Vedic Cosmology: Integrating God and Physics
By Mauricio Garrido, Ph.D.
Physicist and Hindu Monk
Huffington Post - March 2014
In 2012, CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, called for a debate between scientists, philosophers and theologians to find common ground between science and religion over how the universe began. Even though the explanations found in the texts of the world's spiritual traditions are admittedly not exhaustive in the details referring to the origin of the universe, they do outline key concepts thereof which are important to the development of the philosophy for spiritual development that they present. The Vedic cosmology of ancient India is incredibly rich and has many points of tangency with modern cosmology, which may help in the construction of that common ground between science and religion that CERN is looking for.
One of the strongest points of tension that often comes up in cosmology between science and religion is the age of the universe. Some interpretations of the Bible calculate it to be about 6,000 years old, while the most recent calculation according to the Lambda-CDM concordance model is 13.8 billion years. The Vedic literatures see the manifestation and eventual destruction of the universe, like most events in nature, as a periodic occurrence and give it in trillions of years. In fact, they talk about an expansion of the universe after its inception and an eventual contraction at the end of its lifespan, in line with modern cosmology's concepts of inflation and/or dark energy. Ideas regarding a cyclic behavior of the universe have also been proposed by prominent physicists like Sir Roger Penrose and Paul Steinhardt. Vedic cosmology also states that within the lifespan of the universe, there are periodic partial devastations of the universe. The time elapsed since the last one is on the order of billions of years, which roughly corresponds to the age of the universe calculated by cosmologists. In between the partial devastations, there are time periods called ages. The current age we live in, the Age of Kali, began about 5,000 years ago, which is roughly in line with (or equivalent to) the Bible's estimates of the age of the universe. We can thus begin to see the potentiality of Vedic cosmology in creating a bridge between science and religion: The apparent contradiction regarding the age of the universe can be regarded as simply calculations of different important periods in the history of the universe.