International Forum for NeoVedantins

Evolutionary Basis

The process of evolution shows us that the matter organizes itself in such a fashion that more and more Reality (Consciousness) is expressed through it. Up to the human level this is quite clearly obvious. However, there develops a tendency at this stage to think that the human race is superior to and cut off from other species, and, as if Nature has been created for its enjoyment, plunder, and benefit alone. The human being tends to forget that he is just one link in the chain of evolution, and therefore, higher evolutionary trends are not only probable but are bound to follow in future. This evolution will not be organic, but psycho-spiritual instead.

The confusion is created due to our inability to understand or predict the course of evolutionary progress. We fail to see the better evolved human beings, simply because we are bound by our sense perception to see the progress from materialistic point of view only. We fail to perceive that simplicity, denial of sense enjoyment, renunciation, and discrimination are necessary preconditions to transcend the human limitations of selfish genetic structure and to reach that state of evolution where Reality -Consciousness- is expressed in its finer and full glory. The man then becomes multi-centric instead of egocentric. The universal consciousness tends to manifest through the higher evolved central nervous system.

Throughout the history, persons manifesting such qualities of higher evolved human beings -we may call them God-Man species- are born on this earth. Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, Krishna, Prophet Mohammed, Guru Nanak, and in recent past Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, and many others all over the world, are a few examples of such species. Many more are forgotten in the flow of time.

The question is why should we bother? Let the nature take its own course of evolving this 'better human being'; such was and is the case of evolution of other species. No monkey or ape has made any conscious attempt to become a man; it was an accident or nature's play at the most. Should we agree?

Brain Plasticity

However, now, the natural evolution has created a brain structure where intelligence has reached the stage by which human being can control and guide the course of his own evolution. There is a possibility that such evolution may bring about changes in the brain structure by adding one or more lobes to the brain, or developing new connections within the cerebral cortex.

Stretching our argument to its logical conclusion, we can postulate that the brain can develop new centres and connections to control all the lower centres of lust, hunger, sensory perception, special senses, autonomic nervous system including control of heart and respiratory functions, etc. Due to this control, every activity of and mind is temporarily suspended to arrive at a stage where limiting adjutants are no more active, and the consciousness is perceived as it really is -Universal, Unbound and Free. This is what we call as reaching the state of nirvikalpa samadhi and reaching the domain of 'Thousand Petal Lotus' or 'Sahasrara' in Tantra terminology. This new centre is capable of expressing the consciousness of universal love and solidarity.

The need of intense sadhana, as seen in the life of Sri Ramakrishna, thus becomes a necessity if we have to evolve further and farther. More and more dormant neurons will be recruited or new ones will be created to achieve this.

The brain has the capacity for continuously changing its structure, and ultimately its function, throughout a lifetime. This capacity, known as brain plasticity, allows the brain to respond to environmental changes or to changes within the organism itself. The brain is altered not only by sensory experience but also by hormones and other chemicals, including those produced by the brain.

The change is most likely to be in the number, or in the efficiency, of connections between neurons. Various endogenous factors in the brain play an important role in stimulating the growth of new connections. These factors may be the hormones or neurotransmitters. Other factors may be produced only at certain times such as puberty or pregnancy. This reflects the unique plasticity of the brain at critical life periods. The expression of trophic factors may also be influenced by Yoga and related spiritual discipline.

Origin of Value System

Just as the lower centres in the nervous system are suppressed, controlled, and influenced by the higher centres, the newly developed centres in the God-man will influence the present day brain functions.

"Scientists believe they have discovered a 'God module' in the brain which could be responsible for man's evolutionary instinct to believe in religion. A study of epileptics who have known to have profoundly spiritual experiences has located a circuit of nerves in the front portion of the brain that appears to become electrically active when they think about God. Initial results suggest that the phenomenon of religious belief is 'hard wired' into the brain. According to the team of neuroscientists from the University of California at San Diego the seizure causes an over-stimulation of the nerves in a part of the brain dubbed as the "God module". "There may be dedicated neural machinery in the temporal lobes concerned with religion This may have evolved to impose order and stability on society," the team reported.

The results indicate that whether a person believes in a religion or even in God may depend on how enhanced is this part of the brain's electrical circuitry, the scientists said. The study involved comparing epileptic patients with normal people and a group who said they were intensely religious. Electrical monitors on their skin- a standard test for activity in the brain's temporal lobes- showed that the epileptics and the deeply religious displayed a similar response when showed words invoking spiritual beliefs."

Some functions would be suppressed and others added. Just as with the development of neo-cortex in human beings, which was a leap over the monkeys and apes, language, art, music, and mathematics were added to human consciousness; similarly, this new cortical development will add qualities of universal love, brotherhood, renunciation, and discrimination to the future human consciousness. This will become psychology of the future man, just as the narrow selfish and reflex life pattern of lower animals was replaced with intelligence and reason. The human qualities are employed to do the things unimaginable: like development of science and technology, similarly, the new intelligence will make it possible where, with renunciation and discrimination, it would be quite natural to live in a state of mystic meditation and altered state of consciousness: samadhi.

In the life of Sri Ramakrishna this development of reflex progression was applicable to the functions of the mind as well. This unique quality of reflex reaction of the mind to certain stimuli like concentration, will, and effort was natural to him. Therefore we see such a state of losing outward consciousness and entering the 'realm of bliss' in his life. We may by conscious strenuous efforts, to some extent, reach to that level of achievement, but not as naturally as the reflex development that we see in the life of Sri Ramakrishna. One can postulate that the constitution of Sri Ramakrishna on the ladder of evolution was such that it was not possible for him not to go into the states we have narrated. His crossing the bounds of narrow body-mind consciousness and entering the 'universal consciousness' was a natural phenomenon towards which the human evolution is destined to progress in the centuries to come.
C S Shah
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