When I was young, one of the most important members of our family was Nipper. He was a medium-sized dog with amazingly intelligent eyes, a golden coat, and a combination of the best traits of numerous breeds. He was a faithful playmate, protector, and coconspirator during my daily adventures. Many people remember a beloved four-legged friend who shared their youth, although none (I am sad to have to break this to you) can have been quite so glorious as Nipper.

Our house was across the street from a large park that served as a picnic spot in our small Midwestern town. In the center of the park was a large playground, and among Nipper’s many talents was a mastery of the sliding chute. On Sundays, when the park was filled, Nipper would prance over to the playground to begin his show—ceaselessly climbing the high ladder and sliding down the chute. Naturally, a crowd would soon form, cheering him on, although such an exhibitionist as he needed little encouragement. My brother and I would stand in the back of the crowd too embarrassed to admit that this was our dog, but too proud of Nipper to leave. You know the feeling.

Pets are our teachers, acting as mirrors for our behavior. All faiths have a variation of the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” A sincere practice of this simple statement should include not only people, but all life. In the Gospel of St. Matthew we find this famous passage:

“For I was hungry, and you gave me food; I was thirsty, and you gave me drink; I was a stranger, and you welcomed me; I was naked, and you clothed me; I was sick, and you visited me; I was in prison, and you came to me.” Then the righteous will answer him, saying, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick, or in prison, and visit you?” And the King will answer them, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”

Our love for God should be given equally whether He is masquerading as a beggar, a dog, a cat, an ocean, or a rainforest. Perhaps God gives us pets as first lessons in love and compassion, before we move on to the more complex task of loving other people, or even ourselves.

We recently attended a fundraising dinner put on by the Guibord Center, an interfaith work in Los Angeles dedicated to building bridges and fostering respect among various spiritual expressions. The highlight of the evening was a short film about how various traditions treat animals. (I’ve included below a link to the trailer; the film itself is available there as well.)

Life should be a glorious experience of giving and receiving love, which animals do so naturally. We would have longer and happier lives were we to heed the advice of a bumper sticker I once saw: “I wish I were the kind of person my dog thinks I am.”

In joy,

Nayaswami Jyotish

Faith Leaders Speak Out for Animals

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  1. I find it fun to stretch my compassion muscles by striving to feel it toward life forms that I might initially be indifferent to or even dismissive of. For example, yesterday, I accidentally spilled some water on a silverfish (a small insect considered a household “pest”) that had been making its way across my kitchen floor. The water had turned it upside down and rendered it immobile. I picked it up, made sure it was still okay, and then relocated it to a dry spot in my hall. It is amazing how such an act can quickly put oneself in the other creature’s position, leaving one feeling only concern and tenderness!

    1. @Alexandra. I was touched by your compassion for this household “pest”. It’s nice to know that others feel this way I capture spiders and release them when I see them in my house, as well as flies and others. 🙂

      Thank you for this article! We don’t often read or hear alot about other life forms in our lineage. Although Swami Kriyananda has spoken of them in his commentary on the Bhagavad Gita, in which he reminds us that we were all at different times various life forms. There are several beautiful stories in The Incredible Life of a Himalayan Yogi, about a self-realized master, Baba Lokenath, a contemporary of some of the sadhus who appear in the Autobiography of a Yogi, such as Trilanga Swami. In one such story Lokenath appears at a wedding in the form of a dog. The man who hounded Lokenath to attend was unkind to the dog who kept begging for a tidbit. The next day, when the man asked Lokenath why he had broken his word and not come to the wedding. Lokenath responded, “A dog tried to take some sweets from the storage room. Not once, but three times, you beat the dog with a stick and drove it away.” Baba then showed the devotee the bruises on his body. “I was the dog. I visited you in the form of a dog. If you cannot recognize me, what am I to do?”

      Only one who has attained Oneness with Eternal Truth can love and care, equally and impartially, for all living creatures. Baba’s compassion was uncompromising in its equanimity when it came to the welfare of all his children. He could not entertain the thought of even one ant of the ashram remaining unfed. He understood the language of animals and insects and was often found communicating with them in his own, inimitable way.

  2. Thanks Jyotish,
    My wife and I like birdwatching but from my perspective they often live in fear and have to struggle fighting off other predators. I’m glad I don’t have to live like that, at least so far! I do love to hear stories of dolphins saving people’s lives.

    Dennis

  3. Thank you Jyotish for a most powerful reminder of compassion and ahimsa. In Divine Gratitude and Friendship, Namaste

  4. Dear Jyotish ji! Your article was so touching. It echoed my thoughts. My mother’s dog was with me for a year. His name was Fluffy. He was so loving and the love was truly un.conditional. The love never faltered event and stayed till the very end when he passed away. That was an important lesson of loving God come.what may and through good times and bad. Thank you both for this wonderful.blog that inspires us always

  5. Thank you dear souls, for your continued upliftment, always inspiring
    Premdhara

  6. Thank you, Jyotish, for the wonderful read. I laughed out loud at, “My brother and I would stand in the back of the crowd too embarrassed to admit that this was our dog, but too proud of Nipper to leave. You know the feeling.” Thank you for the joy, and inspiration.

