Tuesday, January 12, 2010
FW: Atomic Science in Ancient India
Atomic Science in Ancient India
( This article was originally published in The Times of India, Patna, India, on 28th June,1998, under the caption 'Gigantic Messenger of Death'.)
"India joined the atomic powers through the underground explosion of her first atomic bomb (or perhaps the first after 8,000 years?) In Rajasthan, in May of 1974." – Charles Berlitz
Are you surprised by this statement ? You must be. The moment the word 'atom' or 'atomic bomb' is mentioned, everyone associates it with the modern (read Western) science and technology. It is just not possible for us to relate the concept of atom and sub-atomic particles to ancient times when men were supposed to be "uncivilized". To us, "science and technology" have been introduced in India only through English education in the present century.
However, advances in Quantum Physics have themselves started shattering this myth. Discoveries of sub-atomic and sub-nuclear particles are bringing us much closer to solving the mysteries of the past.
Lets, however, first look at the development of the atomic concept in the Western Civilization. The Western atomic theory's concept is found first in the works of the Greek philosopher Democritus who termed the ultimate building block of the universe as 'atom' — from a Greek word meaning "not cuttable". In modern times it was John Dalton who presented this concept in 1803.
Electrons were found in the late 1890s by Sir Joseph John Thomson, an English physicist. In 1911, Rutherford discovered the nucleus in his famous 'gold leaf' experiment. Niels Bohr, James Chadwick, Otto Hahn & Lisa Meitner were some of the many scientists who discovered other details of the atom & its nucleus in the years after Rutherford. Atom was no more 'not cuttable'. It could be split. Then there was Albert Einstein whose studies of the inter-conversion of matter and energy led to the discovery of the famous equation E=mc2 and, thereby, the atomic bomb.
In mid-60s, Gell-man and Zweig theorized about quarks— the sub-nuclear particles. Quarks could not be broken into anything smaller, physicists believed. However, in May-June 1997, physicists of the Deutsche Electronen Sychotron, Hamburg (Germany), produced an entity which is toppling all the existing scientific models of the universe is made of. That entity is Lepto-quark.
Leptoquarks are so tiny that they live for barely one-millionth of a second. They are not "particles" as we understand. They are so ephemeral that they are considered not existing, but with tendencies to exist. At the same time they are both matter and energy ! It's a paradoxical situation and implies that our world, and we, are all essentially ephemeral, since we, too, are made of these lepto-quarks! The fundamental assumption of Western physical science (and materialistic conception of nature) that "nature, as we see, is real" stand collapsed. Physical world is not a reality ! Does it sound like age-old Indian philosophy ? That's what the physicists are wondering about. How did the Indians know that the physical solidity of our world is only an apparent reality ?
It is strange, really strange. Remember Lord Buddha, remember the Vedanta, Shankaracharaya, the Upanishads, the Brahmans, not to speak of the Vedas. The Western science is in pursuit of the ultimate building block of the universe—by knowing which everything else will be known. Now, remember the Mundak Upanishad (1:3) where Sage Shaunak asks the following question to Maharashi Angira: "Master! what is that by knowing which everything else is known?"
Shaunk, and many like him, were given the answer and also shown the way to realise that.
Let's revert to the atomic theory. It was sage Kanad who propagated the Theory of atomic individuality, having obtained the knowledge from the Vedas and the Upanishads. His concept is known as the 'Vaisheshika' philosophy. Why is it called philosophy ? Well, it has been termed as philosophy because the atomic references, which it contains, are generally considered by Westerns ( and, that's why by us !) to be simply examples of fervid oriental imaginings. It was only after the atomic explosions in 1945 (USA), and subsequently, that a gradual realization or recognition of what the ancient Indian texts really describe begun to take place. Fritjof Capra has been one of the many Western physicists who has realized the extent of ancient Indian advances in the field. Anyway, Kanad, as per the Western calculation, lived in the 5th or 4th century BC and, according to Indian treatises, much before that. The literal meaning of Kanad is 'giver or expounder of particle concept.'
