Vanity thought #1796. VC – Cosmology should be semantic

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

The end of section on problems with modern cosmology is within the grasp. There are only two rather short chapters left and they largely summarize what has been explained in detail earlier. There’s one little bombshell dropped here, however, so, without further ado, let’s see this grande finale.

Dark Matter anomaly arises when we our observations do not comply with our theory of gravitation. We expect distant stars and galaxies to rotate with certain speeds but they do it faster as if they were in the presence of a large gravitational field. We attribute this field to dark matter.

In our solar system we also expect planets to rotate around the Sun with different speeds – those closer to the Sun must rotate faster and those farther away much, much slower. Saturn, for example, completes one rotation in twenty six Earthly years. Wait a minute, the Saturn also covers a lot more distance in this time so I’m not sure whether it moves faster or slower relative to Earth. Anyway, in Vedic cosmology, the book says, the problem of dark matter does not arise because all planets and all start rotate with the same speed.

What about our observations of [allegedly] slow moving Saturn, however? What if it moves slower than Mercury, which is the closest to the Sun in our solar model. This is where the book drops a mysterious sentence that despite same rotational speed the apparent speeds are different because planets are being dragged by the Sun and by the zodiac. Dragged by the Sun? I’ve read this before, I’ve heard of this from Srimad Bhagavatam, too, and I’ve read detailed explanations further in the book, but I still can’t explain what it actually means. Maybe it will come to me later.

Stars are parts of the zodiac and in Vedic cosmology they move at a constant speed, too. We think that those of them that are further away should move faster to keep up but here they are considered as parts of the same “disk” rather than independent celestial objects with no connections to each other. This is promised to be explained in later chapters.

More to the point, because in Vedic cosmology gravity is rejected as a driving force behind movements of stars and planets then what follows is that distances to them are explained differently as well. There’s a great agreement between Vedic observations and modern astronomy when it comes to rotational movement but distances to planets are all wrong – as Śrīla Prabhupāda insisted that the Sun is closer to the Earth than the Moon, for example.

Methods of measuring distances used by modern astronomers have been enumerated in this section and in semantic theory all of them were rejected one by one as they rely on unsubstantiated principles. Light does not travel in straight lines as assumed in the parallax method. Light is not equally distributed in all directions as assumed in inverse square law of luminosity. All parts of the universe are not made of the same type of matter as assumed by calculations based on Doppler shift. Once we drop these three assumptions and incorporate principles of semantic theory (Sāṅkhya) we can construct an entirely new model of the universe that will be in full agreement with śāstra, though scientists might not necessarily see the benefits of that agreement.

The last chapter starts with the point that it’s not only that we don’t know how to reconcile quantum theory with thermodynamics or general relativity but we have no idea what these reconciliations would look like. I think quantum field theory already claims to explain thermodynamics but don’t quote me on that. Physics needs postulates of dark energy and matter on the assumption that “dark” stuff we can’t see is physically just like the stuff we can. The author says that all these problems rise not from theories themselves but from the inability to incorporate meanings into science in general. I see what he did there – we can’t see meanings and they do not act like what we can see – objects.

Sāṅkhya provides the alternative to science where meanings are incorporated from the get go and difficulties experienced by science do not arise there. At this point I must add that I can neither concur nor disagree with this statement – no one knows if Sāṅkhya can be fully understood without accepting some contradictions here and there. It’s a bold claim to make.

Sāṅkhya based approach, however, will fundamentally alter our understanding of time, universe, and space we all live in. For now we see time and space as linear and flat, and all objects as physical. In Sāṅkhya we must first understand the nature of concepts and space-time in which concepts exist. This new space-time will become hierarchical and closed. As far as I understand, “flat” means that in our universe everything is made of the same kind of matter and in Sāṅkhya this flatness will be changed into hierarchy. Our space is “open”, meaning our universe has no boundaries and space between stars if filled with an infinite number of points which can make up continues straight or curved lines, for example. Closed space means that there’s the universal tree and that’s it. It’s not a tree in space and there are no straight paths between its branches. Our trees exist in space and squirrels can jump from one branch to another but this is not the correct model of the Vedic tree – outside space must be excluded.

