Life: can you give a definition for the word “life”? It’s a word that is often used but usually not fully understood. While modern science has defined the symptoms of life, it has not been able to give a definition for life itself. In this lecture given at the University of The Philippines, Jagad Guru questions the assumptions about life that form the foundation of our modern society.

Who Are You? What Is Life?

Video Transcript

Jagad Guru:  A materialist holds to the concept, theory that there is only one energy that exists, and that is matter.  And so when he comes to questions such as, “What is consciousness?  What is awareness?  What is life?” he concludes that it also must have some chemical basis.  It’s either chemical in substance or somehow it’s an offspring of the complex chemical arrangements that are there in the brain and in the rest of the body.  So basically, in materialistic civilization, we’ve come to the conclusion that life itself is really nothing more than this offspring of matter.

We are taught from the very first science classes that we have, that life began so many millions and millions, hundreds and millions of years ago, in some cosmic soup where these different material elements existed in a very simple form.  That gradually these simple material elements, these simple chemicals, gradually for some reason unknown – although it denies the law of thermodynamics that the matter by itself tends to become less complex – somehow matter went against this second law of thermodynamics and became increasingly more complicated in structure.  And gradually as it became more complicated in structure, it finally came to the point where it started to wiggle. The one cell organism was accidentally created out of this combination of non-living elements. Somehow, life started by accident from the combination of chemicals.  Somehow or other, they’re saying, that somehow or other, life sprung from this cosmic soup where there was no life before.  That material elements were present and somehow these material elements combined and created life.  And from this first living organism, all living organisms have come, increasing gradually in complexity of our bodily structures.

So this is the foundation of our modern civilization.  This is the so-called scientific foundation of our modern civilization.  But we have a couple of questions that we want to put forward here, as we were saying we can’t go into this in as much depth as we would like to.  But we would like to pose a couple of questions here that you might want to consider and it is this:  The first thing that nobody asks, unfortunately, when we’re told that life began by this complex combination of molecules, one thing that we never ask is the question, “My dear professor, my dear teacher, what exactly do you mean by the word ‘life’?”

The fact is, the materialist has never defined ‘life’. He has no definition for the word ‘life’, and he actually has no definition therefore for the word ‘death’.  He doesn’t know what life is. If you ask the materialist, “What is life?” You can tell me what water is. You know, there’s an example here, that if you look in a dictionary, like Webster’s dictionary or something, you’ll find the definition of water. And you’ll find that it reads as follows: “Water is the colorless, transparent liquid occurring on earth as rivers, lakes, oceans, etc. and falling from the clouds as rain.  It is chemically a compound of hydrogen and oxygen (H2O), and under laboratory conditions it freezes hard, forming ice at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and boils forming steam at 212 degrees Fahrenheit, etc.”

And here’s how they define life: “That property of plants and animals which makes it possible for them to take in food, get energy from the food, grow, adapt themselves to their surroundings, and reproduce their own kind.  It is the quality that distinguishes the living animal or plant from inorganic matter or dead organism.”

They’ve never defined it.  Supposedly life is chemical in essence.  Now if life is either chemical in essence or if it is a creation of chemicals, which means it must be of some chemical essence.  If they’re saying that only chemicals, only matter exists, then life should have some material composition.  If it doesn’t, then it doesn’t exist by their definitions since only matter exists.  Yet you will not find in any dictionary a chemical definition.  You’ll not find a definition of life.  You’ll only find them describing that ‘life is that property of plants and animals which makes it different’.  This is not a definition.  It’s saying, ‘life is that property of living things, plants and animals’. So you’re saying that ‘life is that property of life.  Life is that property which living things have’.  What is it?  All they can do is beat around the bush.  They cannot answer the question, “What is life?”

Of course, some of them admit this.  There’s an interesting statement here.  This is found in a textbook which is used in universities. “How then can we define life?  To attempt an easy definition is to enter a quagmire from which many a writer has emerged considerably more muddy than when he began.  Some try to define it in terms of function, pointing to such supposedly unique characteristics as growth, reproduction or irritability, but they inevitably find themselves apologizing for the many exceptions that appear to cross the fuzzy boundary between the worlds of the living and the non-living.  Perhaps it might be better to simply admit that complex concepts like life and love, do not lend themselves to neat and orderly textbook definitions.”

