I noticed the DVD set of Cosmos at the library a few days ago, and thought it would be fun to watch one or two episodes again (it made a big impact on me when I watched it as a kid.)
The episode I watched was The Edge of Forever where Carl Sagan explores some of the most basic and universal questions about our existence, such as where does the universe come from? When did it start, or did it have a beginning? How will it end, or will it end? Does it have an edge or boundary? What happens if we continue infinitely in one direction? Will we end up where we started?
He spends a great deal of time on the Vedic cosmology, which in many ways parallels modern scientific cosmology.
So how did the universe, or space and time, begin?
Emptiness, awakeness and form
When I look at it for myself, right here now, I find that space and time arise within and as the timeless.
There is empty awakeness here, which time and space and all forms arise within, to and as. And this empty awakeness has a definite sense of timelessness and spacelessness. It is distinct from time and space, not touched by time and space, which is why it can allow time and space and any forms to arise within, to and as itself.
It is very simple, and (most likely) alive in the immediate awareness of all of us, yet we typically don’t notice it, or we only notice it as a glimpse, which is then covered up by attachment to the many different stories about who we are and how the world is.
And I also notice that the world of form is in flux. Nothing stays the same. It is always fresh, new and different, and that is especially alive when the empty awakeness is aware of itself. When timelessness comes more to the foreground, the transient nature of forms similarly comes to the foreground.
So in a sense, the universe is born right here now. It continuously dies as it was, and is reborn in a fresh and different way. (There is obviously enough continuity in the processes of the world of form so we can use ideas to orient, make models, predict and analyze what is going on.)
If we assume that the universe as a whole, as it unfolds in space and time, follows a similar process, then there are two pretty obvious options for how form relates to the formless.
Existence “started” with this timeless empty awakeness as a “ground” state. Then, the form aspect emerged from it and the universe was born. At the large scale, form was birthed from the formless, as it is right here now in immediate awareness. Here, there was of course not any “before” because form (and space and time) did not exist then.
Or, emptiness, awakeness and form have always been. The timeless and time, the spaceless and space, the changeless and changing, the formless and form, the empty awakeness arising as the world of phenomena, always are, as two aspects of the same whole, beyond and including all polarities.
Both of these versions are independent on any specifics about how the form aspect unfolds. Today, the Big Bang (or inflation) models are most frequently used, and these easily fits into both of the views mentioned above.
In both versions, we account for the empty and awake and the form aspects of Existence, which is beyond and includes any and all polarities.
And in both versions, we extrapolate from what is alive in immediate awareness to the larger scale, here the birth and cycles of the universe as a whole. (This is of course what many of the spiritual and mystical traditions do, in many more areas than just cosmology.)