[Advaita-l] Re: Universe finite or infinite? -- a more fundamental view

Amuthan Arunkumar R aparyap at yahoo.co.in
Mon Apr 18 16:41:28 CDT 2005

namo nArAyaNAya !

dear list members and SrI Badisa,

in the recent past, there has been a lot of discussion
on the finiteness/infiniteness of the universe, in the
process of which some verses of purusha sUkta have
been pulled in. i get a feeling that the arguments on
either side (i.e. supporting both finite and infinite
nature of the universe) are deviating from the crux of
the issue. i guess the main problem is because of a
lack of proper definition for the terms used. below, i
add a few of my thoughts on this.  

first, i'd like to emphasize that any notion of
finiteness or infiniteness that we have is only due to
our mind's association with matter (objects). the
notion of finiteness or infiniteness is applicable
only in the realm of objects where this notion gives
us a feel of the relative size of objects. this
*cannot* be applied to the case of that which
*non-material*, simply because the terms finiteness
and infiniteness are defined only in the domain of
*matter* i.e. with reference to material objects. 

for non-material entities, the above definition fails
and we need a new notion of finiteness/infiniteness.
for instance, consider time. is time finite or
infinite, by the above definition? this question
cannot be answered, simply because the above notion of
finiteness/infinitess cannot be applied to time. i.e
an answer to this question does not exist in this
domain. (this is similar to a question like "how can
mAyA be sadasatvilakshaNam?", an anwer to this
question does not exist.) of course, based on the
simple logic that there cannot exist a time when time
originated or a time when time will end, time can be
considered as infinte. similar is the case of space.
thus, space too, is *infinite*. since space and time
form a part of the universe, the universe is infinite,
in this sense. (space and time (the non-material
universe) belong to the created universe since they
are created by the mind and cannot exist apart from
the mind)

now, if we were to ask if the *material* universe is
infinite, well, this is something which we can never
answer, simply because we can never possibly know
about this i.e the amount of matter in the universe.
so, in this case, it is just a waste of time talking
of the finiteness/infiniteness of the *material*
universe  because we don't have enough knowledge about
it. (note that the material universe forms a subset of
the created universe, and the latter is *infinite*
owing to the inclusion of space and time, which have
earlier been *proved* to be *infinite*)    

next, let us consider the finiteness/infiniteness of
the Atman. here too, the definition of
finiteness/infiniteness has to be altered, for
according to the former definition, saying that the
purusha is finite/infinite is an absurd statement
since that notion of finiteness/infiniteness is not
applicable to non-material entities. using statements
like "the purusha is infinite" is as absurd as saying
"a blind man sees everything black". just as there is
no *seeing* for a blind man, there is no material
reference based on which the purusha can be called
finite/infinite. in this case, saying that AtmA is
infinite (anantam) only means that the AtmA cannot be
grasped/understood/known by the mind.

regarding the Sruti references which some are very
intent in quoting, i'd like to add that Sruti is
needed only for facts relating to the Atman. in the
domain of the Atman, it is absurd to bring in science
or logic. but, for arguments relating events in
vyAvahArika satyam (i.e. for us!), established science
and logic are excellent pramANa-s. i'm sure a thousand
references can be found for the definition of
infinitess of Atman, used above, as its nature of
being beyond the grasp of the mind. eg. yato vAco
nivartante, aprApya manasA saha (Tai. Up.) etc.  

to sum it up, both the Atman and the created universe
are *infinite*, though the terms finite/infinite are
used with different meanings in different domains; it
is useless to argue using one single definition in all
the domains. hope this will resolve the
*contradictions* that arose in the previous mails. 

hari sarvatra,

Amuthan Arunkumar R,
4th year, B.Tech/M.Tech Dual Degree,
Department of Aerospace Engineering,
Indian Institute of Technology Madras.
Address : 327, Tapti Hostel, IIT Madras.

Ph : 9840482709

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