It is common these days among positively-minded people to encourage us to think of our life as a gift. And, actually, according to the ancient yoga scriptures, it is. Being born into the human form of life is a very rare and wonderful gift. However, to fully appreciate the value of this gift, we need to inquire into why this is so. Just reading it in a fortune cookie or seeing a nice Facebook post that says it is, is not enough for us to truly feel grateful in the core of our hearts for this immeasurably valuable gift we have received.
So, why is this current life in the human form such an precious gift?
To understand the answer, we must first know who we really are.
The ancient yoga scriptures (Vedas) tell us very clearly that we are the eternal spiritual person temporarily wearing our current material mind and body, like clothes. The gross physical body is like an outer layer of clothing and the mind, or subtle body, is like an under layer of clothing. Just as we are not the shirt or pants we have on now, we are not these “clothes” either.
The same is true for other forms of life that we see in this world – animal, plant, bacteria, and so on. Each of these living organisms is an individual spiritual person (jiva-atma) covered by a particular type of material mind and body. It is not that just those in the human form of life are a spiritual being wearing a material body – all the living entities who reside in this world are a spiritual being wearing a material body. In essence, there is no difference between the spiritual individual who is wearing a human body and the spiritual individual who is wearing a plant body. They are simply wearing different types of bodies and experiencing the mentality that fits that body. In fact, the person who is now embodied in a plant form, could have been embodied in a human form in their last lifetime – and vise versa.
Taking birth in a human form of life is a very rare and special opportunity. The Vedas tell us there are 8,400,000 varieties of life forms we can incarnate into and just looking at the ones that make up life on this planet, we can easily see that the number of beings in the human form of life are infinitesimal compared to the number that are currently embodied in other forms of life. For example, there are an estimated 4 quadrillion quadrillion beings in bacteria bodies, 10 billion billion in ant bodies, 500 trillion in Antarctic trill bodies, 3 trillion in tree bodies, 18.6 billion in domestic chicken bodies, and only about 7.5 billion beings in the human form of life. If you think about it statistically, you can easily see how rare it is for an individual to have the opportunity to take birth in a human body.
However, our opportunity to take birth in the human form of life is not simply special because it is statistically rare or even because it usually takes us so many million of lifetimes to get here. And it is not special because humans seem to have more refined methods of eating, sleeping, reproducing, and defending than other living beings on this planet.
So then, why is it that the human form of life is so special?
It is special because the human form of life offers us a unique opportunity for spiritual realization that is simply not available in the animal or plant forms of life. In the human form of life, we have the ability to be introspective – to inquire into the nature and purpose of our existence. We can understand ourselves as the spiritual person only temporarily wearing the material mind and body, and can engage in a process which allows us to completely transcend our material situation. If we are in a dog body, we cannot do this – we cannot understand our self as separate from our mind and body, and so are compelled to act according to a dog mentality and body. We are literally dragged through life by the urges of our doggy mind and bodily senses.
We may unknowingly look at tree or a dog and imagine that the being in a tree or dog body is happy and peaceful because they do not have the various worries that people in modern society have. We may even think trees and dogs have better lives than we do and wish we could be a dog or tree or some other life form. But, actually, the spiritual person wearing the tree or dog body still has the same material miseries that a person in a human body has – namely birth, disease, old age, and death. Furthermore, he has the same innate spiritual needs as the person in the human body, but unlike the person in the human body, he has no intellectual capacity for understanding his true spiritual nature and so cannot consciously take action to fulfill these needs. Thus, he suffers both materially and spiritually while in the dog or tree body, with little or no opportunity to rectify his suffering.
Because every living being is a spiritual person, we all have innate spiritual needs that can only be fulfilled through spiritual means – through realizing our true spiritual identity and living accordingly. In most forms of life, we do not have the opportunity to become aware of the choices we have and the actions we can take that will move us out our suffering condition of material consciousness and into our fully joyful and natural condition of spiritual consciousness.
In the human life form, however, we do have this opportunity. We can consciously choose spiritual life over material. We can choose to live according to our spiritual nature, rather than be enslaved by the dictates of our materially-conditioned mind and body. But in order to take advantage of this rare opportunity, we need to engage in bonafide process of spiritual realization.
Because our consciousness has become so very covered from countless lifetimes spent completely identified with our material coverings, our attachment to the world of materiality has become very deeply ingrained. We cannot simply pull ourselves out of material identification through our intellectual strength or mental willpower. Therefore, it is imperative that we engage sincerely in a genuine process which can purify our consciousness of material influence and fully awaken us to our true, spiritual essence, position, and function.
The ancient yoga scriptures clearly specify that the process most recommended for spiritual realization in this day and age is Mantra Meditation – the hearing and chanting or singing of the transcendental Names of the Supreme Person. The Names of the Supreme Person are not ordinary, material sound. They are the Supreme Person Himself in spiritual sound vibration. Because the Supreme is always the Supreme, regardless of how or where He chooses to appear, His Names are not tainted in any way by contact with matter. On the contrary, they have a purifying effect on the consciousness of any living being who comes into contact with them.
The Supreme appears in this world as His Names to give us the opportunity to revive our awareness of our true spiritual identity and to reawaken our lost relationship of loving friendship with Him. By receiving Him into our hearts through the hearing and repeating of His Names, our ignorance of our true nature is dissipated. The Supreme Person is the Supreme Sun who dissolves the darkness of material ignorance. As our consciousness becomes more and more purified, we are able to witness for ourselves the absolute sweetness and beauty of the Supreme Person. And so, naturally, we become increasingly eager to welcome Him into our hearts, and to be relieved of the burdensome weight of material misunderstandings and misgivings. Naturally, the spiritual love and happiness that lies dormant within us becomes fully awakened by His loving presence.
All of our spiritual needs can be fully met in this way, and thus the world of materiality will no longer have any hold over us. This is real freedom. Freedom to be who we truly are, to make choices in our life from a solid platform of clarity, love, and wisdom. We cannot do this while bound up in material misidentification, thinking we are our material coverings and so compelled to live according the demands of our mind and bodily senses – like the person in the dog or tree body.
This human form of life is a doorway into a higher way of living, but we must take the initiative to walk through the door. It is up to us to take advantage of the timeless wisdom and methods offered to us by the Supreme Person and saintly yogis by engaging in the process of self-realization – by meditating on, hearing and repeating, the Names of the Supreme at every opportunity. In this way, we can realize our highest potential. We can utilize this precious gift of the human form of life in the most glorious and joyful way possible. In doing so, our very existence becomes blissful, sublime, perfect, complete. This is truly what it means to live naturally.
For more information on specific types of yoga Mantra Meditation, simply click on the links below: