Saturday, January 23, 2010

human or animal, what is the difference? आहार-निद्रा-भय-मैथुनं

Food, sleep, fear and mating, these acts of humans are similar to animals. 
Of them (humans), dharma is the only special thing, without dharma humans are also animals ||

AhAra-nidrA-bhaya-maithunam cha
samAnam_etat_pashubhir_narANAm |
dharmo hi teShAm adhiko visheSho
dharmeNa hInAH pashubhiH samAnAH || [ITRANS]

āhāra-nidrā-bhaya-maithunaṃ cha
samānam_etat_pashubhir_narāṇām |
dharmo hi teṣhāmadhiko visheṣho
dharmeṇa hīnāḥ pashubhiḥ samānāḥ || [IAST]

आहार-निद्रा-भय-मैथुनं च समानमेतत्पशुभिर्नराणाम् ।
धर्मो हि तेषामधिको विशेषो धर्मेण हीनाः पशुभिः समानाः ॥

The king Sudarshana, in the preface of Hitopadesha, out on a stroll had heard two shlokas that set him thinking about the foolish, young, wealthy and powerful sons. After all he had to leave the kingdom to them one day! (see previous posts.)

Then he thinks about this shloka, also attributed to Chanakya where he uses 'vidyA' (knowledge) instead of dharma (right conduct). Both are appropriate, since without being aware of right conduct, proper way to use the knowledge, it is mere collection of facts.

Biology teaches us, Darwin postulated, and the wisdom of Indian land always held that all living beings are of common stock, made from similar life units - cells, evolved, changed, mutated through time. Put in other words, at a gross material level, we are all similar. Basic functions of all life forms is breathing and digestion. Lord Krishna says in Gita - 'aham vaishvAnaro bhUtvA, prANinAm dehamAshritam| prANApAnasamAyuktaH pachAmyannam chaturvidham' i.e. armed with breath and digestion, residing in the life forms, I digest four types of foods.' All life forms are upheld by the divine force of Life.

Incarnation theory says that since life principle is same in all living forms, a soul can travel in various physical forms. Human body is the epitome of life perfection. Why? How? We see that we can not run faster, smell better, bite harder, swim deeper, hear better than animals. Nothing! Left alone in the forest, we won't survive for long.

Or would we?

That is how we evolved, progressed in survival.

So how did we manage to beat the odds against us, beat every life form and even nature at its own game? Oh, yeah! We beat the heck out of everybody and everything.

We have the brain. that can help us make things that make us powerful. Even without fur, we can survive the winter, without Sonar we can see in night, without claws we can kill wild beasts, without wings we can fly far distances...

But "With great power comes great responsibility." This same brain allows us to think of future consequences of present or past actions. The development of complex language has allowed us to transmit knowledge across generations and time.

But all these are tools, of progress, communication etc.

The biggest difference between us and animals is the ability to think forward and think for the good for others! And also bad for others. (For good and bad are two sides of the same coin.) At scales not possible for animals. Feudal or family revenge can destroy empires! Such long term planning out of hatred. Or entire religions can be formed, changing the face of mankind forever for the betterment of all. We, if we want, can choose between the right and wrong actions based on our own free will.

Animals don't have that. They usually work on their 'animal instincts' - eat/hunt when hungry, kill only what is needed and when it is needed. Sleep with the diurnal clock - mostly sleep in night or if nocturnal then sleep in day time. You never find animals sick due to lack of sleep or oversleep! Scared of natural powers beyond their control, we too were scared in the beginning, and even now if it is at the scale of hurricane Katrina, Haiti or Latur earthquake, or Indian Ocean tsunami. Animals procreate, only when it is the season. In a way they are less distracted all the other time. Most of their actions are guided by short term, instinctive motivations.

We on the other hand, may endure heavy pains for the great good - MK Gandhi, Virginia Wolfe, Martin Luther King, Joan of Ark, Sage Dadhichi ... why do we do that? For the dharma, for what is right. Or, we can also give heavy pains for the Greater Evil.

THAT, makes us special, more than the animals, working at more than the material or body level. More than the muladhara chakra (mūlādhāra-chakra)! forget about kundalini (kuṇḍalinī) awakening, Some people haven't moved above the muladhara chakra, they are still living at the animal level - selfish, survival, short sighted thinking and actions.

The wise Bhartrihari calls such people as - bi-ped animals, and says the animal kingdom thanks them that at least they don't eat grass, else even animals would curse them for food shortage.

So, be human. think beyond the consumption, ignorance, fear and entertainment.

See the modern market and politics. Consumption galore - fast food, carbonated drinks, alcoholic drinks, tobacco products make almost all of visible economy (money wise)! Everywhere advertisements - telling you to buy something or the other. Creating a product and then a need for it is the basic principle of today's market.

