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spiritual questions and answers - PART 7
(Continued from the previous issue)

By Prof. G. Venkataraman
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Spiritual Questions and Answers
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Since Heart2Heart started in 2003, readers have very often written to us seeking answers to many spiritual questions. We have answered them at times through appropriate articles in H2H. However, there are still many that have to be explained carefully and in detail. And in the recent past, a lot more queries have arrived on varied topics concerning spirituality and personal growth.

We have now meticulously compiled and categorised these questions, and Prof. G. Venkataraman has offered to answer all these queries in a structured and systematic way as a series on Radio Sai as well as in H2H. In this way, these answers now remain always on our website as a ready reckoner on spiritual doubts.

This is a suitably adapted transcript of our radio series bearing the same name. To listen or download the talk from our website, please visit www.radiosai.org/qa

Loving Sai Ram and greetings from Prashanti Nilayam. It is question time again and for today’s session, I have picked up three questions, which are as follows:

QUESTION 1: How is man a “Cosmic Creature”?

QUESTION 2: What is the Cosmic Connection that man has?

QUESTION 3: It is said Man = Body + Mind + Atma. If any of these three is not proper, what would happen?

Let me start with the first question, which is:

QUESTION 1:

How is man a “Cosmic Creature”?

ANSWER:

For the benefit of those who might be somewhat puzzled by this question, it might be helpful to give a bit of background. As all of us are aware, humans are the last species to appear in the long sequence associated with the evolution of life here on planet earth. The first form of life is believed to have been quite primitive, barely a large molecule, which fulfilled the technical definition of a living being.

From that time, life is supposed to have evolved to more and more complex forms, largely as Charles Darwin first described over a hundred years ago. Today, we have a better understanding of this evolution, thanks to great strides in molecular biology and all that. The questioner is perhaps asking, “All that is fine and I am in fact aware of that. But why call man a Cosmic Creature?” I shall presume that is what the question is and proceed to answer on that basis.

watch your words
watch your words
watch your words

Life evolved from atoms all the way to humans

Life as we know it is confined to planet earth and certainly, we humans live on Planet Earth. That is why humans are often described as earthlings. It is true that Planet Earth is a part of the solar system, that our Sun is a star, that there are billions of such stars in the galaxy Milky Way [to which we belong], and that in fact, there are billions of galaxies in the Universe. By the way, I hope it has not escaped your notice how big our Universe is; and yet so many of us strut around with Himalayan egos, as we if matter a great deal! That, however, is a different point.

Let us get back to the question and ask: “Is man a Cosmic creature merely in a rhetorical sense or is there a deeper meaning to it?” I submit there is a deeper meaning and wish to explore that a little, starting with a purely scientific examination of man’s relationship to the Cosmos. Other aspects could be taken up later.

Atomic Traffic

Let me start with the fact that everyone of us is made up of molecules, bio-molecules in particular. This is true of every cell of our body, whether the cell is a part of a hair, a bone, an organ or even blood. Next, we note the fact that molecules, no matter of what type they are, are all made up of atoms. So the first thing we learn is that every one of us is packed with atoms, in fact trillions and trillions of them; and these atoms are of different kinds. While atoms like hydrogen, carbon, calcium, are abundant, many are found only in trace quantities.

It is fascinating to think about how these various atoms entered our body. Most of them no doubt, enter our body via the food that we eat and the water that we drink. That is only to be expected, but if we pause to reflect on it, it would be stunning to realise that the atoms within us might have come from an apple from New Zealand, from a chocolate made in Belgium with cocoa from Africa, sugar from France, milk from Holland, and so on. We hardly ever think about such things, but if we do, we would find it quite amazing. The water we drink might have been drawn from a tap, but that tap might have got the water from a river, the river might have got it from monsoon rains, and the rains might have brought the water from a far-away ocean; so on it goes.

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The atoms that make our bodies were once the stuff of stars - and will become the stuff of our environment

But this is not all. We are not only taking in atoms from various sources all the time, but we are also losing atoms all the time, millions of them, without being aware of it in the least. For example, do you realise that when you breathe out you are sending out via the carbon dioxide that you exhale, thousands and thousands of carbon atoms that earlier were in your body?

These atoms could have come from some bread eaten earlier and so on. We lose atoms in many different ways, when we exhale, and via sweat and other excreta. If you rub your hands, that very act removes many thousands of cells.

When we cut our nails or our hair, we are again losing atoms. I am told that during the lifetime of a person, the blood renews itself many times, so does the skin; the bones too renew themselves to some extent.

To cut a long story short, there is an unimaginable amount of atom traffic all the time, across the entire biosphere. That may be obvious, but not so obvious is the fact that when we say “my body”, we really do not have any control or any ownership over any of the atoms within us. On the contrary, second to second, every one of us is gaining atoms and also losing atoms in plenty.

Do any of us ponder over that? I may talk of my body as though I own it hundred percent, but truly speaking, I don’t own a single atom in my body. A particular atom may be with me this minute but who knows how and where it would go the next?

A and B may hate each other bitterly and never exchange a word, but via the global atom exchange that operates all the time in the biosphere, they may be exchanging atoms! Did you ever think of that? I raise all these points for a very definite reason and I shall now come to that.

