Author : HG Lila Purusottam Das
At The Infinity – The concept of infinity has been greatly discussed by philosophers from the time of yore. In modern times especially in mathematics, the concept of infinity was brilliantly elucidated by one ingenious mathematician named George Cantor who is also known as the founder of set theory. Through his profound arguments, he was the first person to show that real numbers are uncountable and infinite.
Mathematical notion of infinity
Why are the real numbers uncountable? If you notice, nobody can count the real numbers. Suppose I have an irrational number. But where does it end? Suppose we start from 0. So the next number is 0.00000…. then 1. But the question is how long you can go on with 0 and then put 1. So it can be observed that real numbers cannot be counted. We can count irrational numbers, but there is no way to count real numbers. George cantor like this created a hierarchy. So the conclusion is that real numbers are uncountable infinity. Subsequently, Hilbert in his book of unsolved problems stated that the determination of the cardinality of uncountable infinity is a research challenge.
Cantor is extraordinary, magnificent, and mind-boggling in his argument. But the question “ Did Cantor actually see the infinity?” Let’s say I am counting from 1,2,3…. Does it suddenly turn to infinity? None of us can build an entity called infinity. Infinity will always be infinite and remain inconceivable to us. In this topic More you meditate you become more perplexed and humbler. Profound arguments were presented by Cantor, but in fact, it always remains inconceivable. The real meaning of infinity can be summarized as follows. No laws of natural arithmetic and natural algebra will work in the domain of infinity”. Nobody can make infinity. Many people think (1/0) is infinity but it is actually absolute nonsense. Infinity will always remain infinity.
Vedanta explanation of Infinity
We will describe some pastimes of Lord Krishna displaying infinity.
Krishna showed His visvarupa to Arjuna in Bhagavad gita as Arjuna wanted to see the opulence of Krishna. Krishna said that everywhere is my hands, legs, faces,ears (BG 13.14).
sarvataḥ pāṇi-pādaṁ tat sarvato ’kṣi-śiro-mukham sarvataḥ śrutimal loke sarvam āvṛtya tiṣṭhati
After beholding the visvarupa of Lord Krishna, Arjuna spoke that if millions and millions of sun are put together alongside the effulgence of the form of Lord, the former will look pale. He said “ I see no beginning, no end”. Krishna had given Arjuna, divine eye to behold the splendorous form. But Arjuna could not see the form as infinity cannot be conceived, although he saw visvarupa. Moreover, Arjuna became so frightened that he requested Lord to withdraw visvarupa and show His original form which is endearing to him.
The above picture describes the following incident. Krishna eats mud in Brahman ghata. Balarama and all his friends became concerned. Because everybody is attracted to Krishna. There is not a single person who doesn’t like Krishna. So His name is Krishna. Krish means to attract. Krishna means which attracts everyone. That must be the name of God as nobody can say I am all-attractive. So his friends complained to Mother Yasoda. Mother Yasoda inquired of Him, but he was nonchalant. Krishna spoke in a very sweet voice. Krishna’s sweet words can drive away all fatigue and fear. Mother Yasoda asked Krishna to open His mouth. Then she saw all the cosmos inside His mouth. She also saw Krishna in the mouth. So she became perplexed as to whether Krishna is inside or outside. Brahma samhita (Bs 5.34) explains further.
panthās tu koṭi-śata-vatsara-sampragamyo vāyor athāpi manaso muni-puṅgavānām so 'py asti yat-prapada-sīmny avicintya-tattve govindam ādi-puruṣaṁ tam ahaṁ bhajāmi
I worship Govinda, the primeval Lord, only the tip of the toe of whose lotus feet is approached by the yogīs who aspire after the transcendental and betake themselves to prāṇāyāma by drilling the respiration; or by the jñānīs who try to find out the non-differentiated Brahman by the process of elimination of the mundane, extending over thousands of millions of years.
Nobody has the capability to understand Krishna. Infinity means it has no boundary, no concept of inside or outside. For example a house is finite means it has something outside as well as inside. Something that contains outside must have inside. But the moment you say infinity, such a distinction is meaningless.
The transcendental autocrat
Same Krishna appears to be finite, but actually, He is infinite. But why does He appear to be finite? Only to reciprocate with His devotees. Mother Yasoda chastising Him or Krishna is pulling chariot for Arjuna or placing wooden slippers of His devotees on His head. This is the nature of Krishna who is the transcendental autocrat. Although He is constitutionally infinite, He surrenders to His devotees. When we say autocrat, we instantly think about the autocrats like Hitler and Stalin, who were infamous for killing millions of people. But Krishna is not like the autocrats seen in this world. Although He is the absolute truth, He is still the best friend of all living entities. We can fearlessly surrender unto Him without any problem and we must.
oṁ pūrṇam adaḥ pūrṇam idaṁ pūrṇāt pūrṇam udacyate pūrṇasya pūrṇam ādāya pūrṇam evāvaśiṣyate. (Isopanisad Invocation)
As Cantor got a notion of infinity from a mathematical point of view, similarly from any department of knowledge like physics, chemistry, biology or theology this concept can be approached. In the above verse essentially means that if you take away infinite samples from the infinity, still what remains is infinity. He is never reduced. E.g. Mr Ambani is a very rich person, but if the stock market crashes, he will be doomed. But Krishna is creating infinite universes and destroying them. But still He is always full, complete and purna.
