So I have a neighbor who lives downstairs from me. He is a physicist. And Sunday afternoon as we sat enjoying enchiladas potosinas and guacamole, he began to explain to me the concept and problem with the speed of light. Here it is summarized below.
Imagine you see a train traveling at 50km per hour. Inside that train there is a small cat (because cats make any topic more interesting) running at 20km per hour in the same direction that the train is moving. Looking from the outside of the train, w hat is the actual speed of the cat?
If you answered 70km per hour, you are correct…and probably did much better than me in high school math. The speed of the cat is merely her running speed + the speed of the train.
Now, lets say there is a conductor on the train trying to find this cat and she is standing there on the train with a flashlight pointed in the direction of the running cat. What is the speed of light coming out of that flashlight?
If you answered 50 or 70km per hour, welcome to my world of being a mere mortal and humanities major.
If you answered 300,000 km per second, no matter if the train is moving at 50km per hour or 0 km per hour, well done smarty pants, you are well on your way to becoming a physicist yourself. The speed of light on that moving train (or any moving object…like the earth or expanding universe) does not follow the rule of the running cat or the moving train. It is it’s own constant. Why? Well that is the great mystery that puzzles my friend and Einstein alike.
And so with a few synaptic connections running around in my head clicking into place with various Yoga Sutras and the philosophical concept of Atma, I asked… ‘Could that mystery be explained if the light isn’t moving at all? What if the train and all of it’s surroundings are just moving around and obstructing the view of a constant light shining?’
And my dear neighbor and friend, the physicist, gave me a big grin and stated, that yes indeed, that could quite possibly explain the speed of light mystery.
So now it is three days later and here I am still contemplating that conversation with wonder and awe. Lets say that indeed, light is the constant which never moves. It would align perfectly with the philosophy of mystics around the world and the Yoga sutras that describe Atma as the ultimate reality where all knowledge and truth is known. Where all darkness and ignorance is dispelled by the constant light of pure consciousness.
In the Yoga sutras, Patanjali goes further to say that all of our sufferings are merely obstructions to this light, and we have to work out these obstructions to fully experience this light. You might compare it to how one needs to clean a window to fully perceive and enjoy the sunlight outside. The sun, Atma, this light of pure consciousness, is always there, a shining constant. It is our own ignorance and karma (actions) that keep us from enjoying its light and warmth.
And so the question is, how do we work out these obstructions, and clean this dirty window of ignorance? Patanjali makes it clear that the discipline of Yoga offers a fast track, a kind of all powerful Windex, to remove this dirt and darkness that keeps us from enjoying this light, from experiencing Atma. It might take many lifetimes, but the hope is that with each life, a little more light shines through the window, granting us greater warmth and joy. With each lifetime, we keep working out how to melt away the heaviness and cold of the darkness that obstructs our perception to our true and timeless nature of being ONE – ONE with consciousness and ONE with light. ONE with Atma.