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Here is another quote from Swami Prabhavananda The Spiritual Heritage of India (1962) that offers a fascinating view on the physical world we life in:

This process of creation and dissolution goes on for ever and ever, for it is as endless as it is beginningless. Eternity is witness, not of one universe only -- that, for example, of which we are now a part -- but of an infinite succession of universes. The birth, life, and destruction of a universe continues a cycle.

[...]

Against the background of these conceptions the orthodox view of the origin of the Vedas may be quickly sketched. At the very beginning of each cycle, holy seers are born into the world, men who in previous universes have ascended far towards the supreme goal and are therefore especially capable of perceiving divine truth. These blessed saints -- rsis, the Hindus call them -- meditate on God, and while so meditating discern the everlasting laws of the spirit; and is the concrete record of these laws, so discerned, that constitutes in each cycle, the most authoritative of sacred writings. The record of the meditations of the rsis born at the beginning of our own cycle is, then, what we know as the Vedas.

My question is this: Does Hinduism say anything about whether it would be possible to find out specifics about past or future universes (in addition to those general principles in the Vedas)? E.g. would rsis have been able to remember about those parts of their distant earlier lives (say, whether the laws of Physics in a previous universe were all the same).

The question comes to mind because there is an obvious parallel between elements of (old) Indian philosophy and (new) cosmological theories, so I'm curious about that part of ancient thought.

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    Also read Yajurveda 34.4 – Pandya Feb 18 '17 at 16:05
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A story from the Brahmavaivarta Purana is told in Myths and Symbols in Indian Arts and Civilization by Heinrich Zimmer that tells of a divine child who says:

But the universes side by side an any given moment, each harboring a Brahma and an Indra: who will estimate the number of these? Beyond the farthest vision, crowding outer space, the universes come and go, an innumerable host. Like delicate boats they float on the fathomless, pure waters that form the body of Vishnu. Out of every hair-pore of that body a universe bubbles and breaks. Will you presume to count them? Will you number the gods in all those worlds--the worlds present and the worlds past?

The universe as we know it will repeat again also. The Upanishads say this, in fact Brahma knows how to create the universe because of the eternity of the Vedas.

Can specifics of past or future universes be known? Swami Vivekananda says in his lecture "Immortality" in Jnana Yoga (Complete Works, V2, pp 229-231, also here - http://cwsv.belurmath.org/volume_2/vol_2_frame.htm):

But the question of immortality is not yet settled. We have seen that everything in this universe is indestructible. There is nothing new; there will be nothing new. The same series of manifestations are presenting themselves alternately like a wheel, coming up and going down. All motion in this universe is in the form of waves, successively rising and falling. Systems after systems are coming out of fine forms, evolving themselves, and taking grosser forms, again melting down, as it were, and going back to the fine forms. Again they rise out of that, evolving for a certain period and slowly going back to the cause. So with all life. Each manifestation of life is coming up and then going back again. What goes down? The form. The form breaks to pieces, but it comes up again. In one sense bodies and forms even are eternal. How? Suppose we take a number of dice and throw them, and they fall in this ratio — 6 — 5 — 3 — 4. We take the dice up and throw them again and again; there must be a time when the same numbers will come again; the same combination must come. Now each particle, each atom, that is in this universe, I take for such a die, and these are being thrown out and combined again and again. All these forms before you are one combination. Here are the forms of a glass, a table, a pitcher of water, and so forth. This is one combination; in time, it will all break. But there must come a time when exactly the same combination comes again, when you will be here, and this form will be here, this subject will be talked, and this pitcher will be here. An infinite number of times this has been, and an infinite number of times this will be repeated. Thus far with the physical forms. What do we find? That even the combination of physical forms is eternally repeated.

A most interesting conclusion that follows from this theory is the explanation of facts such as these: Some of you, perhaps, have seen a man who can read the past life of others and foretell the future. How is it possible for any one to see what the future will be, unless there is a regulated future? Effects of the past will recur in the future, and we see that it is so. You have seen the big Ferris Wheel* in Chicago. The wheel revolves, and the little rooms in the wheel are regularly coming one after another; one set of persons gets into these, and after they have gone round the circle, they get out, and a fresh batch of people gets in. Each one of these batches is like one of these manifestations, from the lowest animals to the highest man. Nature is like the chain of the Ferris Wheel, endless and infinite, and these little carriages are the bodies or forms in which fresh batches of souls are riding, going up higher and higher until they become perfect and come out of the wheel. But the wheel goes on. And so long as the bodies are in the wheel, it can be absolutely and mathematically foretold where they will go, but not so of the souls. Thus it is possible to read the past and the future of nature with precision.

  • +1 But how can the scriptures argue for eternal repetition if individual souls can achieve moksha? Wouldn't a future cycle be different because these no longer inhabit the world? (I can ask a separate question about this, if you prefer.) – – Drux Jun 21 '15 at 18:42
  • The material universe repeats; the souls, jivas, that inhabit those material bodies are different. A new batch of souls whose karma is fit for the experiences of those bodies now inhabit those bodies. That is why in my answer Swami Vivekananda gives the allusion of the Ferris Wheel. The jiva that inhabits your mind and body now is a different jiva than the one from the last time this universe happened...in a certain sense, your material body and mind will live forever (always repeating the same things), going through the same experiences, over and over, like a car on the Ferris Wheel. – Swami Vishwananda Jun 23 '15 at 4:53
  • You should understand what is meant by the terms material body, subtle body, jiva and soul from an Eastern perspective. There are answers already posted on this forum to that question. – Swami Vishwananda Jun 23 '15 at 4:55

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