There are some of us who may be attracted by the idea of meditation. We may be practicing one form of meditation or another, including mantra meditation.
We may even be beginning to accept the difference between ourselves and our body and mind. But we find there to be a big leap from that to the concept that there is a Supreme Person in control of all else, responsible for our existence, responsible for the creation of the universe, a God.
All our lives we have been taught that the universe came about from a big bang, and that the matter in the universe came together in various way to create the planets and then develop into all the forms of life on earth.
In fact there is no big leap at all. Once we clearly understand we are not the body, that we are spiritual in essence, and yet we are still an individual, a person, the concept of other spiritual individuals is not so foreign, and eventually we may then become aware of at least the possibility of the ultimate cause also being a spiritual individual person.
So what is needed is more clarity at step one, a fuller understanding of the difference between myself and my body.
When we talk about not being the body, we look at this from many angles. We can analyse how the body’s cells continually change, either completely replacing themselves, or turning over all their molecular makeup, such that within a period of approximately five years the body is effectively a new lump of matter.
That body of five years ago is dead and gone, and we still exist. We can remember existing 5 years ago, 10 years ago, and longer, but all those bodies are dead and gone, while we are still here.
We are just in one place, here, but those bodies have melted away, hence we are not any of those past bodies. Nor are we this current body, which is also gradually disappearing, while we remain in existence.
We can also meditate on the loss of each body part and consider whether we would still exist if we lost an arm, an ear, an eye, if we had a heart transplant, a kidney transplant, even a face transplant. For those that would argue that you are your brain, we can consider the fact that some people have literally half their brain removed and still exist as the same living entity within that body. Just consider, you still exist when the left half of the brain is removed. Similarly if it were the right side of the brain removed you would still exist. In fact some people are born with their cranium filled with fluid and very little brain tissue at all, without anyone realising. And then we can consider the fact that the matter in the brain is completely replaced via the metabolic process in a period of only 3 days.
We can hear the many thousands of accounts of people who have experienced clinical death, a state in which attending doctors declare the person dead and gone, and yet they have returned to their bodies to describe the events from a view point outside the body. We may even have experienced it ourselves. Some people may even have had experience with, either personally or via a friend or family member, the ability to leave temporarily, without a near death experience, so called astral travelling. If we can leave our body we are not our body.
These are some of the grounds that lead to the conclusion that I am something other than the material body. And while I do not have space to cover it here, we can similarly analyse the difference between the mind and the self.
If one then comes to a degree of understanding that the atma or self, the living being, is not the body, or the mind one is stepping into another view of reality, a view that gives access to perception of an energy other than matter, made up of protons, neutrons and electrons. This other energy is the opposite of matter. Matter is dead, non-conscious and under the laws of material nature. In other words matter has a particular nature and this nature is described in the laws that govern matter, the laws of material nature.
For instance we are aware of the laws of gravity, conservation of energy and thermodynamics. We may not fully understand these laws but we have heard them spoken of. We know that an apple falls if it is dropped. We may know that material systems run down, that every material thing becomes more disordered over time. This is one of the laws of matter, specifically the 2nd law of thermodynamics that entropy that is disorder, increases over time.
These laws have been gradually documented and theorised about and written down over the centuries. They existed before they were “discovered.” They may not be fully understood and the great thinkers of science tinker over them from generation to generation. But there are laws of nature inherent in the energy known as matter, whether fully and correctly described or not.
Similarly there are laws inherent in another energy, that we can call spiritual energy. Most of us are educated in areas of life pertaining to material nature, and are not so educated about spiritual nature, hence the term is cloudy to us. When we hear the word spirit or spiritual we may think of séances, and ghosts or some sort of voodoo trickery. We may imagine a great empty white light. We may have many different imaginary conceptions. However, in simple terms spiritual means living. Spirit is alive and spirit is conscious. Matter is not alive. Protons, neutrons and electrons are not conscious.
The philosophy of the Vedas educates in terms of spiritual nature. It also educates about material nature and it delineates the difference between the two. A Vedic text, the Sri Isopanisad, specifically speaks about the need to learn both vidya, knowledge of the spiritual energy, and avidya, knowledge of material energy, in order to be successful. (Sri Iso. 11)
One who is beginning to understand that they are not the material body (which includes the subtle body, the mind), is beginning to perceive that there is another energy. That energy is life, the living entities. I am a spark of that energy, a spiritual entity, an atom of spirit, if you will. And just as the entire universe is one unit, even though made up of many separate units or atoms, there is a unit of life, of which the smaller atoms of life are but part and parcel. This is the Supreme Spiritual entity, the Supreme Atma, the Supreme Person.
