Vanity thought #1772. VC – keep your head level at all times

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

The last chapter in the section on Vedic view of causality is very short so it’s very likely that I’ll start the next section today. The injunction to keep balance, however, is applicable to both, as I hope to demonstrate later.

We’ll start with “Theory of Balance” as it applies in ayurveda. Too much of kaphā can cause rigidity in the system and nothing can move, just like an obese person can’t function normally. Too much pitta means “paralysis by analysis”, in author’s words. There are tons of genuine ayurvedic symptoms of pitta imbalance and to me they look like they all relate to excessive processing creating extra “fire”. Pitta works on producing contingent details out of abstracts of kaphā. It takes things and breaks them down, releasing energy in the process. This “breaking down” can, indeed, be described as analyzing larger concepts and converting them into collection of details. If this is all what the body does then it can lead to “paralysis by analysis”. Makes sense. Vāta means changes and excess of it manifests as instability in all aspects and improper coordination of various functions.

The point is that imbalance of any of the three is called disease in ayurveda and it’s for this reason that kaphā, vāta, and pitta are not called guṇas but doṣas instead. In Vedic terms guṇa signify good qualities while doṣa bad. When qualities are in balance they are guṇas, when they go off-kilter they become doṣas. “Everything is good in moderation,” as they say. The author also says that kaphā, vāta, and pitta are related not only to gross bodies but manifest themselves in the mind as well, and in any kind of organism or organisation, too.

In a business company kaphā is the big goals and goal posts set by top management and sales and marketing, pitta is engineers working on translating this big vision into products and services, and vāta, or prāṇa, is the operations department that keeps it all in proper motion. If kaphā predominates then the company becomes big on announcements but short on delivery. If pitta predominates then engineers lose the sight of the goal and come up with tons of irrelevant stuff. If prāṇa predominates then everyone is made to run around like headless chicken and nothing gets accomplished at all. That’s my rendering of that paragraph and I think it’s pretty close to author’s own words.

The point is that kaphā, pitta, and vāta are universal and manifest in every system, not just our bodies, and that we should always keep them in proper balance. And that’s how the section ends.

Next we get to problems of modern cosmology and the first chapter is the overview of the Big Bang theory. It has a Gītā quote as an epigraph and I noticed that it’s taken from “as it is” 1972 edition, not the current BBT version. I hope it doesn’t mean that the author is on the same “no editing allowed” bandwagon as serial offenders from ex-ISKCON circles. The possibility that the author holds a critical view of BBT policies should not be discounted, however. It means that when we look at his work we should always be alert to whether it fully complies with our siddhānta or not. So far it deals with subjects that are not controversial but the explanation of “free will” offered here opens the door for disagreements.

I’m saying this to stress importance of balance, and I need a reminder of it myself – I can’t forget Śrīla Prabhupāda’s explanation of our philosophy in lieu of Sāṅkhya. As soon as Sāṅkhya as presented in the book becomes at odds with our teachings it needs to be reconciled one way or another, we shouldn’t take it for granted and we shouldn’t take it as an authority over Prabhupāda.

The short story of Big Bang is another example of the need for balance. The author’s version looks generally okay to me but when he says that the universe was created from “nothing” (even if “nothing” is in quotes) I bet lots of scientifically educated people would disagree. Btw, the previous chapter contained a spelling mistake in a phrase “..the observer is changings its mental..” and the last sentence of the first paragraph in this chapter has an unnecessary comma: “The nature of this ‘nothing’ and why it exploded in the first place, remains the subject of much debate and research to this day.” I don’t think I’ve seen any editing errors elsewhere and two of them appearing so close to each other are easily noticeable. I’m a sucker for unnecessary commas myself but my ramblings here are not a published book.

The next paragraph presents an overview of how different theories fit together – gravitation governs the behavior of stars and galaxies and when the matter is condensed it falls into the domain of quantum theory. After Einstein came up with theory of general relativity in 1915 our views on what gravity is changed dramatically. It’s not longer a force, as it has been thought of since Newton times, and its propagation isn’t instant either. So now we have general relativity for stars and big objects and quantum theory for everything else. It appears that quantum theory can explain behavior of our everyday macroscopic objects but we, as a whole, are not yet ready to talk about “two trains leaving station A” in the language of quantum particles. It becomes mindbogglingly complex.

