SEED QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: How do you relate to the notion that empowerment without reverence can cause us to harm life? Can you share a personal experience of a time you felt deep reverence while being unempowered? What has helped you maintain reverence toward life?
A time when I felt deep reverence for life while being unempowered was when my children were born. Exhausted & weary after 36 hrs of labor, all I could do was marvel at the infinite Grace of Life. Another was when my children, now teenagers, were angrily judging me for things they did not understand about our divorce. I could only reverently hold space for their innocence & marvel at this life standing before me. They are now in their forties & have modeled that Grace more & more as they age. When we hold Unconditional Love for All Beings at our core, the world shifts around us & returns to Source.
I believe in sacred Ahimsa -- the nonharming of any sentient life I love the words above, however, Gary Zukav's reverence for life appears to allow for the killing of other beings. If allowed, I offer this thoughtful response to Gary Zukav's popular book by Rev. Will Tuttle Ph.D, author of The World Peace Diet:
Do Animals Have Souls?
By Rev. Will Tuttle, Ph.D.
There is a hot-selling book by Gary Zukav, entitled Seat of the Soul, which is highly esteemed and discussed by many people who consider themselves progressive, open-minded, and spiritually aware. Someone gave me a copy recently, and I browsed through it. When I came to the chapter entitled “Souls,” I was disturbed by Zukav’s proclamation that only humans have individual souls, and that every animal is part of what he refers to as the “group soul” of its species. “Each human being has a soul. The journey toward individual soulhood is what distinguishes the human kingdom from the animal kingdom. Animals do not have individual souls. They have group souls. Each cat is a part of the group soul of cat, and so on.” He also says that there is a hierarchy within the group souls of animals, and that dolphins and apes are higher than dogs which are higher than horses, and so forth. He offers no evidence, though, for his hypotheses.
This book appears to be another wave in the sea of literature our culture has produced that tries to justify humanity’s abuse of animals on spiritual grounds. Readers of Zukav’s book are no-doubt comforted knowing that the chicken, fish, cow, or pig they are eating or wearing was not really an individual with a soul, but just an expression of its species’ “group soul.” It seems unfortunate and ironic that this national bestseller which purports to elucidate spirituality and raise consciousness actually does the opposite, deadening its readers’ sensibilities and blinding them to the reality of the suffering that individual animals experience because we reduce them to objects, mere fractions of a hypothetical “group soul.”
It harkens back to an earlier era in this country, when similar wording was used by religious leaders, Bibles in hand, proclaiming that black people had no individual souls, that they merely had a group soul. It harkens back also to Thomas Aquinas who, a thousand years ago, proclaimed that animals have no souls, nor do women have souls. Though women were granted souls, it appears that those in power decide who have souls, for their own purposes.
Voltaire wisely said, “If we believe absurdities, we will commit atrocities.” Culture is the product of conversations. I urge all vegans to speak up and to reject the absurdities like Zukav’s that parade as spirituality. To stop the atrocities, we must awaken from these best-selling and comforting rationalizations and challenge the ingrained cultural notions. These less-known words by Swami Prabhupada reveal an alternative to Zukav.
“Some people say, ‘we believe that animals have no soul.’ That is not correct. They believe animals have no soul because they want to eat the animals, but actually animals do have a soul.”
Reporter: “How do you know that the animal has a soul?”
Prabhupada: “You can know, also. Here is the scientific proof. The animal is eating, you are eating; the animal is sleeping, you are sleeping; the animal is defending, you are defending; the animal is having sex, you are having sex; the animals have children, you have children; you have a living place, they have a living place. If the animal’s body is cut, there is blood; if your body is cut, there is blood. So all these similarities are there. Now why do you deny this one similarity, the presence of the soul? That is not logical. You have studied logic? In logic there is something called analogy. Analogy means drawing a conclusion by finding many points of similarity. If there are so many points of similarity between human beings and animals, why deny one similarity? That is not logic. That is not science.”
The great philosopher Schopenhauer, in criticizing how some Christians treat animals, wrote, “Shame on such a morality that fails to recognize the eternal essence that exists in every living thing, and shines forth with inscrutable significance from all eyes that see the sun.” All of us are celebrations of infinite mysterious Spirit, deserving of honor and respect.
Will Tuttle, Ph.D., composer, pianist, Zen priest, and author of The World Peace Diet, is cofounder of Karuna Music & Art and of the Prayer Circle for Animals and Circle of Compassion ministry.
Reverence is deep respect. The greeting of Namaste expresses respect and honor of the divine in the other. If there is no respect of the sacred in others and in all that is, power of whatever kind can easily result in harming and exploiting others and our world, as it has. When I think of a time of feeling reverence while being unempowered, I think of childhood when I had reverence for my parents while not liking some things they were doing, and had very little power as a kid to do anything about it. So, I just held it all in and lived with it, painfully. I lost some reverence for life and the sacred in my middle years, and then learned or relearned reverence for others and for out planet since then. Many life experiences have helped me grow reverence. One experience in particular is the influence of Eastern unitive thinking including Buddhist thought. My awareness that you and I and all that is is One and is Sacred keeps growing and has helped me to grow in compassion and maintain reverence for all that is, living and nonliving.[Hide Full Comment]
A few months ago I helped a small pupy(dog). It met an accident from a tempo and its leg was badly injured. people were intending to pour water on him but i stopped them. I arranged turmeric from nearby residances and applied it over the cut in the leg. Before it the dog was making lot of noise due to the pain and bleeding and after this aid it went cool and calm. Instesd of fighting with the driver, one should first aid the injured, may it be human animal or even plant.
To me Reverence for Life is a deeply intrinsic value just like Gratitude. It is simply inalienable-- a recognition of life itself- in oneself and everything around us. When that recognition dims or fades, unconsciousness takes over and with that comes a feeling of fear and the illusion of unempowerment. I believe we are always empowered through our will and choices, however trivial that may appear in terms of their ability to imapct. Loss of power is an egoic experience and hence an illusion.
I have never really felt unempowered but experienced various degrees of empowerment that seems to emanate from within and less from without. My deepest sense of reverence comes from the earth itself - from the tallest mountains to the tiniest speck of life. My sense of unempowerment comes from experiencing collective unconsciousness like War or the systematic destruction of our planet in the name of progress or economic growth. But even such a context, i see a resurgence of life and hope-- like the syrian immigrant to Germany who is looking to qualify for the olympics or the movement for a shared economy. Hope and with it true power takes birth in the crucible of despair. In the truest sense, we are never really disempowered! This is what helps me maintain reverence towards life.
I work as a Large Animal Veterinarian, and my desire based with my work is to sustain life, and I do honor and respect life in all of her forms. However when an animal is suffering from an incurable disease state, injury, etc., i feel empowered with what I consider a gift of having the ability to bring an end to the animals terminal state through euthanasia. I consider this a gift to the soul in need, who would otherwise be suffering unendurable pain. There are times when I will euthanize an animal before he or she succumbs to the pain that it inevitability will have to endure. In other words, the animal is not yet suffering, but trough my actions, certain suffering is avoided.
So the question to myself and to the author: how does this relate to empowerment by your said definition?