Future of the universe – Science and Gurbani
Though religion and science use different methods in their pursuit of truth, they are not contrary to each other. The ultimate aim of both the streams is search for ultimate truth.
Sikhism believes that nothing in this universe is permanent and changeless. Everything, except God, in this universe is subject to change. Everything keeps on changing from time to time.
ਚਿੰਤਾ ਤਾ ਕੀ ਕੀਜੀਐ ਜੋ ਅਨਹੋਨੀ ਹੋਇ ॥
ਇਹੁ ਮਾਰਗੁ ਸੰਸਾਰ ਕੋ ਨਾਨਕ ਥਿਰੁ ਨਹੀ ਕੋਇ ॥
Man may only worry over what can be averted,
Saith Nanak: On this path of the world, nothing is lasting.1
ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਕੋਇ ਨ ਦਿਸੈ ਸੰਸਾਰੈ ॥
None in this word is immutable.2
ਦ੍ਰਿਸਟਿਮਾਨ ਹੈ ਸਗਲ ਮਿਥੇਨਾ ॥
All that is visible, is unreal.3
ਜੋ ਦੀਸੈ ਸੋ ਚਾਲਸੀ ਕਿਸ ਕਉ ਮੀਤੁ ਕਰੇਉ ॥
All that are visible, must depart hence,
Whom shall I adopt as friend?4
ਜੋ ਉਪਜਿਓ ਸੋ ਬਿਨਸਿ ਹੈ ਪਰੋ ਆਜੁ ਕੈ ਕਾਲਿ ॥
All that is created, must one day perish.5
Since, changing nature of creation automatically leads to destruction, the reality of the world is relative. The manifest world is transitory. Whoever is created shall be destroyed by death. Emperors, rulers and leaders shall depart, and their homes shall be demolished. The poor and the rich, the humble and the arrogant, all shall pass away. The Qazis, Shekhs and preachers shall all arise and depart. The spiritual teachers, prophets and disciples - none of these shall remain permanent. The eighty four lac species of beings on the earth shall all continue coming and going in reincarnation. The thirty three crore gods, including Indra, shall all pass away. All the systems of philosophy shall vanish. Those who are celibate, truthful and charitable and the hermits all are subject to death. The silent sages, the Yogis and the nudists, along with the Messengers of Death, shall pass away. Whatever is seen shall perish; everything will dissolve and disappear. The entire world and the visible universe- all forms of existence shall pass away. Time will eat them all. Whatever is observable is subject to death. The world which had a beginning will end one day.
To show the ephemeral nature of the universe, the Gurus have called it clouds of smoke, mirage, dream, fortress of paper, wall of sand, mimicry of buffoonry etc.
ਜੈਸਾ ਸੁਪਨਾ ਰੈਨਿ ਕਾ ਤੈਸਾ ਸੰਸਾਰ ॥
As dream at night-time, such is the world.6
ਮ੍ਰਿਤ ਮੰਡਲ ਜਗੁ ਸਾਜਿਆ ਜਿਉ ਬਾਲੂ ਘਰ ਬਾਰ ॥
The world is sphere of mortality, as house built of sand7
ਜੈਸਾ ਰੰਗੁ ਕਸੁੰਭ ਕਾ ਤੈਸਾ ਇਹੁ ਸੰਸਾਰੁ ॥
Frail as kasumbha dye is this world.8
ਜੋ ਦੀਸੇ ਸੋ ਸਗਲ ਬਿਨਾਸੈ ਜਿਉ ਬਾਦਰ ਕੀ ਛਾਹੀ ॥
All that visible is destroyed, as cloud-shadow.9
ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਤੇ ਬੁਦਬੁਦਾ ਉਪਜੈ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਨੀਤ ॥
Saith Nanak: I have searched and studied, viewed all over,
This world is a house of smoke.10
ਜੈਸੇ ਜਲ ਤੇ ਬੁਦਬੁਦਾ ਉਪਜੈ ਬਿਨਸੈ ਨੀਤ ॥
As the bubble on water, ever forming and brusting.11
From the above verses this is clear that Gurbani considers the status of the universe as impermanent, transitory, subject to change and ultimately leading to destruction. Nothing in this universe except God is permanent and changeless.
ਜਗ ਮਹਿ ਕੋਈ ਰਹਣੁ ਨ ਪਾਏ ਨਿਹਚਲੁ ਏਕੁ ਨਾਰਾਇਣਾ ॥
None in the world can last, the Lord alone is immutable.12
The fate of the universe has been hotly debated the world over by all. The supporters of Steady-State theory believe that the universe has never had a beginning and it will always look the same. This theory, therefore, suggests that the universe will never die and would continue for an infinite time. While on the other hand, supporters of widely acclaimed evolutionary theory are of the view that the universe is still in a state of expansion. The question whether the universe will go on expanding indefinitely or it will collapse in the converse of the big bang is still to be finally resolved by the scientists.
The two basic possibilities which will determine the future of the universe are whether the universe will continue to expand forever or that it will cease its expansion and begin to contract. The case where the universe will expand forever corresponds to an infinite universe. The term applied is open universe. The case where the universe will begin to contract corresponds to a finite universe. The term applied is the closed universe.
