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'Animal Matters' (January 2013):

WHY DO SERVICE FOR ANIMALS...

“When a devotee seeks with humility and purity to give seva and prema to my creatures who are in need of such selfless service and sublime love;  when he considers all creatures as my children, as his beloved brothers and sisters, as the blessed manifestations of my immanence, then in fulfilment of my role as Sathya Sai,  I descend to help, accompany and carry that yogi.  I am always near such a yogi to guide him and to shower my love upon his life”. (Sathya Sai Baba)

A story recorded in “The Animal Lawsuits against Humanity” tells us about a Sufi mystic, Abu Bakr al-Shibli, who died in 945 AD.  He came to a friend in a dream and gave him the following information.  Apparently the Lord had told him that the reason he had been admitted to Paradise was not because of his religious practices such as fasting, praying and so on, but because one cold day in Baghdad when it was snowing, he saw a tiny kitten on a wall shivering with cold.  He took this kitten and put it under his coat to warm it.  Because of his kindness towards the kitten, he was forgiven for any sins and admitted to Paradise. That really says everything!

Sathya Sai Baba tells us that we can learn many good qualities from our animal friends and a news report in 2010  showed a monkey helping two blind people to drink in the RagiGudda temple in Bangalore.  Because they could not turn on the tap, the mother monkey turned it on for them, waited for them drink, drank some herself, then turned the tap off and left.

Please note well!  If a monkey can do this act of kindness for human beings, then can’t we humans also do this for our animal brothers and sisters?  Many people do look after animals and some also feed stray animals, wild creatures and birds, while many more never think of it, feeling perhaps that this kind of service does not really count…but hey, what a shining example this monkey is to the human beings who don’t …unlike a lot of humans, she is clearly not prejudiced against members of other species in need.  The love and care that we give towards those in animal form is never wasted for it helps them in their evolutionary journey upwards.  As Sai Baba says:

“When you love and look after an animal, you help to lift the whole of creation.  If you cannot care for an animal, then at least feed the birds and wild creatures.”

Not only that, our love attracts their love and helps us to feel a kinship with the whole of creation;  to realise the Oneness behind all forms and the Love that is contained in all of creation.

While they may not be able to thank us in words, those who have fed and cared for animals, wild or domestic, have often experienced their loving gratitude in other ways.   The following stories demonstrate something of this gratitude.  

One example of this occurred at the time of the death of Lawrence Anthony, a remarkable human being known as ‘The Elephant Whisperer’ who could communicate heart to heart with elephants and who had rescued and rehabilitated many who had suffered from human cruelty.  He had been particularly successful in taming and ‘normalising’ a herd of wild and traumatised rogue elephants in Zululand, South Africa.  Although he had not seen these elephants for 15 months as he had had to distance them for their own safety, on the day that he died without warning in March 2012, the whole herd suddenly appeared out of nowhere, having walked for twelve hours.  They then stood silently outside his house for two days as if to pay homage to the human being who had so loved and understood them.  We know that elephants mourn their loved ones and to them, he had become a beloved family member. Somehow, on their jungle telegraph, they sensed that he had passed away.

Then there is Bob the Streetcat…he has become famous and can be seen on You Tube, not only on the UK News but also on the streets of  Covent Garden, London,  accompanying his owner, James Bowen,  while he plays music for a living.  His owner was once a homeless and depressed drug addict and his life was spiralling badly downwards.  Then a sick and wounded street cat came into his life.  He took the cat to the vet for treatment.  Considering how expensive vets’ fees are, this was a real act of charity for one who was penniless.  When the cat got better he refused to leave James, following him absolutely everywhere, onto the bus and underground train too!  Out of sheer gratitude, Bob the cat adopted this young man and vice versa.  Bob became, in a sense, his saviour.   James says that the unconditional love and devotion he has received from his cat Bob has actually saved his life.  He is now clear of drugs and life is much sweeter and his progress is only upwards and upwards.  Thank you Bob! 

What joy it was for children when they entertained koala bears in their homes in 2009!  It was when Australia had a horrendous heat weave.  Something happened then that had never happened before... Koala bears, dying from thirst, emerged from the trees and approached human beings asking for water.  They were so desperate to drink that they overcame any fear of humans.  Luckily, some humans obliged and happily gave them water.  In fact, some allowed these koalas to enter their homes to drink and even to cool down in baths!

Lastly, Mohammed, in one the Hadiths,  tells the story of an adulterous woman about to be horribly punished.  However, her sin was forgiven her in Allah’s eyes when on seeing a very thirsty dog, she took off her shoe and filled it with water from a well for the dog to drink.  This act of kindness more than compensated for any past wrongdoing.

So seva or selfless service on behalf of the animal kingdom is no less valuable than seva for the human kingdom.  Sai Baba tells us, “Be content when your seva is simply to lift a lame lamb over a style”and to a devotee dedicated to farm animal welfare, “What you do for the animals, you do for Me" and to another devotee, “Real seva is animal seva”.

Sai Baba’s words below say it all when He says:

“Compassion towards all beings is real spiritual discipline. Man is the crown of creation;  he is the highest among living beings. Therefore, he bears great responsibility. He has to love other living beings, serve them and save them, for they are his kith and kin and they too have the Divine Principle as their core”. (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 14, Page 182)

(Article written by Mercini Sherratt for Vedanta Empire's charity incentive)

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