First episode of Cosmos

It is sad that despite Carl Sagan’s interest in Hindu point of view of the cosmos, Neil deGrasse stuck to Western world view of Cosmos as the yard stick in the new series Cosmos: A spacetime Oddessy. Neil deGrasse Tyson said in the first episode – “it was not until 500 years ago that we realized that Earth was not flat” (not verbatim). It is indeed surprising that he quoted this. The “We” he used in the whole episode actually shows how narrow minded the depiction has been.

Hindu Cosmology went way beyond big bang. The depiction of cyclical nature of the creation is an example. At jijnasa, Dr Nagaraju Sharma explained how in Yajur Veda, solar system was depicted.

Sure, these aspects of vedic texts may not have been scientifically proven during vedic period. However, later, especially post-Aryabhatta, there have been a slew of astronomers who had worked out a lot of details about universe, especially solar system, through mathematics and some yantras. So much so, that many calculations by these mathematician-astronomers come close to a double digit differences with modern calculations. The list of constants calculated by them is quite big. Fragments of the technological advance and experimentation in the field of astronomy are today available in India in the form of Jantar Mantar etc.

There is a legend associated with Kashi Vishwanatha temple, which was later destroyed by Aurangazeb. It is said that there was a 64 disk yantra (which we today call Tower of Hanoi or Lucas Tower”). It is said that pujaris and other visitors to the temple would move these disks according to the rules of Lucas Tower. The prediction is that when the tower is complete, it would be the end of the world. The enormity of Cosmic time couldn’t have been explained better. Curiously, the Lucas Tower looks like Meru Prastara that Pingala described!

Stories and examples abound. Not all texts from ancient Hindus was associated with theology alone. There was a great deal of astronomy and other sciences involved. Falsifiability was a major component in these theories. Falsifiability can be proven if one reads these texts.

Aryabhatta was corrected by Brahmagupta about division by zero. Brahmagupta was later corrected by Bharskaracharya II. This was the first time in the world that somebody worked out division by zero to be a very large number, so large that it would look like the infinite. Bhaskara called this infinite as Vishnu and rightly so because Vishnu means that which is everywhere (sarvatra vyapyate iti Vishnu). The “We” that Neil deGrasse mentioned in first episode were killing women calling them witches.

It is indeed disappointing that Neil deGrasse Tyson didnt have the courtesy to at least mention for at least a fleeting moment all through the first episode that there have been other cultures which had a much grander and quite astonishingly accurate views about the world, universe and the laws on which the world seems to be working.

Therefore, his statement in what he called Cosmic Calender (which he showed as a linear Gregorian Calender and laughably so), that only for the past 2 seconds years of cosmic calender did humans allow science to direct them in understanding the universe is wrong.

Carl Sagan had the following to say on how Hindus saw the universe. He was indeed very open-minded in his research and presentation too.

I hope and wish Neil deGrasse Tyson takes off his western eye-glasses and approaches his presentation with a little more open-mindedness.

Not all science was from Europe. Not all civilizations were as narrow-minded as the medieval European society driven by religious fanaticism persecuting point of views which are different from the biblical theological declarations about the creation.

PS: As a kid, it was fascinating to learn about the Universe. Carl Sagan’s works were one of the key components in growing this interest. Like most other kids of my age, I had to shelve these interests to pursue engineering to do thing that would put food on the table. As a kid when I first came across Carl Sagan’s works, I was eager to read his book Contact. Coming from a small town has many limitations. The book was impossible to find in my hometown. In my graduation years, I found the book but it was out of my financial capability to get a copy. Only later when I got a job, I bought the book. Carl Sagan’s openness reminded me that not all western scientists are narrow-minded. It remains that way. People like Euler, Carl Sagan and host of many such great minds were like lotuses in muddy waters.

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2 comments

  1. Majose · · Reply

    Did you notice around the twenty minute, it shows a dharma wheel, precisely when talking about a revelation about the cosmos. What do you think about that?

    1. I think the western world is yet to understand the fundamental differences between Buddhist philosophy and Hindu philosophy. Apart from the representational mechanisms like your example, there is nothing the show really talks about when it comes to ancient peoples of the indian subcontinent. Science and Technology flourished in this region, especially in the areas of astronomy and mathematics.

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