Guru Granth Sahib on the Universe

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Can you find the pale blue dot? This is the planet earth! (click on the image to enlarge)
ਤਿਥੈ ਖੰਡ ਮੰਡਲ ਵਰਭੰਡ ॥ ਜੇ ਕੋ ਕਥੈ ਤ ਅੰਤ ਨ ਅੰਤ ॥
"There are planets, solar systems and galaxies.
If one speaks of them, there is no limit and no end."
The top line is the original text in Gurmukhi recited by Guru Nanak
in about 1499 found in the Sikh holy scripture called the Guru Granth Sahib
(SGGS p8)

The Sikh scriptures have said great many things about the Universe. However, although Gurbani has been in existence since about 1499 and the Guru Granth Sahib has been the Guru of the Sikh since 1708, the world has not been listening. It is clear that there is very little that the world has learnt from the important points mentioned in the Sikh holy text regarding the cosmos.

Carl Sagan (1934 – 1996) was an American astronomer, astrochemist, author, and highly successful popularizer of astronomy, astrophysics and other natural sciences. He was the David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University. He was a consultant and adviser to NASA since the 1950's and briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flights to the Moon.

This is what Carl Sagan, wrote in his book the Pale Blue Dot:

"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."

Well! The holy Granth of the Sikhs has said all these amazing things about the cosmos but no one is listening! The purpose of this article is not to criticise Carl Sagan but to bring home the point that most people pay little interest in studying our religious text with any real seriousness and that the many fascinating ideas within our religious texts are unknown to most of the world. Despite the wonderful things mentioned in the holy Granth, we continue to remain deaf to these ideas and hence continue to deny our spirits the wisdom that is contained therein.

What Gurbani says

Guru Granth Sahib states that, “There are planets, solar systems and galaxies. If one speaks of them, there is no limit, 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!” (SGGS p8).

Despite this fact being clearly stated in the Guru Granth Sahib some 500 years ago, most of humanity is not aware of these sayings. Guru Nanak was an exceptional visionary and was responsible for bring some amazing ideas to the world.

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." (SGGS p5).

So it appears that as we get a better estimate of the size of the universe, in other words, the more we find, then the realisation will dawn that there remain even more outside our knowledge. Gurbani tells us that this is how we will progress when we try and calculate the size of the Universe. On a spiritual angle, the Guru tells us that the Lord is in his creation and the Creation is in the Lord; "All are in the One, and the One is in all." (SGGS p907). So the Universe is a manifestation of the Lord; He is found within the Universe. So from this we can see the extent of God as portrait by Sikhism.

Furthermore, it is stated that God created the whole universe including the earth: “You Yourself created the earth, and the two lamps of the sun and the moon” (SGGS p83); "He creates planets, solar systems and galaxies;" (SGGS p1162). And, “Many millions are the moons, suns and stars” (SGGS p275).

How was the world created?

According to Sikhism, God existed all alone in His abstract form - Nirgun - before He created the Universe. This may be called the state of precreation. God was in the state of sunn samadhi or primal void = state of pre-creation, state of contemplation of the void.

According to Guru Nanak, there was darkness and chaos for millions of years. There was only God and nothing else - no mists, no clouds, no vapours, nothing. None existed except God. Guru Nanak says:

"There was darkness for countless years.
There was neither earth nor sky; there was only His Will.
There was neither day nor night, neither sun nor moon.
He (God) was in deep meditation.
There was nothing except Himself." (SGGS p1035)

Guru Amar Das, the third Nanak further clarifies and reinforces this concept in the following lines found in the Guru Granth Sahib:

He created Himself - at that time, there was no other.
He consulted Himself for advice, and what He did came to pass.
At that time, there were no Akaashic Ethers, no nether regions, nor the three worlds.
At that time, only the Formless Lord Himself existed - there was no creation.
As it pleased Him, so did He act; without Him, there was no other. ||1||" (SGGS p509)

Then God willed the creation of the universe. He became manifest: Sargun. He diffused Himself in nature. Guru Nanak says:

"Thou created all Thy Universe to please Thyself, to enjoy the spectacle, the reality, which is the light of Thy own Reality-self."

When was the world created?

This is a mystery. Was this process of creation a sudden and impulsive one or was it one of evolution and slow growth? Only God who created it knows. Like a spider, God spun Himself into a web. A day will come when He will destroy that web once again to become His sole self again.

The holy Granth tells us clearly that the time of the creation of the Universe is beyond human knowledge and that this was not known to the scholars of the Vedas, nor the Qazi who have studied the Koran; in fact this moment cannot be known by mankind. Only the Lord Himself knows about this instant of creation.