Politics is filled with fear tactics all over the world. Diversion tactics. Be it Osama bin Laden, Saddam or H1N1 Swine Flu.

Life today revolves around entertainment only. How often do we hear 'I am bored.' Everyone wants to be entertained. I say, 'Only boring people get bored.' We have started to forget being creative. We just want to sit back and consume. That is total 'tamas', inertia, pulling and keeping us down. How many channels are there on cable TV?

And everything has to be entertainment - be it culture to kids! Even Hanuman has to be a comic character to appeal to children! People want to be entertained, not enlightened. Not even slightly enlightened. Nope. If there is no entertainment, I am not going there! And what to talk of the sexual tension in our lives. Everything revolves around that weakness. All ads somehow find a reason to have a smiling, beautiful woman covering 80% of the ad space - be it an ad for a pen, car, rice, alcohol, diapers, vacation spot, airlines, or life insurance.

Market is out of control. Gives you no help in deciding what is the greater good. It only cares for the lesser self-gratification. But as Vidura warns, we need to sacrifice the smaller selfish interests for the greater social interests.

So? Be human. Think beyond the consumption, ignorance, fear and entertainment.

We started weak and slow as a race, but now we are strong and fast. We can destroy things, and destroy them fast - be it our waistlines or the world's resources or the fragile ecosystems of the oceans, or the rain forests! We have already succeeded in destroying many things, in our animal like ignorance, but humanly unique greed and avarice.

It is better to be a four legged animal than a two legged one.

Awaken! Arise! Be human, humane and of right conduct.
You are the epitome of creation.
Behave like one.

And now the language aspects of the shloka -

AhAra = food, act of eating
nidrA = sleep
bhaya = fear
maithunam = mating
cha = and
samAnam = equal
etat = this
pashubhir = pashubhiH = [as] by animals
pashu = animal. it has a very interesting etymology.
pAsha = net. pashu = that which is in the pAsha [of illusion and attached to the matter]
hence one who is not aware of the spirit is a pashu, be it walking on four or two legs.

narANAm = of humans
i.e. these acts of humans is same as by animals.

dharmo = dharmaH = right conduct
hi = only
teShAm = of them (humans)
adhiko = adhikaH = excess, more
visheSho = visheShaH = special
dharmeNa hInAH = without dharma
pashubhiH = [as] by animals
samAnAH = similar, like,

(c) shashikant joshi । शशिकांत जोशी । ॐ सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः ।
Practical Sanskrit. All rights reserved.


  1. FOOD, FEAR, SEX & SLEEP (a poem)

    Baroda (India)

  2. very nicely explained thanks Svetlana galstyan

  3. Very well denoted and educative to the fullest .



  4. thanks for the great post - i think this is related to your other wonderful post "alasyam hi manushayanam ... "

  5. the last line in the verse is wrong. It should be dharmeṇa hīnāḥ paśubhiḥ samānāḥ. other than that...great post. thank you.

  6. As a Master degree student, I have learnt that its always useful and important to add the source of the information that we quote especially from scriptures. This particular statement from hitopadesha is quoted on countless no. of web sites. Not able to find the original text on the web makes it more prone to misleading information. No one knows about the origin of it.

    Such things also leads to a gradual misleading of the information. There is no surprise if we find the opposite meaning of the same sloka over a period of time. That's the height of copying the information from one citation to another.

    1. Chitta, Thanks for taking time to share your thoughts and commenting. I really appreciate that.

      You don't have to quote your Masters degree to make a point :) Many of the readers are well educated, and so am I in sciences et al.

      I do not understand your concern though. The post clearly mentions that the shloka is found in Hitopadesh and in an earlier source of chANakya, with one word change. When a great quotation was used again in a work like hitopadesh which clearly says it has collected pearls of wisdom from all over, the author deliberately, to say this is a copy, would change a word or so. This is not a lone example.

      Also, opposite meaning is only possible by people who would not know the language or the context, else it is not possible to have a different meaning.

      The shloka points out that food, sleep, fear, mating is common to even animals, we humans have a higher purpose on this earth, because we have much higher intelligence and free will. So use the human life for purposeful living. Learn, study, know the right conduct (that which keeps the entire society stable, not just few selfish interests).

      Hope that clarifies things a bit :) :)

  7. Dear Shashikat Joshi Saheb,

    You're doing a fantastic work. May god bless you and you keep on providing us different slokas and their meaning.

    Please ad some slokas related to Adwait Sidhhanta.

    Amitabh from Varanasi

  8. Dear Shashikat Joshi Saheb,

    You're doing a fantastic work. May god bless you and you keep on providing us different slokas and their meaning.

