By Vraja Bihari Das

A king enquired from a learned sage, “I often wonder what happiness really is. O enlightened one; can you please reveal to me the secrets of happiness?” The sage cast his merciful glance upon the king and said, “Dear king, happiness is simply a butterfly.” The king, confused by the cryptic answer, probed further, to which the revered sage smiled, “Very soon, oh king, it will be revealed to you.” The sage then departed, leaving the king confused about the mysterious wisdom he’d just heard.

A few days later as the king relaxed in his royal garden, he saw a butterfly resting on a leaf. Intrigued by the sage’s wisdom that he had pondered upon, he went behind carefully to catch the butterfly. As soon as he moved his hand, the butterfly flew away and parked on another plant. The king pursued the butterfly, but each time the insect slipped away to another leaf, flower and a plant. A little later, the king, exasperated by his unsuccessful attempts, resigned to his seat. As he closed his eyes, while relaxing, he felt a slight itch on his arm. Slowly he opened his eyes and lo and behold, the same butterfly now rested on his arms. He was amazed and just then a special realization gushed forth in his heart, “yes the sage was indeed right. Happiness is a butterfly, for when we intensely search after it, it eludes us and when we least expect it, we receive it.”

Similarities between humans and Animals
To explore higher and deeper levels of happiness, we need to understand that humans are a very special species in God’s creation, and they are capable of experiencing a much more satisfying and purposeful life. Let us first examine the similarities and differences between humans and animals.

The Mahabharata, an ancient Indian scripture, highlights the similarities as ‘SEED’

ahara-nidra-bhaya-maithunaa ca
samanyam etat pacubhir naraeam
dharmo hi tenam adhiko viceno
dharmeea henau pacubhiu samanau

‘Nidra’ means Sleeping, ‘Aahara’ refers to Eating, ‘Maithun’ is Sex life or Enjoyment, and ‘Bhaya’ is Defending. (Thus the acronym ‘SEED’ is indicative of these four similarities between animals and humans) We can examine each of these four more elaborately.

The ‘SEED’ of Humans and Animals
While animals eat raw, uncooked food, without complaints, humans thrive on a variety of foodstuffs. And they can get fussy about it too. Yet we need to observe that the propensity and experience of eating is similar to both the species. However it is the humans who have degraded to lower than animals in their eating propensities. While on one hand we have a rich inter-continental cuisine, on the other hand humans also experiment with foods that are unnatural to the human body. A friend of mine in Singapore had a Chinese lady secretary who sipped on monkey blood during her office breaks. She also feasted on roasted snakes as her favourite delicacy. Multi-National companies spend millions of dollars on researching to improve the nutrient content of chocolates, potato wafers or corn flakes- all in pursuance of the glorious activity of eating. 

Animals sleep anywhere without an alarm to wake them. Sleeping isn’t a problem for the animals. Humans have plush apartments and expensive bedrooms, and now special water beds have been designed to help humans experience a sound sleep. Once we are fast asleep, it doesn’t matter if we are lying on the road or resting on an attractive bed. The experience of sleeping, the Mahabharata declares is same for a human and an animal.

However humans spend a great amount of energy, time and money figuring out how to get good, undisturbed sleep. Special alarm clocks have been designed that compel even the most die-hard sleeper to wake up. One such chicken shaped alarm clock rings with all eggs falling off the clock and the loud noise of the alarm is accompanied by the scattering of eggs all around. One has to collect all the eggs and put them back inside the clock. Only then it would stop ringing. The rationale behind making such a clock is by the time one finishes the task, his sleepiness has gone.

I also saw another alarm clock that is shaped like a fan. The moment it goes off, it also flies all over the room. One has to wake up and catch the fan with great endeavour. This amounts to a good work out and exercise until one finally manages to turn it off. By the time the alarm is silenced, sleepiness is overcome. If this isn’t enough, German scientists have created a special bed which is super programmed through latest software technology to give one an effect the sleeping person desires. For example, if one plans to wake up at three in the afternoon but desires to experience a sun rise, this special bed will cater to the need. The bed has been programmed to create a pleasing sound of the chirping birds, a fragrance of special early morning flowers, and the programme also fills the atmosphere with fog and mist. The bed guarantees to wake up a sound sleeper with water aimed at the eyes of the sleeper. If one still doesn’t get up, the bed also has an eject system. Thus the precious human intelligence has been channelized to experience pleasures which are easily met by the animals.

Enjoyment primarily refers to sex life. Animals do it on the street. Humans have a sophisticated set up of courtship and they go through a lot of struggle and emotional complexities as they seek to fulfil gross carnal pleasures.

Defending is the fourth of the similarity between humans and animals. While animals defend with their claws, humans have metal detectors, special locks, bank insurances, security men, buzzer alarms, and enormous defence expenditures.

Thus we can see humans and animals pursue similar goals. However intuitively we know humans are special. What makes humans special vis-a vis the animals? The answer to this question will help us discover newer and richer happiness.

Vraja Bihari dasa holds a master’s degree in International Finance and Management (MBA). He serves as a full-time resident devotee at ISKCON Chowpatty and teaches spirituality to students at universities. He also conducts devotional seminars and training programmes for the temple’s congregation members.

To be continued… How are Humans special?

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