A Fresh Perspective on the Missing Mass Problem - by Swami B G Narasingha

Bhagavad Gita in English

with commentary by
Swami B. G. Narasingha

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bhumir apo’nalo vayuh kham mano buddhireva ca
ahankara itiyam me bhinna prakritir ashtadha

Earth, water, fire, air, space, mind, intelligence and false ego – these are the eight different elements that constitute My material nature. (BG 7.4)

The Dark Matter

     The basic material elements that comprise the universe have been mentioned here. Earth (bhumi), water (apa), fire (anala) and air (vayu) are, for the most part, easy to comprehend – whereas kham, the invisible element, is rather more difficult. Kham is defined as accommodating space for existence. For a long time, modern science has rejected the Bhagavad-gita’s concept of space as an element. However, once again the scientific community finds itself facing serious problems wherein an elusive element must be present in the universe in order for them to explain how the universe works. This element, physicists say, may comprise up to 80% or more of the universe, but is unknown to them and is thus far undetectable. They have called this ‘Dark Matter’.

The Missing Mass Problem

     The first person to provide evidence and infer the existence of the phenomenon of Dark Matter was the Swiss astrophysicist Fritz Zwicky, of the California Institute of Technology in 1933. Zwicky applied the viral theorem to the Coma cluster of galaxies and obtained evidence of unseen mass. Zwicky estimated the cluster’s total mass based on the motions of galaxies near its edge and compared that estimate to one based on the number of galaxies and total brightness of the cluster. He found that there was about four-hundred times more estimated mass than was visually observable. The gravity of the visible galaxies in the cluster would be far too small for such fast orbits, so something extra was required. This is known as the ‘Missing Mass Problem’. Based on these conclusions, Zwicky inferred that there must be some non-visible form of matter that would provide enough of the mass and gravity to hold the cluster together. That was the beginning of the search for Dark Matter. Seventy-eight years later, science is still looking for Dark Matter. They know it is literally everywhere, but it escapes detection and thus they are unable to observe it. Millions of taxpayer’s dollars are spent every year by western scientists in the search for Dark Matter. Nothing has yet been discovered. However, the Shrimad Bhagavatam identifies a material element that among its other qualities is, for the most part, elusive. It is all-pervading, but simultaneoulsy it is undetectable. That element according to Bhagavatam is called nabhas, or as mentioned here in Bhagavad gita, kham. The activities, qualities and characteristics of the kham element can be observed as accommodating space/room for existence. Space itself, both internal and external, is the element kham. This then, if taken notice of by physicists, may very well fit nicely into the ‘Missing Mass Problem’. Kham, being a material element, could theoretically be assigned a numerical code – then they might find what they are looking for. 

 The Vedic Perspective

    In the Vedic way of thinking, a physical element is secondary to its qualities – when the qualities of a particular thing are understood, it is as good as or better than having the gross object at hand. In that sense, modern science has already discovered Dark Matter, because they have understood something of its qualities – they just haven’t realized it yet. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam we find the following verse:  

bhutanam chidra-datritvam bahir antaram eva ca  
pranendriyatma-dhishnyatvam nabhaso vritti-lakshanam    

    The activities and characteristics of nabhas can be observed as accommodation for external and internal existences of all living beings, namely the field of activities of the vital air, the senses and the mind. (Shrimad Bhagavatam 3.26.34)    

    This verse is the potential basis for great scientific research work. It explains how subtle forms are generated from nabhas, what their characteristics and actions are, and how the tangible elements, namely air, fire, water and earth, are manifested from the subtle form. Bhagavatam does not simply list the basic material elements, but explains quite scientifically how those elements evolve from the most subtle plane of existence up to the divisions of the universe – this is quite elaborate and scientific indeed. Yet for science to take full advantage of this understanding of matter and to discover how the universe came into being, they will have to do more than just add kham to their table of elements – they will have to add ahankara (false ego), mana (the mind) and buddhi (intelligence). For indeed, Bhagavad gita lists these as material elements. Furthermore, these elements, ahankara, mana and buddhi are categorized as even more subtle than kham, because they are closer in character to consciousness (atma). 

 The "Light Matter" - Atma and Paramatma

    Beyond the gross and subtle material elements being added to the scientific table, Bhagavad gita says that a complete understanding of existence and reality is not possible without adding two transcendental, anti-material concepts – namely atma and paramatma (consciousness and super-consciousness). This, it seems, science struggles with even more than Dark Matter. We have dubbed these ‘Light Matter’. 

    Mind and intelligence should not be confused with the self or atma. Mind and intelligence have not arisen out of matter as some philosophers or scientists have suggested. Last in the list is ahankara or false ego. All these are material elements which manifest from the apara-prakriti or the inferior energy of Krishna. These gross and subtle elements make up the material body and cover the self within. 

    Those conditioned by material elements consider the body as the self. But Krishna says that there is another energy of his – a superior energy, which is a conscious potency and consists of all living beings. 

    Bhagavad gita clearly explains both the gross and subtle material elements as well as consciousness and Super Consciousness. Any theory that does not include all of these elements is surely inadequate.