In terms of evolution, the form of human life is the crown of creation and according to ancient treatises, the human body is a great chance for a spiritual breakthrough. What is the driving force behind the development of living beings: is it only natural selection and environmental conditions? What is spiritual evolution and how is it related to the evolution of physical bodies? What actions can we take to make the future world better?
Darwin and the theory of evolution
It’s no secret that Charles Darwin is considered the founder of the theory of evolution. His theory explains the development process and the reasons for the diversity of living beings on the planet. Darwin argued that the main mechanism of evolution is natural selection and inherited variation, which are the foundation for the further survival and development of a species. Depending on the conditions of the habitat, some characteristic traits that are useful and help a species survive, for example, a long tail or certain body temperature, are inherited, while others become rudiments or completely disappear in descendants. So, adapting to environmental conditions, populations change, develop, that is why they survive, while less adapted species die out. According to anthropological scientists who refer to Darwin’s theory, it was thanks to the totality of such changes that man once appeared, evolving from a less developed form of life. Does yoga agree with this?
1Charles Darwin is an English naturalist and traveler who was one of the first to come to the conclusion and to substantiate the idea that all types of living organisms evolve over time and come from common ancestors.
Excursion to the Axiomatics of Yoga
Yoga does not deny the results of scientific research in the field of the evolution of living beings, but also has something to add to this matter. First, unlike the scientific viewpoint, which believes that life on Earth arose by chance, thanks to a lucky coincidence and the superposition of natural factors, yoga says that life does not arise by chance. There is always the Higher Power behind its manifestation, which makes the “inanimate” form come to life. Secondly, yoga says that the evolution of physical bodies goes side by side with the spiritual evolution, which science does not know, moreover, one is impossible without the other.
To get closer to understanding this topic, it is necessary to delve into the theory of yoga and take the concept of reincarnation for granted. Without this, it will be very difficult to find answers. Yoga says that we usually consider ourselves our bodies, thoughts, habits, ideas, mood and feelings. This is just a shadow of our Higher Self, or Atman. It is extremely difficult to describe or characterize it, since it is above any words and concepts. The Higher Selves of all living beings are equal in their potential and are the facets of a single whole – the Absolute, which created the entire Universe. Each Higher Self inherits its omniscience and omnipotence from the Absolute in full measure. When we are born in the material world, we forget who we really are and begin to consider ourselves to be our manifestations, that is, bodies. We are so involved in the game called “life” that we become dependent on them: if something threatens our bodies, we suffer, but if bodies feel good, we rejoice and enjoy.
The Higher Selves are connected with their bodies by prana, the life force that revives them. As long as prana maintains a body, it lives, but as soon as it leaves it, the body dies. At the same time, nothing happens to the Higher Self, it is eternal and indestructible. Thus, individual atmans live innumerable lives in different bodies, changing them like clothes. Just as a small child eventually grows out of old clothes and needs new ones of a larger size, so atmans, as they grow up spiritually and are enriched with life experience, become cramped in their old shell, and they seek to acquire a more complex and developed body. So from life to life in the process of self-realization, an atman expands the flow of prana, which complicates their body and promotes mental development, and we observe the process of evolution, both physical and spiritual. The task of each atman is to realize that he and the Absolute are the single whole, and a body is only an instrument in achieving this goal.
The role of self-awareness in the development of living beings
Once we were the simplest creatures, then we spent a series of lives in the bodies of different animals and finally reached such a level of awareness to get a human body. Thus, from life to life we are born, spend time in our body, develop, then die and being born again, we go through all the same stages of evolution in an accelerated mode during intrauterine development.
As animals, our main goal was to survive, then there was no question of spiritual realization. Moving away from dangers, adapting to the environment, we improved our physical and mental abilities and were reborn into a body of a higher order. When we acquired a human body, the main task was to preserve it and “gain a foothold” without sliding down the evolutionary ladder back into the animal world. Since only the human body gives us the opportunity to make a spiritual breakthrough and achieve the ultimate goal of yoga, to realize ourselves as the Higher Self since the issue of survival has become less relevant for us compared to animals, we have chosen the path of the development of mind. The human body is no longer fundamentally changing, but for the mind to develop so that we can master spiritual knowledge and apply it, we must be healthy and strong. Therefore, the practice of yogis working with the physical body is so necessary: Hatha, Kriya, Mantra, Pranayama yoga. We remember the saying: “There is a healthy mind in a healthy body.”
