A Human Birth
A human birth or incarnation in Hinduism is the most highly praised form of life. The Vedic scriptures explain there are 8.4 million life forms that a soul may enter. The human form is only one of these forms.
This means you have an approximate .00001% chance of receiving a human form again in your next lifetime.
When the Vedas indicate that it is very difficult to receive a human form, obviously it's with cause. Fortunately, there are other factors that tip this in our favor, which if understood, truly make us the architects of our future destiny.
Shocking loss or priceless acquisition?
Once a man went fishing in the early morning. He had to wait until there was enough light for him to cast his net. He sat on a boulder by the side of the lake and put his feet in the water. He felt a bag under his feet and lifted it up. The bag had a number of small pebbles.
To pass the time, he took one and threw it in the water. He took another and did the same thing. He kept mindlessly throwing them one by one until there was enough light to see. Then he casually looked in his palm... and saw a priceless diamond.
You can almost taste the remorse this person must have felt! Obviously, you wouldn't want something like this to happen to you. Our human birth is regarded as one of three priceless acquisitions (the other two being the association of a true Saint and a desire for God). But, if we don't understand its worth, it's the same as throwing it away.
A Sanskrit verse composed by Bhartrihari firsts asks us to consider if there really is anything special that separates us from the animal kingdom. Both humans and animals share four things:
All species eat, they all sleep, they all get scared and they all mate. But in actual fact, animals may be superior to us in these four areas. A cow grazes on the same green grass every day of her life. Birds fall silent and sleep in their perches as soon as the sun sets, and become active just before sunrise. Animals have a natural survival instinct if they are threatened. The mating instinct of animals is according to regular cycles for the preservation of the species.
But we humans eat whenever and whatever we wish, in any quantity we desire. Our sleep cycles are equally whimsical. Fear in a humans can become uncontrolled paranoia. Mating is rarely thought of in relation to bearing offspring. We are highly unregulated and undisciplined in all these areas.
Then what is so great about a human form?
Your unique qualities
Bhartrihari said a human birth has two assets:
- Discriminative thinking
- Ability to perform karmas (actions with consequences)
This means only in a human birth can we analyze a right course of action when faced with different options. In this case it means we have a chance to value and to follow spiritual philosophy.
Plus, only in a human birth can we perform actions that will result in a future consequence. This is the best opportunity to advance spiritually. No other species in existence has this privilege. Only a human being can generate future outcomes through the actions he performs today.
But if we don't utilize these assets for spiritual gain, they automatically default to being used for material pursuits. Then we truly are no better or worse than any animal species.
Is this all that we were born for - eating, sleeping, fearing and mating? This is a great opportunity to employ discriminative thinking and reflect on this!
The Garud Puran says that only when a soul is in a human form can he know God. The Kath Upanishad say, "Oh human beings! Get up! Wake up! Seek the association of enlightened Saints, attain spiritual knowledge from them and know God."