Skip to Main Content

The Science of the Rishis

The Spiritual and Material Discoveries of the Ancient Sages of India

Published by Inner Traditions
Distributed by Simon & Schuster



Buy from Other Retailers

About The Book

A complete introduction to Sanatana Dharma, the spiritual science of the Hindu sages

• Examines how many core concepts of Hinduism, including Brahman, Atman, bhakti, karma, and reincarnation, relate to modern science

• Explores the scientific discoveries of the rishis, ancient Vedic sages, and how they have only recently been rediscovered by Western scientists

• Reveals the concepts of quantum physics hidden within the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Puranas

Called “the scientists of Hinduism,” the rishis of ancient India were the scribes of the Vedas. They developed the spiritual science of Hinduism, Sanatana Dharma, as their way of ensuring the constant renewal and progress of India’s spiritual tradition and culture. Sanatana Dharma permeates every aspect of Hindu culture, from religion to the arts to the sciences. Woven within its Vedic texts lie all of the essential concepts of quantum physics and other modern scientific discoveries.

Providing a complete introduction to the science of Sanatana Dharma, Vanamali reveals how the core concepts of Hinduism, including Brahman, Atman, bhakti, karma, and reincarnation, relate to modern science and how the scientific discoveries of the ancient rishis have been recently rediscovered by the West. She examines the scientific principles within the classic stories and texts of India, including the Vedas, the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads, and the Puranas. Within the teachings of the ancient Puranic sages and saints such as Valmiki and Vyasa and legendary physicians and mathematician-philosophers such as Aryabhatta and Varahamihir, the author reveals great scientific truths--not those believed by the ancient world, but truths still upheld by modern science, particularly quantum physics. She explores Desha and Kaala (Space and Time), Shankara and his philosophy of Advaita Vedanta, and the Hindu sciences of mathematics, astronomy, and Vedic astrology.

In illustrating the scientific basis of Hinduism and the discoveries of its sages, Vanamali provides a window into the depths of this most ancient spiritual way of life.


Twashtaaya Namaha!

Chapter 9
Desha and Kaala

(Space and Time)

In religion, India is the only millionaire--the one land which all men desire to see and having seen once by even a glimpse, would not give that glimpse for all the shows of all the rest of the globe combined.
--Mark Twain

Time is the most mysterious of god’s powers. We really don’t know how or why we calculate time. It has always been one of Nature’s untameables. Even though the mind has created it, the mind cannot understand it.

Time finds no place in Advaita Vedanta though space gets some prominence. Space is a positive entity. It is a product. On the contrary, time is a nonentity. It is not a product. In reality, there is nothing like time. Advaita Vedanta says that it is purely a mental concept. In the absence of any activity or event, there cannot be any mental concept of time. With the occurrence of more than one event, the mind constructs the concept called “time.”

Classical physics had always postulated that Time and Space were eternal realities. Space and time as independently existing realities were absolutes for Newton. He considered atoms to be the elementary building blocks of the universe. They were presumed to be absolutely solid, impenetrable, indestructible, and unchangeable. He believed in the strictly causal nature of physical phenomena. So it was a big shock to the classical physicist to hear Einstein’s theory of matter. Hardly had they recovered from this shock when came the second shock with his theory of relativity. Einstein and many of the scientists who came after him proved that time and space are relative. This is a shocking idea to us, bound as we are to our clocks and time schedules.

The fact that Time and Space are not eternal verities but convenient suppositions of the mind were well known to the rishis. They declared that human life is completely conditioned by the three upadhis (conditionings) known as desha, kaala, and nimitta--space, time, and causation. Everything we see in the world exists in space for a certain period of time and has a cause. This is how the mind works. Without these three upadhis, the mind cannot function.

Einstein said that one cannot talk about space without bringing in time. All measurements involving space and time are devoid of absolute significance. The example of a pair of twins, who are twenty years old, is given. One twin goes in a spacecraft that goes at 9/10 of the speed of light. He returns to Earth when he is forty-six years old but finds that his twin has already turned eighty!

