Saturday, December 29, 2012

Man and the Beast

The word "Beast" has different meanings.  Dictionary defines a beast as "any large nonhuman animal, especially a large, four-footed mammal.  It also defines a beast as "a live creature, as distinguished from a plant".  Another accepted meaning of "Beast" is "the crude animal nature common to humans and lower animals".   So, beastly nature is common to humans and animals.  Recent happenings in Delhi and the sad death of a young girl is a startling example of beastly men.  Animals kill other animals mostly for food.  But man does not need any real reason or rationale to kill other animals.  Of course, he has innumerable reasons to kill other human beings.  We often hear someone say - "Do not behave like a beast, behave like a man".  What distinguishes a man from a a beast?  When does a two legged animal called man become a "Human being"?  These questions crop up from time to time.  Are there any clear answers to these questions?  These questions have clear cut answers in ancient Indian wisdom and literature.  It is indeed important to know these answers at present times, especially when one reads in the media regularly about the beastly acts of so called humans.

There are certain qualities that distinguish "Man, the animal" and "Man, the human being".  Bhartruhari, the original triple centurion on account of his three Shatakas, brings out this difference beautifully in a small sloka in his Neetishataka:

साहित्य संगीत कला विहीनः साक्षात् पशुः  प्रुच्हविषाणहीनः |
तृणं न खादन्नपि जीवमानः तद्भागधेयम्  परमं पशूनाम् ||

Saahitya sangeeta kalaa viheenaha saakshaat pashuhu pruchha vishaana heenaha
Trunam na khaadannai jeevamaanaha tad bhaagadeyam param pashoonam!

A man who does not have any interest in Literature, Music and Fine Arts is an animal personified.  But there are two noticeable differences.  First difference is in appearance.  Man does not have a tail or horns that animals usually have.  Second and more important difference is that man does not eat grass like animals do.  "The Creator" has made this vital difference probably keeping the welfare of animals in view.  If man was habituated to eat grass also, he would consume the entire grass available on earth and force grass-eating animals to die of hunger.  Thanks to the Creator's wisdom or discretion,  whatever you may call it, animals are at least left with grass to fill their stomachs.  But man is more intelligent than the Creator, make no mistake about understanding that.  What if the Lord has not given him an instinct to eat grass?  Man can eat grass-eating animals themselves.  There are experiments being made to manufacture fuel (ethanol) from grass and already certain type of grass is consumed by man to fuel his cars.  The day is not far off when the Creator's designs are defeated by this wonderfully intelligent animal called man and the animals may have to live just on air.  Again, air that is abundantly polluted by man!

Let us get back to the main qualities that differentiate a man from a pashu, an animal- the ones of interest in Literature, Music and Fine Arts.  These disciplines are expected to refine a man and dispel the baser instincts in him.  Fill him with compassion and humility instead.  "Aatmavat Sarva bhooteshu", meaning seeing his own reflection in every living being.  Music, literature and fine arts provide him scope to think of other things that make life more interesting and worth living.  Children are taught to learn and participate in these events since a tender age.  Parents take great pains in providing them opportunities to inculcate these values.  Every child that learns music does not become a M S Subbulakshmi or Balamurli Krishna.  Similarly with writers and artistes.  They may not themselves reach the pinnacle;  but they can appreciate a master in their field better.  They may take out some time from the routine life to sit in a concert, read a good book or move around in an exhibition or museum.  These things make appreciation of finer things in life much better and civilise a man.

A question may arise then.  What about the kind of literature or art that achieve the opposite effect; that of provoking man to even more beastly behavior?  Let us not insult arts and literature by including such things in their purview. Literature, Music and Fine Arts are words earmarked for those instruments that refine a man; and transform him from a beast to a real man    


  1. Vital inner sense we should gather is that the people who are artists are mainly creative and have controlled mind the other are inferred as non trained to have control mind and hence are equal to an animal.Hence it indicates that people are who are not creative a4re little away from being a human who has capacity to control the mind an when he does not control one is likely to loose temper often and em brass the people around and there is nothing wrong in calling him a beast

  2. मैं समझता हूँ कि इस मुद्दे पर हर परिवार में बात होनी चाहिए। हर परिवार में यह बहस का मुद्दा बनाना चाहिए। यह हर माँ बाप की जिम्मवारी है कि हर बेटे को एक सच्चा इंसान बनाएं। हर राजनेतिक पार्टी को उन सभी सदस्यों को संसद से वापिस बुलाना चाहिए जिन के नाम इस तरह के आरोप हों। हर बलात्कार के मामले का फैसला फ़ास्ट ट्रक अदालत के ज़रिये होना चाहिए और ऐसे सजा देनी चाहिए जो देख कर इंसान हैवान बनने की जुर्रत न करें।

  3. The incident is so very sad for us can only hope that sensibility prevails in people who hold responsible positions. Action taken should inculcate fear to such an extent that crime such as this and evenly remotely related ones will not recurr.

  4. Intelligent and devious. Man is the most dangerous and cruel animal the history has ever seen. No animal or beat can match this thing called man. I fear sir, you might be doing injustice to animals by comparing man to animals in that devastating act in New Delhi. I am very sure that no animal acts in such a way just for pleasure.
    But as you said, music, fine arts and literature enhance that humility in man and make him more compassionate. They impart what is caled sense and wisdom.

  5. Very subtle post, Appa. I hope to see more posts about our 'Sanskrit literature'.

  6. Good article , full of meaning and wisdom