Book: Surya Siddanta: Science in Surya Siddanta

Various translations of Surya Siddanta claim that it is ancient astronomy. Yet, a contextual translation of the book shows us that it traces the path from the unmanifested to the creation of the self and beyond. So, the question is whether the translations are made to confirm to calculations related to astronomy because the translators knew about what calculations to get from it or does Surya Siddanta have a multi-facet meaning to it as many other Sanskrit texts, that change meaning based on the context applied to them?

Why is Surya Siddanth confused as ancient astronomy?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, “Astronomy is the study of the universe and of the objects that exist naturally in space.” When we look at such a study, it can either study the observable properties of these objects and apply physical principles to the observed behavior (which is astrophysics) or it can study the origins of these objects in the universe. 

Modern astronomy studies the observable properties of these objects and applies physical laws to explain the observations, while the Surya Siddanta studies the origins, formation and existence of these objects. While, the modern astronomy specifically excludes objects on earth and classifies astronomy to be objects residing outside earth, the Surya Siddanta does nothing of this sort and explains origin and existence of all objects equally. The question that naturally arises is, “why does studying specifically the objects external to earth help us understand more of the origins of objects?”

The variance in knowledge with distance

The answer to our question lies in questioning “How is knowledge perceived by humans?” When we look at the simplistic definition of knowledge that had given, “the ability to identify the state of the surrounding environment”, we find that rarely do humans (living beings) have the ability to just view this state directly. For example, while we see reflected light, the brain gives us the name of the object as opposed to the distribution of light reflection on the object. So, we find that the brain has consolidated information into a single information for us to understand.

So, we have to ask ourselves, does the brain do this for all observed properties or is it selective in such a consolidation and analysis. We find that the answer to this question is very curious. If we examine our own conclusions and analysis, we find that the consolidation of information occurs on immediate objects which we perceive to be spatially closer to us and hence affect our existence. Whereas for objects that exist external to that field of perceived effect on our existence, we leave the information as is. Thus, we perceive sun as a bundle of light as opposed to anything consolidated with specific properties, we perceive the moon as again a bundle of light and so on. Something similar to that shown below. At the center where an observer is present, many details can be observed and concluded and as it radiates out, the information reduces.

Thus we find that there is a radiating out variance in knowledge. Observed knowledge at shorter distances are automatically analysed, consolidated and concluded into information, and as the distance of observation increases, they are perceived as is without any conclusions associated with it. The direct perceived information is mostly of those objects that pose no threat to our existence, which are the objects outside earth. This gives us raw data that can be used to reason, apply intelligence and then concluded based on this raw data. Thus studying these objects are more likely to give us more insights into the origins of objects and this universe as opposed to study of closer objects.

What is the science in Surya Siddanta?

While the context of translation of various Sanskrit literature in the modern world is devotional and related to supreme power and the like, in my view, these literatures are not related to God or divinity or anything which are exclusively applicable to human life. As I have shown in my previous book “A research of Shiva: The Enigma”, that the context of translation of various Sanskrit literature changes the meaning of what is said completely. The context of translation all these Sanskrit literature needs to be a search for truth.

As I have described in the chapter on “Mismatch in the understanding of God” in my previous book, ancient literature and research seems to be purely oriented towards the search for Brahman or the truth that has led us to this reality around us. Every Upanishad, Vedas, sthotrams, mantras and many such Sanskrit literature has only described some version of the path towards finding the truth. Yoga, meditation and many such actions described are also oriented only towards this context. None of the Sanskrit literature describe or force or proscribe commandments or specific actions that needs to be followed. They may have described the reactions to certain actions, but do not judge the actions themselves. Any judgements or dos and don’ts are purely conjecture by the human brain to ease their own actions. Any predictions of future such as modern astrology, conclusions based on star positions, projection of encouraged actions such as kindness, helping nature, compassion etc., are all just conjectures by the human mind based on the misunderstanding of the information present in these literatures. 

The Surya Siddanta is written in the context of formation of reality around us and not astronomy. The translation and information that emerges from the literature is completely different from what is described in standard translations. When translated with this context, we find that the Surya Siddanta has taken the top-down approach to describe the emergence of reality around us from that undescribed beginning.

The essentials of emergence of reality

We need to define and understand a few concepts before we can tie these concepts together to form this reality. The Surya Siddanta starts with defining these concepts first.

Defining Beginning

The Surya Siddanta starts by saying:

acintyAvyaktarUpAya nirguNAya gunAtmane
samastajagadAdhAra mUrtaye brahmaNe namah||1||
Translates to
The incomprehensible, unmanifested, that without qualities, yields to creation which forms the basis of each and every movable qualified as self

The beginning as described is incomprehensible and nothing is manifested in it. We see no qualities and it has yielded itself to creation. It is important to note that the environment needs to yield to creation, if not, none of this around us will be possible. It should be noted that the Surya Siddanta does not concern itself with how the incomprehensible is formed. This is part of other literature and I have addressed a part of this in my previous book “A Research of Shiva: The Enigma” as explained above.

