Simulated Worlds Analogy
Thompson describes how advocates for artificial life view consciousness as the result of combinations of minute particles. He proposes that if we consider computer symbols as the “little parts” utilized to produce “simulated life” within nature, we can then regard nature as a vast parallel processor. Certain characteristics of this model, Thompson notes, bear a surprising resemblance to the Puranic concept of maya.
TRANSCRIPT: Simulated Worlds Analogy. 1991(circa) / (085)
...explore an analogy that can be made between the layout of the universe as described in the Vedic literature and computers. So this is something presented in a video we may call “Simulated Worlds.” Actually this video was intended for showing to college students who have some exposure to computer science, people like MIT students and so forth. And we showed this at Stanford University – it got an interesting response.
Well they have a club devoted to the study of consciousness at Stanford University, student club. About 60 people came for the showing and as it turned out I showed the video but before I did that I discussed the thing in some detail because we couldn't get the video machine to work. So in any case, what this subject involves is something called ‘virtual reality.’ So to introduce that idea I am going to play a couple of excerpts from the tape, but instead of playing the whole tape for you, I will just discuss the ideas.
[video is turned on]
What you are seeing here is footage from a military aircraft simulator, so you’re seeing how things look from the window of a jet plane. And the important point to make about it is that the pilot, these images are being generated in real time and as the pilot moves his controls he moves around in this landscape as though he is flying a real plane. So this gives him the impression that he is actually in a jet plane and flying it. So it’s used for training pilots.
Answer: Well then he experiences a trauma, but it doesn't turn out to be fatal for him. So I guess he can crash the plane and so forth. What we are going to see here is he is going to bomb a power station, a nuclear power plant. So he’s lining up plane looking for it and you can see it in the distance now. So here he goes, a direct hit. Now here you see it from the point of view of the ground.
So, ok, that’s the ...oops, instead of doing it down there, I’ll do it down here ...so this flight simulation is something that has been extensively developed by the military. So you have controls and in front of you there is a screen but computer generated images are projected on the screen. So it looks like you are looking out of a window, say, of an airplane and as you manoeuvre with the controls you seem to be flying through this landscape; and you could dogfight with another airplane that somebody else is flying. So you could try to shoot him down; and so forth and it’s a very real experience because the computer program is designed to simulate the movements of the airplane as they would really occur. So they use this for training pilots.
So the idea is that you can put a person into a computer generated reality.
This has led to the idea of what they call virtual reality. And the concept there is that a person can be projected into a world in which he has a body and he can move around in that world with that body as though that body is his very self. So in the case of flight simulation the person is merely flying in an airplane but when you carry this to greater detail he is moving around in this world within a body.
So there are a number of interesting points to make about this. I first thought about this when I attended a convention on artificial life in Los Alamos. They were doing computer simulations of organisms. They had little organisms of a sort of Pacman level of development, moving around within an artificial level of environment. So the whole issue came up of what is the relationship between a simulation and a reality. So the main theme of the artificial life conference was that life is simply a matter of tiny little parts that are struck together in the right pattern. So the essence of life then is the interrelationships between these parts. So it doesn't matter what the parts are in as of themselves as long as you have parts that relate to one another in the same way, you have the same organism because the essence of life is the structure made out of these parts.
So of course in modern science the main idea is life is a chemical phenomena, little parts of molecules. And the essence of life is the molecules are linked together in certain combinations. So you can imagine then having something different from molecules. But that ‘something’ behaves like a molecule and it’s linked together with other ‘somethings’ in the same way that the molecules are linked together. So if you have this other arrangement in which the same pattern was there but the basic subunits were different – wouldn't that be the same thing someone might ask? So this is where the idea of computer simulation came in, because the entities could be constructs within a computer, essentially just numbers or symbols, the kind that a computer can manipulate. And the computer can store up data on the relationships between these entities.
So if you simulate the living system within the computer by an arrangement of computer symbols that relate to one another in the same way that the parts of the living organism relate to one another, then have you captured the essence of life within the computer? So they talked about that, that problem there. And one person there who is a philosopher argued that, “No, a simulation is different from the real thing which is simulated.” And he said, “Well for example, suppose you make a simulation of a bridge in an engineering study and you find that the bridge collapses. Well, that’s different from the collapse of a real bridge. So there’s this fellow, Thomas O’Toffuli [sp?], a scientist from MIT, who replied that, “Well, if on your simulated bridge you had simulated automobiles with simulated people in them and the bridge collapsed then they would fall to their simulated deaths. And in fact it would be just the same as in real life. So there is no essential difference between the simulation and actual life. So this is a prominent idea that they have.
