Yoga and Animal Rights


What does Yoga have to do with Animal Rights?

by Dada Madhuvidyananda 

Yoga is a spiritual way of life and philosophy. The goal of Yoga is to realize one’s blissful self and to unfold one’s unlimited human potential. The practice of Yoga requires mental balance, which one develops through conscientious and compassionate conduct. The yogic ideals of an ethical and human conduct are described in the practices of Yama and Niyama. They form the foundation of Yoga. What follows is an explanation of these practices as they relate to animals.


Ahimsa: To cause no harm through thoughts, words or deeds

The fundamental idea of Ahimsa is that we do not cause unnecessary pain or hurt to any creature. This idea is also expressed in the maxim: “Don’t do onto others what you don’t want done unto you.” In relation to animals, Ahimsa means that we don’t cause avoidable harm or suffering to them by, for example, keeping them in unnatural or cruel conditions or killing them, except where human life is in danger. 

It is a fact that life lives on life. The spirit of Ahimsa in regards to food is to select it from the least developed life, causing the least amount of suffering. Practically it means to eat a vegetarian diet and avoid animal products that are produced by needlessly harming or killing animals. 


Satya: To use one’s words and mind with all-encompassing benevolence

Satya means to think about the welfare of others and speak and act accordingly. It means to support and assist others in their growth and development. Satya implies benevolent truthfulness. People who live by Satya becomes courageous and incorruptible. Their small or great deeds radiate the light and love of humanity. 
An example of Satya would be to honestly acknowledge that animals suffer terribly in factory farms and laboratories, to denounce this cruelty as wrong and unethical and refuse to participate in it.


Asteya: Not to take things which belong to others

Asteya means to not steal. It includes abandoning the very desire to take others’ possessions. Asteya is a foundation for a pure mind and a noble, strong character.

Non-stealing also relates to our treatment of animals. In the modern dairy farms the calf is separated from its mother shortly after birth, so that the milk, which nature intended for the calf, can be given to humans. The calf is thereby robbed of its  milk. The whole process is not only theft but also animal cruelty.

Milking itself is not necessarily a theft. If human beings would let domesticated cows live according to their nature, care for and respect them and let them nurse their calves freely, milking would be a part of co-existence and co-operation between species.


Brahmacarya: To remain connected with the Divine.

Brahmacarya means to view all beings and things that we come into contact with as different expressions of the Divine, rather than  to see them as mere crude objects. It also means to endeavour to feel and know the non-material, spiritual essence in everything that exists.
Yoga philosophy does not ascribe this divinity only to humans, but to animals and plants as well. This spiritual outlook leads to all-encompassing love and selfless action.


Excerpt re-printed with permission from the author. Read the full article here

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