Next the author discusses implications of the universe starting with a huge explosion. In Einstein’s time people thought the universe was static but if it started with a massive expansion then all kinds of scenarios become possible. We have the energy that drives the stars apart and we have gravity that pulls them back together. Is their speed enough to escape the gravitational pull of the rest of the universe? If it isn’t they are ought to come back and collapse into each other like failed rocket launches into space. If they are fast enough it would mean the universe is expanding.

The author demonstrates several scenarios – Big Crunch, where the universe expands initially but then stars are pulled back and collapse, Flat Expansion where initial blast eventually evens out with gravitation and universe becomes stable, Open Expansion where the universe expands but at a steady rate, and Accelerated Expansion where gravity pull becomes weaker and weaker and stars speed up to expand universal frontiers faster and faster.

I’ll leave history of scientific experiments to confirm or reject any of these models for another time.


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 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.

Vanity thought #1764. VC – traveling as gain and loss

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

Next chapter is called ¨Atoms and Macroscopic Objects” and after reading it the full impact of what it was supposed to convey might not be immediately felt. I don’t think I can cover it in one day and by tomorrow it might become clearer. The explanation of transfer of information that begins this chapter deserves a separate book on its own.

Usually, we assume that we have a perception such as sight or color because light travels from distant objects and we happen to be in its path when it hits our eyes. This is an illusion and it’s not what happens according to Sāṅkhya. The version presented in this book isn’t Sāṅkhya as it appears in Śrīmad Bhāgavatam but adaptation of Śāṅkhya to modern ear so it uses words like information loss and gain first, before tying it to familiar concepts of time and karma.

Instead of light travel there’s a gain of information in the observer and this gain is correlated to the loss of information in another object. This experience of gain and loss is due to karma and so we are talking about correlation of loss and gain in space-time, not about actual transport of information by some material vehicle, like light or a flash drive.

In Sāṅkhya the appearance (gain) and disappearance (loss) of information is not due to information transfer but due to information becoming manifest or unmanifest. Information becomes manifested or unmanifested by karma, which is actualized by time. This is why we have different stages of karma and talk about “manifest karma” elsewhere in our literature.

The rest of that paragraph has an important footnote to it and, taken together, it relays more or less this – the universe as a whole is being created at each instance in time because individual states are determined by the state of the universe and not the other way around as in modern science where “big” things are defined as a collection of “small” things. The unmanifested possibilities of the universe lie in the ocean of Garbhodaka and time brings them out. Everything within the universe, every event is then made to fit its overall state. In this sense events are chosen BEFORE the observers who can only decide whether to participate in them or not – more in line with our usual understanding of free will then with how it was presented in previous chapters. Willing participation in these events makes us responsible for them even though we are not the ones choosing them – universe does. There was a paragraph somewhere earlier that I skipped then and it talked about effects of changing the state of the universe on its constituents as coordinate shift for each one of them. It makes sense now – when the universe changes everything on the universal tree shifts a little, too.

The paragraph continues to state that appearance and disappearance of information depends on the change in the state of the universe and not on information transfer between objects, which is an illusion but an understandable one. Scientists link this gain and loss together and treat as one being the cause of another and talk about it as information exchange. Sāṅkhya, on the other hand, teaches us to see gain and loss as connected to the universe, which is connected to God, and not as relationships between ourselves which are God-less. So, we don’t talk to other people, we rather talk to God and He then talks to them. Everyone is related to each other through God only and there are no direct connections between us. Nice, huh? Now we have a scientific explanation for a vision of a paramahaṁsa.

Back to the book – there’s no information transfer but the next state of the universe has more information in one place and less information in the other, that’s all. Not to forget the mechanics of it – next state of the universe determines guṇa and karma and by guṇa and karma actual experiences are created (via prāṇa and senses, I suppose).

