Rocks Are Alive

Krishna Sistla

Recently a question arose, What defines a Living being? What is Alive and What is not Alive? During this discussion I took the position that Rocks are full of life. Put differently, my position was that all manifest reality is alive. This is a rather controversial and confusing position. Especially in light of the fact that “life” is not a well-defined term. There are various definitions of life. Often the definition depends on the context. A biologist has a strict and scientifically testable definition of life. However in the context of Vedanta, I will argue that the definition of life is expanded to a universal being.

First, it is important to ground the discussion in Upanishads. This needs be our pramana (basis).


Jāgaritasthāno bahihprajñah saptānga
ekonavimśatimukhah sthūlabhug vaiśvānarah
prathamah pādah.


Agnir mūrdhā, cakṣhuṣhī candra-sūryau, diśah śrotre, vāk vivṛitāsca vedāh;
vāyuh prānah, hṛidayam viśvamasya, pādbhyām pṛithivī; Eṣha sarvabhūtāntarātmā.

This is the same virat purusha described in Purusha suktam. Vaisvanara is Viswa + Nara, implying cosmic man or cosmic purusa. Virat is the name given to consciousness as animating the physical universe.

Just as we have consciousness animating our physical body, there is a Consciousness animating the physical universe. This vast cosmos; with all its stellar and planetary systems, with all its milky ways, with all its space-time and causal laws, is the physical cosmos, and this is animated by a Consciousness, just as our bodies are animated. This animating Consciousness is the antaryāmin, so called because of His being immanent in all things, hidden behind all things, secretly present in everything, whether conscious or unconscious. For this virātpuruṣha, there is no difference between living being and dead matter. There is no such thing as inorganic substance and biological stuff, the distinctions that scientists do make, because inanimate matter, the vegetable kingdom, the animal world and the human species are distinctions made on account of the observation of degrees in the manifestation of Reality, by us, as human beings. No such distinction obtains to the virāt Himself.

So the question is, why can we not see this dynamic living being everywhere? The credit for our lack of awareness goes to Maya. Maya is the sum total of perceptual barrier between the “seer” and the “seen”. This means maya includes the external world and the internal perceptual elements like the brain, mind, intellect and ego. Evolution’s goal is survival, not accuracy. Over eons, living beings developed perceptual capabilities that aid survival. Conceptual distinctions between mobile and immobile elements of reality aid our survival. They are not fundamental aspects of reality, they are simply short cuts that enable us to deal with survival.

When we view a rock as inert, we are viewing the rock through the tamasic lens. In this lens, rock is an element of universe. It is immobile and inert. It is a useful tool helpful for building structures etc. In this perspective, the true nature of rock is fully veiled.

When we view a rock as full of dynamic energy, we are viewing the rock through the rajasic lens. Inside a rock, there are trillions of electrons buzzing at light speed around a zillion atoms. Inside the rock, pools of molecules are constantly aligning themselves with changes in the magnetic fields around it. Inside the rock, there are trillions of constantly vibrating chemical bonds, absorbing and releasing heat. On its surface, rock molecules supply minerals to living beings. Many fungi, algae and even some trees cannot live without these minerals. Rocks hold up giant mountains like Mt.Everest and tiny man-made structures like the pyramid of Giza. Now you start seeing the rock as an active participant of the universe. In this perspective, the nature of rock is seen as energy. This is the rajasic view point.

When we view a rock as existence itself, we are viewing the rock through the saatvic lens. Rock simply becomes a continuum of “existence” attribute perceived everywhere. It is indistinguishable from the rest of existence. Its existence is self revealed by the rock consciousness and your consciousness being one and not two separate. In this perspective, rock is Brahman, just as you are!

To summarize, our perception of the rock says more about us than the nature of the rock. The infinite enlivens all, it is only due to limits of our perception that we cannot see life everywhere.

Hari Om


The Beautiful Lord

Geetha Nathan


कस्तूरीतिलकं ललाटपटले वक्षःस्थले कौस्तुभं
नासाग्रे नवमौक्तिकं करतले वेणुं करे कङ्कणम् ।
सर्वाङ्गे हरिचन्दनं सुललितं कण्ठे  मुक्तावलिं
गोपस्त्री परिवेष्टितो विजयते गोपाल चूडामणिः ॥

Kastuurii-Tilakam Lalaatta-Pattale Vakssah-Sthale Kaustubham
Naasa-Agre Nava-Mauktikam Karatale Vennum Kare Kangkannam |
Sarva-Angge Haricandanam Sulalitam Kanntthe Ca Muktaavalim
Gopa-Strii Parivessttito Vijayate Gopaala Cuuddaamannih ||

Mind- A bundle of Vasanas

Geetha Nathan

The mind -intellect equipment of an individual functions through his body in the world outside, per the traits chalked out upon it by the actions performed in its earlier lives. These channels of thinking cut across the fields of the mind and determine the direction of its thoughts and the texture of its actions in the present. These lacerations on the subtle body are called “SINS” in Vedanta or as the “DIRT OF THE WITHIN“. These impurities are removed and the existing ulcers are healed through selfless action.

But even while rejecting the wrong negative tendencies of the mind, the individual will have to fill it with new patterns of constructive divine tendencies. These meritorious vasanas(PUNYA) can also provide severe obstruction for a man of meditation.

During the still moments of peace in the depth of his depths, when he exposes his mind to the thrilled atmosphere of its vibrant silence, the Noble Traits also get completely wiped off.

A state of mind which is rendered completely impressionless(Vasanaless) is the end of mind. Where mind has ended, there EGO has also ended, having THEN REACHED THE HIGHEST GOAL or gained Self-Rediscovery.

Pujya gurudev constantly reminds us to constantly strive and make the best of out of the opportunity presented in this life.

Right now, this very life is our LAST BIRTH, if we have a taste to meditate, an urge to seek, a daring to live the Life Divine!!!

-Swami Chinmayananda, The Holy Geeta