Sanatan Dharma : One World, One Family


In Sanskrit, the word, Sanatan means eternal, something that has no beginning and no end, and dharma may be loosely translated to mean duty, and, therefore, Sanatan dharma may be taken to mean, eternal duty. So, what is the eternal duty of human beings?

Modern physics unravels the mystery.

The year is 1995 and high schooler, Amanda Gefter is having dinner with her dad, Dr. Warren Gefter, Professor of Pathology at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, at their favorite Chinese restaurant, House of Hunan, in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, just west of Philadelphia. During the course of the evening, Professor Gefter asks Amanda, What is nothing? Puzzled, Amanda answers, absence of something, absence of everything, why do you ask? Warren replies, the answer just might hold the key to the mystery of the beginning of the universe.

In her New York Times best-selling book, Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn, Amanda writes, for the first time in many years, the class-cutting, and sleeping-through-classes teenager had a smile on her face. She asks her dad, so, how do we find out? Dr. Gefter replies, let’s do some research.

Research they did over the ensuing decade, buying book after book on cosmology, theoretical physics, quantum mechanics, particle physics, etc., turned a spare room into a library, and studied late into the night, when Amanda’s mom would tell them, it was very late and that they should come to bed.

The father-daughter duo found a hint here, a clue there, but no real answers. Then, they decided, they needed to talk to physicists.

By this time, the year is 2002, and Amanda has graduated from college, and she is working at a bridal magazine called, Manhattan magazine in New York city when she discovers that there was going to be a Physics and Ultimate Reality Conference at Princeton to celebrate the ninetieth birthday of famed Theoretical Physicist, John Archibald Wheeler, a colleague of Albert Einstein at Princeton.

The pair manages to get two passes, pretending to be journalists, to attend the conference.  When the opportunity presented itself, Prof Gefter asked Prof. Wheeler, who created the universe? Wheeler responded, Physics, the universe is a self-excited circuit. Amanda excitedly wrote down in her notebook, Wheeler thinks the universe came out of nothing!

In the ensuing decade, Amanda Gefter interacted with some of the best brains in physics including Stephen Hawking, finally concluding that ultimately, nothing (physical) is real. The nothingness of the void creates the energy phase of the big bang which then creates the universe. She published her findings in the book, Trespassing on Einstein’s Lawn, in 2014 (Bantam Books).

How did the nothingness of the void produce the big bang event which then created the universe? Kowall explains.

In 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered that the universe was expanding. Naturally, the universe would be smaller in the past. Physicists tell us that if we go back some 13.8 billion years, the universe would be an unbelievably hot and immensely dense energy phase, about the size of Plank length, 10-33 cm in diameter.

So, on one side of the energy phase, there is this ever-expanding universe, but what’s on the other side? Kowall reasons that nothing physical can pass through the size of Plank length and be present on the other side, not even the four fundamental forces of nature (electromagnetism, gravity, strong nuclear force, and weak nuclear force) because they are physical, but consciousness can for it is not physical.

In a nutshell, then, the undifferentiated consciousness of the void creates the energy phase of the big bang event which then creates the universe.

The reader may be reminded of the Puranic story of creation with Paratpara Shiva and Adyashakti. You may recall that Shiva is also known as Ardhanareshwar, half-male, half-female, implying that both consciousness and energy are required for creation.

His Holiness, The Dalai Lama may be seen to echo Kowall’s finding when he says, “The universe may end one day, but consciousness will remain for it is eternal.”

Whatever is in the universe today, was already present in the energy phase of the big bang event, albeit in unmanifest form.

The Samkhya hypothesis helps us make further progress. The Samkhya philosophy is mentioned in the Rig Veda and there is a chapter on Samkhya Yoga in the Bhagvad Geeta.

This hypothesis posits that all creation is made up of five principal elements: Prithvi (matter elsewhere in the universe, is present on Earth), Jal (water), Agni (Fire, heat), Vayu (air), and Akash (Consciousness & energy), and the three Gunas (attributes) S, R, and T. The three Gunas, in turn, are correlated to the two human emotions: positive emotions and negative emotions.

Sir J. C. Bose, FRS, had shown that even plants feel pain and metals feel stress.

The upshot of the foregoing discussion is that the energy phase is our primordial source, and that we should want to return to the source at the end of life. It is our sanatan dharma.

In Hinduism, the process of returning to the source is called Jeeva Samadhi while in Buddhism, it is called Thukdam. See this article and the video clip as examples. Russian neuroscientists and His Holiness have studied the phenomenon of Thukdam.

The sages suggest that everyone readies himself/herself to return to the source over many lifetimes. The meditative processes that enable the seeker to return to the source, also produce a shift from negative emotions to positive emotions in the seeker along the way, and therefore, these practices are worthy of adoption by everyone regardless of their place in the journey. This is the pathway for one world, one family.

On the side, everyone has consciousness, the differentiated kind, and thus, we too must possess the capacity to create, specifically, to transform energy into matter, and vice versa, but not the ability to create something from nothing. That capability is reserved for the undifferentiated consciousness.  It is for these reasons, sages have coined terms like Aham Brahmasmi and I Am That.


Pradeep B. Deshpande is Professor Emeritus in and former Chairman of the Chemical Engineering Department at the University of Louisville.

James P. Kowall is a triple board certified physician, and holds a doctorate in Theoretical Physics.

(The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect those of Parikh Worldwide Media/News India Times)



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