E S S A Y S , A R T I C L E S A N D R E V I E W S
India's Peaceable Kingdom
The Light of Compassion for All Beings
By Dr. Michael W. Fox
The light of consciousness and the light of India are synonymous in the minds of many who are on the spiritual path of enlightenment and who are familiar with the sacred scriptures of Hinduism. In the Taittiriya Upanishad, for example, it is written: "May the light of sacred knowledge illumine us, and may we attain the glory of wisdom." (1.3)
But there is also the light of love and compassion, as implied in the Chandogya Upanishad: "There is a Light that shines beyond all things on Earth, beyond us all, beyond the heavens, beyond the highest, the very highest heavens. This is the Light that shines in our hearts." (3:13.7)
The three central themes of the Bhagavad Gita are jnana, bhakti, and karma (Light, Love, and Life). In Buddhism we also find reference to the Light as a reflection of Buddha-nature, and also in Christianity, the haloes of Saints being the radiance of divine nature.
The 13th century Sufi poet Jalalu'l Din Rumi advised: "If you keep your gaze fixed upon the Light, you will be delivered from dualism and the plurality of the finite body." In more recent times, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: "Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or the darkness of destructive selfishness."
Light, enlightenment, wisdom, and compassion are interwoven phenomena, concepts evident in the world's major religions and linked with divine revelation and presence. As a scientist, I have always had a healthy skepticism and curiosity about the phenomenology of "the Light." Reported studies of auras, Kirlian photography, and other approaches taken by the material sciences to quantify what others believe to be non-material, spiritual, or purely subjective, do little to prove, disprove, or enhance our understanding of the Light.
Psychiatrist Stansilav Grof in his extensive studies of mystical or spiritual experiences, which he collectively refers to as "holotropic" states of consciousness, writes that "Time after time, people compared the Absolute to a radiant source of light of unimaginable intensity, though they emphasized that it also differed in some significant aspects from any form of lights that we know in the material world."1
Australian poet and animal rights advocate Alice Shore describes her childhood experience of this light, which gave her a sense of kinship with all life that she calls "Creation-clanship," as follows:
"My awakening into the Creation-clanship came when I was about three. I had an experience which opened a doorway allowing a peep at Creation's web, to see the spiritual connections between all life forms in a physical vision. Recently, when I described my experience to a Christian, he said 'You were touched by God: given a sign.'
"It happened like this; picture a fine spring day with blue sky flecked with fluffy white clouds. Picture a small and plump child sitting in her favorite spot, under the overhanging green leaves of the grapevine, watching caterpillars eating the leaves. A dog is sitting at her feet, hens are scratching under the nearby orange trees, and a horse and cow are leaning placidly over the bottom hedge, watching. Suddenly the little girl is aware of a brilliant white light enveloping all-trees, vine, caterpillars, hens, dog, cow, horse, and girl-all wrapped together in threads of white shining light for a few seconds, a time long enough for her to realize that we are all connected, regardless of species and that we are bound to the One Source, as the Buddhists would say, or to God."2
A few years before I was witness to the Light in India in association with animals, I was sent a photograph of a Tibetan Buddhist monk blessing the animals. Along with this photograph came the following explanation:
In July 1985 the first Phowa course by the Ven. K.C. Ayang Rinpoche was held in Tokyo, Japan. After the course Rinpoche made a short visit to holy places in Kyoto and Nara, the ancient capitals of Japan. On the 26th of July a photo was taken of Rinpoche with some deer in Nara Park. When the photo was developed a clear rainbow appeared on the print. Many people have asked about the photo and this is the background to it.
On that day many photos were taken in the park but I clearly remember taking this one as Rinpoche went and sat with the deer and said, 'Take a photo now.' This was the only time that he had asked for a photo to be taken.
After the photo was developed I asked Rinpoche why he thought the rainbow had appeared and what it could mean. He told me that while he was sitting with the deer he had been strongly wishing that they could all go directly to the Buddha Amitabha Pure Land after this life and that the Buddha Amitabha would make contact with them from that moment. It is his belief that the Buddha Amitabha made contact with the deer at the time the picture was taken and that the power of His blessing appeared in rainbow form.
At the time the photo was taken no rainbow was visible and there was no rain. It was a clear, sunny afternoon and none of the other photos had any rainbows or light effects although all were taken under the same light conditions within a short space of time. It is also interesting that the place where the photo was taken, Nara Park, is considered to be sacred ground and the meeting point of several "lay lines" (lines of energy in the Earth that seem to be linked with the location of major holy sites and buildings). This park contains three of Japan's most revered shrines and temples including Todaiji, an important Buddhist temple famous for its huge statue of the Buddha Vairocana.
