There are millions of animals in the world, and every person has moved through different forms. It is not a highway, with the whole of humanity coming from the same source. If that were the case, all people would have been equal. Somebody is a genius, somebody is a born idiot – certainly they are coming from different sources.
Gautam Buddha himself remembers his past lives: in one life, he says, he was an elephant, and after the life of the elephant he was born as a man. And the reason why the elephant was born as a man…he tells a beautiful incident:
The forest in which the elephant lived suddenly caught on fire. It was a summer night and a strong wind was blowing, and the whole forest was on fire. The elephant, just like the other animals, started moving out of the forest. Because the fire was all around, it was very difficult to find a way out of it, particularly for such a big animal like the elephant.
Finally he comes under a big tree which has not yet caught fire, and just to take a little rest, he stands under the tree and looks all around to see in which direction he should move to get out of the fire. As he takes up one of his feet to move, suddenly a small rabbit comes just underneath his foot, thinking it is a shelter. Of course the rabbit cannot see the elephant – the elephant is too big.
In the dark night every animal is so shaken and frightened; the rabbit is trembling, afraid for his life, and the elephant will kill the rabbit if he puts his foot down. If he does not put his foot down to move – and the fire is approaching closer! But the elephant finally decides to sacrifice his own life, and not to kill the rabbit. Just because of this decision, the consciousness takes a jump from the elephant form into human form.
People are coming from different sources for different reasons. The theory of reincarnation is basically a more scientific approach to evolution than that of Charles Darwin. It is well known that different animals have different characters. If you read Aesop’s fables or the ancient Panchtantra, which is the most ancient book of parables – and researchers think that the fables of Aesop are all taken from Panchtantra. In fact, historically, there has never been any man with the name Aesop; these are the stories of Panchtantra told by Gautam Buddha, who is also called Bodhisattva.
As the word bodhisattva moved from India – Alexander was the first to take the name of Buddha to the West – it became bodhisat. It is always a problem: whenever a word moves from one language to another language, and then another language, it goes on changing its form. It is Bodhisat which becomes Aesop, but it has gone through at least five or six languages before it turns up as Aesop.