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The Metaphysics of the Upanishads (Vichar Sagar) by Nischal Das #3

As one reads Vichar Sagar (download Word version) it becomes evident that much of the Upanishads are based on speculation and assertion. That is only to be expected from a philosophy that, 2500 years ago, must have been at the “cutting edge”, but clearly events have overtaken these speculations now.

I’m still midway through the book, but given Ramesh’s insistence that the Vedantic is a higher order of science, and that therefore apparently that scientists should “direct their energies in finding the useful things which are almost infinite-Vedanta”, I’m forced to comment on the HIGHLY speculative components of the Upanishads.

Ramesh also asks (re: modern science): “What is the use of the theory if it doesn’t explain the energy which is already there (assuming that energy can never be created)”.

Well, let’s examine the quality of explanations available in the Upanishads, before questioning the quality of modern science. Here’s what happens upon death to some people:

The way to the Brahmaloka is gradual and takes place in the manner described below. When a person, always given to the worship of Brahma, dies, with his internal organ, the sensory and the active organs overpowered in a swoon, so that no consciousness is left, the angel of death comes not unto him to take away his astral body, but the presiding deity of fire with a conceit for it, gets out of the body at death, and takes him to his own abode, thence he is transferred to his own abode by the presiding deity of day, to be re-transferred by the deity presiding over the bright phase of the Moon to his own abode, thence to be carried to his own abode by the deity who has a conceit for the six months of the sun’s path on the north of the equator, thence to be taken away by the divinity pre­siding over year, next by the Sun, Moon, and the divinity presiding over lightning, who carries him to his own abode; there, appears in front of him by the command of Hiranyagarbha a fine person resem­bling Hiranyagarbha in appearance, to take him away from the elec­trical abode of lightning to Varunloka. In his passage, he is accom­panied by the presiding divinity of electricity (lightning) to the next abode, that of Indra, and keeps company with the inhabitant of the abode of Hiranyagarbha who is accompanying the worshipper’s sub­tle body. The next stage is the abode of Prajapati up to which place Indra accompanies them; but Prajapati is unable to enter the abode of Brahma, so he arrives here in company of the fine or excel­lent person. The King of the abode of Brahma is Hiranyagarbha, who is called so, because he is the collective aggregate of intelligence of all gross bodies and for the conceit that he is so. His action is known by the designation of Brahma,and the abode of that active (Karya) Brahma is called ‘Brahmaloka.’
I trust you get the point. Very interesting piece of fiction, but very close to gibberish.
Now consider the somewhat more cogent Vedantic cosmology:
The progressive grades of ascent typi­fied in what is called the “Road to Brahmaloka” which falls to the lot of a devout worshipper of Anthrapomorphism after death, cover a vast extent of time. For we find a passing reference to pralaya or cylic period of destruction. Now this pralaya does not occur except in the night time of Brahma. With us day is the period of waking and night of rest; with Brahma day begins with creation and night ushers in destruction, of the objective world. But Brahma’s night comes once after fourteen Manus, a period embracing a thousand Yugas. Each Manun is equal to seventy one Yugas, therefore for one thousand Yugas Brahma is engaged in creating. The twilights of Brahma are called the intervals of Mann or Sandhi. To enable our readers to form a correct idea of the subject we subjoin the following table.
71 Mahayugas=l Manantvara or Manu.
14 Manus or 1000 Human Yugas=1 Brahma’s day,
14 Manus=1 Brahma’s night.
But what is a Mahayuga? One solar year constitutes a day and night for a Deva and Asur. The Sun’s the north of equator is the daytime of a Deva and night of an Astir, while its passage in the south of the equator is the night of a Deva and day of an Asur, hence it will appear that 360 of our years will form a Deva’s year, and 12,000 such years will be equal to one Mallayuga.
Therefore 12000 x 360=43,20,000 i.e.,43 lacs and 20,000 years go to make up a Mahayuga; of which
The Satya has 4800 years of a Deva.
Treta, 3600 years of a Deva
Dvapara 2400 years of a Deva
Kali 1200 years of a Deva
Giving us a total of 12,000 Deva years.
Now a single Brahma’s day has fifteen periods of intervals otherwise called Sandhi. In the beginning of the first day of Brahma there was an interval, hence there are fifteen intervals between the appearance of the Manus, each of which has a duration of 4000 Deva years.
According to the Surya Sidhanta,Brahma took 47,400 Deva years to collect the materials of creation, and as one Deva year is equal to 360 solar years it will give us a period of 16,464,000 ordinary years during which the earth underwent changes ultimately to fit it for the reception of organic life.
Brahma has a life time of 100 years. That is to say, 28 Manus multi­plied by 360 days constituting a year, and one hundred such years is his span. That gives a period of 1,008,000, half of which must necessarily be night or the cyclic periods of destruction(pralaya).
He is now in the fifty first year of his age; six Manantwaras have already been over and the Kali of the 28th Yuga is now passing over. It is very near his noon.
The names of the several Manus are;—
1. Sayambhu
2. Swaroichisha
3. Utarnaja
4. Tamas
5. Rajbata
6. Chakshuha
7. Vaivasuta.
Brahma’s night comes once after 11 Manus, when there is a pralaya. But as a Manu is equal to 71 Yugas therefore during 1000 Mahayugas Brahma is engaged in creating and there is a similar period of night when every thing is destroyed. But he is not affected by these pralayas; when his hundred years are over, there is one mahapralaya and he too is destroyed, leaving the ONE ETERNAL REALITY quite unaffected.


