In the introduction to the Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, Śrīla Prabhupāda writes, “The subject of the Bhagavad-gītā entails the comprehension of five basic truths. First of all the science of God is explained, and then the constitutional position of the living entities, jīvas. Prakriti (material nature) and time (the duration of existence of the whole universe or the manifestation of material nature) and karma (activity) are also discussed.” He further writes, “Those belonging to some sectarian faith will wrongly consider that sanātana-dharma is also sectarian, but if we go deeply into the matter and consider it in the light of modern science, it is possible for us to see that sanātana-dharma is the business of all the people of the world – nay, of all the living entities of the universe.” (Emphasis mine). This post discusses just how the above five categories constitute the sum and substance of what we might call “Vedic science”. The post concludes with a comparison with Newton’s laws which started modern science and shows that similar to Newton’s three laws, a different set of three natural laws exist in Vedic science.
The Problem of Free Will and Morality
It is well known that free will creates many problems for science because it introduces the idea that I can change the world simply by willing, and since that change cannot be predicted, permitting its existence breaks the predictive usefulness of science. A lesser known fact is that free will also creates moral problems because once I change something in the material world, I am not just changing it for myself, but for everyone else, forever; as the original cause of this change, I, therefore, become responsible for everything that happens hereafter—even beyond my death. Perhaps the least understood aspect of free will is that by making choices, I reduce the possibilities for others to choose; in what way are you morally responsible if no matter what I do I am reducing your options?
I earlier wrote a book—Moral Materialism—to just address the questions surrounding free will. Given that this question is dominantly asked by agnostics and atheists, the book deals with this question scientifically (and without referencing Vedic knowledge). In this post, I will survey some of the salient ideas in that book and connect them to Vedic philosophy (which I did not do in the book).
Two Models of Natural Causality
One of the central themes in Moral Materialism is that scientific predictions can be broken down into two parts: (a) the prediction of events, and (b) the prediction of trajectories. This is how the universe is modeled in some classical field theories such as the General Theory of Relativity, where the theory postulates the universe as comprised of events, and matter is distributed over events.
But this is not how the universe is modeled in Newton’s physics, where the theory postulates particles rather than events, and the events are produced by a mathematical law. Most people—if they think of the world as Newton’s physics—fail to see why an alternative model is needed. The reason is that material particles can split and join, and a law meant for immutable particles cannot deal with particle mutation. To describe particle mutation, we need to describe the universe as a whole.
There are hence two models of natural causality even within classical physics—(a) that describes the universe as a collection of particles such as that the laws are written for each particle, not for the whole universe, and (2) that describes the universe as some total matter and energy which can be divided into many parts, and the laws are written for the total energy rather than the individual particles.
The latter model defines all the events in the universe and then distributes matter over the events. You can think of this universe as points and the theory of nature joins these points into trajectories. This is an interesting model because it is deterministic in events but indeterministic in trajectories: you can connect the points by different lines; that, however, changes trajectories and not events.
Addressing the Free Will Problem Scientifically
The above model illustrates how a scientific theory can reconcile free will and determinism: the universe is deterministic in the events, but indeterministic in the trajectories. Thus, what will happen is fixed, but who will do it is not. In one scenario, observer A goes over events X and Y. In another scenario, another observer B goes over events X and Y. If we look at the world as events—i.e. X and Y—then the world is unchanged. But if we look at it as trajectories—i.e. A and B—then it has changed.
The result of this approach is that we have two kinds of laws in nature. First, the law that predicts the events—i.e. what will happen. Second, the law that predicts the trajectories—i.e. who will do it.
In Vedic philosophy, these two laws are called kāla and guna—the former represents what will happen, and the latter who will do it; the universe as the collection of events is fixed and you can write the future just as you can describe the past; however, your personal trajectory is not predetermined.
