Thank you very much for all your replies to my post. I am overwhelmed by the response (it came up to 20 pages!) I apologize for not responding immediately to your replies. Our internet access has been down for some time.
Here are my response/further questions:
Bhaktajoy: There is one God. The Chinese may call out to that same Supreme Lord, the Christians may also, the Hindus also, and the Vaisnavas also. He is very beautiful, charming, powerful, and merciful, and He can come and play with you in any relationship. He is not formless, or without a shape. This idea is wrong.
My question: According to Islamic belief, God (Allah) has no shape or form, Allah can't be seen, Allah is neither male nor female. This seems to contradict with Vedic teachings if God is said to have a form. Isn't there a real contradiction here? http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/islam/islam_beliefs.shtml
Bhaktajoy: 'The beginning of consciousness'
'According to the secret teachings, the universe was not first created in matter, but existed
prior to material creation in spirit. Imagine a consciousness similar to our own, except that
this first consciousness was boundless, a Universal Consciousness. This is God. At some
point, the Universal Consciousness desired to express itself. It began to conceive, to
imagine, and express Its inner prompting. And so the creation began - light, sound ...
eventually stars, galaxies, trees, and rivers.'
My question/comment: Thank you very much for the article. After reading it, I am sad that, probably due to my limited mind, I am unable, with an open heart and mind, to accept the description as being factual. Maybe, my brain is used to logic and reasoning because from childhood days I am used to see things around me, wondered why and find reasons for them. Certain things, however, remain as mysteries to me. These include, memory before birth and what happens after death. But the existence of a Universal Consciousness and Its sudden decision to 'express itself' sounds more like a fairy tale. Other parts of the story too sound fictitious, e.g. '….it wasn't long before some of us began to use our wills and express ourselves. At first, we simply imitated the Creator, but eventually we gained experience, and with experience came knowledge and confidence. Then, we truly began to create on our own, adding new dimensions to the spiritual creation, much like a second voice adds to a song by singing harmony with the main melody….'. I wonder if this is more acceptable to other people?
Transient: The number of living entities is static. Does not increase nor decrease. However they are innumerable. Because of their volume, it is impossible to count all of them. In our universe, there are innumerable number of planetary systems and they are populated by different living entities.
My question/comment: According to biblical literature, Adam and Eve were the first two humans created by God and they multiplied to produce others. Also, after the Great Flood only Noah's family survived who again multiplied and populated the earth. In fact, records show that the population of earth has been increasing. For instance, there were 1.6 billion people in 1950 and in the year 2000 there were 6 billion. Why do you say that the number of living entities is static? Can this statement be taken literally? Real life shows that every living entity multiplies, some producing hundreds or even thousands of offspring. Many human couples produce more than two offspring.
Transient: There are 8,400,000 species of life. The 400,000 are human species and we find only several of the species on earth. Outside our universe, there are innumerable number of other universes with innumerable number of galaxies and planetary systems which are populated by innumerable number of living entities.
My question/comment: If by 'species' we mean living entities that are able to inter-breed, then there is only one human species. What do you mean when you say there are several human species? Do you mean different races of people? Also you mentioned that in other planetary systems there are innumerable number of living entities. Is there any evidence to this effect? As I understand, scientists are still searching for life on other planets but have yet to succeed.
Transient: So the spirit soul, because of his karma that binds him, sometimes goes upwards to live in the planets of the demigods or sometimes goes down to the abominable bodies of insects and microbes. However, in the perspective of eternity, the different bodily existences of the spirit soul is considered fleeting.'
My question/comment: Who are demigods and are they real? I trust that the knowledge regarding existence of other planets with demigods is acquired from the Vedic literature. Has such knowledge been verified by observation or other means, or is it beyond the material sense and based on a belief? I will find it more convincing if there are some evidences one can examine for himself/herself.
Transient: The theory of evolution espoused by modern science is just that -- a theory and is a fallacy.
