“Everything that exists is a product of matter and spirit. Spirit is the basic field of creation, and matter is created by spirit. Spirit is not created at a certain stage of material development. Rather, this material world is manifested only on the basis of spiritual energy.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6 Purport)
How to make sense of this world? We emerge from the womb totally helpless. The experience is factual; we know this from the authority of our parents. Yet we can’t remember any of it. If not for that time, we wouldn’t have developed into who we are today. If we weren’t protected in the womb for nine months, this current existence would be out of the question.
Everyone else shares the same experience. We can consult with older people about what to expect in the future. We can give guidance to the younger ones since we have more experience. Yet does anybody know what’s really going on? Why are we here? Why is everyone different? Even identical twins have separate identities. They work off their own desires. In this world there is struggle over land, power, fame and money.
Even in a place that shouldn’t have conflict, people find ways. It appears as if they are trying to get offended. They proclaim to have a certain preference with respect to enjoyment. Then if anyone makes a negative comment about that preference, that person is labeled an offender. They are a bigot. They are intolerant. But they’re just expressing their preference. What is the harm in that? Life is much bigger than someone’s tiny little cause.
What do we make of this life? We’re bewildered by the behavior of the human species. There is the animal kingdom to consider as well. Some animals need to kill in order to survive. While one species is trying their hardest to live, another is trying their hardest to end that life. Why the contradiction? What is this world?
From consulting the Vedic science we start to get some answers. The Vedas are the reference works that created the culture today commonly known as Hinduism. The original teachings are part of a scientific study; the sole reliance on faith is absent. Use all your intellect, challenge everything you hear, but first keep an open mind. One way to prove the authenticity is to study what the Vedas have to say about everything that exists.
1. What we see is matter.
My hand, my leg, my arm, my feet – these are physical objects perceived through sight. The same objects are there in other human beings. According to the Vedic science, these objects are the same in nature as the rocks, the mountains, the rivers, the oceans, and the clouds. The only difference is the chemical makeup. Just as the balloon has more air in it, causing it to travel differently through the sky, the various species have more or less of the particular elements of nature.
bhūmir āpo ‘nalo vāyuḥ
khaṁ mano buddhir eva ca
ahaṅkāra itīyaṁ me
bhinnā prakṛtir aṣṭadhā
“Earth, water, fire, air, ether, mind, intelligence and false ego – altogether these eight comprise My separated material energies.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.4)
Earth, water, fire, air and ether are the gross elements. There are three subtle elements as well: mind, intelligence and ego. The gross we can see and the subtle we can’t. Still, we know that the wind is there based on the effect it has on trees. In the same way, we can perceive intelligence based on how the various species act.
2. What is inside is spirit.
The animating force is spirit. I am the same person today, though I may have gotten a haircut yesterday. I was the same person many years ago when I emerged from the womb. I looked different, however. That is because the collection of matter was composed differently at the time. Since I maintained my identity, it means that there is something inside which is constant. That is spirit.
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
The quality of spirit in me is the same as it is in other human beings. It is the same in the other species as well. At the time of birth, the human being is less intelligent than many animals. The matter covering the human has the potential to change so that the subtle element of intelligence can dominate. The potential for development in the animals is lower. Think of it like having a darker shade over a lamp instead of a lighter one.
3. Matter comes from spirit.
It is not possible to simply gather elements together and combine them to make a new life. Scientists will say they are on the verge of making it happen, but the reality is that a new life must come from existing life. You need existing yogurt cultures to make new yogurt. You need a live chicken to make a new egg. Once the chicken is dead, there is no possibility of getting new eggs.
We know that by changing diet and exercising more we can alter the way our body looks. This means that the spirit soul is responsible for matter. Spirit is actually a superior energy, though it seems otherwise. Matter is dull and lifeless. Think of the clay handed out to children in a classroom. Using their intelligence they can shape and mold the clay any way they choose. Clay is nothing more than earth, which is one of the five gross elements. As mentioned previously, these elements cover the spirit souls that are the living beings.
4. Spirit is not created.
This truth is a little harder to understand. A person has to accept the fact on faith at first. Spirit is eternal, blissful and knowledgeable. When a person dies, the soul lives on. Death is merely the changing of clothes, a shifting from one combination of matter to another. The soul cannot be killed, no matter how hard someone tries.
nainaṁ chindanti śastrāṇi
nainaṁ dahati pāvakaḥ
na cainaṁ kledayanty āpo
na śoṣayati mārutaḥ
“The soul can never be cut into pieces by any weapon, nor can he be burned by fire, nor moistened by water, nor withered by the wind.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.23)
Because we are mortal we can’t hang around long enough to validate the claim of the eternality of spirit. If someone were to come up to us and tell us they are God, we would have no way of proving it. If they are indeed God, they must live forever. If we can’t live forever in the same body, how can we get the proof that they are telling the truth?
Still, we see that the body changes right now and nothing happens to spirit as a result. The old man is the same person he was as a youth; just his body has changed. Since he is still alive, it means that the soul remained the constant factor.
5. The original spirit is God.
This is one way to know the Supreme Lord. This definition transcends all sectarian boundaries. One group says their worshipable figure is God and another has a different claim. Yet all can agree that the Supreme Lord is the origin of spirit. The specific name used to address Him is not so important.
The original spirit is thus the cause of all causes. The Sanskrit description is sarva karana karanam. Since spirit creates matter, the original spirit creates everything. The vast material creation we see is attributed to Him. He plays a role in the house that we build from scratch. His intelligence is used in baking that delicious cake. He gives the sense of taste used in enjoying that piping hot pizza pie that just came out of the oven.
ahaṁ kṛtsnasya jagataḥ
prabhavaḥ pralayas tathā
“Of all that is material and all that is spiritual in this world, know for certain that I am both its origin and dissolution.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.6)
If you know that God is the source of everything, you have a much better understanding of this world. Taking up devotion to Him becomes much easier. After all, why not please the person who is the most powerful? Why not act in ways to gain His favor? As spiritual beings, we will continue to live; we will persist into the future. Therefore why not find a destination that features association with the Divine throughout?
Even with detailed study to take,
What of this troubling world to make?
From the Vedic science know,
That origin is Supreme Lord so.
From spirit the dull matter to come,
Having life and intelligence none.
Spiritual beings in happiness meant to be,
Ideal life when loving God to always see.
Categories: the five