This evening I saw a documentary called “What is Space?” (by NOVA). The documentary explains that physicists have recently discovered what some are calling “the fabric of the Universe.” The study of “dark matter” and “dark energy” is an exciting new field in physics that strives to answer many questions about the nature of material reality on all levels, micro and macro. Modern physicists have been surprised to learn that space is not a vacuum but is in fact another element with mass, or substance. Previously they had believed that only gravitational forces where holding the cosmos together but now they understand that space itself is exerting another great force, a force that (they now believe) is sustaining and expanding the whole cosmos. At giant research centers, with the help of huge atomic accelerators, nuclear physicists have demonstrated that so-called dark energy exerts forces on all material objects, including both galaxies and subatomic particles. This understanding has been verified primarily through complex calculations in the field of astrophysics.
Theoretical physicists have devised mathematical equations to demonstrate that dark energy affects all physical things. This understanding is considered a huge breakthrough that may lead to other amazing discoveries about everything from quasars to subatomic fields. These recent research advancements seem to verify some of Einstein’s earlier speculations that suggest space exerts a significant influence on matter. Space, previously understood to be a vacuum, turns out to be the greatest known element in the cosmos. Scientists have calculated that space, which is full of dark energy, comprises approximately 70 percent of the cosmos in total mass. Another 25 percent of mass in the known universe is called “dark matter.”
“Dark matter” does not refer to “black holes” or to “singularities.” Very little is known about dark matter. According to quantum physicists, all planets and objects in the universe -- including all black holes, quasars, planets and singularities-- comprise only about 5 percent of matter. The other 95 percent of cosmic mass is this mysterious dark energy or dark matter. This figure is likely close to Vedic calculations for the extent of ether, which is around twenty times greater than all other gross elements combined. If “dark energy” is equivalent to Vedic definitions of ether, “dark matter” might be concentrated ethereal objects, such as the planet Rahu. These discoveries involving dark energy are considered by some scientists to be the beginning of a grand new era for scientific research. Nowadays the sky is the limit. More precisely, ether is the limit for mundane science. Every new discovery in quantum physics raises many new complex questions and mysteries. One prominent physicist expressed his embarrassment to admit that 95 percent of the so-called “known” universe is composed of a mysterious substance that modern science is unable to understand and, until very recently, was unable to perceive.
Mundane scientists are brainwashed to think only within the box of standard academic methodology and theory, but they could have saved many decades of tedious investigation and speculation simply by accepting Lord Krishna and the Vedas as an authority. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna teaches Arjuna that there are eight material elements: “Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego—all together these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Bhagavad-gita 7.4) Five of these elements are gross, three are subtle. Among the gross elements, ether, or space, is the most subtle. It is greater than earth, water, fire and air. Mundane scientists have finally understood that space is not a void or vacuum but rather another material element. In fact it is the greatest, most all-pervading and important gross element. “The cosmic manifestation rests in space. Space permits the movement of even atoms and on up to the greatest planets, the sun and the moon. Although the sky (or wind and air) is great, still it is situated within space.” (BG. 9.6, Purport) Followers of Lord Krishna have known about ether and the ethereal elements of space for thousands of years. “There is no void anywhere within the creation of the Lord.” (BG. 6.15, Purport)
Lord Krishna’s followers also understand that the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and mundane ego are greater and more important than the five gross elements, which include ether, or space. Furthermore, devotees and yogis understand that the soul and Supersoul are more important than all other elements in the universe, including the elements of mind and intelligence. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam and Bhagavad-gita, spiritual energy is the source and controller of consciousness and everything else in the universe, both gross and subtle.
