A Human Birth
A human birth or incarnation in Hinduism is the most highly praised form of life. The Vedic scriptures
explain there are 8.4 million life forms that a soul may enter. The human form is only one of these forms.
This means you have an approximate .00001% chance of receiving a human form
again in your next lifetime.
When the Vedas indicate that it is very difficult to receive a human form,
obviously it's with cause. Fortunately, there are other factors that tip this
in our favor, which if understood, truly make us the architects of our future destiny.
Shocking loss or priceless acquisition?
Once a man went fishing in the early morning. He had to wait until there was
enough light for him to cast his net. He sat on a boulder by the side of the
lake and put his feet in the water. He felt a bag under his feet and lifted it
up. The bag had a number of small pebbles.
To pass the time, he took one and threw it in the water. He took another
and did the same thing. He kept mindlessly throwing them one by one until
there was enough light to see. Then he casually looked in his palm...
and saw a priceless diamond.
You can almost taste the remorse this person must have felt!
Obviously, you wouldn't want something like this to happen to you. Our human birth is
regarded as one of three priceless acquisitions (the other two being the association
of a true Saint and a desire for God). But, if we don't understand its worth,
it's the same as throwing it away.
A Sanskrit verse composed by Bhartrihari firsts asks us to consider
if there really is anything special that separates us from the animal kingdom.
Both humans and animals share four things:
All species eat, they all sleep, they all get scared and
they all mate. But in actual fact, animals may be superior to us
in these four areas. A cow grazes on the same green grass every
day of her life. Birds fall silent and sleep in their perches as
soon as the sun sets, and become active just before sunrise.
Animals have a natural survival instinct if they are threatened.
The mating instinct of animals is according to regular cycles
for the preservation of the species.
But we humans eat whenever and whatever we wish, in any quantity
we desire. Our sleep cycles are equally whimsical. Fear in a humans
can become uncontrolled paranoia. Mating is rarely thought of in
relation to bearing offspring. We are highly unregulated and
undisciplined in all these areas.
Then what is so great about a human form?
Your unique qualities
Bhartrihari said a human birth has two assets:
- Discriminative thinking
- Ability to perform karmas (actions with consequences)
This means only in a human birth can we analyze a right course
of action when faced with different options. In this case it means
we have a chance to value and to follow spiritual philosophy.
Plus, only in a human birth can we perform actions that will
result in a future consequence. This is the best opportunity to
advance spiritually. No other species in existence has this privilege.
Only a human being can generate future outcomes through the actions
he performs today.
But if we don't utilize these assets for spiritual gain,
they automatically default to being used for material pursuits.
Then we truly are no better or worse than any animal species.
Is this all that we were born for - eating, sleeping,
fearing and mating? This is a great opportunity to employ discriminative thinking and
reflect on this!
The Garud Puran says that only when a soul is in a human
form can he know God. The Kath Upanishad say, "Oh human beings!
Get up! Wake up! Seek the association of enlightened Saints,
attain spiritual knowledge from them and know God."