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The Vedic Model for Evolution
Darwin speculated some type of evolution which involves one type of body changing into another. In fact, there is evolution, not of the body, but of the soul, the driver of the body. The scriptures explain that the external body that we see is just like a vehicle for the soul. Just as a man according to his purchasing ability may purchase a cycle, scooter, car or plane, in the same way the soul occupies a body according to his good or bad deeds. Thus the soul goes from one body to another life after life until he achieves complete purification.
The soul is an irreducible quantum of consciousness, which cannot be cut into pieces by weapons, burned by fire, moistened by water or dried by air. Thus the soul is a non-material entity who belongs to a different world, the spiritual world. In fact, the soul is not like dead unconscious matter, rather the soul is a personality endowed with consciousness and the qualities of sac-cid-ananda (meaning full of eternity, knowledge and bliss). A deeper understanding of the soul can be found in the fourth chapter of this book.
It is said in the Padma Pur ana:
asitim caturas caiva laksam tan jiva-jatisu bhramadbhih purusaih prapyam manusyam janma-paryayat
tad apy aphalatam jatah tesam atmabhimaninam varakanam anasritya govinda-caran-dvayam
"One attains the human form of life after transmigrating through 8, 400, 000 species of life by the process of gradual evolution. The human form of life is spoiled for those conceited fools who do not take shelter of the lotus feet of Govinda (Krishna)."
It is said in the Brahma Vaivarta Purana:
jala-ja nava-laksani sthavara laksa-vimsati
krmaya rudra-sankhyakah paksinam dasa-laksani
pasavas trimsa-laksani manusya catur-laksani
"There are 900, 000 species of aquatic life, 2, 000, 000 species of plants and trees, 1, 100, 000 species of insects, 1, 000, 000 species of bird life, 3, 000, 000 species of beasts and 400, 000 species of human life."
The word 'species' is used in the Vedas in a sense different from biology. A species is not categorized according to its superficial morphological appearance. A cat and a tiger may look alike and be treated as belonging to the same family; but the Vedas categorize species according to their guna or qualities. There are three qualities: sattva guna (mode of goodness), rajo guna (mode of passion) and tamo guna (mode of ignorance). These three are mixed together in various permutations and combinations to arrive at 8.4 million species with varied consciousness.The Genesis account in Bible gives a basic and simple understanding of how the creation has sprung up from God. However, Shrimad Bhagavatam gives a detailed account of the origin of the universe (3rd canto), the geometry of the universe (5th canto), the creation of the various species like serpents, aquatics, ferocious animals, mosquitoes, creepers, trees, rakshasas, evil spirits etc. (6th canto).
From the Vedas, one can understand not only how life started, but also the more important fact that the body is always dead and soul gives life to the body. The soul can never die; he is eternal, unchangeable, full of knowledge and bliss. The soul comes from the spiritual sky, from another dimension, into this material world due to misuse of his free will. And here he wanders in various species of life. The soul undergoes varieties of sufferings in different bodies until he comes to his senses by reviving his God consciousness or Krishna consciousness.Similar to the soul, God is also a soul, but He is the supreme soul, who is the master of all souls. In fact, the spiritual world - the kingdom of God - is the real world where there are innumerable loving exchanges between infinite souls and one supreme God. That is our original home.
Although the faithless have been rejecting these sublime truths to be too fantastic to accept, those, who have faithfully heard the scriptures given by God and lived by His instructions, have swiftly achieved deeper insight into this wisdom and have achieved practical realization and love for God.That is why when the founder acharya of ISKCON, Srila Prabhupada, went to the West and presented the profound Vedic wisdom to the intelligent community there, hundreds of graduates and doctarates from leading universities like Cornell, Massachusettes, Illinois etc., embraced this knowledge wholeheartedly and surrendered their lives to practising and preaching it. Today ISKCON has millions of followers all over the world. Majority of them coming from educated background and are able to appreciate the presence of soul, God and their divine relationship. They are leading a pure and happy life in knowledge.This knowledge is thus a science and can be practically understood and realised. We invite all open-minded individuals to pursue it further and thus achieve the highest meaning and happiness in their lives.