(Published in The Spiritually Speaking column of The Daily Guardian on June 28, 2021)

The ‘known’ universe consists of about one trillion galaxies (give or take a few billion). Each one of those galaxies contain several billion stars. Most of these stars most likely have planets revolving around them. Many of those planets could be habitable. Many of those habitable planets probably have lifeforms living there. Many of these life forms are likely to be intelligent sentient beings like us.

At the moment we know that the greater part of the universe is yet unknown. Dark matter and dark energy collectively comprise 95 percent of our universe. The remaining 5 per cent is the actual physical matter—stars, planets, moons and everything on them—and this is ultimately nothing but protons, neutrons and electrons which combine together in various permutations and combinations to form atoms of different elements which in turn group together to form molecules. 

So, what is this dark matter and dark energy? We don’t know. But it is possible that these could be the spiritual realms where our souls are actually from. The parts of our universe which are not seen far exceed the parts which are seen. So, if we are souls that have come to earth to have a ‘human experience’ does that mean that ours is the only planet in the universe where sentient life exists? Definitely not.

As of 22 June 2021, there are 4,768 confirmed exoplanets in 3,527 planetary systems, with 783 systems having more than one planet. Most of these were discovered by the Kepler space telescope. There are an additional 2,366 potential exoplanets from Kepler’s first mission yet to be confirmed as well as 889 from its Second Light mission and 1,385 from the Transiting Exoplanets Survey Satellite (TESS) mission.

And by the way all of these exoplanets that we have found so far are just in our own Milky Way galaxy. Certainly, there are countless numbers of extragalactic exoplanets as well. The numbers involved are so large that it is hard for the limited human mind to comprehend.

With so many worlds out there, it is almost certain that extra-terrestrial intelligent life exists. We have not officially found any yet but soon certain revelations could be made by governments. In the US, the Pentagon is to be submitting a report to the US Congress about its study on UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon [previously known as UFOs]) over the years. US military pilots have recently come on the record that they observed objects that flew much faster and manoeuvred in ways that our current technology would not permit. The US military has also released video footage of the ‘Tic Tac’ UFO and a pyramid shaped UFO that have gone viral. 

Even former US president Barack Obama came on The Late Late Show with James Corden in May 2021 and said, “What is true, and I’m actually being serious here, is that there are, there’s footage and records of objects in the skies, that we don’t know exactly what they are. We can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory. They did not have an easily explainable pattern. And so, you know, I think that people still take it seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is,” the former President said.

When asked about aliens, Obama said, “Well, when it comes to aliens, there’s some things I just can’t tell you on air.”

So obviously there is something out there that is visiting us. Are they from other planets, other dimensions or possibly even from our own planet from places we are still unaware of like the deep ocean, for example? We know more about the surface of the moon and Mars than the deepest oceans on planet earth.

If there is some form of extra-terrestrial or intra-dimensional or deep aquatic or deep underground civilisation that is visiting us then we are certainly living in an unimaginably largely inhabited universe with multiple forms of life spread across infinite worlds. That puts things into a much different perspective, doesn’t it?

Where does that leave us spiritually and physically? Does it open up many new worlds where we can incarnate. Does it mean that some of us here on Earth in this lifetime have had past lives on other planets in our own galaxy and possibly on other planets across the universe including other galaxies. 

Is our afterlife realm of spirit worlds likewise divided into different spiritual galaxies and maybe even multiple universes either physical or spiritual or both? 

A great description of this is found in the chapter called ‘The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar’ in the famous book ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramhansa Yogananda where the great guru Sri Yukteswar’s departed soul appears before Paramhansa Yoganada and describes the entire creation to him. He says there are basically three universes—physical, astral and causal and each one has its own inhabitants, its own planets, own star systems and galaxies. However, he doesn’t really mention whether we are born on other worlds other than this one in the physical cosmos but does imply it when he talks about the highest astral planet of Hiranyaloka and said that souls only can incarnate on that high astral planet when they are considerably advanced. So, it means that in the astral world, we can be born on different astral planets. The same thing applies for the causal universe as well. However, he does not mention any name of any highest causal planet. 

Accounts from past life regressions also have had cases where people who are on Earth currently remember past lives on other planets. The book ‘Souls on Earth: Exploring Interplanetary Past Lives’ by Linda Backman explores these kinds of cases. 

