Wednesday, December 11, 2013

VIII: 18

Chapter 8, Verse 18

"Day dawns
And all those lives
That lay hidden,
Asleep in the unmanifest,
Come forth
And show themselves,
Mortally manifest.
Night falls
And all merge again
Into the sleeping germ of life,
Which is called the unmanifest.

Swami Shivananda:

When Brahmaa, the Creator, awakes, all manifestations, both moving and unmoving, animate and inanimate, stream forth from the unmanifested at the coming of the "day."  When Brahmaa goes to sleep, all the manifestations merge in the unmanifested, for the cosmic "night" has set in.

Carl Sagan:

The Hindu religion is the only one of the world's great faiths that is dedicated to the idea that the Cosmos itself undergoes an immense, indeed an infinite, number of deaths and rebirths.  It is the only religion in which the time scales correspond to those of modern scientific cosmology.  A millennium before the Europeans were willing to divest themselves of the Biblical idea that the world was a few thousand years old and before the Mayans were thinking in terms of millions of years,  the Indians were thinking in terms of billions of years.

In India, there are many gods and goddesses, and each has many manifestations.  The Chola bronzes of the eleventh century include several different incarnations of the god Shiva.  The most elegant and sublime of these is a representation of the creation of the Universe at the beginning of each cosmic cycle, a motif known as the cosmic dance of Shiva.  The god, called in this manifestation Nataraja, the Dance King, has four hands.  In the upper right hand is a drum whose sound is the sound of creation.  In the upper left hand is a tongue of flame, a reminder that the Universe, now newly created, will billions of years from now be utterly destroyed.

These profound and lovely images are, I like to imagine, a kind of premonition of modern astronomical ideas.  Very likely, the Universe has been expanding since the Big Bang, but it is by no means clear that it will continue to expand forever.  The expansion may gradually slow, stop and reverse itself.  If there is less than a certain amount of matter in the Universe, the gravitation of the receding galaxies will be insufficient to stop the expansion, and the Universe will run away forever; but if there is more matter than we can see, hidden away in black holes, say, or in hot, invisible gases between galaxies, then the Universe will hold together gravitationally and partake of a very Indian-like succession of cycles, expansion followed by contraction, Universe upon Universe, Cosmos without end.

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