The Law of Universal Events
The term kāla denotes the passing of day and night, seasons, years, chaturyugi, manavantara, up to the manifestation and annihilation of the universe—each constituting ever longer cycles. These cycles fix the events or occurrences during different times and places. Each event occurs within a particular universe and these universes are identified as different domains of meaning. The event, therefore, has a type associated with the identity of the universe (as compared to other universes). This is “what” happens, the location in space is “where” it occurs, and the instance in time is “when” it happens. The terms “what”, “where”, and “when” represent the prediction of the events in the universe.
These three questions are related to the three aspects of a universal consciousness or God. The universe (or “what” happens) represents God’s consciousness as He is aware of all possibilities. The places these events occur (or “where” they happen within the universe) represents the meaning of events relative to God (each universe is created as an inverted tree of meanings). The time when these events occur (or “when” they happen) constitutes God’s pleasure—the order of events creates pleasure.
The Creation of Space and Time
The universe is first defined as a possibility of “what” can happen. God’s consciousness is unlimited and He can know far beyond the material universe. The material universe is, however, a limited portion of everything that God can know, and it is defined as a limitation on God’s consciousness which focuses His attention on a specific set of possibilities. This set is the first stage of matter called pradhāna.
The world exists not as objects, but as a proposal of experience. If this proposal is accepted, then the universe can proceed. God’s approval is needed for this. His consciousness—or glancing at the proposal—is the act of granting approval. Thus when He has agreed for a universe to be created, all that is possible (i.e. inside the universe) and all that is impossible (i.e. outside of it) is defined. The limits on what is possible constitute the boundary of conscious experience in that universe. Once the limits are defined, a “set” of possibilities has been created. The form of God who delineates the boundaries of each universe (and thereby creating the various universes) is called Karanodakaśāyī Viṣṇu.
Once the set of possible events has been defined, this set is divided into numerous individual alternatives. The set is the outline of what is possible, and the divisions inside that set are the individual possibilities. These divisions create the locations in the universe by defining a metric distance between possibilities, which gives us the ability to distinguish the alternatives. Distinguishing is our ability to see things separate from each other, and it creates a “space”. Space is a tree of meanings from abstractions at the root, and details as the fruits. Thus, the universe as a whole is one big meaning (the root). From this meaning, many branches of the universe are created as minute details.
God’s consciousness or sat defines the limits of the universe, God’s meaning seeking tendency called chit creates the space inside the universe and we can distinguish possibilities in the universe. The space inside the universe is created by Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu who enters each universe.
The space now exists as a tree of possibilities: each alternative is a branch of the tree. But, all the branches are not manifest. They exist as possibilities to be realized one by one—i.e. the branches have to grow one by one. The order in which the branches will grow is called time—which constitutes the ananda tendency to seek pleasure—and represented by a form of God called Saṅkarṣaṇa or time. His desire for pleasure selects the different meaningful possibilities (i.e. branches) and causes them to manifest. In other words, the reason that a branch appears is because God looks at it. Time is, therefore, the act of selecting some meaningful possibility to occur because God seeks pleasure.
We can understand the universal creation through the analogy of music. The universe as a whole is like a musical octave. The higher and lower locations inside the octave are like the higher and lower notes in the scale. And these notes are played one by one to produce a musical composition. The universe is similarly created by first defining an octave, then defining notes, and then playing them. Different forms of God are involved in picking the octave, the musical notes within it, and playing the notes.
The Evolution of Individual Trajectories
The events in the universe do not depend on any soul. The soul is a bird that can sit on a branch, but he doesn’t determine the existence of the branch itself. The soul jumps from branch to branch, each time experiencing a new part of the universe, and this jumping is called transmigration rather than motion.
The process of transmigration is the same whether for bodies within a lifetime, or between lives. The difference is one of magnitude rather than principle. When a soul enters a new body, it sits on some abstract part of the material tree, and due to the prāna, branches from that trunk begin to grow. This growth is visible as the changes through a soul’s journey through a mother’s womb, into childhood, and towards youth. It is noteworthy that a branch without sub-branches is a separate branch; while it looks to have added some leaves, it exists on its own as a complete possibility. Therefore, even when a child is growing into youth, the body is not growing. Rather the old body is discarded and a new body is accepted. Since all the bodies (childhood, youth, and old age) exist simultaneously as meanings or possibilities, the soul is simply jumping from one body (or branch of the tree) to another.