The good thing about Vedantic speculation in this area is that it allows for hugely extended periods of time – which is better than other religious cosmologies. However, its “precision” makes it easy to question – and rebut it.
a) Reality check 1: Re: the assertion that the it took 16.4 million years to prepare it for organic life, that is too short. It took much more than that before the earth cooled down enough for life to start.
b) Reality check 2:  The universe is apparently 157 trillion years old (this is a rough calculation – please correct me if I’m wrong!)
360 human years = 1 Deva’s year
12,000 Deva’s years = 1 Yuga = 4,320,000 years.
71 Yugas = 1 Manu = 306,720,000 million years
24 Manus = 1 Brahma day= 8,588,160,000 years
360 Brahma days = 1 Brahma year = 3,091,737,600,000 years
Brahma is in his 51st year, i.e. the world is 157,678,617,600,000 (157 trillion years old).
According to modern science, the universe (as we know it) is 13.75 ± 0.11 billion years. Hence this figure (157 trillion years) is too long.
In brief, while interesting as a piece of speculative fiction, both extracts cited point to the speculative nature of the Upanishads.
So long as they stick to simple things like speculation about the underlying unity of reality, the Vedanta does fine, but the moment it opens its mouth wider,it is exposed as a work of fiction.
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Sanjeev Sabhlok

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30 thoughts on “The Metaphysics of the Upanishads (Vichar Sagar) by Nischal Das #3
  1. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    Well before Vichar Sagar  or Vedanta begin its elaboration on ‘what happens upon death to some people’ and ‘Vedantic cosmology and many other such issues it abundantly makes it clear that matter (energy), space (vacuum), time and all that matters in the material universe is ‘Mithya’ (Maya). Mithya things last as long as ignorance persists. The only eternal thing which has been there is ‘Brahman’ and not ‘Brahma’ who is also ‘Mithya’.
    1.         Therefore it is just in accordance with the Vedanta that its calculation of 157 trillion years of age of universe is falsified (calculated thousands of years ago) by the modern science as 13 billion years and it then predicts/states that it may again be corrected or proved otherwise with more sophisticated technology which may come afterwards. A tribute should be paid to such Vedanta!!!
    2.         Similarly it is just in accordance with the Vedanta that it can talk only gibberish things about the gibberish things (body, matter, energy etc which are all Mithya). Not all human beings think originally and lack the ability to take their curiosity to the successful ends. For such persons God and all accompanying fiction (gibberish) is necessary otherwise their life becomes wayward (moral confusion etc). Once they begin questioning the gibberish they are guided and told that everything except Brahman is gibberish (How life after death can be exception then? It can be only gibberish!) etc. Upnishadas do it knowingly for the sake of unqualified and not as truth.
    However Vedanta underpins that such a gibberish ideas need to be modified and replaced by findings suitable to the time and space. Therefore it is in accordance with the Vedanta that interpretation about life after death should be in consistent with the findings of the latest science. It also states that such interpretations are unending and not unique. When science unveils its better it will just be in accordance with the Vedanta.
    It was exactly this misunderstanding of Vedanta that has retarded the scientific and technological advancement of India quite contrary to the implications of the Vedanta. 99% of Indian philosophers suffer from it. When will we rectify ourselves?

