Consciousness, Light, and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity by Navin Doshi (September 7, 2009)

The Upanishads describe Brahman as Satchidananda—the true Absolute reality, which not separately but simultaneously is Sat, or Truth, Chit or Consciousness or Light, and Ananda or Bliss. They describe It as non dual That which is One-without-a-second, That from which nothing is separate, That which is limitless, That which is not conditioned by time, space and causation, That which is self-existent, That which is brilliantly radiant that is self-effulgent, That which is changeless, That which is devoid of attributes, and That which is without a beginning or an end. In other words, It does not have any limits because It is beyond space, for limits of something or someone can only be cognized within the contours of space. It is changeless because change can only be conceived within the parameters of time. It is without a beginning or an end because the beginning or end can only be perceived within the confines of time and space. It is self-effulgent for It is Consciousness itself; Its effulgence is not dependent on anything, for It is beyond causation. Because nothing in the cosmos is separate from the Brahman, It has manifested this universe from Its own body, first engendering time and space and then entering into them, just as a spider creates its web from its own saliva.

In the realm of time and space, Brahman manifests as the principles of Purusha and Prakriti, as enumerated in detail by the Sankhya philosophy. Purusha is the principle that observes and Prakriti or Nature is the dynamic principle. Purusha is the witness or unchanging principle that watches the workings of Prakriti, who performs her dynamic processes through three gunas: Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas. The Sattva guna psychologically manifests in human beings as the force of truth, harmony, peace, right poise, equilibrium, intelligence, happiness etc. Rajas psychologically translates as the quality of action, energy, domination, possession, creation, will to fight, will to resist, and will to conquer. Tamas signifies indolence, inertia, unintelligence, sloth, and resistance towards change. All these gunas are present in each individual and are in flux—however the predominance of one or two determines whether the general character of a person will be sattvic, rajasic or tamasic. When an individual is under the influence of the modes of Prakriti or Nature, then his or her soul or Purusha is involved in the play; it is not free and it suffers or enjoys the play of the Prakriti as the case may be. Therefore the first step towards liberation or moksha involves separating the Purusha from the modes of Prakriti, and letting the witness and unchanging consciousness of Purusha, which is its natural characteristic, to emerge. The Purusha, then, instead of being involved in the constant subjection to Prakriti, is able to watch the movement of her different modes and can give sanction to the continuance or cessation of the play. Finding its union with the transcendental Brahman it can then find its complete liberation or moksha.

Thus in manifestation, the transcendental Brahman through Purusha reveals changeless or constant characteristics and through Prakriti its changing or dynamic characteristics. However, it is due to Purusha’s greater similarities with transcendental Brahman that it is considered Divine in the universe while Prakriti is not—the crucial difference being that Purusha is the unchanging witness whereas Prakriti or Nature is always active, always performing.

The Divine or God in most major traditions is characterized by Light. The Brahmasutras and Upanishads define Brahman as self effulgent. One of the prayers in the Upanishads specifically speak about taking one from falsehood to truth, from darkness to light, and from death to immortality equating the characteristic of the Divine with truth and light. Genesis explains that at the time of creation God said, “Let there be light” and from light the whole universe came into play. People who have had near-death experiences recount them as godly tête-à-tête with light. The Tibetan Book of the Dead contends that as soon as an individual dies, it has an encounter with “Clear Light of Reality.” It is not able to hold that state because its karmic propensities bring it to lesser and lesser states until it is reborn. Ramakrishna, describing his experiences in featureless or nirvikalpa samadhi, stated that he saw an ocean of light having no beginning or end. Many mystics from different traditions have also experienced and recorded spiritual encounters as light.

It is not surprising that Albert Einstein, who had a deep exposure to Indian spiritual traditions, came out with his Theory of Relativity and the E= MC2 equation, where the speed of light is the unchanging constant. However mass and energy—and if we take his entire Theory of Relativity into account, space and time also—being attributes of Nature, are changing. Everything in Nature is changing and relative but never absolute except light. It is true that the velocity of light would change when it is approaching a black hole, but not the speed. Light, constituted of photons, has zero mass. So, the speed of light is not affected by the gravitational force exerted by a black hole–only the direction is affected.

Light apparently connects Nature with the Divine, and becomes the conduit to the Divine. The goal of a transcending philosopher is to acquire the highest mental state of being, the spiritual self. The insight here is to becoming selfless, egoless–that is, mass-less and light like, approaching the attribute known as unchanging. It is amazing and significant that Einstein was able to uncover the relative nature of Nature by associating light withthe realm of the Divine, which happens also to be the view of the world’s great religious traditions.

(Navin Doshi, September 7th, 2009)
(Articles of Mr. Doshi, a writer and a philanthropist, are available on www.nalandainternational.org)

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