Rinpoche believes the real presence of the Buddha Amitabha is with this photo and has said, 'I am praying that whoever keeps this photo with strong confidence and devotion will become inseparable with the Buddha Amitabha's mercy and compassion'. (See opposite page).
With no intent to emulation, though I was deeply moved by the vision of the rainbow that is the spectral vision of the Buddha-light of divine presence, I was no less touched by some of the photographs of my humble self, enjoying the blessings of communion with a water buffalo, the emissaries from a herd of donkeys, and a billy-goat. These, and a total of some 200 animal souls, enjoy the sanctuary of Hill View Farm Animal Refuge. But for political and cultural nuances, I would call it an animal ashram.
The Peacable Kingdom at Hill View Farm is a creation of Deanna Krantz, Director of India Project for Animals and Nature (IPAN), a division of Global Communications for Conservation Inc., New York, with the help and devotion of Indian native Nigel Otter. Nigel acts as Deputy Director and Refuge Manager. He turned his dairy farm over to Deanna so that she could save some ninety animals whom she had rescued from the defunct animal shelter and donkey rest home across the river from Nigel's farm.
In these photographs I saw what I felt at the time: a golden light, sometimes with a whitish haze, almost dazzling, yet tender, around the animals. The entire Animal Refuge and staff were suffused in this light. I knew that it was for real. I had seen it go out after Deanna and some ninety animals were forced out, for various political reasons, from a defunct animal shelter that she had been invited to restore.
I realized that the Light had gone when I went back to the defunct sanctuary to pick up a few remaining items after Deanna and most of the animals had left. I was so surprised that I got out of the jeep to look. The sky was clear but all the vegetation, the earth, and the buildings had turned almost gray; everything seemed flat, tired, lacking in radiance and vitality. Most of the birds, I realized, had already left to relocate at Hill View Farm where there was food, water, and sanctuary for all.
I remembered, as I stood there in disbelief, that I had seen the same loss of light in the captive elephants at a nearby camp whose suffering IPAN is seeking to rectify. Compared to those in the wild that roamed nearby, they had lost their radiance and vitality.
Perhaps this light explains why the images of the animals at Hill View Farm in my memory and dreams are particularly vivid. Their light was part of the light of the Refuge that was kindled by Deanna, nurtured by her and Nigel, and maintained by IPAN's most devoted local staff from nearby villages and Kurumba tribe. I am honored to serve as IPAN's chief veterinary consultant, and grateful to Deanna for providing me with the opportunity to serve, to see the Light, and to be her husband.
IPAN's Animal Refuge is a Peacable Kingdom. All of the resident animals, that includes 104 donkeys, some forty dogs, and also ponies, mules, sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, cats, water buffalo, and orphaned monkeys, have their stories of suffering. They have borne witness to the inhumanity of the human condition and states of mind-some were beaten, many starved, abandoned, neglected, injured, diseased, dying, or becoming terrified and crippled for life-until they were rescued, given sanctuary, and were healed. Visitors are welcome to Hill View Farm Animal Refuge at any time.
1. Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Modern Consciousness Research, Stanislav Grof, State University of New York Press, 2000, p. 274.
2. "A Spiritual Approach to Animal Liberation," The Ark: Journal of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare, No. 189, Winter 2001, p. 43.
For more information about IPAN's activities in the Nilgiris, Tamil Nadu, South India, please see the contact information for the author below. All donations are tax-deductible. Checks should be made payable to: GCC/IPAN.
Michael Fox is a veterinarian, author, and syndicated columnist. His latest book is Bringing Life to Ethics: Global Bioethics for a Humane Society.
India Project for Animals and Nature (IPAN) puts the spirituality and ethics of reverence for all life into action. IPAN's Animal Refuge, established in 1996, is in the heart of the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, and is home to India's largest remaining wild elephant population, and to the endangered tiger, panther, guar, Langur monkey, as well as to an incredible diversity of other flora and fauna, especially birds.
IPAN's dedicated staff provides veterinary services to surrounding villages and remote tribal settlements, treating sick and injured animals vital to the subsistence economy of the rural poor; operates a 24-hour emergency service and mobile clinic for any and all animals in need; runs spay/neuter and vaccination programs and humane education through everyday in-field example and instruction; and assists in wildlife care and conservation and environmental protection.
IPAN demonstrates how animal suffering can be alleviated by the spiritual and physical dimensions of healing that entail compassionate action, linking Animalcare with Peoplecare and Earthcare.
For more information: IPAN, 4912 Sherier Place NW, Washington, DC 20016; (202) 966-6019.; fax (202) 966-2079; www.gcci.org/IPAN
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