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The Universe: Einstein & the Yogis

The Universe: Einstein & the Yogis

Here is a unique look from the perspective of western science and eastern spirituality on how to undersand our relation with this universe.

The Yogic Outlook

Yoga itself means union, making that innate connection between unit and universal, jiivatma and Paramatma, or the individual “I” and the Cosmic “I”. The only thing that separates us from feeling complete oneness with the entire universe is the unit ego. At the same time, through the process of sadhana or meditation, the individual “I-feeling” can be expanded and with sustained effort along with Cosmic grace, the aspirant can attain a state of true oneness with the universe. That state is known as samadhi, the eight limb of astaunga yoga. In a nutshell that is the entire journey on the path of yoga. And it all begins with the question, “What is my relation with the universe?”

Here we examine Professor Einstein’s perspective on this same existential query. Appended below is also a peek into the unique meeting between Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore.

Einstein’s Conception of Universe & Self

Although there is debate about the accuracy of the quote, the message is essentially the same and consistent with Einstein’s overall cosmological perspective. Here are the two versions of the quote in question:

Version 1:

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Even if the above version of the 1950 letter by Einstein is quoted in The New York Times (29 March 1972) and The New York Post (28 November 1972), apparently it’s not correct. The New Quotable Einstein by Alice Calaprice (Princeton University Press, 2005: ISBN 0691120749), p. 206, has a different and presumably more accurate version of this letter, which she dates to February 12, 1950 and describes as a letter to a distraught father who had lost his young son and had asked Einstein for some comforting words. (Courtesy of Marco Rognoni)

Version 2: 

Dear Mr. M.,

A human being is part of the whole world, called by us “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. The striving to free oneself from this delusion is the one issue of true religion. Not to nourish the delusion but to try to overcome it is the way to reach the attainable measure of peace of mind.

With my best wishes,
sincerely yours,
Albert Einstein

When Einstein met Tagore

In 1930, Professor Albert Einstein welcomed the poet / philosopher, and Nobel Laureate from India, Shrii Rabindranath Tagore into his home, just outside of Berlin. What ensued was a remarkable discussion bridging and intersecting the worlds of science and spirituality. Here is a photo from that occasion. A link to the transcription of their discussion has been appended below.

Here is the full & complete dialog of the meeting between Einstein & Tagore.


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