Part XII – All about the universe
How did the universe come into existence? Let us see what science says to begin with. It all started with a big bang – an accident at a universal scale. What is it that banged? What was there before the bang? All one can say is that concentrated matter reached a critical mass and hence exploded, spreading itself into space. Where did that matter come from and was there space before the bang for the broken segments to spread into? How did that space come into existence? What were the governing laws for the bang to occur and how did the laws of the bang exist before the bang? Sorry, you cannot ask all those questions because we can only talk about after the bang not before it! We can talk about micro seconds or even pico-seconds after the bang; there is no ‘before’ as we start counting time only with the bang. However, there should be matter concentrated for the bang to occur. Where did that matter come from, since matter can neither be created nor destroyed?
Since you are asking too many questions, we will give you another theory. The universe follows a cyclic process. It continuously expands up to a critical state and then starts contracting to a point when the bang occurs. With the bang the expansion again starts. We are currently in the expanding part of the cycle. How or when did this cycle start? A cycle does not have a beginning or end; that is why it is called a cyclic process. Where did the matter come from, for it to expand and contract? How did the laws of expansion and contraction or all the physical laws come into existence?
Matter as well as the governing physical laws cannot come from nowhere. Matter and the laws were there from the beginning – Oops – there is no beginning or end! - As you can see, science cannot provide answers anymore, other than make the answers more and more sophisticated to understand the beginning of the Universe. Now, how about consciousness? How did it arise? Well, we are still investigating how consciousness manifests itself in matter! All we can say is that, when appropriate conditions are met, bang – consciousness arises from the matter. You mean it is a product of the matter? Yes, you can say that, but we are still working on trying to understand how consciousness arises in matter. How about life? What is life and is it different from consciousness? We do not know what life is, but we know it manifests in terms of physiological activities that include being conscious of things or the environment around. How about matter? What is it made up of? Of course, it is made up of fundamental building blocks - we do not know what it is, but we have different theories to explain it. Well, this is our current state of understanding of the universe made up matter and life forms.
Actually, some of the statements of science are not far from the Vedantic truth. Let us look from the Vedantic perspective to see if it has any better answers. Most of the religions start with the presumption that the universe is a creation. How can you say it is a creation? Before answering that let us ask another question - what is creation?
If I collect a big stone from the street and show it as my creation, you may laugh at me or throw me out of the window. Suppose, I carve a beautiful Ganesha out of that stone, immediately you will start admiring as a beautiful creation. How did a simple stone, which was not considered a creation, now turn out to be a beautiful creation? What I brought out of the basic matter – stone – is an order and a beauty to qualify it as a creation. In creation, there is an order and a harmony, contributing to aesthetic beauty. Look at a flower – there is beautiful order and aesthetic beauty. According to thermodynamics, any ordered system involves high energy or low entropy. In order to create and maintain order, work has to be done. Thermodynamically, nature moves to a chaotic state to lower its energy; that is increase its entropy. To create an order, work has to be done which involves expenditure of energy. The universe operates within well defined Laws. Even to discover these laws of nature, intelligence is required. Then, what can we say about the universal order along with laws to create and maintain that order? Since order can only come out of intelligence, creative order involves an intelligent action. This much, we understand by examining the laws of thermodynamics.
Now look at the Universe. Close examination reveals that the universe is cosmos or a well ordered and regulated system. Look at the structure of an atom, a molecule, a crystal, a solar system, the Milky Way, the galaxies, and the whole universe in perspective – it is a gigantic, well ordered system with physical and fundamental laws governing that system. From the electron orbits to planetary motions to movement of stars to galaxies, all follow very rigid physical laws.
The size of the earth is insignificant in comparison to the solar system. The solar system itself is insignificant in relation to the size of the Milky Way. That a scientist sitting in a corner of this tiny earth is able to deduce universal laws that are applicable to galaxies, which are so distant, shows that the universe is a well-behaved system. Work has to be expended to create and maintain such an order. It is an intelligent creation, as one may observe from our own physical body functions, starting from breathing, to circulation, to digestion, to excretion – there is perfect order, beyond human comprehension. It is awesome even to imagine how a tiny cell replicates itself to produce such a gigantic body, with all functional elements formed; it is mind boggling. The nearest star to the earth is four and half light years away – that is light travelling at the speed of 300,000 km/sec takes four and half years to cover that distance. Distances between the stars are incredible in relation to the size of the stars.
The nearest galaxy is two million light years away from us. When we look at the sky, we are having a glimpse of the past in the present, since light must have travelled from millions of years ago to reach us now. Such a well-behaved, ordered system cannot happen by accident or as the result of a random event. Hence the universe has to be a creation, just as the Ganesha carved out of stone has to be a creation. There has to be intelligence behind the creation. That intelligence must have all the knowledge and skills needed to create this entire universe. Thus once we have accepted the existence of universe, we can not but bring in a third factor, a creator to create this universe. All religions call that GOD. God according to all religions is the one who created this entire universe. Thus, we have now three things to be concerned with – jIva, an individual, jagat, the universe and Ishvara, the creator. The creator has to be a conscious entity, since an unconscious entity cannot create. This much, all religions agree. Vedanta goes one step further.
Proceed to the next essay.