As human beings, we have beautiful clothes, nice cars, and we are very fond of many things. We think we are so great, but much of what we do is also done by many animals. They eat when they’re hungry and they have nice houses in which to live. Are your houses as nice as the beautiful, waterproof swinging bungalows built on branches by little sparrows? Have human beings been able to build a swinging bungalow out of pieces of grass and twigs? Birds are even better engineers than we are. Have you ever made a dress like a peacock? Do we have a strong sense of smell like a dog? Do we have the keen sight of a big eagle flying so many thousands of feet above? Do we remember those who help us, even once, the way a dog will remember a kindness? We might throw a biscuit one time to a dog and then forget it for 10 years. But after 10 years, the dog will recognize you. So who is more grateful, human beings or a dog?

In many ways, human beings behave worse than animals. From morning until evening we think of eating. As soon as we get up we have to think about what to drink, then what to eat for breakfast. Even while eating breakfast, we will think of what to have for lunch, and while eating lunch we will plan for dinner. Little birds don’t worry about all these things. We should learn to rise above these things and learn to be good human beings and then superhuman beings.

We have all lived before as minerals, plants, and animals. We think of these as “lower” forms, but there are many areas of our lives that are worse than animal lives. Have you ever seen an animal smoking a cigarette or drinking whiskey and getting unstable? You don’t have police or criminal courts in the animal kingdom. In one sense, we should even feel ashamed to say that we are human beings because we behave worse than the animals. No animal overeats if there is no appetite in the stomach. You may have noticed that your dogs and cats all of a sudden won’t eat for one or two days. If they are unwell and not hungry, they don’t eat and instead they fast. Until they become alright they stay away from eating, but we often eat whether we are hungry or not. We eat when it is 12 o’clock and again when it is 7 o’clock in the evening. And many have the custom of an afternoon tea. So, you eat according to the time. Sometimes you just eat to satisfy the tongue because there are so many delicious foods. We don’t eat for the stomach. Have you ever asked your stomach, do you want anything now? In many small and ordinary ways, we have forgotten how to lead a human life. To lead a divine life we should rise above this low-level life.

A dog is satisfied being a dog and a cat is as happy as a cat. It never asks why I am a cat? Why am I a dog? Can I become better? Animals don’t bother. Human beings should ask important questions such as, “Where did I come from, why did I come here, where should I go, where am I going.” That is a special privilege of the human being who has a thinking mind. This capacity is called viveka, in Sanskrit. You discriminate between what is permanent and what is impermanent. You should always look for the permanent and try focus on that. Even the body is not permanent; it came and it’s going to go. We should not be spending all our time in just satisfying, decorating, and feeding the body. It’s necessary to take care of it, but the reason is so that we can use it for our benefit, to raise ourselves up above the physical and even the mental level. Now we are living a human life and we have the opportunity to make it a divine life.

The mind is always full of waves, constantly changing, fluctuating. We should transcend the body and mind and realize our true identity, which is the image of God. The image of God is what is called the Divine Spirit. And since we are all made of the Divine Spirit, we should realize the Divine Spirit within and then see the same everywhere. Only then will we be able to love everybody as our own selves. That is what is called divine life. Seeing the Self in that way is how we can see the unity. In all other areas we are different from each other; physically we are different and mentally we are different. Only in spirit are we one. We should learn to recognize the unity in the diversity. It is a universal law that we are one in the spirit. If we would recognize our own self in others, there would be no room for all these divisions and wars and quarrels.

The person who has attained that level will always be peaceful, will love everybody equally, and will never get disturbed over anything. They will never be doing anything for their own sake. Their entire life will be a sort of sacrifice, so they won’t be anxious about attaining anything because they have already attained what is to be attained. They have no personal desire. They live only to serve others, but they won’t go knocking on somebody’s door and say, “Hi, I will give my service to you.” They are like a lit candle that doesn’t run around telling people to come enjoy its light. The candle is light and wherever it goes it gives light.

The person who has attained that stage of living a divine life will remain at that level always. They are a person of steady wisdom. They won’t get excited when people admire and respect them and they won’t get depressed when people curse or scold them. They are what they are and they leave others to decide to see them the way they want. They are above pleasure and pain, profit and loss, praise or blame. They are just like the sun, shining always. How many dogs look at the sun and bark? The sun never gets upset and stops rising the next morning. It is simply performing its duty, not waiting for any reward.

When you go into the sunlight, you bathe in its warmth. When you go back indoors, you don’t feel that. In the presence of a realized person there is an aura, a vibration, a powerful magnetism. You feel that and you bathe in it. That helps you to develop that same thing within. The longer you remain in the person’s presence and the more often you have that presence, the more that becomes awakened within you. Then one day, even without being with the person, you feel that presence as your very own Self. That’s why just the mere seeing and being with a holy person, will help you a lot; you don’t even need to be doing anything.

The same presence can be felt in an environment. Why do you call certain places as holy? Jesus Christ is no longer present in the physical frame in Israel, but entire cities where he spent time are called holy because a realized sage lived in that city, thus everything in that area got a little of his vibration. And because the vibrations were so powerful, the area continues to emit some of those vibrations. The minute you go there, you can feel it. So that is the advantage of being in the presence of realized person. You feel that peace, you feel that joy. But know that is a borrowed joy that you feel. It helps you temporarily, but when you leave the area, you will be the same so you should also work consciously to bring that joy out from within you. You can’t always be depending on that person or holy place; you can’t just go and live forever in a holy land. You have to come back to take care of your daily life; so you go there, get a sample of it and then come back and develop it.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda