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How is the descent of Mankind from Vaivaswata Manu reconciled with the existence of Hominid ancestors of Homo Sapiens by current interpreters of the sacred texts?

Did the descendants of Manu de-evolve into beings like the Australopithecus and then evolve again into Homo Sapiens?

I am concerned only with the Humans and not any of the other species(e.g. Amoeba, Fish etc.)

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  • It's an easy fix. The last common ancestor of all life on Earth is descended from earlier ancient humans. It took time for life to re-evolve into humans. Aug 27, 2021 at 20:27
  • I doubt that theory of evolution will hold in context of shastras. Darwin's evolution is driven by external factors, while everything in dharmik world is driven by Aatman. Humans, like many other species were born out of erstwhile rishis and prajapatis. One core conflict point between the two is the direction of the flow. Former says species are growing more robust, while latter says we were good before and now growing worse.
    – sbharti
    Aug 27, 2021 at 21:03
  • Of course fossils provide good understanding of evolution, but I wouldn't give it category of strong evidence because it's so easy for organic material to get dissolved, plus with time more discovery happens and changes all theories.
    – sbharti
    Aug 27, 2021 at 21:06
  • @sbharti Shastras won't say we were good before now we are bad. Afaik we are in Dwapara yuga heading towards Sathya Yuga.
    – user22253
    Aug 28, 2021 at 11:26
  • @chhatra it is reconcilable. In my understanding Prajapathis and Manus are all energy beings, not necessarily physical. They ecist at mystical and energy level and influence evolution and various events. Physically speaking evolution is true, but its guided by these beings.
    – user22253
    Aug 28, 2021 at 11:28

2 Answers 2

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What is the need to reconcile the Manu and Satarupa story mentioned in shastras with the evolution as understood by modern science? The authority of shastra does not extend to matters that can be explained by science.

Acharya Shankara, for example, in his Gita Bhasya says:

The appeal to the infallibility of the Vedic injunction is misconceived. The infallibility in question refers only to the unseen forces or apurva, and is admissible only in regards to matters not confined to the sphere of direct perceptions, etc ... Even a hundred statements of sruti to the effect that fire is cold and non-luminous won't prove valid. If it does make such a statement, its import will have to be interpreted differently. Otherwise, validity won't attach to it. Nothing in conflict with the means of valid cognition or with its own statements may be imputed to sruti.

REF: Srimad Bhagavad Gita Bhasya 18.66 of Sri Sankaracarya translation by Dr. A. G. Krishna Warrier, p. 629.

So how do we understand the Manu story?

It is to be understood in a figurative sense.

Tales of Imagination

Brahma tells Narada "This brief account of the manifestation of the Lord is what is called the Bhagavata. The Supreme Being Himself gave the knowledge of it to me. I have also given to you a brief account of the Lord's glories and attributes. You elucidate it with the help of your imaginative power in a way that will generate devotion in the mind of men for Sri Hari who is the soul and support of all."

Bhagavata Purana II.8.51-52

The Supreme Lord is said to be fond of such figurative expositions of spiritual truth through stories. (For it is understandable even to common men while an abstract philosophical statement can be understood only by a very few.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana IV.28.65

In times past I learnt this wonderful allegory, which teaches the truth of the Atman indirectly in a story form.

Srimad Bhagavata Purana IV.29.85

what is the Manu story trying to say?

Let us take a look at the Manu story as described in one of the Puranas.

The first half of the body of Brahma envelopes heaven and stays there. The woman Satarupa [1], born out of the other half performed difficult penance for hundred thousand years and obtained a man of brilliant renown as her husband.

[1] The Purana speaks of Brahma splitting his body into two parts: the male and female, viz. Manu and Satarupa, Cf. Matsya 3-31.

Linga Purana I.70.269-270

That man is at the outset called Manu the self-born. Seventy sets of four yugas constitute his manvantara.

Linga Purana I.70.271

That man obtained as his wife Satarupa who was not born of a womb. He sported with her. Hence, she is called Rati (pleasure).

Linga Purana I.70.272

The Puranas are saying that all men and women are children of Brahman. This is also stated in Svetasvatara Upanishad which calls all of mankind as amrtasya putra or Immortal sons (children).

yuje vam brahma purvyam namobhir visloka etu pathy eva sureh

srnvantu visve amrtasya putra a ye dhamani divyanii tasthuh

I join your ancient prayer with adoration. Let my verse go forth like the path of the sun. May all the sons of the Immortal listen, even those who have reached their heavenly abodes.

Svetasvatara Upanishad II.5

This message is repeated in a variety of ways.

