In the state of Tamil Nadu, in the south of India, stands a mountain covered in rocks, called Arunachala. It is four and a quarter hours southwest of Madras (Chennai), in the Eastern Ghats. A very sacred mountain, Arunachala is considered to be Lord Shiva Himself, not just his abode, but the God Himself.
The great Saint Ramana Maharshi, during a visionary experience at the age of 16, went to live there. He never left and spent his life at Arunachala, visited over time by many thousands of devotees. He was very fond of animals. Today, as well as his own grave, there are the graves of several of his favorite animals; including a cow named Lakshmi and a raven that he had rescued.
© Sharon St Joan, 2021
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To ancient peoples, the world of nature was not made up of inanimate beings – or of beings less than ourselves.
Everything was alive and had a spirit and a presence.
The mountains were gods, the rivers goddesses.
The lakes, the oceans, the trees, the deserts, the forests – everything was living and conscious. Also, all the beings of the sky were alive – the sun, the planets, the moon, all the stars.
Life was present in every aspect of the universe. The sacred rocks were living entities.
All the animals – the fish, the whales, the bears, the lions, foxes, deer, all the birds, also the ants, the bees, the butterflies and all the insects.
We can see this perception still in the older (and wiser) belief systems of the world: Hinduism, Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism, in the world views of Native Americans.
Because ancient peoples saw and understood the spiritual essence of all of nature, there was reverence and respect for nature. Human beings took only what they needed for survival – and nothing more. They were respectful and not greedy. They listened to the voices and to the laws of nature. They were aware of the sacred beings of life. Because of this awareness, they did not destroy the planet earth.
Today, though we consider ourselves, in the modern world, to be much wiser, we are in fact, very ignorant. We see nature through blind eyes, not recognizing the living essence, the majesty, and the awareness of nature and the earth herself.
It is through this blindness and stupidity, that we destroy nature – through greed and oblivion.
No amount of calculating carbon footprints in a futile effort to save ourselves is going to work.
We must focus, not on ourselves, but on the ineffable beauty and life of nature herself.
To put it simply, we must go back to worshipping nature – to feeling a sense of reverence for the earth. We belong to the earth. It is only by returning to that sense of the sacred that we will be able to save the earth – and perhaps ourselves as well.
© Sharon St Joan, 2021
Sometimes one must pray for rain for days and even years.
God Is not limited by our time frame. He/She does not abhor death – beyond death there is peace and even joy.
God exists within, around, and beyond the universe. A small part of God is the universe. The spiritual exists – it is unseen because it is not a material thing. It is spiritual. The physical world comes into being – but unfortunately, the physical world then sometimes runs amuck in all directions all by itself – and hence there is pain and evil – because of the separation and alienation from the spiritual.
The physical universe comes into being when a division takes place. Suddenly, there is more than one. There are two. This second entity may not really be real because only the One is real (think of the Hindu concept of maya). Yet physical reality has appearances – Newton’s apple falls to the ground — in the sunlight, it is red; it is heavy, and it falls; one can watch it fall and hear it hit the ground. To us, it is solid and real, one can even taste it. It manifests as physical. Yet it is missing something; it is not spirit, though spirit may be within it and may dwell within it – and may even be trapped within it – according to the concepts of the gnostics.
Because there is division – there arises incompleteness – a lack of wholeness. If you divide the train from the engine, something important is missing. Some essential things have been left out. From this lack arise the deficiencies of the physical universe – pain, suffering, harm, death, illness, and evil. These arise from and are the consequence of the separation – the division that has taken place in order to bring about the universe – the separation (leading to alienation) between the spiritual and the physical. The wildflower is very beautiful, but after summer is done, there is no ongoing source of life and nourishment, and the flower dies. The life within it has gone. It cannot exist apart from the source of life which sustains it. (I do not mean that dead flowers are not beautiful; certainly they are, but theirs is a different beauty.)
When the physical universe – especially as the world of nature – is still inhabited by spirit – still in touch with its essence and its soul – it has profound beauty – the flowers, the majestic rocks, the ocean waves in their endless patterns, the grace of animals and plants. (The ocean and the rocks are also alive.)
