The Yogic View of Consciousness 17: Yoga and Quantum Mechanics II


YVC 17 cover2After our trip through the Looking Glass, we close out discussing bindus in a perhaps anti‑climatic fashion by looking at how yoga and quantum mechanics both agree that we can’t know everything all the time.


Contents for The Yogic View of Consciousness:

Intro Ch 1 Ch 2 Ch 3 Ch 4 Ch 5 Ch 6 Ch7 Ch 8
Ch 9 Ch 10 Ch 11 Ch 12 Ch 13 Ch 14 Ch 15 Ch 16 Ch 17
Ch 18 Ch 19 Ch 20 Ch 21 Ch 22 Ch 23 Ch 24 Ch 25 Ch 26
Ch 27 Ch 28 Ch 29 Ch 30 Ch 31 Ch 32 Ch 33


[A couple quick notes: (1) Thanks for your patience since the last chapter of Yogic View of Consciousness, and (2) the comic images used above are from Wendy Pini’s classic comic book Elfquest (see also Wikipedia if you wish) The images are used under Fair Use and illustrate quite beautifully the theme of this chapter.]

The previous chapter explained how quantum mechanics (QM) draws on the mathematical pattern expressed by a Fourier transform and superimposes it over the behavior of very, very small natural system. The key insight to come from this exercise was the Uncertainty Principle. Patanjali‘s Yoga Sutras had things to say about the ultra-small and about the uncertainty of things that help put the insights of QM in a larger context.

Aṇimā Siddhi
There is one aphorism in the Yoga Sutras pertaining to very small natural systems, and it seems  appropriate to begin with it. It is 3.26:

Taimni translates this as:

“Knowledge of the small, the hidden or the distant by directing the light of superphysical faculty.”

Here it is claimed that one who has developed relatively advanced skill with samadhi can perceive phenomenon not accessible to our physical senses. The list includes: (1) very small systems, (2) things hidden from physical perceptions (the “subtle”, e.g. the nonphysical planes), and (3) things that are far away—distant—from immediate sensory access.

This is an example of a siddhi obtained through yoga practice. As I briefly described in Chapter 3 of What is Science? siddhis are the “super-powers” one can obtain via advanced yoga practices. The siddhi described in aphorism 3.26 has been dubbed aṇimā. Two sources that discuss aṇimā are: (1) C.W. Leadbeater’s book Clairvoyance, and (2) Stephen M. Phillips book Extra-sensory Perception of Quarks. I will briefly summarize each source.

Leadbeater claimed there is a small tube of non-physical matter served as an extension of the ajna or third-eye chakra that mediates these perceptions. He claimed that the snake present between the eyebrows on the headdresses of Egyptian pharaohs was a symbolic depiction of this subtle tube used for aṇimā perceptions.

dsc03811While this interpretation may sound fantastic to those unfamiliar with it, there is an at least hundred year history in the West with whom these ideas are consistent. Studies of hypnagogia, lucid dreaming, and near death experiences (NDE) uniformly report the perception of tunnel-like structures that lead to “other worlds”.

I myself have experienced these perceptions many times, not because I am an advanced yogi, but because they occur even in lucid dreams. I will not detail these perceptions here, and some mention of them was made in DO_OBE. The perceptions indeed “feel” as if they occur between the eyes. They bear a variable relationship to one’s perception of their body image. Sometimes the body image perception (somaesthesia) is normal, and these visual perceptions appear as small point-like windows or tunnels in the visual field, much like Leadbeater described. In the case of lucid dreams and NDEs, the perception of the body image may be such that it “feels” as if one is inside of the tunnel-like structure.

That is all I will say here regarding the experiential aspect of aṇimā. Let us continue considering how this all may link to QM.

The Uncertainty Principle
Dr. Phillips described in great detail the Occult Chemistry investigations of Annie Besant and C.W. Leadbeater. Besant and Leadbeater claimed to use aṇimā to directly observe “atoms”. Phillips interpreted their work in terms of modern particle physics. If you are interested, you can see his work at the link above or online here.