Time is also arranged hierarchically, which will be explained later. For now I’ll just say, not being entirely sure, that our time folds in the time of greater beings like days fold into a week, weeks fold into months and so on. Vedic time is also cyclic – days, months, years and yugas go full circle and return where they started (never mind that space changes from Monday to Monday or from spring to spring).

Due to hierarchical nature of objects we won’t be puzzled by dark matter because all “dark” means in Sāṅkhya is it’s the kind of matter more abstract than our senses. Hierarchical organization of matter also means that all different kinds of space-time might appear in our physical view just as country, state, city, and street are all present in the physical sense but they are not the same types of location. We understand the difference between a concept of “state” and “street” but science somehow doesn’t recognize this distinction of type when it tries to reduce all matter to atomic interactions. Science suffer from physicalist dogma here and once that dogma is removed a new picture of the cosmos will emerge in which many of currently held views will become irrelevant, or wrong, or both.

And this, ladies and gentlemen, is the end of the section on problems with modern cosmology. The next section is dedicated to principles of Vedic cosmology but it starts with discussing another set of problems in modern science so it’s not going to be all about Lord Brahmā and the lokas he made right from the start.

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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.

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.

Vanity thought #1769. VC – Prison, prisoners, and their orders

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

The next chapter tells us about material world as a prison – a comparison we’ve heard many times already but this time we get to hear it in terms of Sāṅkhya. As expected, the goal proposed here is to learn the truth about nature and reality. In devotional circles it would be about restoring our relationships with God but Sāṅkhya is a description of the material world, not a science of bhakti. Thankfully, we know what to do with Sāṅkhya next so it’s not a problem and I, just like everyone else, would skip over “nature of truth and reality” without being afraid it might mislead us. It won’t – because the nature of truth and reality is that absolutely everything is connected to God.

Material world is, therefore, not only a prison but an educational institution, too. We learn our lessons here and depending on whether we pay attention to what is being taught we get to graduate to the next class or stay back and repeat it.

We are limited in our understanding of the truth because the truth is an abstract and we are contingents. The truth is bigger than us, we are just one instantiated case of it. The whole truth won’t “fit” into our consciousness. We can’t understand even our world, for that matter, what to speak of God. When we talk about full knowledge, therefore, we don’t literally mean all knowledge but rather our place in it, the trail up the semantic tree from us to Kṛṣṇa. Even in the spiritual world we won’t know all of Kṛṣṇa’s qualities but we need to know those that are related to us in our service.

The consciousness that knows the whole universe is God. He is the most abstract reality and He is the knower of that reality. The knowledge of the entire material creation is self-knowledge for God – because it grows out of description of His qualities. When this knowledge is divided various universes are produced and then we become part of that small reality. We’ll never learn the rest of it but we can learn our way to Kṛṣṇa, all of our way.

When we know ourselves as part of God’s creation we can then perform our functions as part of His whole. Like our legs and hands are parts of our body that perform functions in the whole body’s interest, we’ll then become functional parts and parcels of God. Do our legs know they are part of our bodies? Most of the time they follow OUR desires so, in general, they behave like they do. Do we fulfill Lord’s desires in our current state? In general – we don’t, we take part in the creation for our own pleasure, not for the Lord’s. And at the same time we are forced to do the same things as if we were working for the Lord anyway – we just don’t accept who the real enjoyer is and this acceptance will be discussed in the next chapter.

Lord Mahā Viṣṇu treats the creation as a dream and then Lord Śeṣa treats the universes as mustard seeds. From their positions the universes look distant and all their details abstracted. Each successive form of the Lord gets closer and closer, and then the living beings get really involved with the creation. At our stage the full knowledge is not necessary to operate in our fields so we can afford to be ignorant. The Lord never becomes ignorant and therefore there are no lessons to be learned for him, and therefore no karma.

