Thursday, June 03, 2004

Animal and Spiritual Instincts

Animal and Spiritual Instincts

Let me meditate today on the two most basic instincts that guide all of our behaviour: self-preservation, and reproduction.

The instinct for self-preservation is what drives us to work day and night to eke out a living. We all need food, air, water and shelter. But when this impulse is pursued to the extreme, we end up being greedy, selfish and egoistic. We want to accumulate as much as we can so that we feel absolutely secure, protected and respected. Even when our basic survival is already assured, we still strive to accumulate more out of fear of losing what we already have.

Equally strong, if not stronger, is the instinct for reproduction. This drives us to seek the opposite sex so that we can perpetuate our genes. We want to move on to the next logical step beyond survival: creating more copies of ourselves.

Then comes along education, culture and religion which add moderating layers of software on top of this genetic hardwiring. These layers of software temper our instinctive animal behaviour, resulting in an extremely complex system of forces which brings about the whole gamut of human behaviour and emotions that we exhibit in our everyday lives. But deep down inside, all our human interactions are still fuelled by these two base instincts.

There are spiritual people--driven by some inexplicable inner need--who devote their entire lives trying to decouple themselves from the engines of self-preservation and reproduction. They claim that when the Ego or the "I" is annihilated, the Self is dissolved--we don't feel the need to self-preserve or reproduce anymore. The center of gravity vanishes and energy is spread into the universe.

Selfless love, benevolence, magnanimity and equanimity--these are all signposts along the path to spiritual progress.

But why bother? What's wrong with us wallowing in the mud of greed, lust and selfishness? As long as we are not harming anyone, why can't we just sit back and enjoy our rollercoaster ride of pain and pleasure? Let's ride the waves while surf's up!

I suppose we can. But ultimate we will end up with a feeling of emptiness. We feel empty because we attempt to cling on to something that will never last. We cannot fight Nature. It is the tendency of Nature to evolve into more stable states. All rivers flow to the sea. Nature abhors high-energy states. Nature strives to distribute energy evenly.

Yes, we can choose not care about such higher ideals and live our lives in blissful ignorance. By such logic, we can also say that animals are the happiest creatures in the world.

I suppose if we possess the "wisdom" of animals, we will always be "happy". But unfortunately we can't. You see, we have been "cursed" from the very beginning: we ate from the Tree of Knowledge. We know what is good and what is evil.

And thus we are forever condemned: We will never be totally at peace until we find some resolution, some faith, some conviction that there is ultimately, a way out of this Eternal Dilemma. For deep down inside--when awakened--is something even stronger than our animal need for self-preservation and reproduction: our spiritual instincts.

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