Number of Human Species

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    Danakeli Dasi

    The Padma Purana states there are 900,000 species of aquatics; 2,000,000 species of trees & plants; 1,100,000 species of insects & reptiles; 1,000,000 species of birds; 3,000,000 species of beasts; 400,000 species of humans.
    Yet in SB 3.10.26 we read “The creations of the human beings, who are of one species only…” This follows a few verses which state that the trees are of six varieties and the lower species of 28. How to understand this? A difference in definition of species?

    Ashish Dalela

    There are at least three ways to classify living entities — based on their body type, based on their guna or desires to enjoy and suffer, and based on the environment they live in. It is also possible to combine these methods of classification. E.g. first classify by environment, then subdivide by guna and then subdivide by body type. Accordingly, which methods are combined, and the order in which they are combined, can lead to many different methods of classification.

    The quote from Padma Purana seems to be primarily based on the environment (e.g. water for aquatics, air for birds, land for plants, beasts, reptiles, and humans). Notably, living entities in the fire environment are not described here, but in other places, they are noted (agni-kopa). However, this description is not solely based on the environment, because if it were, then the living entities on land would not have been subdivided (i.e. as plants, beasts, reptiles, and humans). This second subdivision is probably due to guna rather than the environment.

    The description in Srimad Bhagavatam you have quoted is based on the body type rather than environment or guna. You can see a description of the number of hooves, nails, etc. in prior verses. From this context, we can infer that the definition of ‘human’ here is a body type, rather than the environment in which they are placed, and the types of pleasures they enjoy. In later verses, the demigods (which are of 8 separate varieties) are distinguished from humans. In the description of Padma Purana, however, the demigods are included in the human form.

    I don’t see a contradiction, but I do see multiple methods of classification.

    Danakeli Dasi

    Thank you. This makes sense.

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