Humans generally consider themselves superior to animals. We dominate them, enslave them, kill them and eat them. We think we have the right to do this because we’re supposedly ‘smarter’ than they are. And that’s really about the only difference between us — we have an intellect and they don’t.
Whether this makes us superior and gives us any justification to treat them as we do is another matter.
If a race of aliens who were smarter than us came to Earth, would their superior intellect give them the right to enslave, kill and eat humans?
I’m guessing most people would say no.
When we let go of the notion that we’re superior to any other lifeform, we naturally develop a reverence for all life.
We didn’t create any of it and we therefore don’t own any of it.
Every living being has an innate right to exist and to do so in freedom and peace. Yes, the natural kingdom is full of struggle and creatures kill other creatures as part of the food chain. But it’s a natural balance — something human beings lost countless millennia ago. They don’t so so out of malice, nor do they create industry and profit out of it, they just follow their natural impulses and live in accord with their true nature. Nature is the Tao — perfect functioning, in perfect balance.
Our human society is deeply dysfunctional. Excessively complex, simultaneously ‘connected’ and yet disconnected, just about everyone you meet is running around on a hamster wheel, brainwashed by the capitalist/corporate mindset that pervades every aspect of our lives (“you’re not enough, you don’t have enough — you need more stuff! More stuff! More stuff!”).
As a species we have lost the ability to simply enjoy being alive because we are so driven by dubious values such as the obssessive worship and pursuit and of our modern day god — money.
We’re even destroying the planet on which we live and willing to kill each other in order to accumulate as much money as we can. The economic downturn a decade ago only seems to have only made this worse. Whereas before, ecological and environmental issues had some relevance in politics, now many governments have now largely sidestepped that and it’s all about the economy.
Human beings are depressed on a large scale and are pumped full of drugs, pharmaceutical or otherwise. Relationships are suffering. There’s more of us on the planet than ever before, and yet somehow we’ve never felt as alone and isolated. If you watch the news any time of any day and you’ll see that humans perpetrate violence against others for no discernible reason. People commit suicide in large number. Our species is the only species on the planet to behave in this manner — and it’s clearly pretty insane, isn’t it?
Animals have it right.
They are alive, free and spontaneous. They are natural Zen masters. They exist entirely in the moment, with alertness, interest and full awareness.
Their minds aren’t lost in thought, always thinking about something someone said yesterday or what they need to buy at the supermarket tomorrow. If they did that, they’d lose touch with the beauty and simplicity of the present moment. To be free of the curse of endless, compulsive, largely useless mental chatter is an incredible gift.
Animals aren’t a prisoner to concepts, whereas humans lose themselves in concepts. Concepts are at best crude representations of reality, but they are not reality. People tend to forget that. We think our thoughts, ideas, beliefs and interpretations are reality, when, in fact, they are not.
Animals have no self-concept. They don’t need one. They simply exist as themselves, with complete authenticity and integrity.
Humans, on the other hand, somehow believe that they are a name and a ‘person’. A name is inherently meaningless. It’s a sound utterance or an arrangement of symbolic letters. Similarly, the notion of being a ‘person’ is entirely conceptual. We base our ‘personhood’ on a collection of specific memories, experiences, likes and dislikes, conditioned beliefs and opinions, attachments and aversions. But this psychological content is entirely arbitrary and the constituent parts of the supposed ‘person’ are always changing anyway.
The ‘person’ you think you are is just an idea in your head. If you were to stop and actually try to FIND that person, you’d be unable to! All there is is awareness and the always-changing content that appears and disappears in awareness.
Animals are free of believing themselves to be ‘somebody’, whether it’s a ‘good’ somebody or a ‘bad’ somebody.
They don’t have high self-esteem nor do they suffer low self-esteem!
They just ARE themselves, no mental bullshitting necessary.
Many wild animals are fearful around humans, and for good reason. We hunt them, kill them and destroy their habitat, driving entire species to extinction every day.
But when treated with kindness, respect, and affection, animals generally reveal themselves to be friendly, open, inquisitive and only respond aggressively if they feel under threat.
There’s an inherent goodness to animals. They do nothing out of spite or malice. They don’t judge themselves or others. They simply go about their business, doing what they’re programmed to do, naturally and spontaneously, without straining and effort, whereas humans struggle and strive, planning and plotting, causing great stress for themselves and others.
Humans have generally lost the ability to follow their essential nature, to allow right action to unfold by simply being in tune with the natural flow of life.
Animals accept what comes, the good and the bad. They deal with situations as they arise by following their natural impulse. They don’t catastrophise or create dramas. They don’t bitch or moan. They don’t develop grievances and resentments. Traumatic situations are faced and then, when they are over, are let go of.
Humans, however, keep situations alive by replaying them over and over in their minds, caught up by the erroneous belief that something ‘shouldn’t’ have happened. Animals have no ‘shoulds’ and ‘no shouldn’ts’. What is, IS, and is dealt with appropriately and let go of.
Animals live and grow old with grace. They rest, play and eat. Even the oldest animals often still play, whereas humans generally put playing aside when they leave school. They eat when they’re hungry and sleep when they’re tired. Humans live by mind-created schedules that often completely distance them from the natural ebb and flow of life, such as the rising and setting of the sun.
Animals accept age with ease because they don’t have any concept of getting old and dying. Humans fear death above all else and can spend tens of thousands of $$ on cosmetic surgery in a vain bid to hold back the ageing process. Even if animals could speak, I’m pretty sure they’d still be uninterested in cosmetic surgery.
Animals live spontaneously, free, with integrity and authenticity. Sleeping when tired, eating when hungry, playing when playful, lying in the sun when they feel like it, letting out a roar or growl when they feel angry. They have nothing to be and nothing to strive for because they are already whole.
What could they possibly add to themselves when they know they’re already everything they are and everything they could ever possibly be. Though circumstances might change for better or worse, nothing can be added to or subtracted from a being that knows it is already whole and complete.
We’re really no different to animals. We just think we are because our heads are full of thoughts and concepts.
Why not quieten the mind for a while and spend some time with an animal to see what amazing teachers they really are?
Animals get it. And they’re more than willing to teach us.