Sunday, July 31, 2011

What is Bhagavata Sankhya? - An Introduction ©


hat is Bhagavata Sankhya ©? The term Sankhya refers to an enumerative system of analytical study of the material world in terms of 26 elements, which is part of the ancient Indian Vedic system of thought.

Manuscript Under Preparation

Bhagavata Sankhya ©
A Contemporary, Scientific Introduction
By Ravi Gomatam
Director, Bhaktivedanta Institute, Berkeley, CA

[Any and all quotations from the material below must give the above citation]



hat is BHAGAVATA SANKHYA? The term SANKHYA refers to an enumerative system of analytical study of the structure of matter in terms of twenty-six elements, which is part of the ancient Indian Vedic system of thought. The term BHAGAVATA refers to Srimad Bhagavatam, the most-highly regarded text in the pantheon of Vedic literatures. Thus, the term Bhagavata Sankhya refers to a description of material elements as found in the Srimad Bhagavatam. The Bhagavata Sankhya is older and quite different from Ishwara Krishna’s Sankhya, more known amongst S. Asian scholars.

In this blog, I will attempt to present Bhagavata Sankhya concept of material elements in the context of the latest developments in various fields of modern science, beginning with physics. It is a rigorously scientific presentation that will be accessible to the general reader, who might not have a specialist background in modern science and/or in Srimad Bhagavatam or both.

As is well known, the word Veda means knowledge. The Vedic system of thought, or Vedic knowledge -- now called “Hinduism” -- is more accurately called SANATANA DHARMAIt connotes to knowledge pertaining to the eternal (santana) nature, and occupation (dharma), of the innumerable living entities (not mentioned but implied). Thus, sanatana dharma is not sectarian. It is universal. By contrast, one inherits in general the religion of the parents (marriage itself being generally confined to within religion, historically); although people do change to other religions at some point in their lives.

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anatana dharma or Vedic system of thought has innumerable scriptures in its fold. The four Vedas (Rig, Yajur, Sama and Atharva), the eighteen puranas (starting with Bhagavata purana,Vishnu Purana, Gauruda Purana etc.), the Upanishads (108 of them are principal, such as isoupanishad, Katopanishad etc.), the Vedanta SutraRamayanaMahabharata, numerous upa-puranas, Paancharaatrikas, Yaamalas, Tantras, and so on. They are too numerous to list here. No other religious system can boast of so-many scriptures. Scriptures, by the way, are by definition, revealed by God.

Although modern-day scholars try to differentiate between the purpose of these various Vedic scriptures (besides assigning to them dates and periods contrary to the Vedic tradition practiced by oral dissemination for eons), all the authorized Vedic scriptures have one common goal, namely to bring all the living entities in different species and possessing different mentalities to the one common goal, of attaining Bhagavat PremaDivine Love of Supreme Godhead. Enroute to achieving this ultimate goal, all kinds of subsidiary worship of upa-devataaor demigods and other entities are formulated and encouraged in order to accommodate the different mentalities of different living entities. In this sense, the Sanatana dharma is, in the ultimate analysis, a mono-theistic religion.

As the famous Six Goswamis of Sri Brnadaban dham have pointed out, Sarva sAstra Alodhya, punas, punas vicharya cha / idam ekam sunispannam, dheyo Narayana Sada. “By examining all the Vedic scriptures, and by repeatedly analysing them, one following point has been established beyond doubt as common and basic to all of them, namely worship of Sriman Narayana.”

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hagvata Purana or Srimad Bhagavatam is the foremost of all the Vedic literatures, occupying a status higher than that of even the four Vedas themselves, and the Vedanta Sutra. This has been established conclusively by Srila Jiva Goswami, one of the six Goswamis, in Tatva Sandarbha, first volume of six-volume masterpiece known as the Sad Sandharba. The Bhagavata Purana has 18,000 verses separated into twelve cantos.

While many topics are delineated in a holistic manner throughout the Bhagavata Purana, the topic of great relevance to contemporary science is the nature of matter and enumeration of its basic elements described in detail in the third canto of Srimad Bhagavatam, supplemented by discussions in the second and eleventh cantos. I have chosen to call it the Bhagavata Sankhya (henceforth, also BSk).

The Bhagavata Sankhya is very different from the Greek notion of material elements despite some superficial commonalities. Both mention the gross material elements as earth, water, fire and air. While the Greek system begins and stops with these four elements (occasionally including the fifth element of BSK, namely ether), the Bhagavata Sankhya neither begins nor ends with these elements. The BSk has in all 24 material elements – earth, water, fire, air, ether, the 5 tanmatras, five working and five knowledge gathering senses, mind, intelligence, false ego, and mahat tattva. The beginning point of all these is the pradhana, and the culmination is the phenomenal world that is given in the sense experiences. Apart from having far more material elements than the known Greek system, even with regard to the common elements - namely earth, water, fire, and air – BSK offers a radically different conception of them in comparison to the Greek system. It is possible to argue that the Bhagavata system of material elements considerably pre-dates the Greek system (even though modern-day British scholars have dated the Bhagavata Purana incorrectly to be around 600 C.E.), and that the Greeks being the great pursuers of the naturalized study of the world, limitedly borrowed from BSk in order to develop their own limited version of a notion of matter that is not theistic and thus naturalistic. A comparative study of BSK and the elements of Greek thought (pun intended) is also more appropriately done after we first study and understand Bhagavata Sankhya in its own rights.

