“As stated in the Vedanta-sutra (1.1.2), the Absolute Truth is the origin of everything. Therefore it is to be understood that all 8,400,000 species of bodily forms originate from the Lord, who is always adi, or the beginning. In Bhagavad-gita Arjuna addresses the Lord as adyam, or the original. Similarly, in the Brahma-samhita the Lord is addressed as adi-purusham, the original person. Indeed, in Bhagavad-gita (10.8) the Lord Himself declares, mattah sarvam pravartate: ‘From Me everything proceeds.’” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 3.19.31 Purport)Download this episode (right click and save)
“You know, I wonder where everything came from. Not just the trees, the grass, the clouds, and the sun, but the creatures too - what is their origin? I’ve noticed that they are similar in a lot of respects; humans are like monkeys and cats are like dogs. Today scientists perform many tests on lab rats with the assumption that the effects will be the same in the human beings. But how did the rat become similar to the human being? This seems like a prime area for further investigation.”
Indeed, only the human being can make these inquiries. He is curious enough to delve deeper into the matter. He isn’t forced to accept everything as is, for that would mean living miserably. It is the smaller comforts that appear on a daily basis that generally provide more felicity to a man. Living in misery all the time and hoping for a giant fortune to magically appear one day is not the preferred choice. Therefore many search for answers to puzzling questions in the hopes that those answers will improve their lives.
Unfortunately, with the issue of the origin of the species the only option is speculation. Sure, we can conduct experiments today, and see how species modify their behavior over time and how new species even seem to emerge, but the origin is never known. It is the equivalent of trying to decipher the origin of the sun. Even with common objects, in trying to decipher their origin, we will likely come back to the question of the sun.
For instance, if I see a plum sitting on the kitchen table, I can try to retrace the steps it took to reach there. “Okay, so the plum got on the table by my mom putting it there. She picked it up from the supermarket. They received it from a shipment arriving on a delivery truck. They picked up the plums from the local farm. The farmers had plum trees, among other things, on their property. They grow them by using seeds from previous plums.”
Thus the origin of plums is plums themselves. A circular reference indeed, so no answer is found. The plum tree grows by application of water and steady sunlight. Thus even in the output of a fruit, the sun is required. And from where did that sun come into existence? Can we make an experiment to see if another sun can be created? Can we take the chemicals that make up the sun and use them to reproduce a smaller version?
These things we cannot do, and so we are left with the scientific mystery. The non-scientific answer, so to speak, is that God created all of these things. “Have faith, my son. Believe in His grace, for He provides all that you need to survive in this life. It is through His will that favor will come upon you.”
The inquisitive mind prone to scientific discovery is naturally averse to such thinking, for faith has been used as an excuse to oppress people, give privilege based on birth, and promote laziness. After all, if you’re putting faith in an unknown power to create the sun, the moon, the plants, the trees, and the creatures, then why not sit back and invest faith in Him to make your life better? Why do any good work at all? Just pray for the stuff that you want. Think of God like Santa Claus.
The Vedic answer to the question of the origin of the species certainly asks that some faith be extended, but more information is forthcoming. The answer is more detailed as well. For instance, take the boar species. In the Shrimad Bhagavatam, we get the answer that the boar species came into being through the Supreme Lord Himself, who one time descended to earth in the form of a boar. Known as Varahadeva, this amazing creature held up the earth after it had sunken under water. He then battled and defeated a materialistic enemy known as Hiranyaksha.
This information supports the claim that God is the origin of everything. Indeed, the same fact is restated in other areas of the vast Vedic literature. God is the origin of all energies, and the species are a combination of the external and internal energies. In the external there are three modes of nature, or three kinds of ingredients. These are goodness, passion and ignorance. Think of it like red, yellow and blue. You can take those colors and mix them up in so many different combinations and proportions. That is how we get paintings, where there is a palette of colors and an artist who creates images using only those colors available to him.
The species are like different paintings made from the colors that are the three modes of nature. What animates the species is the internal energy. This internal energy consists of individual fragments of spirit, spirit souls. The souls are all identical in nature. They are qualitatively the same as God, but quantitatively different. They are godly, but not God Himself. They are the same in quality no matter which species they enter. Thus the boar and the cow are actually the same type of individual, as are the human and the cat. The different species are only different kinds of bodies placed on living entities.
In either case, whether choosing the scientific method of ascending through various knowledge-gathering experiments or taking the descending approach of accepting Vedic wisdom, if you do find out the origin of the species you need to do something with the information. In knowing how the three modes of nature combine to create the various species and how God is the origin of everything, including the boar, we can use the information to break out of the cycle of birth and death. This means no longer accepting a form generated by the creative mind of the original creator. This means no longer accepting a covering of the external energy.
This release only comes about through a shift in consciousness, where one no longer challenges God but instead accepts His grace. In this consciousness, one does work as a matter of duty, and since they are always in concert with the wishes of the original Lord, who is personal in every way, their behavior is automatically pious. It is inherently good, and so it serves their fellow man as well, for what better gift can you give someone else than the divine consciousness that grants release from the temporary residences in the temporary bodies?
With experiments knowledge ascending,
But origin known only from descending.
Species of matter and spirit a combination,
Three modes of nature mixed in proportions.
Like paintings from most creative mind,
Species of similar natures we find.
When by this mystery no longer bewildered,
Serve God, from material world be delivered.