The same phenomenon is described in our Puranas, which shows that they were well aware of the fact that velocity reduces time. In the Bhagavad Purana, the king called Raivathan goes with his daughter, Revathi, to the world of Brahma and stays there only for the duration of a few minutes, but when he returns he finds the whole world has changed and none of the people he knew existed anymore. They were already dead and gone. Moreover, he finds that people have shrunk in size whereas he and his daughter were very tall. He could not find anyone who could match his daughter in size so as to be able to marry her. At last he found that the only man who could match her was Balarama, Lord Krishna’s brother. There are many other instances that show us that the ancients were well aware of the fact that time and space and velocity are irrevocably bound together.

The moment we demarcate ourselves as belonging to a specified place and time, that moment we separate ourselves from our roots, we bring suffering on ourselves. We are the creators of time and space. When we bring energy to conscious awareness, through the act of perception, we create separate objects that exist in space through a measured continuum called time. By creating time and space, we create our own separateness.

Brahman alone is said to be sat, or pure existence. Brahman is beyond time. Hinduism does not declare the world to be asat, or nonexistent. The jagat, or world, is mithya and not asat. It is called mithya because it has a dependent and relative existence. It is not eternal and timeless, but it exists on the substratum of the Brahman. The universe has a beginning and thus it also has an end. Time starts with the beginning of the universe and ends with its dissolution. Space is born with the origin of the universe and expands and contracts, finally dissolving with the dissolution of the universe. Thus, the universe is known as mithya. Brahma Satyam, jagat mithya (Brahman alone is Real and the world unreal) is what our scriptures say.

Without change and movement nothing can exist even for a moment. The stars are revolving, the planets are rotating, the galaxies are moving, and the whole universe is expanding. This is applicable to the subatomic world also, where every particle is constantly in motion. This movement is what gives rise to the illusion of space and time! The Sanskrit word for the world is jagat--that which is ever moving and ever changing. By giving the name jagat to the world, we can realize that the ancients knew this important fact.

Even though they denied any absolute existence to time, the rishis had their own method of calculating time since it is an obvious fact of our human life. Sanskrit has had words starting from micro seconds to millennia. They knew of light-years. The life span of Brahma, the creator, is known as a kalpa, which is the longest period of time that we can think of--millions of light-years. They also had words to describe the minutest period of time, less than the blink of an eye. They knew about atoms, which were called anus, and even particles, which were called paramanus.

About The Author

Mataji Devi Vanamali has written seven books on the gods of the Hindu pantheon, including Hanuman, The Play of God, The Song of Rama, and Shakti, as well as translating the Bhagavad Gita. She is the founder and president of Vanamali Gita Yogashram, dedicated to sharing the wisdom of Sanatana Dharma and charitable service to children. She lives at the Vanamali ashram at Rishikesh in northern India.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Inner Traditions (February 5, 2015)
  • Length: 256 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781620553862

Browse Related Books

Raves and Reviews

The Science of the Rishis is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in furthering their knowledge of this ancient religion. Vanamali beautifully simplifies Hinduism’s complex concepts and treatises into digestible chapters that offer something new for both the expert and the uninitiated.”

– Nitya Menon, first secretary, Embassy of the Republic of Singapore, Washington, D.C.

“Vanamali’s writing is a Pancajanya,inviting all bharatas to bask in the luminous wisdom of their venerable heritage. Mataji’s writing is a divinely inspired, ecstatic pilgrimage to the feet of India’s great rishis. Vanamali passionately illuminates the rishis liberating revelations as the Himalayan summit of human consciousness, with an unparalleled power to transform men and women into gods and goddesses!”

– Bruce Burger, founder of Heartwood Institute and author of Esoteric Anatomy: The Body as Consciousne

The Science of the Rishis is informative, inspirational, and a compelling read. I would recommend it to any serious student of Hinduism as well as a casual reader who is trying to broaden his knowledge.”

– Gopinath Pillai, ambassador at large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Singapore

“Vanamali is an outstanding teacher of Vedanta and an eminent scholar having dedicated her entire life for the cause of Sanatana Dharma. The book is a treasure for posterity.”

– Rama Narayanan, private secretary to chairman, Public Accounts Committee Parliament of India

”It’s not often that you read about Newton’s third law of motion and karma in the same book. But for Hindu contemplative Vanamali the two are intimately related. … she makes a passionate, and sometimes lyrical, case for the connections between ancient Indian wisdom and contemporary scholarship…“

– Publishers Weekly, January 2015

Resources and Downloads

High Resolution Images

More books from this author: Vanamali