The next part is not obvious as it states that while locations of gain and loss are fixed by the universe the participant objects aren’t. Gain and loss are two separate events while the objects involved are trajectories that connect these events. This looks like yet another two-dimensional way to describe Vedic space-time where we have events and trajectories to describe what happens. I sense that it is become too abstract for me to follow. Trajectories will come back big time in the later chapters. Why trajectories are needed here is not clear but, perhaps, the clue lies in the last sentence which implies that trajectories are formed by observers – we know what will happen but we don’t know who will take part in it and who will fill the roles and therefore we need selection of observers – trajectories. This brings us back to free will – do we really get to choose or can we only say “no”?

Science, under the illusion of information exchange, attributes it to existence of “particles” which travel from one object to another. Particles is in quotes here because most of the time they are waves creating fields rather than small physical objects. One object thus emits light in the form of a photon, the photon travels in space, and then another object absorbs it. Because this model is based on illusion science can’t predict when and why a photon would be emitted, where it would go, and what will it hit in the end. They talk about probabilities to solve this but actually it only hides the incompleteness of quantum theory.

In Sāṅkhya this incompleteness is avoided because there are two agencies responsible for these decisions – karma and time. Time has an active role in Sāṅkhya because it picks which karma to manifest but in science time is passive, it just flows. Unmanifested karma can’t be perceived by senses so it doesn’t exist from the scientific point of view. Too bad for them, but that’s what happens when you purposefully restrict reality to that which can be perceived by senses. Your theories then become incomplete.

I’ll continue with this chapter tomorrow – I haven’t gotten anywhere near the significance of difference between atoms and macroscopic objects today.

Vanity thought #1763. VC – Sankhya for ham radio enthusiasts

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

The book takes a sudden turn and expresses Sāṅkhya in terms familiar to modern scientists, or even ham radio operators – hence the title. Let me repeat the last point first, however, because it’s important.

Unlinke modern science, in Sāṅkhya’s sequence of events physical objects appear last. We have grown up to believe that contact with sense objects produces sensations but Sāṅkhya reverses it – it’s the desire for sensations, modified by karma, that produces sense objects. So, if we see something it doesn’t mean it’s there and has been there the whole time, but that it appeared to match with our quest for sensations.

This sequence also means that the mind is automatically aware of the sensations because it’s the mind that caused them. The mind might like it or it might not – that depends on karma, but if you step into the room and smell the air it’s this desire for smell that is primary and the mind is already working on it even before the odor hits you nose.

I don’t want to discuss the question “Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if no one is there to hear it?” which is very relevant here. Our entire paradigm needs to be changed before such speculations will become useful. Right now I still operate on the assumption that the street behind the corner continues even if I can’t see now. I get this conviction because I turned that corner many times and the street was always there. Overturning this conviction would require some time.

On with the book.

In Sāṅkhya material objects are described as values of sensations just as they are described as values of properties in material science where an object would be defined by the value of its mass, its color, size etc. The difference is that in science these values are numerical, they talk about quantities of this or that property, while in Sāṅkhya the values are qualitative, they talk about different types of properties. In Sāṅkhya properties of color and shape are given values yellow and square, for example. Square is a type of shape and it’s refined further, I suppose. Only at the very last step when every value of every property is finally set, the object “appears” and can be perceived.

If you are reading this page in a browser like Chrome then you can right click on any of its elements and select “Inspect” or something similar. There will be a new panel or a window with all the properties of the selected element. When you click through them all you’ll realize that you have no idea what 99% of them are but they are all required to be set before the element becomes visible on the page. We just don’t realize how much information simple things must actually carry and all this information need to be present for things to become perceivable – just like in Sāṅkhya.

There’s a hierarchy in the appearance of senses as well. To understand an object we also must know it’s higher, more abstract nodes, too. If we hear something there already is a meaning because the mind that perceives meanings is more abstract and, therefore, higher in hierarchy than the sense of hearing. We can’t understand sound unless we know it’s meaning. Touch is the next sense that comes out of hearing and therefore it contains sound and meaning. Sight contains touch, sound, and meaning, and so on.

The sound is the first element in Sāṅkhya but it depends on meaning, which is perceived by the mind, and because the mind is more abstract than the hearing it, therefore, cannot be heard. Mind has a location in the space of material objects, both gross and subtle, but it’s not the space as we understand it in material science but rather a collection of meanings. The next more abstract object, the intelligence, also has a location in this space and it cannot be perceived by the mind, I suppose, but the author doesn’t go that far.

