How big is the universe?
by Swami Prasad Sharma
(Dona Paula, Goa, India)
Our mind is bound by limits, hence it is restless but curious too. It may ponder such questions as: How big is the universe, and if it can be sized what is beyond it? No wonder that the mind which has no physical identity and whose location in the body has not been determined even, constitutes a flow of thoughts in an individual. According to the thoughts in the mind one acts, feels sorrow and joy, grumbles and even commits suicide. Hence some thinkers, scientists and philosophers ponder on the question: How big is our universe and who made it?
A frog in a pond was happy within its limited space until it met a frog from outside which told him that outside the pond there is unlimited space. The first frog took a big leap in the pond and asked: Is outside this big? No, it is much bigger than even my imaginations, replied the second frog. I can’t believe it. Then come along with me and see for yourself.
At the age of 5 I went for the first time from the city where I was born (Agra, India) to the small village of my ancestors, where we stayed for two years. We had arrived in the village after sunset in the dark. In the morning when I went outside the village with my new friend I saw the unbounded expanse of the land and the greenery, no other village in sight. Soon the thought occurred to me: If I go on just straight I may find the end of the Earth (considering a flat surface of the Earth); if someone then takes even one more step he may fall to the endless bottom of the universe. This idea frightened me.
In deciding the size of the universe scientists find it difficult to measure its size as their telescopes have a limited capacity to observe distant stars all around in the sky. Also, we have concepts of zero and infinity but these are beyond the grasp of common minds.
Indian philosophers on the other hand may rule out
the concepts of time and space because of the existence of the soul. They believe that this soul is bounded under the influence of the material body by such false concepts as time and space, sins and virtues, i.e. opposing views. Their main object while living is the realization of the self and getting a superior feeling of love for all animate and inanimate objects. They feel that the whole universe belongs to them, hence there is no place in their (superior) mind for hatred, enmity, competition, accumulation of wealth, and all other vices. While still in their body their consumption is limited to the bare minimum as per society norms. They develop an understanding that the real purpose of this creation is to enjoy it through the spirit of love. They regain their immortality and superior feelings of love.
No doubt we all desire immortality and superior feelings of love through this physical body. Mankind is waiting for life-saving drugs, techniques to replace damaged body organs, methods for no ageing, always feeling good, and so on. Most of us have never thought about the importance of life, death, diseases, old age, and how to get rid of them forever through salvation. Lord Krishna propounded in the Srimad Bhagavad Gita that constant thinking on all these four aspects of life makes a man wise.
Normally people abhor talking and thinking about these four aspects which the Lord advocated. Lord Buddha also got agitated by these four truths of life and achieved salvation.
The universe consists of three essential elements: God, living entities (spirits, part of God), and the material world. All these are eternal. The goal of the entities is to get release from the bondage of the material world, i.e. realize their own true nature and get the superior feelings of love and compassion while the physical body lasts.
Saints hardly bother about the size of the universe. They don’t want to limit the cosmos or God. They advocate realization of one’s true identity and God so that all doubts will be removed. They say: find unity in diversity, practically.