At the time of death too, the soul simply jumps to another branch of the tree. That new branch is not necessarily “adjacent” to the old branch (recall from above that distance is defined by meaning) and therefore in jumping the bodies the soul enters a new kind of body. To our gross material vision, this jumping is not visible, but this is indeed the causal activity behind our perception.
The succession of bodies through which the soul jumps constitute its trajectory. Just as modern science explains the trajectories (of motion), similarly, a Vedic science too explains the succession of bodies (not motion). This explanation—just like the explanation of the universe as a whole—too has three parts based on the three aspects of the soul, i.e., sat (consciousness), chit (meaning), and ananda (pleasure). However, these three aspects now answer the “why”, “how” and “who” questions (the questions of “what”, “where”, and “when” have already been answered by God’s sat-chit-ananda).
Three Energies in the Material World
The answer to “why” we go through a life is the quest for happiness. This happiness is not innate to the soul but created by māyā-śakti in three stages. First, māyā-śakti makes the soul feel inadequate and insecure, which manifests as fear and anxiety. Second, to overcome this fear or anxiety, a desire is automatically produced. Third, if this desire is fulfilled, māyā-śakti creates a temporary feeling of happiness. Thus, a person goes from insecurity to desire to happiness and back to insecurity.
The answer to “who” is going through the life experience is the individuality of the ātma produced from varieties of meanings we seek. In the last post, we saw how the soul seeks happiness and meaning; the type of happiness sought is “why” the soul is in the world, and the type of meaning sought is “who” the soul is in this world. The “who” is defined by an individuality comprised of meanings a person seeks, which makes his life meaningful; these meanings are produced from bhūti-śakti.
The answer to “how” we go through the life experience is the prāna or kriya-śakti which operates under the control of conscious choices. As discussed previously, the prāna acts as a machine that operates unconsciously but it is the agency of consciousness which remains invisible because it is the mirror in which other conscious things—i.e. meanings and pleasures—are reflected. Just as we cannot see the mirror, but only objects that are reflected in the mirror, similarly, we don’t perceive prāna, even though we perceive meanings and pleasures. The fact that we don’t perceive it should be taken to indicate that it is indeed the machine on which meanings and pleasures are being computed.
The Inversion of Spirit in Matter
It’s noteworthy that in the material world, consciousness represents sattva-guna and is, therefore, higher than rajo-guna which creates dharma and meaning, which is higher than tamo-guna that creates pleasure. By the same token, kriya-śakti (choice or decision making) is higher than bhūti-śakti (meaning), which is higher than māyā-śakti (happiness). The situation in the spiritual world is reversed because there māyā-śakti (happiness) is the highest, followed by bhūti-śakti (meaning), followed by kriya-śakti (choice or consciousness). It is owing to this inversion, that the material world is considered an inverted reflection of the spiritual world—the ananda-chit-sat of spirituality becomes sat-chit-ananda in matter. It is also owing to this fact that sat or Brahman or consciousness lies “in between” matter and spirit, and is therefore called the taṭasthā-śakti as opposed to antaranga-śakti and bahiranga-śakti.
Owing to the inversion, māyā-śakti is considered the highest in the spiritual world because it directs the soul’s pleasure. Conversely, māyā-śakti is considered the lowest tendency in the material world because it drives the soul towards material enjoyment. Why does material enjoyment debase while spiritual pleasure uplift? The reason is that ananda-chit-sat in spirit is inverted as sat-chit-ananda in matter. The differences appear due to the inversion and resolved once we understand the inversion.