Btw, it’s not in the book but the Lord never becomes ignorant because even in His last form, the Supersoul, He is still aware of all the going ons in our universe. He might not be aware of other universes but karma only works here, ignorance of other universes doesn’t affect our Supersoul. This is an interesting question – does our Supersoul know all the other universes as well as ours? Is it the Supersoul for the rest of the creation, too? The way the process is described in our literature this might not be the case, but does that equal to Supersoul’s ignorance? That would be a pretty bold statement to make and I don’t want to be the first one making it.

And then we come to the next chapter that sheds more light on workings of the guṇas. This time guṇas are said to condition our choices. Remember how I made it into the issue with the free will a few posts back? Once you bring guṇas into our decision making our responsibility apparently shrinks but that is not actually the case because we usually go along with the guṇas so even if they condition our choices, responsibility is still ours.

Among three guṇas sattva is the best and it accepts the reality as it is – because it knows the reality and realizes that there aren’t any flaws in it. Choices made in sattva lead to knowledge and peacefulness. Next best guṇa is rajas and rajo-guṇa directs our consciousness to some aspects of the reality neglecting others. We see it as a need to fix the world to become happy. These fixes and improvements are seen as progress in modern culture and, if you listen to people, they always propose new things to fix some supposedly broken ones. Sometimes they even joke about “solutions seeking for problems” when someone wants to sell something but is not sure what it is supposed to fix (except the problem of his income, of course).

Under the influence of tamo-guṇa we reject the reality altogether, being either ignorant or dismissive of it. It brings us into a depressive state of not liking the reality and not trying to improve it, so we just whine and suffer and refuse to do anything.

Three guṇas here perform three functions – accept, direct, and reject. I’ve never heard of them presented like this before and I find it very insightful.

Among the three the acceptance is the best but simply accepting things doesn’t tell us how we should act. To start acting there must be direction, rajas, and rajas always lead to frustration – tamas. We can achieve “balance” by not falling into tamas in the end but rather accepting the outcomes of our actions whatever they are and returning back to sattva instead. If we are smart then we avoid “sinful” activities which we know will force us to suffer and this course of action can then be described as karma-yoga. It’s not an easy task – avoiding frustration in the end, and most people would rather commit some sinful activity if it promises them fulfillment of their desires.

Our Kṛṣṇa conscious solution, which is called non-material in the book, is to accept work under the order of our abstract entity – guru, and direct our energy towards goals set by him, and we keep rejecting sinful and unfavorable things. Because guru, our abstract, acts in the same way, the ultimate director is Kṛṣṇa. All three modes are still present – accept, direct, and reject, but they are not material and do not produce disappointments anymore. It is also acting in knowledge of our connection to the Absolute, there are no gaps between us and the truth, no lessons to learn and there’s no karma to be accrued.

All in all – a very cool presentation in these two chapters.

Vanity thought #1767. VC – Vedic Justice

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

Yesterday the book dropped a justice bomb that crime committed with full knowledge must incur less karma than a crime committed out of ignorance. This is not how modern justice works and is counterintuitive. Sāṅkhya’s explanation for this is easy – karma comes from acting in ignorance and is meant to complete our knowledge, so the more we know the less lessons we have to learn. This doesn’t explain our sense of justice, however, and in the rest of the chapter the author gives examples to show that our current understanding contradicts Vedic history.

He starts with Rāvana and Hiraṇyakaśipu, two demons with exceptional knowledge of dharma and how the world works, and yet they committed crimes like kidnapping, rape, or attempted murder of Hiraṇyakaśipu’s own son. In our justice they’d both get either life in prison or capital punishment (if they were in the US). In Vedic history they both were killed by the Lord Himself but they didn’t go to hell and achieved liberation instead. I’m not sure it’s a valid example because both these demons were “imported” directly from Vaikuṇṭha as Jaya and Vijaya for a preset number of appearances so they were going back regardless of what they did here.