Last time we discussed how the Uncertainty Principle of QM has its roots in the Fourier transform relationship whereby if we know one of the conjugate variables of the Fourier transform precisely (e.g. it has the form of a Dirac delta function) the other conjugate variable will inevitably be spread out over a sine wave.

According to the Copenhagen interpretation of QM, the Uncertainty Principle is a consequence of a micro-thing interacting with a macroscopic object. Measuring a micro-thing will alter the properties we are trying to measure. For example, if we want to know the position of an electron, we must use some kind of probe to detect the electron, usually a light beam of some type. In this case the light will interact with the electron and change both its position and momentum. The uncertainty cannot be avoided and is a natural consequence of the fact that a micro-thing must be probed to be measured. There is nothing mysterious going on here, it is all quite physical.

It is interesting to note that Phillips showed that even aṇimā perceptions affect the object being perceived. Phillips was forced to conclude that aṇimā consists of some type of force or energy that interacts with the micro-system and thereby alters its properties. Specifically, aṇimā somehow “bursts” the atomic system, which reforms in a different phase. It is with this logic he explains the differences between the Occult Chemistry observations of Besant and Leadbeater and those of mainstream high energy particle physics.

The Uncertainty Principle to the Nth Degree
What Phillips described with aṇimā is a special case of a more general situation described in the Yoga Sutras. We may consider this the yogic equivalent of the Uncertainty Principle. However, as I’ve said already, with the Eastern approach, things are taken to their logical extreme. Here is how the Yoga Sutras describes its “uncertainty principle” in aphorism 2.15:

A2.15ATaimni’s translation is:

“To the people who have developed discrimination all is misery on account of the pains resulting from change, anxiety and tendencies, as also on account of the conflicts between the functioning of the Gunas and the Vrttis (of the mind).

The East has very long traditions, reflected in this aphorism, of focusing on the basis of pain and suffering in life. However, let’s take a more depersonalized view and look at what is being said here about the nature of things. The meat of this aphorism is that it describes parinama, which means “change” or “transformation”. Parinama is a very important working concept in yoga practices. What aphorism 2.15 is saying is that everything changes.

Underlying this aphorism is the theory of the three gunas: (1) tamas, or inertial, (2) rajas, or chaotic motion, and (3) sattva, or rhythmic motion. The prologue of What Is Science? explains the gunas in more detail. To briefly summarize: to the Hindu mind, all things are made of gunas, which are patterns of motion. What they call “Manifestation” is not constructed of objects, but of a great diversity of patterns of movement. All the patterns of movement are thought of as combinations of the three gunas. The gunas combine in a fashion analogous to how red, green, and blue, taken in various proportions, can generate all possible colors.

The gunas are in an incessant state of movement amongst themselves. Because of this, nothing in Manifestation is stable. Everything transforms into something else, either more or less slowly or quickly.  Two factors prevent the patterns of gunas from being stable.  First, the very nature of the gunas is motion, hence they cannot be at rest.  Second, the seeming stability of anything – be it a star, planet, mountain, whatever – is only apparent.  Any seemingly isolated object is connected, networked, to all other objects. The activity of the remainder impinges on the apparent object, forcing change upon it.

The key idea here is that nothing in Manifestation is stable in time. If this is the case, then how can anything be said to have a definite identity? Form implies transformation.

The changes are not arbitrary, however. An elephant does not magically turn into a building. The Yoga Sutras offers up its own theory of how things transform. These ideas are found in aphorisms 4.2 and 4.3:

A4.02A4.03What is being said here is that things only change into what is latent in them in the first place. Furthermore, the cause of the change is inherent in the thing, not in the apparent outside factor (the incidental cause) that seemed to cause the change. All of this is well-known from first-hand experience. The seed of an oak tree does not bloom into a lilac bush. When we process iron ore, we do not obtain gold metal. When we burn wood, the ashes are not made of comedy. The ashes are a potential state of the wood, latent in it from the beginning. They are a permutation of the state of gunas of which the wood consists.  All transformation occurs based on the two “rules” listed above.

Knowing what is expressed in aphorisms 4.2 and 4.3, we can return to aphorism 2.15. Things are constantly transforming, not in an arbitrary fashion, but in a patterned fashion. Nonetheless, this incessant change means there is nothing in Manifestation to which one can anchor themselves.

