Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

Tenderness and Loving-kindness

The Baha'i faith began in Persia. Today, there are an estimated five million members of the Baha'i faith in some twenty thousand Baha'i communities in over 150 countries throughout the world. The founder of the Baha'i religion, Baha'u'llah ("Glory of God," 1817-92), taught that all the world's religions should unite and that the human race are one people under God. Animals and the rest of creation are seen as part of the unity of the earth and the cosmos. Baha'u'llah has been quoted as saying: "Not a single atom in the entire universe can be found which doth not declare the evidences of His might, which doth not glorify His holy name... So perfect and comprehensive is His creation that no mind nor heart, however keen or pure, can ever grasp the nature of the most insignificant of His creatures."
Compassion for animals is a tenet of the Baha'i faith. Baha'u'llah called upon humanity to "show kindness to animals," and wrote: "Look not upon the creatures of God except with the eyes of kindliness and mercy." Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), Baha'u'llah's eldest son and successor, wrote that "tenderness and loving-kindness (to animals) are basic principles of God's heavenly kingdom, and said, "the Lord of all mankind hath fashioned this human realm to be a Garden of Eden, an earthly paradise."
"Briefly," explained, Abdu'l-Baha, "it is not only their fellow human beings that the beloved of God must treat with mercy and compassion, rather must they show forth the utmost loving-kindness to every living creature. For in all physical respects, and where the spirit is concerned, the selfsame feelings are shared by animals and man... What difference is there when it cometh to physical sensations? The feelings are the same whether you inflict pain on man or beast. There is no difference here whatsoever. And indeed you do worse to harm an animal, for man hath a language, and he can lodge a complaint... But the hapless beast is mute, able neither to express its hurt nor take its case to the authorities... Therefore, it is essential that ye show forth the utmost consideration to the animal, and that ye be even kinder to him than to your fellow-man."
Abdu'l-Baha recognized the value of a humane education: "Teach your children from their earliest days to be infinitely tender and loving to animals. If an animal be sick, let the children try to heal it, if it be hungry, let them feed it, if thirsty, let them quench its thirst, if weary, let them see that it rests."
The Baha'i faith endorses vegetarianism: "Regarding the eating of animal flesh and abstinence therefrom... he (man) is not in need of meat, nor is he obliged to eat it. Even without eating meat, he would live with the utmost vigor and energy... Truly, the killing of animals and the eating of their meat is somewhat contrary to pity and compassion, and if one can content oneself with cereals, fruits, oil and nuts, such as pistachios, almonds and so on, it would undoubtedly be better and more pleasing."
In 2017, the 200th anniversary of the birth of Baha'u'llah, with current trends in animal liberation theology worldwide, and a growing number of theologians, clergy and activists in all the world's great religions jumping on the PETA bandwagon, it must be pointed out: the animal rights movement really began as a secular and nonsectarian civil rights movement, and is now courting all the world's great religions for inspiration, blessings, and support. An article in The People's Almanac (1975), said meditation is endorsed by all the world's great religions, and animal advocates would like to see it happen with vegetarianism. Vegetarian writer Steven Rosen, in his 1987 book, Food for the Spirit: Vegetarianism and the World Religions, tried to show that all the world's great religions support the vegetarian way of life: to win people of different faiths to vegetarianism through friendly moral persuasion.
Catholic Concern for Animals and some progressive churches (Episcopal, Methodist, Quaker, Unitarian) have shown interest in animal rights issues. The Baha'i faith endorses vegetarianism, and the ancient eastern reincarnationist religions which predate Christianity (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism) all teach ahimsa, or nonviolence towards humans and animals alike, to the point of vegetarianism, and are vegan-friendly. Frances Arnetta of Christians Helping Animals and People endorses vegetarianism as "God's best for good health, the environment, to feed the hungry." She writes: "When we Christians are compassionate to animals, we are imitating our Heavenly Father. If non-Christian people are leading the way in respect for the lives of animals, it is because we Christians have failed to be the light Jesus commanded us to be. We should be an example of boundless mercy."

The International Network for Religion and Animals (INRA) was founded in 1985. Its educational and religious programs were meant to "bring religious principles upon humanity's attitude towards the treatment of our animal kin... and, through leadership, materials, and programs, to successfully interact with clergy and laity from many religious traditions... Religion counsels the powerful to be merciful and kind to those weaker than themselves, and most of humankind is at least nominally religious. But there is a ghastly paradox. Far from showing mercy, humanity uses its dominion over other animal species to pen them in cruel close confinement; to trap, club, and harpoon them; to poison, mutilate, and shock them in the name of science; to kill them by the billions; and even to blind them in excruciating pain to test cosmetics. Some of these abuses are due to mistaken understandings of religious principles; others, to a failure to apply those principles. Scriptures need to be fully researched concerning the relationship of humans to nonhuman animals, and to the entire ecological structure of nature. Misinterpretations of scripture taken out of context, or based upon questionable theological assumptions need to be re-examined."
INRA's Executive Director, Reverend Marc Wessels, concluded on Earth Day, 1990:
"It is a fact that no significant social reform has yet taken place in this country without the voice of the religious community being heard. The endeavors of the abolition of slavery; the women's suffrage movement; the emergence of the pacifist tradition during World War I; the struggles to support civil rights, labor unions, and migrant farm workers; and the antinuclear and peace movements have all succeeded in part because of the power and support of organized religion. Such authority and energy is required by individual Christians and the institutional church today if the liberation of animals is to become a reality." 

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