“The Lord is the all-prevailing Supersoul of all existence, and yet He appears in the form of a boar amongst the animals, in the form of a human being as Rama, Krishna, etc., in the form of a rishi like Narayana, and in the form of an aquatic like a fish. Yet it is said that He is unborn, and He has nothing to do. In the shruti mantra it is said that the Supreme Brahman has nothing to do. No one is equal to or greater than Him. He has manifold energies, and everything is performed by Him perfectly by automatic knowledge, strength and activity.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.8.30 Purport)
“I sometimes meet people who have a difficult time believing that the same individual soul, the one that appears in the human birth, is there in the animal community, as well. This concept of a jiva, one type of soul, for all of the different species.
“I think the difficulty is due to the lack of ability. The dog is significantly diminished in terms of capacity. It can run fast. It can spot intruders in the home. It can locate something based on smell. It has amazing abilities, for sure. There is no doubt.
“At the same time, it cannot learn to speak a new language. It cannot fortify against upcoming attack. It cannot contemplate the long-term future. It does not even know that it is a dog, separate and distinct from other kinds of animals.
“In that sense, someone might not be willing to believe that the individual soul is what animates the dog, that the individual can transmigrate from one species to the next. Besides shastra, what other authority is there to go off? How can we provide proof to the claim?”
The simplest comparison is to the similarity in four basic activities: eating, sleeping, mating, and defending. Both the animal and the human being do this. You could say that the human being is more aware, has an advanced consciousness, and so their experience is a little different.
But not really. Sleeping is sleeping. It might be within a climate controlled room on the most comfortable bed. It might also be during a blackout in the hottest portion of the summer. No electricity to run a cooling device. There are mosquitoes everywhere, and the bed is as stiff as a board.
Once I fall asleep, I don’t really notice the difference. In fact, in some cases I get better sleep in the supposedly inferior situation; the one with more difficulties. I was sleeping as a baby, when I knew nothing. I was not aware of the alphabet. I had yet to discover the inevitability of death. I barely understood life, as compared to adulthood.
The sleep is the same, and so the principle applies across the species. The dog sleeps in the same way. It also eats, but perhaps following a different diet. There are urges for sex and there is the fear tied to defense.
Both the animal and the human being have an animating spark. There is the same pattern from birth to death. This means that the soul is the indicator of life. Once the soul leaves, the dog is no more. Death is the same within the human species.
Shastra is the main source of knowledge and that reference is sufficient. We do not need any other evidence if we receive perfect knowledge. My father tells me that one hundred dollars automatically includes twenty dollars. That single source of information is enough for me to understand the principle.
Further evidence of this difference between distinction in body-type only is the movement of the Supreme Personality of Godhead in the manifest world. From time to time, He descends as Himself. He is essentially in two places at once: the spiritual world and the land of birth and death.
यदा यदा हि धर्मस्य
ग्लानिर् भवति भारत
तदात्मानं सृजाम्य् अहम्
yadā yadā hi dharmasya
glānir bhavati bhārata
tadātmānaṁ sṛjāmy aham
“Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion-at that time I descend Myself.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 4.7)
God sometimes appears as a human being, such as with Krishna and Rama. He may manifest as a fish or a boar. If He can appear in different species and still be the same individual, then the jiva souls can certainly do the same.
Irrespective of whether we can or cannot appear in another species, we are in the human form right now. This is our destiny from a previous period of time. We are fulfilling that specific destiny, and now we have the chance to shape our travels moving forward.
The true boon of the human birth is the ability to prevent rebirth, altogether. That is to say, instead of worrying about whether we can take birth as a dog or not in the next life, better to be free from the cycle of birth and death. This is known as transcendence.
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
Shri Krishna explains that the state of being at the time of death determines the nature of the next birth. It naturally flows that if we are conscious of God the person while quitting the body, we will avoid rebirth. We will return to our natural state, going back home, back to Godhead.
His travels for understanding clear,
How in different ways can appear.
Where as fish in water to swim,
Or as fighter over demons to win.
Sometimes as guru to teach,
Same God in appearance each.
Myself traveling here and there,
Back to home when of nature aware.