On becoming human
In 2011, the United Nations Environment Programme said that 8.7 million (give or take a million) is the estimated total number of species on Earth, with 86% of all species on land and 91% of those in the seas yet to be discovered, described or catalogued. The Guru Granth Sahib mentions the total number of species at 8.4 million, and places the human species as the apex of all creation, and chides the human for wasting a once in 8.4 million chance of self-actualization:
In this world, you are serviced by all others. //But your greatness has been overcome by unending desire.
But one day, I heard Saint Kabir say this in the pages of Guru Granth Sahib:
Serving the Guru, I earned his grace,// Then, this human body was obtained.
This new information confounded my logical mind. I can understand that Man is the most evolved species on the planet, and indeed is the master. But Saint Kabir says that the human body is earned after selfless service of the Guru? So, was the Guru served in some earlier life cycle? I asked my Teacher for the answer.
A lamp stood in the corner, its wire disconnected from the electrical socket. He pointed to it and said that looks like a lamp, but a lamp should give out light. I said that would happen when it is connected to the socket, and he asked me to do so, and it lit up.
“Just so, humans conduct themselves – take birth, eat, sleep, procreate, and die – like any other species. They have a human body capable of actualization, but just like the lamp, its capacity is unused. They need the Guru to light them up, and from then on, they truly become Human. Now, read Saint Kabir again,” he said.
As I read it again, I marveled at the spiritual wisdom hidden in the simple lines:
Serving the Guru, I earned his grace,//Then, this human body was obtained.