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#3890 - Wednesday, May 12, 2010 - Editor: Jerry Katz
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How does a plant grow without an observer?
Q. If I left a plant in my backyard and there is no one to look at it for three weeks, then how we can explain one inch of growth in a three-week time lapse? My question is: If the idealism theory of advaita has some validity, then why after three weeks [with no sentient being perceiving it] does the plant grow one inch? How can we explain the change [its growth] in the time lapse when there was not an observer or perceiver present? If we follow the idealist notion that 'to exist is to be perceived', then how we can explain the one-inch grow?
A. This is one of those confusion of levels problems. From the point of view of absolute reality, there is only brahman no plant and no observer. At the level of empirical reality, there is a separate plant and a separate observer and they are born, grow and die quite independently (although if you leave it for three weeks without watering, you might just bear some moral responsibility for its death!).
Since there is only the non-dual brahman, even at the empirical level, it follows that all attempts to explain things must be wrong in the final analysis. Explanations are interim only, to provide some satisfaction for the inquisitive mind. The interim explanation that is usually employed by traditional advaita is that objects have an independent existence because they are created by Ishvara. So the plant continues to grow, even though there might not be any observers. There arent many plants that you can actually see growing anyway.
Another way of looking at it is that the plant and its soil substrate are simply name and form of brahman. Food from the soil brahman is simply moving into the plant brahman, which therefore grows. Just as water moves from ocean to wave as it crashes onto the shore.
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