“Shri Ishopanishad advises us to pour water on the root, the source of all germination. Worship of the mass of humanity by rendering bodily service, which can never be perfect, is less important than service to the soul. The soul is the root that generates different types of bodies according to the law of karma. To serve human beings by medical aid, social help and educational facilities while at the same time cutting the throats of poor animals in slaughterhouses is no service at all to the soul, the living being.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shri Ishopanishad, 13 Purport)
Friend1: Do plants have life?
Friend2: They are life; yes.
Friend1: How do you know?
Friend2: Development of the body. The Sanskrit is dehantara-praptir:
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
Friend1: That is your evidence, then? A verse from the Bhagavad-gita?
Friend2: Is that not sufficient?
Friend1: Is there empirical evidence to support the claim?
Friend2: Like I said, development. You witness the changes. From the seed to the creeper to the tree. Sometimes fruits get produced. You also know when the plant is dead, i.e. the absence of life.
Friend1: That is true.
Friend2: The same cannot be said of a rock. There is no development; it is just matter.
Friend1: What about animals? Is it the same concept?
Friend2: Even more so, meaning the evidence is clearer. The animal eats, sleeps, mates and defends. These are features in common with the human species.
Friend1: Okay, but the counterargument is that the animals are not as intelligent.
Friend2: So? Intelligence is now the indication of life? Since when? The human infant is less intelligent than many animals. Does that mean the infant lacks a soul?
Friend1: No, but what about the argument that the animals have a different kind of soul?
Friend2: That is mental speculation. Completely made up. No logical foundation; simply an excuse to justify killing the animals. There is no difference in soul. The difference is in body type; that is what defines species.
Friend1: So the animal has the exact same kind of soul?
Friend2: There is only one kind, for the purpose of this discussion. Jivatma. Conditioned soul. His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada says that this denial of the presence of soul in the animals and plants is the basic cause of human sinful activities.
Friend1: Oh really? That is interesting.
Friend2: Because once I have denied the right of other living entities to live, I can justify practically any behavior. Wherever my sense demands take me. Nothing is off the table.
Friend1: That would confirm the teaching of Shri Krishna that sense gratification, kama, is the all-devouring enemy of this world:
काम एष क्रोध एष
विद्ध्य् एनम् इह वैरिणम्
kāma eṣa krodha eṣa
viddhy enam iha vairiṇam
“The Blessed Lord said: It is lust only, Arjuna, which is born of contact with the material modes of passion and later transformed into wrath, and which is the all-devouring, sinful enemy of this world.” (Bhagavad-gita, 3.37)
Friend2: Yes, kama is the foundation, and through a desire to satisfy kama we make so many excuses, not realizing the violation of dharma, how we are going against nature.
Friend1: If a society just understood the presence of soul inside species outside of the humans then that would be a big step forward?
Friend2: No doubt about it. It is realizing the self. It is understanding that the soul is inside of other living entities, as well. From there you can understand the relationship we have to one another and also our link to God, who is the Supreme Soul.
Friend2: Atma is an expansion of Paramatma, and so a person who sees the soul everywhere indirectly sees Krishna at the same time:
“A true yogi observes Me in all beings, and also sees every being in Me. Indeed, the self-realized man sees Me everywhere.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 6.29)
That is a very advanced state.
A denial at the source,
Drastically altering course.
Where soul of animal not to see,
And content with killing to be.
But the effects far and wide,
In pain and misery to reside.
Vedanta study clearing the confusion,
Equal souls and no right on intrusion.