It’s interesting the lengths to which some people carried this idea. For example there is a fellow named Hans Moravec who talks about transplanting the human mind, by which he means the structure of the brain, into a computer, because after all the brain is supposedly just a combination of parts, ultimately molecules. Or you could look at them at a higher level and call them the neurons and so on. And supposedly the mind is produced by the brain owing to the fact that these parts are connected together in a certain way, that is the neurons are wired together into certain circuits. So he said then if could somehow record the information for all the nerve interconnections and then duplicate that within a computer you could in effect download the personality into the computer. And then when the computer program executed simulating the phenomena within the brain, the result of that would be that you would have the person functioning within the computer. So he suggested that this is a solution to the problem of death. In fact he had some complaints about the problem of bodily identification. He said that, “Yes, we identify with these bodies and this is actually a mistake.” He didn't think very much of the human body – he referred to it as ‘wet wear’ and it’s made of all these liquids, it breaks down, really a mess. Wouldn't it be better if we could download ourselves into a nice mechanical electronic computer, you know no mess and no bother, just plug it into the wall outlet and you know if something goes wrong with the computer you can put in a new circuit board and it will be just as good as new and for security you can have back up copies of yourself because if you can download yourself into a computer that means there is a certain file which represents you. So putting that on a suitable diskette you can store back up copies. So Moravec very seriously proposed this as a possibility.
A: Well, yeah, it’s very logical given the scientific outlook on what life is. It makes sense. In fact it should be possible to do it. It may be technically very difficult, but given the scientific view that life is just a combination of these molecular parts, everything else follows quite logically. It’s interesting that this is also reminiscent of Buddhist view of transmigration, because there is the idea that there is no soul and no substance in Buddhism. So what transmigrates is just a kind of informational pattern of some kind representing the personality of the individual but there is no actual self. So that’s the kind of discussion that was going on at this conference. One thing that was interesting about the conference was that there was no mention of consciousness at any time throughout the conference. That word just didn’t come up.
Artificial life was the title. And the problem is how could you duplicate the consciousness. Could you duplicate consciousness by means of a computer? So there is a number of arguments suggesting that you couldn’t that are based on the principle of reductio ad absurdum. There’s a philosopher named John Searle at Berkeley who has become famous for one of these arguments which he calls the Chinese room argument. But in that monograph Consciousness and the Laws of Nature that I wrote a few years back there is another version of the same argument. But the basic idea is this: Suppose you simulate the human brain by making a computer out of say people who hand scraps of paper to one another with little numbers written on them. You can organise things so that you have a whole bunch of people sitting at desks and according to rules they pass pieces of paper back and forth with different numbers; then depending on the numbers a person has on his pieces of paper he changes some of them according to the rules and passes them according to the rules to other people next to him. So you can organise it so that this produces a computer which is as good as any other computer. It’s a bit slow perhaps, but it can do anything that any other computer can do.
So you imagine that you simulate somebody’s mind with this computer. So you have the people there passing the slips of paper back and forth and marking on them and so on. Does the consciousness of the person whose mind is embodied by that exist within that computer? The computer is a crowd of people. Each individual person has his consciousness but he is only conscious of marking on pieces of paper. So where is the consciousness of the individual? Would you say that the whole crowd of people somehow has that consciousness, as a whole or something? Doesn't really make any sense? So that’s an argument indicating a problem of understanding consciousness in terms of many parts that interact with one another. Actually you can argue that consciousness is irreducible by its nature. So that of course is interesting in connection with Vedic philosophy in which consciousness is a property ultimately of Krishna and the jiva soul. And basically it’s a irreducible, indivisible kind of thing.
So how could you get a computer to be conscious then? So turns out there is an interesting way to do it. So to go back to Tofulli’s analogy of the cars driving over the bridge. Would that really be the same as what would happen if people were really driving over a bridge? Well the consciousness of the people falling to their simulated deaths would not be there, you can argue. So how could you put consciousness into the picture. It turns out there is a way of doing that and that is to start with an existing conscious being and link up his senses with the computer generated reality. So people have done this in a crude way and I am going to show you some video footage of that. But basically the method of doing is to link up the person’s senses with the computer. Now let’s see, if I’ve done this right, the next tape should be the same thing forwarded to the appropriate point. So I am going to show an example in which a person’s consciousness is placed in an artificial body in an artificial world generated by a computer and the result is you have a conscious being moving around within this computer generated reality.
