Table of Contents
- The origin of cosmology
- Pioneers of Cosmology
- Types of Cosmology
- What does Vedic Cosmology say?
- Cosmology vs. astronomy vs. astrophysics
- Indian Cosmology and its various variations
- Life on other planets
- Key takeaways
Cosmology is a subdivision of metaphysics, and it deals with the universe’s nature. Although it is often regarded as mysterious, it is an intriguing science and worth exploring. Cosmology covers a lot of aspects of how the universe came into its origin and what its fate will be in the end; it is all a part of it.
It has been interpreted both physically and spiritually. So, there are certain interpolations, but all of it is encompassed in this single subject. Read on to know more about this fascinating subject.
The origin of cosmology
Cosmology, as a term, was first used by Thomas Blount in English in Glossgrophia. Glossographia was a lexicon published by Blount in 1656. In 1731, then German philosopher Christian Wolff took up this term and used it in Latin in his book, Cosmologia Generalis. Wolff discusses his idea on the universe in this book in detail.
So overall, cosmology is a study of the behavior of the universe and how the information on the universe is inferred in our daily life. Every phenomenon that occurs in front of our eyes is seen from a bird’s eye’s perspective of the universe.
Pioneers of Cosmology
Two people are considered to be the fathers of Cosmology. In the Eastern world, Acharya Kapila, who is also famous for founding Sankhya Philosophy, contributed to cosmology. According to Kapila, Prakriti and Purusha are responsible for all the cosmic creation.
Simultaneously, some people in the western world consider Anaximander (610 BC-546 BC) as the father of Cosmology. Anaximander was the first to develop a systematic philosophical view of the universe. He also wrote the oldest piece of prose about the origins of life and the universe’s role in it. He also conceived a mechanical model for the world.
Types of Cosmology
Cosmology is a vast subject, and it has a wider spectrum. But it has two parts –
(a) Physical Cosmology
(b) Philosophical Cosmology
By segregating these two parts, you can get a better understanding of the topics covered under each part. Given below are the various aspects of these two parts of Cosmology –
It is a particular division of physics and astrophysics that covers the physical origins and how the universe evolved. The nature of the universe is observed and studied on a large scale. It also includes an observation of the celestial mechanics and certain scientific deductions from the universe’s behavior.
In philosophical cosmology, the world is equivalent to the totality of space, time, and all physical phenomena. Historically, Cosmology had a broad scope, and in many cases, the answers to the universe were in religions.
What does Vedic Cosmology say?
Vedic cosmology is one of five main topics in ancient historical scriptures in Sanskrit, i.e., the Puranas. It mentions –
At first, superconsciousness, i.e., Vishnu’s creation of the universe. Secondly, superhuman being, or Brahma’s subsequent creation. Thirdly the ending of all by Shiva.
How does Vedic Cosmology or Religious Cosmology draw parallels with Scientific Cosmology?
According to Vedic cosmologists, the generation of our universe, done by superconsciousness, was around 13.819 billion years ago. The scientific explanation estimates the universe was created 13.801 billion years ago.
According to the Puranas, the Sun’s age is around 4.563 billion years. The scientific community estimated it to be around 4.567 billion years ago.
The Permian mass extinction mentioned in the Puranas happened 251.152 million years ago. The scientific explanation estimates it was around 251.9 million years ago.
Also, the following topics have been discussed in Religious Cosmology
- Sun will evolve into a Red Giant Star, and it will ultimately explode into a planetary nebulae
- The various stages of the development of a fetus in the human womb
- When life first appear on Earth
- Universe’s cyclical nature
- The timeline or the period for the beginning formation of stars within the universe
Cosmology vs. astronomy vs. astrophysics
Although this is one of the topics that have an extensive scope of discussion, we like the explanation given by NASA, which explains the difference clearly and succinctly. NASA has described cosmology as the study of the universe on a large scale. Astronomy, on the other hand, looks at the objects in space.
Astrophysics is a science that uses the principles and methods of physics and chemistry to study astronomical objects and phenomena.
In cosmology, the lambda or ƛ represents the cosmological constant. It is also called Einstein’s cosmological constant. Moreover, it is the constant coefficient of a term that Einstein uses in his theory of general relativity. Later on, he removed it. After a lot of time, scientists revived it and reinterpreted it in terms of space’s energy density called vacuum energy.