Next the author gives an example of animals and our immediate reaction would be that animals don’t accumulate karma the way humans do – tigers are not punished for eating meat. On one hand it’s true, on the other hand it is also undeniable that animals have a very long road to full knowledge ahead of them and it’s this distance to perfection that is measured by karma, not the immediate punishment or even next life after the reincarnation.

Then we have an example of demigods who also make mistakes but there’s no question of them being sent to hell, which makes sense if we consider only the path from their level of ignorance when they commit mistakes to the full knowledge of God. It clearly does go through hell.

Other examples could include traditional systems of justice where person’s punishment depended not only on the nature of the crime but on his position. The higher it is, meaning signifying greater knowledge, the less punishment is there. I don’t think brahmanas were punished at all, except maybe for really heavy crimes.

From democracy point of view everybody must be seen as equal and different degrees of punishment for the same crime are seen as a form of abuse rather than actual justice. In democracy’s defense we can admit that in Kali yuga people get to occupy their position with little regard to their actual advancement so abuse is inevitable, but the principle still stands. Equality or not, but people of higher status will always get milder punishment, in part because we can’t inflict karma greater than they deserve and partly because even democratic justice system takes into account person’s previous acts. There’s a legal difference between a first time offender and a person with multiple convictions.

Another aspect is that crimes committed out of negligence should not be always ascribed to a single perpetrator. Let’s say you accidentally push someone into the street and he gets hit by a bus. You did not kill that person personally so if you get charged with manslaughter instead of murder it would not be due to your ignorance of that person’s presence but due to shared responsibility between you, the bus driver, the authorities responsible for the flow of traffic and adequate protection of the public in case of accidents. In short, it’s not as bad as outright murdering someone even if the outcome is the same.

The author traces this inverted assigning of punishment to Christianity. This means that, perhaps, JC was wrong or we misunderstood him – I don’t want to judge anyone here and don’t want to investigate this matter any further. Regardless of the source, this relaxed attitude affects science as well – since not knowing things is easily pardonable then science does not feel the urgency of discovering the truth. This manifests in a complete lack of moral responsibility for accepting a method that leads to perpetual ignorance – the acceptance that all our theories will always be incomplete.

Some of us hope that one day science will discover the theory of everything but that outcome looks impossible on philosophical grounds because our idea of what reality is and how it can be known rules out having complete knowledge as a principle. Without final goal in sight scientists aren’t in any hurry and they don’t realize that staying in ignorance is already punishable. To remedy this situation ignorance should be considered a crime.

The book then offers other arguments in support – people who repent and acknowledge their crime have their punishment shortened while those who still don’t realize their responsibility stay the full term. Modern legal systems contradict themselves here by seeking heavier punishment to those who are aware of their crimes before sentencing but then reducing sentences afterwards for gaining exact same knowledge. I guess they could say that repentance is not the same as awareness but we are talking about full knowledge, not just awareness. Complete knowledge should include not only awareness of the act itself but also of its effects and consequences for everyone involved. Stabbing with a knife leads not only to a loss of blood and victim’s death but also to a loss of a father, a husband etc. etc.

Karma should not be reduced to a mere punishment either – it isn’t a moral judgement on the part of God but an impartial measurement between person’s status and status of full knowledge. Karma is indifferent whether path to knowledge lies through hell or heaven. It’s us who value these paths differently, not karma. The author talks about karma as a gap between the reality and our perception of it. This gap is never infinite and, therefore, there cannot be eternal damnation. I don’t know where Christians got that idea either.