So let’s see.
...so here we see a hand – looks like a disembodied hand – trying to throw a switch which runs this fan. You can see the fan there on the ceiling, and you’ll see that the fan turns on and off depending on the settings on the switch. So the hand is trying to throw the switch. But the important thing here is that this hand is connected to an actual person, and also the senses of that person, the sense of sight in particular, are linked up so that they are seeing from the vantage point of this hand, or really from the vantage point of the head, which is somewhat behind the hand. This is sort of a strange simulation because you can see that objects tend to pass through one another. This is because, actually it’s very difficult to calculate where different elements of surfaces intersect each other, so you really need a very powerful computer indeed to properly calculate when objects are passing through one another. So here we see the hand, which is the hand of an actual person, trying to pick up this pyramid. He’s handing it to another person. As you can see, there are actually two people in this scene, they’re real people, and their consciousness is projected into this simulated world. So each person is seeing the world from his own vantage point. We’re seeing from the vantage point of the first hand, but the other person is seeing from the vantage point of the eyes of that head and torso. So he’s trying to manipulate an object – you see him looking at his hand there briefly – both of them are trying to move these objects around. We’re seeing a example of instant growth in the simulated world. So in this situation, we have a creation of a reality by computer simulation in which consciousness is actually present, so how is the consciousness of a human being projected into this scene? [unclear] Oh, the pause worked really nice this time! Oh well, right.
So the technique that’s used here is, they have two things – one is called the data glove. So what that is a glove you wear on your hand which has little electronic sensors at all the finger joints, so if you move your fingers those sensors generate data which goes to the computer. So that indicates to the computer the position of your fingers. Then the person wears a set of goggles in which there are little television screens right over his eyes. So the computer generates the pictures in real time, 30 frames per second, showing this artificial environment from the point of view of the person’s eyes. So he has a body within that environment and his eyes are in a particular location. So for him the computer generates the pictures as they would be seen from that vantage point and he can move his hand. So there’s an artificial hand hooked up to his body. Of course you can see that he really didn't have an arm there, they just had the hand floating near the body, but that’s just because it’s a sort of primitive simulation. You can put in the details arm and so forth. So that hand moves in the artificial environment in the same way as the person’s hand does in reality. So you have the person sitting there seeing from the point of view of his simulated head within the simulated world and as he moves his hand the hand moves around. And I guess they have the body sort of follow it so that he can actually walk around so to speak, although he doesn't actually have legs in this set up.
Q: Is there any tactile experience?
A: I am not sure how they have it rigged. In principle you could because you could have arrangements in the glove to pull back on the person’s hand so that when he grasps something, when the computer determined that the fingers were grasping the object it could cause these things to contract and then he’d have the feeling of resistance.
A: I don't think they have done that but you could. You can see in principle you could develop this in great detail. It’s just a matter of developing the technology. And you can sensation from all over the body not just the hand. Yeah you could have a full body suit. Then going further if you could somehow hook up with the nerves then you wouldn't have to have an elaborate thing covering the body if you just directly link up with the appropriate nerves.
So that’s the, there are these various possibilities for elaborating the simulation. Also I noted there that these different objects tend to pass through each other. That’s because if you define the objects in terms of different surfaces, to tell when they pass through each other you have to see how each surface moves relative to each other surface. So that gives you a lot of calculations to do which I think is too much for their computer. But with a more powerful computer you can do that. So what I am going to show next is some examples of the experiences people have within a simulated world. You will find that it’s very bewildering. So let’s see here. There we go, and I’ll just go past this talking here – I’m just saying what I just told you. Here we are.
[25:25 – video played]
...now we see superimposed ...the simulated hand in the simulated world, you can see the hand is moving ...So the person is not seeing both these things. He’s really seeing with the simulated world from the perspective of the simulated head within that simulated world. So here you see him operating with that world reaching for things, grasping for things, that are within the simulated environment. So now we’ll show a couple of additional scenes showing the nature of this simulated reality. The first thing we’ll show is two people trying to shake hands within the simulated world. So here again they’re manipulating objects within the simulated world, and now they’re going to try to shake hands with each other. As you can see, it’s a little bit awkward ...there’s the problem that their hands pass through one another – so much has to be done to improve the simulation. But they’re actually experiencing themselves within that world trying to shake hands with each other. Actually, the experience of being projected into another world can be a little bit disorienting. Consider this example: Here we have a person who is projected into a simulated world, and as you can see, literally he is experiencing another reality. He’s seeing, feeling, perceiving in a different world.