Scientists call ether “dark energy” because no one can see it, even with powerful instruments. Dark matter and dark energy are perceived only by symptoms or effects. This subtle element cannot be directly seen but is perceived through observing its effects on light and electromagnetic fields. Similarly, no one can see mind, intelligence and false ego, although these three elements are more influential and all-encompassing than dark energy. These powerful elements-- mind, intelligence and false ego-- are further described in Srimad-Bhagavatam as the basis for self-realization when purified through yoga or devotional service. Devotees or yogis who control their own minds can achieve powerful control over matter. “Materialistic men are very anxious to have some mystic powers as a result of such controlling process, but the real purpose of the yogic regulations is to eradicate the accumulated dirty things like lust, anger, avarice, and all such material contaminations. If the mystic yogi is diverted by the accompanying feats of mystic control, then his mission of yogic success is a failure, because the ultimate aim is God realization.” (SB. 2.1.23, Purport)
Srimad-Bhagavatam describes how the creation evolved from subtle to gross, rather than visa-versa as modern scientists believe. Material elements have evolved from mind and intelligence, and mind and intelligence are symptoms of the soul. In the Bhagavad-gita, Lord Krishna gives us a hint of His spiritual energy: “Those who are seers of the truth have concluded that of the nonexistent there is no endurance, and of the existent there is no cessation. This seers have concluded by studying the nature of both. Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul.” (BG. 2.16-17) “Besides this inferior nature of Mine, O mighty-armed Arjuna, there is a superior energy of Mine, which are all living entities who are struggling with material nature and are sustaining the universe.” (BG. 7.5)
Mundane scientists and their followers are on a dead-end road, and ultimately, as Srila Prabhupada has repeatedly warned, their inventions and ways of atheistic thinking lead to great destruction in human society. “But still material energy is very powerful, and the atheist, due to his godless temperament, cannot know how it works; nor can he know the plan of the Supreme Lord. Under illusion and the modes of passion and ignorance, all his plans are baffled, as in the case of Hiranyakishipu and Ravana, whose plans were smashed to dust although they were both materially learned as scientists, philosophers, administrators and educators.” (BG. 7.15, Purport)
In the short term, modern science achieves powers to manipulate matter, but all such powers-- achieved through multitudes of troublesome and tediously orchestrated cooperative efforts-- cannot equal the unilateral perfections achieved by a yogi who controls his own mind. Mundane persons are unable to control their minds and senses, yet they strive to control the world by cheating nature. A true yogi or devotee abandons all desires to artificially control the world at large, and thus he learns to control his own mind and senses. As soon as his mind is controlled, he can transcend the limiting influences of the modes of material nature.
The jivatma, or spirit soul, exists in pristine glory as part of the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Krishna. The jivatma is superior to all matter, including mind, intelligence and ego. The soul, although inherently far more powerful than matter, has been covered by matter, beginning with the greatest and most powerful of all material elements, false ego, or ahankara. The ahankara principle keeps even great demigods bound by illusion. Ultimately, it is the Lord’s powerful maya-shakti that keeps wayward souls conditioned by material nature. When we learn to renounce our false ambition to enjoy the material world, the power of illusion has no more sway over us. We are then able to realize our “constitutional position of glory.” “One who can control his senses by practicing the regulative principles of freedom can obtain the complete mercy of the Lord and thus become free from all attachment and aversion. For one who is so situated in the Divine consciousness, the threefold miseries of material existence exist no longer; in such a happy state, one’s intelligence soon becomes steady.” (Bg. 2.64-65)
All material planets and objects are situated within the darkness of matter, but the spiritual planets of God’s kingdom are situated in unlimited, divine light-- the brahma-jyoti, the effulgence of Krishna’s personal form. By transcending all material elements through devotional practices, a devotee learns to rise above all miseries and allurements on Earth and in Heaven. A pure devotee has no interest in artificially improving his life on Earth or in Heaven. He has no ambition for material advancement through science, mystic perfections, or elevation to the heavenly planets. His goal is to return to the spiritual world, the world of light. He practices yoga by accepting only what is favorable for the development of pure Krishna consciousness. A life of trying to exploit or manipulate material elements is unnatural for the soul. We can transcend this unnatural entanglement within the modes of material nature through self-purification, or self-realization, which is best achieved in this age through chanting the Hare Krishna maha-mantra and engaging in service to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Krishna.
Because quantum physics deals more with the energy of matter than superficial forms, it sometimes seems to confirm Vedic information. There is no need, however, for devotees to try to correlate every new discovery in quantum physics with Vedic terminology. The forms of the material world are shifting and illusory and without real substance. The game of astrophysics, for instance, is based largely on interpretations of amplified light and electromagnetic signals recorded through highly sensitive modern instruments and further analyzed using complex mathematical formulas. All such techniques and instruments are flawed, as are the minds, motives and senses of all material scientists. Srila Prabhupada repeatedly reminds us that real knowledge descends from God through the Vedas and Vedic teachers, who are beyond illusion, cheating, flawed senses, and limited perceptions. “Knowledge should be taken from the perfect person—because if you take knowledge from a person who is defective, your knowledge has no value. You must take knowledge from the perfect.” (Lecture, April 12, 1974, Bombay)
Human life is not meant for mundane scientific advancement aimed at exploiting the temporary resources of matter. The Vedas emphatically implore us, tamasi ma, jyotir gama: “Leave the darkness! Come to the light!” Our lives are meant for learning how to return to Lord Krishna and His kingdom of eternal light.