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    Danakeli Dasi

    We hear in the Vedic texts that there are uncountable (infinite # of ?) material universes packed up like innumerable mustard seeds in a bag. We hear some are much bigger than the one we’re currently inhabiting & that their Lord Brahmas have many more heads than our 4-headed Brahma.
    What is the need or purpose of so many universes? Is not the infinite pool of all possible ideas available in our universe (whether anyone taps into some of those ideas or not)?

    Ashish Dalela

    A bigger universe means that it is possible to create finer distinctions, or what we call the smallest ‘atom’ can get smaller. Accordingly, there is more variety or subtle distinctions. Just like in an Impressionist painting the picture is hazy and drawn with broader strokes, but in Classical art, the paintings get more realistic and detailed. Similarly, we can say that our universe has lesser detail relative to the larger universes. If in our universe four social orders are a natural principle, then in other universes it is possible that there are a greater number of social divisions.

    Danakeli Dasi

    I see. Not all universes are created equal.

    Danakeli Dasi

    Revisiting this thread after a long time…
    I recently found some interesting writing about the multi universes from Laghu Bhagavatamrta by Srila Rupa Goswami (translated by Gopiparanadana Prabhu). Here’s some verses discussing the size of the material universes.
    By the potency of the Personality of Godhead there exist virtually innumerable universes of many different kinds, each full of variety.
    By the manifold potencies of Lord Hari, some of these universes extend one billion yojanas in width.
    Others are ten billion, ten trillion, or ten quadrillion yojanas across.
    Inside some of these universes, twenty planetary systems have been created. Inside others there are fifty, seventy, a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand, or even a hundred thousand planetary systems.
    Brahma and the other planetary rulers appear in various forms in these different universes. They are served by thousands of the most excellent opulences. In some of these universes the demigods led by Indra live for a hundred maha-kalpas, and demigods like Brahma live for a hundred trillion maha-kalpas.
    By contrast, the Visnu-dharmottara Purana says that all the universal spheres are of equal size and have similar living entities.
    Thus: “O king, all the universal eggs are equal in form. They each contain the same volume of space and are inhabited by comparable creatures.”
    According to Sri Kurma Purana, “When two scriptural statements conflict, one should not assume that one or the other lacks authority. Rather, one should seek an elucidation that reconciles the two statements.”
    Indeed, Lord Hari sometimes annihilates all the universes simultaneously.
    This is stated in Sri Visnu-dharmottara Purana: “These unlimited universes I have described to you are all destroyed simultaneously by the Lord of the universe. He then remains situated in His own nature during a period of time called His night.”
    After thus destroying all the universes, He once again creates new ones. Sometimes He makes them dissimilar, and sometimes He makes them similar.
    In SB 2.5.10, Srila Prabhupada curiously says, “It is understood from the revealed scriptures that the Brahmājī of this universe is younger than all the other Brahmās in charge of the many, many universes beyond this.” [I wonder which “revealed scriptures.”]

    Ashish Dalela

    They can be the same size and different sizes, and there is no contradiction.

    Think of a virtual reality headset. There can be many virtual reality headsets that have the same size — if you look at them from the outside. But depending on the program loaded in the game that the virtual reality headset is showing, one ‘universe’ can seem bigger than another.

    The difference arises not because of the virtual reality headset. It is due to the program or game loaded into the headset. If the game is simple, then you are probably playing inside a fortress trying to find the enemy, save some princess, take some hidden gold, etc. Your ‘universe’ is confined to that fortress. But if the game is complex, then you are traveling between planets and galaxies, seeing different places in the universe, and your ‘universe’ is very big.
    What we call the ‘universe’ is like that virtual reality headset. The soul is not ‘inside’ the universe. It is just being shown a vision. The vision can be simple or complicated. If it is complicated it seems that the universe is bigger. It depends on how much information has been packed into the program. If you pack less, then it is small; if you pack more it is very big.

    Finally, the multiple universes in Vedic philosophy have nothing to do with the ‘multiverse’ in modern science. They are two completely different ideas. In the ‘multiverse’ phenomena, the universes are constantly dividing and expanding with everything you experience. Therefore, in one universe there is a version of Danakeli who did not ask this question and did not see the response. In this universe, she asked and saw a response. So Danakeli is not one person. She is rather infinite — and constantly increasing — number of personalities at every moment.

    Danakeli Dasi

    This virtual reality analogy is very helpful. Thank you. And I will be sure not to conflate the multiple universes in Vedic philosophy w/ the strange multiverse idea, which I didn’t actually understand before.
    One followup question RE the soul not being ‘in’ a universe but merely being shown a vision which one calls ‘the universe’…
    Is it correct if we expand this fact to other areas of our perception which we currently feel we’re ‘in’? For ex., we say “I am in a body,” or “I am in a building,” etc. Technically, is it more correct to say “The soul is never inside anything; rather, everything—from bodies to buildings to universes—are merely visions/phenomena.” If this is correct, what about our saying “The soul is carried to another destination.” Would it be more correct or precise to say that the soul has had the ‘channel’ he was watching get changed to another? I am thinking of the BG verse which says the soul is immovable (2.24). Do we ever ‘go’ anywhere? Even ‘back to Godhead?’

    Ashish Dalela

    Yes, my understanding is also that the soul doesn’t ‘move’, as in from different parts of the world. It is merely the sense of proximity to things that makes it think that it is inside the world. This proximity to things is an illusion. Just like right now you are not ‘near’ your computer. I mean even your body is not near the computer. The body and the computer are conceptually different things and in the conceptual space, they are far apart. But they are interacting with each other. By this interaction, proximity is created. So, real proximity and apparent proximity are different.