Markandeya rsi’s experience of Infinity
Let’s discuss the wonderful story of sage Markandeya muni who is still living today. There are many sages like Valmiki, Vyasadeva, Markandeya muni in this planet, mostly in the Himalayan mountains. There is a great Krishna temple built by great vaishnava acharya Sri Madhvacharya in udupi, inside the Indian state of Karnataka. He traveled to Himalaya and became a disciple of Vyasadeva. Such saintly personalities are invisible to us, as we are not qualified to see them.
Markandeya rsi was swimming during the period of partial devastation when half of the planetary system up to to the middle planetary system was completely submerged in water. Imagine yourself in a scenario where everybody around you are dead and you are swimming alone for 4.3 billion years. Most of the time when people face any fatal incident situation they die out of fear first. If a post-mortem will be performed on the people who died e.g. of plane crash, it will be found that most of the deaths will be out of fear rather than the injuries from plane crash.
There is an important story in this connection. There was one professor at the University of Bristol in the early 20th century who was the only person to survive a plane crash out of all the passengers in the plane. So he figured out that God must exist because if he accounts for all the laws of physics, he should not survive at all. So he started his mission of searching for God.
After a lot of investigation, he finally decided that India is the best place to know about God. India is famous throughout the world for its spiritual heritage. He flew to India and joined Agra University working with a professor Dr. Roy. Fortunately the wife of the professor was a devotee of Lord Krishna. She asked him “You want to see God? Come here. I will show you, God.” Pointing at the deity of the Lord, she said “Here is God”. The professor was more inquisitive. So the next day, the lady took out Srimad Bhagavatam and started reading about the activities of the Lord. The professor was completely convinced and accepted Krishna as the supreme personality of Godhead. He wrote many books about the Lord.
Coming back to the story of Markandeya rsi. While he was swimming in the pool of water of devastation, he saw a small island. He went there and saw a banyan tree. There was a leaf nearby and a small baby was resting on it. The baby was sucking his toe. This incident has been beautifully described in Padma Purana in Bala Mukundam sutra.
The purpose of this creation is not sense gratification but to purify us. The aim of our life should not be to have a good career or construct a beautiful house, but to purify our existence which is the prime objective so that we can be situated in pure consciousness and see ourselves. Max planck said “When you are situated in pure consciousness, you can see the matter.”. Markandeya muni was making a conservative estimation of the number of souls who have achieved liberation, which means going back to home, back to Godhead.
Time destroys everything in this world. For example, We build a house, by the influence of time, it vanishes. Krishna says in Bhagavad-Gita, that He is the time Himself. But from the perspective of transcendence, time is eternal. So even if you assume that one soul gets liberated during each dissolution, from the eternal time point view, an infinite number of souls have been liberated. And infinite numbers of souls are still there in the material world. The living entities are the energy of Krishna so they are also infinite. After taking an infinite from the infinite, still infinite remains as it is.
There is also another pastime of Lord Krishna in Srimad Bhagavatam which displays His infiniteness. During the rasa dance performance, there were millions gopi’s who desired to personally dance with Krishna. So Krishna expanded himself into millions of forms and danced with each gopi. Each gopi was thinking that she was only dancing with Krishna.
So we should develop an attraction for this infinite. Once we develop our attraction towards the infinite, He becomes your mother, father, friend, servant, etc. e.g Krishna carried Draupadi on His shoulders and her wooden slippers on His head, when she could not walk out of fatigue during the battle of Kuruksetra. Similarly Krishna became charioteer of Arjuna and washed the feet of Sudama Brahmana. In Vrindavan, His friends were jumping over his shoulders while playing. He is magnanimously and causelessly compassionate. After hearing about all this, who will not be attracted to Krishna and surrender to Him? But if we still refuse to surrender now, we will have to surrender Him at the time of death. Krishna says in BG that He comes as death to atheists.
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ tyajaty ante kalevaram taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya sadā tad-bhāva-bhāvitaḥ
Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kuntī, that state he will attain without fail. (BG 8.6)
If you don’t surrender to Krishna, then you have to get a body according to your state of consciousness at the time of death. If you are a stone-hearted man, you are sure to become a stone in the next birth. If you are very cruel in the present life, you will get a body where you can exhibit cruelty e.g. snake. But the freedom is severely curtailed. A cruel snake can kill a few people but a cruel person like Hitler can kill millions of people. Laws of nature don’t allow us to attack any other living entity.
īśāvāsyam idaḿ sarvaṁ yat kiñca jagatyāṁ jagat tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā mā gṛdhaḥ kasya svid dhanam (Isopanisad verse 1)
Nature is carried out by God’s law, not by the constitution of India or USA or any other country. Every living entity has his quota, one should not transgress it. Because we have transgressed our quota out of greed, we have destroyed rivers, oceans, and land around us. So many suffering conditions are awaiting us in the future. But if we become saintly by surrendering to the Lord, the same world will become beautiful by the grace of Krishna.