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bandhu-s & jantu-s

From: R.Balaji (lucasfie_at_md2.vsnl.net.in)
Date: Thu Jun 04 1998 - 22:43:23 PDT

srimathe lakshmi-nrsimha parabrahmane namaha
sri vedanta gurave namaha

Dear "bhAgavatOttamA-s",   
          
Loren Eisely, an English scientist, (in a briliiant essay in the '94
edition of the "Britannica") refers to the human species as the "COSMIC
ORPHAN". 

We must analyse and explain the term a bit to see how it fits into our
ongoing discussions on Swami Desikan's phrase,"bandhumakhilasya
janto-ho".

I crave your patience for a moment, please.

>From a physicist's or biologist's view-point, all of vast, vacant Space
seems a terribly lonely, terribly barren, terribly cold place....

When he gazes into the starlit skies he sees grandeur and mystery; he
sees great forces of natural law at work; he sees the marvellous grace
and the perfect harmony amongst heavenly spheres as they all assemble
and dance across the floor of the gaunt, silent firmament... and he
wonders too at the secrets lying unfurled beyond dark galactic
caverns....

The physicist sees all that and much more indeed in the skies... and
yet, quite ironically, he sees no "Life"!

To the physicist Planet Earth is the lone and only sanctuary in all of
vast, vacant Universe where this precious thing we call "Life" survives
...and still thrives. It is the one and only known place in all of the
solar galaxy where a human being can hope to survive, live and prosper.

Man, the poor creature ("jantu"), thus has simply no place else to go! 

Every other place around him in the universe is beyond reach or knowing.
Every other place, in fact, is nothing but dark void or nameless
mystery.

The biologist,like Loren Eisely, therefore is bound to ask: When and
wherefore did "Life" and, more notably, when did the human species first
come to inhabit earthly sanctuary --- this little oasis called the
"world" tossing about in the middle of nowhere in space amidst the stark
emptiness of a cosmic desert? 

How did man come to inhabit this cozy little haven?

Did he chance upon it himself, many aeons ago perhaps, in the course of
trudging through a wearisome journey across a cosmic wasteland?

Did he wander out in some distant past in search of a home for himself
braving the rigours of a cosmic wilderness?
 
Or did some benign cosmic Being, bearing within its loins the unborn
seed of 'Life', and hastily seeking out some safe haven decide to
abandon its hapless infant to its fate on this earth...? 

No, given the utter vulnerability of the species, our biologist
speculates, it is unlikely Man undertook his cosmic journey all by
himself. In some extremely distant past therefore, "Life" -- as we know
it today -- must have surely been first vested by some strange Force of
Vitality into an amorphous, atomic uni-cellular being called matter
("prakriti", in Vedic parlance).....

And thus, most likely (or so the biologist believes), did "Life" begin
life as a "cosmic orphan".. an infant of Eternity abandoned to its
forlorn fate in the sanctuary of Time...    

Soon thereafter did unfold (our biologist speculates) the great
Darwinian story of the Origin of Species... of Man's advent and ascent
through the millenia of evolution. We know it to be a long and torturous
story indeed, with many plots and sub-plots of triumph and failure, in
which both Man's glory and pathos equally come to the fore: 'glory' in
that he triumphed against odds to become truly the 'Crown of Creation';
and 'pathos' in that Man, in spite of being the highest evolved
creature, still very much remained a grievously flawed, extremely
imperfect and in many ways a failed piece of nature's work. 

To the biologist, thus, Man is a lovely piece of un-finished art..
lovely to behold, yes... but utterly un-finished in its workmanship, and
utterly incomplete in its essential spirit...

As un-finished,in fact, as an abject orphan.    
                   ************************** 

>From the view-point of science, biology or physics therefore, Man is a
lost and "orphaned" species that understands precious little about its
own cosmic predicament and purpose -- and knowing even far less about
what to do about it. It is a predicament summed up in the 3 painful,
poignant questions every orphan in the world would surely ask itself:

           Who am I ?
           Where do I come from?
           Where am I going ? 
 
The World outside our world is an unfriendly place, black and empty,
inscrutable and intimidating... exactly as the ordinary world itself
often appears to a little, lost orphan.

Our brief journey through life on earth too is essentially a lonely one;
in a metaphysical sense it is an experience of sheer desolation. There
are no fellow-travellers along the way ... no "bandhu-s" to show us the
Way or to ease it, to lighten the tedium of journey or to show us where
it might all end and where we might arrive safely, and purposefully, at
a destination....

>From the viewpoint of science, we are, to use Loren Eisely's
unforgettable phrase, the "cosmic orphans" of creation...
              *************************************

We must ask ourselves now: but how does the foregoing relate to Swami
Desikan's equally unforgettable opening line in the 4th verse of his
"kAmAsikhAshtakam":

           "bandhumakhilasya janto-ho
             bandhura paryanka bandha ramaniyam
           vishama-vilochana meeDay
             vegavati pulina narsimham"!!

Let's explore further in the next post.

srimathe srivan satagopa sri narayana yatindra mahadesikaya namaha
sudarshan