What we have next is a statement that all these objects are vibrating and we cannot hear the vibration of the mind because its frequency is too low. Frequency lower than we can perceive means that information there is more abstract. Okay. If the frequency rises up out of our hearing range it creates a sensation of touch. When it rises further and the touch can’t be perceived the vibration makes the object visible.

When we say that an object can be seen, tasted, and touched it means that all these frequencies are simultaneously present. As far as I remember from school, it’s perfectly possible to modulate a higher frequency so that it carries a lower frequency signal at the same time. This is controlled by amplitude and other properties of waves – wavelength, phase etc. I’ll just quote a sentence here: “E.g. in the detection of light, amplitude corresponds to the intensity, frequency to the color, waveform to the saturation, and phase to the form of an object.” I don’t see how exactly but it looks like it makes sense.

In this view there’s no such thing as empty space because locations in space represent meanings and so if there is no information then there’s no space either. Once again, we are not talking about flat space of modern science but a hierarchical collection of meanings. Unlike material space this space isn’t static but it always vibrates and this vibration creates “sound”, once again different from sound both in material science and Sāṅkhya, too. This “sound” can be abstract and detailed. Abstract “sound” is perceived by subtle senses and detailed sound is perceived by gross ones.

There are many receivers in the Vedic world, all tuned to different frequencies, amplitudes, wavelengths etc – sort of ham radio operators. At this point I might call them string theorists, too.

Locations in ether are not material points in space but rather forms of sound. Like a word or a phoneme carries a meaning but it also has a form. These forms of sound is how the ether is divided into locations within it. This meaning is detailed into this form and that meaning into that other form. That’s another concept hard to comprehend in full even if the principle is simple.

The rest of the chapter is dedicated to explaining inadequacy of modern science, once again. In Sāṅkhya the detailed objects can’t perceive their abstract predecessors but are rather the evidence of abstracts’ existence. The subtle body is the evidence of the consciousness (I think it’s more appropriate than the word “unconscious” the author uses here). The prāṇa is the evidence of the subtle body, and the gross body is the evidence of prāṇa.

Material science rejects prāṇa but what happens is that now they can’t explain gross objects behavior and end up with indeterminism of quantum theory. They should realize that they can avoid it by rejecting that causality lies in gross matter and induct prāṇa into science. They might call it differently but it acts the same for everyone regardless of the name. Eventually they’ll realize that prāṇa is inadequate, too, and then they would have to induct the subtle body. Subtle body will become inadequate, too, and they will have to induct guṇa and karma. In the end they’ll realize that none of it works without soul and, finally, God.

Fat chance we’ll see the completion of this process in our lifetime. In fact, it is not likely to happen ever as Kali’s progress is inevitable while scientists can’t get over themselves and keep working on wrong theories just because. The path to the Truth is clear but they don’t walk it anymore or as fast as they used to.

Vanity thought #1762. VC – ether, air, fire, water and earth

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

We got to a chapter I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I’m exaggerating, of course, but I bet when we all heard that even in Kṛṣṇa consciousness physical matter is made up of these five elements we thought to ourselves that this needs an explanation. For westerners Bhagavad Gītā is not the first place to hear this “chemistry” and we’ve never taken it seriously before. Not when it appeared in the Bible nor in any other ancient religion of philosophy. The author says that this understanding of ether, air, fire, water, and earth comes from Greeks and they thought that these were the substances making up the world. Greeks also gave these substances forms but never explained how they interact with each other and how the combinations of forms and substances occurred. Perhaps some scholar of Greek philosophy would disagree here but it doesn’t matter. One way or another, we now treat this “science” as extremely naive because we figured out molecules, atoms, electrons and even small quantum particles. Water is H2O, not some primary substance, idiots.

When I heard that Bhagavad Gītā insisted on the same classification I put it aside as something to resolve in the future and, as I learned more about Kṛṣṇa consciousness, as something not important at all. Then I heard a simple explanation and I put my mind at ease and never thought of it again, until now. The explanations was, and I think I’ve typed it up here once already, that even an atom has all these material elements present in it. It occupies space – ether, it has moving electrons – air, it contains energy – fire, it has the force that glues it together – water, and it is made up of particles – earth.

