(please read blog entry – Metaphysics before reading this)
There are six major darshanas (Hindu schools of “philosophy/thought”) which forms the foundation stone of most Hindu belief systems, arts, sciences, and cultures. Of these six darshanas, four are non-theistic (could care less of what/who God is). This post touches on the Samkhya and Vedanta schools which deal with cosmology (and different “perspectives” on ontology, epistemology, causality, in context of the universe and the nature of our being/consciousness, and its relationship with the whole). The symbolism inherent in the hundreds of spiritual traditions and belief systems that comprise Hinduism are all expressions of these darshanas. Among the many things in common, one aspect relevant to this articles topic is: that all matter is condensed energy, and energy is condensed consciousness.
That is, everything is Consciousness. You are in constant interaction with the very fabric of this universe. For every choice you make, every thought, and action, you are effecting a split and causing a multiverse along your timeline.
If the unity of matter/energy/consciousness weren’t enough, Hindu Philosophy further took this into metaphysical and existential principles, like that of nama and rupa, that is, name and form. Form is that which is given shape to by our conscious vibrations. It is given a distinct existence through name.
Before we get into the origin of the universe, it should be emphasized that Hindu Cosmology believes in cosmic cycles: that the current/visible universe as one of many, that stretch through endless cycles of creation and dissolution, into the endless future and into the endless past.
Origin of the Universe
Noted Astrophysicist, Carl Sagan:
The beginning of a cosmic cycle (which lasts one kalpa or 4.32 billion years) of the visible universe is marked by a singularity (bindu) in the ocean of pralaya (a quiescent state between cosmic cycles), from which arises a cosmic vibration, pranavam, represented by the symbol/sound Om. Next, this cosmic vibration, gets differentiated over time into fundamental vibrations (bija or “seed” vibrations), these subtler vibrations coalesce to grosser vibrations, and so on until the gross elements are formed. Everything that exists came from the bindu and will eventually return back into the bindu. Everything contains the Source, originates from the Source, and returns to the Source. These vibrations still exist as kernels of energy-consciousness and can be activated through mantras. For instance, each letter in Sanskrit represents a bija or seed vibration represents the very same vibrations that extends all the way to the beginning of the time, beginning of the universe, the Source. These bija area a reflection of neural pattern, which is a reflection of quantum-cosmological pattern, and the utterance of the letter creates a vibration which interacts with the underlying substratum of the universe. This concept also reflects the holographic nature of the universe.
Note: it is important to note that pralaya, is not the void (as in space), but represents a quiescent state between cosmic cycles (in the Samkhya philosophy it is described as Mahat – or Cosmic Consciousness).
The theory of origin of the universe in Hindu cosmology (not Hindu mythology — which in itself has numerous other conjectures and stories developed over time from across the Indian subcontinent) is strikingly similar to modern theory. The origin of the universe according to modern physics, in a nutshell:
In the modern physics big bang theory of origin of the universe, everything started with a singularity (a mathematical construct roughly meaning an infinitesimally small point). From this singularity, a powerful explosion rocked and rippled through the fabric of space-time (or rather, the fabric of something which later became space-time), sending forth a 26 dimensional vibration (called superstrings). As time flowed forward these vibrations interacted, coalesced, and condensed, forming denser/grosser elements: forces –> fields –> quarks –> leptons, mesons, hadrons, neutrinos –> electrons, protons, neutrons –> atoms –> molecules –> gases, liquids, solids. In addition the big bang theory says everything that exists will collapse back into the singularity as the expanding universe stops expanding and contracts.
Note that when modern science speaks of “universe” we just mean the visible universe, and not the universe that the Hindus speak of which includes the visible and invisible universe. The Hindu universe is also holographic: the microcosm and macrocosm reflect each other. Thus the creation/dissolution of the visible universe is even correlated to one’s kundalini energy traveling up the spinal axis, activating all 7 chakras (cosmic/astral junctions).
You are not just a passive participant of the of the living, breathing, holographic universe, but you are projecting/modifying it at every instant. You just don’t realize it as you are bound by baser attachments.
