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Series III - Chapter 7 - “Won’t You Join Our Animal-Welfare Society?”
THE SUN WAS very clear in the sky, and there was a cool breeze from the sea. It was still fairly early in the morning; there were but few people in the streets and the heavy traffic had not yet begun. Fortunately, it wasn’t going to be too hot a day; but there was dust everywhere, fine and penetrating, for there had been no rain during the long, hot summer. In the small, well-kept park, dust lay heavily on the trees; but under the trees, and among the bushes, there was a stream of cool, fresh water, brought down from a lake in the distant mountains. On a bench by the stream it was pleasant and peaceful, and there was plenty of shade. Later in the day, the park would be crowded with children and their nurses and with people who worked in offices. The sound of running water among the bushes was friendly and welcoming, and many birds fluttered on the edge of the stream, bathing and chirping happily. Big peacocks wandered in and out of the bushes, stately and unafraid. In deep pools of clear water there were large goldfish and the children came every day to watch and feed them, and to take delight in the many white geese which swam about in a shallow pool.
Leaving the little park, we drove along a noisy, dusty road to the foot of a rocky hill, and walked up a steep path to an entrance which opened into the sacred precincts of an ancient temple. To the west could be seen an expanse of the blue sea, famous for its historic naval battle, and to the east were the low-lying hills, barren and harsh in the autumnal air, but full of silent and happy memories. To the north towered the higher mountains, overlooking the hills and the hot valley. The ancient temple on the rocky hill stood in ruins, destroyed by the brutal violence of man. Its broken marble columns, washed by the rains of many centuries, seemed almost transparent – light fading, and stately. The temple was still a perfect thing, to be touched and silently gazed upon. A small yellow flower, bright in the morning light, grew in a crevice at the foot of a splendid column. To sit in the shadow of one of those columns, looking at the silent hills and the distant sea, was to experience something beyond the calculations of the mind.
One morning, climbing the rocky hill, we found a large crowd around the temple. There were huge camera booms, reflectors and other paraphernalia, all bearing the trade-mark of a well-known cinema company, and green, canvas-back chairs with names printed upon them. Electric cables were lying about on the ground, directors and technicians were shouting at each other, and the principal actors were preening themselves and being fussed over by the dressers. Two men, wearing the robes of orthodox priests, were waiting for their call, and gaily-dressed women were chatting and giggling. They were shooting a picture!
We sat in a small room, and through an open window the green lawn, sparkling in the morning sun, threw a soft, green light on the white ceiling. Wearing expensive jewels, well-made sandals with high heels, and a sari that must have cost a good bit of money, she explained that she was one of the chief workers in an organization dedicated to animal welfare. Man was appallingly cruel to animals, beating them, twisting their tails, goading them with sticks that had a nail at the end, and otherwise perpetrating upon them unspeakable horrors. They must be protected by legislation, and to this end, public opinion, which is so indifferent, must be aroused through propaganda, and so on.
“I have come to ask if you will help in this important work. Other prominent public figures have come forward to offer their help, and it would be fitting if you also joined us.”
Do you mean that I should join your society? “It would be a great help if you did. Will you?”
Do you think that organizations against the cruelty of man will bring love into being? Through legislation, can you bring about the brotherhood of man?
“If we don’t work for what is good, how else can it be brought about? The good doesn’t come into being through our withdrawal from society; on the contrary, we must all work together, from the greatest to the least among us, to bring it about.”
Of course we must work together, that is most natural; but co-operation isn’t a matter of following a blueprint laid down by the State, by the leader of a party or a group, or by any other authority. To work together through fear or through greed for reward is not cooperation. Cooperation comes naturally and easily when we love what we are doing; and then cooperation is a delight. But to love, there must first be the putting aside of ambition, greed and envy. Isn’t this so?
“To put aside personal ambition will take centuries, and in the meantime the poor animals suffer.”
There is no meantime, there is only now. You do want man to love animals and his fellow human beings, do you not? You do want to put an end to cruelty, not at some future time but now. If you think in terms of the future, love has no reality. If one may ask, which is the true beginning of any action: is it love, or the capacity to organize? “Why do you separate the two?”