The law of karma is that this gap becomes new experiences in which our ignorance will be reduced. If we learn about God then we reduce this gap faster that if we learn some mundane lessons and so we “suffer” less. It’s like a school, the author says – people can learn faster or slower but upon graduation they all attain the same level of knowledge and “graduate” from material experiences. If we are too slow we have to repeat our classes and this repetition can be called transmigration of souls. That last step is a metaphor only, of course.

This completes the chapter on the theory of karma.

Vanity thought #1766. VC – illusion, effects, consequences, and karma

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

It’s possible that today I’ll cover more than one chapter for a change. Or it might not happen because the following two chapters reveal surprising ideas that I’ve never seen before even considering all we’ve heard about karma in Kṛṣṇa Consciousness, and yet they make total sense from the position of Sāṅkhya.

We, despite our long exposure to the philosophy, treat the law of karma as that of cause and effect. The author, however, also brings in consequences, which are a different category.

First, our illusion rises from interaction between our ideas and the world. It’s not quite the same as mind-body dualism of western thought because in Sāṅkhya our bodies are also ideas. That perception of dualism leads to many confusing things in modern worldviews but is automatically resolved in Sāṅkhya. Illusion is also far more than a philosophical consideration – it’s a moral one, too. Philosophical speculations are largely harmless in themselves but illusion as a product of choice of some axioms over others must lead to real life consequences. It’s here that consequences are separated from effects.

Effect of acting on selected set of axioms (meaning morals) is illusion. A consequence is a creation of a new event that might correct the illusion by making us to reconsider our choice of morals. Cause-effect relationships terminates after the interaction. Consequence creates a new event in the future, meaning another cause-effect interaction. The author uses an example of mixing sugar and water. After you’ve done mixing it’s over, the effect of having sweet water is there and the interaction is terminated. However, the consequence of this interaction is yet to manifest – will you drink it or will you give it to someone else? By simply observing the cause and effect we are unable to predict the next event, for that we need consequences. Science deals only with causes and effects and therefore can’t predict next events. Of course, science is known for it’s ability to predict but I suppose the author means here the most fundamental level of it – quantum behavior, which is just as famously unpredictable.

To incorporate consequences into science we must also include the observer, the conscious choice, and moral responsibility for these choices. I’ve never seen favorable reactions to the suggestion of introducing morality into science. Perhaps, we need a better word that doesn’t evoke images of an angry God casting everyone to hell.

In Sāṅkhya these consequences are called karma. That’s the word we know, but we never thought of it as being anything other than effects. It makes sense and describes the same thing so the word itself is not important. It would be nice to know Sāṅkhya’s term for effects, though. Not offered here.

The author then presents karma in a somewhat different way. All choices create consequences if they are based on incomplete knowledge of reality. This means that if there are four moral principles but we choose to act only on one, unaware of three others, then that would be incomplete knowledge and it would create karma. To know all moral principles is the same as to know Kṛṣṇa, and so only one who acts in complete knowledge of the Lord is free from karmic reactions. This conclusion is not different from what we already know but it’s expressed from a different perspective. Acting on the orders of the Lord means that our actions are based on Lord’s complete knowledge and so they don’t create karma either – also fits. Go Sāṅkhya.

There’s a tiny little thing called a nuance here, though. In modern view crime done in full knowledge of it is considered as more severe while in Sāṅkhya it’s the opposite – the more you know the less guilty you are! How so? When we look at the world and we discuss justice we go by the same modern understanding of it – ignorance is generally an excuse. “Forgive them, Lord, for they don’t know what they are doing” – the quote the author brings in as well. Lack of knowledge and intent can reduce murder to manslaughter, for example. How could it be different from the Vedic perspective?

Very simple, actually. Karma is meant to correct our misunderstandings about nature and one who already knows the law needs a shorter lesson.

