“The living entity, thus taking another gross body, obtains a certain type of ear, tongue, and nose and sense of touch, which are grouped about the mind. He thus enjoys a particular set of sense objects.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 15.9)
śrotraṁ cakṣuḥ sparśanaṁ ca
rasanaṁ ghrāṇam eva ca
adhiṣṭhāya manaś cāyaṁ
Man separates himself from the animal when he takes up religion. The basic definition of religion is spiritual life, that which is distinct from material life. Spirit and matter – they are different. Matter is directly perceptible through the five senses, while spirit is not. At least this is what we think. Air is a gross element of nature, but we can’t really see it. We can only feel it when it blows against us. We see its influence on other objects. In the same way, we can notice the presence of the soul through the actions of an autonomous, living thing.
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
The same type of soul animates each living being. There is no such thing as an animal soul or a human soul. The features of the body have no relation to the nature of the giver of life. A teaspoon of vanilla extract goes into the batch of cookies and also the batter for cake. The cake has a much different shape, aroma and taste than the cookie. Yet there is not a cake vanilla extract or a cookie vanilla extract. The ingredient is the same. Vinny was one time explaining this to his friend in an email exchange. To help get his point across, he relayed a recent story from his own life.
As far as the animals having souls thing, it shouldn’t be that difficult for you to understand. I’m obviously coming into it with a different perspective. When I heard that the same type of spirit animates all beings, I accepted the information right away. It seemed logical to me. Then again, I wasn’t taught my whole life that animals don’t have souls. It’s pretty easy to see where that teaching came from. It’s not authorized, for sure. It was concocted in the mind, an excuse for killing animals and eating them.
I had a recent experience with my son that should help to explain. His laptop computer was running real slow. I had told him not to download too many things, but he didn’t listen. He and his sister love watching videos on there, and sometimes they download things illegally. I’m sure there were some viruses on there or whatever. Anyway, one of the hard drives on the computer was pretty good, so I wanted to keep it. So I took that hard drive out and saved it. It had lots of music and videos on there too.
When I bought them a new computer, I put the old hard drive in there. My son was amazed that the computer was so much different. He wondered how the same hard drive could function in both computers. The monitors were different, the speed of loading programs, and even the keyboard had a different orientation. Yet the same data was there. All of the music and movies from before.
I explained to him how the data was stored on the hard drive and how it would function in pretty much any computer. The data was just one aspect. The computer could be different in every other way, but the data would be accessed from the same place.
In the same way, we know that spirit is in all living beings. The difference between the animal and the human is seen in external ability. Heck, even with human beings there are differences. Not everyone is the same. Look at the Olympics. The winners of the marathon tend to have a similar type of body. The same goes for swimmers, gymnasts and basketball players. Yet we wouldn’t say that such and such person has the soul of a basketball player. That would be silly.
All fragments of individual spirit are the same in quality, and they have the same relationship to the origin of spirit. The origin is Supreme; He is the same individual within every living thing. It’s like He stretches His presence, but He doesn’t really. He can expand infinitely and remain a single person.
Beyond feeding an interest in the esoteric, knowing that all souls are of the same kind helps us to understand that we are in this together. We don’t need to compete with each other. We don’t need to needlessly kill. We don’t need to view every person as an enemy, someone getting in the way of our enjoyment. An existence is meant for experiencing the pleasure of communion with God, better known as bhakti-yoga. The animals don’t have the potential to understand God, but it doesn’t mean that their souls are different. The human being has this potential, and one sign of their advancement towards true enlightenment is the way they treat other forms of life.
Like hard drive into new computer swapping,
Same soul into different bodies dropping.
One sign of how soon Lord to meet,
How other creatures and people to treat.
With compassion, an eye the same,
Or killing through different soul’s name?
Fragment of spirit living things all,
Same soul inside, whether large or small.