WHY MAN IS CONSIDERED THE ACME OF CREATION
One day a clever fox began wondering, "Why man is considered the acme of creation and in what way is he superior to animals? Both man and beast have emotions and passions. Both have their own good and bad qualities. Why then this superiority? Let me go to the king lion and seek his advice." Thinking thus, the fox hurried to the lion's den. "How nice to see you after so many days! Come tell me what is it that you want?" said the lion. The fox said in all humility, "Oh, King! Man is growing all-powerful and is claiming sovereignty over the entire creation! I cannot tolerate man's arrogance and his claim of superiority over all animals. In what way are we inferior? Can we not establish our superiority? We must do something about it." The lion nodded its head and said: "True dear, what shall we do?" The lion and the fox discussed the problem for a long time and decided finally to call for a conference of all animals in the forest. They would discuss thoroughly the relative merits and demerits of man versus animals. The lion then said to the fox: "Go and make all arrangements for the conference. Invite all animals, big and small without any exception. But, who will preside over the conference?" The fox replied: "There is a sage in our forest who has been doing penance since a long time. He is a friend of both man and animals. He will certainly have no preference or prejudices. Why not request him to be the Chairman?" "Do so", replied the lion.
In a week's time the fox executed the whole plan. A vast area in the forest was cleared to hold the conference. On the appointed day the animals began filling up towards the conference venue. Very soon, all the animals were seated in their respective places. The sage arrived in time and took his presidential seat. The lion and the elephant stood on either side of the sage, while the fox stood in front of the gathering.
The fox being the Secretary of the conference welcomed the gathering and said: "I welcome you all and thank you all for attending this conference". Referring to the Agenda of the conference, the fox said: "I am pleased to place before you four major points over which we have to deliberate. You have to think well and come forth with your opinions as these points have a vital bearing on our self-respect.
1. Man as well as the animals are born alike, of the womb of the mother. Then why should animals be called 'janthu' and man as 'Manava'? They should be addressed alike.
2. There is a fantastic notion that man is wise and animals are foolish. We cannot accept this humiliation and baseless stigma.
3. It is claimed that man has the most blessed faculty of speech. But what is the reason for pride when man is only abusing this faculty? In what way do we suffer for want of this faculty? Though we are dumb, we are able to procure food, find shelter, rear our children and live happily. So, man cannot be considered as superior to us only because of this rare faculty of which he boasts.
4. Finally, they say that we are cruel and that man is kind and compassionate. In fact, we are more kind and considerate than man. So, we have to refute this allegation, as well.
Having read out the agenda, the fox went and sat in its place. The lion stepped forward and raising his head, said in a dignified manner: "I totally approve of all the points of the agenda. I cannot consider man superior to us in any way. Let us first of all take up the point of valor and strength. Is there one among men who can excel me in strength and valor? Even though I am the sole monarch of the forest, I do not indulge in any act of injustice and corruption. I don't kill any animal unless I am hungry. Such being the case, can man claim to be superior to us?" "Never, never", roared the whole assembly.
The lion then resumed its seat beside the sage. The elephant got up and trumpeted its own glory. "In form, stature, and strength, I am far superior to man. He is a pigmy beside me. As for intelligence, I am reputed for my subtle intellect. Since time immemorial, for every important and auspicious function in the temple or in the palace my presence is considered auspicious. In fact pious men offer me fruits and flowers with deep feelings of reverence. How can man call himself superior to us?" The whole assembly roared: "He can't, he can't". The elephant went back to its seat by the side of the sage.
Then came forward the dog and saluting one and all in the assembly said aloud: "I have sound reason to claim that the animals are certainly superior to mankind. Take for example, the quality of love, faithfulness and loyalty. Can any man boast of himself being superior to the dog in these qualities? Man himself keeps us and treats us as a member of his family because of these rare qualities. But, what about men? They have no sense of gratitude even. They keep us on cheap food or on the left over bits at their meal. Man, in his relation to his own master whom he serves is ungrateful to the core. Sir, I am sure, we animals are far superior in these characteristics to man." Having spoken thus, it went and sat in its place.
It was now the turn of the President to give out his decision on the mater under dispute. The sage got up and said: "My dear friends, what the dog has said is true. Man often says one thing and does another. This inconsistency is not to be found in animals". All the animals clapped for long with joy. The sage continued: "In the matter of food, sleep and allied habits of living, there is absolutely no difference between man and animals. But, there is one fundamental difference. The animals cannot transform themselves, while man can transform himself through education, company and emulation. The animals cannot even change their food habits". The fox at once got up and questioned, "Oh Master! What you have said is true. But do you think that all men transform themselves?" The sage said: "Why, without doubt, such men who do not, are worse than animals." At once all the animals clapped and cheered the President. The sage continued: "Men have got another virtue, discrimination". The fox said: "It is true that they have discrimination, but what is the use? They put even animals to shame in their bad conduct. Oh, what a pity! Man spends all his time, talents, strength and money to earn his bread, while we animals procure food without any labour." The sage could see that the fox was trying to exceed the limits and make much of their instinctive nature. So, he said: "Oh, dear animals! You must also be told about another important distinction. Man can conquer illusion. He can realise the self or Atma and attain immortality. In fact the very word "man" indicates these attributes:
M - means Maya;
A - means the Atmic vision and
N - means Nirvana.
By getting rid of illusion and attaining Atmic vision, man can become God. Why don't you own and admit your limitations?" The animals asked him: "Oh Wise one! Do you mean to say that all men make use of these three attributes?" "No, not all of them," replied the sage. "Then those who do not attain nirvana by conquering illusion and having Atmic vision must be treated as our comrades" asserted the animals, in one voice. "Oh, Dear ones!" replied the sage; "I have come to this forest only to be your friend and prove myself a true Man".