Beach 2: First steps in the Ascent to the Divine

Wave 1: The Animal Passions of the human species


AhAra-nidrA-bhaya-maithunaMca sAmAnyaMetad-paSubhir-narANAM /

dharmo hi teshAM adhiko viSeshaH dharmeNa hInAH paSubhis-samAnAH //

from Hitopadesa in Sanskrit

Hunger, sleep, insecurity and sex urge are common to men and animals but the understanding of dharma is the extra quality of man which makes what a man is’. Without dharma he is just an animal. The word dharma may be loosely translated as: duty or pursuit of social and personal ideals of behaviour. It is one of the untranslatable words in Hindu scriptural literature. It has many more connotations. If the only enjoyment a man knows is that of physical sensations, then he is only a dressed-up walking animal, though a thinking animal. One of the 1330 couplets of the world-famous Tamil classic, tirukkuraL, an invaluable guide to the art and science of good living, written in the first century A.D., has this beautiful thought on the same topic: ‘Food, clothing and the like are not anything special for beings, but the sense of shame (in doing wrong) is what is special to mankind’.

OonuDai echam uyirkellAm vEralla; nANudamai mAndar chirappu . (Tamil)

Animals probably will never understand man’s precocity for clothing, because they have no sense of shame. What distinguishes man from animals is not only the physical sense of shame but a spiritual sense of shameThe Sanskrit language has an interesting word for this: hrIh. This is the word which Adi SankarAcArya (to be referred to as Sankara very often ) interprets in his commentary on sanat-sujAtIyaM, as akArya-karaNe lajjA, meaning shame in doing what ought not to be done.

The concept of spiritual sense of shame has, inbuilt into it, the concept of spirituality. One might hasten to think that we are bringing in the idea of spirituality rather extraneously. So first let us clear what we mean by spirituality. What is spirituality? Man has two kinds of mental attitudes, yet he is essentially divine, say the Hindu scriptures. But it is his animal instinct that is more prominent most of the time. His divine instinct shows up very rarely, if at all. The animal instincts are those that have been cultivated over several lives. To fight against these and resume permanently one’s natural divine instinct, is the purpose of life. The pursuit of the divine instinct in oneself, by oneself, for the benefit of one’s own self, is spirituality. This spirituality is to be won step by step by personal effort. It penetrates into one’s heart, changes attitudes and purifies all relationships. But why spirituality? In this mundane world of rat-race for prosperity and one-up-manship there are many who think that talking about the need for spirituality is nonsense. Spirituality, according to them, does not give man bread and butter nor does it provide him the other comforts of life without which he cannot live. This kind of thinking refuses to comprehend why spirituality is needed – just as, animals do not understand man’s need for clothing. Need for clothing will be understood only if the concept of shame is understood. Need for spirituality will be felt only if the concept of inner life or consciousness is understood. If we do not understand this, we are like animals.

The animal in us brings with it six evils which are rooted in the human mind. They are usually recognised as the animal passions in man and constitute the major obstacles in the ascent to spirituality. These are:

Lust or any desire that is illegitimate; Attachment and head-long passion for one’s possessions, belongings, kith and kin and opinions; Hate; Anger; Greed; and Confusion and delusion.

These are known, in Sanskrit, as: kAma, rAga, dvesha, krodha, lobha and moha, respectively.

The human mind has perfected these individual evils over several millenia rather persistently and successfully. In addition to these six, the human mind nurtures six more evil tendencies – for which man cannot blame his animal ancestry. These are

Arrogance; Jealousy, the feeling of discomfort at another’s rise or success; The awkward feeling, ‘why my miseries are not happening to others?’; Spite or Malice – the feeling that does not brook or give any credit to others even when they have legitimately deserved it and so takes pleasure in talking them down; Fad for show – a projection of one’s own name or personality in everything that happens; and Pride, the feeling that nobody else is equal to oneself.

These six are known, in Sanskrit, by the words, mada, mAtsarya, IrSyA, asUyA, dambha and garva, respectively.


