Bhur Bhuvah Suvah – Super Abstractions

The Super-Abstractions in Veda – “Om Bhur Bhuvah Suvah”

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What does the mantra “Om Bhur Bhuva Suvaha” (ॐ भू र्भुवः सुवः) really represent? Let us understand this through an example in Physics, namely, the position vector.

Space is a fundamental quantity in physics. Consequently, we cannot define it via other quantities. On the other hand, it can be understood in relation to measures such as Distance and Direction. For example, a scientist uses “position vectors” to refer to relate two distant objects in Space. The Vedas present this idea a bit differently. This is because the Cosmos is not inert according to the Vedas but is conscious. Direction or Dik, in the model of a conscious cosmos. is measurable only because there are three fundamental principles. What are these?

भूरग्नयेपृथिव्यैस्वाहा भुवोवायवेऽन्तरिक्षाय स्वाहा
सुवरादित्याय दिवेस्वाहा
भुर्भुवस्सुवश्चन्द्रमसेदिग्भ्यः स्वाहा
नमोदेवेभ्यः स्वधा पितृभ्योभूर्भुवःसुवरग्न ओम्

Mahanarayana Upanishad 4.1

Dik or direction (one of the two measures in a position vector) carries a meaning in the context of an observer not otherwise. An observer is always Earthbound. Therefore, “Prithvi” or the Earth is the first of three principles. Distant objects from Prithvi form the “Dyu” set. Obviously, the third principle is the separation between the above two. This is Antariksh, the interstitial space. The quote above shows the mantra explaining these three principles along with “ॐ भू र्भुवः सुवः”

Can we understand "Om Bhur Bhuva Suvaha "through Position Vectors in Physics?
Super-abstractions are building blocks of the Cosmos

Dik or direction loses its meaning without any one of the abstract principles, namely. Prithvi, Dyu and Antariksh. Vedic texts strive to simplify the understanding of abstract principles by relating them to experiential phenomena. Firstly, Agni (biological fire) kindles the quest for knowledge and observation. Secondly, Aditya, visible as the Sun at a distance, refers to the Dyu abstraction. Thirdly Vayu or air which fills the atmosphere, the closest region of Antariksh, serves as a way for us to understand the Antariksh abstraction. But how are these related to the mantra “Om Bhur Bhuva Suvaha”?

Abstractions and Super-abstractions

Presenting abstractions in an easy to relate manner is one aspect in the Vedas. However, there is a more interesting aspect which is the idea of super-abstractions. A student can understand Super-abstractions by first mastering abstractions in several domains of knowledge. Subsequently, a student can glimpse into the similarities between all these above cases. The Super-abstractions in the mantra “Om Bhur Bhuva Suvaha” correspond to the abstractions Prithvi, Antariksh and Dyu, respectively.

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