Home » Development of genuine love for nature and her living beings – I

Development of genuine love for nature and her living beings – I

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Part I The soul

To love nature is an activity of the heart rather than of the mind. Books can provide us knowledge, and do so in enough quantity. Spiritual teachings were originally spoken or silently transferred rather than written. If we wish to be more spiritual humans and have deeper understanding and feel the genuine happiness of spirituality, we have to learn to perceive with our heart, the higher heart. It is the higher heart which connects us with the inmost soul, the jīva or ātman

Few know that the physical heart has more nerve cells than muscle cells. And few know that the heart is a more exact perceiver than the mind.1 The mind should be developed to its utmost though – because that is why we are ‘man’ – thinkers. It makes us understand the world around us, and protects us against mistakes. The thinking mind is in a most pronounced way part of our consciousness. There is in our body a continuous interchange of information between the nerve cells of the heart and the brain cells. They cooperate naturally, but it is in vogue in our time to let the mind dominate and push the heart away. I don’t mean the physical heart, not even the emotional or personal loving heart. I mean the true heart in which our inner divinity resides.

Then we should know that the heart is much more than a physical organ alone. If we speak of the heart we refer to the inner, invisible heart rather than to the physical heart alone. If we speak of the ‘higher heart’ we mean the wisdom heart, the refined feeling heart and not the coarse emotional heart. It has been scientifically measured that the ‘energy field’ around the heart stretches out beyond our body perhaps some 50 cm – let alone that which can not be measured by instruments.

Learning to love nature takes more time than reading a book. But the result is a more beautiful and more monumental. Nature is the direct production of the soul, the jīva / monad or divine soul in every living being – without interference of the ignorance and imperfection of the human mind. What I am going to write now are only a few words to lead your awareness in a particular direction, in the direction of Nature.

The key to love for Nature and all beings is the understanding of jīva / monad. Every living being, including yourself, has a jīva. It is better to say that one is a jīva. The jīva (from to Sanskrit jīv, to live), is the divine conscious essence in each and every being, everywhere in Nature, everywhere in the Cosmos. Jīva is as well the Self, the God within, Spiritual Wisdom and the Spiritual Instinct. Life and Consciousness are the Jīva. Life and consciousness are inseparable: where there is life, there is consciousness; where there is consciousness there is life. The jīva in its true nature is characterized by absolute purity and omniscience. It is also the jīva that vibrates, and which, from its omniscience and wisdom develops all beauty and intelligence in Nature. Jīva is pure consciousness.

First there is the pristine, unfettered jīva – soul-life-consciousness itself. The second aspect of the jīva that the jīva involves itself in its pilgrimage into our universe and our world. The third aspect is that the jīva, through its vibration, attracts matter – both subtle and invisible. Matter, or rather Substance is eternal, as is soul. Soul, its vibration (= thought-desire) and matter form a trinity by which the whole of Nature can be explained.

If we, as humans, in our daily awareness, were pure jīva, pure heart, our minds would be infinitely clear, our clairvoyance would see everything, our goodness would be absolute. We would be pure consciousness, without any attribute, stain, hindrance, limitation. Such people do exist, though rarely, and they are fully themselves, they are their true divine selves, stainless.

All other creatures are jīvas – but not yet a jina. A jina is a ‘spiritual conqueror’, a Buddha or Tīrthakara; a jīva or monad is the inner spiritual core of every living being.

Look at an object in living nature – a flower, a tree, a single leaf in the forest or in a garden. Or, close your eyes and imagine a flower, a tree, fruit, or any plant for which you feel some affection, sympathy. It is, in its essence, a jīva, fully alive, omniscient, divine, wise, beautiful, pure.

Part of jīva, or life, is that it can express itself in action and that it can perceive its external environment2 Even after innumerable ages of latency as a non-developing, passive ‘organism’ – such organisms which seem to exist only within themselves, in their own wisdom and beauty, their own awareness, can wake up to external perception and action. Even the simplest jīvas can feel, are aware – in themselves at least, and potentially around them. That is why it is said that the most primitive creatures, just awakening jīvas in our loka or sphere of existence, are one-sensed: they can feel only, and their only sensual awareness, when perceiving the outer world, is touch (physical or subtle) – which in essence and potency contains all other senses.

Once there is a first perception of the outside world by the jīva, there is a vibration – it is the very communication and gathering of information concerning an outside object. It means that the jīva has come to action. It desires to know, to communicate, to work in the outside world. It desires to help all that exists: all beings are there to help each other. None is without another jiva’s influence. The Sanskrit term for action is karma3. As soon as a jīva transcends its state of merely inner awareness, it performs action, karma. And the wisdom of the jīva which guides its action is its spiritual instinct, or spiritual intuition.

As a result of its spirituality and wisdom, by means of karma, it attracts units of invisible substance of the finest nature. These particles together form a ‘body’ around the jīva. The presence and information contained in this ‘body of action’ is rich, extremely rich. It contains the causes of how the jīva wishes to interact with the surrounding world, how it wishes to express itself.