Spiritually speaking, happiness is the highest desire—higher than meaning. Materially speaking, enjoyment is the lowest desire—lower than meaning. For this reason, in the material world, sacrifices, austerities, and renunciation of material pleasures to pursue higher meanings in life are definitely preferred. Conversely, in the spiritual world, the renunciation of aiśvarya (which appear in the material world as moral values, and in Vaikunṭha as knowledge, wealth, power, etc.) to find spiritual pleasures is certainly preferred. These apparent contradictions are based on the inversion.
Once we understand this inversion, we can see that prāna or the material kriya-śakti is the highest material energy compared to bhūti-śakti, which is higher than māyā śakti. As seen above, Karanodakaśāyī Viṣṇu creates the pradhāna by directing his glance or consciousness. Therefore the force called prāna is the agency that begins producing the material world, and is thus superior to the material meaning and pleasure.
The World is a Computer Simulation
With this understanding, it is possible to think of the material world as a reality simulated on a computer—the simulated reality is the meaning and pleasure which we can perceive—while the real computer on which they are simulated (i.e. prāna) remains hidden. The idea that the world is a Simulated Reality seems to be widely prevalent today, just going by the amount of science fiction work that has popularized this idea so far.
The idea is not false, provided we also understand what the “computer” in question is. If we don’t understand what the real computing machine is, then we cannot claim simulation.
The world is indeed simulated on a computer and is, therefore, an “illusion”. But the world is also real because there are programs and data that simulate individual bodies. The world is not material but rather information. From this information, the imagery of materiality is created, just as we can create a picture of a sea beach using a digital file that encodes color information about pixels. In the simulated world, the reality is the pixels, not the wind, water, sand, or people on the sea beach.
Sāńkhya shows how every kind of sense perception (taste, touch, sound, sight, and smell) is a “sound”—which is a nice way of saying that the world that you perceive is actually not solid, liquid, gaseous, hot, cold, sweet, bitter, hard, soft, black or white. It is just units of data. From this data, our senses create perceptual imagery, just as an image file is used to create a picture display.
The world is not energy, momentum, mass, charge, etc. because we never experience these; we experience taste, touch, sound, smell, and sight. But even the things that we perceive (e.g. hard, soft, red, blue, etc.) are not real; instead, they are produced from units of data or information. The world is an illusion in two ways—(1) it is not what science tells us today, and (2) it is not how we experience it. And yet it exists—just not as sense perception indicates, and just not as science claims.
The Drama Analogy
The bhūti-śakti (meaning), māyā-śakti (happiness), and kriya-śakti (choice or decision making) are the three main energies of the soul. The bhūti-śakti produces the various characters in a drama, the māyā-śakti produces the various actors in the drama, and the kriya-śakti produces various dramatic performances. The fact that kriya-śakti is higher than bhūti-śakti, which is higher than māyā śakti, creates some important differences between the worldly drama and the stage drama.
In the stage drama, the characters are predefined before the actors are selected, and the actors are predefined before the performance is enacted. In the worldly drama, the dialogues (events) exist as possibilities, which are chosen by the ātma. This choice creates a performance, which then manifests a world of material meanings, which then produces happiness and suffering. It is consciousness or prāna that is creating the material world from a possibility—an idea that is very similar to the notion of a “collapse” in atomic theory where the observational experience is created when consciousness collapses the possibilities into a reality. The basic idea of such a collapse is correct, although the possibilities themselves are described physically rather than semantically, and consciousness is described as being transcendental rather than a new type of material energy that causes changes.
The worldly drama, therefore, has a playwright who has written the dialogues but left the decisions about characters, actors, and performance to the soul. You can predict exactly what will happen. But you cannot predict who will do it. The worldly drama is not exactly like the stage drama, but the analogy is powerful enough to express the key idea—and allowing a sufficiently clear distinction.
