When scriptures depict animals speaking human languages, how is that to be understood?

by Chaitanya CharanJuly 8, 2021

Answer Podcast

Transcription by: Dr Suresh Gupta (Muzaffarnagar)

Question: When scriptures depict animals speaking human languages, how is that to be understood?

Answer: The question will be answered in three parts.

Firstly, the Srimad Bhagavatam, Ramayana and Mahabharata describe not just a life as we know right now, but also an expanse of life which is much broader. For example, the vanaras described in the Ramayana are not simply monkeys, the word “vanara” etymologically means “va” (or) and “nara” (human). That means when people see them, they appear so similar to humans that people have a question in mind – is this a monkey or a human.

Thus, the vanaras are considered not just monkeys but celestial apes. They have quite an evolved consciousness and are not like the present-day monkeys. Similarly, the birds like Jatayu are not ordinary birds. We see even in the epics that not all birds and animals speak and communicate. For example, when Sita was abducted and Ram was searching for Sita, Ram actually turns and asks the trees, the birds and animals, but none of them reply. This shows that these epics are not mythology where one imagines animals to be talking. There are certain variations of those species which were almost evolved to the level of human conscious and thus they could communicate, they could talk, not everyone but some of them. So, that’s one understanding.

The other understanding is that these are great souls who were already spiritually evolved but temporarily born in particular species. In the animal body, they might exhibit certain attributes which are not compatible with that species but that is because they already have an evolved consciousness from their previous life. One such example is Gajendra. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, we see that Gajendra, although an elephant, but offers great prayers. Gajendra was already an evolved soul in a previous life but somehow, got cursed and given an elephant body. We have heard in scriptures that if somebody grows spiritually then such advancement is never lost. If spiritual advancement is never lost, then why is it that sometimes such souls get a lower species? This may be as a result of the reaction to certain actions they may have done. Although they get a lower body, they do not get a lower consciousness. Gajendra was King Indradyumna in his previous life. He got an animal body but did not get an elephant consciousness. His consciousness remained more than an evolved soul. Although temporarily his consciousness was covered but still that consciousness was there at a dormant level. Thus, the second possibility is that not all members of the species are talking but some are as they are already evolved, souls.

The third possibility of animals talking in the scriptures is because it could be a miraculous intervention. Just like in the Chaitanya Charitamrita, it is described that animals started chanting Hare Krishna in the forests of Jharkhand. They were ordinary animals living in the forest and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu demonstrated miraculous potency by making them sing and chant Hare Krishna. This was possible because the Supreme Lord is present in the hearts of all the living beings and the Supreme Lord has all knowledge. The soul has a particular level of knowledge based on the kind of body it has but the Supreme Lord has all knowledge; and the Supreme Lord can use the soul to exhibit a level of knowledge in consciousness that is beyond the soul’s capacity in that particular body.
Thus, the three possibilities are that
(i) these are referred to different species,
(ii) these are referring to specially evolved souls within the lower specie and
(iii) these demonstrate miraculous intervention of the Lord.

End of transcription.

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Chaitanya Charan

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