  2. raghavan

    i haven't read this whole vedanta thing to verify your calculations or similar. But from this blog piece.. it was mentioned that every 11 manus there will be a destruction which won't effect the brahma but everything is destroyed by pralaya. If that is the case don't u need to calculate the existing universe to be 11 * 8.5 billion years equivalent to around 94.5 billion years??
    Considering that the human knowledge of universe or it's secrets are not exactly detailed and 'proved' by the existing 'modern' science community, there is a minimum courtesy that should be followed without being arrogant. You can always believe that what you know, see and believe is true but blatantly saying that what you don't know or not proved by the limited set of rules for analysing universe is a fiction is not appropriate. If you do so(repeatedly), you are in violation of the probability theory which is one of the basics of the universe :)
    What i see in your argumentative thought is the another blind believer in Neils Bohr's theory which was accurate at that point of time. Please have an open mind. It is seriously affecting your FTI group as well.
    Coming back to the timings and the periodicity of the yugas and so, i would suggest you to look into the Elliot wave graphs and elliot wave theory on socionomics (since u insist on 'modern' science). Though it does have a variation in the number of waves for each cycle compared to vedanta, it will atleast give you a better understanding of the vedanta after rerunning the logic algorithm of yours.

  3. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    Here the things are made simpler:
    Vedas comprise of two aspects: (1) Dvaita  (2) Advaita
    The descriptions you quoted are of from Dvaita point of view. For Advaita talks nothing except Brahman.
    Modern Science is no more different from Dvaita, it is just a sort of it. Modern science is just a believer of 'Energy' which already exists. What science presents is acceptable to Dvaita, it means just the same.
    I see nothing except huge confusion on your part and the likes!

  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’m happy to be “confused” since I find modern science provides us with useful tips and strategies IN THIS LIFE. Anything else seems to be an excellent way to produce NOTHING of any significance.

    At one time you said that science is compatible with Advaita. Are you now suggesting otherwise? Further what is the way to prove Advaita? NONE. Therefore it is mere belief, and hence of no consequence.

    I’m not confused. Instead, I find Vichar Sagar to be a sagar (ocean) of confusion. And you seem to be representing it in your comments as well.

    Let me read on, but let me make clear that I don’t see any sensible or useful information coming out (so far) out of the enormous time I’m spending on Vichar Sagar.

  5. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    It is the same Vedas and same Maharshi Veda Vyasa who propounds both ‘Dvaita’ and ‘Advaita’ as two sides of the same coin (may well recall my first ever email to you or first ever comment on DoF-ultimate principle that Dvaita and Advaita complement each other and never contradict unlike you understood in your last comment).
    It is impossible to understand these both things in isolation. The Dvaita world ‘Puranas, Ramayan, Mahabharat, all shastras and now modern sciencehave its basis as ‘Advaita’ even though apparently diagonally opposite things due to ignorance.
    What significance ‘Puranas, Ramayan, Mahabharat and all shastras’ bore with the 3000 years of Hindu life the same significance now ‘the Modern Science’ bears with the todays life of everybody. How ‘Advaita’ ran through all the past above things so it runs now with ‘Modern science’ just to make it sound still more, it is my valid induction as amply proved in Advaita.
    This is how ‘Advaita’ upholds the science except that it directs the energies of all the technicians and scientists in finding the only useful things IN THIS LIFE (Dvaita) e.g. like robotics and ultimately developing the human being himself (?) and avoid the energy being wasted in finding the impossible Advaita (e.g. how energy came into existence for the first time)
    This is how Advaita helps in making the human being ‘crystal clear’ with the conclusion of ‘change is the law of nature’ and directs all his efforts in ‘CHANGE’ and spares him of finding the ultimate clue of ‘NATURE’, the impossible thing.
    It may be good to think on above when time permits but there is no gain parallel to the above which is far more than the achievements of science so far as clearly stated.(Advaita never contradicts science it makes it still sharper- I cannot suggest otherwise)