But they don’t.  They say, “Still (since we’ve got to write this text book and make believe we know what life is) still, in keeping with our automobile analogy, and the mechanistic view of life, we can regard a living organism in terms of complex chemical reactions, taking place at a specific level of organization of matter.”

In other words, “We don’t know what life is. But let’s make believe we know what it is so that we can continue with our discussion about it being analogous to an automobile, a machine.”  The mechanists really see us as nothing more than machines.  That there’s really nothing different between an automobile and a human being, except that a human being is a more complex machine than an automobile. That’s the only difference a materialist sees.  He does not see life as even an element, an existing thing, a reality in itself.  All he sees life is, is that it’s something that he doesn’t understand but which he promises and hopes that someday in the future he’ll be able to give some chemical explanation for. In the meantime, they tell us that they already know what it is.

I mean, if somebody tells me that life was created a certain amount of time ago, some billions and millions, and millions, and million of years ago by the combination of chemicals – if they tell me this then I take it for granted that they know what it is that was created. If somebody says that life was created ten thousand million years ago then I take it for granted that they know what they are talking about when they use the word ‘life’. They know what they mean when they say something was created.  Now when anybody says anything, if they don’t understand the words in the sentence that they’re using, if they don’t know the meaning of the words in their sentence, then what meaning does the sentence have? What value does it have? If a person therefore says, “Life was created ten thousand million years ago,” but they don’t have a definition for the word ‘life’, then what is the value of their sentence?  What is the value of it?  It’s useless.  It’s meaningless.

So the first problem that the materialist has in his attempt to explain the creation of life from chemicals is that he doesn’t know what life is.  He can’t define life.  So this is the point which unfortunately very few people bring up.  There’s a lot of discussion about the mathematical improbabilities of life being created from the chance combination of chemicals. There’s a lot of discussion. Those who are not in agreement with the materialists usually base their arguments on this point: that mathematically it’s extremely improbable that life could be created from matter.  It’s improbable that life could be created from matter in only that short a period of time or something.

But our point is a little different here.  It’s very different.  Our point is that there’s absolutely no evidence:  number one, that the material scientists even know what life is, what to speak of their being able to claim that it’s been created by matter in the past or that they will create it in their laboratories in the future.  And secondly, since there is no evidence whatsoever that life can be or ever has been created from the combination of chemicals then it’s not correct to say, “It’s improbable that life would ever be so created from chemicals.” It’s not correct to say that. To say that something’s improbable means that it is possible.  I can say that it’s improbable for something to happen only if it’s possible for that to happen. But since there’s no evidence, there’s no evidence whatsoever that life is created from chemicals, it’s wrong to say it’s improbable.  It has to be said that it’s impossible.  There is no evidence that life has ever been created from matter either in the laboratories of the scientists who have all the chemicals in the world at their disposal.  They have all the chemicals available, why can’t they create life in their test tubes?  Why can’t they create life?  They have not created life.  There is no evidence anywhere that life comes from matter.  So if there’s no evidence that life can come from matter or that life comes from matter then there’s no question of it being improbable.  It’s not even possible.  There’s no evidence that it’s even possible.  There’s no use splitting hairs over whether or not it’s improbable that it happened in the past by accident.  So this is something you might want to consider.

Now what we would like to put forward here is the point of view that in fact, life is a distinct element from matter.  That life is itself an energy that’s completely different from matter.  It is not an offspring of matter.  Life is life.  Matter is matter.  And these two distinct energies in the material world as we see it sometimes interact and sometimes they do not.

From this point of view, a life particle, a particle of life, sometimes called a spirit soul or the atma or a soul, this spark of life, this life particle, we are proposing, is in fact, a distinct energy.  And that there are innumerable such life particles.  There are countless numbers of such life particles.  And that the characteristic of this life particle is life, existence, eternality, and awareness.  These are the natural characteristics of the life particle or spirit soul.  Just like you can’t speak of water without also referring to wetness. You can’t have water without wetness.  Similarly, when we speak of the life particle or the spirit soul we cannot separate it from awareness. We cannot separate it from existence and consciousness.

So in this world, what we are seeing before us, in our daily lives, what we see with our eyes is matter.  Because our material eyes are made of matter we see matter.  But we see two types of matter.  Not different kinds of matter but we see matter under two different circumstances.