So, we live in a huge creation with seemingly infinite numbers of planets, stars, galaxies in multiple dimensions in different universes in terms of density—physical, astral and causal. Who knows how many more there are? The universe seems to be teeming with life on all of these multiple realms and the soul travels across these different arenas on its great adventure to return to the creator of all things.

It seems very likely that we are not alone in this universe! Never have been and never will be. But the real charm of how the creation has been made is that though we have infinity and eternity ahead of us, we should never forget that we are here and now on this tiny planet for a purpose. This world has plenty of problems and it is our duty to solve them because everything and everyone in creation is connected in some way. We must live here and experience life, learn our lessons and try to make the world a better place before we head back to the spirit world and then set out on another voyage somewhere beyond the stars!

Calculating The Living Cosmos

(Published in Spiritually Speaking The Daily Guardian August 31, 2020)

“The cosmos is all that is or was or ever will be.” –  

Carl Sagan (1934-1996), US astrophysicist and creator of the hit TV show ‘Cosmos’.

A lot has been discovered since the time Carl Sagan passed away in 1996. We now know that there are most likely at least one planet around every star in the universe. That is a lot of planets and stars. For us to understand our cosmos and our role in it, we should start by looking inside our own selves. Is the material cosmos a smaller part of a larger energetic and spiritual cosmos? It could be. But first, let us look at some mind boggling numbers. 

There are over 7.8 billion human beings on planet Earth as per August 2020. Let us take that number as 8 billion. That seems like a lot of people doesn’t it? But it is insignificant compared to the number of stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. There are 400 billion stars in our Galaxy. Divide 400 by 8 and you get 50. That means there are 50 stars in our Galaxy for every human being on planet Earth! That is right. Imagine the size and vastness of the Galaxy. Imagine how many places and things there are and how many intelligent forms of life must be out there.

Macrocosm and Microcosm

The good news is that  our Milky Way Galaxy is not the only galaxy. Latest estimates by astronomers put the number of galaxies in the ‘known’ universe at about 2 trillion i.e. 2,000,000,000,000 and on an average each galaxy has a few hundred billion stars. And according to what we know now – each one of those stars should have at least one planet. 

The way the universe is made is orderly. All of these 2 trillion odd galaxies are not just randomly floating in space. They are arranged into clusters and superclusters. Our own Milky Way galaxy is a part of the Laniakea supercluster of galaxies. It is mind boggling to think of the immensity of the universe outside the earth.

But wait a minute! This immensity of the macrocosm of the universe is mind boggling but equally mind boggling is the fact that the microcosm is equally if not even vaster. Did you know that an average 70 kg human being is made up of about  7 x 1027 (7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) (that is 7 Octillion!) atoms! In each breath there are trillions of atoms exchanged. Also it is estimated that we have about 10 trillion cells inside of us.  

That is way more than the estimated number of stars in the known universe which if you take 2 trillion galaxies and the average number of stars as 100 billion per galaxy comes to 2 x 1023 or 200 sextillion stars! To give you an idea of the sheer magnitude of these numbers – there are more stars in the known universe than the total number of grains of sand on every beach on planet earth. 

But the number of atoms in one single human being is much more. In fact it is 35,000 (7 octillion divided by 200 sextillion) times more than the estimated number of stars in the known universe!

So our bodies are grander universes in themselves.

96 per cent of the universe is either dark matter or dark energy.

Now we all know that we live in a universe of energy. There is something beyond the material seeable universe. There is an entire energetic and spiritual plane of existence. But where is this? Can we actually know it and can it be discovered or at least do we have a hint of this huge colossal spiritual universe?

Actually, we do. 

It is now known that despite the hugeness of the whole universe with all its trillions of galaxies, stars, planets and all – all of this so-called ‘material’ universe comprises only 4 percent of the universe’s mass. Approximately, 23 percent is ‘dark matter’ and 73 percent is ‘dark energy’. Here ‘dark’ refers to unseeable, undetectable and unknown. The nature of these two things is unknown to scientists at the moment but they know that these things not only exist but that together they comprise 96 per cent of the known universe. Imagine that! 

The same applies to the microcosm as well. If you look at the atomic structure, most of the mass is inside the nucleus but that comprises a tiny percent of the atom’s size. Plus there is a huge distance between each atom in terms of the tiny atomic scale. You can say that most of the atomic world is comprised of ‘emptiness’.

