Life and Absolute Truth at the Atomic Level, Part Two
BY: SUN STAFF
Jivatmas: bacteria typically found on human tongue
Jan 06, 2013 CANADA (SUN) Tiny jivas, coming along for the ride.
In the first segment of this series, we looked at various physiological elements of the human body, photographed using electron micrograph (SEM) technology. The emerging field of nano-technology relies upon the ability to determine the positions of atoms within materials, including the physical body, thus the recent proliferation of electron micrograph imaging. This new field of atomic photo-resolution gives us an opportunity to see, up close and personal, what sastra describes in terms of absolute reality in the cosmic creation.
"Aham bija-pradah pita. Krsna says, "I am the seed-giving father." Whose father? Sarva-yonisu. "In all forms of living entity." Sarva-yonisu kaunteya sambhavanti. Beginning from the microscopic living entities up to the Brahma, the biggest, so Krsna claims that "I am the father of Brahma as well as the microscopic germ."
(Srila Prabhupada's Lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, July 19, 1975, San Francisco)
An in-depth article was recently published in the Malayalam newspaper, MathruBhumi, on the microscopic companions who reside in and on the human body. The tendency, when considering the existence of the jivatma in a material body, is to think in terms of 'one jiva, one body'. But that is not the case. Each individual human body is actually host to countless other living entities -- all themselves unique individual jivas, each on his own trajectory moving towards, or away from their constitutional relationship with the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna.
'Water Bear', a water-borne microbug
Photo: Eye of Science / SPL / Solent
While not all residing on or in the human body, an extraordinary collection of photos of these minute living entities can be found here.
Srila Prabhupada explains that "There are 8,400,000 species of life, and they have got forms. They are sons of God." (Lecture on SB 2.1.5, Nov 8, 1973) The origin of the species is explained in Bhagavad-gita 14.4:
"It should be understood that all species of life, O son of Kuntī, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.
In this verse it is clearly explained that the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Kṛṣṇa, is the original father of all living entities. The living entities are combinations of the material nature and the spiritual nature. Such living entities are seen not only on this planet but on every planet, even on the highest, where Brahmā is situated. Everywhere there are living entities; within the earth there are living entities, even within water and within fire. All these appearances are due to the mother, material nature, and Kṛṣṇa's seed-giving process. The purport is that the material world is impregnated with living entities, who come out in various forms at the time of creation according to their past deeds."
Grain weevils regularly find their way onto the dinnerplate, as do fruit flies (below).
In the following excerpts from the MathruBhumi article, the diversity of species going along for the ride with each human jiva is described in detail:
"In the Belly Button Biodiversity project at the North Carolina State University, a team of scientists studied the contents of 60 human navels in 2011. It turned out that they look like rain forests. They found 2,368 bacterial species, 1,458 of which may be new to science. Some belly buttons had 29 species and some 107. One person harboured a bacterium that had previously been found only in soil from Japan—where he has never been. Another hosted two species that typically thrive in ice caps and thermal vents. Another area that brims with different species is the underarm. Human skin is like a desert says Julia Segre of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Maryland doing the underarm study. 'But as you walk through, you encounter an oasis, which is the inside of your nose,' she said. 'You encounter a stream, which is a moist crease.' The team found 18 different groups of animals/bacteria dwelling in 20 different skin habitats. For instance, bacteria live in naturally oily regions, such as the outside of the nose, and feed on the skin's fats.
There are billions of microscopic creatures that live on you. The New York University School of Medicine identified more than 240 distinct microbes on the forearms of six healthy people. Each person's 'wardrobe' of germs seems to be as unique as his or her sense of style. No two volunteers had all the same microbes on their flesh, though they did have some overlap. The microbes changed as people changed what they used or wore but the number of flora is consistent. 'Flora' is microbiologists' term for microscopic life forms. The study identified 182 distinct species, some of which are new to science. Eight to ten months later they retested four subjects and found 65 additional species.
These are on your skin. But you have lots of intimate microscopic companions inside your body. There are armies of microbes in your digestive tract which are so essential to your survival that you might consider yourself a super-organism—human plus microbes equals you. All of them squabbling and eating and defecating and chattering. Think of yourself as a shell that holds the real people together.
Why real? Because you cannot do without them. These hordes of 'gut bugs' perform digestive duties that the human body cannot. They help us ferment our food, produce vitamins for us, and break down toxic chemicals.
The bacteria primarily cling to the intestinal walls. They hitch rides on chunks of undigested food. According to Dr Jeffrey Gordon of the School of Medicine at Washington University, 'It's a whole planet down there. We are never alone. Our partners, who are sentient beings that live within us, are essential to our survival.'"
Common fruit fly
It is estimated that 500 to 1,000 species of bacteria live in the human gut and a roughly similar number on the skin. The average human body, consisting of about ten trillion cells, has about ten times that number of microorganisms in the gut. The metabolic activity performed by these bacteria is equal to that of a virtual organ, leading to gut bacteria being termed a 'forgotten' organ.
Research suggests that the relationship between the species in our guts and humans is not merely commensal (a non-harmful coexistence), but a mutualistic, symbiotic relationship.
From head to toe, your body is a veritable jungle of flora and fauna. Some are visitors, some are permanent residents. For thousands of years, these animals have called our bodies 'home' — or at least 'food.' From bed bugs to eyelash mites, a jungle of insects and arachnids thrives on and around the human.
Then are the visitors that are invented only to live on the human body. The head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis, lives on the human scalp and nowhere else. The human body louse, Pediculus humanus humanus, looks a lot like the human head louse, but it lays its eggs in the seams of clothing, not on hair shafts.
