Are Humans more miserable than Animals?
By Vraja Bihari Dasa
Continued from the previous issue… How are humans special?
Are Humans more miserable than Animals?
The ‘Mahabharata’, the ancient Indian classic, implores all humans to explore the ‘ABCD’ and seek true meaning and purpose to our rare and brief existence. The ‘Mahabharata’ declares that if humans fail to explore this potential, then their endeavours are a waste of time and energy. Further, such men are considered as no better than animals; they are said to be simply well dressed, sophisticated, polished, two legged animals.
Animals don’t need much variety in eating. A cow can eat grass whole life. Humans make elaborate arrangements to eat and yet they are more miserable than animals. A cow could eat grass whole life but can you imagine a human being served kichadi three times a day for the rest of his life? We need South Indian delicacies like dosas and wadas, Italian pizzas and pastas, samosas, Chinese, and a lot more variety. Even one vegetable potato can be a source of unlimited variety of palatable foodstuffs, namely Potato wafers, French fries, Aloo Paratha, and Aloo raita to name a few. A cow won’t demand grass pakoda one day and grass burger on another day. Despite the presence of so much variety there is an inherent discontentment amongst humans. There is always something which the mind points out that we don’t have and there is a cause for sadness. Even sleeping is difficult for humans. How much can a human sleep even if he wants to? A cat can sleep seventy per cent of the day. A snail can sleep for three years without waking up even once. If a dog feels sleepy, he can sleep anywhere; humans can’t do that and then there is the problem of others’ snoring. Recently a special ‘anti-snoring’ machine has been invented to help humans sleep well. So many elaborate arrangements are made for human beings to sleep well and yet animals wake up after their sleeping session afresh whereas humans struggle with stupor.
Humans have made rapid advancement in science and technology but essentially all of it is employed to make the SEED better. As a result there is an emptiness that continues to engulf the human heart. This is because despite an excellent manipulation of matter and perfect arrangements for pleasure, after some time we feel bored and seek a newer variety. The fact that so many movies are released by Hollywood and Bollywood, and so many entertainment channels are released regularly is the evidence of a dissatisfied human heart. Nothing seems to satiate the humans, for they constantly need newer pleasures, newer relationships, newer cars, and newer homes. The search shall continue eternally until we seek to harmonize with our inner spiritual self and find deep inner contentment despite the swinging fortunes and changing pleasures of this world. Since humans have this potential to seek spiritual life, they need to tap this, or else they remain sad. If a super intelligent and dynamic entrepreneur is forced to work as a clerk in a government office, he shall be frustrated. Similarly humans are spiritually dynamic by definition, and therefore need to explore this aspect of their lives. If they don’t they shall continue to make different permutations and combinations of the same basic SEED propensities. However that will keep us dissatisfied because our happiness lies in exploring and experiencing a higher nature of happiness, that which is consistent with our developed consciousness. Since we have failed to pursue this, humans today are desperately attempting to make Sleeping, Eating, Enjoyment and Defending (SEED) better by the day.
Once in a zoo I saw a special tent with a board hanging outside, “Most dangerous animal”. Excitedly we went in to see only a large, life size mirror inside. The message was clear; humans are the most dangerous animals on the planet earth. Once I asked a travelling monk how he could preach in the dangerous Amazon forests; I wondered if he wasn’t afraid of the dangerous animals residing in the forest. Immediately he replied, without beating an eyelid, “Of course not. I am not afraid because the Amazon is free from the most dangerous animals. There are no humans there!”
With the wonderful and fertile brain that God has bestowed man with, he has created revolution in the fields of arts, science and culture. However with the same brain the humans have also created bombs that threaten to destroy all life on planet earth. This is a classic example of how humans are the most intelligent of all species, yet they pose the greatest threat to the planet earth. A tiny human can encage a ferocious lion, and tame a wild elephant. His strength is his intelligence, unlike other animals that have different abilities to protect themselves. For example a leopard is fleet footed, a chameleon can change colour, and a tortoise has a hard shell. These gifts of nature help these animals protect themselves from danger. Humans however are neither fleet footed not can they change colour, yet they rule over all species because of superior intelligence. A human being’s strength therefore is his intelligence but thanks to his proclivity to pursue only SEED, today human intelligence is causing threat to all life on this planet. Humans are the only species whose source of protection has become their source of destruction. This is due to wrongly directed intelligence- intelligence that is directed to seek temporary, material pleasures, and not focussed on experiencing spiritual realities.