A devotee already possesses the ultimate knowledge of the Absolute Truth and so his misdeeds must be overlooked – according to api cet su-durācāro verse from Gītā (BG 9.30). It’s often the tough one to accept in real life but it’s there and it has been there all along. Sāṅkhya now explains why it is true whether Kṣṇa said it or not. In the commentary Śrīla Prabhupāda gives another quote from Nṛsiṁha Purāṇa, and in the book the author quotes Śrīmad Bhāgavatam (SB 5.26.3):

    If one acts in the mode of ignorance because of madness, his resulting misery is the least severe. One who acts impiously but knows the distinction between pious and impious activities is placed in a hell of intermediate severity. And for one who acts impiously and ignorantly because of atheism, the resultant hellish life is the worst.

I must say that this is only a part of translation and it doesn’t follow word-for-word strictly. There appear only two cases of acting in ignorance in Sanskrit but in the translation there are three, and it appears that one who acts in ignorance is punished less than one who acts in lust, meaning despite knowledge. However, this is how Prabhupāda chose to translate this verse and I’m not going to argue against his translation. There’s not purport there to help either. Perhaps it’s a good reason to contact copyrights@bbti.org and ask them for clarification. If the request is reasonable they’ll contact Sanskrit editors and some explanation will be offered. For the Fifth Canto they must have both tapes and transcriptions, and editorial notes, too. The author quotes a selected part of this verse and he surely must have noticed if there was some inconsistency with Sanskrit but he doesn’t say anything.

Even if we go with Prabhupāda’s translation the gradation of punishment is not clear. We have those acting due to madness, those knowing the difference between right and wrong, and atheists. Madness is punished less but knowledge of piety is punished more severely – shouldn’t it be the opposite? It would make sense if madness was a temporary condition like in api cet su-durācāro. And then we have atheism, which means no knowledge of God, which is less knowledge than that of pious people, and it’s punished by worst hell possible. Modern atheism, however, is different because these people often know common piety better than believers and so have more knowledge, they might even know more about God than believers. Believers, however know God, not “about” God. In short, application of this verse to modern society is tricky.

Anyway, we have Gītā support for this idea so in itself it’s not in question. The chapter then proceeds arguing for this point – committing sins in knowledge is better than committing them in ignorance, and we’ll discuss this tomorrow.

Vanity thought #1765. VC – Sankhya in language of Quantum Theory

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

On with the rest of the chapter on “Atoms and Macroscopic Objects”.

The author makes an interesting statement equating karma with “probability wavefunction”, whatever that is. The logic, I assume, goes like this – quantum theory is closest to describing complete reality. It can’t explain gravitation yet but it’s making strides in the macroscopic world where it explains behavior of what we see as non-quantum objects like shoes and gases. The world is fundamentally made of quantum particles, we just don’t know how to explain really big things yet. Expressing Sāṅkhya in language of quantum theory, therefore, is our best bet to appeal to scientists here.

Everybody knows that photons can behave both as particles and as waves. “Probability wavefunction”, as I understand it, describes the state of a photon and makes predictions whether it’s a wave or a particle. These predictions are given only as probabilities – unlike the rest of science quantum theory is indeterministic. It’s not like “train leaves station A… when will it arrive at station B” problems from school textbooks. The answer there is certain, it can’t be “either 3 PM or 5 PM, there’s a greater probability that it will be 5”.

With out best theory we can’t know the exact state of a photon, it can be both this and that, and when we finally observe the state this uncertainty goes away and that’s what is called probability wavefunctīon collapse – because now we know. I’ve typed that all up from memory, exact details might differ from the modern state of science and modern textbooks. The principle, however, still stands – wavefunction collapse creates certainty out of possibilities, and that’s why it’s compared to karma as it finally manifests the fruits of our previous actions.

