According to the field theory, reality is nothing but the transformation and organization of the field quanta. Particles are interactions between fields, and are ephemeral manifestations. They only appear to be substantial as a result of the dynamic, energetic interplay of the quantum fields (155).
All types of particle-pairs are constantly generated and absorbed by the field. The “dance” of all possible particles, may be regarded as the fundamental activity of Nature so that:
“what was considered to be ‘sunya’ (void), vacuum or nothingness before the discovery of relativistic quantum field is now accepted as ‘purna’ (full) or plenum by the quantum physicists (157).
In microphysics, the vacuum-ocean is a positive entity, having ripples and larger waves full of fluctuations. The vacuum-ocean is absolute because it is inactive, calm, and free from fluctuations. Unmanifest energy manifests itself and then again becomes unmanifest as an eternal dynamic process of the universal materialization and confluence that takes place (156-158).
EASTERN MYSTICISM- SHIVA’S COSMIC DANCE
In East Indian mythology and philosophy, the concept of the cosmic dance is very ancient, representing the Eastern mystic’s dynamic view of the universe. They have used the image of a “dance” to convey their intuition of reality, personified in the form of the cosmic dance of Shiva (or Nataraja). The word Shiva means “one whose actions are good,” and the name Shiva is considered to be derived from Shankara meaning auspicious and benevolent. Shiva is worshipped in the form of a phallus, which symbolized the Divine Father. The phallus symbol penetrates into ‘Shakti’ (energy) represented in the form of the ‘yoni’ ( the womb or vagina), a symbol of the generative organ of the Divine Mother. Proto-Shiva was a fertility God of the Indus Valley Civilization, and his dancing today symbolizes creation. Interestingly, the same Shiva assumes destructive or sanguinary aspects, for destruction and cannot be separated from creation. Shiva needs to destroy in order to create anew. Rudra represents destructive aspects in their totality as he dances for the annihilation of everything. Shiva and Rudra are two images that seem to be antagonistic to one another initially, but the Hindu tradition has a forceful strength to assimilate bifurcating ideas. Shiva collects Rudra’s attributes into himself once the latter declines in popularity after the Vedic period. The Eastern Mystics commingle the two contradictory concepts, and form an integral concept from the collapse of Rudra’s destructive powers into the new, more powerful Shiva. The contradictory nature of Shiva appears paradoxical, however in reality it is a bipolar synthesis, in which the opposite poles cannot exist without the other (156-158).
Eastern mysticism recognizes only one Reality as the Transcendent, and yet It is conceived in many forms. ‘Advaita’ (Non-Dual) Vedanta recognizes Brahman as the Ground of Reality, or as the Ultimate Reality whereas the phenomenal world is ultimately unreal (maya or mithya). The theistic or devotional schools of medieval India accepted God not only as Formless but often worshipped the Lord in many forms. Therefore, God in Advaitic understanding was Formless and One, a conception that became remote in the myriad forms that many Hindus worshipped in ardent devotion in daily life. The Hindu tradition tried to synthesize these myriad forms into the Trimurti (the Hindu trinity). As a coin has two faces, likewise the Divine has three presiding phases, attributes, or deities: Brahma (the Creator), Vishnu (maintainer), and Mahesvara (change, destroyer i.e. Shiva). The Nataraja concept of Shiva contains simultaneously his creative, sustaining, and destructive activities. His Nataraja form is consistent with religious, philosophical, and scientific investigation. Creation and dissolution are taking place each moment and are symbolized by the Rudra-Shiva dance. The universal dancer is considered to be Nataraja whose dancing creates the outflow and inflow of the universes, and encompasses all with His eternally still presence as a multidimensional aspect of the cosmic dance (159). In this supreme cosmic dance: “particles and antiparticles appear from akasa (space; these micro-particles may generate newer particles; the particles dance vigorously, suddenly they appear, transiently they live…then they disappear. When they disappear they apparently vanish; but they don’t become nothing…(160).
