The Source of the Life-Energy

Sri Aurobindo translates Prashna Upanishad, Third Question, Verses 1-3:  “Then the Koshalan, the son of Ashwala, asked him: ‘Lord, whence is this Life born?  How cometh it into this body or how standeth by self-division?  By what departeth, or how maintaineth the outward and how the inward spiritual?’  To him answered the Rishi Pippalada: ‘Many and difficult things thou askest: but because thou art very holy, therefore will I tell thee.  Of the Spirit is this breath of Life born: even as a shadow is cast by a man, so is this Life extended in the Spirit and by the action of the Mind it entereth into this body.”

There has been a long-running debate between those who consider themselves to be “Creationists” and those who call themselves “Darwinists” as to the source and origin of life.  The Creationists for the most part have been self-identified Christians who describe an external all-powerful, all-knowing God as fashioning a number of creatures, finally the human being, and endowing them with the spark of life.  The Darwinists have, by and large, decided that life could have arisen purely from material forces interacting in a random fashion, combining elements and material forces such as heat and light, and thereby, given enough time, being able to create the vast diversity of life, without the necessity of a creator God of any sort.  The debate, of course, has not been limited to these two self-identified views, and has spanned across the entire world, and throughout human existence, with creation stories arising in every culture.

Recently some Western researchers have attempted to bridge this gap by pointing out that the complexity, subtle interactivity, and symbiotic development implies an intelligence behind the creation, while the actual process could take place through an evolutionary process.

Sri Aurobindo describes an involution of consciousness from pure Existence-Consciousness-Bliss, Sat-Chit-Ananda, into the density of Matter and a subsequent evolution of Life, Mind, and Supermind.

The Prashna Upanishad takes up the issue and attributes the Atman, the Spirit, as the source of Prana, the Life-Force of the universe.  The Spirit is all-encompassing, and acts as the source, field and substance of all that exists.  There is no separate “creator-God”, but there is a vast universal intelligence.  The entry of the life-force into the body is an action of the consciousness that has the capacity to fragment and divide into forms.  The Upanishad calls it “Mind” but in today’s language we would differentiate between “mind” and “supermind”, with the first being more limited, and the latter being the universal power of the transformation of Spirit into forms, while concurrently holding the unity of the Spirit in its awareness.

Sri Aurobindo, The Upanishads,  Prashna Upanishad, pp.297-315