Our spirituality is bigger than our humanity

We humans have something special that other species don’t have – something that has enabled us to do distinctive things such as compose literature, develop science and explore metaphysics.

The world’s great religious traditions acknowledge that this special something comprises our spiritual essence. But what exactly is that essence?

Some traditions equate our spirituality with our humanity – they hold that we humans alone have souls. This notion makes all subhuman existence devoid of any intrinsic purpose; the world’s flora and fauna exist only as a cosmic setting for the central drama of human redemption. This is anthropocentrism in spiritual masquerade. Such a utilitarian view of nonhuman life can easily degenerate into an exploitative view akin to today’s materialistic worldview that has wrought ecological havoc.

Gita wisdom explains that those who equate their spirituality with their humanity confuse a difference in degree with a difference in nature. A fundamental characteristic of all life, human and subhuman, is consciousness. And consciousness, being non-material, comes from a spiritual source, the soul. As all living beings are conscious, they all have souls. More precisely, they are souls. The Bhagavad-gita (13.31) urges us to see beyond the diversity of life-forms to the similarity of spiritual essence.

Ignorance covers the spiritual awareness of all living beings, but that covering is thicker in subhumans than in humans. Consequently, whereas the spiritual capacity is almost absent in animals, it is nascent in humans. Our latent spirituality drives us to enquire about the nature and purpose of our existence, thereby developing various distinctively human branches of knowledge. When we develop our spiritual potential, we realize ourselves as souls. Such self-realization is our unique human prerogative.

Overall, by understanding that our spirituality is bigger than our humanity, we can better value our subhuman brethren, appreciating that the universe’s ultimate purpose includes them too.

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Don’t let the mind play truant in the school of bhakti
In the mystery that is spirituality, the investigator is the investigated
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