  6. Shravan

    Dr Sabhlok, you can say this is wild speculation but never gibberish. It can neither be proven correct nor can it be proven wrong.
    Now coming to the age of the universe, the vedantic speculation claims that the Universe was fully created in the present form only at the end of Bramha's 50 years, Brahma takes 50 years of his life to create the universe, therefore it would be correct if we take the age of the universe not as the 51 years of brahma but only as long as the 51st year of bramha which by the way has not been completed yet.
    Then again sir, if indeed the Upanishads and Veda are all wild speculations then why did Heisenberg  and Schrodinger consider them to be of great value? (they did not merely read them considering them to be exotic but took these texts fairly seriously, you want to explain how the upanishads could contain such subtle ideas and TRUTHS when they were created around 2000 BC?)
    There is a lot of mind boggling ideas in the upanishads, for example their assertions over the nature of the self., their study of the levels of consciousness. 

  7. Shravan

    Dr Sabhlok you said : I’m happy to be “confused” since I find modern science provides us with useful tips and strategies IN THIS LIFE. Anything else seems to be an excellent way to produce NOTHING of any significance.
    Are you implying people who believe in God and after life do nothing worthwhile? Are you suggesting the ancients did nothing of significance? 

  8. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    There is little of any value produced out of blind faith. Stories, perhaps? Songs and music? Fine. But little of any practical use. One can’t sing songs to God when hungry. No miracles are going to occur and food fall like manna from the sky. One must know how to grow food. And that’s where scientific thinking comes in.

    You are writing to me now because of SCIENCE. “God” (e.g. the Bible/ Geeta) did not produce the computer and the internet. Critical thinkers did.

    You are entitled to blind faith if that gives you happiness. I’m interested in the practical question about how to generate an honest government in India, and how to make India prosperous. And that can ONLY be done through critical thinking.

  9. Shravan

    Vedanta also says that which was before the universe (something was there, but) is indescribable, I think it is correct. It also says time and Space are infinite, People are now talking about pre big bang physics and space as well as time being infinite, Vedanta also talks about this, the cyclic creation and destruction of all of creation. It is quiet an achievement I say.
    Now do not get confused between the two things I said: about what I said earlier ' that before the universe what was there is indescribable'  and later I said there is a pre big bang physics, what I mean to say is Modern physics is now-a-days (not anytime earlier) is open to the idea of  cyclic universe model and also at the same time willing to accept that it might not be possible to explain the exact state at the point of dissolution or creation.
    You mentioned ether in another post, I would like to throw some light on it here. Modern physics, latest theories are willing to accept the concept of ether meaning a field(physical) of something that influences the behaviour of everything in it. I recently read it in an article in the newscientist magazine.
    Einstein was not averse to the idea of ether either.

  10. Shravan

    critical thinkers produced grammer, number system, mathematics and many things and many of them believed in some God. I am not insisting the existence of God, I welcome doubts but don't say/suggest that belief in afterlife and God will rob people of their thinking powers!! that is plain rubbish.

  11. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    The Vedantic cosmology is not the key part of the Vedanta. All scriptural cosmology is false. So let’s not waste time on the imagination of ancient monks. The key msg is that they seemed to use reason. That’s all we need to care for.