These twelve evils or diseases of the mind as we may call them, are all captained, monitored, motivated and prompted by a grand master – the EGO. It is referred to as ‘aham-kAra in Sanskrit. Nobody escapes it. It is the king-pin of all villainy. It is the source of all evil tendencies in man’s mind. But it is not as if it is unconquerable. By constant practice and dispassion, say the scriptures, one can control these twelve evil tendencies along with their captain, the Ego. By thought the ego was made and so by thought the power of the ego can be unmade. But the thought must now be directed toward a higher entity, for the ego would never allow itself to be attacked. In order that one may succeed in this endeavour, one has to channel the mind toward the only two good tendencies in Man which can oppose each one of the thirteen, with some success. These two are:

The Sanskrit words for these are: SraddhA; and, bhakti . Faith is faith in the divinity of the Self within each one of us. Devotion to that Inner Self and dedication to everything that represents that dvinity together constitute the bhakti that is natural to us. But the thirteen evil tendencies in the mind create obstacles for the expression of this devotion and dedication. Not only do they create obstacles but they pull us in exactly the opposite direction, away from the divinity that is inherent in us. It is therefore necessary to exercise our willpower ( icchA ) and extricate the intellect from the clutches of the Ego and its entire gang of twelve. The will-power has to be trained to recognise the ego everytime it rears its head and to say, ‘Hey e-go, you go!’

In actuality it is the presence and domination, in each one of us, of this gang of twelve led by their captain, the Ego, that is responsible for the several evils, social and cultural diseases of the society . These evils can be classified under five heads as follows:

These evils are all rooted in one or more of the individual bad tendencies that we listed earlier. In fact each of the 25 evils of the society can be carefully analysed and traced to individual weaknesses in the members of the society which express themselves collectively because many in the society possess the same weakness in some measure or other. No scientific achievement or progress can root out these evils, without a parallel effort on the humane side by each individual.

(The above is a partial extract from the following web pages of SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY :



The first challenge for each man is therefore to channelise his mind through his will-power, away from the thirteen evil tendencies into SraddhA and bhakti. This task is the task of every member of society. If each individual succeeds in the task of minimising, if not eradicating, the thirteen evils inherent in him, the society is automatically on the road to improvement. Not only does this help us to root out the evil tendencies in us but it does much more. Dedication and Devotion will give us the courage not to bend down or kneel before the Gods of corruption, hypocrisy, exploitation, superstition and all the other evils listed above. And this will boost up the morale of the society on its road to progress.

If the individual does not embark upon this task it only means that he has not risen from his animal status. Animals believe in only what is available to their senses. In other words they believe only in the pratyaksha – what is sensed. paSyanti iti paSavaH – that is the derivation for the word paSu, meaning ‘animal’. Only Man can go beyond the senses and think of the unseen, unheard, unsensed. God warns Man by turning his hairs grey and telling him it is time he turns to Him. Note that animals do not develop grey hairs. They behave like what they should, all the time. Only man does not behave like man; he needs the warning and he gets it. That is the latest time, in his life, by which he should turn his devotion and dedication towards nobler goals and purposes.. Man certainly takes care of himself, makes his life comfortable, provides amusement for his emotional needs, creates arts and literature for his intellectual needs -- these make him different from an animal alright, but he also has an utter disregard for his individual spirituality. When he departs from his own dharma he creates imbalance and perturbation in his own self as well as in his environment. Thereby his progress up the spiritual ladder is impaired; deadly sins are allowed to grow in his heart. He goes down in the scale of samsAra, the eternal cycle of births and deaths, in spite of all his secular achievments. What is condemned here is sin and not the sinner. In this sense Hinduism differs from other religions which give man only one birth to do it well or not. Man is not punished for his sins; he is punished by his sins. Sin is a self-condemning act arising out of a misunderstanding in the sinner as to his own true nature.The going-down in the scale of samsAra may mean that one is born in spiritually poorer and more difficult circumstances or one is born even as an animal. But this rebirth takes account of only a small part of our accumulated karma, the conglomerate of our actions and thoughts. There is a large part of our accumulated karma which is the one which contributes to our tendencies and nature in our future births. This can be reshaped by our present actions and thoughts and so it is up to us to act and feel in such a way that our karma opens up a better future for us, if not in this life, certainly in our future lives.

