Saturday, June 5, 2010

Origin of Earth: The Indian view

Most religions believe that the earth was created by a Creator. However, the philosophers and peers of Indian subcontinent, who wrote Vedas and Upanishads, pose a searching question that who created the Creator? Does the Creator know what existed before him? What material he used to create the earth and universe and so on. These queries were made not by atheists or agnostics but by the devout Hindus of the subcontinent. They were allowed and encouraged to raise such questions because as Romaine Rolland in his book “Life of Ramakrishna” states:

“Religious faith in the case of Hindus has never been allowed to run counter to scientific laws”

Indeed, the origin of earth and life occupied a great deal of time of inquisitive minds. Ancient civilizations without any sophisticated equipment came out with results at times very close to scientific reality. In Hindu tradition, universe is supposed to precede humanity, other life forms and even gods. The people of ancient India suggested that this ‘being’ perceived as ‘Brahma’ gradually unfolded its inherent creative power and gave birth to the planet earth. Creation of universe in Vedic literature of Hindus is described from a ‘Cosmic Egg’ of Brahma and hence the term ‘Brahmand’ to define the universe. Ancient Indian religions were all about search for truth and there was no restriction either social or religious on innovative ideas.

Hindu thinks that this world and the present universe are not the ultimate reality. They are Maya (illusion) because they are constantly changing. Hindu philosophy insists on cyclisity and concludes that everything that happens today happened many times before. This is similar to the modern concept of Uniformitarianism in earth science. There is concept of utpatti (creation), sanraksha (preservation) and Pralaya (destruction). The concept of ‘Trinity’ in Hindu philosophy implies Creator (Brmha), Preserver (Vishnu) and Destroyer (Shiva). They are one and the same and either of them is not possible without the other.

Creation in Hindu scriptures is termed as ‘Srishti’ which means manifestation of energy as matter, the gross form from the subtle. We can see the gross, which is termed as ‘Maya’ and are not able to see ‘Brahma’ the cosmic force or primal energy which is at the root of existence. Srishti does not mean creation out of nothing, proclaim Upanishads, the holy books of wisdom. Hindu seers believe that creation is impossible from non-existence and universe in their view is projection of Supreme Being. The conclusion of these discussions is that in the beginning there was neither being nor non-being. The sanka prasna (doubt question) in Vrihdaranya Upanishad about 5000 years ago discussed origin of earth and the nature of substance used in creating the planet.

Hindu seers described the sky as ‘Shunya’ (nothing or zero). It is this shunya in which everything including the stars, planets, nebulae and galaxies are arranged in an ordered and related fashion. There is mention of twelve Zodiacal signs in ‘Rigveda’ that predates their mention in Greek literature at least by a thousand years. Rigveda can be said to be the oldest book of astronomy. Thus, the debate about the shape, size, interior and origin of the planet earth together with the life forms (Srishti) present on it have a long and continued history of speculation and hypotheses in India.

1 comment:

  1. This is very enlightening. They say life begins at 40. They are partially right. Life begins at 70 too.