So, what does get created in this incomprehensible, unmanifested? This is explained in the next part of this verse. 

Defining Reality

Just like the definition of “the beginning”, modern science flounders with the definition of reality. Typically reality is defined as the observable universe. But, common observation consists also of awareness, consciousness and growth. So, how can these be ignored from the definition without giving a credible theory that incorporates their existence from the basic elements studied? Just partial observation cannot be studied. As we saw previously, modern science studies the observables consisting of just the observed matter, light or energy forms. These do not account for awareness, consciousness or growth.

The Surya Siddanta gives us a concise definition of reality. From the above verse, reality is claimed to be that what is formed, which is each and every movable qualified as self. The ancient Sanskrit literature mostly refer NOT to the observable universe, but to “jagat” which translates to “any movable”. 

This “movable and immovable” is referenced for e.g., the Isha Upanishad as:

isavasyamidam sarvam yatkincya jagatyam jagat
tena tyaktena bhunjitha ma grdhah kasyasviddhanam
Translates to
This entire world that is moving is covered by potential, hence give up this inquiry who has impelled my experience of desires 

References in the Aitreya Upanishad as:

tadapānenājighṛkṣat tadāvayat saiṣo’nnasya graho yadvāyurannāyurvā eṣa yadvāyuḥ
Translates to
If, wishing to learn, we yield to the opposite force, he, when seeking life, seizes that movable/un-movable and which this perception of life is?

Here it says the perception of life is that “movable/un-movable”. 

Defining movable

Modern science definition of movement is matter/light/energy being progressively re-located from a set of co-ordinates A to another set of co-ordinates B in. So according to modern science, matter/light/energy is the “movable” and the definition of motion is dependent on the existence of these elements with time. How can time be defined with respect to motion and motion be defined with respect to time? Isn’t it the same circular definition problem we encountered previously with modern science? 

Such a definition cannot be used in our scenario. We are still at the definition where nothing exists but that unmanifested which yields to the formation of this movable. Hence, we need to ask ourselves, for such a system, what is a movable? Why is movable very important?

We need to ask ourselves, what does motion, the way we have defined it, have any relation to existence of life? Our definition of motion is more an addendum to life, where life can move if possible and not necessarily life itself. But, this verse tells us, that seizing the movable is the perception, is the experience or is what is formation.

To understand this, we need to ask ourselves “What can I perceive or observe or experience?” Most certainly, on an abstract level it is “that which continuously changes.” If there is no change, the mind either does not perceive it or ignores what it perceives. For e.g., how do we see? Light has to continuously reflect off the object that we are seeing and hit our retina and our mind has to continuously interpret those reflected light signals. If we do not continuously receive it or the brain does not continuously interpret it, it simply vanishes from our sight. An example can be seen in the mirror tricks performed by magicians to make something disappear in front of our eyes. 

How do we hear something? There has to be a continuous presence of sound waves that impinge our eardrums. In the absence of continuity of the sound waves hitting out ears, the sound stops. An example can be seen when we play sound tracks and music. Stop the music and we do not hear anything.

Dissecting this reasoning some more, we find that, for light to continuously reflect off of an object, the object needs to be present at the same location with relation to us continuously. Time is a continuously moving abstract according to us. If we and that object on which light reflects, do not move continuously with that abstract time, then wouldn’t the object be lost to us? With similar reasoning, we can safely say that anything we perceive needs to continuously move along with that abstract time. Thus, motion, rather than being a space and time related concept is more a pure time related concept.

So, irrespective of whether it is an animate or an inanimate object, for objects to be perceived by us and be present as a part of the observable universe that we can observe, at a minimum, movement on the time axis is needed. The same object needs to move from one frame of time to the next frame of time as we move from one frame to the next. When there is no movement along the time axis, we do not perceive the object continuously and it is unknown to us. Hence, everything that is “movable” is what is very important to be part of our universe. Hence, reality is defined as “each and every movable”.

Defining “qualified self”

The self, according to wikipedia is said to be “an individual person as the object of its own reflective consciousness”. Most references in modern science refers “self”, “I” or “consciousness” to a sentient being possessing awareness. An inanimate or non-sentient objects is considered to have no “self” or awareness in our definition.

Yet, as we saw in the previous definition of “movable”, an inanimate or non-sentient object has to also move along the time axis for them to be continuously present in the observable reality around us. Again, we defined the beginning as “quality-less and incomprehensible”, how then can an inanimate possess “quality”, if there is no “self”? For example, how does granite have the material characteristics such as hardness, resistance to weathering, strength and so on? Granite also needs to have some “qualified form of that quality-less incomprehensible” to possess qualities. Granite also needs to have the awareness of “self” to retain these characteristics over the progression of change.

Thus we see that irrespective whether we talk about a sentient or non-sentient beings, animate or inanimate objects, for them to be present as a part of this observable reality around us, they need to have a movable form and be qualified by self.

Thus reality is defined as “each and every movable that is qualified by self”.