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Recognize 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’. (Kural #1012)

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:

  • Faith; and

  • Devotion-cum-dedication.

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:


Ten sociological diseases: Gambling, Robbery, Drinking, Smoking, Murder, Suicide, Rape, Divorce, Drug Addiction and Pollution of Environment.

  • Five political evils: Corruption, Nepotism, Hypocrisy, Turncoatism and Loose values.

  • Five economic evils: Slavery, Beggary, Luxury, Poverty and Exploitation.

  • Five cultural evils: Dogmatism & Bigotry, Religious prejudice, Race or caste prejudice, Superstition and Male domination.

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.

We as individuals have to take and face the challenge: 

(Go to the sub-page:  3.1:Take the challenge to rise above Animal Passions)



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