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The Web of Life

"If bees were to die off, the ecosystem would go into the toilet and  humans will eventually die with them. We  cannot survive without them, even with all of our technology."

You're right! That's what Dr. Carl Sagan said in his PBS miniseries, Cosmos, in 1980. He said far from being the crown of creation, all life on earth is interconnected. (This point was repeated by vegan author John Robbins in his 1987 Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America.) We might be destroying certain animals and plants upon whom our survival depends.

"All Things Are Connected," the concluding chapter to John Robbins' Pulitzer Prize nominated Diet for a New America (1987), begins with a quote from (reincarnationist) Christian mystic Edgar Cayce:

"Destiny, or karma, depends upon what the soul has done about what it has become aware of."  

John Robbins writes:

"At the present time, when most of us sit down to eat, we aren't very aware of how our food choices affect the world.  We don't realize that in every Big Mac there is a piece of the tropical rainforests, and with every billion burgers sold another hundred species become extinct.  We don't realize that in the sizzle of our steaks there is the suffering of animals, the mining of our topsoil, the slashing of our forests, the harming of our economy, and the eroding of our health.  We don't hear in the sizzle the cry of the hungry millions who  might otherwise be fed.  We don't see the toxic poisons (pesticides) accumulating in the food chains, poisoning our children and our earth for generations to come.

"But once we become aware of the impact of our food choices, we can never really forget.  Of course, we can push it all to the back of our minds, and we may need to do this, at times, to endure the enormity of what is involved.

"But the earth itself will remind us, as will our children, and the animals and the forests and the sky and the rivers, that we are part of this earth, and it is part of us.  All things are deeply connected, and so the choices we make in our daily lives have enormous influence, not only on our own health and vitality, but also on the lives of other beings, and indeed on the destiny of life on earth.

"Thankfully, we have cause to be grateful--what's best for us personally is also best for other forms of life, and for the life support systems on which we all depend.

"The Indians who dwelt for countless centuries in what we now call the United States lived in harmony with the land and with nature.  Their societies were each unique, yet all were founded on a reverence for life that conserved nature rather than destroying it, and which lived in balance with what we today call the ecosystem.  To them, it was all the work of God.  Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every humming insect was holy.

"When the white man forced them to make the ultimate sacrifice and sell their land, the great Chief Seattle spoke for his people and asked one thing in return.  He did not ask something for himself, nor for his tribe, nor even for the Indian people.  There were, of course, many things of immense importance he must have wanted at such a time.  He could have asked for more blankets, horses, or food.  He could have asked that the ancestral burial grounds be respected.  He could have asked many things for himself or for his people.  But what stood above all else in importance had to do with the relationship between humans and other animals.  His one request was as prophetic as it was plain:

"I will make one condition.

The white man must treat the beasts of this land as his brothers. For whatever happens to the beasts soon happens to man. All things are connected."

"Chief Seattle spoke for a people whose bond with the natural world was unimaginably profound.  Yet the white man called them savages, and utterly disregarded his plea.  The factory farms that produce today's meats, dairy products and eggs are living testimony to how totally we have disdained the one condition he made.

"The white man thought Chief Seattle an ignorant savage.  But he was a prophet whose wisdom and eloquence arose from living contact with Creation.  And his words are astoundingly similar to those of a book written long, long ago.  The Bible, too, tells us the fates of humans and animals are intimately intertwined.

"For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth the beasts.
Even one thing befalleth them:
as the one dieth, so dieth the other;
yea they have all one breath,
so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast.

---Ecclesiastes 3:19

"Chief Seattle did not know that centuries before a book called the Bible had spoken in words almost identical to his own.  But he spoke on behalf of life itself, and the wisdom of the ages poured through him.  Today, when we have strayed so very far from an ethical relationship to other creatures and to the welfare of the world we share, his message remains with us as a light of immeasurable brilliance.  Never before has the truth of his words been so apparent:

"One thing we know;
Our God is the same,
This earth is precious to Him...
This we know:
The earth does not belong to man:
Man belongs to the earth.
This we know:
All things are connected
Like the blood which unites one family.
All things are connected.
Whatever befalls the earth
Befalls the sons of the earth.
Man did not weave the web of life.
He is merely a strand in it.
Whatever he does to the web,
He does to himself."

This point was made clear as early as 1962 by Rachel Carson in her book, Silent Spring, which launched the modern-day environmental movement: pesticides were used to kill insects, which were eaten by birds, and in time, thousands of birds died. The title of Rachel Carson's book came from her warning that a time might soon approach where we would not hear any birds at all with the arrival of spring.

Rachel Carson's point was repeated in Back to Godhead in the '70s. And when the environmental disaster at Love Canal occurred, Back to Godhead editor Satsvarupa dasa Goswami comme nted that America's karmic debts are coming due.

In a 1983 Back to Godhead article entitled, "You Can Talk of Peace Till The Cows Come Home," Suresvara dasa similarly points out that through killing animals by the billions, pesticides, etc. we think we're conquering nature, but we're really kicking ourselves: sometimes it comes back to us in the form of acid rain, etc.

Environmental devastation, rather than abortion and war, is the most visible manifestation of the collective karma for killing animals.

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