World Scripture, A Comparative Anthology Of Sacred Texts
Editor, Andrew Wilson
Degraded Human Nature
In previous chapters, we have gathered passages which testify to humani- ty's true status as the highest sentient being; passages which describe the purity and goodness of the original human nature; passages which describe the perfection of human existence, filled with divine love and compassion. Yet in fact, most people exhibit a character that is more animal-like than divine. Human nature has fallen far from the ideal of love and holiness which is exalted by the world's religions.
Many people, influenced by the Darwinian theory of evolution, regard the animal within human beings as an integral part of human nature, an inheritance from our ape-like progenitors. Indeed it is undeniable that the human being, by virtue of having a body, possesses instinctive and animal-like appetites and desires. But the position of most religions is that the essence of the human being is to be found in his spirit, which should dominate and control the body. Perhaps the meaning of evolution is that humans are in the process of transcending the animal stage and evolving to the point where the rational and ethical sense will be dominant.
Thus, while human behavior often may be instinctual and low, it is not the expression of the human essence. It is rather a corruption of human nature and a regression from realizing the true purpose of life. In theistic religions, such behavior is viewed as the result of humankind's separation from God. A degraded human being may be regarded as even lower than an animal, for at least an animal strives to realize its limited purpose, while benighted humans stray far from theirs.
The scripture passages gathered here approach this theme in three ways. Most people have deviated from their original nature, their hearts having become defiled and alienated from communion with God. The accumulation of sinful deeds, deluded thoughts, and base passions creates fetters that enslave those who indulge in them. Being thus degraded, they have sunk to the level of beasts and even lower.
God made man upright, but they have sought out many devices.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Ecclesiastes 7.29
Surely We created man of the best stature; Then We reduced him to the lowest of the low, Save those who believe and do good works, and theirs is a reward unfailing.
Islam. Qur'an 95.4-6
A little confusion can alter the sense of direction; a great confusion can alter the inborn nature.
Taoism. Chuang Tzu 8
Be not like those who forget God, and therefore He made them forget their own souls!
Islam. Qur'an 59.19
The effect of wrong belief is so dominant that the self does not evince its inborn inclination to the real path, just as the invasion of a bile-infected fever brings an aversion to sweet juice.
Jainism. Nemichandra, Gomattasara
This consciousness (citta) is luminous, but it is defiled by adventitious defilements.
Buddhism. Anguttara Nikaya i.10
Delusion is a sort of demonic force. People's original mind is pure but it becomes perverted due to delusion and other karmas.
Jainism. Kundakunda, Pancastikaya 38
Ecclesiastes 7.29: Cf. Romans 1.21-25, p. 396; Book of Songs, Ode 255, p. 385. Qur'an 95.4-6: Cf. Qur'an 70.19-22, p. 384. Chuang Tzu 8: Cf. Chuang Tzu 11, p. 421; Book of Songs, Ode 255, p. 385. Anguttara Nikaya i.10: Luminous consciousness is citta. Cf. Sutra of Hui Neng 6, p. 399; Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 12.3, p. 402; Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti 3, p. 220; Mahaparinirvana Sutra 214-15, p. 219.
Satan said, "I will take of Thy servants a portion marked off; I will mislead them, and I will create in them false desires; I will order them... to deface the fair nature created by God." Whoever, forsaking God, takes Satan for a friend, has of a surety suffered a loss that is manifest. Satan makes them promises, and creates in them false desires; but Satan's promises are nothing but deception.
Islam. Qur'an 4.118-20
Your mind, having become diseased and bewildered because of the false sense- conceptions accumulated since beginningless time, has developed many desires, attachments and habits. From these there have arisen, incident to the ever- changing processes of life, arbitrary conceptions concerning self and not-self and as to what is true and what is not true. These arbitrary conceptions have not developed in a normal way from your pure Mind Essence, but in an abnormal way because of the prior false conceptions that had their origin in the sense organs, like the sight of blossoms in the air that come to diseased minds. They falsely appear to have had their origin in the enlightening and Essential Mind but, in truth, they have arisen because of diseased conditions.