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f great significance and importance, however, is a comparative study of modern science and Bhagavata Sankhya, since the concept of matter presented in BSK is actually of great relevance and use to modern science, in particular to macroscopic quantum physics. From thereon, we shall endeavour to show, the contemporary relevance of Bhagavata Sankhya expands to bear upon on all other fields of modern scholarship, including but not limited to, mathematics, chemistry, biology, neuroscience, engineering, social sciences, history, philosophy and theology. Indeed, the present work aims to give a contemporary, scientific introduction to Bhagavata Sankhya, with particular reference to its concept of matter. Even though BSk is explicitly theistic, and modern science is avowedly naturalistic, there is an immense natural connection between BSk and modern physics on the following basis.

Historically, Galileo introduced the distinction between primary and secondary properties. This will be a topic of considerable critical study in the later chapters of this work. For the present, we can briefly introduce these two ideas as follows. Primary properties are thought to be possessed by material objects in and of themselves, independent of whether other material objects or conscious observers exist. Typical examples of primary properties are, in modern parlance: position, length, mass, velocity, acceleration, and temperature. Secondary properties are properties that can be ascribed to objects only by appealing to the contents of conscious observers who perceive the object: color is a typical secondary property. Smell, taste etc. are also secondary properties.

Since Newton, modern physics has limited itself to the study of matter in terms of primary properties in its efforts to study the phenomenal in solely naturalized terms. This physics undoubtedly expanded both in terms of its pragmatic success and explanatory scope in successive centuries, progressing from early mechanics, thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, classical electromagnetic theory and eventually culminating in Einstein’s general theory of relativity. It can be said that although revolutionary in its own way – in terms of introducing space-time as a mathematical continuum and introducing a dynamic interplay between space-time and physical phenomena, instead of the former providing a passive background for the evolution of the later – even Einstein’s theory of relativity belonged to this cluster of what are now called “classical physics” theories in that provided a logical culmination of this classical physics.

However, the arrival of quantum theory (QT) at the start of twentieth century necessitated a profound shift in conceptual underpinnings of modern physics. It is a conceptual revolution that is not yet complete. Physicists and indeed scientists in all other fields do await with great anticipation what stellar conceptual revolution quantum theory will ultimately bring when the riddles lying at its conceptual basis are properly solved eventually. But in the present context, two points can be made.

One is that quantum theory has decisively invalided the idea that the quantum physical properties (which correspond to quantum mechanical observables) cannot be thought of as primary properties since primary properties possess definite values prior to and independent of our measurements of these properties. In quantum mechanics we cannot take that view without violating other enshrined classical physics ideas such as locality (the idea that if two objects are so separated that no physical signal travelling at or lower than the speed of light can mediate their interaction, then there can be no physical influence of one object over the other). In subsequent chapters, all problematic features of quantum mechanics will be described and dealt with in great detail in relation to BSK. So, a new notion of the physical properties apart from primary properties is needed to properly understand quantum theory.

Nevertheless, it is an amazing feature of QT that physicists have been able to put to practical use this theory by treating the quantum mechanical observables (such as x, p and H) as corresponding to classical properties such as position, momentum and energy, and apply it to deal with a vast range of atomic phenomenal. Let us call this as standard, microscopic quantum mechanics (mQM). However, despite its practical success, that primary properties are not the right ones for QT is shown by the deep, unsolved conceptual conundrums that mQM has so far engendered. There have been extreme solutions to this – ranging from ignoring the problem (treating as philosophers’ predilection), forcibly solving it (via metaphysical ideas such collapse postulate, pilot-waves or decoherence) or according a causal role for the consciousness of the experimenter directly within the theory. All of these have remained unsatisfactory for reasons we shall see later.

The Bhagavata Sankhya, in my hands, has been used to develop a solution to the quantum mechanical problem by showing that it leads to a new conception of relational properties which is “in-between” primary and secondary properties. The features of this range of properties very nicely match with the demands of quantum mechanical formalism, on the one hand, and Bhagavata Sankhya conception of material properties on the other. You, as a reader, will thus learn about Bhagavata Sankhya side-by-side by learning the foundational aspects of quantum physics and that is the thrust of this book: presenting BSK in the light of contemporary, scientific development.

<To be continued>

Copyright 2011 © Ravi Gomatam

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  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Explained in a very lucid manner in an unassuming way... Awaiting more stuff eagerly

  3. Space comprises components (real elemental matter) at a critical density of 3.6 E minus 25 kgs/ cu. m. The components are in a dynamic interactive state of perpetual harmonic oscillations at a stress frequency of 2.965E +8 cycles/ sec with a1 meter wavelength. It is axiomatic and constant. When due to acceleration the stress frequency increases the formation of particles with mass occurs. At a mass of 9,5 E minus 35 kgs (Neutrino) it starts to become detectable and at 6.6 E minus 34 kgs it forms a quanta as a light and then on is visible. Light and Neutrinos are stress holograms on the basic dynamic components. That is why two opposing light waves do not collide and get destroyed/ Holograms change forms only. So a galaxy at boundary in Neutrino states and becomes light photons as density increases towards its center (by compression) . These are greatest gift from Maharishi Kapilla "Sankhya"(logic of counting) to explore & investigate. Question: is it possible for numerical axioms to derive all hidden/detectable spectrum of nature ? pls explore

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Can you please tell me where is further edition of this subject? it is awsome.

  6. Hare Krishna Prabhuji! I am myself a beginner on this path and Kanha paved my way towards you and your work. It would be sublime to receive your guidance. Where and how can I reach out to you?