My question/comment: Evolution though a theory has many hard evidences that is available to anyone who is willing to examine. These evidences are very convincing indeed (e.g. 'Atlas of Prehistoric World' - Discovery Channel). The discovery of many fossils and bones of transitional nature shows that evolution is the only explanation for the change that has occurred over many years in our animal and plant kingdom. For instance, the archaeopteryx lithographica, displaying a distinct blend of major reptilian and avian characteristics and highly resembling the theropod reptiles of its time, is unquestionably a transitional form. Basilosaurus isis is the name given to a whale whose 40-million year old fossilized skeleton features a small pelvis with hind legs. The rhipidistians link the crossopterygian fishes to the icthyostegid amphibians through a clear temporal progression of vertebral and skull characteristics. Diarthrognathus sports both reptilian and mammalian jaw joints. Tetraceratops links the pelycosaurs to the therapsids (the pelycosaurs and therapsids are themselves reptile-mammal transitional forms). In fact, our canine tooth (one of the four pointed conical teeth located between the incisors and the premolars) show that we are descendents of carnivores. How can one say that evolution is a fallacy? Is this conclusion made after studying the theory and the evidences in detail? We should give ourselves equal opportunity to study all available knowledge and draw a conclusion based on what we understand or satisfies us. Examining matters that are beyond our understanding and logic could be just a waste of time, unless our intention is to discover things never before discovered by mankind.
Transient: However scriptural evidence is not very much appreciated by one who wants hard evidence. In this case there are many impirical works by different people from different disciplines which produced irrefutable evidence on reincarnation. One such work is by the hypnonist Helen Wambauch who hypnotized more than 10,000 people of their previous lives. Later she checked the places, names, events and objects described by her patients in their past lives to the actual places, names, events and objects and majority of those checked were confirmed to be true.
My question/comment: The research done on past lives is, indeed, very convincing. Your explanation sounds equally convincing. I don't have much comment on this but just to say that this is a real mystery to me.
Transient: The sufferings brought by nature are natural consequences caused by the actions of the population.
My question/comment: I find this difficult to accept because there many natural disasters that are not caused by humans, for example, earthquakes. If what you mean is the natural disaster arise due to their karma, then it is mind boggling why such disasters occur repeatedly in the same region and other countries, like England and Malaysia, are relatively free from natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes). Could it be possible that people born in these regions have good karma?
Transient: We should understand how the law of karma works otherwise everything you see becomes confusing. The tradgedy of the ignorant is he always act like fool though he thinks he is very knowledgable. A person who deny God's existence is always a rascal.
My question/comment: There are 350 million Buddhists worldwide http://www.bbc.co.uk/religion/religions/buddhism/index.shtml and Buddhist do not believe in a personal creator God. Does this mean that they are all rascals? There could be some real thinkers and philosopher among them. I think it is unfair for one human to pass judgement onto another without examining the reasons behind the other person's assertion.
Transient: This phenomenal world has been set into motion by God as a perfect unit and is equipped with all necessary paraphernalia for its development, maintenance and destruction as the case maybe. So it all depends on the living entities how they manage God's resources and God's resources will react accordingly. As far as "innocent children" dying, back to Karma 101.
My question/comment: O.k. You said that innocent children suffer and die, probably in an earthquake, because of their bad karma. What about animals and other living creatures that die from natural disasters? Are they too subjected to the law of karma? If the karmic law is a fact, why is one made to suffer in his next life and not the present? Don't we punish our children immediately when they do something wrong? I don't think punishing one in his next life is good because he may not know what is the punishment for because very few people have memory of their previous life! (My apologies if the questions sound arrogant, but it is for the sake of a better understanding).
Transient: The movement of the living entities is being managed by higher authorities and everyone is put in its proper place. There is no such thing as accident. You may want to go on studying all these things to its minutest detail to satisfy your curiosity and thirst for the truth and if you have the required intelligence and time and determination there is no doubt that your quest will lead you to appreciate the souvereignty and perfect workings of God on everything. The speculative process that you follow however, is dangerous because you may not have the required intelligence, time and determination to probe everything and this may just lead to your confusion and frustration. There is a better process however and this begins with a humble and sincere heart and a little bit of faith that God has the power to enlighten you and reveal Himself to you and answer your questions from within your heart. The mind is a big wasteland and to dwell in that place only brings thirst and hunger.
My question/comment: There are far too many things in this world to learn that it is impossible for one to study all these in minute details in his life time. Leaving the earth without knowing as much as one could means that one's brief stay on this planet has been wasted. Science has made it possible to learn many things about the earth and the universe. Everyone should grab the opportunity to learn about the earth, the natural laws and the living entities before he/she goes because there may not be another chance. Frankly, I wish to be re-born as a normal human over and over again so that I can experience life in this material world forever. This may just be a blind wish!
