SarathW wrote:Scientists now believe that, we evolved and our closest relative Chimpanzee also possess 99% of human genes. This 1% has made a quantum change to human. So what is the real difference between animals and human?
Well, from a biological point of view, we are animals. But the animal kingdom is extremely variegated, and humans differ from other animals in a variety of ways, one of them being our ability to produce things, especially our means of subsistence (this is actually what Marx thought set us apart from other animals, so it's not really a Buddhist teaching). And, of course, there's our levels of culture and communication, which is another difference.
From the Buddhist point of view, however, humans are in their own realm or category primarily due to their more developed mental faculties. In fact, that's precisely the definition of the Pali term denoting humans, manussa
, which means 'those who have an uplifted or developed mind' (mano ussannam etesam
Psychologically speaking, human beings don't seem to be as constrained by instinct as animals appear to be, which is one of the reasons I think the animal realm is often associated with lower levels of intelligence and self-awareness, as well as rudimentary faculties of volition that don't seem to be as open to being actively developed as ours appear to be. In Theravada, for example, it's held by those who take the teachings on rebirth literally that animals aren't capable of the same level of intention (cetana
); as such, they're unable to practice the Dhamma and therefore they must wait until they take rebirth as a more mentally evolved being (e.g., human, deva, etc.).
That said, I personally think that animals can experience the type of 'periodic nibbanas' described by Ajahn Buddhadasa in Nibbana For Everyone
, but I'm not sure they have the capacity to achieve the same level of liberation and freedom from suffering that lies at the end of the eightfold path. And even if they do, I doubt we'd ever know it.