By Satyaraja Dasa

A scientific theory about everything points to realities beyond our grasp.

An assortment of ancient civilizations claims that a great flood took place in the distant past. They agree, too, that God or gods sent this flood to destroy humankind as an act of divine retribution, man having become so depraved that God wanted to start over. We find the flood in the biblical story of Noah’s ark, the Puranic description of Matsya Avatara, and the tale of Utnapishtim in the Epic of Gilgamesh, among others places. In the Vedic tradition, God starts over repeatedly, as the great ages recur again and again, sometimes with floods ending one age before another one begins.

Most people think of the flood as a myth, meaning either that it can’t be proven by empirical means or that it didn’t happen at all. The author of an article in World Cultures, an online academic journal, disagrees, specifically because several world cultures, separated by time, space, and worldview, all vouch for the fact that it happened. This unanimity of perspective, claims the author, would be highly unlikely if the story did not have some basis in reality. The Puranic version, for its part, is clearly presented as a true story. The first incarnation of Vishnu, in terms of historical sequence, took the form of a fish, Matsya by name. (Matsya means “fish,” and this incarnation is referred to as Matsya or Matsya Avatara.) In Moby Dick, Herman Melville refers to what he sees as the Hindu myth of the whale incarnation of Vishnu. But for Krishna devotees, both Vishnu and Matsya are real.

The Story of Matsya

Matsya’s story flows as follows. In the earliest world age, Satya-yuga, a king named Manu was performing severe penance for thousands of years, as kings of the time were wont to do. One day, while he was performing ablutions with river water, a small fish appeared in his hands. Just as he was about to throw the little creature back into the river, it asked the king to save its life. Heeding its request, the king put the fish into a jar of water. But the fish grew so big that no jar could contain it. He then threw it into a lake, but it soon outgrew that, forcing the king to throw it first into the Ganges and then, as the fish kept growing, into the ocean. The king realized that it was Lord Vishnu himself, who then made His divine identity clear.

Matsya told the king that the world would end in seven days, compliments of a huge flood. He asked the king to build a large boat and to take onboard seven prominent sages, the seeds of all plants, and one animal of each type. He had come as a fish, He said, to propel the boat to Mount Himavan, where the survivors would begin the next yuga (eon). True to his word, the Lord appeared after seven days. The king tied the boat to Him by using the royal serpent Vasuki. Lord Matsya took all of them to Mount Himavan and kept them there until the flood was over. After that, a new era dawned, and the king began to procreate as Lord Matsya had instructed him.

Polydimensional Realities

What does all of this have to do with Superstring Theory? Recently, I happened to read The Fabric of the Cosmos, Brian Greene’s best-selling book on String Theory. The author is the brother of Joshua Greene, also known as Yogeshvara Dasa, a close friend of mine and a senior member of the Hare Krishna movement. So, although I have little interest in science, I read the book on Yogeshvara’s recommendation. While reading it—a book, mind you, that ostensibly has nothing to do with Krishna consciousness—I was surprised that I couldn’t help thinking of our predecessor spiritual masters. The works of Krishna conscious teachers read like manuals on Superstring Theory in that they seem to anticipate the discovery of alternate universes and polydimensional realities.

Superstring Theory, or simply String Theory, suggests that there are as many as ten spatial dimensions, not just the four of conventional discourse (the three dimensions of space and the fourth dimension of time). It might be argued that we can accept the reality of Matsya—or of other supernatural descriptions from the Vedic literature, such as Vishnu with four arms or God as a blue cowherd boy—with the aid of these extra dimensions, for without them one would be hard pressed to explain such things. Vishnu and the spiritual realm, of course, need no such explanation, for, as Krishna conscious masters repeatedly point out, the world beyond time does not have to conform to physical laws. When this higher reality breaks into the world as we know it, however, as in the story of Brahma and the creation of the universe or of a fish growing to astronomical proportions, a reasonable explanation is certainly in order. Superstring Theory might provide such an explanation.

The theory was popularized in the 1980s, when Michael Green at Queen Mary College and John Schwarz at the California Institute of Technology demonstrated that it just might be the unifying theory that reconciles quantum mechanics and general relativity. Its original proponents did not see it as supporting spiritual reality. With extrapolation, however, their explanations of it lead in only one direction: There are alternate levels of reality, things we can’t see, and dimension of existence to which we are not privy.

A Step in the Right Direction

Before Superstring ever came into existence, J. Stillson Judah, Professor Emeritus of the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley and a longtime friendof the Hare Krishna movement, recognized the need to expand our perception of reality, and he often wrote about it. The article in World Cultures cites him:

If to the outsider “the pastimes of Krishna” appear miraculous and illogical, the following question must be asked. Does not the awareness of a higher reality, which all religions declare to be a divine mystery, come most often through participation in the irrational, the paradox and, for the disbeliever, absurd? For many Buddhists it may emerge through meditating on the paradoxes of the prajna-paramita or the nonsensical ko-ans; for the Pentecostals it speaks through the incoherent babble of glossolalia; for the Roman Catholics it involves the mystery of the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ during the Mass; for the Muslim, it may occur during the pilgrimage to Mecca, when he trots between the hills of Safa and Marwah imitating Hagar’s search for water.

In other words, religion is precisely concerned with higher realities and spiritual, not material, phenomena. Stories associated with the spirit will naturally focus on otherworldly or supernatural events, and this should be expected. It is only when viewed from a materialistic vantage point that such stories appear strange. In fact, Superstring Theory, a product of science, which is generally materialistic, unmasks a truth that could accommodate stories such as that of Lord Matsya. A devotee accepts these truths with no strings attached. But for those who need evidence, Superstring Theory might be a step in the right direction, and Judah would be a firm supporter of that move.