The Vital Question

I have been a student of Biology. I learnt that protoplasm is the physical basis of life. I learnt that life is a function of a certain level of organization of matter. Life ceases to exist when that level of organization decays. I further learnt that living is possible because the organism maintains a regular unbroken flow of energy and matter with its surroundings. I learnt that the environment and organism modify each other mutually.

Life was possible on earth because of its being at a particular distance and orientation with respect to the sun. The earth is able to hold water in liquid state, That is what has made life possible on the earth. I learnt that the large array of animals and plants evolved from a single celled organism over a long period of time.I learnt that the organisms and their surroundings constitute a complex. The organisms in the complex are interdependendent and each species has a specific niche in the system. An unbroken flow of energy pervades the complex and keeps it intact.

Genes, environment and chance events control our Biology. Environmental signals may modify genes and DNA.

I learnt that virtually all the organisms, possibly with the exclusion of man form a continuous chain or web among themselves and with the material surroundings so that there are a number of interwoven ecosystems and the earth is a biosphere. It is a self-sustaining entity. Activities of different species modify the environment, consequent to this the environment becomes unfavourable for the present species and favours the introduction of new species. The succession continues. The cycle of events continues unabated. Only man can intervene actively and modify the succession. He modifies, sometimes disturbing and destroying the system, He has an erroneous impression that he is the master.

With the advancement of civilization, he has been modifying the environment to suit his convenience. The unfortunate thing is that man is not aware of the delicate balance of nature. Hence his intervention disturbs and destroys the delicate complex. He needs to understand and be respectful to the relationship between Man and Nature (Biosphere). He is just a component of the biosphere and is obliged to respect other components as well.

Life ceases in the event of interruption of the chain of communication between different components of the biosphere.. It results in the disorganization of the protoplasm and death. This has been the foundation of my sensibility.

This understanding has constrained my view of life. This view leaves little space for divine dispensation. Still occasional doubts to explain chance events persisted. Whether they are mere chance events or there is an intelligent design behind it, that kept on disturbing the neatly woven design. Why is life the way it is? Is life without any purpose? Is it really due to some chance events in the evolution of the earth?

On the other hand spiritualists like Rabindranath Thakur visualize life as the celebration of joy. They hold that existence is diffused in the surroundings (ecosystem). Man is invited to the celebration of the joy that has been organized by nature or almighty. Life is beautiful and Vidhata reveals himself through man’s life. The world is real and not illusion as propounded by the other school. There are speculations about divine creation such as “God made us, not because he knew what we would do, but to find out what we would do” – Doman Knight

Questions keep nagging you. Nick Lane has written a nice book "The Vital Question". It asks - Why is the life the way it is?

Tia, the protagonist of one of the books of Samarpan, a monk, is on a journey; it seeks to find a place to rest. This is a close parallel to the observation of biochemist Albert Szent- Gyorgyi, quoted by Nick Lane - " Life is nothing but an electron looking for a place to rest."

Tia finally reaches his destination, but he had to encounter repeated bouts of pain, uncertainty and near death circumstances. This is a close analogy to the living experience of a man.

  Two other books by the same author, Junglezen Sheru and Carving a sky, have encouraged my indulgence with the vital Question. The former recalls the biosphere model. Diversity is neatly woven in a pattern. Energy flow is maintained in the system, Unpatterned energy is being transformed into patterned energy within living bodies.   It further proclaims that equality is a sham. Each one of us is unique. Each one of us has a core value.  The uniqueness, the core of the individual must be recognised and respected.
Carving a sky talks in a very friendly way. An organism occupies an exclusive space, but man aspires for a larger space. The existence of every species other than humans is tied to its limited area of activity. Human beings aspire and achieve the impossible by using their existence as a platform to create a larger space through growth. Space is carved by adding strength to existence to attain growth and then freedom.
       Bruce H. Lipton, a cell biologist has authored a book - "The Biology of Belief". He calls himself a spiritual scientist. He claims that environmental signals cause changes in DNA and genes. Hence it is not correct to hold that our genes determine our Biology.  He holds that our thoughts produce signals that can modify our DNA and genes. . 
Recalling lessons from Biology books, the most enduring motivation of organisms is to ensure reproductive success. In humans, the prolonged period of intense parental care is of utmost importance. Therefore, we have greater longevity and extended old age which has further increased with the advance in civilization and culture. That period may be analogous to what Samarpan conveys by FREEDOM. Non-attachment is the key concept.


More by :  Ganganand Jha

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