The living beings of nature are subject to pain because of the separation that brought them into existence as separate beings – no longer entirely whole – apart from the original unity – which is God. The farther removed one is from the spiritual – the greater the chasm – the more prone is the physical world to suffering and disaster.
With the arising of the mental plane (which can be useful, but which is mostly an agent of disruption), there is further separation and further evil – such as we see in the modern human world. – war, chaos, hatred, injustice, disease, tyranny, and cruelty – and an irrepressible drive to rise above and dominate the earth. But, one may say, these things have always existed. But think for a moment – that is not so. Think of the innocence of deer, of flowers, of the rolling hills – who all existed before human beings. The natural world can be dramatic, even destructive, but it is not cruel. Even tigers are not cruel; they kill only when they are hungry or to feed their young, out of fear or defence sometimes, but never out of malice. The tiger is as innocent as the deer.
Only human beings have the capacity for intentional cruelty, and cruelty is intentional – the word itself implies intent. As human beings, it is our task to leave behind the tyranny we exert over the natural world – and instead to bring about a re-unification of the physical with the spiritual – in union – to re-unite that which has drifted – or exploded — apart. We must learn to perceive once again the true reality of the natural world – it is inhabited by spirit. Nature is an expression of God.
The mistaken assertion, espoused in the Old Testament that “man was made in the image of God” is a false teaching and goes along with much of the rest of the Old Testament that portrays God as a tyrannical being. If you don’t think so, you may not have read it lately. Parts of the Old Testament are soaringly beautiful – such as some of the psalms and parts of Isaiah – these express the true wisdom of these people, but the rest was written by somebody else. It all contrasts sharply with the portrayal in the New Testament of Jesus as a teacher of love and kindness. The Old Testament prophets spent quite a lot of time persecuting the Canaanites who followed the old religion and were always going up into the hills to worship trees — as if worshipping trees were a horrible thing to do. Unfortunately, much of the underpinning philosophy of our culture derives in part from the dominance expressed in the Old Testament. We have lost sight of this, but it is so.
Worshipping trees, who are sacred beings, is actually quite a good thing to do.
Nature is a part of God, and when we are able to become ourselves a part of this truth – truly able to perceive it – then we perceive the original peace of the unity of the two halves that seemed to have been split apart (though this was always an illusion). The physical and the spiritual will be brought together again – will be one. This is the mystical truth. It can be glimpsed distantly – intellectually. It can only truly be seen mystically.
This is the truth of mystics the world over. We can discover this by looking to the ancient worldviews – the knowledge in the traditions of the ancient land of India, the cosmic understanding of indigenous and tribal peoples all over the earth. They hold the remnants of truth that our modern world has left behind and destroyed. We must once again look to them for the truth – and salvation.
The genocide of the earth’s native peoples – like the war against nature (it is the same war) — has been a scourge attempting to kill truth and beauty in order to make way for a force, alien to nature, that seeks only dominance.
It has run its course. Many of those who might once have perpetrated the lies supporting this war have now turned against it.
For those ancient peoples of the earth who have guarded fundamental truths over so many eons – for them, along with their brothers and sisters of the natural world, and the earth itself, there will come again the brightness of the light and the dawn ahead.
© Sharon St Joan, July 2021
Eyes of the green-rolling ocean waves,
Eyes of the beauty of peace, blue
Essence of being,
Your world is true.
Then, we knew you before,
And remember you from when this earth began.
You ride on the wind,
Through the star-
Bending branches of destiny.
Your heart braves
The upheavals of all that should not be.
You – the soul of all being.
You are the iron-gray rocks of eternity,
You sing in the sky;
You shine, effervescent, In the sun.
You walk in the moon-winged, far-raining
Night of gossamer petals.
On bright sandals,
Hanuman, son of the wind,
Soul of eternity,
Near the hawk, sharp-shinned,
Hovering to scan
The long, winding shore.
Would you go, Hanuman?
There, in the great-souled trees of all-being,
Among the startling leaves – green in the spring.
Always, you are there.
Son of the wind.
In the sharp wind that runs by the circling sea.