What’s up there? So that’s, those are some examples. You can see how you can get into maya. If this were perfected you can imagine how you could completely identify with the simulated body. And you can consider all the potential applications. Suppose you like to fly, so you can be given a bird body and then you could experience flying. You might like that. So you wouldn't want to leave the simulation. So there are all kinds of aspects to this. Actually another way of doing this kind of simulation is to hook up the person’s senses with an actual mechanical robot. So this was done once in Japan and as a result the person had an unusual sort of out-of-body experience. So the robot, he was sitting in one part of the room with this apparatus over his head and arms and so forth and the robot was seated in another part of the room, so he found himself looking out from the view point of the robot and as he turned his head the robots head would turn and so forth. So that actually created for him the illusion that he was where the robot was. So he looked around and finally he saw his own body sitting over in the corner of the room. He said it was a really weird feeling, seeing his body from a distant place, sort of robot generated out-of-body experience. Of course a real out-of-body experience depends on having a robot body also. There the idea is that your subtle body goes out of the gross body which is like a robot, and sees it from a distance. So it’s sort of reverse of the experience that he had, since he was going into a further level of robot existence.
So the idea is to use this to illustrate the concept of a soul being linked up with a material body. So in these examples you can see that consciousness can be put into a computer generated body by linking it up with the consciousness of an existing being, in this case the human being, who wears the apparatus. So the idea is similarly consciousness is there within these bodies in the material world by virtue of the fact that it’s linked up with the consciousness of the jiva soul. So it’s a similar thing. And you can have many link-ups between different conscious persons and bodies within the simulated world. We saw the two people shaking hands. In fact you could have a whole crowd of people interacting with one another. Another piece of video footage that I didn't show here which showed the actual people when they were trying to shake hands. They were sitting in different parts of a room, and one of them was going like this in one part of the room and the other was going like this in the other part of the room, but they actually though they were together and shaking hands. So that’s the situation of the spirit soul in the material condition. We think we are interacting with one another through these bodies but actually the spirit soul is really linked up with this elaborate virtual reality.
So a lot of points can be made. One thing that would be nice to do is to make a more elaborate video in which you had a conversation between two people in a simulated reality. One of them would be a person who is completely in illusion, so he thought he actually belonged to that reality; and the other would be a self-realised person who knew he had just donned this set of EyePhones and data gloves and so forth. So the object would be for the self-realised person to convince the person in illusion about his actual situation, so you can imagine how the conversation would go. Self realised person would say, “You are not that body. This is just a simulation. Your actual existence is completely distinct from this simulated reality that we are in.” And the person would say, “I don't see any evidence of that. Where is this other world you speak of? Where is this actual self that you are talking about? I don’t see it.” And the other person could say, “Well it’s in a totally different dimension.” The first one can say, “Well where is it? You know is it out there some place or...” And the other can say, “Well it’s not anywhere within the simulation. Your actual self is completely outside of the simulation. It’s what we call transcendental.” Anyway, it would be interesting to make a video like that.
So that’s the basic point that’s made. A lot of, many details can be filled in concerning the analogy between the computer generated world and the actual world as described in the Vedic literature. For example the computer can correspond to the pradhana or mahat-tattva. Now, interesting thing about computers: computers used nowadays are sequential, which means they execute one instruction at a time. But people are thinking now of making parallel processors which will be more powerful in which you have many separate processing units so that calculations can go on in parallel and these units communicate with one another. So in one sense you can look at nature as a vast parallel processing computer. All the atoms are doing their little things and they are communicating with one another and the net effect of that is different phenomena are developing within the world. So you can make an analogy like that. And in particular you can go further and consider the pradhana in the Vedic literature, its described that in the pradhana state the different elements, including the three gunas and so forth, are in a sort of potential state but they are not doing anything. So that would be like a parallel processing computer which is switched off – it’s not actually functioning. Then when you turn on the computer, of course programming the computer means setting the little processing units with the right data, so you can say when Maha-Visnu glances over the pradhana, what in effect He’s doing is, number one, He’s turning on the computer – He activates it with His glance – and number two, He injects the karma of all the conditioned souls. So that karma is data, so that data is programming the pradhana. And so it begins to execute the program, that is the phenomena known as time or kala which is introduced by Maha-Visnu.
