Advaita-Vedanta is never in conflict with modern science

“The Vedas teach us that creation is without beginning or end. Science is said to have proved that the sum total of cosmic energy is always the same. Then, if there was a time when nothing existed, where was all this manifested energy? Some say that it was in a potential form in God. In that case God is sometimes potential and sometimes kinetic, which would make him mutable. Everything mutable is a compound, and everything compound must undergo that change which is called destruction. So God would die, which is absurd. Therefore there never was a time when there was no creation.” This view of Swami Vivekananda which he presented in his ‘Paper on Hinduism’ at the Parliament of Religions, Chicago, falls fully in line with the oriental as well as modern occidental world views.

     Origin and evolution of the cosmos constituted an important subject in India right from the Vedic times. Indian cosmology reached its perfection with most of its findings resulting from direct experience of the ultimate reality. Many modern scientists including Erwin Schrödinger believed that Indian knowledge systems pronounced the final word on the secrets of the universe. Vedanta, the end of all knowledge systems, both the spiritual and material, as the word itself implies, scientifically analyzed the three-phased existence of the universe, creation, preservation and annihilation.

All bodies of the universe are controlled and determined by an imperishable entity and the awareness about it is the supreme knowledge. This One which is akshara or imperishable the Hindu scriptures call achyuta or indestructible too, both the synonyms of God. To quote Albert Einstein, “what is important is the force of this super-personal content and the depth of the conviction concerning its overpowering meaningfulness”. Both spiritualists as well as the scientists equally admit that the ‘Reason’ that works out the cosmic existence is definitely imperishable and super-personal. Then how this imperishable one evolves into the origin, expansion and existence of the cosmos?

Many European scientists starting from the time of Einstein favoured the Big-Bang model as a viable explanation for the origin and nature of the universe. Accordingly a mere 13.7 billion years ago, all matter, energy, space and time fountained into existence in a titanic explosion – the Big Bang. There was no universe before the Big Bang, European science believes. Instead there existed a singularity of zero volume of infinite density and energy or the entirety condensed which exploded, multiplied and expanded to form the present universe.

In 1929 American astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered that the galaxies, the universe’s building blocks were flying apart from each other like cosmic shrapnel. His conclusion that universe was growing in size resulted in his law of expanding universe. The ever expanding nature of the universe supports the Big Bang origin of the cosmos because the universe must have been smaller in size as one travels back in time till one comes to the zero volume condensed to a single point.

It was a hot Big Bang. The Ukrainian-American scientist George Gamow reasoned that in the first few moments after the Big Bang the universe must have been like blisteringly hot fireball of a nuclear explosion. But unlike the radiation and glow nuclear explosion emits the Bib Bang fire ball did not die out. The afterglow of the Big Bang had nowhere for it to go and remained in the universe to assume different forms including the invisible light characteristic of very cold bodies. This afterglow is called the Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMB) discovered in 1965 by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey. The heat the big explosion emitted flowed back and forth throughout the universe, from the hot to cold regions, equalizing the temperature. The universe thus born 13.7 billion years ago expanded to its present state with its many planets, stars, galaxies and super clusters. Science, however, speculates on universe’s big crunch too in line with the idea of expansion and contraction. Whatever expands would contract. The universe may slow and reverse its expansion and collapse back to a Big Crunch. It may cycle back to a sort of mirror image of the Big Bang in which the universe was born. Big Bang and Big Crunch are thus the two assumed poles between which the universe like a pendulum moves to and fro. This also leads to the possibility of thinking about many universal cycles, or the universe which in its cycles of creation and destruction underwent many Big Bangs and Big Crunches. Birth and death are only two stages of the cycles life travels through. Likewise the proto-soul of the universe travels through the different stages, expansion and contraction, holding the sum total of its energy and matter sometime in potential state and releasing at another to the kinetic, making the universe appear like the God’s dice play.