Hindu philosophy was a hard science and treated with the rigor of hard science (try taking take dip in it, you’ll see it has the rigor of mathematics or quantum physics is today), unlike Western philosophy which is a soft science. Instead of the reductionistic method of science to deconstruct nature, the Hindu aim is to elevate the mind to that high level of consciousness… from this evolved the science of yoga. Until one has experiential knowledge of Truth, any theory is just a theory and does not reflect Truth. Even when does have experiential knowledge of Truth, to convey that Truth is limited by our language (of mathematics and science). The highly abstract principles into the most common language, the language of symbolism, around each of which many spiritual traditions evolved, and hence a deep synergy between each of these spiritual traditions.
The Cosmic Cycles
Hindus perceived the universe on such immense time scales that rivals that of modern cosmology. You can see why they invented the zero – there was need for it. In fact the original name for zero is shoonya. In Sanskrit it means “the void”.
Contrast this with Western civilization (under the influence of Christianity), even as late as the 19th century, set the date of origin of the universe to be 4004 BCE. Not to mention that the Romans were counting on their fingers (the largest number was 10,000), while Hindus were dealing with numbers representing vast time scales of trillions of years (with the help of the zero).
The 4 Yugas
The basic cosmic cycle, the Mahayuga (described later), is composed of 4 yugas: Krta, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali Yuga.
The span of each of yugas are given in terms of “god-years” (note that this does not refer to “God” as in theology; in fact of 4 of the 6 darshanas doesn’t even presuppose the existence of God or any theological entity). A god-year = 360 human years.
As the moral and spiritual fabric of universe declines each successive period lasts shorter and shorter, by a power of two. Hence it rapidly declines from the Krta Yuga (the age of perfection) lasting 4800 god-years to Kali Yuga (the age of degeneration) lasting only 1200 god-years.
Krta Yuga = 4800 god-years = 1.728 million years Treta Yuga = 3600 god-years = 1.296 million years Dvapara Yuga = 2400 god-years = 864,000 years Kali Yuga = 1200 god-years = 432,000 years
The end of the Kali Yuga is said to be apocalyptic. Any system when it reaches a peak threshold of degeneration is bound to collapse upon itself and start over. Figuratively, Vishnu manifests Himself as the tenth avatar, Kalkin, to bring back order to the universe by wiping out all that is in disharmony with cosmic laws that govern the universe.
A complete cycle of creation and dissolution is called a Mahayuga. As mentioned, 4 yugas make up a Mahayuga.
We are now entering the Kali Yuga of the 28th Mahayuga.
Based on some meticulous calculations and regressions the Hindus arrive at the date which corresponds to our modern calendar date of February 18, 3102 BCE (Friday, 0hrs) as the date when the current Kali Yuga began (maybe Christians got their idea from this and mistakenly took this as the date of “Creation” as it bears resemblance to their 4102 BCE date).
Each yuga is followed by an equally long period of dawn and dusk, for example:
Krta yuga = 4800 god-years = 400 god-years (dawn) + 4000 god-years + 400 god-years (dusk)1 Mahayuga = Krta yuga + Treta yuga + Dvapara yuga + Kali yuga = 12000 god years = 4.32 million years
A full cycle of the visible universe is called a Kalpa. 1000 Mahayugas make up a Kalpa (boy aren’t we lucky that the Hindus used a metric system as opposed to some rulers feet for measurement).
1 Kalpa = One Brahma "day" = 1000 x Mahayugas = 1000 x 12000 god years = 4.32 billion years
Each kalpa is also followed by an equally long period of dawn and dusk (pralaya – or abeyance or quiescence).
1 Day in the Life of Brahma (a Complete Brahma Day) = One Brahma "day" + an equally long Brahma "night" = 2 x 4.32 billion years = 8.64 billion years
Brahma – the aspect/essence of “god” representing the dimension from which the visible universe is unfolded from and folds into.
The universe will come to a definitive end at the end of Brahma’s life – everything – the entire universe, including god is “destroyed”. Then at the start of another cosmic cycles god remanifests.
We are at the midpoint of the Brahma’s life. The current age of the Universe (not just the visible universe, but the visible and the invisible) by Hindu cosmology is approximately 155 trillion years old.
Life of Brahma = 100 years (each year is composed of 360 days of “night” and “day”)
= 100 * 360 Complete Brahma Days = 100 * 360 * 8.64 billion years (=72000 Kalpas) = 311.040 trillion years