Next section in “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.
Suddenly, we’ve come to end of the section on Introduction to Sāṅkhya. As far as I remember it was always “we’ll get to real Sāṅkhya real soon, practically in the next chapter” and then I flipped the page and it was already over. Quite unexpected.
I see two reasons not to delve deeper in Sāṅkhya now – it was only an introduction, after all, and, secondly, the section gave us a solid formula on which the rest of Sāṅkhya is based. It can be described in different ways but what I, personally, took from it is that three guṇas elaborate existing concepts and then produce a new type of object from it. For each new type of object there’s a new observer. When this new object requires absolute knowledge God Himself becomes its observer and emjoyer and when the new object requires ignorance of the rest of the reality ordinary living entities become its knowers.
On this I’d like to remind us of the difference between the seer and the seen expounded by Śrīla Bhaktisiddhānta Sarasvatī. In the material world we are the seers, or we are knowers of our fields, as Kṛṣṇa described us in Bhagavad Gītā. In relation to Kṛṣṇa, however, we become not seers but seen. We become fields of Kṛṣṇa’s enjoyment. In the material world we are given bodies and we spend our lives watching how three guṇas and karma act on them, turning them this way and that. We are the seers of our bodies. If we direct our attention to Kṛṣṇa we might attempt to see Him as another object of our observation and that would be a clever move because He, unlike the material nature, can fulfill ALL of our desires, but this attitude is fundamentally different from bhakti.
In the material world we learn new things and we grasp new concepts all the time. Kṛṣṇa cannot be grasped, however, knowing Him means letting Him to know ourselves, letting Him to grasp us. Normally, there’s nothing in our personalities that could be of interest to Kṛṣṇa so we are often told not to try to see the Lord but act in such a way that He agrees to see us.
Sāṅkhya makes perfect sense here again, but it’s time to move on, and, not to disappoint, the next chapter explains Vedic understanding of gravity. I’ve never seen it anywhere before, not even an attempt to explain it. The section is called “Vedic view of causality” and gravity is explained with direction of causality in mind here.
Typically, we take gravity for granted, not even pausing to think it exists. Lord Śeṣa holds all the universes on His hoods and to Him they appear as small as mustard seeds. This implies that universes are heavy and their weight presses down on Lord Śeṣa’s heads – that there’s gravity there. Similarly, we say that by Lord’s arrangement all the planets in the universe float in their orbits without falling down – implying that without Lord’s intervention they would plunge into the Garbhudaka ocean, because gravity. Once the entire Bhū-maṇḍala fell to the bottom of the ocean and Lord Varaha had to appear, find it, and lift it back up – because gravity. What we were thinking? We just projected our experiences here on the surface of the Earth, where everything is pulled down by gravity, to the rest of the universe and even the realm outside it. We assumed that if things fall down here they’d fall down everywhere else, too.
Luckily, Sāṅkhya gives us a Vedic explanation for this phenomenon. Where exactly the author pulled this explanation from is unclear, our literature does not describe the workings of prāṇa in great detail but, otherwise, it’s common knowledge for students of yoga.
In modern science gravity is a force that rules the movement of planets, stars, and galaxies. In Vedic cosmology, this force does not exist and the phenomenon of objects falling down is described in a different way. I don’t think it has been explained before, but in Vedic cosmology all objects are collections with boundaries and meanings. Meanings were discussed extensively but here there’s an addition that meanings describe systems consisting of multiple parts. That is to say that our bodies are made up of two dozen of subtle and gross elements but bodies have a meaning of their own as a whole, they’re not just the sum of the parts.
All these system have an innate desire to maintain coherence – “defending” in our list of four main activities of conditioned beings. Maybe one day I’ll figure out how it maps to four fundamental virtues, four sins, and four regulative principles but I don’t want to delve into it now. As the guṇas keep working on us this coherence is always disturbed, some elements go missing and we need to induct new stuff to replace them. New stuff can be pushed on us by others, too, and, and some of the incoming stuff might be unnecessary or harmful and we’d need to expel it. Our entire lives are constant interactions with the world, constant addition and subtraction from our system. We see things and they add information to us, we eat things, we forget things, we pass urine and stool, we talk and we walk, at the very least we breath – we are very restless this way and we are never in balance. Practice of yoga is supposed to stop all these activities and it achieves it by control of prāṇa.
So, when a system is missing a function performed by missing part the desire for preservation generated “attraction” that inducts the missing function, and when the system contains a part inconsistent with the whole it generates “repulsion” that ejects the unnecessary function.
This repulsion and attraction appear to us as physical forces but they are not causes of action, as in material science, rather they are effects of the desire to maintain coherence.
Sometimes the universe must destroy things and in those times coherence cannot be preserved but we usually fight against our fate. When the time comes, the universe might push harmful functions into our bodies that will render then inoperable and we call these functions “diseases”. We fight them but we may or may not succeed. Sometimes we ourselves cause destruction of others. Actually, we do it all the time – jīvo jīvasya jīvanam – one living being is food for another.
This interaction between systems is not new by any means and it’s studied in great detail in biology, social sciences, and ecology, it’s the physics that is missing it. I’m not sure that this statement is entirely correct – I’m talking about people who claim to explain all these interaction from mere physics point of view while in branches of science dealing with living beings they are accepted as axiomatic. It’s not the time to discuss contradictions between different fields of science, though.
I want to stop today by repeating that what we call gravity is only a case of another natural law at work – system preservation and coherence. I’ll discuss how exactly that law applies to gravity tomorrow.