Renaming the Earth’s Geological Time Scale: An Alternative Spiritual Description of Our Earth

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 3 Jun 2019

Dr Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

29 May 2019 – Geologists and paleontologists have estimated that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. This has been estimated on the basis of various events that have occurred over the past — rock formations, presence of some primitive species of living beings, mass extinctions of some animals both on land and in water and discovery of various fossils that have been found and categorised. On the basis of the geological time scale scientists have designated time scales as early, mid or late depending on the events that have occurred over time.

The time scale of earth’s history is described in terms of eons, which are divided into eras that again are further subdivided into periods, epochs and ages.

Scientists agree that officially we are living in the Holocene Epoch which started about 11,700 years ago. But many scientists strongly assert that this epoch is over and the present epoch should be called Anthropocene Epoch because there is a huge and increasing impact of human beings on our planet. Already, as noted by the science magazine Nature, a working group of scientists has submitted a proposal to the International Commission on Stratigraphy to agree to name the present epoch as the Anthropocene Epoch. It is expected that this proposal will soon be accepted by the commission.

The human impact on the planet has taken several dimensions. On the positive side: scientific, agricultural, educational-linguistic, philosophical, cultural, geographical, transports, etc. Various means of fast and comfortable travel — trains, cars, buses, aircraft have been invented.

From a negative view point: wars, colonisation, slavery, discovery and advancement of weapons–dynamite, grenades, warships, nuclear bombs, missiles and other means of inflicting injury and victimization–have also occurred.

While not contesting the scientists’ proposal to rename the present epoch as Anthropocene because of the above factors that demonstrate the footprint of people in clear terms, I also wish to present an alternate description of our condition. This may be termed as Indian spiritual Advaita principle based on the Vedic philosophy. Let me explain.

The Indian philosophic system recognises the differences between a material and a spiritual world. The former comprises the eco systems of various lands, the differences of languages, cultures, religions in addition to the diversities of people, kings and rulers of differing attitudes, values and abilities, both for good and evil. There are some scientists, philosophers, grammarians, cultural icons, writers, musicians and others who can be described as good for the society.

Others are evil–rulers such as Hitler who committed the Holocaust, religious fanatics who have killed and brutalised people belonging to other faiths, political leaders who have colonised other peoples promoting slavery and servitude, and multinational corporation that have over exploited the earth’s resources for profts, resulting in pollution, global warming and climate change.

The spiritual realm talks of spiritual equality of all people, irrespective of their community or country or religion that is relevant in the material world. Spiritually, people are equal as they are related to the cosmos by means of Atman or the innermost self that links us with God or the Brahman. It also inculcates an attitude of detachment or non-attachment to material objects. The Indian epic Bhagwad Gita promotes positive attitudes and values and a spirit of non-attachment. In fact, Mahatma Gandhi called his commentary on the Gita, Anasakti Yoga (Yoga of non-attachment).

Although Gita and Advaita urge non-attachment and renunciation, this does not mean that we must shirk our responsibility in the real (temporal) world. One must do one’s duty. A family man must look after the welfare of his family. A king or political leader, presidents or prime ministers must serve the needs of their peoples without prejudice or favour to any community. They are spiritually and duty bound to treat all people equally keeping the varied needs of people in mind. They are also forbidden spiritually to attack another country’s people or over exploit their resources for economic gain.

According to the German philosopher Max Mueller, Advaita teaches us that the entire phenomenal world is real both objectively and subjectively and not emptiness as some Buddhists claim. This therefore suggests that we are duty bound to help maintain it harmoniously and peacefully from a spiritual standpoint.

The Advaita principles recognise the infirmities of the material world, but urge us to transcend over these limitations which will then promote equality, justice and harmony among all living beings. Another important concept is the idea of freedom that Advaita promotes in the spiritual world. Swami Vivekananda, the well known Indian religious guru also emphasised the importance of freedom in both the material and spiritual worlds.

From the above simple explanation of the Vedic philosophy of Advaita, scholars and religious seers have demonstrated its relevance both individually and socially.

In conclusion, we support the renaming of our age Anthropocene because only enlightened individuals can experience the importance and relevance of the Advaita philosophy that promotes peace, harmony, equality and freedom of all peoples.

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Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com


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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 3 Jun 2019.

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