Three Enmeshed Material Trees
While the kriya-śakti (choice), bhūti-śakti (meaning) and māyā-śakti (happiness), are successively lower, these are not part of a single material tree in which choice is highest, followed by meaning, followed by pleasure. These are instead, three different material trees, rooted in sat, chit, and ananda, respectively.
Practical observation shows that every part of the body—e.g. skin—combines the three energies. For example, prāna is flowing to the skin through nerves, and this flow of prāna makes us conscious of the skin. Similarly, the skin is producing sensations such as heat. Finally, the pain or pleasure of the heat also has a location on the skin. The sensation, the pleasure, and the activity are all in the same place, but still, the activity is higher than the sensation, which is higher than the pleasure (or pain).
How three kinds of energies combine to create the material experience, why they are higher and lower, and how they produce to total reality of activity, sensation, and pleasure is a difficult aspect of Vedic philosophy. To grasp it we need to understand the nature of the soul (sat, chit, and ananda), the difference between meaning and pleasure, how their contradiction is resolved by consciousness, how pleasure, meaning, and activity exist in a hierarchical tree, and how each of these trees has its root directly in the three facets of the soul. By no means is this a walk in the park.
The Nature of the Soul’s Free Will
The entire universe is working automatically due to prāna—the cosmic prāna is Karanodakaśāyī Viṣṇu. However, the soul has a free will by which it can jump to a different type of prāna, which will then transport the soul to a different type of meaning and pleasure. Since the prāna is working automatically (automatically computing the next steps), we remain unaware of activities like breathing, digestion or blood circulation. Like meanings divide to create a conceptual variety, similarly, prāna divides to create individual trajectories—these are different computer programs transmigrating the soul. A yogi who understands the working of the prāna is able to change his trajectory. These trajectories are like trains on a track—to go to a different destination, you change trains, not the course of a train.
The fortunate part is that prāna fixes the event trajectory but doesn’t fix the meaning and pleasure. For example, I might be employed in a job and tasked to do some activities. I may think that I just have to do this job so I can take a paycheck at the end of the month to feed my family. Another employee is doing the same activities but she is thinking that her work makes her employer successful, and she is responsible for that success. Yet another employee is thinking that she is impacting the society by her work because what she does brings better health, education, safety, and so forth. The activity is the same, but everyone is giving it different meanings. Similarly, for the same activity, there can be different kinds of pleasures. Therefore, even if I cannot jump from one train to another, I can still completely transform the meanings or pleasures that I enjoy or suffer through this journey.
This fundamental idea underlies three kinds of yoga systems as described in the Bhagavad-Gita. The system called astanga-yoga pertains to changing the train to one that goes out of the universe. The system called jnana-yoga pertains to giving the train ride a new meaning—limited from my personal journey to serving the entire universe. The system called bhakti-yoga is changing the happiness derived from the train ride from my happiness to the happiness of the Supreme Person. And a fourth system called karma-yoga in which we don’t change the train, don’t give the travel a new meaning, don’t change the pleasure in the ride, but get detached from the journey (fear of where the train might be headed, or the daydreaming desires that the train would reach a particular destination) so that we aren’t forced to board new trains in the future.
The Origin of Judgments
The three aspects of the soul—sat, chit, and ananda—perform three kinds of judgments. The chit meaning seeking aspect judges whether the meaning is true or false. The sat activity performing aspect judges whether the activity is right or wrong. The ananda pleasure-seeking aspect judges whether the pleasure is good or bad. Ultimately, what we find meaningful is also because we consider it truthful. What we keep doing repeatedly with dedication is something we consider morally right. And what we enjoy again and again without guilt is that which we consider innately good for our well-being.
Thus, in three different ways, judgments are connected to the properties the soul: there are judgments of activity (right-wrong), meaning (true-false), and pleasure (good-bad). If the world is described physically, and disconnected from the properties of the soul, then these judgments are missing. You cannot say whether something is true or false because truth is defined only when there are meanings but nature has no meaning. You cannot say if an activity is right or wrong because these judgments are possible if we have choices, but nature has no choices. Likewise, you cannot say something is good or bad, because good or bad comes from happiness, and matter doesn’t enjoy or suffer.