    Amitabh from Varanasi

  9. Thank you for sharing this...the post is clear and lucid for any one to understand..Highly commendable indeed.

  10. Thank you for this article which is clear and lucid for any one understand easily...your work is highly appreciable for the content.

  11. Sometimes I retype or copy the slokas from here and post it in my FB page. Hope u dont have objection. I always quote the source of my posts.

    1. Thank you sharing with your circles.
      Instead of copying shloka, please consider sharing the entire link of the post. Good word should spread, but no harm in giving the full source. That is the best way to do on the net!

  12. The writer totally missed the really meaning of this verse. The word "Dharma" is very significant in this verse. Eating, sleeping, fearing and reproduction are common activities performed by all living entities but among all living entities only human can understand and realize God. Dharma in vedic context means "one's constitutional position." Like fire's consitutional position is to provide heat and light. If fire doesn't provide heat and light it won't be called Fire. Similarly according to vedic injunction human's constitutional position is to render service. We are always rendering service either to our senses, family, children, friends, lover, pets, or employer but this all services are temporary and sense gratification which provides temporary happiness. Being a part and parcel of the Supreme Lord - Krishna, our real position is to render devotional service to Bhagvan which will give us eternal bliss, peace and happiness. Right now we are looking for happiness in material things but our real happiness resides in devotional service (Bhakti) to the Lord which is a loving exchange between Lord and his devotee. Being a soul we can't obtain pleasure from matter so we have to spiritually feed our soul which can be through devotional service (bhakti), there is no other way. If a human being doesn't inquire about his real position then he/she is no better than animal. An animal can't inquire about God and his position but a human can. That's why we get this human birth after going through 8.4 million species of life. The aim of human birth is to inquire about the Supreme and how to go back to God-head (our real home), not to enjoy eating, sleeping, defending and mating like cats, dogs and hogs.

    1. Very good work of Shashi but what Manav explains is the real meaning of this shloka. The difference between us and others animals is the religious activity.

    2. A nice blog. please Do more illustrations with pictures etc. people and mostly indians say Aham BraMhasmi, Vasudaika Kutumbakam etc. without practising it in real life or even knowing it like a parrot. practice is better than precept. i just chanced upon this site while googling the shloka. learning sanskrit is a must as westerners try to learn latin and greek etymology and languages.

  13. thank you sir
    i will share your blog with 10 person today

  14. the material is here, its upto an individual and in which chakra he lives , how much he understands . Human has been through all evolutionary stages. Mysteries of womb are still being discovered, but these are trivial things , satvikta follows itself with practicality of yog and sanatana code of conduct , each second that passes by, is recorded in form of changes in all kinds of matter..... But samatvam yoga samuchyate(the yoga of persistence is the best yog of all) ,,,,,,try to aim for that param pad inside you,,,,,,,,,,,and rest will simplify.. These and other shlokas will be evident in your daily life ,,,, thirst of curiosity will be quenched :)

  15. Actually animals do show that they understand our language(s). But Can we?

    msv rao Vijayawada

  16. Sir jee what I have understood in life
    Ahara Nidra Bhaya Maithunam Cha
    Samanam Etat Pashubhir Naranam l
    Buddhir Hi Tesham Adhiko Visheshaha
    Buddhya Vihinaha Pashubhirsamanaha ll
    because of power of dicrmination between right and wrong (buddhee) is what makes difference between animal and man.
    Religion is nothing but the absolute truth about self, surrounding and its functioning. by following dharma a person experiences stable happiness. Dharma always facilitates the follower for higher levels of happiness. Dharma being absolute never changes and can be experienced By all the unbiased intellectuals as one.

  17. There are a few variations, dharmaH, buddhiH, vidyA etc.
    dharma is not religion, one of the meanings of dharma is the laws that uphold a society.

    dharma can be understood through vidyA, but it is indeed subtle topic, and contextual as well.

  18. Dear Sri Shashi, nice!

    Translation should be a little different, in my opinion. And the "bhavArth" is a bit too long and winding. Here's what I would say:
    "Food, sleep, fear, mating: these drivers of behaviour are common to beast and man, a consequence of being born. For humans, 'Dharma' is the additional drive that differentiates humans. Dharma is learned by imbibing mores, norms, and practices from the society and culture one is embedded in. When Dharma is lacking, or even when it is flawed or crippled, then human behaviour is akin to how animals behave.

    So what is 'dharmic' and what is 'not dharmic'? In my view, working, acts, habits, behaving and thinking is 'dharmic' when it promotes the happiness and well-being of the largest number of people. Not only that, the action, habit, behaviour and way of thinking should promote the sustained well-being of society for the next tens and hundreds of generations.
    -- Partha Kashik, Canada

  19. Very well explain dharma ! May god bless you !


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