What if even all of this is just one large part of something much much bigger? Well, modern science says that this entire universe itself could be just one out of possibly infinity of other universes which collectively can be called the ‘multiverse’. So the Cosmos (remember the quote by Carl Sagan in the beginning of this article) could be way bigger than what we originally thought.

We are Godstuff

“The Kingdom of God is within you,” says the Lord Jesus Christ in Luke 17:21 of the Bible. When the creation of the Cosmos took place, the raw materials had to come from somewhere. It is too simplistic to say that they “just came” out of nowhere. The basic building blocks of the entire Universe are the same three subatomic particles – protons, neutrons and electrons. There is absolutely no difference between the protons, neutrons and electrons in you and the chair you sit on. They are the same. There is fundamentally no difference between anything when it comes to the basic building blocks that make everything. This is important to note because it immediately makes you feel the ‘oneness’ of all things throughout the Cosmos.

So, the Creative power that made the entire Cosmos had to have used ‘itself’ as the basic ‘stuff’ that made the protons, neutrons and electrons as well as the almost unimaginable energy that goes into every single atom of creation. So not only are we (as the late astronomer Carl Sagan loved to say) ‘starstuff’, but we are all ‘Godstuff’ that has been mixed and matched in different permutations and combinations and is made to interact with each other amidst the delusion that we are actually separate. We are as separate as the individual drops in the ocean – which still retain their existence in some stretch of imagination, but at the same time, have merged with the larger entity called ocean. They still exist, but now as a part of a larger, more powerful being. Like the cells in your bodies are individual beings in their own sense – they have a fixed boundary or body, they are born, they reproduce, they absorb oxygen (so they breathe in a sense) and then they die. They may even have consciousness, but miniscule compared to the consciousness of a human being. Yet, our physical bodies are nothing more than a conglomerate of trillions of cells. Are we the single body or the sum total of trillions of cells?

So what is 96 percent of reality? 

Most of reality is unseen and unknown currently. Let us propose a theory. But first a quick reference to the world famous book written by Paramahansa Yogananda ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’. In the chapter ‘The Resurrection of Sri Yukteswar’,  Yogananda tells us about the physical, astral and causal universes. The physical is the material universe, the astral (energetic) is more subtle and is the place the souls go to after leaving earth and the causal (spiritual) is even more subtle and more refined, this is where more advanced souls go and ultimately the highest plane of existence is the merging with God. Each one of these universes have their own sets of planets, stars, solar systems  and galaxies. 

I feel that this could be the answer to what is 96 percent of reality. Maybe ‘Dark matter’ is the astral universe and ‘dark energy’ is the causal universe. Yogananda did also mention in the book that the physical is smaller than the astral and the astral is smaller than the causal. 

If so then 96 per cent of the Cosmos is spiritual and divine in nature and just waiting for us to explore it. The best part is we are our own spaceships in this regard. Meditation can give us glimpses into these vasts energetic and spiritual realms. Go deep inside you, take a deep breath and explore the vastness of the glorious infinite realms within you!

NASA announces liquid water on Mars, but life?

Today NASA announced that liquid water still flows on the surface of Mars! Well, this is the second best announcement about Mars that we could wish for – the first being of course that they found life! Hmm, perhaps a little disappointing but who knows, that announcement could come sooner than we think.

Well the fact that there is liquid water on Mars significantly increases the possibility of life on Mars and also it makes things a lot easier for humans to someday visit and colonize the Red Planet.

Actually water, which is the most important aspect for life as we know it, is not as rare as we once thought. Apart from Mars – our own moon, Enceladus (a moon of Saturn) and Europa (a moon of Jupiter) are believed to also have plenty of water. Signatures of water have also been found around planets orbiting around distant stars as well.

Where water is, life cannot be too far away. So it is just a matter of time before we discover life outside our own world. Slowly but surely most of the scientific data that we are receiving is making the answer imminent – we most certainly are not alone!

Anybody out there?

(published in The Speaking Tree, The Times of India – October 26, 2012)

etWhen NASA recently landed the Curiosity rover on Mars, the moment once again raised the age-old question, “Is there life in outer space?” The most logical answer is that there must be life out there considering the infinite nature of our known universe with its assumed 70 sextillion stars distributed across billions of galaxies.

Fermi’s Paradox
Either way you look at it – creation or evolution or both, as they are not mutually exclusive – there is no logical reason why Earth should be the only planet among hundreds of planets out there with life. Perhaps some of the 777 planets discovered so far outside our solar system have life. If so, why have we not found anybody out there yet? This question is referred to as Fermi’s Paradox. He asked simply, “If there is life out there? Where is everybody?” For life to be detected, communicated with and interacted with, such life needs to be more or less on the same rung as we are on the evolutionary ladder.

