Vanity thought #1770. VC – Ayurveda and quanta

Link: “Mystic Universe: An Introduction to Vedic Cosmology”.

Last two chapters were short and sweet but the next one is long and big on ideas. It’s also one of those you can’t easily go public with because someone will always say you get it wrong and claim superior knowledge of the subject. It’s hard to deal with these objections because the fact that they know more doesn’t mean they don’t draw wrong conclusions from their knowledge but they don’t accept the possibility of being wrong and are always full of themselves. They, basically, say that “I know more and therefore you have to trust me” and the only response I can think of is to find other authorities who come to different conclusions and that from my point of view those authorities sound more authoritative. Still, unless you know the subject yourself you can’t claim that any proposed authority correctly reflects the current state of the field.

First, it looks like the chapter will be about Aurveda as the author describes kaphā, vāta, and pitta. He calls them “three modes” but it quickly becomes obvious that these modes are not guṇas from the previous chapter. He rather classifies them in terms of Sāṅkhya. Kaphā is the ideas, vāta is prāṇa, and pitta doesn’t get a comparison of its own. “Ideas” here doesn’t mean workings of the mind but ideas of the semantic tree – abstract objects which become symbols to be elaborated on as the next step. These “ideas” are not tied up to any particular kind of matter, gross or subtle, but a distinction made for each stage of creation. The author says that it is the cause of form and structure in the body – muscles, bones, blood, fat etc. I think he means the general idea of fat or bones from which actual body parts are grown but it’s not clear.

Vāta is prāṇa and it causes things in the body to move and change and includes processes such as digestion, circulation, or elimination. Vāta, just as prāṇa, is all about processes rather than things.

Pitta is associated with metabolism and is responsible for breaking things down – digesting food and breaking it apart into small particles, basic amino-acids and such. Pitta takes bigger, abstract ideas, and divides them into smaller memes. It creates details of abstractions. The author doesn’t link it to kaphā here even though it naturally follows. I think it’s because pitta doesn’t create actual bones from the idea of bones represented by kaphā. Or maybe it’s because kaphā does not represent ideas of bones but bones themselves, and meat and fat covering them. Pitta then can take this fat and break it down into energy to supply calories. This is the part where someone expert in ayurveda can say that I got it all wrong, but before I start arguing about it the book changes direction and compares these ayurvedic terms to quantum theory.

What we call “matter” in science corresponds to kaphā. Science talks about object concepts such as particles, electrons, photons, waves (not an object but an object concept). These object concepts have properties and so the distinction is there. Electrons have speed and waves have frequency. Ayurvedic vāta corresponds to force in science – that which makes things move and drives changes, and pitta corresponds to energy, I guess as matter can be converted into energy just as pitta breaks down fat to extract calories. The author compares pitta to properties of objects and says that these properties can be divided and organized. He gives no examples so I’m not sure what he means. Converting matter to energy seems like a better fit to me but I might be missing some essential functions of pitta which necessitate a different explanation, such as dividing and organizing properties of objects.

Next is a paragraph on problems in quantum theory and this where physicists will normally stand up and say we got it all wrong. No matter what the audience is there will always be one like that. The rest might go along with our version just fine and display at least equal understanding of the subject but this one prick would insist that we should go back to school and learn quantum theory the right way. Perhaps we should look at it philosophically as karma giving us a lesson to complete our knowledge and his objections need to be included. I just hope this lesson is digestible and we don’t really need to go back to school and learn quantum theory for real. Incorporating missing bits of knowledge of the subject we have only vague understanding of is not easy, and it’s not that we only need to understand what that person says but we should locate this position on the semantic tree as well – we need to know where he is coming from and why his views should or should not matter to our own presentation.

One of the central points in quantum physics, in author’s view, is that science has a notion of matter but it doesn’t treat matter as ideas and meanings. This is a problem from Sāṅkhya perspective and I bet vast majority of scientists won’t even know what we are talking about – in their framework ideas and meanings are very distinct from matter. This argument is clearly given for our own understanding, not for public consumption.

Second problem for quantum theory is that the idea of energy has changed and it’s not “kinetic” anymore but rather fixes particles in stationary states with nothing in between them. The third problem follows from the second in that we have no idea why objects need to change from one state to another (signifying different discrete energy levels) and so we cannot apply our traditional notion of force that causes the changes. Instead it all has been replaced by probabilities and randomness. These three problems correspond to three postulates in Sāṅkhya that are missing from science – matter is ideas and meanings, energy is the agency that divides abstracts into parts, and force as prāṇa that describes processes rather than force as property of objects.

Next paragraphs starts talking about trajectories and trajectories are difficult to digest so I’ll leave it for another day.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s