In the beginning, the particles were unmanifest (avyakta), in the middle they become manifest (vyatka), and in the end they become again unmanifest (avyakta). There is no gain or loss in the whole process, for the cosmic dance is eternal. Creation and annihilation are merely part of the cosmic dance. Their difference lies in degrees of subtleties as they alternate from coarse to subtle existence. The cosmic process of creation, destruction, manifestation and non-manifestation, worldly evolution and change are fundamentals of Shiva’s eternal dance (158).
The symbolic imagery of the dancing Shiva is as follows:
“Shiva’s aureaole of fire (the prabhamandala) represents the rhythm of the universe and emanates from the lotus pedestal, the Hindu symbol of Enlightenment. Shiva dances on the prostrate form of Apasmargaurusa, a symbol of human ignorance. The back right hand carries the damaru, a drum symbolizing creation. The back left hand holds agni, the fire of destruction. The front left hand carries a disc and is in the yajahasta (elephant trunk) position. The front left hand is in the abhya-mudra pose (pose expressing fearlessness) (154).
Shiva’s dance is further considered to be tandava (energetic). The foot held aloft signifies release. His arms are balanced and yet reflect dynamic gestures that express the rhythm and unity of Life. The balance of the two hands represent the dynamic balance of creation and destruction. In the centre of the two hands is Shiva’s face, calm and detached, which signifies the transcendence over the polarity inherent in creation and destruction. Shiva is pictured dancing on the body of a demon who symbolizes human ignorance, which must be conquered before liberation is achieved (256-255).
Shiva’s dance represents the dynamic flow and ‘dance’ of the universe. The dancing universe is a ceseless flow of energy going through an infinite variety of patterns, which merge into one another in a dynamic universal interplay. His dance symbolizes the daily rhythm of birth and death, and the cosmic cycles of creation and destruction. Shiva is a reminder that the many forms in the world are maya (not constant, but ever-changing), while He is eternally Real as He continually keeps creating and dissolving the forms in the external flow of His dance.
The Eastern mystics have a dynamic view of the universe similar to that of modern physics. The parallels of Eastern mysticism and modern physics become particularly striking when sound is considered as a wave with a certain frequency, which changes with the sound. Particles are also waves with frequencies proportional to their energies. According to modern physics, each particle perpetually sings its song, and produces a rhythmic ‘dance of energy in dense and subtle forms.’ Modern physicists use phrases like the ‘dance of creation and destruction’ and ‘energy dance.’ The conception of rhythm and dance emerge naturally when one tries to imagine the discharge of energies going through the patterns that make up the particle world. Modern Physics and eastern Mysticism, therefore, demonstrate that rhythm and motion are essential aspects of the phenomenal universe. Another parallel is the understanding that all matter, whether here on Earth or in outer space, is participating in a continual cosmic dance (Capra: 1975, 256-259). Moreover, both of them agree on the idea of the emergent and convergent universe. According to Eastern Mysticism, the world of maya (illusion) changes perpetually, since the cosmic dance of Shiva is a rhythmic, dynamic dance. In the active principle of the cosmic dance, the entire universe is in action, manifest and emerging, while in its non-active principle the entire universe has converged into an unmanifest essence. Similarly, modern physics has discovered the expanding universe as supported by the kinetic of the Big Bang theory. And, presently the universe has been shown as expanding, but at a slower rate than previously due to the changes in the gravitational force. Moreover, the reverse phenomenon of the collapsing universe will take place at some time in the future, when the gravitational pull will be greater than the receding force, and then the universe will converge (Panda: 1991, 131).
In conclusion, I have examined some fundamental ideas inherent in Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism. Interestingly, the emerging views in each of the two systems of thought parallel each other.
by Deborah Morrison
Capra, Fritof. The Tao of Physics. London: Wildwood House, 1975
Panda, N.C. maya in Physics. Delhi: Motilal Banarisdass Publishers, 1991