Photo: Science Photo Library
The eyelash mites live in and around human eyelashes and eyebrow follicles, where they make their meals from oil and dead skin cells. They look like tiny cockroaches. At night, the mites may emerge from the follicle and wriggle across your face as fast as their eight legs will take them—about an inch per hour. Almost every adult human harbours them. The mites have tiny claws, and needle-like mouthparts for eating skin cells. Almost nothing gets them out. If you use eyeliner and mascara, you most definitely have more of them!
We are blissfully oblivious to the microscopic life we carry around with us. Considering what those organisms look like, that may be a good thing. But it also begs the question: how many people are you? And who is making the decisions?"
On many occasions Srila Prabhupada explained the science of creation, life at the atomic level, and the human jiva's inter-relationships with other living entities. In a lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, March 24, 1967, San Francisco, he said:
"Now there are living entities of different grades. There is one living entity, it is very small, microscopic bacteria. It's name is indra. Don't think that bacteria was unknown in the past. The bacterias also were known. In the Vedic literatures they were known. So there is one... They have got different names. Not that simply they say "bacteria." So one bacteria is called indra-gopa. It is very small. It is to be seen by microscope. So Brahma-samhita says that beginning from this indra, the indra-gopa bacteria, up to the Indra... Another Indra is, he is called the heavenly king. His name is also Indra. This bacteria is called indra-gopa, and the other Indra, who is king of the heaven, he is called Indra. So Brahma-samhita says beginning from this Indra up to that Indra... Beginning from that bacteria up to the king of heaven, yas tv indra-gopam athavendram aho sva-karma, everyone is enjoying or suffering according to his own activities. Gopam aho sva-karma-bandhanurupa-phala-bhajanam atanoti. Bandha, the same thing, nibandhanam. According to the knot of fruitive result, everyone is enjoying or suffering. Karmani nirdahati kintu ca bhakti-bhajam. But one who is engaged in Krsna consciousness and devotional service, his karma-nibandhana is cut off. Karmani chindanti.
So this is the benefit of being Krsna conscious, that whatever we are acting in our past life, and according to that we have got this body... Either impious or pious, whatever you have done, that's all right. Don't think that because we are doing some pious activities we shall be out of the bondage of fruitive activity. No. That is also not possible. I have several times explained that if we do pious activity, then the result will be that we shall be able to get our birth in a very nice family, aristocratic family, rich family, pious family, big family. These are the results. Janma. Or janma aisvarya. Janma means high birth. A very rich man, born in a rich family or high family, that means automatically he becomes a rich man. Janmaisvarya-sruta, or somebody becomes very highly or great learned man, sruta. And sri; sri means beauty. Or one becomes very beautiful. So these things are obtained by righteous activities. And similarly by acting impious activities we become very ugly, we become fool, we are born in a very low family or animal family and we become very poor. These are the results of different activities.
Head louse with egg
In a lecture on Srimad Bhagavatam, May 26, 1972, Los Angeles, he gave the following explanation:
"So if one wants to finish this business, accepting... And accepting a material body means to become subjected to the laws of material nature. You get a material body, and if you want that "I shall not die," it is impossible. It is not good. Then you must die. Bhutva bhutva praliyate. You get a material body and again you give it up, and again you get it. This is going on. Therefore, Caitanya Mahaprabhu said,
ei rupe brahmanda bhramite kona bhagyavan jiva
guru-krsna-krpaya paya bhakti-lata-bija
In this way, all the living entities, beginning from Brahma down to the microscopic germ, everyone is rotating in different species of life, in different planets, in different position. Innumerable. As the living entities are innumerable, so varieties of bodies are also innumerable. Not innumerable, they are counted, 8,400,000 species of life. This is Vedic knowledge. Exactly giving the number. Exactly. 8,400,000. It doesn't say 9,000,000, or 500,000. No. Exact.
Jalaja nava-laksani. In the aquatics, there are 900,000 species of life. Now, if you have got your science, now go and see. This is Vedic knowledge. Perfect, without any doubt. Sthavara laksa-vimsati. And the plants and trees, they are 2,000,000 species of life. So, ei rupe brahmanda bhramite. We are transmigrating from one species of life, one species of life, another, another, another, another... They cannot explain why there are so many varieties of life. The varieties of life is there because we have desire, kama. "I want this." "All right, take this." Krsna is immediately prepared. Ye yatha mam prapadyante. "If you want, you can take it." But Krsna says, ultimately, that "You'll never be happy in this way. Therefore you give up this business. Simply surrender unto Me."
For a jiva in the human form of life, the reality of material existence is that at any given time, there are as many creatures living on and inside your body as there are people on the planet Earth. And understanding the science of mantra, we know that when we chant the maha-mantra:
Hare Krsna Hare Krsna Krsna Krsna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare
every jivatma, every species in every inconceivable form of bodily dress that resides in our human shell, is hearing the Holy Names when we chant. No matter how small, from the biggest to the tiniest -- perhaps even smaller than an electron micrograph can see and photograph, whether or not they have eyes, mouth or ears to hear, still they are being impacted by the sound vibration of chanting Krsna's Name. The mercy of the Lord's Holy Name, vibrated by the sincere devotee, might well assist countless living entities to get liberated from whatever low form of life they have fallen down into.
Bhaktivedanta Book Trust
Source: Some photos courtesy Science Photo Library/Tom Jackson/Barcroft Media, under Creative Commons license.