Brahmana, speaks of the creation of the earth as having taken place after the other stars. As usual abstractions were normally personified in the Vedas and Puranas. Here Prajapati is the name given to the creator and out of him come the various stars called, Ashva (Vivaswan), Rishabha, Aja, Kurma which come before the creation of the earth. Vivaswan of course refers to the sun while Rishabha (the twin asses), refers to Gemini, Aja is Capricorn and Kurma, Cassiopeia.
The Puranas view the universe as having a diameter of about 500 million yojanas. But beyond this universe lies the limitless Pradhana which has within it, countless other universes! Many of our Puranas like the Vishnu Purana, Srimad Bhagavata Purana, Padma Purana and Vayu Purana have mentioned the different universes. This is a modern discovery of the 19th century western scientists.
The Vedas speak of three types of space- physical space, psychological space and the Infinite space of the super consciousness. This Infinite space exists everywhere. It is that pure consciousness of the Supreme Brahman which fills everything, inside and outside. The word “Brha” means full. This is the background of everything which is in us also and on which the play of our own limited space can work. This limited psychological space of divided consciousness in us, is what creates the divisions of Time and the separative ego. Physical space is that in which the elements exist. Both these of course are dependent on the Infinite space of Super Consciousness.
Every atom of matter contains within itself a replica of the universe. In fact every atom of every rock will contain infinite data about the creation of the universe. Every molecule of air and every drop of water contains a tiny universe. This is visible only to the seer and the sage who can penetrate into the heart of a rock and discover its secrets. The scientist on the other hand whose only tool is his penetrating intellect tries to discover the secrets of the universe by the devastating process of blasting and dissecting. He has to break open the rock to discover its components. He has to tear open the petals of the flower to discover its secret but in doing so he misses out the true meaning of the universe which hides its secret in the heart of every flower and every rock!
Actually many of our ancient scriptures speak about the relativity of Time and Space. We might be tricked into thinking that these are only flights of imagination but when we see the conclusions of modern science we are forced to believe that these ideas have come from a sophisticated tradition of super cognitive and analytical thought. The recurring question is of course how they managed to find all these facts without the use of modern technology?
Till very recently Western science tried to separate the investigator from the object of investigation. They wanted the experiment to be totally unbiased by the personal beliefs of the experimenter. The Hindu system from the very beginning knew of the deep interconnectedness between the observer and the observed. Direct experience was considered to be the basis of all proof. The substratum was always the intelligence of the observer which turns into the very act of observing and finally the experience itself. Great names of quantum physicists like Schrodinger and Moore have given credit to this method of experimenting. It was only recently that the west understood that one could not totally divorce the experimenter from the experiment.
Hindu scriptures have delegated space into many ‘Lokas” or worlds just as they have divided Time into many eons which are cyclic and go on forever. Both Time and space are indestructible.
Fourteen lokas are described in Hinduism. There are 7 Vyarthis or upper worlds and 7 Patalas or lower worlds.
The highest of the Vyarthis is known as Satya Loka or the world of Brahma (the creator). Even though this is not eternal, those jivatmas who attain this loka will not have any re-birth.
2nd is Tapa- Loka which is the abode of some of the greater gods.
Then 3rd comes Jana-Loka which is the abode of the sons of the creator Brahma. The Prajapathis and others live here.
The 4th is Mahar Loka which is the abode of the great rishis and sages.
Fifth is Swar Loka or Swarga, which corresponds to the Puranic idea of heaven where the gods like Indra, Varuna and so on live. They are in charge of the world. This is the space between our sun and the pole star. Most of the lesser gods 330 million, and other celestial beings like Gandharvas and Apsaras live here.
The 6th is Bhuvar Loka or Pitru Loka which comes into our atmosphere — the space between the earth and the sun. This is inhabited by semi-divine beings and the ancestors.
The 7th of course is our earth. This is inhabited by human beings and animals. According to the Vishnu Purana the earth is only one of thousands of inhabited worlds that can be found in the universe.
Next we come to the 7 Patalas or nether worlds.
The one closest to our world is Atala Loka which is ruled by Bala, the son of the demon architect Mayan who possesses magical powers.
The 2nd is Vitala Loka which is ruled by Hara, one of the forms of Shiva. He is attended by his ganas or host of goblins, and ghosts. Gold is prized in this world and those who worship gold will end up in this region.
The 3rd is Sutala Loka which is ruled by the pious asura king called Maha Bali. Lord Vishnu himself is supposed to have become the guardian of his gate!
The 4th is Talatala Loka which is the realm of the demon architect Mayan who is well versed in sorcery.
The 5th is Mahatala Loka which is abode of the Nagas or serpents who are the sons of Kadru. All the fierce names to be found amongst snakes, like Takshaka are to be found here.
The 6th is Rasatala Loka which is the abode of the demons who are mighty and cruel. They are constantly at war with the gods in Swar Loka.
The 7th realm which is the lowest is known as Patala Loka which is the abode of the Nagas or serpents. Serpents have always been considered in Hinduism as having extra-sensory perception. They have no ears but they are very close to the earth since their whole bodies slide over the earth all the time so they are the first to know of any approaching natural calamity like an earthquake or tsunami or any such thing. This region is supposed to be as beautiful as Swarga or Heavan. The heavenly sage Narada describes it thus.
“This region is more opulent than the upper regions of the universe, which include heaven. The life here is of pleasure, wealth and luxury, with no distress. The demon architect Mayan has constructed palaces, temples, houses, yards and hotels for foreigners, with jewels. The natural beauty of Patala is said to surpass that of the upper realms. There is no sunlight in the lower realms, but the darkness is dissipated by the shining of the jewels that the residents of Patala wear. There is no old age, no sweat, and no disease in Patala.”
According to the Vishnu Purana “Naraka” or Hell is another extension of space which lies below Patala. It is the realm where sinners are punished. Many different types of Narakas are described in the Garuda Purana and the Bhagavat Purana which give appropriate punishment to wrong doers. But this is not the equivalent of Hell as found in Christianity and Islam. Yama the King of Naraka is also Dharmaraja or the God of Justice. It is only a temporary phase for the wrong doers in which they are punished for a certain amount of time. As soon as they balance their punya and papa (merit and sin) they are given another chance to redeem themselves by taking birth in this world.
All the worlds are only temporary places of stay. When the body falls and dies on earth, the God of Death known as ‘Yama Dharma Raja’ — Yama, the lord of justice, tallies the person’s good and bad deeds while on earth and decides whether the jivatma goes to a heaven or a hell, for how long, and in what capacity. The jivatma acquires a body appropriate to the world it enters. At the end of its time in those worlds when its good and bad deeds have been neutralised, it returns to the earth (reborn as a life form on the earth). It is only from the earth, and only after a human life, that the jivatma can attain supreme salvation, the state that is free from the cycle of birth and death.
But again and again we are brought back to the original concept of the Infinite, Supreme Being who is totally unattached and in whom all these different universes exist.
“The countless universes, each enveloped in its shell, are compelled by the wheel of time to wander within You, like particles of dust blowing about in the sky.”
- Srimad Bhagavata Purana.
In other words Time and Space are just concepts. In the state of the Supreme neither of these exists. Therefore the insistence in Hinduism to attain that state of bliss which is beyond the concepts of Time, Space and Causality.
Aum Tat Sat