Our inability to comprehend the true nature of the universe is fascinating. Not only we can’t see it we can’t even imagine it. I mean scientists can create models of multidimensional things we are never going to see but when it comes to the universe we are still drawing blank. Our abstract thinking somehow fails us completely here.
We have a pretty clear description in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam, of course, all we need is someone to read it thoroughly and explain what the universe looks like according to śāstra and that’s all, but still it doesn’t work.
There are details and discrepancies, of course, like whether the Earth is a globe or an island on a flat disk, and paṇḍitas can argue about them if they want. We’d feel better if we saw them arguing – that would look just like a scientific debate and usually those discussions end with some sort of progress. Debates are harbingers of scientific breakthroughs, it means that our knowledge is evolving, never mind it’s still incomplete.
Even in Vedic times there were huge difference of opinions and, as Prabhupāda often told us, one cannot be considered a proper muni until he has his own theory. Spiritually speaking these theories are useless but materially they are still comforting.
What happens instead is that even in our own vaiṣṇava circles the debate is descendingin into hurling personal insults and praising one’s own devotion. Not so much one’s knowledge but one’s allegiance to Prabhupāda. Both sides quote from him and both sides accuse each other of not accepting his clear words on the subject. Actually, his words weren’t clear enough for us to understand but that’s the accusation anyway.
True to Kali yuga form we’ll probably continue down this road and I’m afraid someone would severly criticize whatever model they’ll put on display at TOVP, which will split our community even further. It won’t even matter if the TOVP model would be correct or the closest to reality, our mutual enmity ignores such trivial concerns, we only need to prove the other side wrong.
At this point I happen to be indifferent to the fight and so I can afford to be puzzled by our failure of imagination. We don’t have a single consistent theory on how to reconcile Bhāgavatam descriptions with our direct experience. Explanations like “it’s illusion” don’t work as they are no explanations at all.
I mean it’s a cop out phrase that can explain away anything under the sun, it’s meaningless here, it’s a tacit admission that we have no idea how this illusion works exactly. We have no idea whether there are gradations to this illusion or whether it flips on in full like a switch. We have no idea how one’s perception would change if the illusion was withdrawn either.
Mount Meru and other islands of Jambūdvīpa are made of matter and so they should be perceptible to our senses. Demigods and sages who can see them have the material eyes given to them by material nature so theoretically it should be possible for us to see them, too, but it isn’t.
If we talk about spiritual reality then we understand that it’s attained by bhakti and that it’s transcendental to material senses. We can’t possibly see Kṛṣṇaloka with gross material senses but that should not be the case with Mount Meru and Himalayas.
If we say that they are made of subtle matter then the question is – what subtle matter? We don’t have subtle matter in our classfication. We have mind, intelligence, and false ego, true, but in one of the articles I quoted yesterday it was said that demigods’ bodies are made of the same five gross elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth, but mixed in different proportions. Celestial beings have half their body made of fire while we have mostly earth and water. Why can’t we sense that fire, which we understand as “energy” in scientific terms?
There were times when demigods were visible to humans but only on special occasions. How do these occasions influence our material senses? What exactly changes in our perception? We have no idea. We have no idea what needs to be ajdusted to see a hundren thousand kilometer high Himalayas. What needs to be adjusted to see Ganges falling from the top of the Mount Meru instead of gashing from under the glacier?
There’s a promising explanation that demigods live in a different dimension and scientific model of multi-dimensional universe is already there. It’s very complicated but possible to predict how objects from other dimensions would look in our view. We can put ourselves in the shoes of stick people drawn on a piece of paper and imagine how they would perceive objects like lines and circles, or outright intrusions like piercing the paper with a sharp pencil. Mathematicians have already figured formulas and created abstract models of objects from multidimensional universe. We can’t visualize them, of course, but we can calculate their movements and sizes and everything else we need.
We are not so lucky with the world of the Bhāgavatam, however. So far no one has speculated what a demigod’s hand would look like if it pierced into our reality, for example. Also dimensions are not a material element. There are directions, ten of them, but they are all visible to us here and I’ve never heard of celestial planets having more of them than us here on Earth. We simply do not have a word for “different dimension” in our literature.
If we wanted to find this world of the demigods we would have no idea where to look at all. We can’t figure out what it is that we are lacking, either from scientific or śāstric point of view. According to our books it’s the matter of insufficient purity but purity is not a material element either, it’s just a different combination of material guṇas.
Maybe we are like donkeys, or rather city horses from two hundred years ago – we are wearing shores on our eyes, always have, always will, and we do not even realize that we are wearing them. It’s a part of the world where we’ve never seen anything at all, it’s not in our catalogs, we’ve never even tried to look there, it just doesn’t register with our eyes.
In case of donkeys – they are too absorbed in chasing the carrot in front of them that they do not look left and right where grass grows for free. It’s not that they don’t have the vision – they are too busy too look, they are blinded by hunger.
Maybe that’s more like our position here – we are too blinded by our desires and various attractions to look at the world right next to us. The perfect material vision comes to yogīs who learn to withdraw their attention from world affairs, after all. It comes as a result of a mechanical process of aṣṭāṅga yoga, that’s how Mount Meru etc gradually appears in human vision.
I’m not advocating wasting time on mechanical yoga practice but those of us who desperately want to figure out the universe should be aware that there IS a way to see the universe as it is. They don’t look like their are ready to put their money where their mouths us and follow it for themselves, and i’s impossible to succeed in this endeavor in Kali yuga anyway,
The point today is that it’s not our eyes that fail us but it’s our consciousness. It gets consumed by low quality desires and as a result we can’t see what’s otherwise right under our noses. It’s like a magic trick where the magician diverts our attention and we simply don’t look where the real stuff is going on. Of course this particular magic trick is done on the scale of an entire planet with seven billion residents on it but it’s still uses the same principle of diversion.
And, finally, we’ve been put into these deluded bodies and these bodies are not going to behave in any other way. They will always be absorbed in distracting thoughts, it’s not our choice anymore, not in this lifetime, not going to happen. It’s the same reason we will also never be able to live under water or fly like birds. None of it is a big loss, however, we should concentrate on developing our devotion instead and for that we have all the blessings.