The Experience of Life in the Natural World
What it is to be a Substance? and What it is to Exist? We need to establish knowledge about the man on a firm basis and the information it provides must be tested for its accuracy and consistency with an external reality. We have to make the fundamental distinction between the living and the non-living matter. The scientific advances of the 19th and 20th centuries reinforced the materialistic position concerning the basic similarity of organic living and inorganic physical matter. The man is viewed as a product of natural evolution and is thought to be subject to the same laws of Physics and Chemistry or mechanistic principles.
We need a methodology to study philosophy and to understand philosophical statements. Logical Positivism, also known as Scientific Empiricism aims to clarify concepts in both everyday and scientific language. It describes analysis of language as the function of philosophy. This analysis of language and of concepts is important to understand questions of belief and ideology which affect what we think we ought to do individually and socially. I would use this method of ‘Applied Philosophy’ to analyze the concept of Spiritual Optics, the Spiritual dimension of the Man’s experience of Life in the Natural World. There are two facets of the man’s experience of his own existence. These are, 1. The Identity which keeps changing or varying over the entire lifetime, and 2. The Individuality which continues to be the same without changing under the influence of time. The man can be presented as the constantly changing or varying, transitory, mortal, physical being on the basis of his Identity and on the flip side there is the dimension of unvarying, unchanging, constant, and eternal being defined by his Individuality.
THE LOTUS EFFECT-THE TWO FACETS OF LOTUS FLOWER
Botanist Wilhelm Barthlott of the University of Bonn in Germany discovered in 1982 that the lotus leaf has a naturally self-cleaning, water-repellent surface. The secret lies in waxy microstructures and nanostructures that, by their contact angle with water, cause water to bead and roll away just like mercury. Barthlott patented his discovery, calling it the Lotus Effect.
While Barthlott takes credit for his discovery of the waxy surface of the lotus leaf, Indians have known the Lotus, an aquatic plant, for a very long time. Lord Vishnu, the Protector always carries a Lotus flower in his hand, He is generally depicted in images in a lying pose with a lotus springing out of His belly button, His eyes are always compared to the petals of the Lotus flower and His consort Goddess Lakshmi prefers to be seated on top of a Lotus flower. Indians use the Lotus flower for their worship and in Indian Art and Literature, Lotus finds a prominent place and the Lotus is given the official status of the National Flower. Indians are also equally impressed about the waxy nature of the surface of the lotus leaf and they know that the surface causes the water to bead and the drops rollaway with great ease. This phenomenon is very often used to describe the transient nature of human existence. But, the Lotus is the only flower that is constantly held in the hand of Eternal God.
TWO FACES OF THE COIN – TWO FACETS OF EXISTENCE:
The coins that we use are minted with two different faces and we need to flip the coin to see the face on the opposite side. So also, human existence has its two sides, an eternal entity and at the same time a transient, perishable, temporary, ephemeral, fleeting, and finite entity. I would refer to the following two verses to illustrate this view-point.
THE BHAGAVAD GITA, CHAPTER II, VERSE 13:
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth, and then to old age, similarly, the soul also passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change”.
Since every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body at every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man, the spirit soul however remains the same and does not undergo any change. The individual soul eventually changes the body itself, the soul transmigrates from one body to another body and hence death is viewed as the soul changing bodies from old to new one. According to one’s work in the present life, the living entity experiences enjoyment or suffering with the changing of bodies. This view helps the individual not to lament about death.
SHANKARA’S BHAJA GOVINDAM AND NIRVANA SHATAKAM LYRICS:
The ‘ADVAITA’ school of Indian philosophy was founded by the great teacher Shankara who is popularly referred to as Adi Shankaracharya. He composed lyrics known as Bhaja Govindam (Praise Lord Vishnu, the Protector) in which he describes the transient, ephemeral, and fleeting nature of human life and existence.
He compares human life to that of the bead of water drop on the surface of the Lotus leaf. He reminds us to understand that the body’s existence is very temporary and he observes that the entire humanity is suffering due to sickness caused by ignorance which makes people to crave with a sense of attachment and desire to keep their impermanent existence.
The very same Adi Shankaracharya in the lyrics known as Nirvana Shatakam describes the individual entity as an embodied Soul. The Soul is eternal but the physical body is temporary and just like the water drop on the surface of the Lotus leaf, the drop could roll away any moment, and the Soul may change bodies sooner than we wish or desire. There is no point in cultivating a sense of attachment to the body as the Soul is not willing to cling to the physical body. Man is a created being, exists as an Individual with Individuality, and has living substance constituted by Chemical Elements that are immortal, imperishable, or eternal. However, Man, the physical being with a shape and form is transient as he is born with a plan for the dissolution of its form.