Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Speed of Light from Sayana bhAShya

Here is the actual reference from Sayana's bhashya on Rig Veda (Sayana's Commentary on Rig Veda).

The first two lines in the Commentary for 1.50.4 (in Sanskrit) for the mantras dedicated to Surya in this Sukta have the meaning (given below). These mantras are commonly recited by brahmins as part of a Soura Suktam (Hymns dedicated to the Solar Orb).

This post at Sanskrit-list as well as these archives helped.

Regarding Speed of Light:
There are 2 quotes. I will try to reproduce as given in the book:

taraNirvishvadarshato jyotiShk^Ridasi sUrya | vishvamAbhAsi rochanam |

Oh Sun! (You) overwhelm all in speed, visible to all, source of light. (You) shine pervading the Universe.

tathA cha smaryata yojanAnAM sahasram dve dve shate dve cha yojane | ekena nimiShArdhena kramamANa namo&stu te ||

It is remembered (that) Salutations to Thee (sun), the traveller of 2.202 yojanas in half a nimiSha.

Rg-veda-samhitA, maNDalam 1, sUktam 50, mantraH 4 (6000 DCE) sAyanAchArya's commentary (14th century AD)

Also read Atanu's take on the issue. Please read it carefully, as carefully as you read the above reference from Sayana's bhashya. It is important to understand both positions.

Also, before you associate the Solar orb to the visible sun around which planet earth revolves, read this dialogue on Sandhya Upaasana, when Chandrasekhara Bharathi Swamiji (of the past century) clearly says that such an association is made with an incomplete understanding.


Gandaragolaka said...

"It is important to understand both positions."

I dont know why it is important to understand both positions.

Prof. Atheist Dey clearly says:
"Tell a person who is an expert in the Vedas but who does not know the speed of light to figure out from the Vedas what the speed of light is. I bet you dollars to donuts that he will not be able to come close."

But then, how does Sayana know it? He was a vedic scholar. Granted, he says "it is remembered ...". So he remembers it as part of Vedic tradition that was passed down to him. So how did the very first person who passed down his knowledge to Sayana calculate this number? Aah! Perhaps intution! Yes.. thats what Prof. Atheist Dey says! Vedic rishis were good at guess work. Nice guess no?

And I agree that the physical manifestation of the sun is not the complete form of the savita, surya, etc etc of the vedas. But
1) physical sun is an undeniable and integral part of the vedic surya, and
2) Sayana was definitely talking about the physical sun.

Now I can understand Prof. Atheist Dey's perspective, and I have nothing to say to him.

But I cant understand what you are trying to say by asking your readers to read his blog carefully and "understand both positions".

ramakrishna u said...

"It is important to understand both positions" is a necessary statement as I think that lack of understanding of modern science may make the vedic student ill-equipped to reason, think and communicate clearly in modern world, and lack of vedic knowledge would make a science-student's life and thereby its goal incomplete.

I am pleasantly surprised, rather thrilled, to find such a pointer to speed of light, which I consider one of the pinnacles of modern science in the cited source. It is amazing because the people who wrote it deemed it to be a quantifiable entity, is a finite-quantity and came close to the actual figure. Add to this facts like estimation of age of universe in Hindu scriptures vis-a-vis the age since the big-bang, we see the immense power obtained by tapping to the parA-vAk, which the seers actually were.

But, I also disagree with over-extending these "successes" (for lack of a better word), as I find that there is no reason for us to assume that adhyAtmic texts are speaking about quantities like speed of light, which though being nearly immeasurable to the human mind, and exactly measuring which is considered a great achievement of the past century, is but a finite puny quantity when compared to the subject matter of the texts: which is brahman (infinite) itself. The same holds for age of universe too.

The above statement is supported from the theory of pramANa. A well known vedantic text named mImAMsa-paribhAshhA (with a similar idea also being there in Sayana's introduction to Rig Veda Commentary) says that the nature of shabda pramANa is pratyakshaadi-anya-pramANa-agochara, meaning that the subject matter of vedic texts is an entity which is not available through anya-pramANa (pratyaksha, anumaana, upamaana and so on). Modern science clearly falls under pratyaxa and anumaana. It stops there.

To see how this conflict between anumaana and shabda, you could go to hindu dvaitin forums and see them opposing simple scientific claims saying that it opposes their scripture (ala christians of U.S.A disclaiming the age of universe). Another case in example of a (IMHO) mis-placed search: "is there mention of quarks or string theory in Rig Veda". Such claims lead to too much speculation which is as far away from the texts, their models, their goals, and the agreed methods of science.

As far as I understand, Atanu is just saying what even a well meaning scientist trained in an objective fashion would ask for: repeatability of measurements in empirical values or rigorous proofs in theory supported by well structured mathematics. Without these, even the well meaning scientist, may call the case a pretty weak one. He will surely get amazed by it if he is open minded.

I hope you noticed that H.H. Chandrasekhara Bharathi Swami-ji, a well known brahmavit and sampradaayavit not only stops at saying that the visible sun is a part of vedic sun, but it is non different from brahman itself, which is non-different from the Self. This changing the point of view to a paaramaarthic perspective is needed, as otherwise, vedaa-s become avedaa-s.