The ever-changing pattern of gunas is called in Hindu thought “maya”. Maya is the illusion that something is there when it is actually not, like a mirage. To seek permanence in Manifestation is maya because Manifestation is incessant transformation. The very nature of Manifestation is an unceasing churning of patterns of gunas into other patterns of gunas. Maya is thus how the Hindu mind expresses its “uncertainty principle”. The Uncertainty Principle of QM is a limited special case of the much more general Hindu insights about maya.

How are these two ideas linked? Maya tells us that identity is temporary and transient. The Uncertainty Principle of QM tells us we cannot know simultaneously all of the properties of a micro-object (specifically it says this about non-commuting observables).  These are different emphases on the same underlying idea.

Is knowing the properties of an object the same as knowing the essence of an object? This is an age-old question in Western philosophy that dates back at least to Aristotle. It has never been solved in philosophical terms. QM offers its own take on this ancient question.

Consider the following:  My eye color, my height, the sound of my voice, etc.; these are examples of properties that I possess. Knowing them gives knowledge of me as an individual, as opposed to only having an empty template of a generic human for which we could fill in some hypothetical eye color, height, voice timber, etc. Similarly, the charge, energy, momentum, location, etc. are the properties of an individual electron. However, we cannot know these to any arbitrary detail.  Thus, we have a template-like understanding of micro-things, but cannot know individual instances, not even in principle. Bohr, Heisenberg, and others of the Copenhagen school were quite definite about this.  It was this issue that bothered the classical determinists like Einstein and Schrödinger so much.

The Uncertainly Principle in QM prevents us from knowing individual micro-things, from knowing their identities as individuals. Maya tells us that individual things are only temporary appearances, and we never really know the essence underlying the many transformations of a given thing. That is, in fact, one of the central goals of yoga practice: to see through the myriad changes that define the superficial appearance of things to the underlying essence.

The Uncertainty Principle of QM sets limits on our behavior. It forces us to act in certain ways and not act in other ways. Hinduism in general and yoga in particular have developed means to cope with maya:

A1.16Vairagya is one of the two faces of yoga, the other being abhyasa, the practices. Ninety per cent of yoga are the practices: yama, niyama, asanas, etc., the eight limbs of practice Patanjali describes. These are useless without the final 10% of vairagya, which is the impersonal, dispassionate attitude required of the yogi when undertaking the practices.

This is how yoga has come to recognize and codify the uncertainty inherent in Manifestation. As I stated elsewhere, what we call “objectivity” in the West is but a pale reflection of vairagya. When one realizes that the forms of nature are like the ever changing winds, the ever shifting sands, one makes no attempt at all to grasp them. Seeking to grasp maya is the ultimate act of futility.  It is identical to chasing after mirages of water in the desert.

QM implies realization analogous to what is codified in yoga as vairagya. However, the values implied here far transcend science. The greater society at large in the West is the opposite of vairagya. It rests on the delusions that it can grasp the ungraspable, tame the untamable, stop the ever-changing, ever-transforming gunas. As if life can be forever frozen in a block of amber. Because of this, QM has become the West’s Pandora’s Box: an amplifier of illusions.

The Continuous and the Discreet in Science and Yoga
There are two other places where yoga and QM converge in an obvious way. This is with regard to the issues of (1) continuous versus discreet and (2) the philosophical problem of the One and the Many. These two problems are more related than it may seem at first glance. The One is, in some sense, continuous. The Many, like the numbers, are discreet. They are different ways to formulate the same problem.

Without going into great detail on the matter, most of 20th century physics up to the present is characterized by the inability to link QM with the other great theory of modern physics, Einstein’s General Relativity. There are mainstream ideas about this, easily accessible via a Google search, and I will not discuss them here. Instead, my point of departure is to focus on how QM reflects the discreet nature of things whereas General Relativity is based on continuity.