You are the primordial deity with no origin. You are Prakrti, you are Purusa, the protector of the world. You are Visnu the lord of the universe. You are Brahma, with the universe for your body. You are the first principle. O Visnu, you alone are the greatest luminary. You are the supreme soul, O lord of Sri, you are the greatest abode. O lord of the earth, Rudra enveloped by tamas originated from your fury. Brahma, the creator of the universe enveloped by rajas was born of your grace. The lord enveloped by sattva, was born of your grace. O Visnu, O Rudra, you are identical with the universe.

Linga Purana I.36.4-8

The entire mankind, in fact the entire universe, is tightly linked with Brahman. All of humanity are children of Immortal Bliss i.e. Brahman. Reading the Manu and Satarupa story literally will be entirely missing the point. Let scientists refine their understanding of evolution. It will have no effect on Shastras.

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Probably the simplest way to explain it is we are descended from the last universal common anscestor, which was, in turn, descended from older humans and the long evolution of the human line is getting back to the original state.

One thing to realise about Hinduism is there is no actual reference point to ascertain where we are in time (other we are probably before the end of Sāvarṇi Manvantara, as the prophecies for it have not occurred). Basically, all dating attempts rely on assuming we are the first repetition of a cyclic event like an astrological arrangement. There is no reason why we could not be any more repetitions after than one.

One apparent problem is there is not enough time for this to happen as a Manvantara appears to be 306,720,000 years. Thankfully the Viṣṇu Purāṇa says something really odd and left deliberately ambiguous.

Oh best of sages, fifteen twinklings of the eye make a Kāṣṭhā; thirty Kāṣṭhās, one Kalā; and thirty Kalās, one Muhūrtta[3]. Thirty Muhūrttas constitute a day and night of mortals: thirty such days make a month, divided into two half-months: six months form an Ayana (the period of the sun's progress north or south of the ecliptic): and two Ayanas compose a year. The southern Ayana is a night, and the northern a day of the gods. Twelve thousand divine years, each composed of (three hundred and sixty) such days, constitute the period of the four Yugas, or ages. They are thus distributed: the Krita age has four thousand divine years; the Tretā three thousand; the Dvāpara two thousand; and the Kali age one thousand: so those acquainted with antiquity have declared. The period that precedes a Yuga is called a Sandhyā, and it is of as many hundred years as there are thousands in the Yuga: and the period that follows a Yuga, termed the Sandhyānsa, is of similar duration. The interval between the Sandhyā and the Sandhyānsa is the Yuga, denominated Krita, Tretā, &c. The Krita, Tretā, Dvāpara, and Kali, constitute a great age, or aggregate of four ages: a thousand such aggregates are a day of Brahmā, and fourteen Menus reign within that term. Hear the division of time which they measure[4].

Seven Ṛṣis, certain (secondary) divinities, Indra, Manu, and the kings his sons, are created and perish at one period[5]; and the interval, called a Manvantara, is equal to seventy-one times the number of years contained in the four Yugas, with some additional years: this is the duration of the Manu, the (attendant) divinities, and the rest, which is equal to 852.000 divine years, or to 306.720.000 years of mortals, independent of the additional period[6]. Fourteen times this period constitutes a Brāhma day, that is, a day of Brahmā; the term (Brāhma) being the derivative form. At the end of this day a dissolution of the universe occurs, when all the three worlds, earth, and the regions of space, are consumed with fire. The dwellers of Maharloka (the region inhabited by the saints who survive the world), distressed by the heat, repair then to Janaloka (the region of holy men after their decease). When the-three worlds are but one mighty ocean, Brahmā, who is one with Nārāyaṇa, satiate with the demolition of the universe, sleeps upon his serpent-bed—contemplated, the lotus born, by the ascetic inhabitants of the Janaloka—for a night of equal duration with his day; at the close of which he creates anew. Of such days and nights is a year of Brahmā composed; and a hundred such years constitute his whole life[7]. One Parārddha[8], or half his existence, has expired, terminating with the Mahā Kalpa[9] called Pādma. The Kalpa (or day of Brahmā) termed Vārāha is the first of the second period of Brahmā's existence.

From the bold, it is clear a Manvantara is actually longer than 306,720,000 years. Now, while it might be weird to have "some additional years," to be longer than the rest of the time, this can be rationalised as the scripture leaving stuff out because humans don't want to hear the actual answer. This rationale explains why the out of nowhere addition of "some additional years," is there and explains a lot of other things in Hinduism like why scripture constantly quotes people without endorsing them for a long time and why it randomly adds clearly important information without elaborating on it. Thus, it is not much of a stretch to use the additional years to explain evolution.

https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/vishnu-purana-wilson/d/doc115938.html#note-e-58586

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindu_units_of_time

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