To evaluate man we should take into account not merely his physical and mental stature but his spiritual nature as well. Those who think the body and mind to be the principal factors of human personality naturally fail to see any truth in the conception of man’s divine relationship. They may argue: “Imagine the immeasurable vastness of the universe as first revealed by Copernicus. Compared to that what is this puny man ! Even this terrestrial globe appears to be something like a geometrical point. What relationship can man have with the omnipotent, omniscient Ruler of the universe if any such being exists ? It is an extreme case of human conceit to trace man’s descent from God or to claim relationship with Him.” But, in fact, man is ever united with God in spirit, though he fails to recognize this, being under the spell of amnesia, as it were.
In one of the monthly magazines of America I read the following interesting comment on the rude shock that man’s pretensions to divine relationship have received from scientific discoveries:
Three men have reduced us to our proper insignificance and put an end to the primitive dream that we are godlike or that there is any God for us to resemble. They are Copernicus, Darwin, and Freud. Copernicus began the revelation of the vastness of the universe and the consequent triviality of our poor molecule of a planet. Darwin showed man’s ancestry reaching not up to the stars and their glory, but down to the mud and its fermentation. And Freud pushed our humiliation into the last pit by the knowledge that what we thought was the light of spirit is only the sickly gleams of funguses growing rank in the cellars of physiology.
It is needless to point out that these are only limited and distorted views of the human personality. If the very rudiments of human life be carnal, bestial, unholy, by no possible method of culture, by no alchemy, can they be transmuted into moral and spiritual virtues. But the truth is that there arise among men and women certain individuals who do realize their divine nature and whose life and conduct testify to their inner experience.
The same Supreme One is the indwelling spirit in all living creatures. “I am the Self existing in the hearts of all beings,” says the Lord Krishna. Vedanta does not deny the soul, the spiritual self, to any sentient being, but acknowledges infinite variations in its manifestation according to the development of each individual mind. In the human life alone the realization of the self becomes possible. It is self-knowledge or God-vision that makes man free.
Devoid of supreme devotion to the Highest, one cannot attain this Freedom by meritorious deeds alone. Moral virtues, too, cannot take us beyond the relative existence. An individual may go to higher or lower planes of existence according to merits or demerits predominating in his nature. But he will come back to this human life after the effects of those deeds are exhausted. The human life alone is the sphere of action. Here you can undertake fresh karma, good and evil, and also cultivate self-knowledge. It is because of this blessed privilege that human life is considered to be the highest. The human life is short and frail, no doubt; but rightly lived it can serve even as the springboard to enter the Life Eternal.
from Introduction to the Book THE GOAL AND THE WAY by Swami Satprakashananda, 1974