According to Kanad, there are five bhutas (phenomenal- products) – earth, water, light, air and akasha. The akasha fills all space, but it is not space itself. It is one of the constituents of the world. This inter-conversion of matter and energy was accepted by the modern science only after Einstein announced his equation (E=mc2). Kanad had seen it long back. According to him, except akasha, all other bhutas are made of atoms. The atoms are imperceptible, indestructible and eternal. They have globular shapes and are of four types.
With references to earth, water, light and air, the respective sense – perception of touch, taste, sight and smell are generated by the atoms. Here, we must keep in mind that these atoms (called anu by Kanad) are not equivalent to what is the modern connotation of the term 'atom'. Kanand`s anu is a much finer particle or thing. According to him, an individual anu doesn't possess any property, but as it combines with another anu, a diatomic molecule ( dvainuka ) is formed, which, in turn, combines with other three similar molecules to produce a tri-molecules ( trasrenu ) , only then the properties are perceived. These 'trasrenus' further combine to give the structure of gross bodies and their properties become suitable for direct perception.
Coming to modern times, 16 years before Rutherford's experiment, a book, titled 'Occult Chemistry', was published by the Theosophical Society in November 1895, in 'Lucifer', the journal of the Theosophical Society, London. The authors were famous indologists Dr Annie Besant and C. W. Leadbeater. They described, in minute details and using diagrams, the fine particles, which were later, discovered as electrons, protons, neutrons, quarks, etc. This has been proved by a physicist of the University of California, Dr. Stephens Phillips, in his research in 1980 titled 'Extra Sensory perception of Quarks'.
Both Besant and and Leadbeater claimed to have written the books using their powers to "see" these fine particles. No modern scientist, even today, claims to having 'seen' the sub-atomic particles. Their researches are based on indirect experiments. How did Besant and Leadbeater obtain this power ? They indicate towards anima siddhi as mentioned in Patanjali's Yogsutra. Dr. Phillips has discovered another such person in Ronald Cowen of Ottawa, Canada, who has obtained this power by practising Buddhist meditation.
Well, well, things are looking mysterious to ordinary people like us ! We can easily refute all these tall claims of supernatural powers. But can we refuse the irrefutable documentary evidence, published much before the modern discoveries of science?
Seven years after the first successful atom bomb test blast ( July 16,1945, near Alamogordo, New Mexico, USA ), Dr. J Robert Oppenheimer, the builder of this first bomb, was giving a lecture at Rochester University. During the question-answer session, a student asked: "Was the bomb exploded, at Alamogordo, the first one to be detonated?" Dr. Oppenheimer replied: " Well, yes. In modern times, of course !"
Dr Oppenheimer was familiar with ancient Sanskrit literature. He had even quoted from the Gita after witnessing the test-explosion (at Alamogordo): " If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once in the sky, that would be like the splendor of the Mighty One. I am become death – the destroyer of worlds."
He had also read innumerable passages, like the one which follows, in the Mahabharata and the Purnans referring to weapons similar to atomic and nuclear arms.
" (it was) a single projectile
charged with all the powers of Universe.
An incandescent column of smoke &flame
As bright as ten thousand Suns
Rose in all its splendor…………………..
…It was an unknown weapon,
An iron thunderbolt,
A gigantic messenger of death, which
reduced to ashes
the entire race of Vrishnis & the
………The corpses were so burned
As to be unrecognizable.
Their hair & nails fell out,
Pottery broke without apparent cause.
And the birds turned white…………..
…After a few hours,
All foodstuffs were infected…………
A shaft fatal as the rod of death
It measured three cubes & six feet.
Endowed with the force
Of thousand-eyed Indra's thunder
It was destructive of all living
It is very unfortunate that we Indians have failed to explore and investigate these sciences hidden in our ancient texts. The investigation is required, may be not for weaponisation, but definitely for beneficial discoveries in various fields of science and technology. It is an annoying that Vaisheshika of Kanad is taught as part of Sanskrit literature and philosophy, not in the departments of science ! It is like teaching Einstein's theories in the class of English literature !