How do we understand scriptural stories in which mountains are conscious?
Transcribed by: Bhaktin Raji Nachiappan
Question: How do we understand scriptural stories in which mountains are conscious?
Answer: Normally, there is a soul and the soul possess a body. The body itself undergoes changes and that is the way of normal functioning.
In the Vedic understanding of nature, there are presiding deities for specific places. For example, the Moon is a physical object. However, there is also Somadev, the god of Moon. There is also the Sun which is a physical object and there is Suryadev or Vivasvan who is a person and god of Sun. Now for god of Moon, is the physical object Moon also his body? No. God of Moon has his own body, but there is a connection. Moon god is the ruler of the physical object Moon. It is like an appointed post. Moon god may have a specific name, but he is primarily known as the Moon god. This connection is same as the king will have with his kingdom. Since the connection is not a human elected but a divinely ordained appointment, the connection is much stronger. The name of the person also becomes related with the object or the area where they are ruling.
The other example is that of sacred rivers. Sometimes, we refer to Ganga as being embodied. We see her appearing for example as mother of Bhishmadeva. She is considered both to be a feminine person as well as the water body. As far I have seen in the scriptures, Ganga is not an appointed post. It is not that someone holds the post of Ganga for this yuga and someone else for the next. That is how it works in the case of the gods (e.g. Moon god, Sun god etc.). What exactly is the connection between the person Ganga and the water body Ganga, there is not a clear elaboration in the scriptures. Ganga is certainly a sacred river that is present in the higher levels of existence also. Her lifespan could be very long. For one day of Brahma, Ganga is present. When the next day of Brahma comes, the same Ganga comes back, but there is no clear elaboration in the scriptures. I have not seen a reference for Ganga as a post which is occupied by different beings in different yugas.
With respect to mountains, the connection could be either like the Ganga or the moon god. Certain mountains, like Govardhan, are personified. We hear of Govaradhan’s presence in the spiritual world and that Govardhan is non-different from Krishna. Therefore, Govardhan is not a post. There is an intrinsic connection between Govardhan, the mountain, and Govardhan, the person, who is again the manifestation of Krishna himself.
For the other mountains, is it that there is a soul who is both the predominating deity and who is associated with the mountain throughout the lifespan of the mountain? There are different levels of connection. For a mosquito they occupy a particular body for a few hours or days, humans occupy for certain decades and some occupy for even longer. Where natural objects are associated with certain personalities, in my understanding, it is for their existence. As long as they exist, a particular personality associates with a mountain. The association is not exactly embodiment because they still have their own personalities and their body, but it not just the jurisdiction of the kingdom. It is a closer connection. It is somewhat in between embodiment and administration as a king. Whenever there are description of mountains talking, it is not that mountains are themselves talking. Rather, it is the deity that is speaking. Therefore, the mountain is not exactly the body of the person, the mountain is more the kshetra or the jurisdiction for the person.
Hence, I wouldn’t exactly say that the mountains are conscious, in the sense that the mountains are the body through which the consciousness is manifesting. However, because these are higher beings, they may have certain powers by which they may come to know anything that happens anywhere. It is not exactly that the mountain is the body of the person.
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