(The following article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest english language daily newspapers, on 27 January 2003.)
CLONING A human being is not a fanciful future hope, or a Hollywood sci-fi production. It's already occurred, according to some.
Others say it's happening now, while still others assert that it's about to happen. Such claims have caused worry amongst government leaders, ethicists, religionists and many scientists. Will we treat clones as relatives, friends, prot?g?s, or slaves? Who wants to clone and why?
For the aspiring transcendentalist the question to wrestle with is not who or why, but "What about the soul?" Maverick geneticists think the human clone is identical in every respect to its propagator. The new identity includes the ineffable soul or atma, so would a human clone have a unique soul, or the same one as its originator?
Some think they can replay their lives. Exceedingly in love with themselves and wantonly attached to their beliefs, or suffocatingly possessive of their families, they see cloning as the logical way to replicate a chosen identity again and again, downloading into immortality
This is one reason why sober religionists, high-ranking politicians, theologians, and some scientists fear cloning humans. The `euphoria' of a perfect race (eugenics) and prospects of big money for those who clone, are of concern to all.
The Vedas define each soul as unique, just as fingerprints, voiceprints, snowflakes or leaves never possess precisely matching patterns. With uniqueness comes purpose and enjoyment. Without it, we can become conformist robots; regimented automatons in thought and deed.
The Gita informs us that denying individuality is a 'troublesome path' or Gaith Dukham (12.5).
Identical twins are clone-like, yet they have distinct personalities. Individuality ? whether in the spiritual world or in the medical laboratory ? is hard to eliminate. The example of saints past and present reveals how God interacts with all through diversity. There is no lack of personality in great souls, but their character is imbued with love of God and all His creation.
Worship of the Supreme Individual, and ongoing reciprocation with Him brings deep satisfaction and responsible understanding of the purpose of human life.
The Gita's reminder that 'never was there a time when we did not exist' (2.12) can be considered the ultimate argument for eternal individuality. Clone or no clone, the individual soul will always persist.
As parts and parcels of a loving God our minute independence has cosmic influence. Tomorrow's designer clones will be no exception.