Animals are our brothers and sisters, and it’s very important that we know how to live with them harmoniously and respectfully because they’re there for a reason. You can see that certain birds and animals carry out special jobs in the world. Some, like vultures, even clean up garbage. Of course, they make a mess of it, too! But their job has something to do with the whole environment, the balance of our planetary ecosystem. They help balance nature to keep the atmosphere good and clean.
Everything has something to do. For example, trees are here to give oxygen to the planet. Without trees, we’d die. Really, we would. We’d die without trees because we’d have no more oxygen, and there would be less water because there’d be no trees to attract the water and retain the moisture when it’s there. So all things on this planet, including us, are inter-related and are helping each other to make our life here comfortable and livable.
If we don’t know that, then we’re killing ourselves. Every time we kill a tree or kill an animal, we’re killing a little part of ourselves. If we have to cut trees, we should replant more. For example, plant three more. But even that takes time; the tree has to grow up. So, if you intend to cut trees, you should plant others beforehand. Because it takes a long time for a tree to be able to produce good air and absorb the bad air for us. Bigger, older trees have a greater ability to do this than younger trees, even though they may appear to be the same size. Just like when we’re older, we have more abilities and more knowledge about things, including spiritual wisdom. Our growth is similar.
“Honoring All Life Maintains Nature’s Balance”
Dogs say hi to everyone; it’s so beautiful. They know what you need and are very therapeutic because they know who needs love. For example, there are programs in hospitals and homes for the elderly and for sick children where they bring dogs in to just love the people. Whoever the dog puts its paws on or licks feels much better afterwards, because they feel loved. Animals love unconditionally! Even though they might never see you again, they’ll give you everything, the whole thing. A dog licks whomever he loves.
Dogs and cats especially know exactly what’s going on. So they come and touch the people who need it. The dogs who visit homes and hospitals are already trained, so they’re not too unruly. They just come to visit the old people or the children or the terminally ill and make the people feel great. The patients love it so much that they keep asking for more. Because dogs have this gift: They can communicate love without having to say or do anything. We can keep saying “I love you” the whole day long and still no one believes us. Maybe it’s because we don’t mean what we say!
Most people can’t know the inside of a dog because dogs don’t talk. We can’t even understand each other as humans so it’s very difficult for a human to understand the inside of a dog. That’s why, after a while a person might say, “This dog is no good,” and throw the dog out. The animal shelters are full of dogs ready to die. If people don’t adopt them, after only one day to a week, they can be killed.
People don’t take time; they just want to kill things. They don’t understand that it’s a living being, and after a while, the dog messes up. If you don’t train them well, they misbehave. Then the person gets fed up because the dog might chew the furniture and other things. Most people don’t even know that dogs need toys. They also need company and time to play with their owners, and not just eat food and guard the house. Even guard dogs need affection just like anyone else.
Especially if you take in a lone dog or a cat, they in turn take you as a partner or family member. Sometimes they even fall in love with you or at least become very, very attached to you. So if you’re the one who’s the partner and you don’t care for his or her emotional needs, of course he’ll become destructive or depressed and grow to be very undisciplined. And then we blame the dog for being bad.
How can a dog be good if it’s tied at the neck all day long sitting in the sun, unable to go anywhere or do anything? The dog doesn’t have company and doesn’t have love, only food. Even we humans don’t live just for food. Also, we know of many things we can do; we can do anything we want. We have a lot of choices to help diffuse our depression or loneliness, and even then we complain that we’re lonely, isolated and so on.
We have so many choices. We can pursue as many activities as we want, but dogs can’t! If you tie a dog to a tree, what’s he going to do? Or, what if you cage him all day long until you come home at night or just lock him up inside the house eighteen hours a day? Then you come home, give him a little food, pat him on the head and say, “Good boy” and then “Good night!” So, a lot of people just take dogs or cats in, thinking they’re like toys. They call them pets or toys, but they’re not. They’re wonderful beings. They have so many gifts that we don’t have. People don’t realize that, and they treat animals really badly.
In the Bible, God said, “I will make the animal as your helper,” meaning our friend. That’s why we should never eat them or mistreat them because God’s intention in creating animals was to help us. They help in different ways, similar to a shepherd. But you have to train them in their profession. Even with a shepherd, you have to train him in how to herd your sheep.
Most people train dogs for hunting, killing and so on, which is no good. If people leave their dogs outside and don’t really take care of them, they can become flea or tick infested and they suffer a lot. But since they can’t talk and can’t take care of themselves, they rely only on their owners. And they’re so loyal and faithful that they won’t go anywhere, even to seek help. So if we’re the solely responsible person and we neglect him or her, it’s very cruel. It’s not human.
If you don’t want them, you’d better not have them, and if you have them you’d better treat them nicely. It’s a lot of work, but the reward is that they love you eternally. They’d lay down their lives for you if it came to that.