But this cosmology has come in for criticism ever since the Goddard Space Center of NASA accepted it. Interestingly it all started with the very physicist who named it. Big Bang was named by the English astronomer Fred Hoyle during a BBC Radio programme in 1949. But ironically Hoyle to the day he died, never believed in the Big Bang. Though the theory has been refuted time and again none has damaged it to the extent the modern Indian scientist A K Lal did. His article ‘Big Bang? A Critical Review’ in Journal of Cosmology (Harvard, 30. 1. 2010) vehemently vilified this theory. The Big Bang’s originators, he says, have not explained what the ‘singularity’ of Zero volume is or how it originated, why and where it existed and why it exploded. Nasato sat jayate or existence cannot be born of non-existence. According to satkaryavada or the theory of causation everything that exists has a cause. And this singularity too must have it, something the exponents of Big Bang skip over. Further, there are also reservations about the meaning of the CMB believed to be the relic of the Big Bang. Though confirmed by NASA’s Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE), many scientists like H. C. Arp, H. Ratcliff and T. C. Van Flandern had reservations about the measurement of the CMB. Again, the intensity of the heat emitting Big Bang would have burned all the elements into iron turning the universe into a metal ball different in shape and look from what it is now as opined by another cosmologist R. Joseph. Besides, the Universe has in it large scale galactic formations and super clusters which are older than 13.7 billion years. Some of them are 200 billion to 250 billion years old. In 1989 a group led by John Huchra and Margaret J. Geller of the Harvard-Smithsonian center of astrophysics discovered “The Great Wall” – a series of galaxies requiring 100 billion years to form. The later discovered “Sloan Great Wall” of galaxies was 80% longer than the Great Wall discovered by Huchra and Geller and it must have taken at least 250 billion years to form. In addition to these, the scientists in 2003 have come across the oldest of planets discovered thus far, a huge gaseous object 2.5 times the size of Jupiter and located some 7200 light years away in the northern-summer constellation of Scorpius which would require at least 13 billion years to form. The planet-making ingredients like iron, silicon and other heavy elements, cooked in the nuclear furnaces of the stars accumulate from the ashes of dying stars (supernovae) to be recycled into the planet. The very formation of this planet itself must have thus taken many billion years. Its age totaled with the billions of years taken for its origin would thus be more than the assumed age of the universe i.e. 13.7 billion years.

Existence of planet and the Great Galactic Walls which are older than the 13.7 billion years old universe only grates on common sense. In fact there are a number of evidences to demonstrate that the universe could not have begun with a Big Bang 13.7 billion years ago.          Big Bang of the European scientists’ sense thus proves untenable, it being refuted by so many contradictory evidences. Existence of Great walls and galactic clusters, 100 to 250 billion years old, in the universe which is only 13.7 billion year old universe runs in contrast to reason notwithstanding that the European scientists are still mad after this theory. These findings clarify that the universe is older than the 13.7 billion years the scientists ascribe to it.  And if older things than these would be found in times to come, the scientific community would be left with no other option than to push the origin of the universe to a further earlier date. If more and more old objects would be discovered the process of pushing the date back would continue till the scientists would be in a position to conclude that “there was never a time when there was no creation”.

The universe according to the Hindu thought is both anadi and ananta or without beginning and end, something that moves in an infinite cycle of creation, preservation and destruction, all taking place simultaneously. Creation and annihilation or evolution and involution are simultaneous so that the universe does not come to a standstill. Hence the eternity of the universe with no interval or rest. The universal soul is both at rest as well as at work. Vishnu even in his cosmic sleep expands (Vishnu means one with vishalibhava, expanding nature), making the cosmic soul ever expanding as well as ever contracting. To quote Katha Upanishad, “it does move and moves not” (tadejati tannaijati). This ever dynamic cosmic soul is again called the Brahman which has its root in br, meaning the ‘expanding’ (bruhad). Brahman which is the secret behind all the creations according to the Vedic thought is thus permanently involved in the dynamics of evolution and involution (not to be confused with the European physicist’s ‘Big Bang’ and ‘Big Crunch’). Without beginning or end, it is unborn and is in eternal manifestation and withdrawal. According to the Upanishads universe is a continuous process. What is seen is only the infinite process of manifestation and withdrawal taking place simultaneously and continuously. Within the seeming destruction there is creation which again holds in it the former. Creation and destruction are thus mutually embedded in each other. Thus according to Indian cosmology there was no time when there was no creation. This is what Swami Vivekananda, believed to be the sage Nara reincarnate, theorizes in his ‘Paper on Hinduism’, the repetition of the same lesson Sri Krishna taught his beloved disciple Partha in the battle of Kurukshetra. To Arjuna, worried at the thought of killing his royal kith and kin in the battle, the Lord said: “It is not indeed that I did not exist at any time, nor you, nor these kings; nor that we all shall not exist hereafter” (Gita. II. 12). This is the Everest of the Hindu science where all the doubts, getting their final clarifications, take rest for good. This is Vedanta, the end of all the Vedas or knowledge systems. But this is the world view someone with a Vedantic mindset alone would digest, something unacceptable to the mind of the West stuffed with the superficial and the imaginary ‘ultimate end’ and dwarfed with the ideas of limitations and separations.


* Author is Associate Professor of History, Sanatana Dharma College, Alappuzha, Kerala.

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