Chapter 3 – Yoga as Science
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We should look upon yoga as a science of consciousness, not a religion. Previously western scientists did not think that yoga had anything to contribute to our understanding of where we come from or what is the origin of our universe. But times are changing – if you research what is current in physics today, you will find quotations from the Upanishads in speeches and papers presented by notable physicists who have some knowledge of the Vedic literature.
Several years ago, a biologist named Robert Lanza wrote a book called Biocentrism. Lanza is the world’s leading stem-cell therapist and clone scientist. Stem-cell therapy uses regenerative cells and proteins from the human body to heal people. It is both a very involved science and a very controversial topic amongst some sections of society. Lanza shook up the whole scientific community by saying that everything we think we know is wrong, particularly everything we think we know about the universe. The most widely accepted theory is that life appeared in the universe as a result of the Big Bang. In other words, life evolved from matter. However, Lanza postulates that the universe is a result of consciousness. Initially, though impressed with Lanza’s book, I did not think that the scientific community was ready for such a quantum change in their world view. However, I was pleased to discover that many scientists take Robert Lanza with the utmost seriousness, so much so that today, many scientific research institutes, such as the Max Planck Institute in Germany, have a department dedicated solely to the study of consciousness as the primal cause of existence. The understanding that consciousness produced matter and not the other way round is perfectly in line with yogic and Vedic conceptions.
Darwin, and those who follow in his footsteps, focus exclusively upon an evolution of material life-forms, leading from one species to the next, culminating in the human form of life. However, the yogic concept focuses upon the evolution of consciousness which manifests in various species until it reaches the human form. Human life is the opportunity for realising the nature of the Absolute Truth and ultimately attaining samadhi to transcend the world of birth and death. This is the Vedic paradigm. Consciousness exists before and beyond matter and matter is the result of consciousness. Because of a defect in consciousness, matter is formed, and thus the material universes manifest and we live surrounded by matter.
The yoga system aims to reverse that and to again attain pure consciousness, free from matter. Some like to say that there is a world of pure light – the Vedas call this the brahma-jyoti. Some ancient texts suggest that within the brahma-jyoti there are spiritual planets beyond this material universe, where there is spiritual life and pure consciousness with form. Samadhi, the ultimate goal of yoga, is the threshold between this world and the world of pure light and pure light forms. These light forms are called Vaikuntha planets. The scientists are not exactly at the stage of understanding this yet, but it is a giant step for a scientist to claim that consciousness creates matter.
Historically, it sometimes seems that the further you go back, the more accurate an answer you will find. For example, nowadays physicists are trying to perceive what they call Dark Matter, which they claim makes up about 84.5% or more of our universe. You can’t see it, you can’t touch it, and you can’t smell it. They don’t know what it is, but they figure it must be everywhere. They call it an element and they call it Dark Matter and that is what they are looking for using a Super Collider in Switzerland, which costs almost a million dollars a day to run. According to their mathematical calculations, if we add everything we can see in the universe together, there is still 400 times more estimated mass than is observable. The Sankhya philosophy, which is part of yoga, explains what Dark Matter is and refers to it as the ethereal element. Sankhya says that there are eight material elements – earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence, and false ego. The ethereal element is everywhere and its properties are accommodating space for existence. Today’s scientists are just figuring it out, but the sages of ancient India explained this in Sanskrit thousands of years ago. They didn’t spend a million dollars a day trying to encapsulate it. What else did these sages say about life and this universe? If those sages understood that there is a subtle material element beyond our experience, which is a major contributor to the whole being of the universe, then why should we disregard what they said about yoga and spirituality?
When it comes to physics in the ancient world, the yogis and rishis of India even knew about the atom. Some of the early Greek thinkers such as Democratus and Leucipus also philosophised about the existence of the smallest particles coming together to form the universe – but nobody spoke about the atom again until the 19th Century. If we know that the rishis of India were right about these scientific theories, then why should we assume that whatever they wrote about spirituality is simply mythology? Albert Einstein is considered to be one of the most intelligent scientists that has appeared in the modern world. He wrote about the Theory of Relativity – he didn’t do a turnaround on the weekends and write Spiderman stories for Marvel Comics. No – because he was present on a particular plane of thinking.
The idea of teleporting material objects from one place to another (even passing thru solid matter) was first spoken of in the west by Nikola Tesla at the beginning of the 20th Century. However, this concept can be found in the Vedic literature thousands of years ago. Teleportation has been shown in Hollywood movies, and is theoretically possible according to scientists such as Tesla, yet it has never been achieved by modern science. Yet we find that the yogic literatures speak about prapti-siddhi – the ability to extend one’s hand to a distant place and bring back a physical object – for example, a yogi in South India may extend his hand and fetch a pomegranate from Afghanistan.
Another question raised by modern scientists is the question of life on other planets. According to the theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Stephen Hawkings there almost certainly is life beyond our world. This again is a concept well explored in the yogic literature. Yogis have been described as travelling to other planets by a method known today as warp drive theory or time-travel – the ability to warp time and space. Again, modern science admits that this is theoretically possible, yet NASA and the scientists of our time have not been able to achieve it. However, the yogis seem to have known this siddhi and were able to go to other planets in almost zero time. This is found in yogic literature and is currently supported by theoretical maths and physics.