Parts of the Original Big Bang

All this atom traffic that I have been trying to impress you with, is confined to Planet Earth. Let us now ask: “How did Planet Earth get its atoms in the first place? In other words, where did the Earth itself come from?” This is where the Cosmic link of man slowly becomes evident.

Those of you who have been following the In Quest for Infinity series in Heart2Heart might be aware, according to our current understanding in Cosmology, our Universe came into existence about 13.8 billion years ago via an event popularly called the Big Bang. At the time of its birth, the Universe was not only incredibly tiny but there were no atoms, as we now know them. In fact, there was no matter at all but only energy.

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Supernova explosions were God's crucibles
used to create the heavier elements of matter

However, thanks to the wonderful laws of Physics now being rapidly unravelled, matter quickly emerged, the very first atoms appearing in the Cosmos within minutes at the most, after the birth of the Universe.

What happened afterwards has been described in many previous articles of this series and so, I shall skip the details. Let me just say, although it all started first with just hydrogen atoms, other types of atoms from helium all the way to iron were later formed, in stars that acted as cauldrons.

Now, as any school student knowing a bit of chemistry would tell you that we have many more atomic species that are heavier than iron, like silver, gold, mercury, uranium and so on. Where did they come from?

That too is a long story, but in brief, these heavy atoms are believed to have been formed in incredible stellar explosions called super nova explosions. By the way, the super nova explosion business is not a cooked up story; there is hard scientific and irrefutable proof for it, amazing proof in fact.         

If you put all this together, it turns out that in fact, the atoms in our bodies in particular and on Planet Earth in general, can be traced in some manner all the way to the very birth of our Universe! Did you know that? Perhaps, that should make us feel a bit proud. By the way, whether we are or not a movie star or sports star, this thing is for sure; all of us without exception can trace our ancestry to a star that lived long ago, and donated its atoms to help the formation of our solar system.

I think I have said enough to explain that at least at the physical level, we are indeed not only a part of the Cosmos, but have directly come from the very seed from which the Cosmos itself was born. I could perhaps add further remarks, but shall stop here because all that would form a natural part of the next question which is:

QUESTION 1:

What is the Cosmic Connection that man has?

ANSWER:

I think the best way of responding to this question is to say that whether we are aware of it are not, there are four C’s that rule our lives. These four C’s, as I call them, go beyond mere physics, cosmology, the so-called Big Bang, etc., all the way to Vedantic fundamentals. In fact, Lord Krishna Himself taught these four C’s to Arjuna. Of course, Krishna did not quite put it the way I do, but then my remarks are based on what Swami has said in His Discourses, to which I shall maybe make a reference later.

The four C’s that I just referred to are:

  1. The Cosmic origin of man.
  2. The Cosmic connection of man – the question I am dealing with is related precisely to this.
  3. The Cosmic responsibilities of man, and
  4. The Cosmic Destiny of man
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Chinna Katha
 
We are decended from the Big Bang -
directly from God Himself

If we look at our present question in this larger context, then the answer would become a lot clearer. As far as the Cosmic origin of man is concerned, not only are humans derived in a gross and material sense from the Big Bang, but, in a Causal sense, descended from God Himself.

That exactly is what Krishna says, when He declares that He is the Primordial Divine seed from which everything in the Universe has come into being, including us.

In other words, just as we have biological genes derived from our parents and ancestors, we also have within us a Divine Gene derived from God, although we are hardly conscious of it. It is to draw attention to that fact that almost the very first thing Krishna told Arjuna was that he, namely Arjuna, was the Atma and not the body. Swami too reminds us of that very same fact in many different ways. So much for our common and Cosmic origin.

Turning next to the Cosmic connection, I have already explained parts of this while dealing with the previous question. Krishna too refers to it, though briefly. The reason why Krishna calls attention to it is for stressing the fact that we are not only connected to many things in this Universe but also heavily dependent on them. Take for example the Sun; if the Sun were not there, there would be no life on Earth. That is why ancients in almost all lands paid homage to the Sun god in different ways.

Vedanta goes much further by regarding the Sun as an aspect of God, and that the power radiated by the Sun is a mere manifestation of a tiny portion of the Infinite Power of the Supreme Lord. Thus, when one worships the Sun, one is in fact adoring the Lord Himself; and this worship must really be an expression of gratitude.

That is precisely the point Krishna makes. He says [in effect],

watch your words

“O man, you do not know how much you are dependent on so many things in Creation that you take for granted. You breathe non-stop from birth to death; but do you take a moment off to thank the Blessed Lord for providing air for you to breathe and that too free? Not only do you forget to express gratitude but in fact you are positively causing harm to the atmosphere by polluting it so badly.”

Looked at in this manner, modern man has, I must say, sunk to very low depths in not only being callously ungrateful, but even spoiling what the Lord has thoughtfully provided.

To put it differently, our Cosmic connection imposes upon us a Cosmic responsibility, caring for our environment being one of them. Instead of doing that, we are, in the name of material progress, being utterly indifferent to the damage we are causing to the biosphere and the natural habitat in so many different ways. We hardly realise that everything in Creation, from the tiny bacteria and the ant to the elephant and indeed even the stars, serves a certain purpose, even though we might not be aware of it.

