by Jayaram V
Hinduism believes in the concept of evolution of life on
earth. Although it is not the same as the one known to
modern science, in many ways and in a very fundamental sense,
it is not much different from the latter.
Modern science speaks of physical evolution and the
evolution of nervous system, starting with simple life forms
and proceeding to more organized and complex beings with well
developed and self-regulating biological and mental mechanisms.
Man is so far the known and the ultimate product of this very
complex and continuous process.
Hinduism, on the other hands, places its emphasis on the
mental and spiritual evolution of life on earth. It speaks of
evolution of the beings from a state of ignorance to a state of
illumination through progressive and successive intermediate
states of partial ignorance and partial illumination. It
alludes to a process that proceeds in three primary stages.
The first stage consists of formation, development and
strengthening of individual centers of consciousness in
physical bodies that are mostly and vastly very inert and
unconscious and driven by the force of blind instinct and
The second stage consists of the consolidation and
concretization of these personalities into individual egos
which act under their own individual and independent wills
powered by the energy of desires, and the instinct of survival,
undergoing repeated births and deaths, as an ongoing process of
further evolution towards the next phase.
The third phase consists of development of a new center of
discriminating awareness (parisilanatmaka buddhi) that leads to
the gradual surrender and ultimate dissolution of the ego into
Truth, Consciousness and Bliss.
The emphasis here is more on the evolution of the subtle
bodies rather than on the gross body. Science heavily rests its
speculations upon the latter making it the central theme of its
attention. But Hinduism goes a step further and tries to
explain a more comprehensive and holistic vision of the same
Science is yet to come to terms with the theory that man can
consciously and willingly direct his evolution through the
exercise of his will, intelligence and choice, where as in
Hinduism there is no such hesitancy or bias. Here evolution is
very much a product of individual effort and can be consciously
willed and controlled under the guidance of an enlightened
According to science, evolution is a process directed by
Nature for its own ends, which tries to maintain balance in the
physical world and evolve forms that are progressively
competent and mutually self-destructive. The evolving beings
are at the best experimental models in its gigantic laboratory.
Here the individual being has little freedom to determine the
evolutionary course of himself or of his species, helplessly
enacting the drama authored and directed by the forces of
In contrast, Hinduism explains the process of evolution from
a wider perspective. It views the whole problem on an universal
scale, going beyond the visible and the manifest forms of life
to understand the mechanism that is involved in the creation of
not just the earth or its beings, but of the entire universe in
which exist different planes of reality and consciousness.
Thus the vision that we come across in the scriptures is
much wider and comprehensive. Here Nature is also a powerful
agent, playing a very dominant role, but only so long as the
individual being is willing to let himself remain under its
influence. When wisdom and insight prevail, he realizes his
folly and tries to liberate himself from the bonds of Nature.
Through his will and sincere efforts, he succeeds in
overcoming his limitations, which Nature so far imposed upon
him, and achieves liberation from its overwhelming and deluding
Thus Hinduism interprets the process of evolution both from
within and without, both as a mechanism of Nature and a product
of self-effort, with a hidden agenda which is the ultimate
liberation of the soul. This objective is accomplished through
inner transformation and purification of the mind and the body.
The transformation begins with a new awareness of ones
personality and a new sense of responsibility,that tries to
separate itself from the external confusion and the surface
reality. It leads to the gradual withdrawal of oneself from the
external world and a journey into oneself. The next step
involves elimination of all forms of desires, egoistic effort
and impure thoughts, preferably under the guidance of an
advanced soul. In the third stage one has to make desireless
effort through detachment, devotion and self-surrender to
realize the Highest Truth.
From unreality towards reality, from darkness towards light
and from death to deathlessness: these are the chief aims of
the terrestrial evolution of life in this world. It primary
objective is liberation but not bondage, immortality but not
survival. It is a movement away from primeval Nature, and
towards light and boundlessness. Its aim is not to render the
being into fit a instrument under the control of Nature, or
into a better player in the game of survival, but to establish
divinity in the being so that it can transcend Nature, both
within and without and attain immortality.
