Ages before modern science established this truth, our scriptures had declared that the universe, including both living and inert matter, is nothing but the manifestation of cosmic energy or Shakti. Our shastras also say that apart from the physical world there is the spark of intelligent consciousness in us which cannot come under the category of matter. This consciousness is the Brahman or the supreme life force. The universe is, therefore, a vibration of Brahman and Shakti.
Though Maya or the perceived world of the senses is the Shakti or power of Brahman, it has no independent existence of its own, apart from Brahman (the supreme being). Maya is the differentiating principle which is responsible for diversity in both the universe of matter and universe of souls. If it were not for Maya, there would be no diversity at all. Both matter and individual souls would have no independent existence of their own, but for Maya.
But where there is Maya or diversity, there are also evolutionary forces at work. Naturalist Charles Darwin in his famous theory of natural selection postulates that man is by far the highest being in the evolutionary ladder of life. Darwin based his theory on scientific hypothesis and not metaphysical premises. But evolution has a spiritual sanction too.
The law of Karma states that our present birth is determined by the actions of the past birth. The scriptures say that being born a human being is the culmination of numerous birth and good deeds. But what about suffering, misery, disease, pain and death. Why is that a part of the human baggage? The scriptures answer that question by stating that these bodies are the fields, in which seeds consisting of man's good and bad acts yield their fruits as enjoyments and sufferings.
But do the rules of Karma apply to lesser creatures and life forms in this divine play? Is there scope for evolutionary promotions and perks? Can, for instance, a mouse hope to get redemption in its next birth as a cat? Can a tiger aspire to become the hunter rather than the hunted? Can a tree cry out in pain and hope to wield an axe on humans in the next cycle? Does punishment or reward await a small strain of HIV virus for its role as human scourge? Are there incentives for tiny microbes and insects for social climbing?
Karmic law seems silent on these questions. Nor does it throw light on the inert world of matter and elements of the earth and the universe. If the supreme Brahman imbues both the living and non-living, does it mean that the physical world too has the same consciousness, even though beyond the ken of human mind? The earth, the mountains, the rivers and the forests, aren't they as much living as any throbbing life form? Science establishes that every element in this universe, when broken down to its tiniest part, exhibits dual characteristics of wave and particle.
So if life and consciousness is all-pervading, then it perhaps establishes that karmic wheel is not a circle but a kaleidoscope of rebirths. In effect, it means that humans through their actions have as much probability of being reborn as a wave in an ocean or a rain bearing cloud in the sky as much as a bumble bee or a flower in the wilderness.
What would science call that? Backward evolution?