THE PRINCIPLE OF REINCARNATION
by Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami
by Bhaktisvarupa Damodara Swami
The scientific study of reincarnation may shed new light on many subtle phenomena inexplicable by currently accepted theories-phenomena such as the wide variety of living forms, innate abilities clearly not acquired from the environment, and near-death experiences. In recent years scholars in various disciplines have shown great interest in studying reincarnation, but to study it meaningfully we must first know whether life is an eternal entity that transcends the temporary, physical body or merely a combination of molecules moving according to the laws of physics and chemistry.The Reductionist Approach: Atoms and the VoidModern science deals primarily with the objective aspects of nature. Relying on an experimental approach based on limited sensory data, it has pursued the goal of unfolding the hidden laws of nature, and ultimately of finding the original cause of the world we perceive. Most modern scientists now believe that blind physical laws and the laws of chance govern the cosmos. They say there is no designer, no creator, no God-no intelligence behind the whole cosmic phenomenon. Following this hypothesis, they attempt to reduce everything, including life, to the interactions of atoms and molecules, the familiar objects of study of physics and chemistry.What Is Life?Basing itself on a mountain of laboratory data, the currently predominant scientific theory holds that life is a coordinated chemical reaction. This theory involves the basic assumption that the various life forms we see today originated by chance in an ancient chemical environment, the "primordial soup," and that they have developed by the influence of chance and blind mechanical laws acting over a long time period. In the words of Jacques Monod, "Chance alone is at the source of every innovation, of all creation in the biosphere. Pure chance, absolutely free but blind, is at the very root of the stupendous edifice of evolution: this central concept of modern biology is no longer one among other possible or even conceivable hypotheses. It is today the sole conceivable hypothesis, the only one that squares with observed and tested fact."1 This is the neo-Darwinian concept. According to this idea, as time passed, the action of various forms of energy (ultraviolet rays from the sun, lightning, ionizing radiation, and heat) caused the small and simple molecules to combine together to form the biomonomers (amino acids, for example), and these biomonomers in turn gave rise to biopolymers (such as proteins and nucleic acids). It has been assumed that by the proper interactions, the self-organization of these molecules took place, and life eventually arose.Unfortunately, this theory, however attractive it may be, will remain only a theoretical model until its propounders can actually produce some form of life in the laboratory by chemical reactions. But just how likely is this? Assuming that the primitive atmosphere was of a reducing kind, Stanley Miller passed an electric discharge through a gaseous mixture of ammonia, water vapor, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.2 The reaction product was found to contain aldehydes, carboxylic acid, and some amino acids. Since amino acids are the basic building blocks of protein molecules, which in turn are the fundamental components of living cells, Miller's experiment has been regarded as a landmark in the case for chemicals' being the origin of life. Subsequent experiments in the study of the origin of life involved some changes in the components of the reactants. When the simple molecules of hydrogen cyanide (HCN) were subjected to ultraviolet radiation, the basic building blocks of nucleic acids (the purines adenine and guanine) were synthesized. In experiments simulating the earth's presumed primitive atmosphere, the simple molecules of formaldehyde (CH2O) were generated, and these simple formaldehyde molecules in turn underwent various base-catalyzed condensation reactions to produce innumerable sugars. These are regarded as the progenitors of biological sugars. The action of ultraviolet light and ionizing radiation on solutions of formaldehyde produced the sugar molecules ribose and deoxyribose, which are the components of nucleic acids.Practically speaking, then, at this stage of scientific knowledge most of the important chemicals found in the living cell (including the gene) can be synthesized in the chemical laboratory. And those in the forefront of microbiology and biochemistry have made a vigorous effort to put all the necessary chemicals together and prepare the first synthetic life in the test tube. Unfortunately, there are no life symptoms visible when all these chemicals are combined. Even without taking so much trouble to synthesize all these chemicals, scientists can actually isolate the necessary chemicals from an already living body and then recombine them. If life were a chemical combination, scientists could actually make life in the test tube by assembling all these important chemicals. They cannot do this, however. Thus there are abundant reasons for doubting that life is a chemical process.Undoubtedly, in the last few decades great advancements have been made in the fields of cell biology, molecular biology, and biochemistry. Indeed, the discovery of the genetic code and many metabolic pathways of the living systems are products of brilliant and dedicated researchers. Because of the great successes of science and technology in many areas of human endeavor (medicine, agriculture, space science, and so on), inquisitive and enthusiastic scientific minds are tempted to believe that the brilliant ambition to synthesize life in the test tube will one day be fulfilled. Scientific and popular journals have thus reported many claims that certain molecular arrangements might give rise to life. They present, for example, the coacervate droplets of Oparin and the protenoid microspheres of Fox as forerunners of a living cell. But a close look at these entities reveals them to be purely physico-chemical phenomena. Coacervate droplets are wholly explicable in the realm of micellar chemistry, and Fox's microspheres are explicable in terms of the chemistry of peptides and polypeptides.Therefore, despite great scientific discoveries and achievements, the bright hope and enthusiasm for understanding life in molecular terms seem to be losing ground, and many prominent scientists in various fields are beginning to doubt the validity of this concept. In a book called Biology Today, Nobel-prize-winning chemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi remarked, "In my search for the secret of life, I ended up with atoms and electrons, which have no life at all. Somewhere along the line, life ran out through my fingers. So, in my old age, I am now retracing my steps…."3Not only do molecules, atoms, and electrons lack life symptoms, but also the chemical view of life fails to correspond with life's observed subtleties-human beings' unique feeling, willing, and thinking capacities, for example. If life were an interplay of molecules, we should be able to explain these subtle aspects of life in terms of molecules only. What will be the genetic component or molecule that induces the friendly feeling of love and respect among people? Which molecule or genetic code will be responsible for the subtle artistic nuances in Hamlet or Bach's Mass in B Minor? Can a mechanistic view of life account for life's value- and goal-oriented nature, especially among human beings? That there are no plausible molecular mechanisms to explain these subtle aspects of life makes it reasonable to propose that life transcends physics and chemistry.>>> Ref. VedaBase => What Is Life?
~ from Srila Prabhupada's lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam 3.28.18 on October 27, 1975 in Nairobi Srila Prabhupada ~ " Simply our prayer should be, My dear Krishna, please remind me to always chant Your Holy Name, please do not put me into forgetfulness. You are sitting within me as Supersoul, so you can put me into forgetfulness or into remembering You. So please do not put me into forgetfulness. Please always remind me to chant, even You send me into the hell, it doesn't matter, just so long as I can always chant Hare Krishna..."