When you look at an amoeba with a microscope, the amoeba is blissfully unaware of that fact. Humans and amoebas are on two very distant rungs of the evolutionary ladder to have any kind of meaningful interaction. Other intelligent creatures on our planet like whales, dolphins, ants and bees are also promising in their forms of communication and their ability to build ‘cities’ in the form of anthills and beehives. But here again, we do not have any real way to communicate with them. Looking at these examples, if there is a lot of alien life out there in the universe and even if we find ‘them’, will we be able to communicate with them?

Then again, even if we do find other life out there, we will only be able to communicate with them if they are on the same level of evolution as us. If life outside Earth is too ahead or behind us on the rungs of evolution, we will be unable to communicate or detect each other. What if we are like amoebas for a more advanced form of life? Maybe ‘they’ are waiting for us to reach a certain level of spiritual development before they admit us into the ‘Galactic Society.’

Worlds without end


(published in The Times of India, Editorial Page, December 9, 2006)

Looking at stars on a clear night somewhere away from the city, one is amazed at how many are visible. The hazy band of the Milky Way stretches across the night sky and contains millions of stars, thousands of light years away, but still part of our own Galaxy. Late astronomer Carl Sagan put the number of stars in the Milky Way Galaxy at 400,000,000,000 (400 billion). There are a little more than six billion people on our planet — so a rough estimate puts it at about 60 stars in the Milky Way per human being on Earth. Imagine that, each one of us could have 60 solar systems in the Milky Way Galaxy.

Since 1995, we have discovered around 200 extrasolar planets or planets revolving around other stars. Some of these stars like 47 Ursae Majoris, only 46 light years away (a stone’s throw in terms of stellar distances), even have a system of planets like our sun has. So far we have only been able to discover larger Jupiter-like worlds because the current method of finding planets makes it difficult to find smaller Earth-like worlds.

However, NASA is planning to launch the terrestrial planet finder project in 2014. This project will be able to detect smaller Earth-like extrasolar planets. Chances are good that we are soon going to find other planets with liquid water and an Earth-like atmosphere. These other worlds will become targets for human colonisation. Going back to our 60 stars per human formula, even if we take a very modest figure of two planets per star system, this means there are 120 planets per human being and over 800 billion planets in our Galaxy alone. That is a lot of potential real estate.

As mysteries of the Universe unfold, it is important that we realise our place in the larger scheme of things. Just as we talk about being a part of the world, we need to remember that the world is only a part of a much larger Galaxy, which in itself is part of a much larger Universe (there are more than 100 billion known galaxies and an estimate made in 2003 by Australian astronomers puts the total number of stars in the known universe at 70 sextillion or 70,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

There are now theories that even the Universe is only one out of many universes that make the multiverse — the supreme collection of universes. These other universes would exist in some other frequency or dimension and inter-dimensional travel could someday take us there. Where does it end?

Are we the only planet with life or is the multiverse teaming with life? While we have not yet found life anywhere other than planet Earth, we still have 70 sextillion stars multiplied by the number of universes to explore before we can conclusively prove that Earth is the only inhabited planet. However, even if we find a tiny microbe on Mars, we have proved the other alternative — that we are, in fact, not alone.

Either way, exploration and colonisation of space is necessary. If ours is indeed (however unlikely) the only inhabited planet in the multiverse, then we have a great responsibility. We have been given the gift of life and we need to preserve that. This would mean that we need to carry the torch of life to the stars and colonise other planets.

The Earth could be destroyed in so many ways and it would be our duty to spread the fire of life throughout the multiverse. If the other alternative is correct and there is an abundance of life, wouldn’t we want to find it and interact with it? How long can we earthlings be alone? There would then be an endless opportunity to exchange our culture, commerce, science, techno-logy, beliefs and art. What a wonderful thing it would be to find intelligent and friendly life elsewhere. Clearly, we are just in our infancy. We humans have only reached our own moon so far. Humans have not visited even Mars yet, though our probes have criss-crossed the surfaces of Venus, Mars and Titan. But our focus is too earth-centric. We need to stop abusing our planet and think of its preservation, just as we need to seriously start planning the further exploration and colonisation of space as physicist Stephen Hawking has advised.