Human Nature and Human Behavior: “Sarvesham Svastir Bhavatu”
What is man? The motivation for asking this question comes from a statement expressed in Sanskrit language: “Sarvesham Svastir Bhavatu”, which seeks the well-being of all humans, of all races, of all religions, of all cultures, and of all nations. Our efforts to support the well-being of man would be affected by our understanding the ‘real’ or ‘true’ nature of man. I recognize that man exists with the following seven forms, 1. the Physical Being as described by Human Anatomy, Human Physiology and other Medical Sciences, the human being in health and sickness, 2. the Mental Being, the intellect and emotional aspects as described by Psychology and Psychiatry, 3. the Social Being as described by Social Sciences, 4. the Moral Being as described by Morals and Ethics, the power of discernment used by man to make the distinction between good and evil, and right and wrong, 5. the Spiritual Being as described by the spiritual nature of man’s corporeal substance that develops and builds the cells, tissues, and organs of the human body. 6. the Creative Being that constitutes the man as a specific Individual with Individuality without any further choice, and 7. the Rational Being, the dimension of the man who cannot avoid the use of the reasoning process to know himself and the world in which he exists.
While most religious and philosophical traditions explore spirituality by understanding human thoughts, and feelings, I try to know this spiritual aspect of human nature by observing the functional behavior that is displayed in the interactions of cells, tissues, and organs that constitute the human organism. If man is viewed as a multicellular organism, human behavior must be observed in the biotic interactions of cells, tissues, and organs because of whose functions man lives in the world. The five aspects of man contribute to the five kinds of behavior of man; the physical, mental, social, moral, and spiritual behavior. A muscle cell displays the behavior of contraction in response to a stimulus and it is able to contract because of its contractile nature which gives it the power of contracting. I would like to explain that Spiritualism is the human nature that gives the man the power or ability to perform his living functions and display his characteristic behaviors like feeding, and reproduction.
HUMAN BEHAVIOR AND ENVIRONMENT:
B. F. Skinner studied behavior and the environmental causes of behavior mediated through conditioning mechanisms. In his opinion, all behavior is a function of environmental variables. He proposed a thesis of ‘Universal Determinism, and thinks that every human event including all human choices has a set of preceding environmental causes. In Indian tradition, the Bhagavad Gita also explains the relation between human behavior and environment or ‘Prakriti’. Chapter XIV, verse 5 states : “Sattvam, rajas, tama iti gunah prakriti sambhavah”, the modes of human behavior such as Sattva (the mode of goodness), Rajas (the mode of passion), and Tamas(the mode of ignorance) are generated by the interactions between human body and the environment in which he lives. At the same time, Indian tradition makes a very clear distinction between true human nature and the three modes of human behavior. The real, or true man is described by the spiritual characteristic of human nature.
The Bhagavad Gita in Chapter XVIII, verse 20 claims that all living entities share a single reality even while they are divided into innumerable forms (“Sarva bhuteshu yenaikam bhavam avyayam iksate” ) and directs us to recognize that spiritual nature as the true reality that is common among different living forms. B.F. Skinner paid attention to the external causes or influences that generate or modify human behavior and has totally avoided the study of innate or inner cause of behavior. He did not give any importance to the role of heredity in human behavior. This internal influence on an organism’s behavior is not directly observable and an experimenter cannot manipulate such internal influences to conduct experimental studies of behavior. Skinner’s findings about external influences and environmental conditioning mechanisms explain several aspects of human behavior but they do not explain the relationship between human behavior and human existence.
To understand human existence, we have to learn about the nature of man’s substance and the behavior of the cells, tissues, and organs that provide the structural and functional basis of the human organism. Man is a very complex living organism that shows structural differentiation and the functional organization of various tissues and organ systems. The specialized functions of tissues and organs is possible because of the functional subordination of the cells to the requirements of the organism as a whole. In other words, the specialized functions of tissues and organs could be described as ‘altruistic’ behavior, a behavior that promotes the well-being and appears to favor the individual’s chances of survival and reproduction. Man may exhibit behavior under the influence of environment and may act in the modes of behavior such as goodness (Sattva), passion (Rajas), or ignorance (Tamas), but his existence is made possible by his innate human nature which acts as an internal influence and determines the characteristics of the biotic interactions between the cells, the tissues, and organs of his own body.
Dr. R. Rudra Narasimham, B.Sc., M.B.B.S.,
Kurnool Medical College, Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, India,
M.B.B.S. Class of April 1970.