Living Stones

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    Danakeli Dasi

    In “Sāńkhya & Science” I read the following:
    “The matter that makes up what we sense as a stone is in fact information manifested from a subtle body of senses and mind that can experience, which is manifested from an unconscious realm of causes, which cover the consciousness of a living being. The difference between a human and a stone is not that one has a mind and consciousness and the other doesn’t. The difference is that the mind and senses in the stone are not developed to the point of demonstrating the abilities of consciousness.”
    Why is a stone being singled out as having a soul (albeit extremely covered), but other natural objects like a log of wood or a body of water are not? I have no problem accepting that manmade materials/objects like nylon or plastic are not animate, but why are some natural objects (at least apparently stone) designated as living? And which stones? Perhaps only some?
    In SB 3.29.28, it says, “Living entities are superior to inanimate objects, and among them, living entities who display life symptoms are better.”
    Srila Prabhupada comments, “The first division is made between dead, stonelike matter and the living organism. A living organism is *sometimes* manifested even in stone. Experience shows that *some* hills and mountains grow. This is due to the presence of the soul within that stone.”
    Seems Prabhupada only designates stones in the form of mountains, & even then only “some,” as being living entities who do not display life symptoms.
    Why are there souls having a ‘stone experience’ but not a metal or water or wood experience? And how can one ascertain whether something is inanimate matter or a living entity expressing no symptoms of life (& thus appearing inanimate)?

    Ashish Dalela

    In the Ramayana, there is the narration of a very beautiful lady Ahalya who is married to sage Gautama. She is said to have been crafted by Lord Brahma as the epitome of beauty. Sage Gautama was old compared to her. Indra was enticed by her beauty and seduces her after taking the form of sage Gautama. There are different narrations of this episode. Some say that Ahalya was aware that it was Indra, but let it happen. Some say that Indra first approached her and she refused intercourse. Later Indra took the form of sage Gautama and seduced her. Regardless of which the case is, from sage Gautama’s viewpoint, she should have known who it was (guessing what this means — a woman would know the difference between the love of different men).

    In any case, sage Gautama curses both Indra and Ahalya; the latter to become a stone. He also says that when Lord Rama passes by this place and puts His foot on you (the stone), you will be revived back into your original form. This is what happens, as described in Ramayana.

    So, stones can be living too. Apart from this narration, Parvati is said to be the daughter of Himvana or Himalaya, indicating that these mountains are living entities. Similarly, when Lord Rama raises a bow to dry the ocean (after begging him to give way for his army to no avail), the ocean appears as a person and begs Lord Rama for mercy. I have discussed this topic at length in the book Cosmic Theogony in which trees, forests, mountains, rivers, etc. are all living entities, and they have been worshipped and are worshipped as deities and demigods. There is a class of primitive religion that worships nature, different from the European pagans. The Yakshas for instance are said to be protectors of forests and mountains. There is an extensive role for Yakshas in Buddhism, as they stand guard to the temples. So, this is the background for that statement. It is not just mountains, but rivers, forests, seas, etc. are all living entities.

    Now you can ask: Does it mean my chair and table are alive? They may be, they may not be. In Vastu Shastra when a house is constructed, a puja is performed to invite a living entity to protect the house. After that puja, the house becomes a living entity. The house is constructed in an appropriate manner so as to be a comfortable living place for the invited living entity. This special type of living entity is called vastu-purusha or the enjoyer of the house.

    It doesn’t mean everything is living, but many times what we think is non-living can be living. You can make anything non-living into a living thing. There is a process by which this can be done. The living entity is invited to live in a certain form. Deities are examples of this. It is not just stone. It is the personification of God. So, you can say it is a stone or metal, but it is God because He has been invited to live in that stone or metal or wood or something else.

    In many yajna the priest lays out nine small mounds of rice and invites different deities to come and be present in the yajna. After the yajna they are asked to return back. So, these rice mounds are non-living before the yajna, living during the yajna, and non-living after the yajna.

    Danakeli Dasi

    Thank you! Very satisfying answer. I look forward to reading my copy of Cosmic Theogony eventually.

    Danakeli Dasi

    Some confirmation from Srila Prabhupada…
    “Regarding your questions, matter originally is spirit and when spirit is not distinctly understood, that is matter. Just like a tree is also a manifestation of spirit soul, but the consciousness is covered. When the tree is cut, it does not protest. But the moving entity has stronger consciousness than the tree. There is consciousness in the tree though. Also consciousness in a dormant state is matter; consciousness in a completely developed state is spirit. Matter is the symbol of undeveloped consciousness.”
    [Letter to: Madhava das, 1976]

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