Beyond the Universe; Rediscovering Ancient Insights
R.K. Mishraji was born on this day, Sept. 28th, 1932. He would have been 78 years old today. It is my privilege to review his first book titled, Before the Beginning and After the End before an august audience, all who have been touched by his persona in some way or the other between the Beginning of his life, and its premature End. However, just as this title gives us a feeling of continuity similarly, we can even today sense Mishraji’s presence amongst us through his immortal words. He was a prolific writer, thinker, journalist, politician, and, few people knew that he was a Vedic scholar and a profound philosopher too. Based on the deep-rooted understanding of his Guru Shri Motilal Shastriji and before him Shri Madhusudan Ojhaji, Mishraji continued the scientific analysis of the Vedas in his four books in English.The material is so vast and the contents so extremely erudite that to do justice to even one volume in finite time is a difficult task. As we will see now, Before the Beginning and After the End is a text replete with Vedic revelations and thus Mishraji has qualified its title further as ‘Rediscovering Ancient Insights’.
In keeping with the spirit of the author, I ‘begin at the end’ – “Reflections” is the last section of this Book, and here, in simple prose spanning seven pages, Mishraji has summed up the entire work succinctly, with the poetic flair of an Upanishadic Brāhman. It is almost like a Śūtra. Therefore, I begin at the end and will unravel a few key concepts looking for their thread through the entire volume:-
As we go back in time and reduce everything to a speck – we reach a state termed as Bindu in the Vedas . Mishraji explains  ‘Western scholars often translate Bindu in terms of mathematics as the ‘point’, which geometrically speaking is ‘zero’ dimension. It has no measurement, no length or width or breadth; but in terms of Hindu philosophy, Bindu is a ‘vibrant’ idea that is pivotal to all creation. The term Bindu, as per the Nirukta of Yaska muni, on the one hand can be derived from the root √bhid means to pierce, to cleave therefore it is like the concept of a hole. On the other hand, it also means Indu or a bright drop, a spark of light.’
Thus, Bindu is representative of two opposing concepts – one a ‘hole’ in which all vibrations vanish, and the other a ‘bright spark’ that emanates energy. And this vibrating Bindu is the Spanda of the Shiv-sūtras of the Āgamas. Spanda literally means a ‘throb’, a pulsation of energy that spawns all creation. It is a concentrated microcosmic unit that unfolds to reveal all dimensions.
By the way, Mishraji explains that, the Āgama is generally mistranslated by scholars as ‘testimony or competent evidence’. Āgama is more. It is actually the “cognitive process that, this true testimony, produces in the person receiving it”. It is the very act of understanding in the receiver’s mind, like the Sphota of Bhartrihari. Therefore, Mishraji concludes that even though Bindu is throbbing “it is neither a unit of time like kshana nor a space unit like the atom or Anu. Rather, it is a unit of consciousness, which at the same time, becomes the body of the material world.”
These words remind me of the idea of “point of choice” in the path breaking paper in Quantum Mechanics (QM) by Hugh Everett III who in 1957, as a 19 year old graduate student of Princeton University, came up with “The Many World Theory”. This was to resolve the ‘Wave & Particle’ duality that is inherent in QM experiments at the sub-atomic level. At this level in QM, matter does not have a discrete nature – it remains in the realm of probabilistic wave energy emerging in the real world as a particle only when a conscious observer ‘looks’ at it.
The Unknown in the Shiva- sutras is the Naad-Brahman, and this initial pulse is termed as the Naad-bindu. The adjoining diagram explains the Naad – ‘it is the generic potency representing all undifferentiated sounds’. The latter is represented by the Chandra or ‘half-moon’ adorning Shiv’s matted hair. Together, they symbolize the anunasik or the ‘nasal-hum’. The anunasik is also the name of a class of letters in the last and fifth column of the table of mute-consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet. These letters are themselves five in number and are uttered through both the mouth and nose simultaneously. In the language this nasal sound when added to other consonants is indicated as a Chandra-bindu above the alphabet. This is the ‘hmm’ sound, at the end, as we pronounce ‘aum’ – the universal mantra of yogic chanting.
The Spanda or throbbing of this Bindu gives rise to the Shaktīs and their interplay unfolds the dimensions and multitudinous forms onto this mayanvic stage of the senses.
But before Mishraji takes us forward he explains in Chapter Ten – ‘God, Gods and Goddesses’ that the deities of Vedic thought are metaphorical constructs and they carry deep layers of metaphysical meanings. He exhorts us not to be misled by Western scholars and hurried translations but instead takes us towards the path of Sanatana Dharma. He says (quote) – “Sanatana Dharma is not a religion but an eternal path. This path is based upon the governing principles of the Universe. It is only when we do not view Sanatana Dharma as religion that the message and meaning of Veda Vijnāna or the Science of the Vedas becomes comprehensible.”
As we look outwards into the night sky, we see a vast ocean of energy. As our telescopes are getting better we see deeper into the space but further back into the time. But everything is moving… it is the jagatyām jagat of Ishopanishad. This incessant movement to our senses manifests as the dichotomy of Vishnu and Shiv. ‘Vi’ as a root means gati, vyāpti or ‘to speed away, flying away’ and ‘anu’ means ‘the tiniest form of matter’. Vishnu is therefore the expanding, emanating energy that is spewing out in discrete amounts from the supernovas at the galactic level and from the sun in our immediate solar system. Vishnu is all that shines in this luminous Universe.