A Spiritual View of Life and Existence

Author: 
Dr. Rajendra Narain Dubey

 

The aim in Science is to search and discover the origin of existence. The aim in Philosophy is to analyze all available information and use it to prove the existence of this origin. The two together aim to propose a theory of everything. Such a theory, if established, should be able to explain all phenomena of the universe in sequence and with conviction. It should also be able to predict future phenomena.

Both Science and Philosophy use human observation and experience as their starting point. Observation consists in the acquisition of information regarding objects. Experience is the outcome of the acquired information. This exercise results in knowledge of the object under observation. A possible outcome from the knowledge is development of a philosophical theory that explains all aspects of existence associated with the object. People can accept or reject the theory or, when in doubt, seek clarification by subjecting the object to further observation.

Such a sequence as this, from observation to theory, regarding material objects, forms part of Secular education. In other words, Secular education uses the material object as the subject of study. There is yet another kind of education that is Spiritual in nature. In Spiritual education, the objects are not the subject of study; rather the subject itself is both the object and subject of study. The difference between the two types of education can be put in a proper perspective through an explanation of how people acquire information and process it. Education provides techniques for accessing and processing of the information that finally leads to knowledge.

In Secular education, the focus is on objects that can be atomic or subatomic particles or their combination. Information from the object is observed, experienced and analyzed. The process makes use of different branches of Science and employs different parts of the human body. The entire process of observation, experience and analysis is known as darshan in Sanskrit. An English equivalent of this Sanskrit word is vision provided it is not restricted only to human eyes and what it does.

Information from the object, observed either directly or through scientific instruments, is received by human beings through the five organs that are used to acquire information. These organs are the eyes, ears, nose, tongue and skin. The information so acquired is a form of physical darshan. How information from an object is transmitted to human organs is explained by Physical Science. This information is transmitted from organs to the brain through a neural network. Neuroscience explains this part of the process. The mind is that part of the brain on which the neural network projects information regarding the object for the purpose of identification and classification. This process is called mental darshan. It involves the human psyche and the associated field (of study) is Psychology. Neither the physical darshan nor the mental darshan nor the two together yield complete information about the object. It is so because these two forms of darshan, either separately or together, are fragmentary or incomplete so far as the knowledge of an object is concerned.              

The information regarding the object created due to the physical and mental darshan is then presented to the intellect or buddhi(Sanskrit word for intellect) that analyzes and makes a determination as to its quality, usefulness and application in life. This is an example of intellectual darshan and it is associated with a branch of education called Philosophy. The three forms of darshan are associated with the physical, mental and intellectual aspects in human beings. The picture presented by them is secular in nature. It is still fragmentary and therefore incomplete. The enquiry must be taken to the next level of darshan for complete education and total knowledge.

The next and the final step in education involves an enquiry regarding the origin, evolution  and final destination of the object together with who is conducting the quest and why and how it is being done. That is, the search now is also to find a connection between the subject, the object and the method of study. The picture that appears in response to this search is Spiritual darshan. When coupled with the darshan of the physical, mental and intellectual form, it provides a complete picture of all objects both animate and inanimate. It leads to total knowledge about life and existence.

The search outlined above indicates that information is processed in steps that begin with physical leading to the mental and then to the intellectual darshan which is concerned only with the material aspect of the object. It is secular in learning and involves a bottom up approach. A quantum step up to Spiritual darshan completes the process of education and with it comes a spiritual angle to all existence. The quantum jump to spiritual education cannot possibly be accomplished by those whose aim is limited to secular education only.

In a top down approach, the sequence of education begins with a spiritual angle and gradually filters down to the intellectual and then to the mental and finally ends in the physical aspects of existence. Thus, in top down education, the focus begins on Spiritual existence and shifts down gradually to material existence. In the bottom up approach to education, the initial focus is on matter and its composites and it gradually shifts to Spiritual existence. An emphasis on secular education alone is likely to exclude any consideration of the Spiritual aspect of existence. 

The next obvious question is this: Is there any written reference anywhere in the world that points to Spiritual existence and Spiritual education? If so, how old it is and how has it been framed and what are its implications. Should it be accepted on faith or is it possible for a human being to verify its implications in their day to day experience? A statement that spiritual knowledge and education cannot be verified and should be accepted on faith alone prompts a person, especially those who cannot think beyond secular education, to suggest that it is is like a blind man telling another blind person in a dark alley that there is a light around the corner. An answer to this question can be found in the Vedic literature that not only deals with the philosophy of life and existence, it also provides clue that can remove the doubts of secular skeptics. 

PHILOSOPHY OF THE VEDAS

The Vedas from India are now accepted as the oldest literature in the world that is available even today. The oldest of the Vedas is Rig Veda. Nasadiya sukta, also known as the hymns of creation, is the 129th hymn in its tenth mandal. It contains a remarkable statement. Its simple translation can be stated thus; in the beginning there was neither Sat nor Asat. What existence then was tad ekam or That One. The statement is remarkable in the sense that it clearly states the principle of Absolute Monism that laid the foundation for Spiritual education in India.

