[Advaita-l] Why does anything exist at all?

subhanu subhanu at hotmail.com
Mon Dec 15 13:42:42 CST 2014

Namaste to all,

I just happened across the exchanges regarding this topic and would urge caution in both interpreting the article as well as the Vedanta context. The BBC article seems to be a précis of a number of theories over recent years. Lawrence Krauss who is quoted wrote a book on the subject a couple of years ago.  Recently a precise mathematical derivation of the universe from such a state of "no thing" (written this way on purpose) was published starting with something called the Wheeler Dewitt Equation which is one of the attempts
to reconcile general relativity with quantum theory. The important point to note in the paper is that this state of "nothing" is described as not matter, not space, not time , but as a quantum potential. Now those familiar with advaita will note the similarity with "Neti Neti" in describing reality. Shankara and Suresvara clearly show us that this negation does not leave true nothingness as this is the path to nihilism . Also, the act of observing the kind of creation described requires an observer which firmly places us in the realm of adhyāsa. In addition we know that space and time are but figments of avidyā (vide the vārtikā Desha-kālādyasambhandhāt deshāder moha-kāryataha), so describing a state that is not matter, space or time in the advaita tradition does not describe nothingness. Now physicists have already introduced the concept of adhyāsa into cosmology via the holographic principle where the world is a superimposition onto a substrate of fewer dimensions , so we can at one level be confident that the insights of modern physics, whilst consistent in their own realm, can never transcend the adhyāsa they are bound by. For even Heisenberg reminded us the "what we observe is not nature itself but nature exposed to our method of questioning". In addition we must remember two points re modern cosmology : first that we don't even know what 96% of the universe is , since 23% is dark matter and 73% is dark energy. So physics is a way off from explaining what reality is. Second, some multiverse theories postulate brane collisions in something called "the bulk" that result in "big bangs". The bulk as some state of quantum fluctuation is also not nothing. Remember there are still competing theories on the origin of the universe so don't assume the answer is in the article given just yet. 

Finally we would do well to remember the dictum of Gaudapāda et al that creation  etc is only a device for establishing the non dual Brahman (vārtikā: evam bhūtātma-siddhyartham kārańādi prasādhyate. Upāyah so'vatārāya tathā tajjñyaischa sūtritam). In fact it is a mistake to even postulate that something is "created" out of some stuff other than brahman, since the world is nothing other than something falsely imagined , the ātmā unknown  (vārtikā: ajñāta ātmā jagataha kārańam na guńatrayam ).

The mathematical paper is given below for those interested:



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