Furthermore, quantum mechanics employs this term, and it shares a close association with the concept of dark energy.
Indian Cosmology and its various variations
In India, cosmology is a popular topic in astronomy and philosophy. The followers of this subject in India only look at it at a physical level. The teachings of Indian Cosmology are too broad to summarise in a single outline.
However, for the convenience of the readers, we will try to give a simple outline so that they can absorb this interesting piece of knowledge easily.
The holy scriptures of Sanatana Dharma, Vedas, and Puranas hold this knowledge. Moreover, various scientific evidence from the western world also echoes these facts.
This whole outline has six major sections –
- Life on other planets
- The Vedic universe
- Brahma and his cosmic engineering
- Sub planes of the Solar System
- Vaikuntha, the spiritual sky
- Beyond Vaikuntha: Goloka Vrindavana
Life on other planets
According to Puranas, the universe has many life forms. As Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad Gita, living beings are Sarva-gatha or present everywhere. Scientifically, you will find various life forms in deserts, under the oceans, and in the stratosphere.
The Vedic universe
The Puranas describe that the planet Earth sits in the center of these 14 universal sub-planes, with 6 realms above it and 7 after it.
Brahma and his cosmic engineering
Brahma was the first to be created within this universe. He is full of information and has been given a blueprint for the creation of life by Vishnu. He created the universe based on that.
Sub planes of the solar system
The Bhagavata Purana says that the solar system has 14 subplanes with the earth located in its center –
- Satya-Loka or the plane of existence of Brahma and other exalted beings
- Tapa-Loka or the home of the perfected yogis
- Jana-Loka, where Brahma’s sons reside
- Mahar-Loka is also home to teachers of religion, mystics, and great sages
- Svar-Loka, where beings including the devatas live
- Bhuvar-Loka is where the departed spirits reside, who could not enter Svar-Loka. Bhuvar-loka is above our plane of Bhur-loka.
- Bhur-Loka includes our Earth and any and every similar world
- Atala-Loka is the initial sub-plane below the earth
- Vitala-Loka is where various frightening creatures and ghosts reside
- Talatala-Loka and Sutala-Loka are sub-earthly realms
- Mahatala-Loka, where humanoids exist. They are experts in formulating potent intoxicants.
- Rasatala-Loka is where the Daityas, or demons and giants stay. They are enemies of debates.
- Patala-Loka is where snake-like nagas lives, who are experts in making intoxicating drinks
Vaikuntha, the spiritual sky
Vedic cosmology defines that past the humdrum of this universe lies the spiritual universe of Vaikuntha. It is where Lord Vishnu rests on his astral serpent, the Shesha.
Goloka Vrindavana: Beyond Vaikuntha
Beyond this infinite spiritual universe, which is filled with Vaikuntha planets, is the highly spiritualized planet of Goloka Vrindavana. It is where the original Superconscious being, Sri Krishna, resides.
All these teachings are available in various forms in India, be it Jain cosmology or any other local variant of these theories.
To study these postulates of cosmology in a single course or program, it is advisable to get a cosmology degree. You need to have cleared 12th grade with science (non-medical combination), and you need to study core engineering or physics at the graduate level. There are, however, many alternate routes to get a qualification in cosmology.
- Cosmology is one of the subjects that combines the best aspects and finer points of metaphysics and brings science and philosophy under a single roof.
- You need to have a background in science and an open mind to study the subject in depth. To look at the universe metaphysically requires a lot of open-mindedness during the study.
- The scope of cosmology as a subject is vast, and it includes various sub-topics and subjects that you need to study to understand the concepts.
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1. Where can you get a cosmology degree?
Answer – Many top colleges all over the world can help you become a cosmologist. King’s College, London, and California Institute of Integral studies are some of the institutes offering a degree in cosmology.
2. Is cosmology a good career choice?
Answer – Job prospects with cosmology as a career are really good. Private aerospace companies or space centers hire job applicants in this field. Commercial and non-commercial research organizations can also employ you.
3. How to become a cosmologist?
Answer – As already mentioned above, you need to have studied science or engineering at an undergraduate level. Then, you need to get a postgraduate degree in cosmology. After that, you could apply for an internship. If you also wish to go for a Ph.D. in the meantime, then it is entirely your choice. But after getting the relevant education and experience, you should apply for a job as a cosmologist.