In Vedic philosophy, as in other religions, judgments are the relationship between God and the soul. Thus, truthfulness is not everything that the soul may consider meaningful by itself; rather only when soul’s meaning is consistent with God’s meaning is the meaning true. Similarly, rightness is not everything that the soul may choose; rather only when the soul’s choices are consistent with God’s choices are they right. Likewise, goodness is not everything that the soul can enjoy; rather only those pleasures which are created by satisfying God first are considered good. The material world, therefore, has two parts: (1) all that is going to happen due to nature’s course, and (2) all that is right, good, and true.
The Real vs. The Ideal vs. The Evil
The three forms of God described earlier—Karanodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, Garbhodakaśāyī Viṣṇu, and Saṅkarṣaṇa—represent the manifestation of all that is going to happen due to nature’s course. Of course, all that happens is not necessarily true, right, and good. The ideals instead are represented by a different set of forms of Lord Viṣṇu called Vasudeva, Saṅkarṣaṇa, Pradyumna, and Aniruddha. As we have discussed previously, Vasudeva appears in the mahattattva as the ideal morality. Saṅkarṣaṇa appears in the ego as the ideal intention. Pradyumna appears in the intellect as the ideal beliefs. And Aniruddha appears in the mind as the ideal thoughts. This is a very unique and amazing aspect of Vedic philosophy in which God creates everything, which includes falsities, crimes, and suffering. And yet, He also sets the personal example of the ideal moral, intent, belief, and thought.
The Vedic theory of moral judgment is based on the gap between the real and the ideal. The real is also created by God, but everything real is not ideal. The soul is expected to utilize his choices correctly in order to pick the ideal from the real. But, of course, the soul is not always as wise.
This represents the solution to the problem of theodicy in which God is considered evil because the universe contains evil. This problem is addressed in Vedic philosophy by describing two types of God’s incarnations in the material world—(1) the three puruṣa who create the possibility, the spatial structure, and the temporal evolution, which includes the evil, and (2) the four members of the chaturvyūha who represent the ideal. Therefore, when we ask: “Is God evil?” the answer is that God is also the evil, because He creates everything, so He must also create the evil. And yet, He creates not just the evil, but also the ideal. We cannot hold God responsible for our choices because God creates both the evil and the ideal. The soul has to make the right choices by rejecting evil and choosing the ideal.
The Law of Moral Consequences
I have described in an earlier post how the ideal appears in the center of the semantic space. From this ideal, a number of non-ideal entities are created through a series of modifications I previously termed modulations. Therefore, as you go towards the center, you are going towards the ideal. As you go outward from the center, you are going away from the ideal. There is hence a rigorous definition of ideal and non-ideal when we describe the world in a conceptual space: the definition is based on whether an observer is moving inwards (towards the center) or outwards (away from the center).
In Vedic philosophy, there are three kinds of actions: (1) those that produce “good” results, (2) those that produce “bad” results, and (3) those that produce no results. These are respectively called sukarma, vikarma, and akarma. Sukarma (sometimes called sukriti) or good actions are those that maintain a constant distance from the center but move circularly around the center; this is called dharma in Vedic philosophy as it constitutes demigod worship. While demigods are not the ideal but they are close to the ideal. By worshiping them, the living entity creates a less than ideal life, but it is not an atheistic and sinful existence. Vikarma is when the living entity moves away from the center and gets engrossed in more and more complex materiality (the distance from the center is the extent of complexity). Akarma is when the living entity moves towards the center—i.e., towards the ideal.
