Published on November 8th, 2023 | by Madhudvisa dasa42
Is the Universe a Computer Simulation? — The Nature of Reality
Scientists are discussing the nature of reality. They have made a discovery in physics pointing to the possibility that the universe is not billions of light-years across as astronomers speculate but may be quite small. So they are speculating that when we look out in the sky at night we may be looking at some sort of projection, similar to what you would see in a planetarium. It looks like the vast night sky but is actually just a piece of film in the projector… Some are speculating that we may actually be living in a computer simulation, something like we see depicted in the move “The Matrix.”
“If recent measurements of cosmic ray particles are correct, then we may have the first evidence that the universe as we know it is really a giant computer simulation.” (wired.co.uk)
Of course this is all useless speculation but it does bring up the question as to what is the nature of reality?
As scientists are starting to realize we can not trust our senses to understand the nature of reality because if we were living in a computer simulation then the computer would provide realistic inputs to all our senses and we would think that was ‘real’. But it is simulated, not real. So we can not trust our senses. They can be very easily fooled.
The way to get knowledge of the true nature of reality is finding a perfect source of knowledge that does not depend on our imperfect senses. And that perfect source of knowledge is the Vedas. The Vedas are aparusa, it means not a product of man. They descend from the Supreme Lord and therefore contain knowledge of the nature of reality independent of the information we can gather from our material senses.
So what is the nature of reality? It is most certainly not a computer simulation. We try to understand things in relation to our own experience. So we have computers here in the material world, we can understand them to some extent, so we are projecting that on the universe and speculating the universe may be a computer simulation. But this computer technology is very crude and primitive compared to the technology which is used to run the universe. The workings of the universe are avan manasa gocara, “Beyond the ability of the senses to perceive and beyond the ability of the mind to imagine.” So without some external and perfect source of knowledge like the Vedas we can not even imagine what the true nature of reality is.
What scientists are pondering when the think of the ‘the nature of reality’, is the nature of this material world we find ourselves in. Paradoxically the Vedas call this material world maya, which means ‘that which is not’. So the scientists have accepted maya or illusion as reality and are trying to understand that… Therefore right from the beginning they are off to a bad start.
So why does the Vedas refer to this world as maya or illusory? At the same time as referring to this world as illusory the Vedas also assert that it is an energy of the Supreme Lord and in that sense is real, not false.
The actual ‘nature of reality’ [of the material world] is it is a reflection of something very real. Everything that we see and experience here in the material world is very real, but not here, it is real in the spiritual world. What we experience here is a reflection of the reality of the spiritual world. If you look in a mirror you see a reflection of your face. That reflection is on the glass. It is a clear reflection, it is a clear image of your face. But if you were to look into moving water you would also see a reflection of your face, but your face would be distorted because of the movement of the water it was being reflected on.
So the Vedas state that this material world is a reflection of the spiritual world, but it is a perverted reflection, because it is reflected on desire, our desire.
In the spiritual world there is only one desire, and that is the desire to serve the Supreme Lord, Krishna. Of course there everyone is an individual with his own personality and everyone’s desire to serve Krishna manifests differently depending on their personality. We all have an eternal relationship with Krishna and our natural constitutional position is to be situated in the spiritual world serving Krishna in our own individual and personal relationship with Krishna.
Our relationship with Krishna is based on love. So love means we have to be free to choose not to love Krishna if we desire that. Otherwise there is no meaning to love. If I take a gun and point it at you and try to force you to love me, that is not love. Love has to be voluntary. So this love for Krishna is our pure desire, but we can also misuse our independence and pervert our natural desires and instead of loving Krishna we can desire to become like Krishna who is the object of everyone’s love and affection.
Of course Krishna is the Supreme Personality of Godhead and He is unlimited in every respect. So we can never really become like Krishna as we are limited in every respect. In every way Krishna is great and we are tiny. But we are the same substance as Krishna. It is like Krishna is the ocean and we are a tiny drop of the ocean water. The ocean is salty and also the tiny drop is salty. But there is a huge amount of salt in the ocean and only a very tiny amount of salt in the drop. You can not say the drop of water is equal to the ocean.
Krishna is the supreme controller of everything so we also have that desire to control within us, because we have the qualities of Krishna in minute quantities. But our natural position is to serve the great, serve Krishna. However there are living entities, like us, who misuse our independence, and want to try to become the lord and master like Krishna. So this is a perverted desire.
Therefore this material world is a perverted reflection of the spiritual world and the substance on which it is reflected is desire, our desire. The reflection is perverted and distorted by our desire. There is no actual substance here in the material world. That is why it is called maya, “that which is not.” Because here we see a perverted reflection of the real things from the spiritual world, not the actual real things.
The material world is described as being like a tree with it’s roots up and branches down. Of course we can not see any trees with their roots up and branches down… Unless you are sitting on the bank of a lake. Then if you look in the water you will see the reflections of the trees on the bank of the river, but they will be upside-down, with the roots up and branches down. And the reflection of the trees will be on the water and will be distorted or perverted by the movements of the water.