    Second, your knowledge of cosmology appears to be quite shallow and you are muddling up a lot of things together, just like the Vedanta. I’d encourage you to read some serious physics. Indians tend to imagine that many of their FUZZY ideas are meaningful. They are not. You need precision. Please state your theories (if you know anything meaningful) in a peer reviewed scientific journal, else you are likely imagining that you know something when you don’t.


  12. shravan

    Vedantic cosmology is not a key part of vedanta? then why did you quote/write an ESSAY about vedantic cosmology to question/demonstrate its supposed wild speculation? besides on what basis are you claiming this? If you want anyone to take you seriously please explain what you meant by this particular statement.
    Oh definitely they used reason and WON MODERN DAY ADMIRERS like Heisenberg, Schrodinger, Einstein etc. I suppose you want a peer review for this claim of mine!
    About the peer review system, It is a much abused system and is manipulated (I am not saying it is a hopelessly flawed system but peers are people much like IAS officers) , see what happened to the SCIENCE of cold fusion / LENR. 
    Secondly what makes you point fingers at my knowledge of Cosmology? I know more than you do mister. What part of my claim is fuzzy? The ether part, infinite space and time part? make specific points just do not spit and run. The standard model of cosmology is not satisfactory so say the leading physicists of TODAY. Michio Kaku, Max Tegmark etc etc etc etc.  The theory of inflation says space is infinite and so is time, there are PEER REVIEWED papers which say this.
    Thank you for your encouragement , here I will show you what I read and always do. People who write these papers are serious physicists who get millions of dollars in funding, remember the CERN? Read this
    You will have to Login to access that article, it is free account. There are many many many such claims, you are NOT up to date on the latest claims of theorectical physics. 
    I do not want to know about Indians from an a person sitting in Australia!
    They are not my theories, they are Physicists theories. All I said was the ancients managed to make very very similar claims about the nature of REALITY as have modern physicists ( Schrodinger, Heisenberg, Bohm, Einstein appreciated vedanta and not any other religious book by the way ) I cannot help you if you do not like these men.
    Ever heard of creative rationality? Rationality alone cannot achieve anything. The concept of zero was first thought up by these same speculators, they pondered over it, refined it and then mathematicians took it up for further study. Many things in math and science have taken inspiration from art and speculative thinking. I encourage you to do more research on these things.

  13. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear Shravan

    It is totally inappropriate to draw a link between every modern discovery or theory and the Vedanta. That basically indicates it is content-less and can be adopted to everything.

    I need to see SPECIFIC theories in the Vedanta that have been confirmed by science. There is NONE that I’m aware of, and what you cite is a general fuzzy link between the two. There is none. The fact that that there is none is proven also by the fact that NO Indian (till modern science came to India) ever produced a SINGLE scientific model of the atom or cosmological model BASED on the Vedanta or such material.

    Making fuzzy claims is not OK. You need to show me the PRECISE predictions of the Vedanta – that were based not on speculation but on precise mathematical modeling – AND tested empirically. I have made my judgement based on what I’ve read so far – that the Vedantic cosmology is pure imagination, and the theory of afterlife pure gibberish. I’m open to any proof otherwise.

    Note that the proof must meet the test of modern science. No FUZZY linking up things.

    Only when you do that will I accept that you know anything significant about modern cosmology. The article you cite means nothing (in the context of your claims). I’ve read 100s of such articles, and none has DERIVED its ideas from the Vedanta. All are based on theories of physics that came about around 100 years ago, and have been refined since then.

    The onus of proof is on you.


  14. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I didn’t suggest that “belief in afterlife and God will rob people of their thinking powers”. I said that the Vedantic theory of afterlife borders on gibberish.

  15. shravan

    If that is the case we are talking of different things, I was talking about the creative and speculative reasoning of vedanta and how it has come up with at least some correct things, if you want values and data etc then Vedanta does not provide that. It concerns itself mostly with the concept of the self.