So there are all kinds of parallels you can make in this analogy. And then there is the question of the spirit souls. Maha-Visnu also injects the conditioned spirit souls into the matrix of the pradhana and they get linked up to the pradhana or now its called the mahat-tattva through false ego. So there is, false ego is the final link that connects with the conditioned spirit soul, and then there is the intelligence and mind which are subtle elements which in turn connect with the elements of the gross body. So you can make an analogy according to which you have the basic parallel processing computer that describes this simulated or virtual reality. And then you have additional computational functions which link up the senses of different people with the bodily organs of different simulated bodies within the simulated world. So those intermediate link calculations correspond to the false ego, intelligence and mind, because in each case you have a special link that connects the given spirit soul with the body within the material world. So this is all just an analogy, but the analogy has many parallel points. So you can use that specially with computer science fans to introduce some Vedic ideas.
So that is all presented in this video pretty much as I have described it. But there are some interesting additional points that can be made. There is the question of the laws of physics. Now in a computer simulation you can make events within your simulated world occur according to the laws of physics. In fact when they have these flight simulations they try to do that very faithfully, so that the plane manoeuvres the way a real plane would. So also later in this video there is a segment showing a simulated automobile going over a bumpy road. This simulation was done in order to test the suspension of the automobile. You see it bouncing up and down as it hits the bumps according to a mathematical model of how the suspensions is working. So you can have the laws of physics there, but also you can break the laws of physics because in the computer simulation that’s easy. If you want something to occur according to the other laws than just the normal laws of physics you just program it to that.
So this brings up the point of different siddhis and so forth described in the Vedic literature. Once again I am making an analogy between a computer simulated world and the world as it really is according to Vedic literature. So in the computer simulated world you can make things happen according to the laws of physics but you are free to make things happen according to other laws too. That is the programmer is free to do that. But of course the person in the simulation isn't free to do that. He just has to act with the simulated body that he is given. And by the way, you can imagine, you can think of all kinds of scenarios, for example in the future just to torture political prisoners you can put them into a hellish virtual reality and once you are in the virtual reality you can’t get out because all you can do is act within that reality. So you could torture your prisoners by putting them in a horrible reality.
Q: A simulated reality.
A: Simulated reality. And then of course for the elite to engage in their highly decadent and depraved sense gratification, you can imagine a sensuous, stimulating virtual reality in which they would do things.
Q: If they’re functioning within that simulated reality, what if they want to take off the suit, or the gloves?
A: Well one thing you can see, if it’s, say, a real whole body suit-type, you may not be able to take it off. All you can do it move around in it. So especially because all the sensory input you are getting is from within the virtual reality.
A: Yeah, that might be difficult. And even if in a given case you can say, well maybe the person could do it, he can sort of push off the glove and get a hand free and so on, but you can imagine setting it up so that person couldn't do that. For example if you had a real high tech arrangement in which a transceiver was hooked up to your spinal cord intercepting the nerve messages and the body was given an injection so it would go to sleep. All the muscles would be limp. Then you would be within the virtual reality – you’d really be in there. So one can think of all these applications.
A: Well, we can carry it further and further, into the world of Hans Moravec.
A: Well, that’s of course the ultimate point; that’s what we are in right now. We are in hi-tech maya. Maya is hi-tech basically. The whole thing of course created by Maha-Visnu, so He’s the ultimate expert in hi-tech. And He is the programmer because another parallel point in this analogy is this virtual reality has to be programmed. You need a person to program the computer. So of course that corresponds to Visnu. He programs the computer with maya, so it creates this simulation.
Q: ...or maybe it’s Durga
A: Yeah, or Siva. You have a real multi-level situation in the Vedic, but ultimately it comes from Visnu because He dreams it, He goes into His yoga nidra sleep and dreams the world. So it’s interesting the world in that sense is a dream but it God’s dream. But anyway, then if you want to have, say, siddhi’s, and things like that, then that can be a part of computer programming also. And this brings one to another point that in computer operating systems you have permission levels. This is already existing. For example a person signs on to the computer with his particular code word. So he has access to certain files and programs and so on within the computer but not others. Another person with greater status may have access to a higher level of files and programs. And he could, say, manipulate the programs of the other person and the other person wouldn't even know. And then finally in computer operating systems like Unix there is something called the superuser. And he can manipulate all the files and programs. So I don’t know what the theology was of the person who invented this operating system. Another feature of the Unix operating system is that there are programs in it that are called daemons and these are programs that operate in the background and carry out various functions to keep everything running properly in the system. So of course in the Vedic scheme of the universe there are the demigods. By the way daemons didn't originally mean demon or an evil being – that was the contribution of the Christians who made out the daemons to be evil – but originally a daemon was kind of a nature’s spirit that was controlling things within nature back in the old Roman and Greek days. So that another aspect of this analogy.
