Ideals and Values/The Human Being – Pinnacle of Bhagavān’s Creation
The Diversity of Bhagavān’s Creation
Just as modern science says, Dharma also teaches us that the Universe is vast and we can never measure its true size. Although we know that life exists only on earth at present, science does not rule out the possibility that there are different life forms on other planets.
Even on the planet earth, there existed almost 2 million species of plants and animals. Human beings are the most superior of all life forms on earth. Indeed, we are fortunate that Bhagavān gave us a human body and mind. Scriptures teach that there are actually 8.4 million life-forms and human being is somewhere at the top of all these life-forms. Above humans, there exists the Devatās and many other living forms that are more advanced physically, mentally and spiritually. These higher beings exist on earth and in other parts of the universe, but we cannot see them unless we become advanced ourselves in Dharma and spirituality.
Humans and Other Living Beings:
We share the following common traits with animals and plants:
- We consume food, water and air.
- We reproduce.
- We excrete.
- We sleep.
- We try to preserve our body and our lives from attacks or from damage by the environment.
- We desire security and shelter.
In addition to these common features, every creature also has a special nature from birth that distinguishes it from other creatures. E.g., a tiger will not become a vegetarian, a monkey cannot read a book, a tree cannot talk and so on. In Sanskrit, the language in which scriptures are written, the word for human being is ‘manuśya’ or a creature that can ‘think and make choices.”
The Uniqueness of Human Beings
The human being is very unique in one respect with regard to all the plants and animals. Due to our larger brain and our special anatomical features we are much more advanced physically as well as mentally than all the other living beings. All other creatures are literally trapped in their inborn nature and cannot behave much differently from what they are supposed to do by their nature. But unlike animals and plants, the human being has the ability of the following:
- To think in more complex ways
- To make choices
- To remember a lot of more things than animals can
- To use our intelligence to make and control tools and machines
These special abilities make us much more powerful than other living beings and enable us to control and change the environment to our liking. But this unique power can be both a blessing as well as a curse. A person like Hitler who uses his mind in devious ways can kill millions of other human beings. In fact, humans are the only species that has the ability to make themselves extinct through the use of nuclear weapons. At the same time, we can use our advanced brain constructively to save thousands of starving animals and human beings in another part of the world where a famine has occurred. Our unique powers have placed us at the top of the food pyramid. We have changed the face of our earth in an irreversible way. In fact, we have sent satellites and space-crafts to the moon and many other cosmic bodies successfully.
The Law of the Jungle versus the Rule of Dharma
The law of the jungle is “Might is Right.” He who is mightier eats and kills the weaker. Similarly, in a pond, the bigger fish eats the smaller ones. In the Hindu tradition, it is said that several thousands of years back, the great Riṣi Manu was pained to observe that the weak were always oppressed by those who were physically stronger. Therefore, he compiled the rules of Dharma, so that men are considered great not by their physical strength alone but by whether they adhere to laws, rules and values or not. This contribution of Maharṣi Manu resulted in the protection of the weak, because now they had the weapon of Dharma to defend themselves.
Let us consider these two examples to illustrate the difference between Dharma and the Law of the Jungle (called ‘matsyanyāya’ or the law of the fish in Hindu tradition)
- A hungry lion sees some deer grazing at a close distance. He decides to pounce on the deer, kill it and eat its meat. The lion does not think, “The deer is innocent. It has not hurt me. So let me not kill it, and eat plants instead.” If the lion is hungry, it will hunt and kill. The lion really has no choice and his hunger forces him to kill the deer till he becomes hungry again and has to hunt another animal.
- When the lion is done eating, there is still a large portion of the carcass of the dear left that is uneaten. But the lion is not interested and he walks away. The lion does not think, “Let me not waste any food. I will freeze it in the refrigerator.” Nearby, a jackal sees the lion walk away from the half eaten corpse of the deer. “Food for me,” thinks the jackal and he walks to the carcass and starts eating it. The jackal does not think, “The deer does not belong to me because it was killed by the lion. Let me take the lion’s permission before eating it.” The jackal just starts chewing bits off the carcass as soon as the lion has walked away to a safe distance. These examples also illustrate the basic difference between the animals and human beings. Animals are compelled by their nature to act in certain ways, whereas a human being can make rational and ethical choices by reasoning in his mind. Animals are compelled to follow the Law of the Jungle or the Fish Rule but we human beings have the choice of living under the Rule of Dharma.
The Law of Karma: A Burden or an Opportunity
Because the animals cannot make any choices whereas we humans can, the animals are not said to be doing ‘good karma’ when they do things that are ‘good’ in our opinion. For example, we never say that, “a cow has better karma than a lion, because the cow eats only grass whereas the lion hunts and kills his prey.” The point is that because Bhagavān has gifted human beings the ability to use our intellect and make choices, He also judges our Karma as good or bad, whereas he does not make any such judgments for animals. Instead of seeing this as a burden, we should see this as an opportunity that we have been provided. Why? Because of all the creatures on this earth, we alone can make the right choices and advance spiritually to come closer to Bhagavān.
Are we wasting our Human Life
Therefore, we should always thank Bhagavān for giving us the body and mind of a human being. The human birth is a unique opportunity given to us by Him to do good deeds and free our Ātmā or soul so that it becomes one with Bhagavān. But we think instead, “We have only one life, so let us enjoy. Let us eat and drink, and wear good clothes. Let us listen to music all the time. Let me earn money even if I have to cheat others.” The following story illustrates how we waste our lives:
Once, a fisherman was taking a walk on the beach late in the night. He saw a bunch of debris from the last tide on the sand. One of the items looked like a pouch. He thought that the pouch must have been washed ashore from a ship. When he opened a pouch, he found that it was full of stones.