Now those trees that are reflected in the water look just like real trees. If they were mango trees then you could even see the ripe mango fruits in the reflection. But those mangos are not real, it is only a reflection on the water. You could jump into the lake and try to grab those mangos in the reflected trees but you would never be able to get any actual mangoes… You could not taste the mangoes.
This material world is just like that. We see here reflections of real things that we can only actually achieve in the spiritual world and we become captivated by those reflections and work very hard to try and posses those reflected mangoes and only after so much ‘blood, sweat and tears’ we end up with a handful of water only and the actual mangoes we do not know where they have gone… They vanish like a mirage in the desert.
We have of the idea of ‘love’. And we get the idea of ‘beauty’. And we have the idea of ‘falling in love’ with a ‘a beautiful woman’… These are all realities in the spiritual world but in the material world we only see perverted reflections of these realities. We can never actually experience love in the material word. All of these concepts are illusions here. A ‘beautiful woman’ is just a bag of bones and blood and puss and stool and urine in a nice fresh young skin. So we fall in love with that skin, and very soon the skin of the ‘beautiful woman’ changes and we do not like it any more. The skin becomes old and ugly… And this illusory ‘love’ simply slips through our fingers, just like that reflected mango in the lake…
Everything in the material world is based on the misconception of identifying the body as the self. I think I am an “Australian Man”, but I have nothing to do with Australia or a man. It just happens that in this birth I, the spirit soul, have appeared in Australia as a male in the human species. But I have had millions and millions of births in so many different bodies in so many different species of life in so many planets and so many universes. And I am so forgetful and so illusioned that I have forgotten everything about my real nature as a spirit soul and I am identifying with the particular material body that I happen to have taken birth in this life, so I think “I am an Australian man…”
So the ‘nature of reality’ in the material world is there is no reality here. It is simply a reflection of a reality from the spiritual world and there is no substance in this reflection. It reflected on our desire, so in that sense we have created the material world we live in. Everyone has their own ‘reality’ [which is actually an illusion] and we are simply sharing space with others in this collective ‘reality’ so that we can cooperatively play the necessary parts in each others ‘realities’ in such a way that everyone is able to experience their karma.
Almost everything is an illusion in the material world. The idea that we are free and independent and can do whatever we want to do is also an illusion. The reality is we are completely bound up and controlled by the three modes of material nature. This material world is the ultimate justice. In the human form of life we have a limited amount of free will. So we are responsible for our actions. If we choose to do something good then the result is ‘good karma‘, and if we choose to do something bad the result is ‘bad karma‘. And every one of these actions, good or bad, generates a reaction that we must experience some time in the future, either in this life or in a future life.
So we do not come into this world as a ‘blank slate’. No. We come overburdened with so much karma. There is no chance. It is not that one person is very fortunate and another very unfortunate by chance. No. We create our own fortune and misfortune. If we do something good now that creates something good in the future for us and if we do something bad now that creates something bad for us in the future…
Every time we help someone that person becomes obligated to return the favor to us in the future. Every time we hurt someone that person becomes obliged to hurt us in the future. And everyone must fulfill their karma. The nature of reality of the material world is that it is a platform for the living entities to attempt to become the lord and master but this attempt will always be frustrated and ultimately fail. And in the process of trying to become the lord and master we will generate so much karma, good and bad, and at the time of death we will still have heaps of karmic reactions that we have not yet experienced, so experiencing the karma generated in one birth will take us many future births.
Now you may begin to understand the illusion of freedom and independence. We come into the material world with a certain stock of karma and it is already predestined exactly what we are going to suffer and what we are going to enjoy. And our reality is set up for us by the universe in such a way that simultaneously our karma and the karma of all the others we interact with is simultaneously fulfilled. It is an amazing thing. So the people we have hurt in previous lives will take birth around us and will be forced to hurt us in this life. They will have no idea why they are hurting us, because they can’t remember their past lives, but the laws of nature are so strong that because we hurt them in a previous life they must hurt us now. And people we have helped in previous lives will help us in this life. They must, they will be forced to. Because the law of the universe, karma, will force them to repay their debt, even though they are unaware they have a debt to us…
Everyone is being forced to act by the three modes of material nature driven by the law of karma. And they have no control of this. If they have to kill someone because of their karma they will kill that person and they can not change this or stop it… this is the nature of reality in the material world.
The purpose behind this nature of reality is twofold. On one hand the material world does to some extent allow us to exercise our perverted desires to try to become the lord and master, imitating Krishna’s position. But because our real constitutional position is that we are eternally servants of Krishna so for us lordship in the material world is artificial and can’t last. The other purpose of the material world is to frustrate all our attempts at becoming the lord and master. So it is the nature of reality that every endeavor we undertake in the material world will end in frustration and failure. And the purpose of this frustration and failure is occasionally one thoughtful person will realize that he can not be happy like this, trying to be the lord and master in the material world, and this inspires him to question what really is the purpose of life. And this, in the Brahma-sutra is defined as the purpose of human life. To question.
So we could summarize that the nature of reality in the material world is to bring one to the point of questioning, “What is the purpose of life…”
And the answer to this question… that is a different article.
Chant Hare Krishna and be happy!