Continuing with “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”. Śrīla Prabhupāda always talked about Krishna consciousness as science. Maybe spiritual science but science nevertheless. It’s supposed to be logical and accurate description of the world and this book about Vedic cosmology continues in the same vein, and yet there’s one important point to remember – Vedic universe is NOT scientific to its observers. Let me explain.
From the later chapters on Sāṅkhya we are going to learn how exactly material elements emerge one from another. This process is scientific – there are three guṇas, there are four moral principles, there’s time, and there’s no random interactions between them. The universe is a tree but there are no random branches on it, the pattern of its creation replicates itself over and over again following the same formula.
This means, theoretically, that if we know one part of the universe we can accurately describe the following branches, too, just like an experienced movie producer can predict how the movie will be made exactly and on what time table. We can also know the branches preceding ours – the nodes on the tree of hierarchy, and by extension, the rest of the universe.
This principle is not well understood by lay people but it’s very useful in science. I still don’t understand the magic behind holograms, for example. It’s a two dimensional image, in that sense no different from a common drawing, but it contains information about a three dimensional object – all of it – so that when the hologram is illuminated by a laser a 3D image sprites up and you can walk around it and see it from different angles. Somehow, when you know how the image is encoded, know the “formula”, you don’t need an actual third dimension to record it.
There’s a similar trick with digital data encoding, too, it was very popular in the 90s when internet was very slow and prone to downloading errors. A person preparing a file for download, say 100 MB in size, also prepares a smaller “par” file, say only 5 MB. You download the big file and let’s say you got only 98 MB and 2 MB got lost in transit. If it’s a movie then you have no idea where these missing 2 MB are – in the beginning, in the middle, in the end, or if they are split in smaller missing chunks all over. The magic of a “par” file is that as long as it’s bigger than the missing chunk it can repair ANY part of the original. This I just don’t understand. I imagine this “par” to be just a segment of the video but no, it isn’t. It’s some sort of meta-information that can be used to restore any missing chunk of data. I have no idea how it works but I accept the principle.
The same should be true of the universe as well but in our experience it clearly isn’t. It’s plainly not enough to know our part of the universe to construct an accurate picture of the rest of it, even if that’s what science tries to achieve.
Two days ago I talked about how knowing the Supersoul lets us know the entire universe for real and that’s because of the same principle described above – if you know details of your abstraction for real, with the same understanding as the Supersoul, it’s equivalent to knowing the entire universe, you just have to zoom in and out and traverse the universal tree applying the same understanding of the process you achieved at your own level of abstraction. The universe is absolutely predictable in every sense once you able to do that.
The problem is that we are covered by guṇa and karma, or prakṛti and karma, as is said in this chapter of the book. Due to guṇa we prefer only some of the perspectives available in our condition and due to karma we have some perspectives hidden from us completely. Our own perspective might be real and valid but guṇa and karma hide the rest of the knowledge which should be available to us on our node of the universal tree.
If we free ourselves from limitations of guṇa and karma we get to know our node as it is and, by extension, the rest of the universe as well. By withdrawing our senses and then collapsing our mind, intelligence, and false ego, we slip away from our prakṛti, our karma stops affecting us, and we get to see the Supersoul and the rest of the creation. No physical travel to the Moon becomes necessary.
There’s only one theory of the universe which describes both the production and experience in each particular model constructed for each particular node on the semantic tree. This theory, however, is available only to the Supersoul and sometimes revealed to liberated jīvas. The rest of us live with our own limited theories of what the universe is and what is going on around us.
Science works from the perspective made available by prakṛti and, interestingly, it even formalizes ignoring parts of the reality as a valid method. A scientific theory never tries to explain ALL the facts but rather makes a selection which it thinks is relevant to it. The rest of the data is deemed either as irrelevant or too weird to be accepted. That is the only way a theory can be constructed. There’s a hope that eventually a theory would explain all the other data, too but that never happens in reality and new theories are formed instead. The point is that you NEED to exclude some data to even start forming a theory out of apparent chaos. You have to select patterns and separate them from the rest of the experience.
In Vedic science that would be a sure way to keep yourself in illusion. Knowledge means knowing absolutely all the facts at any given level, not excluding anything. Maybe that’s why Vedic knowledge is accepted as absolute even as no one can practically see it so and we find lots of contradictions there.
Scientific research is also limited by karma, meaning some aspects of reality are completely hidden from our view. Due to karma we have no way of perceiving it, we have no way of knowing it’s even there. We can take evolution of science itself as an example – five hundred years ago Newton had no idea of the atoms, two hundred years ago scientists had no idea of the radio waves, and quantum mechanics with all its sub-atomic particles were hidden from scientists who were at the time enamored with Einstein’s relativity.
In science it’s called a “discovery” but what is relevant to us is that some parts of the reality are always hidden. They might be “discovered” in the future or they might not, what it means for any given moment is that from Vedic standpoint absolute knowledge is never possible and universe can never be scientifically known by conditioned souls. This isn’t a discovery made by this particular book but it explains what we have known all along from a different perspective. Different approach – same conclusion, and that’s why I think this book can be largely trusted.