The fisherman sat on the beach, and started throwing the stones at leisure into the waves. He enjoyed the ‘plup’ sound as the stone crashed into the water. Soon, it was sunrise, and there was light. As the fisherman put his hand into the pouch to pluck out one of the last stones, he realized that the stones were in fact large diamonds.
Apparently, he had wasted most of the diamonds by throwing them into the water. Most of us are like the fisherman. We do not realize, in the darkness of our ignorance, that we are wasting our precious assets like good health and young age to enjoy trivial pleasures like that plup sound. Only if we had the light of wisdom, we would not waste even a moment in spending our life wisely, and in taking care of our assets.
If we waste our human life in chasing only pleasures of electronic games, diamonds, clothes, cars, mansions etc. then perhaps we do not deserve to be in our human body at all. Therefore, people who are totally materialistic and do not try to understand the nature of the soul and Bhagavān, are deprived of their human body and they are reborn as animals or as plants. The following story illustrates how we can sometimes misuse our precious gift from Bhagavān.
“A Raja presented a rich Kashmiri shawl to a foolish Pandit. The Pandit had no idea of the value of the shawl. He at once wiped his nose and feet with the shawl. Irate at such stupidity, the Raja ordered that the shawl be taken away from the Pandit who did not know how to use it. And his peon snatched it away from the Pandit. Similarly, this precious human birth has been bestowed upon us as a great gift by God. But the foolish man wastes it on woman, gold and fame. Death soon comes and snatches away this gift of God, grossly misused by man. O man, utilize this precious human birth in Japa, study of scriptures, selfless service and meditation. Realize the Self and be free.” Parables of Swami Śivānanda. The Divine Life Society. Tehri-Garhwal, India; page 28</ref>
The Mahābhārata therefore warns us:
“A human being should not degrade himself to be reborn into a lower species by indulging in sensual pleasures alone, because the human body, even that of a chandāla, is very difficult to obtain. The Human form is the best that one can hope to obtain because in this form, the soul can uplift itself by performance of pious deeds."
The Hindu scriptures even explain what happens to people who misuse their human body. For example, someone who just wants to have a lot of children may be reborn as a rabbit or pigeon, animals that breed very fast!
The Purpose of our Human Birth:
Hindu Dharma teaches us that it is not wrong to enjoy life. But we should live a balanced life in which we spend a good chunk of our efforts and resources to do good deeds and also make spiritual progress. But what do most of us do? We spend practically all our time in the pursuit of trivial things that do not last forever – like the latest car or electronic gadget. If only we were to spend a little more time in spiritual matters, the results would be so much better. The following story illustrates very well our priorities are so mixed up in life -
“A father wanted to test the intelligence of his two sons. He allotted to each of them the task of looking after a mango tree, promising to reward the boy whose tree yielded the best fruit in abundance. The foolish boy discovered that the leaves were withering off and that flowers were coming up at the end of the branches. Promptly he went up the tree and carefully watered every leaf. The leaves withered still more and the tree eventually died. The wise boy, on the other hand, went on water the root; the tree was green and healthy and yielded delicious fruits in abundance.
Similarly, God gives human birth to man in order to test the evolution of his intelligence. The foolish man, eager to get the reward of Eternal peace and Immortality, seeks to pay attention to the satisfaction of his sense-cravings, and to the acquisition of worldly knowledge, for he thinks that this is the right way. He dies the miserable death of an ignorant man. The wise man, on the contrary, devotes himself to the contemplation of God, the Root of all Creation, and thus obtains all the wealth and knowledge of the universe. God is well pleased with him and bestows upon him the reward of Immortality and Eternal Bliss.”
We can lead a balanced life and make progress if we follow certain ideals and good values. The purpose of this book is to teach about the ethical and spiritual values and how we should practice in our everyday lives, and also the bad habits and evils that we ought to avoid. Moreover, as students, you have some special needs, duties and rights in your lives. The first section deals with some issues that are very important for students to understand to be successful in your lives.
The Values Taught by Hindu Scriptures and Sages
We Hindus believe in practicing many values in our daily lives. These values are taught in our holy books like the Bhagavad Gitā and also by our Saints and Sages like Veda Vyāsa. They also teach us the evils that we should avoid. Most of these values are found in all religions like Christianity or Islam. We Hindus however practice them a little differently. We will see these differences when we learn about these values. We will learn about the science of the Mind and Sense Organs in the next chapter. This wisdom is taught mainly in the four Dharmic traditions of Hindu Dharma, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. There is very little of this science taught in the western religions like Christianity, Islam and Judaism.
Notes & References
- ↑ Bhagavān means God.
- ↑ These anatomical features refer to our ability to walk on two feet, which leaves our two hands free to do other things, etc.
- ↑ Page 5, in Purṇavidya, vol. 6
- ↑ It means ‘Big fish eat small fish’.
- ↑ Parable of Swami Atmaśraddhānanda, “Life is Precious,” in “Life is a Gift, Living is an Art” Chinmaya Mission West (Piercy, California), 2009
- ↑ Swami Śivānanda. 2004
- ↑ It is in Uttaranchal.
- ↑ He is an uncultured and barbarian person.
- ↑ Mahābhārata 12.286.31-32
- ↑ Swami Sivananda (2004), p. 288
- ↑ In this book, we have chosen the values listed in the following verses of the Bhagavad Gitā: chapter XII.12-20 chapter XIII.8-12; chapter XVI.1-5