Evolution is the expression of each individual being seeking
to escape from the cycle of births and deaths and regain its
lost glory. The process is neither instantaneous nor uniform,
neither uniformly progressive nor easily predictable. There is
no one particular way. There is no particular result. The paths
are many and the methods as well as the outcomes.
There are no
definitives here, except those sanctioned by the laws of
creation. Intuitive awareness may help us to predict the
possibilities and explore the opportunities. But the
limitations are always there. The difficulties on the path are
innumerable. Only an enlightened soul can guide us safely to
cross the mirage of life. So long as the Jiva is in love with
its own chains and its distracting dreams, desires and faulty
actions man has no escape and no hope from his own illusions.
The laws of evolution are applicable to all beings both in
the mortal worlds, and also in the worlds of devas and the
demons, for they too are a part of the creative and
evolutionary process. The plants animals and the worlds of mere
forms too evolve in their own limited ways towards light and
But in this play of God, man has certain rare advantages. In
the chain of evolution he stands at an important threshold.
Rare and precious indeed the mortal life for it is attained
after innumerable births and deaths and which sometimes gods
also envy for the opportunities it offers to the humans not
only to surpass themselves but even the gods to reach world of
The pitfalls on the way are many. By his wrong actions a
being may falter and fall temporarily on this path and descend
down into lower worlds, taking birth as an animal or under a
misfortune, as an inanimate object such as a stone, a lake, a
tree or a plant. He may also degenerate into a demon or an evil
But that is not the end. All is not lost. The being so
devolved, can ascend again into higher life forms through a
process of self-correction, penance and penitence, performing
good deeds according to the laws of karma and adhering to the
path of righteousness as prescribed in the scriptures.
It is the proper exercise of buddhi which is the key. It is
by knowing the reality from unreality, truth from falsehood,
right action from wrong action, right knowledge from wrong
knowledge, that one can ensure ones own progress towards the
Divine. None can help him in this process except himself and
the Divine. Man is his own enemy and he is his own friend in
this stupendous effort.
Those who fail to discriminate properly have to relearn the
process till they become adepts. But in no case they should
willingly let themselves lose control and fall prey to the evil
passions. The Isa Upanishad (I.1.3) warns the students of
Brahman in no uncertain terms, "Demonic worlds enveloped in
blinding darkness they enter after death those who are the
slayer of the self." So does Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita,
(Chapter 9, 14 and 16).
Shri Aurobindo was one of the modern seers of Hinduism who
saw the vision of supermen evolving out of present race of men
and laying foundation for a new future for the world to emerge.
With the awareness of an awakened soul he declared that man can
hasten his own evolution from the state of an ignorant
consciousness struck in an animal body struggling to express
itself to the state of a supramental consciousness manifesting
itself in a divine and immortal body of light and bliss.
"To know, possess and be the divine being in an animal and
egoistic consciousness, to convert our twilit or obscure
physical mentality into the plenary supramental illumination.-
this is offered to us as the manifestation of God in matter and
the goal of Nature in her terrestrial evolution," he wrote.
Thus it can be concluded Hinduism believes in the
retrogressive process of the descent of the Universal Self and
the evolutionary process of its ascent. Each being that comes
into existence into the manifest worlds is in a state of
evolution whose ultimate aim would be its liberation from
ignorance, darkness and mortality and movement towards
knowledge, light and immortality through a process of inner
purification and illumination. The Divine descends in order to
Creation and destruction are the two sides of the same
reality. Creation begins with destruction and in creation there
is already a seed of the destruction to come. The same is true
in case of destruction, which begins with creation and contains
in it a seed of the creation that is yet to manifest.
If birth of an individual is creation, his death is
destruction. It is through this repeated process of creation
and destruction that the individual being evolves gradually in
series and stages. The One indivisible Self, divides Himself
into many, in order to become One again. "In a word godhead; to
remake ourselves in the divine image."
This in brief is the story of evolution in Hinduism.
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