When I read stories about animals, I can’t help but love them. Apart from having love for all beings, these kinds of stories touch your heart and make you love them more. So the people who neglect animals or who don’t know how to treat them properly are just ignorant. They don’t know about dogs, about the inside nature of these wonderful beings. They think they’re just animals. Maybe because they’re smaller than we are, we look down on them. But that’s not right.
“Recognize the Wonderful Nature of Animals”
Actually, this world belongs to everyone, including the animals. That’s why we follow a vegetarian policy. Because this world has come into existence due to the force of the thinking power of all the beings that exist on this planet. We wanted this place, so it exists, including the animals. But when we came into this world, we thought it belonged to us. Everyone thought it belonged to themselves. Therefore we started to get rid of the other “aliens” — the red, the black, the yellow and so on.
The red wanted to get rid of the white. And the white got rid of the black. And then the black and the white and the yellow got rid of the animals, and so on. And so we have forgotten that we are the co-owners, not the sole owners of this world. That is why we should not kill animals, should not eat them and of course especially should not kill any other beings. But in the name of politics, national love or religion, sometimes we kill. And we justify our killing with many glorious excuses.
Actually, this is not the right thing to do. Because we kill today and in the next life we’re killed. Therefore wars always continue in our world, and then we always wonder why. But there is nothing to wonder about. When we sow something, we reap the fruit thereof. Even the Bible says so — “As you sow, so shall you reap.” And for those of us who have not suffered the effects of war or any other conflicts, that means we have not sown the seeds of violence. So if we continue to keep it that way, even if we do not practice meditation, even if we do not worship God officially or registered-wise, then we will be born again as a safe, secure, healthy human being. Because we have not planted the seeds of damage, of war or of violence.
“Share the World with All Beings”
Q: Many people despise animals and just abuse them or utilize them, exploit them, consider them of less value and torture them. I love animals and I wish You would show in Your speech, if possible, the value of animals.
M: Yes, that’s why I advise people to be vegetarian. We do this to extend our love to our lesser brothers and sisters who are more defenseless and weaker than we are. In the Bible, God said, I made all the animals to be your friends and your helpers. Hes did not tell us to eat them.
Q: Can I be happy with God, even if I am not a vegetarian?
M: You know the answer yourself. As you sow, so shall you reap. If we cause suffering to any being in any form, directly or indirectly, we can never feel completely guiltless, and therefore we cannot be completely happy. We can only be happy to some extent.
“Ahimsa - Extending Love to Our Animal Fellows”
Whatever our faith or belief, we all know that animals have souls for they can move on their own initiative. Any sentient being that can move by itself, has the intent to move and has a mind that commands its movements forms ties of affinity with many other beings, gains many experiences and develops its intelligence, all of which result in attachment. When such sentient beings become attached to their intelligence and accumulated experiences, they become emotionally involved with life and fear death. Because of their fondness for a longer life, more experiences, increased activity and the opportunity to establish affinities with and learn from other beings, their hearts become filled with affection for life, fear of death, and feelings of hatred, kindness and gratitude.
If we eat animals, we unconsciously step into their magnetic fields, which are characterized by a strong desire for life and apprehension about death. We get stuck, just as we do when we step on glue and our foot is glued to the spot and loses mobility. Stepping on sand is all right, given its non-adhesiveness. Everything has a different quality. But if we step on the animals’ qualities of life attachment and fear of death, their hate-filled magnetic fields cling to our souls, trapping us, pressurizing us and depriving us of our freedom.
Plants do not move without being blown by the wind so they have less experience and intelligence. With this lower level of awareness, they also have less attachment. For plants, it isn’t a grave matter to die and be reborn because they have few experiences and attachments. Animals, by contrast, have more experiences since they can move of their own accord. For example, a dog may go looking for his girlfriend, and then look around further the next day, thinking, “Wow! This one is more beautiful than the last one!” (Master and audience laugh.) Attachment grows from such occurrences, which is why they cling to life. Under the influence of these phenomena, all animals become fond of life and fearful of death. But this is not the case with plants because they have too little experience to cling to. So when we consume plants, their magnetic fields do not become attached to us.
Thus, we can’t say that animals and plants are alike. If that were so, then it would be as good as saying that chewing gum, sand and stones are alike, and that’s not true. Sand and stones do not stick to us when we step on them; only chewing gum does. Everything has a different quality so we can’t say that animals are the same as plants. They’re absolutely different. (Applause) We can understand this through observation. It isn’t because Master Ching Hai said so, or the Bodhisattvas said so that we understand it. It’s extremely simple and logical; we know these things just from observation.
Everything in the universe has a different quality. So when we choose our diet, of course, we should select foods that create less of a burden for us and allow us to practice more easily and progress more quickly. Only then will we not be bound or pulled down by very heavy magnetic fields.
“From Biological Attachment to the Magnetic Fields of Foods”