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We are all limbs of God

However, imagining themselves to be the lord and master of all that they survey, humans today are causing reckless damage to land, sea, water, and untold harm to so many species that are being thoughtlessly and even mercilessly exterminated. This is the height of Cosmic irresponsibility.

It is time to bring in Swami who, in recent years, has been referring often to four words that are most important in the present context. They are: Vyashti meaning the individual, Samashti meaning Society, Srishti meaning Creation, and finally, Parameshti meaning God. Swami says the individual is a limb of Society, which is a limb of Creation, which in turn, is a limb of God. What it all boils down to in practice is that no one shall, under any circumstances whatsoever, do anything that would cause harm to Society and/or disturb Nature. Such actions would be nothing short of a crime against God! But look around; is that happening? I leave you to ponder over that. I hope I have said enough at least to stimulate your thoughts on this important point, if not answered the question included in our question bag.

All of the above, brings me quite naturally to man’s Cosmic Destiny. It is simple: Since we all have come from God, our ultimate Destiny is to merge back with God. I hope that is not difficult to understand.

I now turn to the last question for today, which is:

QUESTION 1:

It is said Man = Body + Mind + Atma. If any of these three is not proper, what would happen?

ANSWER:

Frankly, I am not sure if the way question has come to me via our long pipeline has got garbled en route, or if this was the way the question was originally posed. I will tell you what the problem with the question is, as I see it. Yes, it is a fact that humans are a composite of three distinct entities, these being the gross body, the subtle Mind and the even more subtle Atma, which in fact is the source of everything in Creation. 

So far everything is fine. The difficulty arises in the second part of the question where it is asked what would happen if one of these three is not proper. I do not understand what is meant by ‘not proper’. I mean, take the Atma. As Krishna makes it very clear, no one can do anything to it. He says explicitly that it cannot be cut, burnt, made wet and so on. Atma is God and we simply cannot imagine anything being wrong about God – it is as simple as that. That being the case, what is meant by saying if the Atma is not proper? I would say such a question is in fact illegal! Hope you agree with that!

Let me now turn to the gross body. Unlike the Atma, things can happen to the body and interfere with its normal function. The hand could be broken, the brain might get damaged, and so on. In such cases, we essentially have a handicapped person, that is all. As for the Mind, plenty can go wrong and this part of the question is very relevant. Before I deal with that, let me speculate what the questioner perhaps wanted to ask. I think he or she wanted to ask what would happen if instead of the Atma being in overall charge of the trio, it is the body that dominates, or the Mind that dominates. Then what? If that is the question that is being asked, then I would say it is a very important one.

My response would be: “Yes, God did intend the Atma to be in the driving seat. If the word Atma frightens you, think of Conscience. As Swami often tells us, ‘Follow your Conscience. Your Conscience is your Master.’”

Suppose a fellow does not follow the Conscience? Then what? Then there is trouble for sure. And the problem is that right now, the world is full of such people! In earlier times too there were such people around; however, because of the overall discipline that prevailed then, things were not as bad as they are now, in the sense that the percentage of people ignoring their Conscience was small. Maybe you would not agree; in any case let us not waste time in arguing that issue. The important question is: “If a person fails to obey his or her Conscience, then what?”

watch your words
watch your words
watch your words

If body dominates, beast rules - if mind dominates, demon rules -
if heart (atma) dominates, divinity rules

There are two possibilities. If the Mind dominates, the person would, in the worst case, be close to a demon. He maybe very intelligent, clever and all that; but a person without a Conscience is a person with a hardened heart. And such a person would stop at nothing. Tyrants, ruthless dictators, venomous terrorists, all belong to this category. What about the case where the body dominates, rather than the Mind? Such a person also exhibits many undesirable traits such as laziness, crudity, cruelty and so on.

In many respects, such a person maybe likened to an animal. Actually, that is an unfair remark because animals are far more reasonable than we imagine them to be. But figuratively speaking, a person dominated by body instincts and the senses is often compared to an animal and said to exhibit animality, while if the Mind dominates, the person is compared to a devil.

From this I hope it is clear that the Mind should not be allowed to get into the driving seat reserved for the Atma. Today, when it has become fashionable to sneer at Spirituality and summarily dismiss God, the Mind is gaining ascendancy. When that happens extensively, that too with all kinds of dangerous and hazardous technology so easily available, it is not difficult to imagine the kind of problems that can arise. 

Once again, I am not sure what exactly the questioner meant but I do hope I have adequately explained why the question, as available to me, seems to have problems. I have therefore tried to guess the correct question and, assuming my guess to be OK, answered it.

Well, that is all for this session and more questions next time. Till then, all the best.

Jai Sai Ram.

(To be Continued...)


Dear Reader, how do you like this series? Does it help you in any way? Do you have any spiritual questions which need clarification? Please feel free to write to us at [email protected] mentioning your name and country. Thank you for your time.

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Vol 7 Issue 06 - JUNE 2009
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