Transient: An unfortunate person who misuses the human body transmigrates to lower species of life. The human body is very important because it is the springboard where a person can get out from the cycle of birth and death because he has the facility to develop his loving relationship with God. When one is born in the lower species of life, he doesn't have this facility. However there is no karmic reaction in the lower species of life. A dog cannot be reborn as a lizard. The evolution of the lower species of life is always going up until a person again takes another human form.
My question/comment: Since there is no karmic reaction in the lower species, how does the evolution of lower species go up? There must be some judgement made on the lower life so that it can be re-born as a higher life? If so, what could be the basis of such judgement, especially on microscopic life forms?
Audarya lila: We may perceive the needs of individuals based on material circumstances but that is a very limited conception at best. Irregardless of that consideration, we serve others because it brings some satisfaction to ourselves - we feel more complete by helping others.
My question/comment: Agree. Serving others without expecting anything in return is what I consider a true human virtue. One who serves others or God with the expectation of a better life or some other personal gain is plain selfishness. In the eyes of others, they appear good, but deep in their hearts they want something in return.
Audarya lila: Therefore to judge that a bacterium has no purpose other than to harm humans is myopic at best. (besides e-coli has done much good for humans as well - it is not only responsible for disentery - it is the bacterium of choice for all types of genetic manipulations and cloning. It is a real pioneer in the field of molecular biology.)
My question/comment: I quoted the e-coli bacterium just as an example. There are many other bacteria that are harmful or live in places where they never come in contact with humans (for instance, deep in the ground). It is difficult for one to accept the fact that every living entity (including those that we can't see) have been created with a purpose.
Audarya lila: The same question can be asked in so many different forms such as - why are some people born in poverty and others with a silver spoon in their mouths? Or why are some born in pious religious families and others in families of thieves and rogues? The simple answer is that life is eternal and didn't begin with the beginning of whatever particular body is being inhabited by any particular spirit soul. Enjoyment and suffering are a result of our karma.
My question/comment: There are two reasons why I find it difficult to accept the truth in the last statement. Firstly, when a person commits a hideous crime, say rape and murder, and escapes from the law, probably, due to lack of evidence, he is free as any other man. Due to his bad karma he may be re-born as something less in his next life, say a nematode or plankton. But, is there any explanation why God should punish him in his next life and not the present? Isn't it better to punish him in his present life so that he realizes his wrong doings? Can he remember his misdeeds if he is, say reborn as a toad or a peacock? The second reason is, there are infants born with birth defects and die a few hours after birth. This could be again due to bad karma. But then, they die at such a young age that they don't realize their defects and come to terms with the reality. Why don't God wait for the person to grow up and realize their defects, instead of 'withdrawing' their souls at such an early stage. Could the law of karma, in reality, be just a human imagination?
Audarya lila: What we are all looking for is something that makes sense to us and for that, of course, we must rely on our experience and our intellect. We are meant to do so. But you should realize the limitations of such endeavors from the very beginning, otherwise it will only lead to frustration and atheism. Spiritual practices and spiritual experiences are not unreasonable but they are beyond the ability of reason and logic to understand completely.You are seeking after the unlimited with limited tools, that should be clearly understood.You are conscious and it is with conscious experience that spiritual life will become a reality for any practicioner.
My question/comment: I understand that our experience and intellect are limited, and also that in seeking God, we are seeking the unlimited with limited tools. With limited tools, isn't it very difficult to understand things that are beyond the ability of reason and logic? Is the effort and time devoted worth understanding something beyond our ability to understand? Isn't it better to focus our life and effort on things that we can understand? There are far too many fascinating things on this planet to study and understand, such as the history of the world, people and places, animal and plant kingdom, solar system and space research and prehistoric life forms. Isn't it more worthwhile studying about our own home, earth, instead of what happens outside once we leave? Accepting the secret teachings, in my view, is just like leaving a small child in the only toy or candy store in town and to tell him to think about his father and where he is going after his visit to the store. If I were the child I will run around the store to see and learn as much as possible. Won't you?