The Mother Divine
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By Suman Satishchandra Rao
Sri Sri Sitaramdas Omkarnath

Mrs. Suman Rao taught Economics at NarseeMonjee College, Mumbai, where she was the Vice-principal of the junior college. She has an interest in spirituality and religious traditions that is deep, abiding and eclectic.

Nature: A Source of Unalloyed Joy

Ever looked into the eyes of a green caterpillar? Those tiniest possible black dots of innocence looking back at its version of ‘you’. Never mind what you look like to it! 

Ever traced the origin of a ‘Raag’ to the warbling of a bird? I had this privilege. A shy bird that hides among dense leaves of the tree sings six descending notes in the major with one minor note thrown in for effect. I found that the phrase is always sung at the same pitch with tiny variations. These variations fit perfectly within the original rhythm. In this tune I have heard Raag Kafi.

Ever made monkey faces and growled at a baby monkey and laughed your head off at its mimicry of you? And admired how the quick learner realizes that it had better stop getting provoked? Ever been enticed by this little trickster into giving tidbits through appealing mewling sounds? And ever laughed at a little squirrel dance up and down the bough for absolutely no reason except to celebrate squirreldom?

Ever been showered with Parijataka flowers like the blessings from a benign being? And played with velvety five-petalled champa flowers that bloom on a tree which has a most charming formation of leaves suggestive of a certain geometrical pattern? Any ideas about the dancing leaves glistening silver in the sunlight? Ever taken time off to admire the beautiful translucent juice sacs sitting cosily inside the separable carpel that makes up the delicious orange?

Or watched the winking stars in a Prussian blue sky till the sky challenges you to expand your being to like dimensions? Ever stood bravely on a beach watching the sunset while thunderstorm clouds rushed over the sea at you, moving like aggressive notes from a Beethoven symphony, finally pelting you with stinging raindrops, shoving you off the beach… and you succumbed, running with puny legs, laughing at being terrified?

All this and much more……..These are as yet a part of our growing up, a part that we would not wish to sacrifice for anything. And yet, most of us are preparing for a tomorrow wherein we shall be deprived of some of these beauties of Nature by electing to live in concrete jungles armed with infrastructure produced in the most environment-unfriendly way. The warnings given by scientists regarding the apocalyptic effects of global warming are greeted oftentimes with much cynicism and even amusement. Humanity has always been affected by apocalyptic blindness.

A Theoretical Challenge to Scientific Materialism: Irreducible Complexity in Nature
Scientific Materialism is the attempt to avoid at all costs the admission of the hand of conscious design or wisdom in the creation. Only strictly deducible conclusions must be drawn, all others being deemed to be unnecessary. Scientific materialism as applied to creation of beings on the Earth boils down to the theory of evolution i.e. Darwinism. Darwinism addresses the process by which living organisms inexorably manifest new features through natural selection and mutation. However, in his “Origin of the Species” Darwin admitted, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” The concept of irreducible complexity demolishes the theory of evolution at its foundations.

In the 20th century nature has been studied in minute detail. It has been discovered that most living structures embody irreducible complexity! Innumerable instances of such mechanisms may be found; the wings of a bird, the inside of a bat's skull. Therefore, Darwin's critics may claim that his theory no longer stands on firm ground.

A superb example of ‘irreducible complexity’, quoted by the anti-evolutionists, is the eye of the lobster. The lobster’s eye works on the principle of reflection. The surface of its eye is made up of perfect squares which are the ends of tubules ensconced with a remarkable geometry not found elsewhere in nature - it has tiny facets that are perfectly square, so the surface of the eye looks like graph paper! The sides of each one of these square tubes are like mirrors that reflect the incoming light. The sides of the tubes inside the eye are lodged in precise geometrical alignments so that they all focus the light at a single point. Can we blame Darwin’s critics for stating that such extraordinary design is impossible to explain as having emerged out of co-incidences and mutations from simpler systems? There is no demonstrable evolutionary link between the simpler eye based on the refracting principle (possessed by other members of the Crustacean family) and the one based on the reflecting principle.

Nature as Information: Who is the Interpreter?

The Human Genome Project, an attempt to draft a rough map of the human genome, was concluded in 2003. DNA containing the genetic code is delicately protected in the nucleus of every cell. We know today that a single human cell contains enough information to be stored in thousands of encyclopedia pages! Herein is encoded the information on every single feature such as height, weight, blood type, skin colour, facial features and the different systems and operations in the body. The manifestation of diseases and the process of ageing are manifestations as determined by this code.

The data in DNA, which is made up of 5 billion letters, is composed of a special and meaningful sequence of letters A-T-G-C. Such is the precision of this coding that a single mistake such as a miscoded letter would cause terrible results for the cell, and therefore for the person himself.
There is no explanation as to how such an intertwined system came to exist or how it developed ‘gradually’. The question as to the origin of the DNA with its fantastically complex structure thus remains unanswered.

The Big Bang Theory

Astrophysicists who are votaries of the Big Bang theory explain the Universe as originating out of nothing or an infinitesimally tiny particle. In Buddhist literature, ‘shunya’ is said to be the ultimate experience of the evolved soul. Hence the description of this experience as ‘neti.. neti..’ which means ‘not this.. not that..’ One may take this to mean That which is an Absolute devoid of attributes, which is indescribable. The famous Hymn of Creation contained in the Rig-Veda describes the Day and Night of Brahma. Creation is a cyclic process with expansion and withdrawal alternating as the day and night of Brahma respectively. The analogy of the ‘Day of Brahma’ to the Big Bang theory is evident. The expansion of the Universe is said to come to an end and reverse itself due to the inbuilt trends in the balance among the fundamental forces in Nature, bringing on the ‘Night of Brahma’. Again, in Hindu philosophy, creation is said to happen with a ‘sphota’ or an explosion. Such ‘sphota’ is heard as a transcendental, minutely explosive sound that is very pleasing and a far cry from the explosive conjured by the word ‘explosion’.