  16. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    That’s right. The Vedanta is a pantheistic philosophical school – and attempts to apply reason to the “self”. To that extent it is a viewpoint, no more. Beyond that (cosmology/afterlife) it is totally speculative. It is quite possible that if you assemble 100 children, then the speculation of one of the 100 children might be true in 1 out of 100 cases. That doesn’t mean the child knew anything. Just guesswork. Vedanta is primarily guesswork.

    Vivekananda noted that the Vedanta must ultimately rest on belief, not on reason. Hence you can’t prove “god” (or non-duality) by reason alone.

    I’m only interested in HIGH QUALITY scientific reasoning – everything else is speculative and does not have much of a relationship with the truth. That’s why I am very sceptical about the string theory as well. Unless it can be verified, it is also speculative. Blind reason.

  17. ramesh

    Dear Sabhlok,
    Just for curiosity and understanding you properly. This may throw out a real critical reasoning.
    From material science point of view…        
    Remembering well that animals do you have feelings and emotions exactly like Human beings.
    1.         Where is morality proved?
    2.         Where is accountability, responsibility is proved?
    3.         Can the difference between good and bad be proved?
    4.         Can the difference between positive and negative attitudes?
    5.         Is the basis justified for things like ‘obligation’?
    6.         Why cheating, murdering cannot be general rule just like animal? Why it cannot be made way of life just like animals, reptiles?

    7.         Can the human being differentiated from the wild animal scientifically since morality, shame etc comes from something which cannot be proved?
    If these things cannot be proved why are they insisted upon? Is it is scientifically justified? Those who work upon the above principles are called 'criminals' just because they are in 'minority'!!

    Please take it not negatively. It may help us better understanding for everybody. I hope you realize that above clarifications have much to do with 'Our/your biggest task', the 'revolution'! It is not that I am bent upon disproving you. Just critical thinking!

    The above comment is in connection with understanding the nature of ‘Proof’ you rely upon. No misunderstanding.

  18. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Dear  Ramesh

    I've discussed this extensively in DOF – re: the origins of accountability and indeed, the very foundations of justice. Game theory (repeated interactions) are the primary explanation, with a weak moral sense a supporting factor. The result is that ATHEISTS (excluding communists) are, in general, more honest than religious people, because they THINK about the consequences of their actions before doing them,  while religious people have the mistaken notion that their "sins" will be readily  forgiven.

    Most murderers are also religious people, while atheists hardly ever murder anyone (I'm excluding communists again).

    There is  HUGE amount of material on this subject in the literature.

    Just came across this:

  19. shravan

    Now come on Dr Sabhlok, it is ridiculous to exclude communists. I say excluding the bad ones all religious people are good!

  20. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’m citing from studies conducted in USA and other non-communist countries. So we can definitely say that in non-communist countries, atheists are MORE MORAL than religious people, and murder FAR less (in proportion) to religious people.

  21. Shravan

    Atheists in non communist countries? what is the point of considering only atheists of non communist countries? why not look at atheists as a whole? total world, that would be fair.

  22. Shravan

    I understand morality is in our instincts and religion sometimes clouds it but it is not the only thing that can  cloud it.

  23. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    OK, Shravan. Why don’t you cite a study of the whole world? All I can cite are data with study limited to certain countries. To the best of my knowledge no such study was conducted in the USSR – a study that is compatible with good statistical design.

  24. skdubey

    there are two thing 2.observation. the modern scince deal with observation only. and not bothered about observer.the searching of observer is the subject of vedanta. vicharsagar is the research- book of observer.

    The book Vicharsagar discover the ‘observer’.The process of discovery given in vicharsagar is also known as Gyan-yoga.The tools used for understanding ‘the metaphysics of upnishad’[tatwamasi] is as[visheshan] 2.concept[upadhi] 3.discovery[uphit] 4.cover for next[uplaxan].

    What do we mean by freedom? 1.only name 2.any concept or 3. is discoverd by independently 4 absolutetruth. Upnishad says-’you are that supreme freedom.’[Tatwamasi] But you are not mind body intellect eago emotion etc.’ you are that absolute free.’[Tatwamasi]

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