  7. I was somewhat surprised to read in the movie’s participant list that a member of the Bahai faith was among them. Several years ago I was told by a Bahai that it doesn’t matter how humans treat other animals because animals don’t have souls and therefore cannot feel anything; they are just here on Earth to be used by people any way we please. This Bahai also said the founder of their faith taught this concept. I was surprised and saddened to hear this, as I have always understood that our fellow beings are indeed sentient–in some cases more sensitive and loving than many humans.

    If the Bahai founder did believe this, perhaps the faith is evolving now to understand that nonhuman creatures do indeed have feelings, both physical and emotional, and that this fact needs to be acknowledged and respected for the betterment and evolution of all of us on the planet.

    1. I do know that some of the other representatives of the other religions featured also unfortunately do not speak (yet!) for the majority of the members of their religion. For example, when Rabbi Suzanne Singer said Genesis shows that God never meant people to eat animals, most Jews do not take that scriptural evidence as a blueprint for their own lives. I think what we are seeing in this film are examples of the most advanced thinking of each religion–although for some of the religions represented, the views expressed are quite standard.

  8. I loved your story. Animals have always been my best friends and still are. I rescued a horse growing up. She was full of ticks when I
    got her skinny and afraid from abuse. She became my constant companion. I called her Cry Baby, She would follow me everywhere
    and nicker. She would not stayed tied up. She pulled up a tree and a whole hitching post to follow me.
    When I lived in Wheatland I had rescued dogs. One was full of ticks and fleas and had been abused by a teen age boy, the other I found
    in Pets Mart with a large note attached to a collar that had grown into his neck. My name is Pepper, I am one year old, I like to run and travel and
    I eat dry food. They werethe reason I could not live in community until they left their bodies. I now have a cat Ashley who is a rescue and
    Little Boy A Feral who came to my back door several years ago with one eye poked in full of fleas. He lives with Ashley and I now and is still afraid of people afraid to be touched. Some kind ladies came and trapped him neutered him defleaded and gave him needed shots
    So thank you so much for your pet story.

  9. Rishi Raj and I thank you for this honoring of animals, their important role as partners in our spiritual evolution. Rishi has been instrumental in reflecting unconditional love and joy in the caring for my 96 year old mother. The elders light up when Rishi enters their assisted care facility and proudly sits up, puts his paws together in pranayam, expressing namaste. Thanks to Haripriya, for the generous gift of this little pup now some 8 years ago. He’s given us all so much joy and laughter. . . and therapy!

  10. Dear Nayaswami Jyotish Ji,
    Thank you. It feels a joy in the heart when reading this blog and thinking about the times that we were playing with Pets 🙂
    A great message and the most important one – Love, Wow! how we took it for granted from pets. Just reading this “I wish I were the kind of person my dog thinks I am.” message makes us ponder.

    In Master’s Love
    Prem

  11. SO TRUE. AND SO MUCH IN AWE WITH NATURE AND THE ANIMALS AROUND US. EVEN THE DEADLIEST OF WHICH ONLY CAUSE HARM WHEN EITHER IN DEFENSE OR WHEN THEIR OWN SURVIVAL IS IN QUESTION AS GUARDING THEIR TERRITORY ETC.
    ITS ONLY MAN’S MIND THAT PLAYS SUCH TRUANCY AS TO CAUSE HARM AND INFLICT HURT AND CHEAT AND BETRAY ANOTHER FELLOW HUMAN FOR HIS OWN GREED OR BENEFIT, NOT AS A DEFENSIVE MEANS AND CERTAINLY EVEN WITHOUT THE SLIGHTEST PROVOCATION!!

    ALL OF CREATION SEEMS TO BE IN PERFECT HARMONY WITH EACH OTHER BUT FOR US HUMANS, WHO RULE TO GO BEYOND AND PLUNDER, UNTIL STUPIDITY HAS NO BOUNDS EVEN TO THE EXTENT OF CAUSING OUR OWN DECIMATION AND EXTINCTION!!

    EVOLUTION HAS TO MAKE US MORE INTELLIGENT, MORE COMPASSIONATE, MORE SENSITIVE, MORE HUMANE, MORE BEAUTIFUL, MORE CREATIVE, AND MORE IN HARMONY WITH EVERYTHING THAT’S AROUND US…….!!

    IT IS UTTERLY SAD TO PONDER WHERE WE HAVE PROGRESSED AS A SPECIES THRU’ OUR EVOLUTION!!

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