Yogic cosmology is in closer agreement with QM regarding the relative roles of the discreet and continuous. It explicitly describes time as discreet, something physics is only beginning to explore seriously. I discussed this aspect of yoga previously and will not repeat myself. We also have seen that yogic cosmology divides Manifestation into four discreet “worlds” or “levels of energy”, if you will. These are the four phases or states of the gunas: visesa, avisesa, linga, and alinga, which I outlined in Chapter 9.  These give rise to four corresponding phases or states of the mind, described in Chapter 10.

We see in our own direct experience how discreetness occurs in the world. Everything comes packaged as discreet things. Humans manifest as discreet human beings, trees as discreet trees.   Manifestation presents itself as a kaleidoscope of seemingly endless discreet objects: Planets, stars, galaxies, grains of sand, atoms, electrons, and so on.

However, we have repeatedly emphasized that the seeming discreetness of things is only apparent. All discreet things are hooked together, are networked, via a myriad of forces that are not directly visible to our senses. We do not see gravity, we see the effects of gravity. Gravity serves to link the entire universe together in a giant network. We do not see the social bonds between people (as anyone who has ever walked into a room full of strangers is aware); we see the effects of these bonds. We do not perceive a magnetic field around a magnet, but can make it visible by its effect on iron filings.

Making the invisible visible.

Making the invisible visible.

In some sense, these invisible forces between apparently discreet objects is a type of continuity. Or we can frame this as a question: are networks discreet or continuous? It seems absurd on the face to ask this because networks are composed of discreet nodes. However, the links binding the nodes form a superstructure that links the nodes into a single unified structure, and thus a type of continuity.

In QM, the discreet objects like electrons and photons are seen as disturbances of the electromagnetic field. The field is a continuous object, but it produces seemingly discreet phenomena.

So we have this strange situation in Manifestation: both discreetness and continuity function and operate. We see discreetness wrapped in continuity, which itself is composed of discreet things at a smaller scale, which themselves are products of a continuous phenomenon, and so on. Discreetness wrapped in continuity wrapped in discreetness wrapped in continuity wrapped in discreetness…

The Continuous and the Discreet in Mathematics
These issues take us into the heart of major controversies in mathematics. Discreetness is easy to understand. It is the counting numbers we all know: 1, 2, 3… But what is continuity? There are several working definitions of continuity in mathematics. The fact that there are many working definitions but no universal and general formulation of continuity is an expression of the elusive nature of continuity.

Chapter 14 discussed Cantor and his ideas of infinity. Cantor sought to bind the discreet and the continuous with his “sets”. He believed he could bind the discreet into the continuous by decree, by declaring that all the discreet numbers, taken as a whole, form infinity.

Instead, he set off a firestorm amongst the intellectuals aware of his efforts. On one hand was Hilbert and his followers, the “paradise” crowd. Slowly, the emptiness of their speculations is becoming apparent. Hilbert’s useless hotel and the multiverse are much the same vacuous intellectual construct. The detractors of Cantor amplified on the discreet nature of things, on their paradoxes and contradictions, giving us these computers we value so highly.

The issue has never been solved in mathematics. It will never definitively be solved. The relations between the discreet and continuous are a bottomless well of insight and will provide fodder for the mathematical mind until the human form of gunas is wiped from the face of Eternity.

The One and The Many
This brings us full circle in the discussion of the bindu in yoga. Taimni introduced the idea that the bindu is like a prism, diffracting the unity and wholeness of The One into the Many. We have explored that idea from various angles. We see that a similar idea sits at the heart of QM: the Fourier transform takes a single point (delta function) and “spreads it out” into a sine wave of infinite extent. QM, drawing on mathematics that came after Fourier, takes this “trick” to the Nth degree by showing how physical systems that appear to be composed of discreet particles in fact give rise to many different types of spectra. This whole way of thinking is one way to embody the problem of the One and the Many.

The cosmology of yoga and of our most respected modern science converge around this eternal paradox. Yoga answers it in an extreme way relative to the sensibilities of the modern Western person. Consciousness is one, infinite, continuous. Within it is the possibility to diffract itself into spectra of consciousness encompassing all possible levels of form and becoming. The mahabindu diffracts consciousness into a seemingly endless series of minds within minds within minds within minds.

