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Vivekananda and the Einsteins

When reading the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, it is important to remember that embedded in his language are the scientific views of his day, some of which are no longer current.
 
As, for instance, when Swamiji uses the terms "force" and "matter" for "Prana" and "Akasha," he is referring to what we would call energy and mass. The physicists no longer use the term force as equivalent to energy. The Sanskrit word Prana means what we now call energy, not force.
 
Also, it is important to remember that what we call an atom, as we conceive it now, was not even invented by Neils Bohr till 1911, some nine years after Swamiji had passed away. It is no use thinking that when Swamiji uses the term atom that he means what we mean today.
 
In Swamiji's day the mix of the chemical elements in the Universe was thought to have been given at the time of "creation," if there was a "creation," or to have been around "forever," if there was a "forever." It is on the basis of that view that Swamiji suggested in a lecture that if you just keep shuffling the mix long enough, it will come out in the present configuration again. (He suggested that he had given that lecture before with that
tumbler of water on the table.) No one thinks like that now. The chemical mix is changing, and the entropy is going up. The scrambledness of the energy is going up. We no longer agree with Sir James Jeans that a band of monkeys, turned loose on a bank of typewriters, might type out a Shakespeare sonnet.
 
It is important to remember also that what we now refer to as modem science was not the science of Swamiji's day. Modem science came out of relativity and quantum mechanics, which imply that the first cause under our physics is uncertainty (Vivarta). What Swamiji referred to as modem science was the older physics, Newtonian physics, which is based entirely on transformational causation (Parinama).
 
Having failed to square his Advaita Vedanta (which holds to Vivarta) with Newtonian physics (which holds to Parinama), Swamiji then tried to square it with Sankhya (which holds to Parinama), because he knew how to get from Sankhya to Vedanta.
 
In Vedanta, the three Gunas are taken as three aspects of a misinterpretation, like mistaking a rope for a snake. There is the veiling power of Tamas (in the twilight you must fail to see the rope rightly); there is the projecting power of Rajas (you must jump to the wrong conclusion); and there is the revealing power of Sattva (if you hadn't seen the rope at all, you wouldn't have mistaken it for a snake). The Sankhyans didn't hold to this misinterpretation business and used the Gunas in an entirely different way — as things. There are "particles" of Tamas (inactivity), "particles" of Rajas (activity), and "particles" of Sattva (balance). They have the Universe arising from an imbalance of the
Gunas. Well, I just don't think it goes that way. And in Sanskrit, the word Rajas is mostly used to designate an impurity (something else), never an activity. According to the Sanskrit-English Dictionary of Sir Monier Monier-Williams, activity, or energy, is not associated with the word Rajas in the Sanskrit language.
 
There is a very important physical concept embodied in the use of the Gunas as the veiling, projecting, and revealing powers of an apparent misperception. Through the notion of time and space, arising through our identification with a material object (the body), Tamas veils the changeless, the infinite, the undivided (which is beyond time and space). Then, through the genetic programming, Rajas projects the appearance of the changing, finite and divided world, which, through Heisenberg's uncertainty principle,  we see as within time and space. But, through the revealing power of Sattva (which is native to sentiency itself), the changeless shows in the appearance of change as inertia. Likewise, the infinite shows in the appearance of smallness as the electrical charge. And the undivided shows in the appearance of dispersion as gravity.
 
The reason this use of the Gunas is so important is because our physics lacks any other explanation for gravity, electricity and inertia. Sri Ramakrishna used Rajas for worldliness (seeing something else).
 
(Matter fights every change in its state of motion. The electrical energy of an electrical particle would go to zero only if the size of the particle went to infinity. And the gravitational energy of the Universe would go to zero only if the dividedness went to zero.)
 
Usually, Swamiji's use of the Gunas follows Sankhya; I don't know why. Probably they were so used in his educational background. Most of India runs with Sankhya, not Vedanta. They have the Universe arising from the veiling and projecting powers and made out of ignorance. They don't see that it arises out of the revealing power and is made out of sentiency, Brahman. Sri Ramakrishna saw it as Chinmaya (made out of sentiency) not Mrinmaya (made out of earth).
  
The European physicists and philosophers seem to have taken matter to be inert and insentient. But how could anyone who lives in an earthquake zone take matter to be inert? We don't push those mountains around; they push each other around. The Sankhyans take matter (Prakriti) to be active but insentient. They put sentiency in the Purushas, which are many. They say Prakriti dances for the Purushas.
 
