Yes, I was asked that question and the questioner was serious. Specifically, the questioner wanted to be sure that I was not a snake! The question was asked many years ago. I was just stepping seriously into spiritual life, and I wanted to be a monk. It was Thailand, and I was standing in front of one of the senior Buddhist monks (the Abbot of Wat Benchamabophit), and he wanted to know if I was human. I was (and, by the way, I still am), so I was permitted to join the Thai Buddhist Sangha (community of monks). It was my ordination ceremony, a very sacred event, and the “human” question had been added to the ceremony many centuries ago after a snake had attempted to join the Buddhist order.
Being human was not the only hurdle I had to cross to be a monk. I had had to receive the permission of my parents—a sympathetic mother and very skeptical father. I also had to give up my head of hair and my eyebrows to the razor. And I said bye bye to all my earthly possessions. What I had now was a very, very short list of items permitted for a monk—about eight items, including the robes and a bowl for collecting food.
The biggest hurdle at the moment of ordination was to keep my robes from falling off. I had not yet learned to wrap them properly and I had been bundled up nicely by other monks. The robes were all I had on, and my well-wishers were all present, watching this moment. I kept my composure and my robes, and it was a very emotional moment to join this ancient order and begin my serious pursuit of meditation. That launch into spirituality then led to my eventual meeting with Sri Chinmoy, whose teaching now guides me (with normal clothes, hair on my head, eyebrows back in place and working a job)—back in the USA.
You are reading this at a meditation web site, and the question “are you human?” is relevant to meditation. The pinnacle achievement of a human being is to reach enlightenment, like Lord Buddha and others, including our teacher, Sri Chinmoy. There is no higher achievement for a human being than that, no higher Bliss, and it is good to know that many people in history have reached that goal. Meditation takes you there, but it is a journey, and the process is something like watching that beautiful tree in your yard get taller and taller and more beautiful each year. Patience and practice are needed.
I do feel far, far more fully human than before I started meditating. The progress has been evident to me as, each year, I compare this year’s “me” to last year’s “me.” The human of this year has more happiness, more energy, more community, more fulfillment with friends, more work effectiveness, better decisions, more hope for the future, etc., etc. It is magical, but it is magic that unfolds over time. That’s the big magic. The little magic for me is that each time I meditate, I come away feeling deeper, happier and more concerned about you, friend, you and all the other humans of this world.
I would like to close by suggesting that you try meditation. On this web site and at other places you can find free classes. Try it. Discover yourself. You have nothing to lose but your problems!