PS: For meaningful discussions, kindly desist from name-calling in future. I think that there is lot more to learn from each other in that way.

Gandaragolaka said...

1)"Repeatability of measurements in empirical values or rigorous proofs in theory supported by well structured mathematics."
Now, Sayana gave us a number--"2.202 yojanas in half a nimesha". How he got it should be atleast debatable. Ours is the only civilisation where prajnaana and vijnaana go together. It is entirely possible that there are a few details about physical quantities are mentioned in passing. Nevertheless, the number is correct, and shutting off any investigation with blanket statements like "there is no reason...speed of light" is just like communists and abrahamists.

2) Because of the absense of this "2.202/0.5 nimesha" number in Prof. Atheist Dey's rant, I am led to believe that he has NO idea that such a number exists. Why are we still reading an atheist who has NOT read the vedas, but still talks about them? It is exactly equivalent to listening to Narayana Murthy(a dvaitin by the way) on Indian Politics.

3)All said and done, can you prove that Sayana was not talking about the physical sun? If he was (like you said in your post), then Prof. Atheist Dey is wrong.

4)I plead you not to refer to mimamsakas or dvaitins for every little thing. It is entirely possible to give simple answers without mentioning either. By the way, I dont belong to either school.

5) The speed of light is one tiny quantity and if ancestors knew it, I would be, no doubt, feel proud. But the thing that would make my day is still the adhyayanam of what guruji taught me.

6) Finally, it is Atanu who calls himself an atheist. Your umbrage at this, is just like the sad fact that every Jihadi who dies, does so in the name of Islam, but secular Hindus still say that Islam is a religion of peace. I have not spoken a lie. Hence, I will continue calling him an Atheist.

Unknown said...

There are many ways to calculate the speed of light just by knowing the path of the celestial bodies.

And we know the ancient Indians had already knew the way the planets and sun moved in the sky. Once it was known that earth and other planets revolved round the sun it was easy to calculate the speed of light as it was done in 1675 by ROMAR to calculated it. So it is no surprise that in 1387 indians knew the speed of light.

Infact internet shows that Greek astromers knew almost everything that the vedas has recorded.

In 600 BC: Thales of Miletus (636-546) BC predicts a solar eclipse ( (28.5. 585 BC, Julian Calendar or 22. 5. 584 BC Gregorian Calendar

About 470 BC Parmenides (Παρμενίδης ο Ελεάτης) says that the Earth shape is spherical (Diogenes Laertius)

Sayana is saying that sunlight travels at 186,000 miles per second! How could a Vedic scholar who died in 1387 A. D. know this?

One of The method used by Greek scholars was this:
Looking at Jupiter and its moon IO.
When Jupiter was farther away from earth, light would take even longer to get from there to here, so that Roemer was seeing Io as it had been at an even earlier time than usual--maybe an hour and fifteen minutes ago, instead of an hour. And the opposite would happen when Jupiter and the earth were especially close together. So Io wasn't changing its orbit at all; it would just appear to be in different places depending on how long its light had taken to get here.

DK02 said...

Get over your Greek fascination. In any case, the text is quoted from Rg Veda which was put to text in 2000 BC and had a much older oral tradition.

Rajiv Kumar said...

I believe it is really unfortunate that the western educated Indian intelligentsia have developed this notorious habit of summarily rejecting all the claims of scientific and technological advancements coming from the ancient India. It betrays their slave mentality when they claim that the rigorous scientific research is a western reserve, as if all the Ancient Indian sages were at best day dreaming, and guessing.

At the same time i also believe that the modern western scientific methodology has great virtues and every Indian should adopt it diligently for their personal and nation's progress - we should never get complacent looking at our forefather's achievements but instead take inspiration from them to scale new peaks with the help of the modern science and technology.

I listened to a talk by an eminent scholar rejecting the ancient Indian science and technology way back in 2006 and i wrote the following blog in response.

May be the explanations provided in this blog are still useful.


The Sanskritist said...

I quote a learned person
"Vedas cannot be disproved as a means of knowledge and it requires no proof
other than self-validation. Let us suppose that a man who was born blind undergoes a
new surgical procedure, at the age of thirty-five, that will enable him to see. The surgery
is considered to be a success, there are no complications, and the doctors are convinced
that the man will see. After removing the bandages, the doctor says, 'Please open your
eyes.' But, keeping his eyes closed tightly, the man says, 'Doctor, I will only open my
eyes when you prove that I can see.' What can the doctor do now? He is being asked to
prove that the man's eyes are a means of knowledge, that they are capable of sight. But
how can he do that? He can only say, 'I think you will be able to see. The surgery went
very well and there is no reason why your eyes should not see.' Even if the doctor forces
the man's eyes open, the only proof that he will be able to see is the sight registered by
the eyes themselves"

Are we willing to take the plunge and experience the knowledge (this is a tough path but the only true path). There is no substitute to the path of direct experience. Tarka, pramana, pratyaksha...etc are mere tools to help us in the path of direct experience

Unknown said...

Prof Atheist Dey.? I'm not able to find about him in google. Can u give any link or reference.!