The seeds of these insights are present in modern math and physics. But unless the physicists and mathematicians learn to transcend the merely sensory presentations of the mind, unless they begin to unlock the secrets of samadhi, they will forever spin their wheels in the eternally shifting, ever-changing gunas, jumping from vritti to vritti in the futile effort to capture mirages.

See you soon in Part 18.

16 thoughts on “The Yogic View of Consciousness 17: Yoga and Quantum Mechanics II

  1. kashyap vasavada

    Hi Don,
    Interesting blog! The discussion of discreteness and continuum reminds me of something I read. I am not sure if I made these remarks on your blog before or not. It seems that Buddhists monks and advanced Hindu meditators know that consciousness comes in glimpses, bursts at intervals of about 40 per second (Hz). It is quite fast for our thought processes that it looks continuous like a movie film! Penrose and Hameroff use this fact in their theory of consciousness which may or may not be right, but interesting in any case. They claim that there is some experimental evidence of this.
    Best Regards.

    • Hi Kashyap!

      Great to hear from you. As I shift the focus of YVC from the bindu to the mind, I will slip from physics to neuroscience and discuss the 40 Hz gamma waves, as they are called. Some people make the assumption that this brain rhythm reflects the “frame rate” of consciousness. The buzz word associated with the gamma waves is “binding” that these “bind” together the contents of our mind at any instant. It’s a good place to start for an initial understanding, but as with all technical and scientific things, the real story is much more complicated. People who are experts on this topic are not so quick to draw such a simple conclusion. And yes, some people have linked the yogic description of the discreetness of time to the modern understanding of the 40 Hz gamma waves. When one knows both areas, it’s an obvious connection to make. Again though, the science isn’t so clear cut. It’s kind of analogous to people who just assume inflation is true in the context of the big bang. There is a lot of smoke, but no direct proof that compels everybody to accept the conclusion. It’s similar with the gamma waves at this point. So thanks for bringing this topic up! I should have more to say on it in upcoming posts.

      Best wishes,


    • Hi Peter. Thanks for the nice comment! Regarding the discreet time issue. I wrote about it here. You have to read to the end though. This is aphorism 4.33. It is very abstract. This page has multiple translations of it. The translations are close in that they all translate “kramah” as “moment”, and you can see that “parinama” is also in this aphorism. So, it is talking about “moments of change” or “durations of transformation”. However, the issue is the interpretation of this extremely cryptic aphorism. I’m using Taimni’s interpretation which I describe in the link above.

      What Taimni says fits with general Hindu thinking. A big part of maya is the illusion of time. According to Taimni’s interpretation, this is the LAST illusion overcome by the yogi before the final plunge to Kaivalya or complete enlightenment. Somehow this aphorism is describing how the yogi comes to understand the nature of the illusion of time. It would have to be so because the enlightened state is timeless, i.e. eternal. van der Leeuw also discussed this. Not in terms of the Yoga Sutras, but in his own terms, but he emphasizes how the time illusion is so basic and permeates or underlies so many other illusions. Shiva Sutras also alludes to a “blinking on and off” of things, and this is even encoded in the images of Shiva with his damaru, or drum, that supposedly beats the rhythm of the ‘blinking on and off” of creation. The underlying idea is that “reality” blinks on and off at such a rapid pace that it seems continuous to our human consciousness. But in the deepest yogic samadhi, this “blinking on and off” is discovered, and eventually overcome to lead to the eternal.

      That’s a rough summary of the context as I know it. Thanks again for writing! -Don

      • PeterJ

        Thanks for the link to ‘Yoga Study’! Very useful.

        I don’t want to waste your time, but I’m still not quite convinced by this view of time. If it is right then my current ideas are a little wrong. This is not impossible, 🙂 but I’d want to ask…

        Does the ‘blinking on and off of things’ mean that time itself blinks? Or does consciousness blink? Does time stop and start? What connects two moments if not a third moment? Can an illusion be quantised?

        Feel free to ignore this if you’re too busy.

