“Hurting someone is a crime. Hurting any living being is like hurting Me. Be careful not to hurt any being. Hurt never. Help ever”. (Sathya Sai Baba)
A Golden Age has been predicted... it is said to be coming soon. How can that be when there is so much darkness in the world just now? In order to help to usher it in, we really have to be God’s hands and feet. This means that we have to, as far as we individually can, put Love into practice in every sphere of our lives, not just towards the human species but towards the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom and Mother Earth herself. On our evolutionary path upwards, the lesson is to grow in love and compassion for ALL beings, to widen the heart, to live in Truth and Ahimsa, doing as little harm or hurt to any living being as humanly possible.
All great souls have felt enormous love for the whole of God’s creation because their hearts have expanded to such an extent that they can feel ONE with all beings. The 7th Century Christian mystic, Saint Isaac the Syrian, asks, “What is a charitable heart? It is a heart which is burning with love for the whole creation, for men, for the birds, for the beasts… for all creatures… He who has such a heart can no longer bear to see or learn from others of any suffering, even the smallest pain, being inflicted upon a creature. That is why such a man never ceases to pray for the animals…”.
Living in perfect love, these great beings also recognise love in the animals they meet. Furthermore, their own great love attracts the love of those in animal form just as much as from those in human form and sometimes more. In Sathya Sai Baba’s words:
“For He makes us aware that the God we adore, the God we love, the God we live by, is in every other being as LOVE. Thus Love expands and encompasses everything in creation”.
Sathya Sai Baba’s love for the animal kingdom is well known and well documented as was Shirdi Sai Baba’s. Shirdi Sai was not only content to share the food on his plate with other creatures...nowadays that would arouse the attention of the Health and Safety Department...but also continually gave his devotees lessons to show them that their love must spread equally to embrace all beings. Until they put this into practice, he did not consider them worthy of being his devotees. He said:
“Sometimes I am a dog, sometimes a pig, a cow, a cat or an ant, a fly or an acquatic creature. In such various forms do I move about in the world. Know that I love only him who sees Me in all the living beings. So give up the sense of differentiation. This is the way to worship Me”.
Ramana Maharshi was a shining example of love for all creatures, seeing all as equal. When mealtimes came around, he would ask, “Have the lads been fed?” referring to the dogs. He always made sure the ashram dogs were fed first…then the beggars, and then his devotees. He hosted many different kinds of animals at his ashram, going as far as to allow squirrels to make nests for their families behind his pillow, something most of us would not like! He even spent time trying to sort out the arguments of the monkeys around him, again something that many of us would consider a waste of time! Why… monkeys will be monkeys and always get into mischief!
As for Saint Francis, he was obviously an animal communicator! He managed to reason with and calm a fierce and hungry wolf who invaded a town, terrifying its inhabitants and occasionally eating them. St Francis somehow conveyed that the townspeople would always feed the wolf if only he would stop terrorising them. The wolf cooperated and lived out the rest of his life peacefully, his needs catered for by the townspeople. When Christmas came, St Francis made sure that the town council gave abundant food to not only the poor people but also to the birds and animals, asking them to remember especially “his sisters the larks” of whom he was very fond. In fact, in his early days when he and his companions lived in a hovel, he, not being specieist, allowed a donkey to squat in it and displace them! He did not consider his needs to be more important than the needs of that donkey, perhaps one of the earliest Animal Rights activists around. Every year, on his special day, some churches hold services for animals where they go to be blessed in his name. At one such service, I once sat beside a Staffordshire Terrier who joined in singing loudly and ecstatically, delighting the rest of the human congregation.
