“This knowledge is the king of education, the most secret of all secrets. It is the purest knowledge, and because it gives direct perception of the self by realization, it is the perfection of religion. It is everlasting, and it is joyfully performed.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.2)
पवित्रम् इदम् उत्तमम्
सु-सुखं कर्तुम् अव्ययम्
pavitram idam uttamam
su-sukhaṁ kartum avyayam
“Seriously, what gives with the comparisons to animals? Like every lecture. Every other paragraph. Every preacher within the parampara, the disciplic succession. I get it that they like to imitate. Follow the leader. The acharya sets the tone and the disciples take the baton, so to speak.
“In that sense, it is kind of nice. There is no mental speculation. You don’t adulterate the message. You stick to what arrived in your hands. There is no need to twist things, to suit a personal interest. If you are true to the message, then for the recipients it is like hearing from the original source.
“In this case, that source is God, or better known as the Supreme Personality of Godhead. He is the origin of everything, including knowledge. He directly passes on the king of education, raja-vidya, to Arjuna.
“At the time, the original knowledge appeared to be lost. The chain of succession was broken. The Supreme Lord simply reinstated it. No big deal. The people were not left in the dark. It seems that at any point in time there is always some semblance of dharma available. However low society descends, there is always a pocket or two that has the higher wisdom to share.
“My complaint is to the comparison to the animals. Why does it appear so frequently within the Vedic tradition? Particularly within Vaishnava circles, it is something you hear all the time.
‘Human beings are not like the animals. The animals eat, sleep, mate, and defend. We are similar to the animals in that way, but also different.’
“The individual is spirit soul, after all. What is so wrong about being an animal? What is the harm in moving backwards in the next life? Nature will still take care of everything. There will still be food. At least I won’t be subject to karma, as apparently that doesn’t apply to animals.”
His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada explains that the animals are not expected to follow regulative principles because they have no intelligence. You cannot explain the science of self-realization to a dog. They will not be able to understand.
You cannot get a monkey to curb sex desire in order to facilitate meditation. You cannot get a horse to suddenly sit down and listen to Bhagavata Purana for seven straight days. You cannot ask the tiger to turn into a vegetarian and make a social media post marking the change in diet.
Human beings share the responsibility of satisfying material necessities, but this pursuit should be conducted under regulative principles. This can take place because the human being has intelligence. Therefore, the same animalistic tendencies can be purified through a system of regulation.
This means that it is the system of regulation, and more specifically adherence to it, which makes the human birth unique. A person falls victim to drug and alcohol addiction, but they are not forever condemned to it. They can find their way out. They can turn their life around.
In the same way, a person can live an entire life of regulation, for the purpose of higher knowledge and ultimate sobriety, dhira. The sober person can notice the spirit soul and the changing bodies. This principle is the beginning of education in the spiritual culture.
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)
Along with the laws, there is the lawgiver. This is one way to understand God. He passes down the system of karma for our benefit. That we have the opportunity to follow regulation for the purpose of education should not be wasted. It is a great blessing.
The frequent comparisons to the animal community are both a commentary on modern society and a warning to avoid wasting the opportunity of the human birth. Worship of an animal, serving dog instead of God, is like satisfying the senses without regulation. It is neither authorized nor productive in the long-term.
If you water the root, the various components of the plant receive vital nourishment. In the same way, if the regulated human life worships the Supreme Personality of Godhead directly, then love and affection for every living being, animal or not, flows automatically. There is no need for a dedicated endeavor.
अध्येष्यते च य इमं
धर्म्यं संवादम् आवयोः
इष्टः स्याम् इति मे मतिः
adhyeṣyate ca ya imaṁ
dharmyaṁ saṁvādam āvayoḥ
iṣṭaḥ syām iti me matiḥ
“And I declare that he who studies this sacred conversation worships Me by his intelligence.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.70)
The human being has more intelligence. Therefore, the human being should act like it. Intelligence should be taken advantage of. It is a gift from above. It should be used. It should not go to waste. A person can even worship with their intelligence, such as through repeatedly hearing and trying to understand the conversation between Shri Krishna and Arjuna.
Comparison to animals frequent and fast,
Deep into every lecture to last.
Reason that commonly made,
Because wrongly interest paid.
First towards origin of all direct,
And then respect automatically detect.
Work with regulation only human to do,
For recognizing first lawgiver who.