“There are four types of living entities born within this material world. Some are born by way of an embryo (jarayu ja), by way of eggs (anda ja), perspiration (sveda ja) and, like the trees, by way of seeds (udbhijja). Regardless of how these living entities appear, they are all busy in the pursuit of sense enjoyment.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 4.24.64 Purport)
From where this person has come? They know how to cry, almost instantly. It was the first thing they did after exiting the womb. They have hands and feet. Their face is beautiful, though looking like an alien in the first few days. The facial features already start to resemble people within the family. The mother and father, for sure, but hints of grandparents and cousins are also detected.
From basic observation we know that this isn’t the only kind of birth. Animals enter this world, too. The exact means is not the same, but they have intelligence, too. Some animals know how to move about immediately; which is an advantage over the more intelligent human species. Some living beings don’t live for very long in comparison, but there is birth nonetheless.
The Vedas provide the complete picture. There are four specific ways a living entity enters this world, and in fact on the inside everything is the same. The entity entering is a spirit soul covered by matter. The type of covering determines the identification known as species, but the properties only relate to the temporary establishment. The spirit soul on the inside is untouched, and for this reason the same spark of spirit can transmigrate from one body to another.
1. By way of embryo
This is the way the human being enters the world. They stay in the womb for upwards of ten months, when counted by weeks. There is development right at the beginning, though it is difficult to see. The idea that there is no life within the womb is preposterous, a flimsy excuse used by those who wish to kill the child due to inconvenience.
When full development is reached, the child within is ready to enter the world. The water from the embryo breaks and the process of birth begins. This can take over twenty-four hours in some cases, and the mother experiences excruciating pain throughout.
2. By way of eggs
“What came first, the chicken or the egg?” This is the age old question, which exposes the limitation of the mind with respect to time. There is always a beginning to a beginning and an end to an end. If the chicken came first, to produce eggs going forward, from where did the chicken come? There must have been an egg. Similarly, if the egg is the origin, from where did it come? Who produced the egg?
3. By way of perspiration
The birth of these creatures is not very welcome. From the perspiration comes tiny organisms, which cause the skin to itch. Interestingly, these living beings arise while another type of birth is in process. Within the womb the human being has to contend with these bugs and such, and there is no way to calm the itching sensation, since there is little space inside of the mother’s stomach for maneuvering.
“Laid down on a foul bed infested with sweat and germs, the poor child is incapable of scratching his body to get relief from his itching sensation to say nothing of sitting up, standing or even moving.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.31.26)
4. By way of seeds
Trees, plants, fruits and the like – the origin is a seed. First place it within the ground, then nourish and expose to proper sunlight. With enough attention and care, with the proper combination of auspicious conditions, the result will be new life. Though these objects aren’t capable of movement, there is life all the same. A visual example of the Sanskrit phrase jivo-jivasya-jivanam, the resultant plants are consumed by other species to sustain life.
Regardless of how birth takes place, there is a common objective. Sense gratification. The body type comes with a set of senses and then corresponding sense objects. The Vedas provide the detailed information to show how in any type of birth sense gratification is possible.
The human being, who has a higher potential for intelligence, should not misuse their auspicious form for imitating what the other species have no choice in pursuing. Rather, the needs of the spirit soul, the identifying agent within, should be addressed.
Hence the term “spiritual life.” Dharma is for the human being, and there is an eternal one, to be followed in any time period. The result of following properly is release from the cycle of birth and death, i.e. no more entering the world in one of the four kinds of birth.
Dharma for the soul is antithetical to sense gratification. Renunciation is automatically achieved; there is no need for a separate endeavor. The transformation is explained in terms of a snake. It is like having a snake who has lost its fangs; thereby no longer presenting a danger to others.
For the soul merged in the dharma of service to the Divine, the senses lose their bite, so to speak. There is no more worry over what will happen in the future, as the Supreme Lord takes responsibility for the body type. He gives to the devotee what they lack and preserves what they have. He places them in conditions auspicious for continuing in dharma.
Through perspiration coming some,
By embryo another way one.
Or through an egg to hatch,
Or by seeds sunlight to catch.
In whatever way to arrive,
Same spirit soul inside.
Dharma for the best future making,
Most advantage of human life taking.
Categories: the four