The solution to this ancient dilemma is that Gītā and, I suppose, Bible, too, classify matter differently. It’s a different description of the same thing and based on this description it’s possible to do yoga while “scientific” description gives us processed food and lasers. And now we’ve got to the chapter that offers a more rigorous description of material elements taken from Sāṅkhya. Hooray!

Instead of Greek “substances” material elements in Sāṅkhya are objectifications of sensual properties, which makes them more of a “form” rather than “substance” – if we think of a form as a description of an object. When we describe sensual properties in Sāṅkhya we also create “forms” and they become gross elements.

Just like everything on the semantic tree of the universe these elements are produces by adding details to preceding concepts. Elements are produced from sensual perceptions – sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell. This properties of perception are, in turn, are produced from senses – eye, ear, tongue, skin, and nose. These senses should not be confused with bodily organs in modern science. Senses are produced from the mind, mind comes from intellect and so on. In other words, intellect dispassionately observes all available distinctions but to observe only one selected object mind is born. When more details are added and mind alone becomes not enough to observe the object senses are born. Senses are a wonderful thing but with more details we get sensations, and what are sensations without sense objects? Each material element, subtle or gross, is created by exploring and expanding on the previous one.

We can also describe this process as objectification of meanings. The author here uses an idea of an apple, which is a meaning, and we can comprehend it by the mind. For this meaning to become perceivable, however, it needs a property of being seen, smelled, touched, and tasted. To become seen the apple must have form, color, and size. For the color to be perceivable it must have hue, saturation etc. For hue to be perceivable it needs to be a combination of primary colors such as greed, red, and blue. This is an example of the hierarchical process of objectifying meanings step by step that can be observed even in modern framework.

In Sāṅkhya there’s a different hierarchy, however, which I’ve never heard before even if the words are familiar. The property of being seen, touched or smelled etc is called the “sense” and it has three parts: subjective (ādiatmika), objective (ādibhautika) and their connection (ādidaivika). Subjective part is the ability to sense, the objective part is a corresponding property in objects, and their connection is enacted by karma and time. Together these three produce sensations experienced by the observer.

What we heard is that these words – ādiatmika, ādibhautika, and ādidaivika – describe three-fold material miseries. The transliteration, however, is different – miseries have adhi- in the beginning rather that ādi- as given here. I thought I should mention that to avoid the confusion. The miseries pertain to the same sources – our own bodies, other beings, and demigods/”forces out of our control”.

Further division of the senses produces properties which subdivide each type of sensation. Sight, for example, is divided into hue, brightness, saturation etc. When these properties are further objectified they produce values, like red, blue, and green for color, and at the last step of this subdivision we get gross elements of ether, air, fire, water, and earth. This isn’t very clear but the author mentions tanmātra here, which literally means “form only”, and it includes all the above mentioned subdivisions for all the senses. I understand that abstract concepts like hue or pitch or temperature are part of tanmātra and when tanmātra is given values we get actual matter like ether, air etc. This needs to be contemplated further.

If this is not confusing enough yet, there’s another division of the elements in Sāṅkhya into manas, prāṇa, and vak. Everything described so far falls under vak and it’s the vak that has subjective, objective, and connecting division, which means the property of being seen is different from the ability to see, or that the property of being visible is different from property to perceive the sight. Other senses are divided into ādiatmika, ādibhautika, and ādidaivika, too.

All these properties lie dormant unless activated by prāṇa and senses, therefore, are not the cause of vision but rather prāṇa is. Prāṇa, in turn, is subordinate to manas, or desire for vision without which sight does not become activated. This sequence has already been discussed in the previous post on Vedic cosmology – mind makes choices and prāṇa enacts them, but in this context it’s important to note that our senses perceive not what IS but what WE WANT. There’s no objective physical world out there, as we usually assume. Physical matter – sense objects – are a product of OUR desires instead. And, of course, they are restricted by what we deserved – karma.

The chapter is nowhere near the end and I’ll continue with it next time.