And then a further aspect of the analogy is that you can imagine having within one computer several levels of simulated realities. And then you can imagine a mode of being able to transfer from one to the other. That’s something you could certainly do by computer programming. So that one person might be stuck in his particular level of reality; another person however might have the power to shift into another level of reality, simulated reality. Then he’d experience a different world and he’d leave the first world. So from the point of view of the person stuck in one level that other person could appear or disappear and go off into another world. So that’s also an analogy something you have in the Vedic literature.
I have a little video tape to show you. This has to do with the idea of higher dimensional aspects of reality. So this computer analogy, this provides one analogy which can be used to explicate the Vedic conception of the universe. This could explain how you can have Narada Muni travelling off to transcendental realm and then coming back and appearing and same thing with various great yogis and so forth. It can explain prapti-siddhi and other different siddhi’s and so forth. Or at least the idea is that it not so much explains these things but it makes it plausible that reality really can be set up in that way. So another aspect of all this is the idea of higher dimensions of reality. In this book on Vedic cosmography and so forth I discussed the idea of reality as being higher dimensional as described in the Vedic literature. So I wanted to say a little bit about that. The term ‘higher dimensional’ is borrowed from mathematics. You won't find any Sanskrit word corresponding to that. However the concept is there implicitly in the Vedic literature. And I’ll give some examples of that.
In order to explain the universe as described in Vedic literature, what I did in this book was start as initial root, or cause for, the universe with Krishna. So it’s described that Krishna has the feature of being, of having access to all points in space at any one time. And furthermore, space is subordinate to Krishna, not that Krishna is subordinate to space. One can get the idea that Krishna has a body which exists within space just as our bodies do, and this leads to the concept that Krishna is something relative and hence material. An argument like this was once made to me by one Indian man. He pointed to a poster showing Krishna standing with His flute or something like that and said, “Well this couldn't be God! And the reason is that well look here’s Krishna’s arm, right? Well, just go beneath that and here is space. We come to empty space where Krishna’s arms stops and then there is empty space, and then you go down a bit further and here is His foot. Then you go down a bit further beneath that and there is more space and so on. So therefore Krishna is relative. He has a certain location in space. So how can you say He is absolute.” This was his argument.
Of course, the answer to that is that Krishna may manifest Himself to your senses as being in a particular location in space but his actual relationship with space is quite different. So it’s described in the Brahma-samhita that first of all, all of the universes are within the form of Krishna and Krishna in His fullness, as Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati translates it, is present within every atom within every one of those universes. So it is interesting to sort of contemplate the implications of that, because, ok here is Krishna, within Him there are all these universes and within any atom there Krishna in all His fullness is there, so within Him there are all the universes. So that means all the universes are within any atom within all the universes. Now you might say well that’s a bizarre conclusion. But I am certainly not the first one to point that out. Mother Yasoda had an experience of it, because at one point Krishna opened up His mouth, when Mother Yasoda was asking to see if He has been eating any dirt and she looked into His mouth and saw all of the universe there including Mother Yasoda looking into Krishna’s mouth. So she really was within Krishna. So everything is within Krishna which means everything is within everything else. So we tend to think of ourselves as being within space in which things are separated by varying distances and space is laid out according to three dimensional geometry. But the ultimate basis of space is quite different from that. In actual fact everything is located right next to everything else. So we are right next to New York city or the next galaxy or whatever it may be. It’s a question of access.
A: That’s right. Well that explains something such as how prapti-siddhi works. If we are actually next to everything else then we should be able to reach out and pick some pomegranates from Afghanistan, and supposedly the yogi who has this prapti-siddhi can do that very thing; or Srila Prabhupada mentions the yogi can touch the moon with his finger. Well he should be able to if the moon is right where we are also. So that’s another aspect.