      • Hi Pete!
        Good questions. It’s not like I know the answers for sure, but can offer some thoughts on the issues. One important perspective, that I got from van der Leeuw, is to realize that time is a function of our consciousness. It is not an objective external reality. It is some effect or consequence of our form as human beings. So, from this perspective, it would be consciousness that does the blinking because our human consciousness somehow generates the time perception to begin with.

        Another angle is the following. This relates to the yogic idea of “parinama”, but also to philosophical questions that David Hume in particular focused on, and that is the nature of causality. Hume claimed we can only infer causality between events. Which is to say, it is an inductive process, open-ended, and nothing that can ever be logically closed, like say a deductive math proof. I think the concept of parinama has similar implications. If we first grant that this “blinking on and off” occurs, then, as you have done, can ask about the causality between successive moments. The main way I interpret this is the following. There is only one moment that blinks on and off. There are not many moments making a succession. This one moment that blinks on and off we call “the present”. The illusion of past and future come from memory and anticipation, respectively, that occur in the present moment.

        So then, we have this “bubble”, so to speak, of a single moment blinking on and off, and the question is, what is the relationship between events in successive “on” moments (kramah) inside this bubble, from one “on state” to the next? Part of the answer entails understanding the structure of this “bubble” during an “on” moment. This is what I discussed previously as minds within minds within minds. The structure of this thing is a hierarchy of nested forms of consciousness, for which we humans occupy one specific scale.

        Next you have to consider the idea of parinama, transformation. I see this to imply a weak form of causality. By this I mean that, as Patanjali’s aphorisms above indicate, the transformations of manifested things follow a pattern and are not arbitrary. However, it is “weak” because there is no overall or absolute pattern to the transformations. There are just different scales in an hierarchy of local transformations. For some “big” pattern of transformation, we may call it a “Logos” and see it as a plan of some sort that goes over a very long time scale, but it is really just a local weak transformation of some greater consciousness in which we are all embedded. To that greater consciousness, its transformations are analogous to what we directly experience at our scale. To the greater consciousness in its first person awareness, it seems to it to be embedded in some “mega-Logos”, if you will.

        In terms of the Absolute, there can be no pattern. The Absolute is free. That means there is no pattern in which it can be caged. This is very hard for us to relate to because our entire existence in manifestation is that of patterning.

        The net result then, inside the bubble during an “on” moment, is a mixture of pattern and arbitrariness (graspable and ungraspable as I put it elsewhere). Locally, there is patterning as gunas transform along their natural course. But globally, there is no overall pattern to the transformations. The net result is what Patanjali seems to be describing in Yoga Sutras and what Hindus in general call maya. It is just a kaleidoscope (actually kaleidoscopes within kaleidoscopes within kaleidoscopes…etc.) of ever-changing, ever-shifting patterns of awareness and form.

        This is why, I think, some mystics call the vision of Manifestation “awful”, because it has no cause, no ultimate end, no purpose. It just churns and churns eternally from one thing to the next, all of which, ultimately, is the same thing: change, parinama, transformation.

        Hence the yogic emphasis on vairgya, disinterestedness. When one learns through samadhi how to contact these other scales of consciousness, at first it seems all grand and glorious, until one sees what is really going on and realizes it is the exact same thing as what is going on in our normal state of consciousness. Every scale is the same old same old, perhaps in different guises, different forms of awareness and forms of becoming, more dimensions, etc. But in the end, the same old thing. Ever-changing, ever-shifting. The gunas.

        Hence the prescription: chitta vritti nirhodah. Just turn the whole damn thing off! Go into the “off” phase of the blinking and, at least according to Patanjali, it gives you access to the whole thing at one stroke, i.e. Kaivalya.

        At any rate, this is my working framework for the moment. Yoga does not paint a tidy or pretty picture of Manifestation. That is why it prescribes nirodha.

        Thanks for the great conversation, Pete! I really do appreciate and cherish it!

        Best wishes,


  2. kashyap vasavada

    Hi PETERJ,
    Questions you are raising are very interesting. I can try to answer some from physics side. I will let Don answer from Yoga or neuroscience side. Some people expect discreteness in space-time at Planck scale i.e at 10^ (-43) sec or so. There are theoretical models based on such foamy space-time, but nothing definite yet. We should note that we can already measure upto 10^ (-18) sec or so. Upto that there is no evidence of discreteness. My guess is that discreteness flashes in consciousness have to be on a much larger scale than this. But let us see!

