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Is Our Behavior Governed By Our Animal Nature?

Is Our Behavior Governed By Our Animal Nature?

The equation between human and animal nature is crude and usually moralistic. I can observe the animal nature in myself without being ashamed of it. I eat, breathe, excrete, have sex, and inhabit a physical body because these are my animal inheritance.

There is no conflict with spirit in any of these things. The old religious prejudice against the body in favor of the soul blinds us to a simple fact: There is no shame in being a mammal, given the beauty and wonder of the animal world.

Every behavior has a genetic imprint. There is no reason to focus on only our so-called lower nature. Altruism is imprinted in our genes; many creatures beneath us on the evolutionary ladder will sacrifice their lives to save their offspring or defend a colony at the risk of dying themselves. A honeybee dies after it uses its stinger, yet the hive survives.

Genes donít distinguish between high and low behavior. Love and nurturing are genetically imprinted behaviors; so is language going back tens of millions of years. The most sophisticated functions among humans, such as my ability to type out these words, is rooted in brain structure. It will probably turn out that spirituality is too.

A certain portion of the brain is rational, and this higher brain produces the best in human behavior. Neurology locates various behaviors in specific portions of the brain, with the implication that these are control centers, switches that go on and off to make us feel what we feel and do what we do. But brain chemistry isnít the primary cause of change, only the indicator.

Everything spiritual is experienced as thoughts, feelings, or actions, all of which depend on DNA. So if you want to blame genes for violence, you have to blame them for sainthood, too.

Adapted from: Peace Is the Way, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 2005).

Read more: Spirit, Deepak Chopra's Tips, , ,

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Deepak Chopra

Acknowledged as one of the world's greatest leaders in the field of mind body medicine, Deepak Chopra, M.D. continues to transform our understanding of the meaning of health. Chopra is known as a prolific author of over 49 books with 12 best sellers on mind-body health, quantum mechanics, spirituality, and peace. A global force in the field of human empowerment, Dr. Chopra's books have been published in more than 35 languages with more than 20 million copies in print.

130 comments

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4:22AM PST on Jan 4, 2013

Some people do behave as if they followed their animal instincts only...

4:10AM PST on Jan 4, 2013

very true.

3:21AM PST on Jan 4, 2013

true

9:36AM PDT on Sep 23, 2012

hmmm

11:32PM PDT on Aug 25, 2012

thx

9:45AM PDT on Apr 22, 2011

Nita - you are absolutely right. Put what you just said together with the high IQs of elephants, Koko in the Interspecies Communication program of signing 1500-00 English words with comprehension - they are our teachers and we are responsible for their protection/care entrusted to us. How long will evolution of man with animal take. An animal and a human psychiatrist both told me the same thing - now that the elephants are being treated as human kids at TECC in Thailand & they are learning to paint, play music & KoKo already can communicate with us over her views about humans -- the wheels of changing man/animal is already in motion to evolve which i find is exhilerating but sad I will be dead & gone on unless I am allowed to look down on earth to see how it is going (smile). But it will be a hard road to accomplish. Since the civil war days we are still killing each other off and belittleing each other etc. sad.

9:30AM PDT on Apr 22, 2011

animals don't have ego's and the whole practise of spirituality is to do away with the ego and realise higher awareness. Animals don't need to practise this, do yoga, meditate or any of the other things we think will bring us to higher awareness, because they are already highly aware and only kill for survival, not for greed or because they can.

12:31AM PDT on Apr 15, 2011

No need to write much. Look at men! They can only think of sex . That says it all.

2:19PM PDT on Apr 12, 2011

I totally believe we are just like animals. The stronger animal wins which is a shame for everyone envolved.

1:15AM PDT on Apr 10, 2011

Great comments! I agree... I think it is often our ANIMAL natures that ennoble us and our HUMAN natures that get us into trouble and bring us down. Look how long animals have lived on this earth, how long they would probably be able to go on living on this earth if it weren't for human machinations and encroachments. "Man," however, has been on this earth a far shorter time than animals... and look at the crap "Man" has wrought! Wars, violence, cruelty, vanity, greed, sabotage, competition, destruction of the planet... Animals, I'm speaking for all my fellow humans when I say, "MEA CULPA!"

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