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IIIa
 Is There A Difference Between
Human Beings and Animals?

 

   

f all the great virtues, fearlessness occupies a place of primary importance. It is the ideal virtue. A person who is truly fearless will have detachment from all the objects of the world and be saturated with the love of God. Truly speaking humanity is divine, and fearlessness is its very nature. What is the special feature of mankind that sets it apart from other living beings? Here is a story that deals with this question.

   There once was a very fearful forest, and living in this forest there were a large number of animals. In most forests where there are lions there will be no elephants, and if there are elephants roaming about then there will be no lions present. But in this forest, there were all types of animals, lions, elephants, jackals, apes, deer, dogs, the whole animal kingdom was represented there. One day, a clever fox thought to himself, 'Human beings boast that there is something special and unique about human nature. They say that it is next to impossible to get human birth. But human beings are born the same way that we animals are born. The word Jantu is the name given to all beings who are born from the womb of a mother. The question is: Why are human beings given the name Manava, instead of being called Jantu? In what way are we inferior to them?'

   The fox thought out, within himself, all the various arguments and counter-arguments to this question that was perplexing him, and he resolved to prove that there is no distinction between humans and animals. From that day onwards, he started airing this problem to all the denizens of that forest. He sought out other animals and said, "Why should we accept the present state of affairs? People are considering animal life as inferior to human life. We should take steps to reverse this erroneous belief." In this way he began to encourage all the animals living there to think about this issue and get excited about it. He showed how these false beliefs had been taught and accepted by all the animals, even by the mighty elephant who was stronger than anyone and the dauntless lion, who was their king. The fox resolved to have a very big meeting of the animals to discuss these points and frame some resolution on which they could all agree. The 'Chatushpada Mahasabha' was the name proposed for this meeting. It means, 'The great gathering of the four-footed ones.' It was decided that on a particular day, at a particular time, all of them would come together in a big open area and assemble for this special meeting.

   Initially, three agenda items were agreed upon. The first was that human beings, just like animals, are born from the womb of a mother; therefore there should be only one name, both for men and animals. And, properly speaking, that name should be Jantu, one who is born from the womb of a mother. Either man should be called Jantu, or animals should be called man; but there should not be two different names and two different titles. That was the first resolution they wanted to pass at the meeting. The second agenda item was that animals had been called unwise, while humans claim to be endowed with wisdom; but animals should not accept this. In what way does man have superior wisdom to the animals? The fox was particularly insistent on this point. He asked, "What is this wisdom that man has, that we do not have? We have to firmly resolve that there is the same wisdom in both men and animals."

   The third agenda item that the fox proposed, was, 'Man is considered to be a talking animal where as we are dumb; that is considered to be a very great disadvantage to us, which they claim makes a big difference. But even if we are dumb, what is it that we are lacking? By having learned the ability to talk and by possessing that skill, what is the extraordinary happiness that human beings have derived from that? Let us propose that talking and dumbness be considered more or less the same.'

   "Then there is also a fourth point we should consider," the fox added. "Human beings think of us as being Rajasic whereas they consider themselves to be Satvic in nature. But none of us should agree to this. The Satvic nature that we have, even humans do not possess. We deserve the reputation and recognition that we are far superior in Satvic nature to humans." They all agreed that these four points should be discussed in the meeting. But then they wondered whom they should ask to preside over their meeting.

   The fox pointed out that there were a number of Rishis and Mahatmas, who had been doing penance in the forest. "We should select a very highly accomplished sage to preside over our meeting", he suggested. They all agreed and resolved to send the fox to find a Maharshi and request him to chair their meeting. The fox went to a cave and there he saw a sage engaged in penance. He reverentially approached the sage and prayed to him, "Swami, in the kingdom of animals we have decided to have a very important meeting, a Chatushpada Mahasabha, and we request you to preside over it." The Rishi who recognized everything as living divinity itself, said, "All right, I will be happy to come and preside over your meeting." So, in a vast open field they arranged to have their meeting.

   In that forest, every animal from the smallest to the biggest came with all their children, and many brought their grandchildren also, to attend this important meeting. They were all in very high spirits and extremely happy to take part in such a grand meeting. And they all showed a great deal of respect for their president. A high platform was provided for the president. Just beside the chair for the president, a chair was provided for the lion. The Maharshi presiding over the function was also in very fine spirits and was not the least bit afraid of the lion who was sitting next to him. This Maharshi recognized the existence of God in every living being, therefore he was full of fearlessness. Once all of the animals were seated, there was a need for properly welcoming the Maharshi into their midst. The secretary for this great meeting was the fox. The fox began his welcoming address.

   "Revered president, your excellency the king, honored minister, dear brothers and sisters! This day is a day which will be written in golden letters in the annals of this great forest and all its inhabitants. This is an epoch-making ay which will never be forgotten in the whole animal kingdom, for today we will achieve a grand success in this most important meeting for which we have all assembled here. In coming together here you have all made some notable sacrifices. You have given up a great number of activities, and have made time available in your busy lives to participate in this meeting. So, in the very first place, let me express my deepest gratitude to all of you." Then the secretary went on and explained the items on the agenda. As soon as the agenda had been presented, the lion got up and addressed the vast gathering.

   The lion told them, "You have all heard what my brother has said to you. I want you to know that the great qualities you have like valor and courage, man does not really have. I am myself direct proof of this. If you consider the courageous spirit, the magnificent prowess and strength which I have, where can you find any man who is my equal? Though I am king of animals, I never engage in any wrong or unjustifiable actions. Without reason I don't kill animals. Only when I am hungry will I take a little food. I do not kill any animals for sport; I never waste any food. And what holds true for me also holds true for the rest of the animals. Consider our courage, our code of ethics, our high level of morality; can we find such great qualities in human beings? No! They don't have them at all. Therefore, why should we be afraid of man? Why should we be thought of as inferior to man? Today, let us resolve to wipe out this blot on our reputation."

   The elephant, who was sitting just by the side of the lion got up and said, "Man is not even half as big as my leg. In form I am certainly mighty and magnificent. In intelligence I have attained proverbial greatness. Kings, emperors, distinguished leaders, all have developed great faith in me. If ever a coronation was to be performed and I were not there, it would have to be postponed. When I am so great, how can you say that man is superior to me? My intelligence is extraordinary. Therefore, even if you consider just these two, my intelligence and my physical form, you must conclude that man can never be equal to me."

   The fox got up and said, "The lion, our Mararaja, has just talked to you, and the big elephant, our distinguished minister, has also spoken his mind. Now we would like to invite a representative of the smaller animals to come and address us." At this point the wild dog was asked to speak to the gathering. It offered its humble salutations to the president, to the king, to the minister, to the secretary and to all in that great throng who had assembled there. Then it said, "Although I am very small and weak, in faith there is no one that can be compared to me. I have unswerving faith and unlimited loyalty to the person who has brought me up, and who looks after me. I will always be grateful and faithful, even if I lose my life. Even if I am hurt and harmed by my master I will not return harm to him in kind.

     
       
   

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