Religious Cosmology

Dr. S. S. Verma
Physical cosmology is the scientific study of the universe’s origin, its large-scale structures and dynamics, and its ultimate fate. Cosmos, in astronomy, the entire physical universe considered as a unified whole (from the Greek kosmos, meaning “order,” “harmony,” and “the world”). Humanity’s growing understanding of all the objects and phenomena within the cosmic system. Religious cosmology is based on mythological, religious literature etc. and theories in cosmology may include both scientific and non-scientific propositions, that cannot be tested. Even with the highest growth in understanding and development of science and technology still science and religion go hand in hand and we cannot separate them to very finite levels. Same is our quest about the knowledge of COSMOS. Science and technology is trying its best to understand the intricacies of the COSMOS all around us to satisfy the quest of a common man to understand about the COSMOS but still the explanation to COSMOS in spiritual or religious ideologies has a special place which to some extent is enough to satisfy the quest of a common man about the COSMOS.
This century’s great scientist Albert Einstein has said that “The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe. We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations.” Similarly, Carl Sagan (1934-1996) was an American astronomer, astrochemist, author and highly successful popularizer of astronomy said about faith and knowledge of universe, “How is it that hardly any major religion has looked at science and concluded, ‘This is better than we thought! The Universe is much bigger than our prophets said, grander, more subtle, more elegant’? Instead they say, ‘No, no, no! My god is a little god, and I want him to stay that way.’ A religion, old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the Universe as revealed by modern science might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths.”
This article is an effort to bring out the explanations about COSMOS in various religious scriptures/holy text books.
* In Sikhism (Youngest religious faith), Baba Nanak stated, the purpose of the Cosmos remained one which only God knows. Before the creation of the Cosmos there was darkness, only his will existed. And, that when God wills the cosmos will end, and once more there shall be only his will present, as was the case before the Universe emerged. In Guru Granth Sahib on the Universe it is said that “There are planets, solar systems and galaxies. If one speaks of them, there is no limit and no end. There are worlds upon worlds of His Creation. As He commands, so they exist. He watches over all, and contemplating the creation, He rejoices. Nanak says, to describe this is as hard as steel!” The scriptures say that the universe consists of many different bodies including planets, solar systems galaxies, stars, suns, skies, etc and that the scale and extent of these bodies is unknown and that there is no end to their number. It is clear from this that probable size of the universe is beyond an exact evaluation or calculation by the human mind. The holy text continues to state: “The limits of the created universe cannot be perceived. Its limits here and beyond cannot be perceived. Many struggle to know His limits, but His limits cannot be found. No one can know these limits. The more you say about them, the more there still remains to be said.”
* According to Hindu vedic cosmology, there is no absolute start to time, as it is considered infinite and cyclic. Similarly, the space and universe has neither start nor end, rather it is cyclical. The current universe is just the start of a present cycle preceded by an infinite number of universes and to be followed by another infinite number of universes. There are multiple universes, each takes birth from chaos, grows, decays and dies into chaos, to be reborn again. Further, there are different and parallel realities. Brahma’s one day equals 4.32 billion years which is a Kalpa. Each Kalpa is subdivided into four yuga (chaturyuga, also called mahayuga). These are krita (or satya), treta, dvapara and kali yugas. The concept of multi universes is mentioned many times in Hindu Puranic literature, such as in the Bhagavata Purana: Every universe is covered by seven layers – earth, water, fire, air, sky, the total energy and false ego – each ten times greater than the previous one. There are innumerable universes besides this one, and although they are unlimitedly large, they move about like atoms in You. Therefore You are called limitless (Bhagavata Purana 6.16.37)
* According to Biblical cosmology conception of the cosmos is as an organized, structured entity, including its origin, order, meaning and destiny. The ancient Israelites envisaged a universe made up of a flat disc-shaped Earth floating on water, heaven above, underworld below. Two different models of the process of creation existed in ancient Israel. In the “logos” (speech) model, God speaks and shapes unresisting dormant matter into effective existence and order (Psalm 33: “By the word of YHWH the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their hosts; he gathers up the waters like a mound, stores the Deep in vaults”); in the second, or “agon” (struggle) model, God does battle with the monsters of the sea at the beginning of the world in order to mark his sovereignty and power.
* The nature and structure of the physical universe are also represented in the Qur’an and accordingly the entire universe is very small and contains simply the earth and its surrounding heavens. There are no galaxies, other solar systems, or such a thing as “outer space.” The earth is the top-most of seven, flat discs, surrounded by the seven solid concentric domes of the heavens. The celestial objects that do exist (sun, moon, stars and planets) are quite small, very close, and they follow semi-circular paths within the innermost of the seven heavenly domes. When they are not in the sky above the earth, they are resting somewhere underneath it, except while petitioning Allah’s permission to return the following day (or night). Paradise exists between the seven heavens, and hell exists between the seven earths. All of this is submerged in a cosmic sea, above which is the throne of Allah.
Some of the scientific facts about COSMOS are:
* The universe is old (really old): The universe began with the Big Bang, and is estimated that the Earth is about 4.5 billion years old – but that’s only a third of the age of the universe – which is 13.7 billion years old!
* The universe is big and getting bigger: The Universe spans a diameter of over 150 billion light years. There are more stars in the universe than grains of sand on all the beaches on Earth. That’s at least a billion trillion!
* According to the best estimates of astronomers there are at least one hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe.
* The universe’s growth spurt is accelerating.
* The universe could be flat.
* The universe is filled with invisible stuff.
* The universe has echoes of its birth.
* There may be more universes.