Infinity! It has neither a beginning (अनादी), nor an end (अनंत), it was never born (अज) and will never die (अमर ), its always been there (नित्य), as it does not grow old (अजर), it is always new (नूतन), it cannot be increased or reduced, it is countless and uncountable! It is fascinating, intriguing, enigmatic.
From times immortal Infinity has caught the attention of mankind. The Indian romance with Infinity is reflected in many aspects of life.
The Vedic numbering system, counts numbers that are as high as 10^62. The below numbering is as given in the Yuddha Kanda of Valmiki Ramayana.
10^5 is laksha / लक्ष
10^7 is koti / कोटी
10^9 is abja / अब्ज
10^12 is shanku / शंकु
10^42 is kharva / खर्व
10^62 is mahough / महौघ
The Yajur Veda discusses the concept of numeric Infinity in this shloka –
ॐ पूर्णमदम् पूर्णमिदम् पूर्णात्पूर्णम् उदच्यते
पूर्णस्य पूर्णमादाय पूर्णमेवावशिष्यते ||
Meaning, infinity (poorna) is born from infinity, after subtracting infinity from infinity, the remainder is still infinity.
The time scale as envisioned in Puranic literature, goes beyond 8 billion years -
Maha-Yuga one cycle of - Satya, Treta, Dwapar and Kali is approx. 4.32 million years.
Manvantar = 71 Maha-Yuga
Kalpa = 14 Manvantar
Brahma’s day = 2 Kalpa; one for day, one for night. Approximately 8.7 billion years.
And then further beyond into Infinity. As this cycle repeats; at the end of Brahma’s 100 years, one nimish (0.2 seconds) of Vishnu has elapsed. And at the end of Vishnu’s 100 years, Rudra’s clock ticks one nimish. Time just goes on and on and on.
The Indian cosmology is yet another affair with Infinity. It defines life cycle of universes as an endless cycle of creation followed by destruction. Current universe was preceded by infinite universes, and post destruction will be followed by infinite universes! In a day Brahma creates a universe and destroys it. Followed by the next day, and next day and so on until 100 years. After which a new Brahma is born, in Vishnu’s next nimish. Taking the cycle of birth and death of a universe into an infinite ride.
The Indian view of life follows a similar path of infinite cycles. Life as a cycle of birth and death followed by re-birth. Each birth is preceded by many lives, and each death followed by many lives. By this view, before being born as a human, the soul has been born in 8.4 million (84 लक्ष) species, with some billion (अब्ज) times in each species. Each human soul has taken that long excruciating journey, being a unicellular organism, a plant, an invertebrate, and that queer animal seen on Discovery Channel, to a become a Human Being. This philosophy propounds that, based on your Karma you evolve / regress with each birth.
Infinity continues to charm the modern man. Numbers as large as 10^100 (googol) are named. Huge distances are measured in Light Years. Age of the universe is calculated in billions of years. Theories of infinite cycles of Big Bang and Big Crunch are discussed widely. Who knows, the next scientific discovery could be the cycle of birth and re-birth!
The infinite saga continues …
- Deepali Patwadkar