It is worth adding that the atmans of all living beings are equal to each other and are identical to the Absolute, but each of them has a different level of self-awareness, which depends on life experience, including that one in previous incarnations. Whether we develop or remain in place depends on our will. If in past lives we were engaged in self-knowledge, then in the next birth we reach the level, which we have stopped at, in a shorter period of time and we can continue our spiritual path further, receiving and applying into practice the knowledge of yoga. However, if a living creature does not expand its freedom during life, does not work out what should be worked out in its body, it may receive a weak, less developed body in the next life, or even be born with a decrease, that is, in a more primitive form. In this case, there is a rollback in spiritual and physical development and you have to start your path again from the place where you “have fallen”. Therefore, yoga encourages you to work on yourself in order to be reborn in more favorable conditions for self-exploration.
“Living in the body of this or that animal, the soul fulfills or does not fulfill the commandments of the life of this animal and everything that the soul has not fulfilled in the body of an animal is transferred to the human body as karma. If, being a snake, the soul completely possessed the body of the reptile and achieved success in this, then in the human body it has all the (positive) qualities from the period of a reptile body. If the soul has not fulfilled everything that is destined for it in this body, then the flaws are transmitted to the human body and a person can suffer from certain diseases or lack of flexibility, or lack of certain qualities that they had to develop in the body of an animal. ” Hatha yoga narration.
Work on yourself right now
The conditions for our rebirth depend on us. Here the law of karma, or in other words the law of cause and effect, comes into play. What is its meaning? We live in the world where time exists, it unfolds linearly, sequentially. First we do something, then we get the result of our actions. A simple example, we planted a cherry pit, and after a while a cherry tree grew up. Not an apple tree or a pear one, but it is a cherry tree. If we start tracking more subtle moments, then we will understand that everything is interconnected. For example, we think about something and after a while begin to act in accordance with our thoughts and then these actions lead us to some results, but these connections are not always obvious. Since we live many lives, we can receive the results of our actions not right now, but in the next lives, when the conditions are suitable for them.
“There is not a single evil deed, and there is not a single good deed that would not be reflected on subsequent generations, regardless of when and where it was done – in a palace or a hut, in the north or the south, and whether there were eyewitnesses to this deed or not; in the same way, in evil and good there are no insignificant, inconsiderable actions, for great consequences arise from the totality of small causes… ” L. V. Solovyov” The Tale of Khoja Nasreddin “
Yoga recommends paying close attention to what we think about and what we do, as sooner or later the results will come. Here we should remember the Principles of Yoga, which, like guiding threads, lead us through life and help to act so that it becomes better. Applying them in our life, we move up the evolutionary ladder as quickly as possible. The basic law of the Universe is the principle of Freedom. If during life we expand our freedom and at the same time do not violate the freedom of other living beings, we approach the realization of our Higher Self.
If we want to be reborn in a good and bright world, where everyone treats other living beings with kindness and compassion, we can create such a world by our actions. Let us recall the first principle of yoga – “do no harm”. Our thoughts, words and actions should not hurt others unless our duty requires it. Adhering to the first principle, we create the preconditions so that in future we will be treated in the same way, we sow the seeds of positive karma. We can do it just now.
We will return to the same world that we will leave behind, and the level of our spirituality will directly depend on the actions we perform in our current life. We ourselves set the rules according to which we will live. And the more we stick to them, the faster our life will begin to change. It’s never too late to start!
Life must go on
The knowledge of yoga has been passed from generation to generation for centuries. So in order to continue constant spiritual evolution, it is necessary to carry on our line. The birth and education of children is our first priority. Yoga says that we ourselves determine our duty, but the duty to our ancestors is crucial. They gave us the opportunity to be born in human bodies, and now our concern is to help them be born.
By giving them this chance, we create suitable conditions for our future birth. By putting the right values in our children, giving them the opportunity to join the knowledge of yoga, we create the foundation of the future society, the civilization in which spiritual evolution will continue and in the end everyone who wishes will be able to achieve the ultimate goal of yoga – realizing oneself and gaining complete and unlimited Freedom.
The evolution of body and soul goes on simultaneously, it is impossible to separate one from the other. Developing a physical body, being reborn over and over again, we become more and more aware of our Higher Self. The conditions in which we are born again depend on how we live our current life. The choice is always ours and, if we embark on the path of yoga, we must make sure that the knowledge of yoga does not end on us, but will be passed on, and that life continues too.
Evolve with yoga!
Author: Evgeniya Agni
Author of drawings: Svetlana Mauna
Editor: Elena Lakshmi, Maria Gayatri, Olga Belous, Evgeniya Agni, Nasogma Vilyak
Chief editor:: Anastasia Andreichenko
Project curator: Kerigona
Translated by: Larisa Skibina, Tatiana Atishaya, Elena Lakshmi