© Sharon St Joan, June 2021
Son of the wind,
Sent to free
Entangled innocence from rusted snares,
From the bitter clawhold of Ravana,
To guide the gold-winged butterfly,
The shy, dawn-eyed doe,
The nagalinga tree
Of skylit flower,
The brave host of bears
On the oak-hallowed hill,
The bright-songed messengers, in flight,
The belled, meandering cow,
The redwoods of ancient girth,
Of silver gill,
Out from the chasms of desolation
Of a world gone awry
Back to the far, far
Reaches of the beginning – before ever time arose
Back to the shining lake of the mountain height
Hidden unseen in the green land of the star
Where mists of joy run
Like horses on the white river, wide,
Where the spring cactus unfolds gold and red.
A day to bring the innocent out, away
In the boat of the canted bow
Across the storm-bent sea
In the gale-churned hour.
Do you remember your flaming brand
And the fire that went up to swallow
The iron-souled city of Lanka?
Savior of the innocent, hero-son
Of earth and star,
There – hear the call of the raven chime
From the canyon of ill-kept time.
Son of the wind,
Breath of the earth.
© Sharon St Joan
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In normal years, to attend the Asia for Animals Conference – which is always lively and dynamic – you’ll need to spend several thousand dollars and around 15 hours flying across the Pacific.
This year however, due to the pandemic, you can stay in your armchair and pay $20 to be part of the virtual two-day AfA Conference – which is a good deal.
Well, it’s really a two-night conference, from the U.S., due to the time differences.
Jane Goodall will give the keynote address. Other speakers will be well-known animal activists from China, Nepal, India, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Singapore, and other Asian countries. The conference will be in English.
The 2021 Conference will be put on jointly by Blue Cross of India and FIAPO (the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations). Dr. Chinny Krishna, one of the founders of these two organizations will give the opening address.
Around twenty sessions and panel discussions will take up highly relevant topics.
One session will focus on building an Asian movement to end live animal markets and the wildlife trade.
A panel discussion on Spirituality and Animal Protection will include Dr. Nanditha Krishna, well-known author of many books on animals, the world of nature, and Hinduism – along with Manoj Gautam from Nepal, Wolf Gordon Clifton of the Animal People Forum, and others. The traditions of many Asian countries go back 5,000 years or longer – so there’s quite a lot to cover.
Jill Robinson, of the Animals Asia Foundation, who has led the struggle to free bears from bear bile farms, will speak about the cat and dog meat trade.
Other sessions will feature – fading out the use of animals in tourism, the role of a plant-based movement, and the role of children in animal rights advocacy. Sessions will also focus on farm animals, wild animals, and companion animals.
Asia for Animal Conferences have been held every year and a half since they began in 2001, twenty years ago, in the Philippines. Animal advocacy in Asia faces challenges – as is the case everywhere in the world. The animal movement in Asia is led by remarkable people, who set an amazing example, marked by a high level of energy, enthusiasm, courage, and perseverance.
You can view the Conference program here: https://www.asiaforanimals.com/conference-2021
Scroll down until you see the schedule. You can see the times in the left margin. “IST” is Indian time.
The time difference between U.S. Mountain time (Utah time) and IST (Indian Standard Time) is 11 and a half hours.
This means that, for U.S. attendees, the conference does not start on April 24, instead it starts this coming Friday – in the evening of April 23, at 10 pm, Utah time – or 12 midnight EST.
To convert Indian time (IST) to Utah time, subtract 11 and a half hours.
If you’re not much of a night owl, you may still want just to stay up for one or two events – or if you’re a morning songbird, you may want to wake up for two or three early morning events, starting at around 5 am. Or, you may be completely captivated and want to watch the entire conference – for all of both nights.
In any case, whatever you can watch, it will be fascinating. It will give you an insight into the dynamic work of Asian animal advocates, who stand up for the animals in Asia – and it will be a lot easier than flying across the Pacific for 15 hours!
How to sign up
Go to this link https://afa2021.eventuresindia.com/register
But first do this: Before registering, you are advised to call your credit card company and notify them that you are about to make a foreign purchase. These days, credit card companies may block your card for making an “unusual” (i.e. foreign) purchase. If you call them in advance, there will be no problem.
Registration for the two-day conference is $20.
Relevance to wild lands
All efforts to save the earth’s animals (both wild and domestic animals – and ourselves too) depend on the continued existence of wild habitat, which means wild lands – which means renewing the earth. We all live on the same earth – one earth.
We look forward to seeing you at the AfA Conference this Friday evening!