Vanity thought #1771. VC – prana and trajectories

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

As I mentioned at the end of the previous post, the rest of the chapter talks about trajectories. I thought I knew the word but it turns out the author uses it in a complicated way. Trajectories will come up again in later chapters on time and it was even more confusing there. There are plenty of highlighted failings of the modern science, too, and the caveat I mentioned yesterday still applies – not everything attributed to science in this book will be agreed on by scientists.

The very first sentence introducing trajectories goes like this: “The existence of prāna is like the trajectories that exist independent of particles.” Uh-huh. Is “independent of particles” important here? What other trajectories are there? Or does it simply state the obvious to remind us that trajectories are independent of particles? Are they? Never thought of it this way. Next few sentences aren’t very helpful either. I can understand how we conceive trajectories as a collection of consecutive locations taken by objects as they move but not much more than that. “Motion” has been denied here, I guess for the reason that will become clearer in the next paragraph, and otherwise it’s something something something and there’s not causality. Prāṇa is also a trajectory but not that of the objects, it’s the trajectory of the observer as he moves through the experiences of his life. Mmkay.

In quantum theory objects have discrete states and therefore we cannot talk about their motion in the conventional sense. How an object jumps from one state to another cannot be described either. In fact, we can’t be sure that it’s the same object that is doing the jumping and so we cannot talk about continuity of the succession of states either. We can only talk about the succession of our observations. In other words, the author says, it’s not the objects that go from state to state but it’s the observer who is moving from one state to another. It’s not the particle that unites the succession of the states but the observer. This is where prāṇa comes in – it does not describe motion of particles but the experiences of the observer. Prāṇa is a trajectory of the souls and not the motion of particles, and it carries the soul from one state to another.

This idea is simple enough but then we must remember that “states” in the Vedic world can be different levels of abstraction and we can have experiences even when the body doesn’t move. Prāṇa, however, works only on the gross body, not on the mind. It is a product of the mind, as I understand, and the author says that controlled prāṇa can help regulate the mind, too. What prāṇa generally works on is senses and sense objects and it moves them under control of karma, which is under control of time.

Like in quantum theory, it’s not one body that moves from state to state but the soul that takes shelter of one body after another at every step, as created by prāṇa. We sense continuity and talk about one body living through life experiences and the author compares it to the illusion of motion picture which is made up of multiple stationary frames changing very fast. The old body is a state of senses and sense objects that becomes unmanifest and the current body is the currently manifested state, but it’s not the same body as the old – that’s an illusion.

In science the succession of consecutive locations in space was used to create the illusion of “motion” but, because of quantum theory, we can’t talk about it in these terms anymore. Science doesn’t know what connects different states but Sāṅkhya says it’s the observer, the soul. It’s the soul that moves from body to body. This travel is caused by prāṇa, which is controlled by karma, which is controlled by time.

At the time of death prāṇa detaches abstract concepts like the mind from their contingent details (bodies) and carries the soul to a place where new details are developed as a new body. This agency of prāṇa is known as transmigration of souls in Vedic world but it’s not understood in modern science, which leads to the collapse of causality in any movement.

This would be a good place to introduce new concepts into science, the author says, but so far we can remain very skeptical whether science will embrace any new notions coming from Hinduism, of all places. Nevertheless, the need is there and they can dance around their problems only for so long. In Vedic theory the trajectory, path, or process is unrelated to properties of objects and the “force” that moves the observer through the succession of states is not the same as force field in science either. Force fields in science can only put objects in stationary states and so they have causality missing from the picture. This causality can be explained by introducing prāṇa.

The author then says that science has an equivalent of kaphā – fermions, which are actual particles of matter. Science also has bosons, which are particles of force, and they represent pitta – the force that subdivides, the energy that can be seen as information needed to create contingent objects. What science is lacking is vata, I guess, but the author says it rather needs prāṇa, which is trajectories without objects. The author says that we can visualize these trajectories in our minds but we can’t directly observe them, we can only see them through their effects – changes to the bodily states.

The collapse of causality in quantum theory is because they are trying to measure what cannot be measured – prāṇa is not a material object but a trajectory of material objects (or rather trajectory of the observer).

Śrīmad Bhāgavatam talks about celestial objects being moved by the “ropes of wind”. “Ropes” are paths and “wind” is prāṇa that moves planets along them. I’m not fully satisfied with the distinction made here but I totally agree with author’s main point – this “wind” of Bhāgavatam is not the “air” element of Sāṅkhya and it’s not gravitational force field of science either. It’s this wind that explains causality of movement because both matter and energy are inert. As I typed this I realized that the fact of energy being inert hasn’t sunk in yet. I still think that energy signifies movement. In quantum theory energy is released when an object changes its state in a certain way but the cause of that change is missing. Now we found it and it’s in our karma. Prāṇa is the agency that fulfills it.

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