A question may be asked at this point. If there is only one existence, who educates, to whom is the education imparted and through what medium. The answer forms part of Spiritual education introduced in Sankhya. It uses the concept of Sat and Asat of the hymns of creation to erect a structure for education. Unfortunately, the interpretation commonly used to explain the meaning of the two words led to confusion. Because of it, Sankhya was thought to promote a system of dualistic philosophy based upon the existence of two independent principles. Sankhya did not attract the recognition that it deserves for introducing a top down approach to Spiritual education. It is in fact a theoretical exposition of the Science of Life and Existence that first found expression in the hymns of the Vedas.

The reason for confusion about Sankhya is perhaps the word used to interpret Sat and Asat. The word existence used for Sat and non-existence for Asat is perhaps the reason for confusion. If Sat or Purush is associated with existence, it must be real. Hence, Asat or Prakriti being non-existence cannot be real. It is hard to believe of a real outcome from unreal source except through negation. In fact, negation of truth attached to any and everything experienced in human life is the recourse taken by some Vedantic philosophy.

Consider an alternative. Suppose Sat and Asat are two aspects of That One rather than two independent principles. One aspect is Satas swabhav or innate nature of That One. The other aspect, Asat is Shakti or its creative power. Sankhya uses the word Purush for Sat or innate nature. It uses Prakriti for Asat or Shakti of That One. The later philosophies of India use a combination of three words for the innate nature: The words are sat-chit-anand and its literal translation is existence-knowledge-bliss. As such, existence-knowledge-bliss is self nature or swabhav of That One.

The creative power of That One comes from its Shakti. It is the practical aspect or Prakriti. When split in three parts as pra-kri-ti, it describes its qualitative power of prakash or light, kriya or activity and sthiti or stability. The role of the three parts becomes obvious in the cosmology of Sankhya when the qualitative power is expressed in traditional terms of satoguna, rajoguna and tamoguna.                        

Prakriti or the creative power of That One uses its swabhav to bring its first manifestation into existence. It is called Mahat when associated with the universal presence, or buddhi in reference to human beings. It is predominantly satoguni in quality but incorporates, in totality, all attributes of Sat and Asat. If the innate nature turns Mahat (or buddhi) into an efficient cause, the creative power makes it a material cause. This attribution is merely a rephrasing of the introductory hymn in Ishopanishad of the Yajur Veda. The hymn says; that is purna (complete in all respects), this is purna, because whatever is purna can come out of something that is also purna. That in this hymn refers to mahat whereas this stands for buddhi. Both are purna (perfect and complete) for their standpoint and the two are aspects of That One, which is also purna.

The next step in creative activity as it applies to human beings is to individualize buddhi to form aham or ego. Under the influence of ego, rajoguna becomes a dominant influence in manifesting manas or the mind. Driven by its Swabhav of existence-knowledge-bliss inherited by the mind, it proceeds to use its knowledge to create stable structure in which to look for bliss or happiness. For this purpose, it creates fields of five media for transmission of knowledge along with the quality or power associated with each of the channels. It also creates five organs in a human body with the individual capabilities to receive each of those qualities. In the universal cosmology of Sankhya, the names of the media are agni or fire, water, wind, earth and akash. Neural network is its counterpart in the human body. The network is often considered part of the mind. The quality they are associated with are form (created due to light of agni or fire), taste, touch, odour and sound. Sense organs or the organs of knowledge that participate in receiving and corresponding information through eyes, tongue, skin, nose and ears. Neuro-science explains how the information is transmitted in the form of electro-chemical impulses inside the human body. Physics teaches the manner of its transmission outside of the human body.

Next in order of creation for a human being is the structure of the physical body. Tamoguna plays a predominant part in creating the structure that provides dwelling and a sustaining environment for all organs of a human body. In addition to internal organs, there are ten external organs that interact with the external world. Information from the objects of the external world is transferred to five organs of knowledge of the internal world of human beings. Five organs of action work on the world outside.

Thus, the top down order of human existence follows the sequence; Spiritual, intellectual, mental (sensual activities are incorporated in it) and physical. All four are manifestations of That One through its two aspects of Sat and Asat. Because of its swabhav of sat-chit-anand, spiritual existence of human beings can be associated with Sat. Because of the presence of sato-,  rajo- and tamo-guna, the power (Asat) of That One can be thought to manifest in the form of intellectual, mental and physical bodies of human beings. The dominant presence of satoguna in Intellect makes it more analytical and rational compared to the other two. Mental body displays more activity due to rajoguna being dominant in it. Due to dominance of tamoguna in physical body, it helps in anatomical stability that can also turn to laziness.

This in short is the cosmological theory of evolution of Sankhya. It is quite reasonable to call it a spiritual theory when considered in relation to the human race.