We see existence as either living, or and non-living. The living is represented by flora and the fauna. Belonging to the animal kingdom, the homo sapiens is our species.
As we look at other animals, we see much in common. There is a body structure, and a bundle of circulatory systems, nervous systems, and the like. We eat, and we digest, just like any other animal species. We feel hungry, thirsty, and we procreate. We avoid pain, feel threatened, and either defend against or attack the source of threats. And yet, despite all these similarities, we define ourselves differently, and see “animal” and “human” as two different entities. Though biologically we are animals, but to apply this epithet to humans is considered an abuse. What is that quality that entitles us to this differentiation?
Guru Granth Sahib lays emphasis on a thoughtful demeanour as a precursor to becoming human:
One who reflects upon his allotted span of life,
becomes His human. (page 84)
The scriptures say that even the gods crave human life, for the meditative human mind can divine the Truth. Saint Kabeer guides us:
Serving the Teacher, we are blessed with contemplation,
Then, this human body is obtained.
Even the gods long for this human body,
So, serve the Truth with this instrument. (page 1159)
The scriptures are pointing to a great lesson—mere birth as homo sapiens does not entitle us to be called human. Our instinct would have let us grab food for satisfying our hunger, but our human side guides us to feed others first. Our sixth sense may want to, but we can instead choose not to feel threatened at aggressive behaviour. On the contrary, we can rise to embrace our attacker, and practice non-violence in the face of aggression. Through contemplation, we gain control of our self, and rise beyond animal instinctual responses, to become truly human.