The ancient rishis (sages) of India went deeper into the laws of life, nature, and God than any other people in history. Many of the great modern scientific discoveries merely confirm what the rishis discovered centuries ago about the atomic constitution of matter and the basic laws of the physical world.
A rediscovery of ancient knowledge
Much modern knowledge, indeed, is not new, but only a rediscovery of what was known before. The ancient Greeks knew, for example, that the earth is round, and that it is not at the center of the universe. The ancient calendar of the Mayas, in Central America, was more exact than the modern calendar. And the writings of ancient India indicated sophisticated knowledge of the cosmos, including the atom.
Modern scholars, however, blithely believe that 10,000 years ago all men were sunk in a barbarous Stone Age. They summarily dismiss as “myths” all records and traditions of very ancient civilizations not only in India but also in China, Egypt, and other lands.
Knowledge of the subatomic world
The “atomic theory” is generally considered a new advance of science, but the atomic structure of matter was well-known to the ancient Hindus. One of the six systems of Indian philosophy is Vaisesika, which deals with the atomic nature of matter.
One of the foremost Vaisesika expounders was called Kanada, “the atom-eater,” born about 2800 years ago. Kanada brilliantly described the atomic structure of matter and assigned the origin of the world to atoms. In the Vaisesika treatises, the atom is described as resembling a miniature “solar system” and possessing an incessant vibratory motion.
The scientific knowledge recorded in the ancient Vaisesika treatises covered a vast spectrum. Other known scientific Vaisesika expositions include:
- The relativity of time and space
- The law of gravitation and its causes
- The movement of needles toward magnets
- The circulation of water in plants
- Heat as the cause of molecular change
- The nature of kinetic energy
- The radiation of heat and light rays (the modern “cosmic rays” theory)
Duality: the “texture and structure” of creation
The ancient Hindu scriptures declare that the physical world operates under the law of maya, the principle of duality. God’s one consciousness took on the appearance of opposites—positive and negative, light and darkness, pleasure and pain, etc. Every great scientific discovery of modern times has merely confirmed this simple pronouncement of the rishis.
Newton’s Law of Motion, for example, is a law of duality: “To every action, there is always an equal and opposite reaction.” To have a single force is impossible. There must be, and always is, a pair of forces, equal and opposite.
The entire physical world reflects this polarity. Electricity is a phenomenon of repulsion and attraction—its electrons and protons are electrical opposites. Similarly, the atom, like the earth itself, is a magnet with positive and negative poles.
Maya or duality is the very texture and structure of creation. Scientists can do no more than probe one aspect after another of its varied finitude.
The limits of scientific knowledge
All creation is governed by law. Natural laws manifest in the outer universe and are discoverable by scientists. But only through the inner science of yoga is it possible to know the subtler laws ruling the hidden spiritual planes. Science, for example, understands that the activity of electrons and protons underlies all material forms. But scientists do not know how electrons and protons rearrange themselves into different forms and create different kinds of matter.
It is the fully Self-realized master who understands the subtle laws governing the material levels. He knows, through intuition, that it is the Divine Intelligence that commands electrons and protons to arrange themselves in different combinations. Atoms and electrons are blind forces, but prana, the intelligent life force, guides their activity according to the karmic design.
Science studies the nature of the universe outwardly, proving its existence by experimentation. But what is true to reason and sense perception is not always true. The only way to know truth is to intuitively realize it. Can you know the taste of sugar without tasting it? No! So it is with the yogi.
The yogi goes beyond experimentation to actual experience–he experiences everything within himself. The scientist investigates the atom outwardly through experimentation, but the yogi becomes the atom. From within alone can a thing be understood in its true essence.
Future steps in man’s awakening
As steps in man’s awakening, God inspires scientists to discover, at the right time and place, the secrets of His creation. When we think of how fast light and electricity move, the flight of airplanes seems like the movement of an ox cart.
The time will come when man will learn to change the atomic vibrations of his gross body, make them into an astral force—and shoot along with the astral light rays, traveling faster than the speed of light. However, when man learns the full mystery of mind and matter, he will be able to travel faster than any force—material, astral, or light. If he wished to be in the sun or the moon or the fastest star, he could be there instantly.
Truth—a constant rediscovery
Yoga is an ancient science, thousands of years old. Its perceptions form the backbone of the greatness of India. However, the truths espoused in the yoga teachings, are not limited to India, nor to those who consciously practice yoga techniques.
Whenever a great scientific or spiritual figure arises, East or West, his message does not differ in any essential respect from the ancient philosophy of India. Truth is One, though men call it by various names. There can not be two truths.
Destroy all books, all traditional learning, and still, the basic truths of life would be discovered all over again, exactly the same, by the inquiring spiritual mind with its penetrating insight.
This article first appeared in print in Winter 2009: “Uncovering the Cosmic Mysteries,” Swami Kriyananda, Clarity Magazine.
Excerpted from books and articles