There are more evidences to show how human beings today, due to focussing only on SEED, are leading a more pathetic life than the animals. Animals for example don’t need sleeping pills. Animals also don’t face a threat from a member of the same species. A rat doesn’t fear another rat but a cat. Humans however fear other human beings. When we go out of the house do we lock our house in fear of dogs, lions or humans? In many cases humans fear their own family members. I heard some years ago the story of a seventy five year old man who was found murdered at his house. Investigations later revealed that he was killed by goondas employed by his own ninety five year old mother. She had done so because he had illegally transferred all the property in his name. Later, our glorious judicial system tried her for murder and she was found guilty. She was then sentenced to life imprisonment!!!
Animals also don’t face scarcity of food created by a member of the same species. Five cows won’t gang up to eat all the grass and prevent other cows from getting the food. Amongst humans however, it’s a common sight to see hoarding of food grains and creation of artificial scarcity of basic necessities. Squalor and opulence co-exist in human societies and the difference is often huge.
Animals also don’t suffer from heart breaks whereas humans seem to have relationship problems all the time. So many novels, movies and songs have been dedicated to love sagas. Animals don’t have stress and depression. I once did a stress management seminar for class nine students. Even fourteen year old children nowadays need stress management training. Humans work on tight deadlines; by the time you meet your deadline, you are dead! Animals don’t have addiction problems. Humans alone amongst all species need de-addiction sessions. And I also haven’t heard of animals that ever commit suicide. This is the hall mark of a human society. Suicide exposes the shallowness of human pursuits. Since humans can potentially experience the greatest happiness, on failing to pursue this, they can also potentially experience the greatest pain. This pain is expressed as suicide. Since animals can’t experience higher pleasure, they also don’t experience much pain. When humans however fail to seek this spiritual happiness, their frustrations level will be unprecedented.
The plight of a human being who fails to use his special faculties for spiritual enlightenment is compared to that of a farmer who wins a lottery. A farmer hitherto using a tractor to plough his field now wins a Mercedez Benz in a lucky draw contest. He gets a brilliant idea! He decides to use the Merc to plough his field hereafter. What are the likely consequences of making such a change? Three results are expected; his field would get spoiled, his car would get damaged and he would soon be frustrated. Both the Merc and the tractor are vehicles but they have different utilities. The tractor is meant for the ploughing and Merc is meant to be driven on a smooth road in the city. Similarly we are like the farmer and have been awarded with a human life (compared with a Merc) which is rare and special. Using the human body for the same sense pleasures that is available for animals (tractor) is frustrating.
Just like tractor is best suited to plough the field as compared to a car, similarly animal life is better suited to enjoy bodily pleasures as compared to human bodies. For example a pigeon can have sex thirty times a day, an elephant can eat tons of food, and a snail can sleep for months. Humans can’t enjoy like this. However when they try to invest all their energy on SEED and try to imitate the pleasures of animals, they get frustrated. They also experience three results like the farmer- the enjoyment is too little and brief. In fact there is more pain than joy in pursuing the pleasure. Secondly the human body gets diseased and spoiled when it’s abused in pursuing the bodily pleasures. Thirdly the gap in the expectations of pleasure and the harsh reality frustrates a human being. Thus, wise men over centuries have pleaded with humans to not waste their precious time and life in seeking temporary bodily pleasures; rather they should seek the eternal divinity and connect to that never ending source of happiness.
The Vedic scriptures refer to a person who fails to use his life for spiritual pursuits as ‘kripana’. Translated literally, ‘kripana’ refers to a miser. A person who uses human faculties to seek God is called a ‘brahmina’ or an intelligent and broad minded person. A miser is he who has lot of wealth but refuses to use it. Similarly, a human being is called a miser when he refuses to use the highly powerful human body and intellect to experience unlimited bliss, but rather foolishly seeks temporary and fleeting bodily pleasures. The Vedic scriptures extoll us to be brahmina, a broad minded and intelligent person who makes the best use of this rare human life.
In our daily life what prevents us from experiencing happiness?
To be continued… From ‘Relative’ to ‘Real’ Happiness
The author holds a master’s degree in International Finance and Management (MBA). He serves as a full-time resident devotee at ISKCON Chowpatty and teaches Krishna consciousness to students at universities. He also conducts devotional seminars and training programmes for the temple’s congregation members.