Atoms and Atomic Theory

The Indians came closest to modern ideas of atomism, quantum physics, and other current theories. India developed very early, enduring atomist theories of matter. Possibly Greek atomistic thought was influenced by India, via the Persian civilization. The Rig-Veda, is the first Indian literature to set down ideas resembling universal natural laws.

Srimad Bhagavatam (SB): SB 3.11.1 — The material manifestation’s ultimate particle, which is indivisible and not formed into a body, is called the atom. It exists always as an invisible identity, even after the dissolution of all forms. The material body is but a combination of such atoms, but it is misunderstood by the common man.

SB 3.11.2 — Atoms are the ultimate state of the manifest universe. When they stay in their own forms without forming different bodies, they are called the unlimited oneness. There are certainly different bodies in physical forms, but the atoms themselves form the complete manifestation.

An excerpt from Lalitha Sahasranama text, told by Hayagreeva to Agasthya muni, dating back to the distant ages of the past, describes the Goddess as the super consciousness/Brahman that pervades even the sub atomic particles within matter.

“Paranjyotih parandhamah paramanuh paratpara” The word “anuvu” means atom. Paramanu is sub-atomic particle, finer than the finest of atom, meaning electrons and the others.

Cosmic law is connected with cosmic light, with gods, and, later, specifically with Brahman. It was the Vedic Aryans… who gave the world some of the earliest philosophical texts on the makeup of matter and the theoretical underpinnings for the chemical makeup of minerals.

Sanskrit Vedas from thousands of years before Christ implied that matter could not be created, and that the universe had created itself.

Reflecting this, in his Vaiseshika philosophy, Kanada (600 B. C) claimed that elements could not be destroyed. Kanada’s life is somewhat a mysterious, but his name is said to mean “one who eats particle or grain” likely referring to his theory that basic particles mix together as the building blocks for all matter. Two, three, four, or more of these elements would combine, just as we conceive of atoms doing. The Greeks would not stumble on this concept for another century.”

In the realm of physics, remarkable contributions have been made by Indian scientists. Kanada, the founder of the Vaisesika system of philosophy, expounded that the entire matter in this world consists of atoms as many in kind as the various elements. Kanada’s atom would then correspond to the modern atom. Some Jain thinkers went a step further.

They thought that all atoms are the same kind and variety emerged because they entered into different combinations. Kanada taught that light and heat are variations of the same reality. Vacaspati interpreted light as composed of minute particles emitted by substances and striking the eyes. This is a clear anticipation of the corpuscular theory of light, which was proposed by Newton but rejected till the discovery of the proton.

Most people agree that no civilization before us had knowledge of such things. But time and time again we find in the Vedic literature descriptions of weapons that had a similar amount of energy as the atomic bombs we use today. And to what else would these next few verses from the Artha-veda be referring if they are not a description of the basic principles of atomic energy?

“The Atomic energy fissions the ninety-nine elements, covering its path by the bombardments of neutrons without let or hindrance. Desirous of stalking the head, i.e. the chief part of the swift power, hidden in the mass of molecular adjustments of the elements, this atomic energy approaches it in the very act of fissioning it by the above-noted bombardment. Herein verily the scientist know the similar hidden striking force of the rays of the sun working in the orbit of the moon. ” (Artha-Veda, 20.41.1-3)

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