The words Manav or Manushya are derived from the Sanskrit term Manu which refers to the first human, from whom the human race came to be. Creation goes through various changes and eventually reaches dissolution which is nothing but the concept of Laya. When the new creations starts, a new manu is created from whom humanity originates. The current manu is the seventh, known as Vaivasvata manu, this is the reason why during pooja we chant “Vaivasvata Manmantare, Kaliyuge, Prathama Paadhe ..”. This makes us all children to Vaivasvata Manu. The next manu (the eighth) is called Savarni Manu. A reference of this can be found in Srimad Bhagavatam where in Sri Maha Vishu in His manifestation as Vamana Murthy bestows King Bali (grandson of Prahalada) to reach Suka Lokas and at the time of Savarni Manu he (King Bali) can return and become the next Indra (Indra is the title to kingship of Swarga Loka). Now, let’s understand the unique opportunity of being a manushya (human).
Vedic literature like Srimad Bhagavad Gita, Vasistha Yoga and Padma Purana, state the existence of millions of species (more than 8 million) inheriting the Earth. Among them, only a few have the unique ability to use its hand and thumb to perform various activities. Only a human being among so many has the unique ability to evolve to higher plains of conscience using their hand. With this hand, one can perform punya karma, such as Pitrukarya Tarpanam to honor their predecessors. With this hand, one can perform namaskar(am) to Ishwara showing gratitude and request for upliftment. With this hand one can donate, seeing Sriman Narayana in all those who are unfortunate. By doing so one can realize two vital things, first, the ability to give, and second, recognize the opportunity to give which is a result of satkarma (sat:karma) from past lives. Otherwise one would be on the receiving end and not the giving end. It’s also important to realize that having such an opportunity will also help sustain that giving ability in future and in lives to come. With this hand one can eat, making it a two-step processes like a human or ape, compared to other animals that eat directly through their mouth. An elephant is an exception, which also eats in a two-step process using its trunk. This is the reason, in Sanatana Dharma, the man who gives, bows down to the man who takes. It’s the existence, the one who takes, creates the opportunity to give and gain punya karma. Sanatana Dharma also says that one should donate with purity of heart as Brahmapreeti (Brahma:preeti) and not for personal benefit or fame. This is the reason why donations and charity are something that should be done in secrecy (gupta daanam). A human who learns respect and compassion with this hand by putting it forward to donate and help others, then that person is headed towards the unification of Om Namaha. At the same time if one uses this hand to point to oneself saying ‘this is mine’, proclaiming ownership, resorting to a:dharma in possessing and retaining such objects of desire, then a day will surely come when Ishwara in the concept known as kaal (time) will consume that hand making the tanubhava (children) share those riches. Also, to be noted that these tanubhava do not accompany the jiva after its current physical form. Once the body is devoured by kaalam (time), none can take their riches with them. One’s karmaphala alone continues to accompany the jiva, making this jiva hop from one life to another across various species.
As explained by Swami Prabhavananada and Christopher Isherwood in their translation of Sri Adishankaracharya’s renowned composition of Advita Siddhanta titled Vivekachudamani (Crest -Jewel of Discrimination) as:
“Body is merely a vehicle of experience of the human spirit (Atma). He who tries to find the Atman by feeding the cravings of the body, is trying to cross a river by grasping a crocodile, mistaking it for a log”
(Swami Prabhavananda. Isherwood, Christopher. 1947)
In the profound composition of Yoga by Rishi Vasistha, says to Sri Ram in the Chapter on Dispassion:
“It is but a boat given to one for crossing this ocean of birth-and-death; but one should not regard it as one’s self”
(Swami Venkatesananda. 1993)
The story of Gajendra Moksha(m) from Srimad Bhagavata Puranam is an excellent example that emphasizes the lives and relationships of a jiva. When Gajendra got trapped in water, soon realized that no family or acquaintance could help him when the effects of Karma finally caught up. Same happened with Ravana where most of his family died but non could help him win over Rama and His. Ravana’s karmaphala and his a:dharma was muulagathi (muula:gathi), meaning a dushkarma (dush:karma) punishable by the dissolution of his body and his existence. All relationships are broken when the jiva exists the host. It makes new bonds and relationships in the next life. No matter how many relationships and how many lives, none accompany the jiva in its journey. At the best, these relationships endure sorrow and over time many resume to normal life. There are many who don’t even honor their predecessors, such people are so consumed in lives built of desires and its comforts, deprive them of gratitude towards those who are the reason for their very existence. Some are so consumed with ego that they couldn’t let go of their past disagreements and so don’t even put forward an effort to frame a good portrait of their own parents. When one understands both the significance of time and the insignificance of ego in the vastness of this creation, and its illusions (maya), then the simplest and most important thing one can foster is gratitude. Gratitude makes us focus on the important things in life and allows us to prioritize things that give meaning to life. Gratitude is the key to understanding what one has and doesn’t, finally helping us reach the state where one sees no distinction with oneself and every other entity. This is one such crucial tatva(m) (essence) of Sanatana Dharma. But again, Dharma and Shastra never force it’s teaching upon the will of man. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15)
REFERENCE ENTRY (APA Style citation)
Sri Chaganti Koteshwar Rao (Orator). (n.d.). Kanaka Dhara Stotram [Audio Part 1-19, Recorded by Srichaganti.net]. Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, India. Retrieved from http://www.english.srichaganti.net/KanakaDharaStrotram.aspx
Swami Prabhavananda. Isherwood, Christopher. (1947). Shankara’s Crest-Jewel of Discrimination. California: Vedanta Press
Swami Venkatesananda. (1993). Vasistha’s Yoga. New York, Albany: State University of New York Press