Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

Is Advaita Vedanta provable?

P.J.Mazumdar


Advaita Vedanta makes the claim that the root, the basis of the Universe, is a single, homogenous and continuous Absolute Substance that is independent of time and space.

Now, what would such a Substance mean for science in general, and quantum physics in particular?

For such a claim to be provable, it would require that all the laws of science can be deduced from it.

It is of course not possible to see at this moment how this would look, but it is not inconceivable that just as we now routinely see the Standard Model as the basis and derive the equations of accelerator experiments using these particles, we may one day have only a single absolute substance as the base and derive such equations using this base.

One way to look at this is to look at the symmetry of our universe.

Our universe has various symmetries, for example, symmetry of space means that if we do an experiment at a particular place and then displace the experiment to another similar point in space, the experiment will repeat itself. Similarly, there is symmetry of time, if we do an experiment at one point of time and then repeat it at another time, the experiment has the same results. Again, there is symmetry of angular rotation, if we do an experiment and then rotate the experiment and do it again, the same results are obtained.

From these symmetries, in a yet unexplained relation, the various conservation laws can be derived. Space symmetry leads to the law of conservation of momentum, time symmetry leads to the law of conservation of energy and rotational symmetry leads to the law of conservation of angular momentum.

All physical laws are ultimately based on these conservation laws and work on them. Hence we can say that all the physical laws of our universe depends on the various symmetries in our universe.

Now the Brahman as it has been defined in Advaita Vedanta has perfect symmetry. When our universe formed from it, this symmetry must have been broken in some way and this gave rise to the universe, but at the same time the universe retained most of the symmetries inherent in the Brahman and this has led to the laws which make our universe work and prevent it from slipping into chaos.

If we can one day know more of the symmetries of our Universe, we would know what symmetries are present and as importantly, what symmetries are absent in our Universe. We would then know what it would be to have perfect symmetry, and this would give a mathematical description of the state of Brahman.

The difficulties in conceptualizing Brahman are the same as those in understanding various quantum concepts. This is because our minds are comfortable only with classical concepts, the concepts of our everyday world, and we find anything which is not grasped with the classical world to be counter intuitive. It is just as difficult and fallacious to try to conceptualize Brahman as it would be to try to form a classical concept of a quantum fact. But still our minds are such that we must try to ‘visualize’ everything within us.

One such visualization of Brahman which works for me personally can be described as follows:

Imagine that there is a substance which we can call Everything. Now this Everything fills everything, as it were. It is a single, homogenous substance which is unchanging. Because it is homogenous, all parts of it are the same, there is no space to it, we cannot describe it in terms of space. Because it is unchanging, it does not change ever, we cannot describe it in terms of time. It is thus independent of time and space. It has also therefore perfect symmetry.

Now within this Everything there is a point of instability. This instability causes a breakdown of symmetry at that point of Everything. This causes a sudden manifestation of a universe from Everything, and this universe expands through Everything.

Now, time and space are inevitably connected to the Universe. However, it cannot be said to be connected to Everything, because it is only within the Universe that there is change. In the Everything that is not the universe, there is still no change, and therefore no time and space.

However, of course, the perfect independence from time and space is not preserved in an absolute sense, because the universe is after all within Everything. That is why Advaita Vedanta is called non–duality (a–dwaita) and not pure monism. This is to convey the sense that there is no duality in this Everything, or Brahman, although a pure monism is also not preserved.

We can even say that there may be multiple universes within this Everything.

We can visualize Brahman in this way.

The symmetry breaking at the creation of the universe can be considered to be analogous to the symmetry breaking of the Higg‘s field, which in the Standard Model, is said to cause the manifestation of mass. The Higg‘s field, in the initial period of the Big Bang is said to be in perfect symmetry, hence the masses in it are in a superhot fluid state and not manifestable. But just after the inflationary period of the Big Bang, this symmetry gets broken due to the cooling and this causes Higg‘s field to manifest mass. The breakdown in symmetry in Brahman can perhaps be considered to be similar to this concept.

This is of course only one way of understanding Brahman. No doubt the actual state is likely to be much more complex and beyond our understanding. Yet by forming such a conception, we can at least show how a model of Brahman of the Advaita Vedanta can be made to conform somewhat to our present scientific knowledge.



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* To read more on Advaita Vedanta and Yoga and its harmony with modern science and reason, you can go through my book on Amazon:

Advaita Philosophy, Yoga Philosophy

The Circle of Fire: The Metaphysics of Yoga


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