It fascinates me how our small world is filled with such vast beliefs, traditions and religions. But what intrigues me more than the differences are the similarities. Take religion for example, whether it be the Koran or the Bible all religions preach to be kind to each other, to animals and the planet. The common thread of compassion runs through all religions.
Although, I don’t personally follow one organized religion I appreciate elements of several. I used to be on a search for the religion that suited me most, I now acknowledge that my religion is truly my own. It’s an individual belief system that combines many aspects of different religions with some of my own. Much of it is about peace, respect, and animals! For me “God” represents love, purity and nature. Who fits this description better than animals? I can’t count the number of times that I have looked into the eyes of an animal and could see an angel looking back at me.
Animals live their lives innocently, purely, for their families, and for love. So many of us turn to religion for answers, I believe that if more of us were to turn to nature and to animals we just might find what we are looking for.
All faiths and religions include animals and nature in their doctrines.
In Christian faith it is stated that we are the stewards of nature and animals. The Bible says that God expects, even demands that we respect and take care of ALL of his creations. Saint Francis of Assisi, one of the most popular saints of the Catholic Church felt at one with animals. Not only did he preach that animals should be treated with respect, but he preached directly to the animals. There are several famous stories of him speaking directly to birds, rabbits, fish and wolves.
In Christian belief the most innocent and perfect place is the Garden Of Eden. In the Garden of Eden before the fall, animals and humans lived together in utter peace, both eating only vegetables and no one was ever killed nor harmed.
In Buddhist thought animals are sentient beings, different from humans in their intellectual ability but no less capable of suffering. Animals possess an equal potential to become enlightened. Therefore, any human could be reborn as an animal, and any animal could be reborn as a human. An animal might be a reborn dead relative, and if you looked far enough back into one’s infinite series of lives you would eventually find every animal to be related to you in some way.
Within Native American beliefs everything is sacred from the largest mountain to the smallest plant and animal. In Native legends animals are frequently gifted with the power of speech and other human attributes. Animals are considered equal to humans sometimes even superior. For example, eagles fly the highest of all living beings, and have eyesight that can see into the soul.
Of all religions I find myself repeated drawn back to Hinduism. Animals play a huge role in their culture and religion. Throughout India animals can be seen living on the streets among people, as well as appearing in decorative art on temples and homes. Animals also play a very important role in Hindu belief. Animals are frequently mentioned in Hindu myths and legends. Spiritually, there is no distinction between human beings and other life forms, all are manifestations of God and possess a soul. The Hindu god Buddha declared that all beings currently living in an animal form have been our mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, children, and friends in past rebirths. One could not, therefore, make a hard distinction between moral rules applicable to animals and those applicable to humans; ultimately humans and animals were part of a single family. We are all interconnected.
I just love this idea. Animals in Indian society is one of the main elements that constantly pulls me back to India. Mix animals together with the utterly bizarre and I’m there. This is exactly what I found at the “Rat Temple” just outside Bikanner. It’s actually called the Karni Mata Temple, and was constructed in the early 1900’s as a tribute to the rat goddess Karni Mata. It is a beautiful building constructed primarily with intricate marble panels and decorated with splashes silver and gold. It’s quiet and peaceful inside just as any temple should be. Out of respect each visitor (thousands of Hindus travel from all over India to visit each year) must remove and leave their shoes at the door. It looks similar to all of the other immaculate Hindu temples that can be found throughout India, except that this temple is home to around 20,000 rats!
While rats are seen as dirty and diseased pests in most circles, inside this Hindu temple they are sacred. In fact, to have one touch you or to scurry over your foot is a blessing.
Since I visited the “Rat Temple” I have spent alot of time thinking about the concept. It warms my heart. If we can have respect and even worship a rodent that is commonly thought as of a dirty scoundrel, then just imagine what is possible!SHARE