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A Virtual Universe?

Nayaswami Jyotish
June 2, 2017

Elon Musk is among a group of scientists and innovative thinkers who feel that it is likely that we live in a virtual-reality world. Their thinking goes something like this: The human race is very young in comparison to the life of the universe, and yet we have already advanced to the point where we are on the verge of creating virtual-reality worlds that can fool us into thinking and feeling that they are real. Therefore, the likelihood is that other, more advanced races, have already perfected this technology sufficiently to create a universe that seems completely real. And we are living in it. (Disclaimer: I am not endorsing this line of reasoning, only using it as a springboard for this blog.)

This approach answers a number of issues faced by science today, among which is a raging debate over whether the universe was created by intelligent design or whether it came into existence through natural processes alone. One great problem with a materialistic, accidental universe is that there are a number of forces, such as gravity and subatomic attractions, that are so exacting that the universe would cease to exist if they were but 1/10,000 of a percent stronger or weaker. The explanation that some materialistic scientists give sounds more like science fiction than science: an infinite number of proto-universes all but one of which fail; our universe alone exists because, against vast odds, only we have won the cosmic lottery where all of these delicate forces are just right.

Interestingly, for those who accept a Vedantic view of reality the idea of a virtual universe seems quite natural. Simply substitute Brahma (or God) for advanced races, and maya or dream for virtual reality, and it seems quite familiar. In both views, creation is not what it seems to the mind and senses. We might think of reincarnation as the repeated playing of virtual-reality games, slowly progressing until we finally tire of it all. When our need to stimulate the senses has been sated, and we long to rest in truth, we begin to experience, as Paramhansa Yogananda described it, “an anguishing sense of monotony.” That brings us, finally, to yoga and techniques designed to free us from the game of maya.