Isn’t the claim that the soul is the source of energy in the body disproved by the bodily need of food?

by October 15, 2011

Question: We need food for energy. So isn’t the claim that the soul is the source of energy in the body disproved by everyday experience?

Answer: In the Bhagavad-gita (18.34) Lord Krishna explains the relationship between the soul and the body with an insightful analogy: “As the sun illuminates the universe, so does the soul illuminate the body by consciousness.” The sun’s illumination is necessary for vegetation to grow on the earth, as is the supply of water. For the growth of the vegetation, the sunlight is the remote cause and the water, the immediate cause. An uninformed gardener may think that the plant needs water alone, because that is what he or she has to provide. But a wise gardener knows that sunlight plays an equally indispensable role. Similarly, for bodily energy, food is the immediate cause and the soul, the remote cause. An uninformed person may think that the body needs food alone, because that is what he or she has to provide. But a wise person knows that food alone is not enough for energy; food cannot energize a dead person.

Nor can food – or the matter that constitutes it – account for the essential characteristic of life, consciousness: the ability to be aware of and to experience our surroundings, and to respond with thoughts, feelings, intentions and actions. For example, a sweet is made of matter and so is the tongue. The sweet does not experience itself as delicious. But when we place the sweet on our tongue, we experience it as delicious. Who is experiencing that taste? The tongue? Or some part of the brain? But both the tongue and the brain are essentially made of the same material components as the sweet: molecules, atoms, subatomic particles, quantum wave patterns. Nothing in these material components even remotely resembles consciousness. Modern science has utterly failed to even theoretically explain how matter can experience matter, leave alone experimentally demonstrate it. That’s why in the book, Biology Today, Nobel Laureate chemist Albert Szent-Gyorgyi admitted, “In my search for the secret of life, I ended up with atoms and electrons, which have no life at all. Somewhere along the line, life ran out through my fingers. So, in my old age, I am now retracing my steps….”

Why should we too have to retrace our steps in old age? Let us instead be bold and adventurous enough to become spiritual detectives. If we investigate the mystery of life by the process of philosophical contemplation and devotional meditation outlined in the Gita, all one of us can experientially verify our real identities as souls.


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