What defines us is what lies at the top of our being, not at the bottom

Some materialists argue that we humans are nothing but animals.

Yes, we have much in common with animals: we all struggle for survival, and crave for food, sleep and sex. But this doesn’t make us equal to animals. Why not? Because these commonalities lie at the bottom of our being – they define our physical side, which we share with the animals.

However, the many achievements that have raised humans far above animals haven’t come from this lower side. Consider the incident that started the engine of modern science – Newton saw a fruit falling, which led to his postulating the theory of gravity. Suppose a monkey had been sitting there instead of Newton; it would have simply eaten the fruit and gone on its way. Newton too could have done the same thing, but he didn’t. He used his higher side to enquire about how and why things happen, not just about how those events affect our bodily needs.

The capacity to look for the meaning and purpose of things lies at the top of our being – it differentiates us from animals. This capacity comes from our spiritual core. And it prompts us towards the realization of our nonmaterial essence, the realization that brings lasting fulfillment. The Bhagavad-gita indicates that unfortunate are those who hold that life has no purpose higher than sensual gratification (16.08) – they destroy their spiritual potential (16.09)

As long as we identify with what lies at the bottom of our being, we stay enslaved by bodily desires and deprived of lasting happiness. When we identify with what lies at the top of our being, we tap the potential of our defining human attribute. Through appropriate yogic realization, we gradually attain the sublime spiritual realization that brings lasting fulfillment.

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