St Francis did not fear any creature and the animals had no fear of him. As Sai Baba tells us:
“It is only Love that encompasses and permeates the entire world. None can exist without love even for a moment, be it human beings or animals or birds or insects. This love is the very form of God. But today, man is misusing this sacred love by diverting it towards the ephemeral world. Never underestimate the power of love. Our ancient Rishis, leading a life of solitude in forests, could live in harmony even with wild animals only because of the power of love. There is nothing that love cannot achieve in this world. It can even melt the hardest of rocks”. (Sathya Sai Baba, Divine Discourse, July 28 1999)
Our mistreatment of animals in so many ways, shows that we are far from living in such perfect love for all beings. Cruelties abound on a huge scale, often behind closed doors. They range from simply maltreating, starving or neglecting them to force-feeding them with toxic chemicals, poisoning, blinding, mutilating, terrifying and maddening them in all kinds of laboratory experiments, weapons testing and the testing of every single everyday product we use such as household products and toiletries…to factory farming and the violent and terrifying slaughter of animals for food, to the cruel training and miserable life endured by circus animals, to the violent poaching and near decimation of whole species to make ridiculous and trivial trinkets, to the routine bloody slaughter of dolphins and whales for selfish or inane reasons, not to forget the cruel sports using animals and the massive slaughter of fish and the thousands of other sea creatures caught in the fishing nets or tangled in our own plastic waste …and many more. In many cases, their suffering is just too harrowing to contemplate!
Animals are sentient beings who feel pain, fear, love, joy, anxiety, anger and many other emotions just as we do. They have rights just as we do! Mahatma Ghandi once said that in his opinion, “The life of a lamb is no less precious than the life of a human being”.
It is said that all the kingdoms have karma but whether these animals have somehow karmically “deserved” these abuses, we can never know. It is true that most of us cannot see the big picture and when witnessing any kind of suffering we cannot know what karma is at play whether the ‘victims’ are human or animals. However, it is not really our business and Sathya Sai Baba has made it clear that we are incurring great karma in our mistreatment of the animal kingdom. Even if all the abuse that goes on in our world were karmically warranted, those perpetrating the abuse are not only hardening their own hearts further but also creating, in turn, more karma. Those standing by and doing nothing are also doing the same by their quiet acquiescence. Someone once said it takes one good man to do nothing for evil to prevail.
We are instruments for the Light and God needs us to be Spiritual Warriors... campaigning for that light, not silent accomplices in the darkness, which allows cruel practices to flourish. We have to live our spiritual ideals in daily life and walk our talk in every department of daily living. True spirituality means living one’s ideals…and yes, it IS difficult, we WILL slip up, but we MUST keep trying and not turn our backs on this important question …or fudge the issue with high sounding philosophy which is fine at one level but does not help evolution if not put into practice in a tangibly loving way. We ARE responsible for our world even if we are only passing through and we ARE co-creators of it. Real purity of heart leads to purity of action. A better era will never dawn until we put an end to the abuse of animals in all its forms.
SO HOW CAN WE HELP?
By our choices in everyday life, by voicing our discomfort at cruel and/or unethical practices, by informing ourselves and others if they will listen, we can affect conditions on the earth plane for the better.
By growing in love, compassion and respect for ALL beings ourselves and teaching our children to do the same.
By recognising that animals have feelings too, that even wild animals feel love and attachment to their family group and have as much right as we do to a happy and pain-free life and by teaching our children the same!
By using our spending power to buy only cruelty-free products that have not caused suffering to any creature, wherever possible and to encourage others to do so. Lists are available online. In this way, we will be encouraging ethical, compassionate and cruelty-free businesses to succeed and become the prototype for the future.
To PRAY for the animal kingdom daily and by looking after them where possible.
To abstain from visiting circuses which use animals…the horrors and cruelty involved in training animals for the circus, is now coming to light.
To stop eating them! If eating dairy products, buy organic from farms where farm animal welfare is a priority…and support Ahimsa/Slaughter-free milk schemes where there is one.
Without doing these small things at least, however are we going to help usher in a Golden Age? In the words of Albert Schweitzer, “Compassion in which all ethics must take root, can only attain its full breadth and depth if it embraces all living creatures and does not limit itself to mankind”.
(Article written by Mercini Sherratt for Vedanta Empire's charity incentive)
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