"What was that time, and what was that moment? What was that day, and what was that date?
What was that season, and what was that month, when the Universe was created?
The Pandits, the religious scholars, cannot find that time, even if it is written in the Puraanas.
That time is not known to the Qazis, who study the Koran.
The day and the date are not known to the Yogis, nor is the month or the season.
The Creator who created this creation-only He Himself knows." (SGGS p4)

Attributes of His Creation

The Parkriti of three attributes (Rajas, Tamas, Satav) was created by God. Maya, attachment and illusion are also His creation: Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth Sikh Master writes:

"He created the Shakti (power) of three Gunas (attributes)
The great Maya (world illusion) is His shadow."

The Universe is not an illusion. It is reality, not final and permanent but a reality on account of the presence of God in it.

This world is the abode of the Almighty and yet He transcends it.

More Gurbani quotations

Key features

  • "You created the vast expanse of the Universe with One Word! Hundreds of thousands of rivers began to flow." (SGGS p3)
  • "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." (SGGS p5)
  • "So many worlds beyond this world-so very many! What power holds them, and supports their weight?" (SGGS p3)
  • "All are in the One, and the One is in all. This is what the True Guru has shown me.(5). He who created the worlds, solar systems and galaxies - that God cannot be known.(6). From the lamp of God, the lamp within is lit; the Divine Light illuminates the three worlds.(7)." (SGGS p907)

Beginning of the Universe

  • "For thirty-six ages, He created the darkness, abiding in the void. There were no Vedas, Puraanas or Shaastras there; only the Lord Himself existed. He Himself sat in the absolute trance, withdrawn from everything. Only He Himself knows His state; He Himself is the unfathomable ocean.(18)" (SGGS p555)
  • "For so many ages, there was only pitch darkness; the Creator Lord was absorbed in the primal void." (SGGS p1023)
  • "For endless eons, there was only utter darkness. There was no earth or sky; there was only the infinite Command of His Hukam. There was no day or night, no moon or sun; God sat in primal, profound Samaadhi.(1) There were no sources of creation or powers of speech, no air or water. There was no creation or destruction, no coming or going. There were no continents, nether regions, seven seas, rivers or flowing water.(2)" (SGGS p1035)
  • "From this primal void, came the moon, the sun and the earth....From this primal void, the earth and the Akaashic Ethers were created....From this primal void, came the four sources of creation, and the power of speech....They were created from the void, and they will merge into the void....." (SGGS p1037)
  • "The Supreme Creator created the play of Nature; through the Word of His Shabad, He stages His Wondrous Show.(7)....From this primal void, He made both night and day;" (SGGS p1037)
  • "Creating the Universe, He made the expanse....The True Guru, the Primal Being, is sublime and detached...." (SGGS p1038)

The existing state

  • "Creating the sun and the moon, He infused His Light into them. He created the night and the day; Wondrous are His miraculous plays." (SGGS p1279)
  • "Beauty fades away, islands fade away, the sun, moon, stars and sky fade away. The earth, mountains, forests and lands fade away." (SGGS p1354)
  • "His Power supports the moon, the sun and the stars, and infuses light and breath into the body." (SGGS p1358)
  • "He established the earth, the sky and the air, the water of the oceans, fire and food. He created the moon, the starts and the sun, night and day and mountains; he blessed the trees with flowers and fruits." (SGGS p1399)
  • "The continents and the solar systems rest in the support of the One Lord. The Guru has removed the veil of illusion, and shown this to me." (SGGS p205)
  • "He is the Supreme Lord God, the Perfect Transcendent Lord; O my mind, hold tight to the Support of the One who established the solar systems and galaxies. Chant the Name of that Lord.(1)Pause." (SGGS p209)
  • "Many millions are the fields of creation and the galaxies. Many millions are the etheric skies and the solar systems....So many times, He has expanded His expansion....Many millions are created in various forms......His limits are not known to anyone." (SGGS p276)

And this is how it will end

  • "The earth, the Akaashic ethers of the sky, the nether regions of the underworld, the moon and the sun shall pass away." (SGGS p1100)
  • "Night and day, and the stars in the sky shall vanish. The sun and the moon shall vanish. The mountains, the earth, the water and the air shall pass away. Only the Word of the Holy Saint shall endure." (SGGS p1204)

Space Topics: Voyager

An Excerpt from A Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan Co-founder of The Planetary Society 1994

  • The Pale Blue Dot of Earth - Detail Credit: NASA / JPL

This excerpt from A Pale Blue Dot was inspired by an image taken, at Sagan's suggestion, by Voyager 1 on February 14, 1990. As the spacecraft left our planetary neighborhood for the fringes of the solar system, engineers turned it around for one last look at its home planet. Voyager 1 was about 6.4 billion kilometers (4 billion miles) away, and approximately 32 degrees above the ecliptic plane, when it captured this portrait of our world. Caught in the center of scattered light rays (a result of taking the picture so close to the Sun), Earth appears as a tiny point of light, a crescent only 0.12 pixel in size.

Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there--on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

-- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot, 1994

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