07 Jun

Respect for the existence of Non-human life in different world scriptures

In the last week, humanity has come across some of the most unimaginable cruelty towards animals. The case of a pregnant elephant in Kerala and a pregnant cow in Himachal Pradesh being allegedly fed explosives leading to their jaws blasting off and the elephant losing her life due to it, has lead to huge public outrage. Humans are inherently compassionate, and compassion towards all life forms is what all religions preach

In world religions, there are two approaches to animals and nature.

1) There is first of all the ethic of Ahimsa, non-violence toward all living beings. Vegetarianism is often motivated by this ethic.

2)Then we have the ethic of stewardship, recognizing that the natural world is given to humans as a trust, to be tended, maintained, and made fruitful. These deal with doing kindness to animals in distress, the proper management of natural resources, agriculture.

Passages in this blog describe the ethic proper to reverence for life.

This Blog is an excerpt from the book ‘World Scriptures’.

Buddhism,Khuddaka Patha, Metta Sutta

As a mother with her own life guards the life of her own child, let all-embracing thoughts for life be thine.

Jainism, Tattvarthasutra 7.11

Have benevolence towards all living beings.

Hinduism, Mahabharata, Shanti Parva 262.5-6

The mode of living which is founded upon a total harmlessness toward all creatures or [in case of actual necessity] upon a minimum of such harm, is the highest morality.

Jainism Acarangsutra 4.25-26

One should not injure, subjugate, enslave, torture or kill any animal, living being, organism, or sentient being. This doctrine of nonviolence is immaculate, immutable and eternal. Just as suffering is painful to you, in the same way it is painful, disquieting, and terrifying to all animals, living beings, organisms, and sentient beings.

African Traditional Religions. Yoruba Proverb (Nigeria)

One going to take a pointed stick to pinch a baby bird should first try it on himself to feel how it hurts.

Buddhism. Udana 11-12

The Exalted one was entering Savatthi when he saw some youths ill treating a snake with a stick. The he uttered these verses of uplift : Who so wreaks injury with a rod on creatures fain for happiness, When for the self hereafter he seeks happiness, not his, it may be happiness to win.

Jainism. Sutrakritanga 1.11.10-16

This is the perfect example of wisdom, Not to kill any living being, Know this to be the legitimate conclusion from the principle of reciprocity with regard to non-killing. He should cease to injure living beings whether they move or not, on high, below, and on Earth. For this has been called the Nirvana, which consists in peace.

Hinduism. Laws of Manu 5.48

Without doing injury to living beings, meat cannot be had anywhere; and the killing of living beings is not conducive to heaven; hence eating of meat should be avoided.

Taoism. Tract of the Quiet Way

Buy captive animals and give them freedom. How commendable is abstinence which dispenses with the butcher! While walking be mindful of worms and ants. Be cautious with fire with fire and do not set mountain woods or forests ablaze. Do not go into the mountain to catch birds in nets, nor to the water to poison fishes and minnows. Do not butcher the ox that ploughs your field.

Buddhism. Nagarjuna, Precious Garland 249 – 50

At the openings of ant hills, please have trustworthy men, Always put food and water, sugar and piles of grain. Before and after taking food, offer appropriate fare to hungry ghost, dogs, ants, birds, and so forth.

Judaism. Tanhuma, Noah 15a

“He that is wise, wins souls” [proverbs 11.30]. The Rabbis said, “This refers to Noah, for in the Ark he fed and sustained the animals with much care. He gave to each animal its special food, and fed each at its proper period, some in the daytime and some at night. Thus he gave chopped straw to the camel, barley to the ass, vine tendrils to the elephant, and glass to the ostrich. So for twelve months he did not sleep by night or day, because all the time he was busy feeding the animals.”

