The descriptions of the different realms are related to subtle but distinct differences in the way individuals handle themselves in daily life – how they walk, talk, write letter, the way they read, eat, sleep and so on.
Everyone tends to develop a style which is peculiar to them. If we hear a tape recording of our voices or see a video of ourselves, we are often shocked to see our style as someone else sees it. It feels extremely alien. Usually we find other people’s point of view irritating or embarrassing.
Blindness to our style, to how others see us, is most acute in the animal realm. I am not speaking literally being born as an animal but of the quality of mind, a mentality which stubbornly pushes forward towards predetermined goals.
The animal mentality is very serious. It even makes humour into a serious occupation. Self-consciously trying to create a friendly environment, a person will crack jokes or try to be funny, intimate or clever. However, animals do not really smile or laugh; they just behave.
They may play, but it is unusual for animals to actually laugh. They might make friendly noises or gestures, but the subtleties of a sense of humour are absent.
The animal mentality looks directly ahead, as if wearing blinkers. It never looks to the left or right but very sincerely goes straight ahead, trying to reach the next available situation, continually trying to adjust situations to make them conform to its expectations.
The animal realm is associated with stupidity: that is preferring to play deaf and dumb, preferring to follow the rules of available games rather than re-define them. Of course, you might try to manipulate your perception of any given game, but you are really just following along, just following instinct.
You have some hidden or secret wish that you would like to put into effect, so when you come to obstacles, to irritations, you just push forward regardless of whether or not you may hurt someone or destroy something of value.
You just go out and pursue whatever is available and if something else comes up, you take advantage of that as well ans pursue it.
The ignorance or stupidity of the animal realm comes from a deadly honest and serious mentality which is quite different from the bewilderment of the basic ignorance of the first skandha. In animal ignorance you have a certain style of relating to yourself and refuse to see that style from other points of view.
You completely ignore such possibilities. If somebody attacks you or challenges your clumsiness, your unskilled way of handling a situation, you find a way of justifying yourself, find rational to keep your self-respect. You are not concerned with being truthful as long as your deception can be maintained in front of others. You are proud that you are clever enough to lie successfully. If you are attacked, challenged, criticised, you automatically find an answer. Such stupidity can be very clever. It is ignorance or stupidity in the sense that you do not see the environment around you, but you see only your goal and only the means to achieve that goal, and you invent all kinds of excuses to prove that you are doing the right thing.
The animal mentality is extremely stubborn, but this stubbornness can be sophisticated as well, and quite skilful and ingenious, but without a sense of humour. The ultimate sense of humour is a free way of relating with life situations in their full absurdity. IT is seeing things clearly, including self deception, without blinkers, without barriers, without excuses.
It is being open and seeing with panoramic vision rather than trying to relieve tension. As long as humour is used as a way to relieve tension or self-consciousness or pressure, then it is humour of the animal realm, which is actually extremely serious. It is a way of looking for a crutch. So the essence of the animal style is to try to fulfil your desire with extreme honesty, sincerity and seriousness.
Traditionally, this direct and mean way of relating with the world is symbolised by the pig. The pig does not look to the left or right but just sniffs along, consuming whatever comes in front of their nose; it goes on and on and on, without an sense of discrimination – a very sincere pig.
Whether we are dealing with simple domestic tasks or highly sophisticated intellectual projects, we can have an animal style. It does not matter whether the pig eats expensive sweets or garbage. What is important is how he eats. The extreme animal mentality is trapped in the continual, self-contained, self-justifying ground of activity.
You are not able to relate with the messages given to you by your environment. You do not see yourself mirrored by others. You may be dealing with very intellectual matters, but the style is animal since there is no sense of humour, no way of surrendering or opening. There is a constant demand to move on from one thing to the next, regardless of failure or obstacles.
It is like being a tank that rolls along, crushing everything in its path. It does not matter if you run over people or crash through buildings – you just roll along.
– Chogyam Trungpa (Quote taken from BUDDHA IN THE MUD by Tony Barrs)