    • Hi Kashyap and Peter…hope you don’t mind me jumping in on this interesting topic.

      Kashyap, I think there may be two different things going on here. I think our normal waking consciousness is what you refer to as occurring on the larger scale compared to what is described in physics. As we discussed, the gamma waves are a good candidate for this level of process. However, in the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali specifically mentions anima siddhi, which I quoted above. One way to interpret the yogic claim of the discreetness of time is that through advanced samadhi, the yogi may actually be able to perceive the discreet structure of space-time at the finest scale. In fact, according to Yoga Sutras, the finest scale is not physical, or visesa gunas, to use their term, but is at the level of alinga gunas. So, it may be that what Yoga Sutras describes in terms of the discreetness of time is far more subtle than what modern physics has discovered.

      These are just some thoughts on the matter. Obviously I don’t know for sure!

      Best wishes!


    • PeterJ

      Thanks Kashyap.

      The problem is that I don’t see physics as being very relevant to this. I’m with Zeno, moments make no sense.

      I can see that it might make sense to say that time, insofar as it exists, is discrete. In order for it to exist we must be able to conceptualise it, and we can only conceptualise it if it is discrete.

      But it cannot actually be discrete as areal phenomenon. Our usual idea of time, and thus time itself, does not make sense on close examination. Hermann Weil notes that our experience of it is continuous while our concept of it is discrete. But a continuous time cannot be extended by definition. All the moments would happen at the same time in the Eternal Now. So time must be no more than a concept. In this case time is discrete and I am wrong after all.

      In hindsight I read the claim that time is discrete in the wrong way. I’m fine with an evanescent universe. (Patanjali will be relieved to know). The Dalai Lama writes somewhere that a Buddha can experience far smaller units of time than the rest of us, but I can’t remember if this would extend right down to the frame-rate of the projector.

  3. PeterJ

    Don – Thanks for the great reply. I don’t think we disagree, as may be evident from my reply to Kashyap. I would be happy to go along with your description of time. I’m not at all familiar with terminology you’re using, however, so sometimes misread things. ”Just turn the whole thing off’ would be my preferred approach, but these things are so fascinating,

    You’re extremely good at explaining some of these issues in a clear way.

    • Hi Pete

      Thanks for the gracious comments. I tell you, Pete, all these years wondering about time, I have finally decided in my own mind to define it thus: “I am a game, guess what I am”. That, to me, is the nature of time! By which I mean, there are several different ways to think about what time is, all of which are at least partially true and some of which are mutually inconsistent. Hence we are faced with the paradox that we experience this thing, time, but we don’t really know what it is. So it becomes a game called “guess what I am”. Really very frustrating to the intellect.

      There are a handful of ways time is used in physics, but each comes back to how it fits into the underlying math pattern. Boltzmann defined it as a discreet counter for statistical events that can be made continuous by replacing a summation sign with an integral. Einstein defined it as a variable with the opposite sign of spatial variables in a 4D Euclidean distance formula. In classical physics it is used as a continuum along which other variables change. In quantum mechanics, you have “quantum jumps” where the status of time is pretty much undefined. These are not mutually consistent usages. As you have said in the past, it is amazing how they live with the cognitive dissonance.

      It is interesting that time comes into the Yoga Sutras at the very end, at the step right before Kaivalya. In a sense, this makes it the most fundamental of all of Maya’s illusions. The final vritti of consciousness. The vritti at the bottom of all other vrittis. This would suggest Kant was on the right track, but didn’t go nowhere near far enough to find his way out of the maze of time.

      Thank God for the teachings and practices of these other cultures that help shed light on our own ignorance and give us a larger context for contemplating the mysteries of our existence!

      Talk to you soon, my friend,


      • PeterJ

        Yes! It has only just occurred to me that without the texts of Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism I would still be a ignorant religious sceptic poking fun at the New Testament.