But how could anyone see matter as insentient? If the stone didn't know where the Earth is, it would certainly not fall toward it. And if the electron didn't know where the proton is, we would not have a Universe of hydrogen.
 
Vedanta sees matter as both sentient and "ert" (active), and it is sentiency, through the revealing power of Sattva, that drives the whole Universe.   
 
Most of the Vedantic writings, like Vedantasara, follow Sankhya. They leave out the revealing power, which is native to sentiency, itself, and mention only the veiling and projecting powers, which are native to the genetic programming. They, like the Sankhyans, have the Universe arising out of ignorance. For the Sankhyans the goal is isolation from Prakriti (Kaivalya).
 
But Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swamiji saw it as it is said in the Upanishad, "All this is verily Brahman." All beings are that. The worship of all beings is the worship of that. As Buddha said, "Bahujana hitaya, bahujana sukhaya" (For the good of the many, for the happiness of the many). Sri Ramakrishna's remarks imply that Maya is nothing but the genetic programming. He said that Maya is nothing but the egotism of the embodied soul. That is genetic. He also said that Maya is nothing but woman (or man) and gold, and these are simply prime directives of the genetic programming. But through the revealing power, the reality shows through. That is what drives the Universe. (The electrical and gravitational energies of the Universe are the infinitude and undividedness of Brahman showing through.) You cannot leave the revealing power out.
 
In the 1890's, Swamiji had a problem. He was face to face with the European and American physicists who saw a Universe of matter and energy in the framework of space and time. They saw the Universe as consisting of real particles with real mass and real energy moving through real space in real time. But Swamiji knew, from his own experience, that there was only one reality, one existence, not two, behind what we see. And he was presumably upset by the fact that the physicists had matter (mass) as well as energy. 
 
It must have been with this problem in mind that he approached Nikola Tesla, at Sarah Bemhardt's party in New York on February 13 th, 1896, and asked him if he could show that what we call matter could be reduced to potential energy. He said, in a letter, that he is to go next week "to get this new mathematical demonstration." But, alas, Tesla apparently failed in his attempt to show it, so the problem languished.
 
Enter Mileva Einstein, Einstein's first wife, who was a physicist and a close friend of Tesla. She must have been aware of Swamiji's problem, and she would surely have noticed, when she wrote the papers for her husband in 1905, that he had the problem solved.
 
In the world's first important paper on quantum mechanics, his paper on the photoelectric effect, Einstein had pointed out that if something is receding from us, the energy of its radiation is seen red shifted to lower energy. And that if it is approaching, the energy of its radiation is seen blue shifted to higher energy. In Einstein's other paper, on relativity, he had pointed out that if something is receding from us, its mass is seen to be reduced, and that if it is approaching, its mass is seen to be increased.
 
It would have been a simple matter for Mileva to notice that, since the apparent loss of  energy on recession is paralleled by the apparent loss of mass, mass and energy might be the same thing. E = mc2, Einstein's famous equation which connects his two papers, appears in the appendix to his relativity paper, not in the paper itself.
 
It may not be a presumption that Swamiji saw that what we call energy is the underlying existence showing as changeless through the changes in time. After all, that is the standard nomenclature of Indian Vedanta. Brahman is the underlying existence which, seen through space and time, is called Shakti (energy).
 
Swamiji tried to change the physics. And if Tesla, at Swamiji's suggestion, had been able to show that what we call matter is just potential energy, Swamiji might have squared his Advaita Vedanta with science. But the identity of mass and energy was not shown by the Einsteins for another nine years and, by then, Swamiji was gone.
 
Toward the end of his life here, Swamiji tried to square Sankhya (which is dualistic) with science. But, even there, he apparently failed because the Prakriti-Purusha dualism of Sankhya is very a different thing from the matter-energy dualism of Newtonian physics.
 
It may be that Swamiji's use of Tamas as inactivity (inertia or matter) and Rajas as activity (energy) is evidence of his effort to square Sankhya with science, because Vedanta could not be squared with the science of his day. The science wasn't ready. Had Swamiji dallied on Earth for another ten years or so, the identity of his Advaita Vedanta and the changed science, (what is now called modern science) would have been immediately transparent to him, although neither the Vedantins nor the scientists appear to have noticed.
 
 
Hollywood, California John L. Dobson
February, 1998