The comparison does not end there – wavefunction is not observable, because observation would collapse it, and so is unmanifested karma. Unmanifested karma is already there but it’s not converted into perceivable sense objects yet. In science there’s no agency that governs collapse of the wavefunction. I mean observation causes the collapse but it can’t predict which way it will go. In Sāṅkhya the agency that manifests a particular karma is time, and this time is a manifestation of God, so it’s out of our control. That is to say we attribute the agency that collapses wavefunction to God and then it all makes sense and wavefunction becomes predictable again (for God, not for us – we still don’t know how His time works). This is not a general “god” which might act whimsically but the form of God who observes the universe as was created from prakṛti, which was created by another form of God first. I don’t see any space for whim here. From our position we can try to understand how time chooses possibilities and converts them to karma and this process is described in Sāṅkhya, though cryptically. I mean to say that it requires a deep study of the subject and is not given to us in easily digestible bits of information.

At least we know what we have to do with concepts we are already given. Science, on the other hand, can’t progress anywhere unless it incorporates both karma and time. And it’s not just karma and time but the whole gamut of subtle matter plus conscious beings and God that requires Sāṅkhya to work, too.

The author says that there are numerous interpretations of quantum theory to get around this deficiency of lacking karma and time and some of them are offered by advaitins who introduce “universal consciousness”. I don’t know who they are, maybe the author means people like Deepak Chopra here. In any case, they can’t explain everything without accepting God. Karma, btw, is a result of our incomplete knowledge of God, so if these Brahman based theories do not include God they are doomed to fail, too.

Anyway, karma is converted from unmanifested to manifested state by adding information, which is done by time. This addition of information transforms something that is “unconscious” into something “conscious”. The conscious experience of pain or pleasure that follows is, therefore, not something brought from outside but it lies “within” us, waiting for its turn. It’s not that there’s somebody out there trying to harm us but it’s our own unmanifested karma becoming perceivable. We’ve heard it many times before, of course, and here’s Sāṅkhya’s explanation of the same thing.

Next there’s a paragraph about trisarenu (in our books it’s spelled as trasareṇu), which is the smallest object we can see. It’s described as particles of light we can observe floating in sun rays as they enter through the window. Trisarenu is clearly not the same thing as atom in modern science, and, actually, Vedic texts mention particles smaller than that, though still not nearly as small as in quantum theory. What trisarenu is, however, is a smallest object perceivable by our senses. In that sense we can say it’s the atom of the realm of Bhūloka. I suppose anything smaller than that pertains to realms of Vedic cosmos lower than ours but the author doesn’t say it.

In science they, of course, know of particles smaller than atom and they produce them just like Sāṅkhya prescribes – by adding information to what already exists. Their information comes in the form of energy like laser rays they blast existing elements with. They can’t observe what is created in this process and they need extra energy to “magnify” traces left by new particles so that these signs become perceivable. They, in effect, traverse the semantic tree down to the areas not accessible by our senses. They can’t perceive those nodes on the universal tree and so they need to go back up the hierarchy to the realm of Bhūloka again. Sāṅkhya works everywhere.

Last paragraph sums it all up and introduces “atomism” but what the author means is clearly quantum theory – the wavefunction discussed earlier. When he says that atoms exist as karma in unmanifested form he clearly means “particles in uncertain states” as opposed to “particles in certain states”. There’s a promise to show different types of karma corresponding to five Vedic elements – ether, air, fire, water, and earth.

When unmanifested karma is converted due to time an event is created and this is called wavefunction collapse in quantum theory which produces measurement outcome. Science cannot predict these events (with absolute certainty) because it looks for their causes in manifest properties of matter while they lie in unmanifest karma and time.

Our experiences are not caused by matter and not due to our consciousness either, but due to past events we may or may not remember. I don’t know what is the role of remembrance here, I don’t think it matters because the ability to remember is also dictated by karma, not by our current state. Some people don’t like the concept of karma and reincarnation because they don’t remember the causes of their suffering but the ability to remember is caused by karma, too. Umanifested karma does not require our awareness and it isn’t stored in our memory as we will see later. It’s also called unmanifested for a reason – it’s unperceivable. What we remember is not unmanifest karma either – because it’s perceivable it must be something else.

Enough food for thought for today, I think.