A small bird lay on the ground in front of me, without life. It was still and beautiful and empty. It returned me to a question I was reflecting on earlier - how is life lived?
From the perspective of bhakti yoga, life is lived long before our time in this present body and long after it is over. The life energy, life force, is consciousness and named in sanskrit as ‘atma’, the soul. It is our essence. When I gently picked up the dead bird there was no movement. No consciousness, no awareness. Though clearly there was no life in this bird body, it was the body itself that was dead, not the soul. The soul had moved on, packed up and left the body behind.
Consciousness is the symptom of the presence of the soul. This includes anything that is alive - plant, animals, humans. Even the tiniest little creatures that live within us. Life is everywhere. This planet is teeming with life and yes, there is life on other planets. Even life on the sun planet, which is impossible to understand from an ordinary human point of view, but the teachings of the Vedas make good arguments in support of it. The notion that our little planet is the only one that has life is as crazy as the arrogant musings of one human claiming supremacy over another.
But I digress. Life is lived, in this world, in multiple forms and multiple ways. It is housed temporarily in bodies that are born, grow, have offspring, dwindle and die. This is called the cycle of birth and death, and we are all in it together. Life, as in the soul, is not created because, by nature, life is eternal. We are eternally alive, but the material body that forms itself around us is created. The body is alive as long as the soul is present there, and is as dead as that little bird body once the soul leaves.
The workings of the material world are really quite mystical when we think about how we grow and change, how we move and eat and think and create. We seldom reflect on it but we would be wise to do so. We are alive, we are the soul, pushed and pulled by the material body and the world that surrounds us. We would do well to step aside regularly, put the speed of life on pause, and reflect on life - both material and spiritual. Only then can we expand our horizons beyond the pressures and demands of our small life, and keep the door to our soul wide open. For it is only through that door that we can move beyond the limits of this body, and return to our original and complete self.