A reflection on the Mundaka Upanishad
In a previous reflection, I examined how my criticism of Monism was somewhat misplaced. As part of this re-evaluation of my ideas, I attempted to draw a commonality amongst humanity as a basis for moral equality (see on Common Humanity). However, I fear that I may have blundered into a form of human exceptionalism without examining whether humans are, in fact, unexceptional in the broader scheme of life.
Although the question appears: what is the difference behind humankind and the rest of the animal kingdom, I think it better to turn the question on its head: are humans one part of a greater biological whole? As a working answer I would posit yes – and now I must explain why. Initially, we must accept that humans are not unique regarding physical substance. The same genetic material which leads to the production of proteins, maintenance of the cell and metabolism of sustenance at a microbiological level act as the drivers for life in all animals, plants and bacteria. To think that we are somehow different from other biological creatures – except in the specificity of the chromosomes encased in our cells nuclei – is to deny reality.
As we share commonality with all life in the form of the microbiological engines which fuel our physical existence, we also share in the cycle of birth, life, death and decay that encompasses all creatures. Even if we deny the metaphysical, we cannot deny that our bodies are part of a greater ecological system – in which we consume others before, in turn, we are consumed.
If we do accept the metaphysical motivator – the soul – as the engine in our body, then it would seem that this substance must similarly be drawn to and fro in a constant cycle of creation and destruction. Unless the soul is created ex nihilo, a cycle of souls would appear to be a more elegant solution for the constant source of animation in life. For those less convinced of the world beyond I would still suggest that the remarks of this reflection have some benefit – as I myself am not yet completely convinced of something beyond the mechanistic physical: never conceive of yourself as an island – cut off from the larger world. Your body is a composite of material drawn from your environment, and after death, to the earth it will return.
S. H. Raza, Tribhuj Sansar, 2015