‘The future of the universe depends upon the total amount of matter it contains, or equivalently, its average density.’13 “If the mean density exceeds a particular value, known as the critical density, then, in the absence of any other forces, gravity will eventually halt the expansion. The universe will expand to a finite size and then begin to collapse slowly at first, but ever faster, until all of the galaxies (or what is left of them by then) merge and universe ends in a Big Crunch-a state of infinite regression and extreme temperature similar to Big Bang in reverse.”14 This is called closed universe. Conditions will once again be as they were at the time of initial explosion as the universe collapses, perhaps to begin another cycle of expansion. Such a repeating universe is said to be oscillating.
On the other hand “If the cosmic density is less than critical density, then the universe is of infinite extent and will go on expanding forever.”15 If the mean density is less than critical, gravity will slow the rate of expansion towards a steady value but will never bring it to halt. The expansion will go on forever. A universe of this kind is called open universe. In an open universe, space is infinite in extent.
But if the expansion is exactly balanced by gravity, then the universe is on the borderline between open and closed, and is just barely open. It will expand forever but will decelerate to zero velocity. According to Ian Nicolson, “If the density is precisely equal to the critical value, the universe is just, but only just, capable of expanding forever. The recessional velocities of the galaxies will decrease, approaching ever closer to zero, but not becoming precisely zero until an infinite amount of time has passed.”16 Such a universe is called flat. In such a universe, space is infinite in extent. Universe is on the borderline between open and closed, and is just barely open (a possibility now of interest as a prediction of the inflationary universe theory). It will expand forever but will decelerate to zero velocity.
The open, flat and closed models are all known as Friedmann, a Russian astronomer, models.
In principle, astronomers ought to be able to determine whether the universe is closed, open or flat and settle the question of whether or not it will expand forever, by measuring its mean density, or some equivalent quantity, such as the overall curvature of space, or the rate at which the expansion is slowing down. Current observations indicate that the universe is open and does not possess sufficient mass to overcome its expansion. There have been suggestions that dark, non-luminous matter in and between galaxies may represent enough mass to close the universe, but this has not been proven. Finally, the change in the expansion rate itself can give some clue as to the density of the universe. It appears that the actual deceleration has not been as great as it would have been in a closed universe. Therefore, the bulk of the current evidence indicates that universe is open and will expand infinitely or at least for a very long time in the future. According to Stephen Hawking, “However, our uncertainty about the present average density of the universe is even greater. If we add up the masses of all that we can see in our galaxy and other galaxies, the total is less than one hundredth of the amount required to halt the expansion even for the lowest estimate of the rate of expansion. Our galaxy and other galaxies, however, must contain a large amount of “dark matter” that we cannot see directly but which are known must be there because of the influence of its gravitational attraction on the orbits of stars in the galaxies. Moreover, most galaxies are found in clusters, and we can similarly infer the presence of yet more dark matter, we still get about one tenth of the amount required to halt the expansion. However, we cannot exclude the possibility that there might be some other form of matter distributed almost uniformly throughout the universe that we have not yet detected and that might still raise the average density of the universe up to the critical value needed to halt the expansion. The present evidence therefore suggests that the universe will probably expand forever, but all we can really be sure is that even if the universe is going to collapse it would not do so far at least another ten thousand million years, since it has already been expanding for at least that long.”17
So whatever knowledge the scientists, with their latest and highly developed equipment may have achieved regarding the universe, their knowledge regarding future of the universe is still incomplete. So far science has not been able to say final word on these issues. It seems that it will not be able to achieve this complete knowledge. Whereas Gurbani is very clear on this issue:
ਕਈ ਬਾਰ ਪਸਰਿਓ ਪਾਸਾਰ ॥ ਸਦਾ ਸਦਾ ਇਕੁ ਏਕੰਕਾਰ ॥
Many times has the universal expanse occurred
At the end each time abides the Sole Supreme Being.
– Guru Granth Sahib, p. 276
To conclude, while this issue of expansion or extinction of universe is still being analysed by the scientists, Sikh Gurus’ intuitive perception as expressed through their verses (Gurbani) states that this cycle of expansion and existinction has been continual and will continue to happen according to the will of its Divine Creator.
1. Salok, M: 9, ibid, AAGS, p. 1429
2. Gauri, M: 1, ibid, p. 227
3. Maru, M: 5, ibid, p. 1083
4. Ramkali, M:1 Dakhni Onkar, ibid, p. 936
5. Salok M: 9, ibid, p. 1429
6. Bilawal, M: 5, ibid, p. 808
8. Gauri Beragan, Ravidas Jio, ibid, p. 346
9. Rag Sarang, M: 9, ibid, p. 1231
10. Var Majh Ki, M: 1, ibid, p. 138
11. Salok, M: 9, ibid, p. 1427
12. Maru, M: 5, ibid, p. 1077
13. McGraw Hill, Encyclopedia of Astronomy, Second Edition, p. 476
14. Ian Nicolson, Dark Side of the Universe-Dark Matter and Dark Energy, and the Fate of the Cosmos, p.31
15. Steven Weinberg, The First Three Minutes, p. 150
16. Dark Side of the Universe, p. 31
17. A Brief History of Time, p. 49
ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2014, All