        It makes sense to me that time is the final frontier. Time would be required for an event, and so the end of time would mean extinction. In this it seems to differ from space.

        I get around the whole thing in a similar way, by assuming that there are various pairs of ways of looking at these things. In the case of time this would be as continuous/discrete, existing/not-existing, eternal/timeless and so forth. All of these views would be partial and wrong, while the truth would be beyond conceptualisation and thus not expressible as a view, other than to say cryptic things about Two Truths and the limits of the intellect.

        It’s very helpful to me to be able to express my thoughts here as comments and read your responses since often I’m reality testing or tidying up ideas, and also checking whether they would conflict with the yoga sutras. So thanks. But I’ll let you get on. No need to reply to this.

  4. kashyap vasavada

    Hi Don,
    I met this Vedantic scholar from Columbus last week end. He basically agreed that there could be two interpretations of Asamprajnat and Nirbij being different or same. But one thing everybody has to agree on is that Nirbij leading to Kaivalya is the ultimate stage. He also agreed that Taimini was a great scholar of Vedanta. So what he says would be quite reliable.
    BTW, a small point about Taimini’s name (note vowel i in the spelling). I had this in mind before , but I did not bring it up. My Indian friends here agree that the name with i seems more like Indian (Sanskrit) and the one without i may be from some typo which continued to be propagated on web. Although this is a very minor point in our discussions, I promise to do some research(!!) by contacting some knowledgeable people in India! I admit this is very unimportant issue in comparison with our discussion on Yoga, Science and Consciousness!
    Best regards.

    • Hi Kashyap

      That is very exciting that you are communicating with a Vedantic scholar. Thanks for sharing the information! I am glad to hear he respects Dr. Taimni’s work, which I think has been under-valued by Western yoga scholars.

      I have attached Taimni’s comments on the meaning of samprjanata/asamprajnata vs. sabija/nirbija. This is Taimni’s comments on aphorism 1-17. You may want to pass this on to your scholar friend and see what his thoughts are on it, and study it further yourself since Taimni dissects the compound words. The key idea I think is when Taimni says:

      If both Samprajnata and Asamprajnata Samadhis are associated with Prajna (Samprajna) where lies the difference between the two? The difference lies in the presence or absence of a Pratyaya in the field of consciousness. Pratyaya is a technical word used in Yoga to denote the total content of the mind at any moment…

      I accept and advocate this view because it correctly captures even what is experienced in lucid dreaming. Unlike normal dreams, where there is continuity of the experience (even if the dream experiences are bizarre), lucid dreams are fragmented experiences where there is a “dream period” punctuated by what I have called “void” periods. The dream will fade into a state of darkness that is devoid of perceptual content, as if one is in a vast empty nothingness, which I call the “void”. It is easy to link the dream phase to the term samprajnata and the void phase to asamprajnata. Although, we must be careful because lucid dreaming is not a state of samadhi. Nonetheless, the correspondence is too obvious. It must be that similar mechanisms are operating in the non-samadhic lucid dream state and the various types of samadhi, which is some kind of alternation between perceptually rich and perceptually barren experiences.

      As to Taimni’s name, I don’t know anything about that. He has published many, many books and it is hard to believe it is a typographic error. Perhaps he spelled it in a non-ordinary way for some reason of his own? If so, I have never seen anything about this in any of my reading.

      Anyway, it is good to push on the samprjanata/asamprajnata vs. sabija/nirbija definitions. It can only help to clarify things for modern readers, especially English readers for whom these are very foreign words and concepts.

      Great to hear from you, Kashyap! Please keep us all informed about your scholar-friends further thoughts!

      Very best wishes,


      • PeterJ

        That makes a great deal of sense to me, Don.

        I hadn’t realised that lucid dreaming was like this, that it could be like switching the phenomenal world on and off. This is extremely interesting. As it happens I’m about to post a passage from Krishnamurti’s Notebook that deals with this precise issue in amazingly clear language but coming from a different angle. I wouldn’t have known it until I read your comment above, but I see now that in translation he is discussing the two kinds of Samadhi you mention here. Or so it seems to me. I’ll mention it when it goes up.

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