We may be far from the ideal today, but if we move towards the center (and not sideways or farther away), new karma is not created. Sukarma is created if we move circularly, and vikarma is produced if we move away. Thus, even if we develop some understanding of God, and stop the vikarma society can be happy. Karma depends on the motion relative to God—who “sits” in the middle. When yajña is performed, the demigods sit on the sides, and Lord Viṣṇu is in the middle of a Mandala. Similarly, divine Yantra depict Lord Viṣṇu in the middle. These are expressions of a scientific theory of space in which the soul is expected to “move inwards” rather than “rotate” or “move outwards”. Similarly, in this space, clockwise movements will take the living entity upwards (to higher planetary systems) while the anticlockwise movements will take the living entity downwards (to lower planetary systems). In essence, if we move our lives in the same direction as the higher planets—then we go upwards. If instead, we move our lives in the same direction as the lower planets—then we go downwards.
The Scientific Theory of Karma
When material objects have meaning, then directions of trajectories become indicators of morality, karma and future births. In current physical theories, some properties are denoted by vectors—as they have a quantity and a direction. A living entity’s step-by-step locations in space construct a trajectory which has a direction, and the trajectory, therefore, becomes a vector. The scientific law of moral consequences is that moral consequence is produced based on the vector direction of the trajectory in semantic space. As the direction of your life turns to the “center”, karma ceases to be created.
In the previous post, I described how karma involves a bookkeeping system similar to financial accounting in which we don’t just deal in causes and effects but also in assets and liabilities. Such a system constitutes a description of the observer going around in circles—lending and borrowing. While it is not immoral, it is also not a system that can free one from the cycle of action and reaction. Nevertheless, before we can understand how the atma becomes free of all reactions, we have to understand what we mean by moral and immoral actions, and this is achieved by seeing the world as an accounting system involving the exchange of meaning and happiness, not just matter. Financial accounting is an example of how such systems already exist at present and the ideas of assets and liabilities that are created in the past but manifested in the future can be understood.
The Relation to Vedic Cosmology
Vedic cosmology describes the universe as several tiers of planetary systems. Each planetary system is further divided into many concentric “islands” (for a detailed discussion of the nature of these islands, please refer to Mystic Universe). The vertical dimension in this universe, as we have discussed earlier represents sattva-guna or rising levels of consciousness (since sattva-guna is associated with sat or consciousness). The horizontal dimension creates the bhū-mandala (and other planetary systems) what is often confusingly called “flat earth” reminiscing to the pre-Copernican Biblical flat earth models. A proper understanding of this flat earth is that it represents rajo-guna and tamo-guna.
However, the coordinate system used for this is not Euclidean coordinates but rather Polar coordinates. In the polar coordinate system, the location on a surface is described using two variables—R (radius) and θ (angle). The distance from the center (R) represents tamo-guna or the desire for material pleasure; as one goes outward from the center, the pleasure and the desire for pleasure increases. The angle around the center (θ) represents rajo-guna and different types of meanings are found in different directions of the plane. The reason for Polar (rather than Euclidean coordinates) is that meanings are organized circularly while for a given type of meaning pleasure only increases linearly. In that sense, one dimension (R) is treated linearly while another (θ) is treated circularly. The reasons are geometrical but semantic: they are based on the distinctions between meanings and pleasures. Unless we understand these distinctions, we cannot see why only a specific type of coordinate system is used.
The meaning of this cosmic scheme is that as one goes outward in the semantic space, the same type of meaning is used to enjoy more pleasure. For example, if you enjoy eating, then there is far more pleasure in eating in the outer region than in the inner. The primary reason is that the “surface area” of the outer regions is three times bigger than the previous region, and that entails that each living entity has a wider spread in space which entails a wider variety of options (both meaning and pleasure). Their bodies are “bigger” as they cover a bigger area whose dimensions are meaning and pleasure, and they can enjoy a greater variety and quantity—i.e., life is unsuited for spiritual advancement.
The innermost region called Jambudvīpa is the best place for spirituality, and even in within this part, the region to the south called Bharat varṣa (Earth) is the best because this direction (South) is the highest in dharma relative to other directions (refer to Mystic Universe for further details). The bhū-mandala itself is considered better than other planetary systems for spiritual advancement because the life in the higher planets is much longer and the pleasures are therefore longer lasting. Similarly, the pleasure in the lower planets gets more and more intense as matter densifies. Thus, the Earth is the perfect place for spiritual advancement and for going to any other part of the universe.