In the first circumstance we’re looking at matter which is in the presence of a life particle.  In other words, there’s a living entity within that material energy. And sometimes we see matter when there is no living entity contained or within that material energy, within that matter.  For example, you’re looking at me.  You see my material body but you also are seeing life.  In fact, there is life and matter combined.  Now, over here on the floor or the pot plant or part of the seat or the back of the chair – that’s matter by itself.  Now this back of this chair here used to be matter in the presence of life.  It’s called wood.  It used to be called a tree.  But do you notice that although there are flowers here, they’re not growing, you see.  We don’t want our television audience to think these are flowers growing out of here.  There’s nothing growing here.  It used to grow.

There’s certain characteristics, in other words, of matter in the presence of life and matter by itself.  When matter’s by itself, it doesn’t grow.  There is no reproduction.  The chemical compounds break down to a thermodynamically more stable state.  These are certain characteristics.  That’s why you don’t find this tree growing anymore because there is no life present.

Now if I, the living being, the spark of life, the conscious self within this body leave this body then all that would be here is the matter and immediately the body will start to decompose.  I won’t be talking to you anymore and you’ll all go, “My God! What happened?”

What would you do right now if I left my body right here?  Wow, big deal right?  It’ll be in the paper in the morning, it’s so important.  Right?  Or if one of you guys left your body right now.  It couldn’t walk out on its own, you see.  We’d have to carry it out,.  “Hey, somebody left their body here.  What are we going to do with it?  What are we going to do?”  It’s a big deal.  Call that white thing that has a red thing on the top, the ambulance.  Every time one of these bodies falls over and the guy leaves it or something, they call those things and they cart it off.  There’s a great difference between a body with the particle of life present and a body without that particle of life present.

Now our point at the Science of Identity Institute, our point is not a new one.  It’s an ancient point and it is this: that the self, the person, (going back to our question of who are we) we’re not in fact this material body but we are in fact, the life particle.  We are each an individual, independent life particle.  And we are temporarily in a material vehicle.  We are temporarily using matter and as long as we are present in matter then there are certain symptoms manifested through that matter.

But you know that this matter that right now is part of my hand or my face, it wasn’t here, you know, a year ago.  It was making up something else.  You know, I ate food, it’s called metabolism.  This is one of the other important characteristics of matter in the presence of a living being, matter in the presence of a life particle – metabolism.  There’s this constant interchange of matter.  But it’s just dead matter unless the life particle is there.  The body is just dead matter.  The life particle is present and therefore it’s manifesting the symptoms of the presence of life.

So this is the most important point to understand especially for those students, those of you students who are involved in environmental studies.  One thing you should notice is the difference between the living and the non-living. You have to understand this if you’re going to understand how to care for the environment.

Now the materialist believes and teaches that we are just matter.  That I am matter.  I am the body.  And some materialists, as we’ve discussed before, they say we don’t really exist. They say that life and consciousness, the self, and the belief that “I exist” and the awareness that “I exist” is really just an illusion.

Francis Crick, I’m sure you all know Francis Crick since you all study genetics and so on at this university.  You must know of the Nobel prize winner, Mr. Crick.  He teaches that in fact, that experience that we have, that each of has that “I exist” is an illusion. It’s really just an illusion.  He says that there is perception but there is no perceiver.  He says there is no self within the body perceiving.

Anyone who denies his own existence and denies the existence of others claiming that it’s simply an illusion created by the complex brain structure, that the spontaneous firing of brain cells somehow creates this illusion that “I exist,” that person must be considered to be the greatest fool.

If such a person as Mr. Crick is asked a question, “Who is in the illusion that he exists?” As Crick says, he says, “It’s too bad we… it’s very hard not to fall into this illusion but there must be some good reason why we have it.”  But he doesn’t ask the question, “Who has the illusion that he exists?  Who is deluded?”  In other words, whenever you talk about somebody having an illusion, then you’re talking about some entity who exists who must be getting deluded or who must be deluded.  If there in no one existing, then who could be having the illusion?

Those who try to deny their own existence or deny the existence of other selves, they are really in an impossible position.  But how did they get there?  They got there because they believe, they declare, they teach that there’s only one energy – matter.  And they cannot explain self-awareness.  They cannot explain the existence of the self from their position of teaching, believing that there is only one energy, matter.  In other words, they have no material explanation for the self.

This is the first part of a series of lectures filmed during Jagad Guru’s lecture at University of the Philippines. Part Two is available to watch here Yogic View of Life, God & Religion