A proper study of the different systems of Hindu philosophy would show that the ancients knew a great deal of science in the modem sense of the term. The evolution of Nature or Prakrti from the unmanifest into the manifest, as described in the Sankhya, cannot be regarded as anything but scientific; for we are told that it is based on inference derived from the working of the great forces of Nature and Man. The ancient idea of the great 'elements', Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Ether is undoubtedly different from the elements of modern science; but the ancients conceived of them as Bhutas or the great forms of life which enter into the constitution of all things in the world; and it is in this sense that they have been conceived to be 'elements'.
Again, their idea of Ether has given rise to a difficulty. But Ether, according to them, is characterized by the attributes of motion and sound, and is something that pervades everything. It may, accordingly, be regarded as a medium in which all motion, vibration or radiation takes place; and sound itself is a form of motion, as we know. There is thus no contradiction between the ancient and modern conception of this medium; and the difference is only in names.
It would be obvious to even the most casual reader of the different systems of philosophy, and of the Mimansa in particular, that the whole approach of the ancients to the problem of life is scientific.
The Vedas are said to deal with the laws of action, embracing all forms of life in the world of Nature and Man; and the great gods are said to be nothing but personifications of the mighty forces that are at work everywhere. Indeed, Man, as a part of Nature, contains within himself the essence of all that Nature has; for without that there can be no knowledge of Nature itself, as the latter is limited to the reactions it can evoke in him. The energy of the senses, mind, and the intellect of Man is accordingly conceived to be a part of the corresponding forces of Nature itself, the great 'elements' (or the planets), and the moon and the sun respectively; while the soul, even if we regard it as a separate entity can be understood only in their light. The whole life of Man has accordingly been integrated into the life of Nature in the midst of which he lives.
But there are also certain direct references to the problems of physical science in the different systems of Hindu philosophy: for instance, the Nyaya and the Vaiseshika have considered the question of the division (or splitting) of the atom. We are told that the atom cannot be divided; and again, that it can, but, if it is divided, it would cease to be an atom. The origin of sound is traced to the meeting and parting of things, and to other sound or resonance. Yoga tells us that if we understand the relation of a body to motion, it can be made as light as cotton; and the Mimansa classifies animals into vertebrate and invertebrate, and examines the nature of Time. It also refers to Jyotishtoma, which means literally "a mass of light", and tells us that its idea is based on scientific knowledge, and that we can understand it if we get the meaning of words used in this connection by dividing them into parts.
If, as we might imagine, the ancients knew a great deal of science in the modern sense of the term, it would be of interest to examine the idea of Jyotishtoma in the light of the method of interpretation referred to in the Mimansa, that is, by means of the division of words into parts.
The word Jyotishtoma (Jyotis-stoma) means literally "(stoma) mass of (jyotis) light". It is said to be the name of a Soma ceremony; and we are told that Soma should be regarded as most important in this connection.
Now we know that Soma refers to the mind which, according to the ancients, is said to be characterized by electric energy; and that is said to be its modern idea too. Thus, if Soma should be regarded as the most important thing in Jyotishtoma, it really means that the most important part of the mass of light is electric energy or the electric ray.
Again, we are told that Jyotishtoma, as a name of a Soma ceremony, is typical of a whole class of ceremonies, consisting originally of three, and later on of four, five, or seven sub-divisions. The names of the first three are said to be Agnishtoma, Ukthya, and Ati-ratra; while the remaining four are Shodasin, Atyagnishtoma, Vaja-peya, and Aptoryama.
If the word Jyotishtoma signifies "a mass or rays of light", these subdivisions would also refer to the great divisions of light; and it would also mean that the ancients knew at first of three such divisions; and then, as their knowledge grew, they came to know of four, five, and seven of them. As the Mimansa claims that these divisions are based on scientific knowledge, and their meaning can be obtained by dividing these words into parts, in accordance with its method of interpretation, we should be able to know what they mean, and whether they have any relation to our present day knowledge of light.
The first division is called Agnishtoma (Agni-stoma) which means "(stoma) mass of (Agni) Agni"; and, as Agni refers to the intellect as well as gold and the sun, it would refer to the rays of the sun.
The second is called Ukthya, a word which is derived from Vach, which means "to speak". But, as it does not convey any clear idea in any of these two forms, it is necessary to divide it into parts in accordance with the method of interpretation explained in the Mimansa. We have to take it in its rudimentary form as Vach (Va, ch), and the meaning would be "(ch, moon, symbolic of the mind) mind energy, associated with (va) Nature or Prakrti".
The word Ukthya would accordingly refer to the light of the moon, as Agnishtoma does to that of the sun. But as the moon refers to the mind, the energy bf which is said to be electric or like lightning, Ukthya would also refer to the radiation of lightning or electric energy as part of Jyotishtoma or "mass of light."
