Evolution of the Universe - Atman

From the empirical observations, we establish that the human beings are likely the most developed of objects in the universe and also possibly that the human beings are the culmination of a process that has been active ever since the universe was created.  There is likelihood that the process is continuing.  Diligently going back in time sieving through various observations, and by tracking radiation from the distant past, astronomers have estimated the age of the universe to be around fourteen billion years.  The universe supposedly began as a singularity and has expanded ever since appearing homogeneous and isotropic at any point in space, leading to the thought that we exist on the surface of an expanding universe, which expands like a balloon under air pressure.  This model explains a large number of observations including the formation of elements once the initial conditions are obtained.  Science remains quiet as to how the initial conditions were arrived at and why there are certain basic physical laws which have to be believed to be stationary in time.  Science is concerned in explaining the present universe and helps us to inquire into the source of life and understanding of our body and habitat in order to predict a possible extinction in the future.


In the eastern theory from the Upanisads, our universe may be conceived as one manifestation of umpteen universes that the Brahman is capable of creating.  The current universe is a signature of prANA, manifested as breath, which becomes the characteristic of vital energy in the universe.  prANa carries with it a manifested part of Brahman and this has been termed Atman, the Self. The universe started with one manifested Atman, which continued to divide and create other objects and species through a grand design, which it is capable of doing.  By characteristic, Atman is infinite in its conception, but can be encased in a "body" of its choice.  It also can create its encasing through its own desire.  In literature, Brahman is used as a neuter, while Atman is a masculine term, possibly connoting a concept that Atman is realizable while Brahman can only be projected.  How long the cosmic prANa might take to manifest as the terrestrial breath is anybody's guess, but it is not a point in time.  The process throws away the finiteness of the measured time and invokes the concept that the birthing is a deliberate design process and the origin would be unfathomable, being much farther in time.


From the terrestrial sensing of sound as being the most developed attribute in life, one can extrapolate that Atman might develop the first desire of "hearing" and hence help create space around it.  From space air, from air fire, from fire water and from water earth might develop in cosmological progression.  Atman can divide itself and make different entities with casings made by different mix of the elements in course of time.  What we can imagine is that a universe can be built from a nuclear Atman, which we may call as the Originator, or paramAtmA as is used in the literature.  We can think that the potency in the individual AtmA (the nominative of Atman) is no different than the primitive paramAtmA except that the latter might create a larger casing in which various other casings are held.  This larger casing is our universe.  The inner casings are occasionally called jIva or jivAtmA, to connote the fact that they are "born" in the universe whereas paramAtmA had a more primitive origin.  All casings are considered finite, while the vital contents are not. We will come to resolve this later.


In the process of manifestation, Atman carries prANa, vAk, mana in the process, all of them try to create an identity for the Atman to be embodied in the casing.   prANa creates organs and sustains all through the breath.  They together form the "body" and depending on the functionality generate a signature "ego".  Mana enters the entity and takes up the task of supporting the "ego" and hence becomes a local mana, our mind function.  This “mind” carries the infinitude of the original cosmic mana, but is limited by the local needs and is further constrained by a memory which is developed in the body. The cosmic vAk projects itself into this mana, we have a new quantity called chitta.  Like the cosmic vAk, chitta is unconstrained by the local casing, but does get affected by the local mana.  Mana thinks, mana creates perceptions with the help of sense organs and and these impressions act as layers on chitta.  Our religious practices, worship services and disciplined conduct are all designed to eliminate the mind's layers and hope to get us guided by our chitta.  The techniques of these processes are prescribed in the literature of yoga philosophy, which presents as a science by itself.


In the next article, we will develop the underlying principles of the creation of the physical universe accepted in the eastern tradition.  These principles make a system of discipline known as sAnkhya, developed by the sage Kapila sometime between 2nd century BC and 2nd century AD.  The thoughts so far have been taken from the brahmasUtram, the brhadAraNyaka upanisad, the chAndogya upanisad and the mAndukya upanisad.


Let Sai bless us.

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