Do animals have souls?

The question of whether or not animals have souls gets tossed back and forth in different ways on the Christian forums and Bible study groups.  There is discussion as to the subtle differences between soul and spirit, that animals cannot make their own choices but are bound by matter and their instincts and are thus devoid of soul, and that the difference between animals and humans is that humans can go to heaven but animals simply return to earthly dust.  There are so many opinions.  But the truth is that animals do not have souls.  Same as humans, plants, insects, and trees, we do not have souls.  We are souls.  Souls on a journey, through many species of life, with greater and lesser abilities of consciousness.  The symptom of the soul, in fact, is consciousness.

The human being is differentiated from the animal species in that it is the only form of life that can understand philosophy and the principles of religion.  No other form in nature has that capacity.  As souls, however, we are not forever embodied in either a human form or another life form.  According to our actions and desires, we become situated, birth after birth, in forms of life with their corresponding ability to understand higher truths.

The soul is eternal, but is temporarily existing in the various species of life to try to enjoy in the many ways of God’s creation.  The goal of this transmigration is to eventually come to a place of becoming able to awaken to the fact that it is a soul, and hopefully make the choice to revive its innate God consciousness.

The human being, with greater capacity to act in conscious alignment with God, also has concurrent responsibilities towards God’s creation.  It is said that the Lord gave humans dominion over the animals, and this appears to be a misunderstanding of terms.  Dominion implies control, and stewardship means that we care for all the Lord’s creatures, according to their nature and role in the creation.  Once the purpose of the journey of the soul is understood, at least academically, the human being must act as a caring steward to protect all the lesser creatures on the journey back to the Kingdom of God.  It is our duty to act compassionately and respectfully on this plane, not to cause undo suffering, understanding that the other creature is the same as we are in quality, but covered by thicker layers of illusion.

The “animals have no soul” argument is often used to condone animal slaughter for the purpose of satisfying the tongue and the belly.  It is a violation of “Thou shalt not kill,” which the flesh-eating population has manipulated into “Thou shall not murder.”  Yet, in the Bible, Isaiah 66.3 equates the killing of an ox and the killing of man.  Jesus himself did not partake of flesh foods, not even fish, as is commonly understood.  Although it is difficult to actually study and comprehend the Bible, which in its original form has to be acknowledged as Holy Scripture, some things still can be recognized for their truth in spite of so many changes and omissions since the original document was penned.  The difficulty is not in the quality and intent of the original scripture, but that it has been impurely passed down over the ages for whatever reason.  Even the most sincere follower of the Bible will not be able to reap the most benefit from it because of the adulteration over time.

Many people have found that their understanding of the teachings of the Bible has been enhanced by studying the literatures of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda.  The teachings of Jesus and the teachings of Śrīla Prabhupāda are not contradictory at all, but Śrīla Prabhupāda was able to provide more complete understandings for many reasons, including that people are becoming increasingly ready to hear what could not be shared 2000 years prior, by the very special mercy of the Lord.   These Vedic literatures are an advanced study of God and spirituality.  Whereas the Bible introduces God in a formal way and gives basic moral guidelines to the populace, the Vedic literatures give more detailed information about the Supreme Personality of Godhead for those who are interested.  In the least, however, they will grant full clarity to the import of the Bible and make sense of what still remains intact.  The Vedic literatures, especially Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, Śrīmad-Bhāgavatam, and Caitanya Caritāmrta, in that order, present ever increasing understanding of the relationship between the individual soul and the Lord Himself.  They are like graduate and post-graduate and doctoral studies of real religiosity, and are there for the non-envious souls in human form who can appreciate their transcendental nature.

For one who practices non-envy in the form of “Thou shall not kill,” the understandings of these advanced literatures, and even the Bible, will be much easier.  The meat-eater, especially the eater of the cow, is actually denied by the Lord Himself to hear about and understand Him because of their offenses to that animal which is most dear to him.  In the Bible, Isaiah 1:15, the Lord states,  “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you; Yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear; Your hands are full of blood.”

For those who are serious about progressing in spiritual understanding and who are still partaking of flesh foods, it might be worth the experiment to stop that habit, at least for some time, and observe the result not only to the body and mind, but in our ability to hear how the Lord is calling and directing us.  We and the animals are the same in our constitutional condition, separated by time and the conscious awareness that is bestowed upon us according to the type of body in which we find ourselves.

We would like to invite you to peruse the literatures of His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupāda at PurelyPrabhupā  There are options to purchase the hard copies and also to read the books online at no cost.   On that website, there is also an eight part video series that gives a general introduction to the science of practicing devotional life.  We invite you to view that series, look at the literary offerings of His Divine Grace, and correspond with us if you would like further information or have questions about the subject matter.