The third division is called Ati-ratra, which means "(ati) beyond (ratra) the night (or darkness of night)". It may accordingly be said to refer to the ultra-violet rays, which would appear to correspond to this description.
The fourth is called Shodasin, which means "consisting of sixteen parts"; and this number refers to the mind, with the ten senses, and their five objects, making a total of sixteen. We have pointed out that it is difficult to think of the mind by itself; and so it is often associated with something else, more specially the senses and their objects; and that is signified by the number sixteen. But we have explained that the energy of the mind is said to be electric; and so it is necessary to find out what the idea of the senses and their objects in terms of energies may be. This has been examined at some length elsewhere; and it would be enough to observe here that the five great 'elements' and their properties, which constitute the objects of the senses, are said to be characterized by magnetic energy; for they are said to have been created out of the mind; and, as electric energy, the energy of the mind, is transformed into magnetic energy, even so is the mind said to be transformed into these 'elements' and their properties. Shodasin, or the mind associated with the ten senses and their objects, would accordingly give us electro-magnetic energy or the electro-magnetic rays of light.
The fifth is Atyagnishtoma (Ati-agni-stoma), which means "(ati) beyond (Agni-stoma) the rays of the sun". Hence, if Ati-ratra refers to the ultra-violet rays, this would obviously refer to the infra-red rays.
The sixth is Vaja-peya, which means "(vaja) energy (peya) fit to be drunk or absorbed." The word Vaja also means food, which, as the Mimansa tells us, refers to Nature; and so Vaja-peya would refer to that energy of light which is absorbed by all Nature to make it grow. Again, the word Vaja is derived from the root Vaj, which also gives us the word Vajra, meaning "thunderbolt or lightning", associated with it. As the latter is electric or electro-magnetic energy, the energy signified by the word Vaja would be the same; and so we might say that Vaja-peya or the energy absorbed by matter is electric or electro-magnetic.
The last division is called Aptor-yama; and Aptor is derived from Aptu, which again is connected with Aptur, meaning "active, busy". Aptor-yama would accordingly mean "(yama) cessation of (aptor) activity"; and so it implies that this is a destructive part of light, making for cessation of all activity.
The seven divisions of Jyotishtoma are accordingly seven divisions of light or radiations of light, sun light (Agnishtoma), moon light or electric energy (Ukthya), ultra-violet rays (Ati-ratra), electro-magnetic rays (Shodasin), infra-red rays (Atyagnishtoma), electromagnetic rays absorbed by matter (Vaja-peya), and rays that make for destruction (Aptor-yama). Of these the electric or the moon light rays are, according to the Mimansa, said to be the most important; and there are a number of references to the power of the moon over all that is on earth in the sacred books. This would appear to be the reason why they are called Ukthya, meaning "deserving praise".
As all this is said to be based on scientific knowledge, it would be of interest to compare it with our present day knowledge of the subject.
Modern science tells us that there are seven kinds of radiations of light. Of these the visible ray has a spectrum of seven colors, the colors of the rainbow, with the violet at one end, and red at the other; and this visible ray may be said to correspond to Agnishtoma or the ray of the sun, which has the same spectrum.
We are told that there are a number of radiations on either side of the red and violet ends of the spectrum; and beyond the red is the infra-red, which would obviously correspond to the Ati-agni-shtoma (or that which is beyond the rays of the sun, as the word literally means).
Beyond the infra-red we are told there is the electric ray, which gives us the wireless rays; and this may be said to correspond to the Ukthya. As this refers also to the moon, the light of the moon would appear to have a special affinity for wireless waves.
At the other end of the spectrum we have the violet ray, and beyond it is the ultra-violet ray; and this would appear to correspond to Ati-ratra, or "that which is beyond darkness", as the word literally means. The word Ratra may also be analyzed into r, a, tra, meaning "(tra, which as the Mimansa tells us, refers to the mind) mind (a) associated with (r) the senses of action"; and, as the energy of the mind is electric, and of the senses magnetic, Ratra would convey the idea of electro-magnetic energy, and imply that this is the energy of darkness or night; and Ati-ratra would mean something more powerful ("that which goes beyond") than electro-magnetic rays. Thus, if the ultraviolet rays correspond to the Ati-ratra, it would mean that the ancients knew that these rays were more powerful than electro-magnetic rays.
Beyond the ultra-violet we get the X-rays, and their property is that they are absorbed by matter in proportion to its density. They may accordingly be said to correspond to Vaja-peya, which means the same thing.
Beyond the X-rays we have the gamma rays, which are said to have electro-magnetic properties; and. they would appear to correspond to the Shodasin.
Finally, beyond the gamma rays there are the cosmic rays, which are said to have great disintegrating properties; and they would appear to correspond to Aptor-yama, which means the same thing.