Book: Surya Siddanta: Science in Surya Siddanta

Various translations of Surya Siddanta claim it to be a description of 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. The question then 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? Just as many other Sanskrit texts that change meaning, based on the context applied to them, does Surya Siddanta also have a similar aspect associated with it?

What does multi-facet mean? There are many experiments that show that the human brain can fill in gaps in words, automatically misspelt words, automatically correct grammatical mistakes. For example, we can read the below sentence without a problem:

“It deosn’t mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.”

All that is required is for the description to be 80% correct to indicate the gist of the description. If we analyse why this is so, we find that many descriptions co-occur and the brain has an established relation between these words. The brain automatically expects certain descriptions when a certain other description is present in a given context. For example, in the context of weather, when we are reading some description of atmosphere, we automatically expect a description of some form of temperature, wind direction and speed, humidity and so on. Yet, when the context is climate, for the description of the same atmosphere, we expect some form of percentage of gases present, heat, and so on. The same atmosphere, when described in different contexts take on different meanings with co-occurring concepts.

Words inherently do not have meanings associated with them. We associate them to meaning based on the context of usage, for communication purposes. When we are faced with a description that has words without meanings attached to them from our own knowledge, we assign meanings to these words from a set of co-occurring concepts, based on the context we elect to understand the description in. Thus we are able to coherently decipher the description. Especially when the language is a language such as Sanskrit which is devoid of prepositions and connectors  such as “the”, “and”, “you” and so on that tightly bind words together to retain their structure, multiple co-occurring concepts can be plugged in for co-occurring sets of words to form various meanings. This is called a multi-facet reading of the same document.

Why is Surya Siddanta confused as ancient astronomy?

In the context of modern astronomy, the co-occurring concepts are the various planets, the orbits of these planets, stars, their orbits and calculated time to complete an orbit and so on. A computation of the time it takes to revolve or rotate, is used to project other time related components. The first word translated that seems to indicate that Surya Siddanta is related to astronomy is “Surya”. In standard translations, “Surya” is translated to “sun” and “siddanta” is “the science of” and hence Surya Siddanta is translated as “the science of the sun”. Further, the document has references to “candra” which is translated to “moon”.

Another translation that seems to confirm this even more is the reference to a number of 6 and 60’s which gels well with our units of measurements of time. For example, it says “ShaDibhaH prANairvinADI yAt tatShaShTayA nADikA smRtA” which translates to “a sixth of prANa is a viNADi, sixty of that forms a nADi and can be recollected”. Here, the unknown words are prANA and viNADI. This can easily be assigned concepts from our time dimensions and calculations done from there. But, the word that tells us that possibly, this is not the only translation is “smRtA” which means recollection. So, why should “recollection” be a part of something that is defining “time”? So, it implies that this need not be the only context. Measurements of modern science, as I have indicated in the later sections of this book are very relative and rigid. Time as we have measured is related to the earth’s change and hence is time associated with earth and need not be the same that is associated with every object in reality.

This is where the difference in context makes the text take on a different meaning. But, why does astronomy fit the bill so well? When we look at multi-facet meanings, we find that co-concepts that follow the same trajectory in various aspects can cause confusion. So, why does astronomy and a description of the path of manifestation of the unmanifested have similar or same trajectory? 

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 behaviour (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 performing such 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 centre where an observer is present, many details can be observed and conclusions drawn. As it radiates out, the information available 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 astronomy or science of 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 of all these Sanskrit literature needs to be a: “what is that truth which manifests as reality around us?”

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 or justify 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 of the human mind based on the misunderstanding of the information present in these literatures.

The Surya Siddanta seems to be 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 indescribable, unmanifested, incomprehensible beginning.

The Surya Siddanta traverses the progressive steps from an incomprehensible, unmanifested beginning till it reaches the formation of self and individuals in that self and beyond. It subsequently describes the path taken by this self as it moves forward, giving the various detriments and aids to the progress of the self and individuals to move in that chosen path. Along the way, as it progresses through the various steps, the definitions of various concepts such as energy, thought, logic, memory, growth, existence, awareness and many such concepts becomes apparent and an origin of them and retention of them are also described.

It should be noted that I have described it as “emergence” of reality rather than creation or formation. This is very important to remember when we are looking at reality. Reality is an appearance of the truth (whatever it is) to us as “what we observe” rather than and “actual changing of the truth”. For example: When current flows through a conductor, “voltage” appears across the two ends of the conductor. Voltage, rather than being an “actual change to the conductor”, is an appearance due to the “change caused by flow of current”. Thus voltage emerges due to electric current flow and is not created or formed. Take away the current flow and the conductor ends lose the voltage that appeared. Similarly, there is an appearance of reality due to the presence of “something”. The question is what is that “something” that causes the appearance of reality? Obviously it cannot be something as simple as “current flow” given the complexity of reality. Yet, if Surya Siddanta is to be believed, it can be abstracted enough and the abstract set can be seen as a set of logical steps that allow for the emergence of this reality. In the subsequent chapters I will take each verse and explain how the above steps are established. In this book I have only explained till the formation of Individuals, which is the first chapter in Surya Siddanta.

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