Buddhism. Surangama Sutra
Behold, the Lord's hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, or His ear dull, that it cannot hear; but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you so that He does not hear.
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 59.1-2
All vices are like chains thrown around the neck.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Sorath, M.1 p. 595
Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin."
Christianity. Bible, John 8.34
Through wrong belief, indulgence, negligence, passions and activities the individual self attracts particles of matter which are fit to turn into karma, as the self is actuated by passions. This influx of karma results in bondage.
Jainism. Tattvarthasutra 8.1-2
Surangama Sutra: Cf. Chuang Tzu 11, p. 421; Sutra of Hui Neng 6, p. 399. Sorath, M.1: Cf. Gauri Ashtpadi, M.1, p. 531. Tattvarthasutra 8.1-2: Cf. Pancadhyayi 2.57, p. 387.
Denizens of hell are bound by hate, Hungry ghosts by misery, And beasts by blindness. Men by lust are bound, By jealousy, asuras, And the devas in heaven by pride. These Six Fetters are the obstacles to liberation.
Bound by the fetters of the fruits of good and evil, like a cripple; without freedom, like a man in prison... thus they call him.
Hinduism. Maitri Upanishad 4.2
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?
Judaism and Christianity, Bible, Jeremiah 17.9
Mencius said, "Slight is the difference between man and the brutes. The common man loses this distinguishing feature, while the gentleman retains it."
Confucianism. Mencius IV.B.19
By doing evil the self becomes a rogue, an animal, or inhabitant of hell; and always beset by thousands of pains, it strays incessantly.
Jainism. Kundakunda, Pravacanasara 1.12
Having attained human birth, which is an open gateway to Brahman, one who... remains attached to the ties of the world is not fit to be called human. Pleasures of sense may be had in all lives: leave them, then, to the brutes!
Hinduism. Srimad Bhagavatam 11.3
That man in whom there never kindles One spark of the love of God, Know, Nanak, that his earthly vesture Is no better than that of a swine or dog!
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Slok, M.9, p. 1428
Milarepa: Cf. Dhammapada 345-46, p. 418; Digha Nikaya ii.276, p. 390; Udana 75-76, p. 417; Sutta Nipata 948, p. 531. Maitri Upanishad 4.2: Cf. Maitri Upanishad 3.2, p. 412; Bhagavad Gita 3.36-37, p. 417; Mundaka Upanishad 2.2.8, p. 530. Pravacanasara 1.12: Cf. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad 1.4.10, p. 408.
Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord has spoken: "Sons I have reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the ass its master's crib; but Israel does not know, my people does not understand."
Judaism and Christianity. Bible, Isaiah 1.2-3
And recite to them the tiding of him to whom We gave Our signs, but he cast them off, and Satan followed after him, and he became one of the perverts. And had We willed, We would have raised him up, but he inclined towards the earth and followed his lust. So the likeness of him is as the likeness of a dog; if you attack it it lolls its tongue out, or if you leave it it lolls its tongue out. That is that people's likeness who cried lies to Our signs. So relate the story; haply they will reflect....
We have created for hell many jinn and men; they have hearts, but understand not with them; they have eyes, but perceive not with them; they have ears, but they hear not with them. They are like cattle; nay, rather they are further astray. Those--they are the heedless.
Islam. Qur'an 7.175-79
If man does worthily, they [i.e., God] say to him, "You were created before the angels of the service"; if he does not, they say to him, "The fly, the gnat, and the worm were created before you."
Judaism. Midrash, Genesis Rabbah
Greed and evil are king and minister, falsehood their officer; Lust the counsellor who is called for advice--all three hold conclave to chalk out plans. The subjects, bereft of understanding, are carcasses full of straw.
Sikhism. Adi Granth, Asa-ki-Var, M.1, p. 468-69
Isaiah 1.2-3: Cf. Exodus Rabbah 31.15, p. 177. Asa-ki-Var, M.1: Cf. Sorath, M.3, p. 390; Luke 9.60, p. 583; Berakot 18ab, p. 583; Maitri Upanishad 6.28, p. 1054.
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