That is why a flower is so beautiful, why Nature is so rich. A flower or tree is innocent compared to animals and humans. Plants and minerals are a direct expression of the beauty and purity and wisdom of the jīva. Looking at Nature helps us to recognize the divine in ourselves. The variety of plants, trees, flowers, and also of minerals is almost infinite. They are all a little different, but have one thing in common: beauty, divinity – call it by whatever name. Being in Nature, seeing her forms, feeling her moods, brings us closer to ourselves, to our inner god or jīva – and that is why we love Nature. If we contemplate the jīva, we recognize it everywhere, inside and outside.

Minerals have feeling as well. Minerals have not yet, as plants have, the awareness and desire to stretch themselves out, to grow towards the sky and the light. But they do grow, and there is hardly a limit to their number of expressions. Therefore, in one sense, minerals are the closest and purest expressions of jīva on earth. Minerals are the purest reflectors – receivers and transmitters, of the divine vibrations of the stars and the planets. That is why minerals can protects us against evil and help us to channel living planetary influences from the cosmos. The best of them represent clarity, transparency, purity and geometry. According to Jain chemistry atoms form, by piling themselves up, geometrical structures together, called, in modern language, molecules. Molecules contain symmetry as well as bipolarity, and thus form the basic structural building blocks in nature. We recognize this geometry everywhere in the mineral kingdom as crystals. We recognize this symmetry also in the plant kingdom: in the arrangement of petals and leaves, in how stems and fruits are built. We recognize it also in the animal kingdom: some, like starfish, have, more or less, symmetries like minerals. Others always keep a basic symmetry between the right and the left halves of their bodies. This symmetry shows the very presence of the knowledge of jīva in each and every being.

Look at flowers, trees, when alone, in the forest, in the garden, in silence, and contemplate: think nothing, just look and feel with your heart – your connection with jīva, and you will recognize and feel love. It comes from both sides, from the jīva of your object of perception and your own jīva. Such love is without desire, without the wish to pick the flower for yourself or for someone else. It is between its soul and your soul. Look deeply, not just superficially: every petal, its colors in all subtle detail and transitions, its veins, the frozen movement in its form, its structure, its connections with other plant organs, pistils, stamina, calyx, stem, and how it grew from ‘nothing’ to a small bud, a bigger bud, an opening bud, a full grown flower, fully expressing in beauty the heart of the plant – that particular plant-soul only. Because no two are exactly the same: not even two plants have precisely the same karma. Each living being has its own individuality, its own uniqueness, is a jīva’s expression of longing and joy.

To make people aware of the similarity between ourselves and plants, one of the most fundamental Jain scriptures – the oldest extant text tells us:

This human body is born, so is this plant.
This human body grows, so does this plant.
This human body is conscious, so is this plant.
This human body withers when damaged, so does this plant.
This human body has food intake, so has this plant.
This human body decays, so does this plant.
This human body is not permanent, nor is this plant.
This human body gets strong with nutrition and weak without it, so does this plant.
This human body undergoes many changes, so does this plant.

– Āchārāṅga Sūtra 1.5.40

Plants and minerals both have feelings. Both plants and minerals have bodies, they have consciousness in their own world, both are the result of action, vibration, desire, of the jīva within. So have you, and so are you.

They have feeling, you have feeling, and when you do what I wrote above, you recognize your kinship, your spirituality, their spirituality, their happiness. How can a man or woman who has ever felt this, ever wish to harm any creature? It is like harming yourself: when you harm yourselves – which is pain telling you to avoid the situation – you harm others; when you harm others, you harm yourself. Not just know it, but feel it as well. The Jains say that plants have the following ten instincts: food instinct, fear instinct, sexual instinct, attachment instinct, the instincts of anger, ego, deceit and greed, direction instinct and time instinct.

Minerals and plants are too pristine, too innocent, too divine, too good, to harm other beings on purpose. People, however, have overshadowed these properties for themselves. The mind creates illusions and delusions which the younger kingdoms can not do.

Really, people have not lost the divine properties, but rather have temporarily overshadowed them with their mind and ideas. Because it is the human duty to become self-conscious divinities in stead of the un-selfconscious divinities that minerals and plants and many invisible beings are. Humans have to learn – it is the wish of their jīva I should say – to know themselves, consciously, and for this they need a mind. A mind that can distinguish, look apparently from a distance, and can choose and try and make so-called errors, and do harm to others. But inherently, humans are as pure and wise as minerals and plants. However only humans can become jinas, self-conscious conquerors of their mind-made illusions and thus tower infinitely above the unselfconscious jīvas inside minerals, elements, plants, animals, nature’s forces and inside innumerable kinds of invisible beings.

The subhuman kingdoms need human sympathy, and must have their right to follow their own paths of pilgrimage, their own cycles of learning, their own ways of expression. Human beings have the duty to respect them for what they are, as the gods respect all jīvas on basis of their supreme knowledge, wisdom and recognition of oneness with them.