There is a scientist by the name of Robert Lanza. You may have heard of him. In 2014 he was on the cover of Time as one of the top 100 most influential people. The New York Times called him one of the 3 most important scientists alive today. What is relevant here is that he is well known for coining the phrase “biocentrism.” Bio means life, and centrism, of course, means at the centre, or central, so this term encompasses the idea that life or consciousness is the cause of material phenomena, not vice versa. It is, of course, a controversial theory, countering, as it does, centuries of teaching that life comes from matter. I am not proselytising for Robert Lanza, and do not agree with his theories in toto, especially his conclusion that we are not eternally individuals, but he is pointing out, from the standpoint of a practicing and respected scientist, the lack of scientific explanation for the existence of the universe and consciousness, and arguing that the more logical conclusion is that life creates the universe, not vice versa.
For generations, school children have been versed in a sequence of events further drilled into the consciousness of those who entertain themselves watching “The Big Bang Theory.” I’ve done enough of that in my time to remember snatches of the theme song: “The whole universe was in a hot dense state… Neanderthals…we built a wall we built the Pyramids… and it all started with a Big Bang.” For many, especially those who extended their science education into their 20’s, these ideas have become axiomatic or supposedly self-evident. Matter, beginning with the big bang, or some variation thereof, became more and more complex and organised until it was capable of building walls and pyramids.
This goes against an established and documented law of nature, that of the 2nd law of thermodynamics which states that entropy, that is, disorder or randomness, increases over time. We have a system, the universe and it has not become more disordered.
Whether or not we want to accept the Big Bang theme song, and whether or not we feel capable of understanding the whole history of the universe, we can look at a microcosm of organisation, our own bodies. As long as my body is alive, its entropy or disorder does not increase. It does not become more disordered over time. In fact, it has gone in the opposite direction, and developed from one single cell, which over a period of several months, greatly increased in order, complexity and organisation. The one cell split into two, then into four and so on, developing many different types of cells, and physiological systems. Entropy decreased to a mind bogglingly huge degree.
And this is the fascinating cross over between spiritual energy and material energy. When matter is by itself it is inert, lacking in a high level of organisation, unconscious, with no will of its own, no desire to love or be loved. Just consider a rock. Even a pet rock doesn’t actually have a desire for love, nor an ability to love its owner. But when the spiritual energy is also present then we can have an entity made of matter, such as a human body, and all its different organs and sub-entities, exhibiting the nature of spiritual energy, that is activity, organisation, consciousness, a will, and a burning desire to love and be loved.
Matter in the presence of life exhibits completely different characteristics from matter without that spiritual energy. This is graphically illustrated when the spiritual energy withdraws, that is, at death. Then the body loses any indication of a desire to love or be loved, there is no will to be done, no consciousness, and the organisational structure begins to melt away, and any activity that goes on is the activity of disintegration, if that can be called activity, and the activity of other entities feeding on that body, the bacteria, the maggots, the worms and beetles. Have you ever seen a time lapsed video of a dead body breaking down? It appears to move and heave as various processes of decay release gases and liquids ooze away and different creatures devour it, turning it into a feasting ground. Ghoulish and gruesome, (be warned!) but reality
It is life, spiritual energy that develops the body and maintains it in a thermodynamically unstable state, and on the departure of that spiritual atom, the material energy returns to its natural disorganised, inactive unconscious state, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
If we can see that there is an energy other than matter, that is myself, and if we can see the effects of one small spark of spiritual energy, myself, the atma, on matter, such that my body has developed and is maintained, and it could be said, in violation of the laws of physics, then it is not such a huge step to accept the possibility that spiritual energy, on a larger scale, is the cause of the universe. And if I can accept that myself and other living beings are atoms of spiritual energy, individuals each with consciousness, individuality, a will and drive to love and be loved, then it should not be too much of a stretch to at least theoretically accept the possibility of a spiritual source with those same characteristics.
Ultimately we choose our own world view. It is not something that can be forced on one. The world of the yogis is not one of belief, but one of understanding, so I do not ask you to believe or blindly accept, but I encourage you to consider these ideas with an open mind.