So the idea is the that the universe is ultimately infinite-dimensional. Dimensionality refers to how things are next to one another. So in the Vedic literature you also have examples of higher dimensional things such as beings with many arms, like Banasura had a thousand arms and he was firing arrows at Krishna working 500 bows simultaneously and the bows didn't get in the way of each other. So you might wonder how such a thing might be possible. Turns out such a thing is possible if you go to higher dimensions. I actually tried to do it mathematically. I didn't try representing thousands of arms, or getting too artistic, but I have a four dimensional stick figure which will look basically like a torso with shoulders. On one side I didn't put anything but on the other side there are two arms coming out which are four-dimensional. Actually the whole thing is four-dimensional and the two arms seem to be merging into one another and passing through one another but in four dimensions they are actually separate. So they are not merging into one another. So there is the question of how can you manipulate those bows: each of those hands holds the bow that goes through it, so it has to be firmly gripped; but the bows themselves seem to pass through each other; but the arrow put on the bow string connects with the bow string.
So how does all that work? Well on higher dimensions you can do it. I’ll just show you this. This is the four-dimensional figure. Actually it’s simply rotating in space. These are the two arms here which actually seem to be passing through one another but they are separate within the fourth dimension. Oops, well that’s it. Didn’t seem to last very long, there it goes. By the way, this thing has potential for making video presentations illustrating Vedic ideas because if you had an artist you can make an actual figure with four arms, lifting things and doing things using this four-dimensional principle. So you can point out that the figure actually was functioning properly taking advantage of four dimensionality. By the way, if you look at the statues of Siva dancing in which several arms are coming out of each shoulder you will see the arms partially penetrating one another, as in fact they’d have to do if they come out of one shoulder. But this provides the solution for that. Of course in Vedic literature we have cases of, say, Ravana having ten heads or the different Brahma’s who had different numbers of heads going up to millions and so forth. And that’s all quite possible with higher dimensionality. So I am just pointing that out as an aspect of the Vedic scheme.
So that’s it, we can pretty much end there. Are there any questions or anything?
Q: ...the goddess Bhumi, in the heavenly planets they have a particular form, but does that body appear to us as this globe? Or is that body separate from this heavenly planet that we live on?
A: I don’t understand the question.
A: Oh yeah, from what I understand, like Bhumi, goddess of the earth, is a personality, so she has a body, so she can take different forms. Sometimes she takes the form of a cow or a woman and so on. So that’s her demigod body and she’s just the presiding deity of the earth. So of course its says that the earth is marked by Krishna’s footprints and so forth. So that was very auspicious.
A: So she’s somehow really linked up with the earth. Demigods have that faculty. For example different demigods are linked up with different senses in the body. Indira is linked up with the hands. So he has his body but somehow he is able to directly interact with the hands of all the different beings. Varuna is linked up with the intestines and water within the body. So he caused…what was his name…I can’t quite remember his name. There was one king who wanted a son, so he prayed to Varuna and Varuna gave it to him on the condition that he would offer him in sacrifice. And of course he became attached to his son and didn't want to sacrifice him, and kept putting it off. And finally Varuna caused him to have an intestinal disorder since he is in control of that aspect and so forth. So the demigods have that kind of long distance control over bodily functions.
Q: So this globe that we live on isn’t actually Bhumi’s body?
A: Well she exists as a deva so they have incredible powers. They can travel about. So I don’t know exactly where her abode is or how it is situated.
Q: Like within our bodies so many microorganisms are existing – they’re living within us, but ...what is this planet here? Is it actually Mother Bhumi, her heavenly body, be we perceive it made of earth?
A: Well she has a celestial body and the earth is not her body but she knows anything that’s going on in it, and she’s involved with it. She is presiding deity of it. She is affected, if things go wrong on the earth then she is disturbed by that. And she can take action also. She can cause the crops to stop growing, produce droughts, or whatever it may be. So she is linked up with the earth but she has her own separate existence.
Q: I had the understanding that Varuna, although ...but his consciousness is spread throughout all the watery elements in the universe, so he’s aware of everything that goes on within the [unclear]
A: Yeah I think so. It’s the same kind of thing. His consciousness is linked up with the water, Bhumi’s is linked up with the earth, not just this earth planet but the earthly planets in general, in fact the earth element as far as I am aware. Now there is also this Bhumi shell of earth surrounding the universe. But it’s been pointed out to me that is the prototype Bhumi, and not the Bhumi within the manifest universe. That point was made by Satya-narayana in Vrindavana. He made that point.
A: Oh yeah.