Islam. Hadith of Bukhari

According to Abu Hurairah, the Messenger of God said, “A man travelling along a road felt extremely thirsty and went down a well and drank. When he came up he saw a dog panting with thirst and licking the moist Earth. ‘This animal,’ the man said, ‘is suffering from thirst just as much as I was.’ So he went down the well again, filled his show with water, and taking it in his teeth climbed out of the well and gave the water to the dog. God was pleased with his act and granted him pardon for his sins.’
Someone said, “O Messenger of God, will we then have a reward for the good done to our animals?” “There will be a reward,” he replied, “for anyone who gives water to a being that has a tender heart.”

Judaism and Christianity. Genesis 2.15

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. Judaism and Christianity.

Islam. Hadith of Muslim

Never does a Muslim plant trees or cultivate land, and birds or men or beasts eat out of them, but that is charity on his behalf.

Judaism and Christianity. Exodus 23.10-11

For six years you shall sow your land and gather in its yield; but in the seventh year you shall let it rest and lie fallow, that the poor of your people may eat; and what they leave the wild beasts may eat. You shall do likewise with your vineyard, and with your olive orchard.

Buddhism, Vinaya Pitaka, Cullavagga v.6

Creatures without feet have my love,
And likewise those that have two feet,
And those that have four feet I love,
And those, too, that have many feet.
May those without feet harm me not,
And those with two feet cause no hurt;
May those with four feet harm me not,
Nor those who many feet possess.
Let creatures all, all things that live,
All beings of whatever kind,
See nothing that will bode them ill!
May naught of evil come to them!”

Hinduism. Rig Veda 6.28

The cows have come and bought us good fortune,
May they stay in the stall and be pleased with us;
May they live here, mothers of calves, many-coloured,
And yield milk for Indra on many dawns….
They are not lost, nor do robbers injure them,
The unfriendly frighten, nor wish to assail them;
The master of cattle lives together long with these,
And worships the Gods and offers gifts.
The charger, whirling up dust, does not reach them,
They never take their way to the slaughtering stool,
The cows of the worshipping man roam about over the widespread pastures,
Free from all danger.
To me the cows are Bhaga, they are Indra,
They [their milk] are a portion of the first poured Soma.
These that are cows are Indra, O people!
The Indra I long for with heart and spirit.
Ye cows, you fatten the emaciated,
And you make the unlovely look beautiful,
Make our house happy, you with pleasant lowings,
Your power is glorified in our assemblies.

Confucianism. Mencius I.A.3

If you do not allow nets with too fine a mesh to be used in large ponds, then there will be more fish and turtles than they can eat; if hatchets and axes are permitted in the forests on the hills only in the proper seasons, then there will be more timber than they can use.. This is the first step along the kingly way.

Buddhism. Pacttiya 11

The destruction of vegetable growth is an offense requiring expiation.

Islam, Quran 2.205

There is a type of man whose… aim every where is to spread mischief through the Earth and destroy crops and cattle. But God loves not mischief.

Judaism. Talmud, Abot de Rabbi Nathan, Ver. 5, 31

Rabbi Yohanan ben Zakkai used to say, “If there be a plant in your hand when they say to you, ‘Behold the Messiah!’ go and plant the plant, and afterwards go out and greet him.”

Buddhism. Anguttara Nikaya iii.368

Rajah Koranya had a king banyan tree called Steadfast, and the shade of its widespread branches was cool and lovely, Its shelter broadened to twelve leagues…. None guarded its fruit, and none hurt another for its fruit. Now there came a man who ate his fill of fruit, broke down a branch, and went his way. Thought the spirit dwelling in that tree, “How amazing, how astonishing it is, that a man should be so evil as to break off a branch of the tree, after eating his fill. Suppose the tree were to bear no more fruit.” And the tree bore no more fruit.

These age old truths show the reverence for life in different world religions. The underlying message in all is same, to respect the life and well being of others.

We thank World Scripture book published by Motilal Banarsidass Publications, from which these quotes have been taken. We also extend a gratitude to the photographers and illustrationists whose images have been repurposed here. Our intention behind this blog is to make this world a better place for all.



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