There is a difference between minerals and plants. Both are sessile, i.e., they have no desire to move away, they just remain sitting on the same place. Both are one-sensed, i.e. they can feel and therefore possess awareness of the environment. Both are the result of a desire to expression, and both must, therefore, feel a difference between what is desirable and what is undesirable while following the path of expression, called ‘joy’ and ‘pain’ in human terms. Thus, every obstruction is ‘pain’ – and that is what they want to avoid.

Plants want more than minerals. Though they cannot yet move from their place, they move by growth in a desirable and useful direction. To seek contact with the sun, the air, water and the earth they send out, from their core – I mean from their place of germination – an energetic force, a prāṇic or taijasic force, which is akin to electricity. This energetic force-body4 is given direction by the karmas which the jīva attracted earlier. Then matter particles – atoms and molecules, with their electrical plus or minus properties – arrange themselves according to the form from it and branches out. The beginning of it may be seen in the highest minerals, forming branched crystals whenever they can accumulate building materials for their bodies. However, plants express themselves by growing in all directions, and ultimately to express themselves in the perfection of their bloom, more colorful and complex, more consciously formed and smelling stronger and more subtle than minerals. The fact that plants jīvas can experience pain and have the inherent desire to continue their existence in the same body or species is shown by the fact that in some cases they have developed spines and thorns to prevent themselves from being eaten – especially in arid climates, where the continuous building of new bodies is hampered by lack of water. Plants, through the intelligence of the jīva, can, over generations, by ‘reading’ karma, adjust to almost any and every circumstance. Moreover the intelligence of the jīva is apparently able to adjust plant bodies in such a way that plants can serve others beyond themselves – which is called altruism – i.e. they provide fruits and leaves and nuts for others. Something deeply hidden within the plants must be aware of the benefit of this greater service! Just as with humans.

It had been scientifically found nowadays that even micro-organisms in the seas and on land serve the constancy of the earth’s atmosphere and meteorology. The earth and all its other live forms depend on that – but we can not expect the ‘personal intelligence’ (if it has any) of a micro-organism to decide what is good for the planet as a whole. This intelligence resides however in their jīvas, because these are omniscient by nature.

These ideas completely scatter the basis of western evolution theory to pieces. In the latter system ‘all beings are there to kill each other.’ In stead of ‘… help each other.’ If the modern western view is true, why does nature need so many species at all, in stead of bringing forth just one all-perfect and all-powerful species? In the Jain and the Theosophic view, development takes place from within, from within the living, intelligent spirit, into innumerable forms, colors, sounds, smells, moods, and is based on altruism. The western view is that development is the result of a defensive but blind attitude of adjustment to chance environmental changes – not of conscious stretching out towards the environment, but by killing and selecting to death all those who are not fit enough to survive the relentless battle for existence. Suffering then, is the useless automatic outcome of continuous failure, and psychologically, also of fear of failure.

Plants, like minerals, contain the medical properties of the stars. Mineral souls can be seen as transmitters of cosmic influences. Plants are more specific in the field of prāṇa and the fine bodies connected with prāṇa, and therefore are more directly helpful to the human vital body which pervades the physical. Look at a stone laying next to a plant, and feel it without stretching out your hand or touching it. Feel its life, however subtle and almost imperceptible. Do the same with the plant next to it, and feel the difference. Do the same with other plants and compare their feelings; and with animals. Compare the feeling in your own arm or finger with the feeling in a stem or branch or twig of a tree. You feel the difference and the commonness? Every different living being – minerals, plants, trees, animals, humans, and the invisible moods in nature – have there own feeling which can be perceived by human consciousness – and most of them you will love. There is infinite, subtle diversity in the souls and each soul’s expression.

Some plants turn almost ‘animal.’ Some direct their flowers in a horizontal direction, like animals direct themselves horizontally. They interact with insects – which means that the plant’s jīvas are already aware on that level. Some even take forms, colors and smells like insects (of the opposite gender), they know how to attract insects with smell and color, and to reward them with their sweet nectar. Some plants catch insects and eat them. All this is a sign of further development. Even though plants do not have the other four sense organs, all these are apparently enfolded in their sense of touch. Is the development upwards or downwards? Is each jīva following the great downward serpent of Time in Nature of materiality, or the upward one of spirituality? It is the cycle of Necessity they follow, the Cycle of their inmost Desire.

All human beings, all invisible beings, minerals, plants, animals, low and high divinities are essentially akin: they form one kinship or brother/ sisterhood as large as the universe. All beings are there to help each other, and can do so, and indeed do so.

Look at Nature in this way: it is the expression of the deepest of the deepest that one can recognize within oneself, and therefore we can recognize our very goal of unlimited happiness, wisdom and consciousness that each of us will ultimately reach. Once we will be jinas – full-blown, self-conscious jīvas, shining self-consciously in all beauty and wisdom.

-Rudi Jansma

To be continued: Part II: Animals

  1. See Harrod Buhner: The Secret Teachings of Plants; The Intelligence of the Heart in the Direct Perception of Nature, Rochester, Vermont, 2004; www.InnerTraditions.com []
  2. this is the second aspect of the above-mentioned trinity. []
  3. derived from kṛ, to do or to make. []
  4. tejas śarīra, i.e fiery or electric (prāṇic-etheric) body []