What is meant by human nature?

Acharya Prashant
9 min readOct 18, 2021

The following is an excerpt from a samvaad (dialogue) session with Acharya Prashant.

Acharya Prashant (AP): Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process, he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, “Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?” “Because”, the monk replied, “to save it is my nature.”

The story uses the word ‘Nature’ two times and the two usages, the two expressions, the two incidences where the word “nature” comes, tell us something about the word.

The first time when the monk says that to sting is the scorpion’s nature, he is using the word “nature”, as representative of its physical conditioning, as representative of its biology. You cannot have a scorpion that does not sting. To be a scorpion is to sting. The second time the word “nature” comes, it does not refer to the acquired genetic tendency. The monk says, “to save it is my nature.” You surely can be a monk who does not save a scorpion but you can never be a scorpion that does not sting. Understand the difference.

You can very well be a monk that does not save a scorpion. But you cannot be a scorpion that does not sting. Saving a scorpion is not something society teaches to the monk. Saving a scorpion is also not something that biology teaches to the monk. Had it been about social training, then the monk would have given it up, upon receiving another kind of training.

Had it been just external training, its force would have been limited. Stung twice, stung thrice, stung the twentieth time, the monk would not try to save it the twenty-first time. And, had it been something physically embedded, then all human beings should have saved scorpions even after being stung; that does not happen.

The second usage of the word “nature” refers to the core of the mind. The second usage of the word “nature” refers to ‘concept-less compassion’. Whenever the society will teach to save, that saving will always be conditional, as all teaching always is-it will be conditional, it will be formatted, it will be…