    There are three kinds of real distance/proximity. The first is emotional distance/proximity. When we are attached to something, we feel we are close to them. The second is the conceptual proximity, just like two tables are conceptually similar so they are near. A table and chair are far because they are conceptually different. The third is relational proximity. As a father, I’m close to my child because there is a relation. As a citizen, the relation is not that close. These are three real types of distance/proximity. Then there is the physical proximity which is an illusion. Just like you think you are in America. That is a total illusion. You are just interacting with certain things, which are interacting with other things, and they collectively create the illusion called ‘America’. If you closely interact, then the proximity increases, distance decreases.

    In modern science, especially relativity, there is this idea that force and space-time are the same things. But they still assume a space-time and then overlay matter on it. So, they are separating the two, but in some sense, they realize that they cannot truly separate them. We are saying something different. There are real spaces of relations, concepts, and emotions. Then from this real space, an illusory perceptual space is created which makes us think we are close.

    This is as far as matter is concerned. Then the relation between matter and soul. The same principle applies. If we interact closely with matter we think we are near to it, and from the nearness, we think we are inside the body, inside this world, etc. When we stop interacting, the world disappears. So, the soul is not inside anything. It is just interacting with these things, and that interaction creates the sense of proximity/distance, which is an illusion.

    Does it mean that we never ‘go’ to Godhead? Yes, in a sense. We just interact with the spiritual world, and by the same measure, we think we are inside the spiritual world. The stronger you interact the closer you are. So, this proximity is created by the ‘force’ of interaction. Factually God and we are different emotionally, conceptually, and relationally. This difference means we are far apart. But by a strong force of interaction, we can seem to be very close. Thus, if this force is increased, then even in this world we can interact with God. It would seem we are very close to God. The principle of attraction and how it creates proximity is the same everywhere.

    Danakeli Dasi

    Thank you for this elaboration involving the three types of real space vs. illusory space, the principle of attraction & the force of interaction. This thread has nicely given me an improved perspective & understanding of how to decrease the illusory proximity I have to matter & increase my proximity to Krishna.

    Devon Bonner

    According to the Vedas the universe is trillions of years old.My understanding of dating an object is that we must know the time that the form was embedded in the substance in order to get the age of any object. How are the Vedas able to calculate the age of the universe and the planets?

    Ashish Dalela

    There are no substances, there is only form. I have a post entitled “There is Only Form” in case you are further interested in this topic. What we call ‘substance’ is also form. Forms are expanded from forms, and forms collapse into forms. And all these forms are eternal. That expansion and collapse are what makes the world seem temporary. But it is like the entire tree is hidden inside the seed, and manifests from the seed. In the same way, the entire universe is like a mustard seed, but it expands within itself. This expansion is driven by consciousness. When consciousness looks deep inside matter, it sees there is a lot of diversity, but the diversity was already present. It is like looking at a forest close and then finding there are individual trees, then leaves on the tree, etc. So, when we speak about ‘age’, there is no age. It is all eternal. And yet it becomes manifest or unmanifest depending on where you are looking. The change must be understood as the change in focus of the consciousness. As you focus, it is manifest. As you defocus it is unmanifest. It is not created or destroyed; just visible or invisible to the soul.

    So, to the extent that you can go into the past historical record, and then say that someone knew about this in the past, to that extent you say that it has such and such age. If you can’t go into the past to find a historical record, then you have no clue about how old something is. A classic example is the Vedic culture itself. It has existed from the beginning of the universe. But people don’t believe that. They think they must find some historical record through archaeology.

    The modern methods of deciding the age of something based on carbon dating are flawed. It assumes a linear time. It assumes that at the beginning of the universe there must have been some percentage of C14 and it has been decaying linearly to we can decide the age. What if time is not linear? What if it goes in cycles, and the percentage of C14 increases and decreases with time? All the history is wiped out when the cycle is completed because everything is reset back to the original state. So, how can you find the age based on achaeological evidence?

    The Vedic description of the universe as being trillions of years old is based on the structure of time. There are cycles embedded within cycles. To know the age of the universe, you need to know the slowest cycle, and how much of that cycle has already passed. A standard computation in Vedic cosmology is that every planet covers the same distance during the course of the universe. Some planets have shorter orbits, so they go faster. Some have longer orbits and they go slower. But every single planet covers the same distance. And at the end of the universe, every single planet must have covered an integral number of revolutions. So, if you take the different orbits of the planets, and the rate at which they are moving, you find that number that satisfies the condition that every planet has completed an integral number of cycles. That is the age of the universe. Also, based on this you can see the current position, and automatically compute how much age has passed. So, these things are computable if you know the orbits and rates of revolution. The problem is that we know the rates of revolution, but not the orbital diameters. So, we are not able to compute the age of the universe. But the method is given in Vedic cosmology.

    The rates of revolution are empirical as we can see the planet going round and round. But the distance to the planet is derived based on assumptions about space and time. One assumption is that light moves in straight lines and spreads uniformly in space. We don’t agree with these assumptions. Accordingly, we don’t agree with the distances to the planets.

    In Newtonian physics, it is said that each planet sweeps equal areas in a given time. This is the basis of Newton’s gravitational theory. Surya Siddhanta describes a different principle. It says that every planet moves an equal distance in a given time. It may be moving in a shorter or longer orbit, but the distance it moves is constant. And these planets are also being dragged in opposite directions by other planets, so the dynamics becomes very complex, but the basic principle of gravity (i.e. equal areas in equal time) and Vedic cosmology (equal distance in equal time) are themselves fundamentally different. This difference is the basis of all other differences.

    Devon Bonner

    Thank you for the response. I have read “There is only form” .This article  helped to collapse the distinction between form and substance . I realize the world is ideas, abstract and contingent.
    I will also look at the Surya Siddhanta, to see the method of calculating planet orbitals and revolutions.

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