The Nyaya-Vaisheshika, one of the Shatdarshanas that make up the ancient Vedanta, put forth a radical view of creation. The entire Universe is a never-ending ocean of transcendental Paramanus. The Paramanus appear as matter due to ignorance or Maya.

What is Maya? It may be understood as the conditioned consciousness or consciousness with limited contents. This quality called ‘jadata’ in the vernacular makes for an individuated consciousness. Thus comes about an ‘entity’.  Such an entity possesses self-consciousness hence it may be said to have an ‘ego’.

Universe As A Conscious Entity

The theosophists describe the transcendental Paramanus of the Hindu philosophy as monads. These ‘monads’ are units of consciousness. All things that we may describe as insentient matter as well as sentient beings, according to the theosophists would be composed of monads with wearing sheaths of varying degrees of consciousness. Every point in space is a monad, a center of consciousness … an 'individual,' the final point which cannot be divided any more, the vanishing point. All the matter that you see around you, the atoms and sub-atomic particles are centres of consciousness. Space is a vast ocean of points of consciousness.

The Universe is then nothing but units of consciousness, or monads, clothed in sheaths of varying degrees of evolution. Through eternity, the increasing and expanding consciousness brings the sheaths to higher and higher forms, beginning from the elements right up to the gods (the most spiritual beings).

The universe manifests through its monads or units of consciousness. It unfolds or expands until all the monads of the different hierarchies and classes in the universe have, evolved a step further. Pralaya or mass destruction as we would describe it, brings forth a period of rest. The periods of manifestation and pralaya are akin to the birth and death of a human being whose soul survives and evolves through incarnations. Thus the Universe is a deathless entity with consciousness streaming endlessly, having periodic stages of evolution of its monads. The Hindu philosophers would replace the word ‘monad’ by the word ‘atma’.

The Samkhya, another of the shat darshanas, regards the universe as consisting of consciousness (Purusha) and phenomenal realm of matter (Prakriti). Prakriti further bifurcates into sensor and sensed realms.  Purusha divides into individual units of consciousness which are infused into the mind and body of the sensor branch of Prakriti. Purusha is in bondage to Prakriti due to unexpended desires. Moksha is liberation or the end of this bondage. After liberation there is no distinction of individual and universal Purusha.

Prakriti is completely insentient or ‘jada’, and it is only by dint of association with Purusha that a part of Prakriti starts functioning as individual consciousness. This consciousness is a two sided mirror. It reflects the external physical world through senses to the inner perceiver, and on the other hand it reflects one's self identity with the Ego.

What is the relationship between the individual ‘atma’ and the Universal Self? The Advaitins (those professing belief in monism) claim that the individual ‘atma’ or soul exists as such only due to Maya or ignorance. Such ignorance is lack of evolution causing identification with the limited contents of the consciousness, giving rise to an Ego. Such individual existence must be completely subsumed into the Universal on further evolution. The votaries of Vishishtadvaita (qualified monism) claim that Brahman (the Universal Self) is One though characterized by multiplicity. The individual soul shall always remain individual though as an integral part of the Universal. The Achintya Bheda-Abheda philosophy serves to integrate the schools of Advaita and Vishishtadvaita. Its argument is that it is only a difference of perspective which causes an apparent divide between Advaita and Vishishtadvaita.

Nature: A Repository of Knowledge

The Indian seers of yore accumulated knowledge using their skill in meditation and visualization to obtain information about a host of things. Thus came about among others, the sciences of Ayurveda, Sthapatyaveda, Jyotishshashtra. All these sciences had Man for a central theme and dealt with the uses and effects, of parts of plants and trees, of architecture, of the movement of planets and stars. While empirical knowledge served to fortify the efforts of the seers, they, undoubtedly, used extra-sensory perception as the principal means to obtain knowledge.

The theosophist’s standpoint in this regard is pertinent. The theosophist’s premise is that knowledge must come from sources that are both external and internal. As a starting point an acknowledgement of internal and scientific truths is necessary. This dual focus on internalism and externalism makes theosophy a unique philosophy which straddles science as well as metaphysics. Knowledge can thus be extracted from anything within and without.
In theosophy, a practitioner may take certain principles as a starting point:

  1. Microcosm and macrocosm are forever in dynamic interplay. Synchronicity exists in Nature and hence everything in it is a sign to be read. Revelation arises from the unfolding of the secrets of Nature.
  2. Nature is a living entity replete with dynamic, surging and evolving flows of energy and light.
  3. Imagination can and does act as mediator between the perceptible and the invisible. The art of visualization is a tool for garnering data and knowledge.
  4. Meditation on things in Nature, treating them as hieroglyphs, will lead to a transmutation of consciousness, a birth of new consciousness.
Perhaps it was an awareness of such possibilities that made our ancestors reverent of things in Nature. It was this reverence which found expression in Nature-worship. To look upon such expression as crude and characteristic of backwardness would seem to be a misguided one. Admittedly, the theosophists’ view is all-inclusive. If one were to experiment with meditation on Nature, one may develop a new perspective that tells of an absence of conflict between sophisticated monism and meditation on things in Nature.