Is there separation implied in the question just asked? If action arises from seeing the necessity of a certain work, and from having the capacity to organize it, such action leads in a direction quite different from that of action which is the outcome of love, and in which also there is the capacity to organize. When action springs from frustration, or from the desire for power, however excellent that action may be in itself, its effects are bound to be confusing and wrought with sorrow. The action of love is not fragmentary, contradictory, or separative; it has a total, integrated effect.
“Why are you raising this issue? I came to ask if you would kindly help us in our work, and you are questioning the source of action. What for?”
If one may ask, what is the source of your own interest in bringing about an organization which will help the animals? Why are you so active? “I think that’s fairly obvious. I see how appallingly the poor animals are treated, and I want to help, through legislation and other means, to put an end to this cruelty. I don’t know if I have any motive other than this. perhaps I have.”
Isn’t it important to find out? Then you may be able to help the animals and man in a greater and deeper sense. Are you organizing this movement out of the desire to be somebody, to fulfil your ambition, or to escape from a sense of frustration? “You are very serious; you want to go to the root of things, don’t you? I might as well be frank. In a way I am very ambitious. I do want to be known as a reformer; I want to be a success, and not a miserable failure. Everyone is struggling up the ladder of success and fame; I think it is normal and human. Why do you object to it?”
I am not objecting to it. I am only pointing out that if your motive is not that of really helping the animals, then you are using them as a means to your self-aggrandizement, which is what the bullock cart driver is doing. He does it in a crude, brutal way, whereas you and others are more subtle and cunning about it, that is all. You are not stopping cruelty as long as your efforts to stop it are profitable to yourself. If by helping the animals you could not fulfil your ambition, or escape from your frustration and sorrow, you would then turn to some other means of fulfilment. All this indicates – doesn’t it? – that you are not interested in animals at all, except as a means to your own personal gain.
“But everybody is doing that in one way or another, aren’t they? And why shouldn’t I?”
Of course, that is what the vast majority of people are doing. From the biggest politician to the village manipulator, from the highest prelate to the local priest, from the greatest social reformer to the worn-out social worker, each one is using the country, the poor, or the name of God, as a means of fulfilling his ideas, his hopes, his Utopias. He is the centre, his is the power and the glory, but always in the name of the people, in the name of the holy, in the name of the downtrodden. It is for this reason that there is such a frightening and sorrowful mess in the world. These are not the people who will bring peace to the world, who will stop exploitation, who will put an end to cruelty. On the contrary, they are responsible for even greater confusion and misery.
“I see the truth of this, all right, as you explain it; but there is pleasure in exercising power, and I, like others, succumb to it.”
Can’t we leave others out of our discussion? When you compare yourself with others, it is to justify or condemn what you do, and then you are not thinking at all. You are defending yourself by taking a stand, and that way we shall get nowhere.
Now, as a human being who is somewhat aware of the significance of all that we have talked about this morning, don’t you feel there may be a different approach to all this cruelty, to man’s ambition, and so on?
“Sir, I have heard a great deal about you from my father, and I came partly out of curiosity, and partly because I thought that you might join us if I could be sufficiently persuasive. But I was wrong. “May I ask: how am I to forget myself, outwardly and inwardly, and really love? After all, being a Brahman, and all that, I have the religious life in my blood; but I have wandered so far from the religious outlook that I don’t think I can ever get back to it again. What am I to do? perhaps I am not asking this question in all seriousness, and I shall probably continue my superficial life; but can you not tell me something that will remain in me like a seed and geminate in spite of me?”
The religious life is not a matter of revival; you cannot put new life into what is past and gone. Let the past be buried, don’t try to revive it. Be aware that you are interested in yourself, and that your activities are self-centred. Don’t pretend, don’t deceive yourself. Be aware of the fact that you are ambitious, that you are seeking power, position, prestige, that you want to be important. Don’t justify it to yourself or to another. Be simple and direct about what you are. Then love may come unasked, when you are not seeking it. Love alone can purge the cunning pursuits from the hidden recesses of the mind. Love is the only way out of man’s confusion and sorrow, not the efficient organizations that he puts together.
“But how can one individual, even though he may love, affect the course of events without collective organization and action? To put a stop to cruelty will require the cooperation of a great many people. How can this be achieved?”
If you really feel that love is the only true source of action, you will talk to others about it, and you will then gather together a few who have a similar feeling. The few may grow into the many, but that is not your concern. You are concerned with love and its total action. It is only this total action on the part of each individual that will bring a wholly different world into being.