“Since every living entity is an individual soul, each is changing his body every moment, manifesting sometimes as a child, sometimes as a youth, and sometimes as an old man. Yet the same spirit soul is there and does not undergo any change.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13 Purport)
Friend1: Let me ask you about animals having souls.
Friend2: An animal is a living thing. Anything that is living is animated by spirit.
Friend1: Listen, I get it. I’m bringing this up because of what some people have shared with me.
Friend2: Spirit is Brahman. We are all part of Brahman, the undivided spiritual energy. It seems like everything is divided, but there is a oneness. This is one way to realize God.
Friend1: But other faiths teach that animals don’t have souls.
Friend2: They’re wrong. Your use of the word “faith” says a lot. This means that there’s no science behind their logic. They’re basing the assumptions simply off mental speculation. The mind is a product of the material nature. The soul is finer than the subtle elements of mind, intelligence and ego.
Friend1: Yeah, to me it’s not difficult to understand. The animal eats, sleeps, mates and defends. So do we. The animal takes birth, lives for some time and then later dies. We go through the same cycle. Why should it be so hard to believe that the animal has a soul also?
Friend2: Exactly. It comes down to the basic difference between matter and spirit. That is not a sectarian issue. It is common sense.
Friend1: Here’s another argument to consider. Some will say that the animals have souls, but of a different kind.
Friend2: What do you mean?
Friend1: For example, since the dog can’t speak like human beings, it has a different kind of soul. When there is the soul of a bird, it means the living thing can fly around and stuff, but that’s it. It can’t be as advanced as the human being.
Friend2: Yeah, that’s utter nonsense, plain and simple.
Friend1: That’s what we should tell them? “You’re stupid.”
Friend2: There’s no reason to sugarcoat this. Ability or lack thereof relating to the body says nothing about the animating force within. You can have a hard drive inside of a laptop computer and also in a powerful workstation. The electricity powering the smartphone is the same as that going into the tablet. Since when does ability determine the nature of existence?
Friend1: Oh, I like that. The processors inside the computer have nothing to do with the features of the computer. They just give the object life. What goes on top of the essence of life is what determines the external ability.
Friend2: There’s an easier way to disprove their logic. Well, let me first say that the easiest way is to consult the Bhagavad-gita. Shri Krishna, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, demystifies reincarnation by explaining that there is reincarnation within this present life. The embodied soul continually passes. First there is childhood, then youth, adulthood following, and old age the culminating stage. Just as the soul continually passes through those phases, it passes on to another body at death. The person who is dhira, which means intelligent or sober, does not get bewildered by such changes.
Friend1: Yeah, that’s what makes the Bhagavad-gita stand tallest. The teaching does not say that only the Hindu soul does this. It does not say that “we Hindus believe the embodied soul continually passes.” The teaching applies to everyone, including outside the human species, right?
Friend2: Exactly. The Sanskrit word “atma” means soul. It does not mean “human soul.” Again, the qualification of the soul is a modern concoction; mental speculation furthered by those who want to continue killing animals in order to eat nicely. As I was saying, there’s an easy way to invalidate their logic.
Friend2: I’m borrowing this one from His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada. We know that right after birth the infant can’t do much. They need support for their head; they need someone to feed them; and they need someone to clean up after them. Agreed?
Friend2: We also know that if you compared the human being in this stage of life to many in the animal community, the human being would lose in an ability competition.
Friend1: What do you mean?
Friend2: The infant is helpless, while the horse can do so much. The dog has communication skills superior to the infant. That’s pretty obvious.
Friend2: So if we’re using the flawed logic that creates “animal souls,” we’d have to say that the infant has a separate soul.
Friend1: [laughs] Oh, that’s good.
Friend2: So if we establish that there is a “soul of a child,” when does that soul leave and get replaced for the soul of an adolescent? I’d like to have that explained to me.
Friend1: Yeah, it’s ridiculous.
Friend2: Precisely. The soul is the same soul throughout life. Everyone already acknowledges this. And yet we know that ability changes. This means that ability does not determine the nature of the soul. It’s as simple as that. The wise person sees spirit inside of every living thing. They see the spiritual equality shared by all beings. They also know that there is a Supreme Spirit, the person to whom we are intimately tied since time immemorial. Service to Him brings all knowledge necessary for understanding this complex world, which bewilders us through the illusory energy known as maya.
Soul of an animal to see,
How different in human to be?
Example of the infant take,
And a simple comparison make.
Does soul of the child ever leave,
And then new one later to receive?
As individuality same changes through,
All species a spirit soul like me and you.