Modern science provides a simplified materialistic approach to life by attributing it to a agglomeration of cells, tissues, organs, energy, and information. This perspective of life fails to fully explain the processes of birth and death, and throws up questions like how life is conceived by a foetus; what happens at the time of death; is a person conscious while under coma? While some of these questions are difficult to explain using our logical thinking, our Upanishads and the Bhagwad Gita have provided some perspectives and viewpoints. As per Upanishads, life is not a random outcome of conjugation of sperm and ovum, but there is a grand design and a purpose of existence behind all manifestations of life. With this viewpoint, the meaning of life and its experiences need a different outlook, which is worth exploring.
There are four constituents of our physical world — the mineral world of all inert objects; the plant kingdom; the animal kingdom, and finally, the human world. All worldly manifestations have three distinct components of the physical body, mind and intellect. The physical body is the grossest, while mind and intellect are subtler parts of our manifestation. Functionally, physical body consists of sense organs called jnana indriyas and action organs known as karma indriyas. The physical body acts as an interface to the external world by receiving inputs and responding to various stimuli from the environment. However, between these two entities of inputs and outputs, a lot of internal processing and storage of the acquired information happen in our mind and intellect before it is expressed. The mind is the feeling faculty or the irrational part of our personality, whereas intellect is considered as the rational part or the judgement faculty. A person with well-developed intellect behaves more rationally compared to a person who is feeling disoriented.
Mineral world lacks the ability to receive and process information, and thus is unable to express feelings or actions. In the plant kingdom, life is sensitive to external stimuli and they also react to those stimuli to some extent. However, plants lack the ability to process any information due to absence of mind and intellect. In the animal kingdom, presence of mind is visible as instincts and feelings. However, in the human world, both mind and intellect are very much developed. Human beings have the ability to process the information received from the environment and use their choices to act.
Expression of life in all entities, living or nonliving, is a mysterious phenomenon. The constituents of physical body, mind and intellect fail to express themselves in a dead person. It means that there is a life force operating in the background, which makes these constituents alive or dead.