What is Vedic Science, Really?
Vedic science is a very tight, interlinked, and broad-based description of the world ranging from atomic objects to the cosmos as a whole, with the human body, society, planets, and planetary systems, in the middle. This science is based on the five fundamental principles that Śrīla Prabhupāda identifies in the introduction of the Bhagavad-Gita. Of these five, the following three are natural laws:
- Kala or time, which defines the ages and the events that will happen in them,
- Guna or the three śakti, and how they create reasoning that takes the soul forward,
- Karma or the moral consequences of the reasoning and actions.
We have also discussed two types of consciousness that create the material world:
- God, which answers the “what”, “when”, and “where” questions
- Soul, which answers the “how”, “why”, and “who” questions
Put together, this is the sum and substance of the Vedic description of the material world. Every aspect of this description is scientific, just not the modern material science. A full understanding of these five features constitutes the essence of Vedic science. The three kinds of natural laws (kala, guna, and karma) can be understood only after we understand sat, chit, and ananda of the soul and God. In that sense, this is a “theistic science” that relies heavily on a spiritual understanding.
For those who are unfamiliar with this knowledge, it is helpful to compare the three natural laws above to the three laws of nature that Newton formulated at the beginning of modern science:
- Newton’s first law states that a material object continues to move automatically unless hindered by a force. The first law of nature in Vedic philosophy is time and the law says that the universe as a whole (not individual objects) moves unhindered creating a succession of events regardless of which material object or observer participates in these events.
- Newton’s second law states that the state changes in an object are governed by material forces. The second law of nature in Vedic philosophy is guna and the force in question is prāna which is used to move the soul (particle) forward using a process best described as “reasoning”. Unlike Newton’s forces, the force called prāna can be controlled by free will.
- Newton’s third law states that every action has an equal and opposite reaction. This third law of nature in Vedic philosophy also speaks about action-and-reaction, although based on the meaning and morality rather than simply push-and-pull. Also, the karma is not always created; in fact, ending the cycle of karma creation is called “liberation” from matter.
While modern science and Vedic science are chalk and cheese, the above comparison will help us see why Vedic science too has laws, although these laws are far more nuanced and sophisticated than those in Newton’s physics. The study of these laws constitutes the sum and substance of “Vedic science”.
The Mathematical Development of Vedic Science
Each of the three laws above can be systematized into mathematical and computationally predictive theories and models, and this is the kind of work that lies ahead of us at present.
- A theory of hierarchical space and time will predict the periodic creation and destruction of branches on a tree, which can be used to describe macroscopic phenomena such as the ages and their impact on the universe, the rise and fall of civilizations and societies, the appearance and disappearances of species, wars, earthquakes, changing seasons, etc.
- A theory of semantic reasoning is the description of how living beings make decisions by applying the goal of meaning and pleasure on models of the world, and how the models and the goals are modified through outcomes of actions. Such a theory represents the description of the evolution of a living entity as seen from the perspective of that living entity.
- A theory of moral judgments is the relation between the universal evolution and the individual evolution. It involves the study of the ideal, not just the real and how the gap between the real and the ideal produces a consequence which then limits the choices. These consequences are excited by space and time, and their periodicity affects the manifestation of karma.
As seen earlier, such a theory depends on a ternary logic built from the three modes of nature, not the bi-stable logic currently in use in all modern science. This revision will describe the universe as a set of opposites without creating a logical contradiction. The new logic constructs a new theory of numbers, space and time, material reality, perception, choices, and moral consequences. At each step, we can see the common thread of choice, meaning, and pleasure—i.e. sat, chit, and ananda—but at each step, we can see a new way of thinking that is totally unprecedented in modern thinking.