Space-time in Modern Physics and in Vedic Thought
Modern physics speaks of three dimensions of space with time as the fourth dimension. Vedic thought speaks of space as the ultimate reality with time as a movement in space.
Akasha or Space is the most subtle of the Vedic five elements, which indicate all the levels of manifestation from the immaterial to the material. Time is related to Vayu or the air/gaseous/energy element. Vayu is connected to life or Prana and Vidyut as the electrical energy that manifests from space. Space is related to mind or at a higher level to pure consciousness.
Space/Akasha in motion is said to be air/Vayu, which means that space in movement is time. We are of aware of time according to the movement of objects or energies in space.
This means that space and time are the same reality at states of rest and movement in the Vedic and yogic view. Eternal space creates time. Time also creates temporal spaces of various types, which are more limited than the background boundless space.
Vedic View of Space
Yet the Sanskrit term for space or Akasha has different connotations than the English term space. Akasha implies a field of illumination or light, it is related to Self or Atman, an Ananda or bliss. Brahman is said to be Kham or Akasha, space, which is also said to be delight, kam. Space as Atman is self-being, self-contained and self-luminous. Space implies rest and duration, while time implies change and action.
There are many levels or types of space in Vedic thought. There is the material space, which itself has different forms as atmospheric space, the space of the solar system, the space between the stars, and so on as different lokas or realms of experience.
Within us is the space of life or energy and the space of the mind. All these manifest forms of space contain particles and waves or energies, including electro-magnetic forces, animate and inanimate.
Space, Time and Shakti
The Supreme unmanifest space is Being-Consciousness-Bliss, Sat-chit-ananda as Brahman, the total reality. This supreme space has its inherent power or Shakti which the basis of manifestation, including time which is the main power of manifestation. Space abounds with an unmanifest energy that is unlimited. Without time there is no manifestation, which implies beginning and end. That space of pure consciousness is eternal and immutable, beyond the fluctuations of time, yet is also their origin.
Shakti is the power of time or potential for manifestation inherent in space. Space in Vedic thought has an electrical energy connected to vibration and sound, at a lower level the ear as a sense organ and speech as a motor organ, yet at a higher level pure sound, speech and light that are boundless.
In Vedic thought time, vibration, prana, sound (shabda), and Vidyut arise together from the supreme space, and develop the forces of Vayu or air, which is space in motion. This means that time is space in motion, or manifest space, which densifies into the other elements and forces. Space is the matrix or the mother of everything.
Space gives rise not only to time but to light like the stars, which are manifestations of the boundless clear light of space. Yet time is measured by the movement of light, like the day and night. Space itself is pure light without any fluctuations.
Beyond all Dimensions
Time cannot be a dimension apart from space as we can only experience time and space together. If there are three dimensions of space then time must be a dimension of space. Yet there is also the dimensionless or the dimension transcending space of pure consciousness.
Time as past, present and future, and space as three dimensions are coordinates of the mind that serve to measure but also delimit and can distort reality, if we are not aware of the higher space behind them.
Beyond manifest space-time is a timeless space that is larger than the largest and smaller than the smallest as the Upanishads state, meaning beyond all measurable dimensions. Beyond the dimensions of space is dimensionless space. That is the Self of the Vedas that holds the entire universe in the small space or dahara akasha within the heart, which contains all time and the entire universe. This pure space has no dimensions and nothing to compare it to. We can experience it as a point and as infinite simultaneously.
The timeless beyond time is a form of space. Manifest time is manifest space as the form of all elements. Infinite space has no size or shape. Unmanifest time is also unmanifest space. Manifestation implies a location in time and space. In this regard manifestation is Maya or relativity, an appearance of something beyond all appearances.
The Expanding Universe or the Timeless Universe
In this context of unmanifest space, how can we talk about the universe as expanding, and expanding from what and into what? You can only expand into an existent space. You need room to expand. You cannot just create space as you expand. The universe can expand as a type of manifest space but not in terms of unmanifest space. Manifest space can only expand in the greater field of unmanifest space.
The universe cannot have a beginning or end in time or space, as that is only possible in a larger ultimately eternal time and infinite space. Time as beginning and end is a particle, wave or movement in eternal, timeless space.
If time is a manifestation of space, then it is not simply linear but wave like in motion. Time periods are waves on the ocean of eternal space. This means that beginning and end of time or birth and death are illusions of the wave that do not apply to the sea. The wave is not only of time but also of space as particular forms. The body, for example, is a wave of biological forces rooted in a deeper prana. The personality or mind that is created by the wave dissolves back into the ocean of mind and consciousness. In this regard, the Vedas speak of space as the waters, apas, which literally means the waves, and the Sun and Moon as flowers or lotuses, meaning matrixes in the waters of space.
We experience life not like a straight line or the flow of a river from past to future always going forward, but as a wave of birth, growth, decline and death, the wave of time. Creation, sustenance and dissolution, which is the movement of a wave is also a cycle, from and back to the origin and end, which are ultimately the same.
Are not unmanifest time and unmanifest space the same, one could say? Unmanifest space is timeless and eternal. Unmanifest time is like space, devoid of motion or events. Both are simply presence without change but holding all possibilities and the essence of all.
Space in essence is unmanifest. It manifests through the other elements starting with air or Vayu. Time as beginning and end is manifest. Unmanifest time is ultimately timeless as it has no beginning or end. Space is the transcendent, while time is the creative force that gives rise to the manifest world.
Yet we have time within space and space within time. The two are ultimately one. As time is connected to space, there ultimately is no death. There is always room for more time, though in different forms. Finding the space within time, we can experience the eternal presence. Finding the time within space, we discover boundless creativity. Time is an expression or manifestation of space. All the elements are temporal manifestations of space, which in essence is unmanifest.