The better future does not simply refer to the spiritual future; it also refers to the material future. Hindu thought and tradition do not undervalue the need for material happiness. It is a mistaken belief to think that Hindu religion emphasizes only asceticism. It wants you to go up the spiritual ladder at your own pace, taste and capacity. It all depends on what you want and how you want it. Do you want earthly pleasures – material goods, sex, wealth, fame, power? Well, you can pursue them all. These goals are termed artha (material happiness, wealth) and kAma (sensual pleasures). In fact there are four different types of goals which are all legitimate. Technically these are called, purushArthas (= man’s goals). Besides the two just mentioned, they are: dharma and moksha. We gave a meaning to dharma at the topof this page but we shall revert to the various connotations of dharma more than once in this book in a spiral fashion, every time shedding a little more light on the concept. The word moksha means salvation or more precisely, liberation. The meaning of this word is further elaborated in depth in Beach 3-Wave2; Beach7-Wave1, Wave2, Wave4.

According to Hinduism, there is nothing wrong in pursuing one or more of these objectives. But Hinduism also asserts with the full force of all its legends, mythology and experience, that in the long run, in due course of everlasting time, that is, if not in this life, in succeeding lives, -- really ultimately, one will tire of pursuing the first three goals (artha, kAma and dharma) because frustration is inherent in their pursuit. Experience from time immemorial has left traditions of stories and records which go to show that sooner or later every human being reaches a saturation point in terms of worldly pleasures and wealth, beyond which they breed a frustration syndrome. Everyone wants an ultimate peace-cum-happiness. Pursuit of wealth and happiness are certainly part of our daily lives. The pursuit of dharma relates to moral and social behaviour. This is also, in some sense, in the same ball-park as the other two. Hinduism says that there is a fourth worthwhile goal which is the only goal as far as real ultimate peace-cum-happiness is concerned. And since it believes so, it makes rules even for the pursuit of the other three so that ultimately there is no discordance . In fact in mentioning the four goals of life, Hinduism has a certain sequential order; first it is dharma, next artha, then kAma and then moksha . In other words, dharma is primary; and so the pursuit of artha and kAma has to follow the norms of dharma! So the pursuit of even the earthly objectives are to be monitored by rules which are enunciated from the point of view of preparing one to go to the fourth objective, moksha. The idea is, that, when the time comes to seek this fourth goal, beyond the three objectives, either in this life or in later lives, the habits and tendencies accumulated by the ceaseless pursuit of the first three should not come in the way of the fourth. The accumulated habits and tendencies are called vAsanAs. The word vAsanA, means literally, smell. Technically this is the tendency that we bring along with us from our actions and thoughts of the past like the breeze of air that carries the smell of the rose garden that it has passed through. The animal passions of man have their roots in these vAsanAs.

The belief that material happiness is transient does not require a Hindu to neglect the earning of a livelihood or the working of his way up the ladder of worldly success. Far from it. Hinduism has the realism to declare that without a healthy body no spiritual pursuit is possible. Nor can a spiritual seeker sustain himself physically ithout depending on the environment of a prosperous society. When the Hindu scriptures say that worldly happiness is not the ultimate in happiness they are only reminding us that as we alternate between pleasure and pain, happiness and misery, joy and sorrow, we are only passing from one experience to another – none of which is everlasting. Hinduism pleads with us to stand back and observe ourselves as well as the rest of the world carefully as a scientist. What really is pleasure? It is after all, an intermediate experience between two moments of pain and vice versa. This is not a cynical observation but a ruthless analysis of facts. The two extreme physical experiences of men are birth and death. The first experience leaves no memory and the second experience leaves no experiencer to recall it. In the interval between the two man undergoes an infinite variety of experiences, on the physical, mental and subconscious levels but none of the experiences can be claimed to be permanent. The Upanishads claim on the other hand that Real Permanent Bliss comes from within one’s self and that such a bliss which comes from the awareness of one’s self is eternal and universal. It requires either a deep intellectual analysis of the self or an actual intuitive experience to corroborate this. It is in the context of such an analysis that one often finds in the scriptures the maxim that material happiness and misery are impermanent and both ‘come and go’. All mundane experience of the senses, mind or intellect, whether pleasant or painful are summed up as ‘that which comes and goes’ (AgamApAyI, in Sanskrit) that is, are transient. So one just bears with this syndrome. The fundamental theme of the Hindu teaching, in fact, goes deeper than this. It says: ‘What has a beginning must have an end’. To be born means moving towards death. The three goals of man, dharma, artha and kAma, all operate only within this cycle of births and deaths. The only thing that transcends this cycle is the status of moksha.


CONTENTS page Next page Previous page For notes on mythological names referred, go to MYTHOLOGY

April 16, '99 Copyright Ó V. Krishnamurthy