Tag Archives: ahimsa

Nature red in tooth and claw

Puffins on Inner Farne Island

We recently went to the Farne Islands on a boat trip. I had been before but not during the nesting season. The islands were absolutely covered with nesting birds; Puffins, Terns, Gannets, and more. The terns vigorously defended their nests, swooping and diving at us when we approached. The whole islands were teaming with life. It is very easy to see the gillemots, they stay on their nests even when people approach close up. The terns swoop at people trying to drive them away from their eggs and young. It is easy to see these birds as inspirational examples of parenthood and devotion to the young. For them the people approaching are seen as real risks, standing up to a ‘predator’ is a matter of life and death.

Gillemot Remains on Nest

We should not forget that the huge nesting population of these islands is fed by the fish in the surrounding ocean. Some birds will eat other’s eggs and young given half a chance. The beauty of these islands is sustained by “nature red in tooth and claw”, the circle of life. How do we as Hindus reconcile the beauty of nature with the death and suffering necessary to sustain it? Why do Hindus practice ahimsa, non-harm, towards all creatures when nature itself involves violence?

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Keep your axe sharp

Once upon a time a very strong woodcutter asked for a job to a timber merchant,and he got it. The pay was really good and so were the working conditions. For that reason, the woodcutter was determined to do his best. His boss gave him an axe and showed him the area where he was supposed to work. The first day, the woodcutter brought 18 trees “Congratulations,” the boss said. “Carry on that way!”.

Very motivated with the boss’s words, the woodcutter tried harder the next day, but he could bring only 15 trees. The third day he tried even harder, but could bring 10 trees only. Day after day he was bringing less and less trees. “I must be losing my strength”, the woodcutter thought.

He went to the boss and apologized,saying that he could not understand what was going on. “When was the last time you sharpened your axe?” the boss asked. “Sharpen? I had no time to sharpen my axe. I have been very busy trying to cut more trees for you.

This traditional story teaches us a lesson in Hinduism. Keeping our axe sharp means maintaining the basics; purity, truthfulness (satyam) and non-harm (ahimsa) together with regular devotion (bhakti). Sometimes we can get carried away with learning new things and forget the basics.  Spiritual knowledge without the backing of a pure heart and devotion to God will not get us anywhere, we need to keep our axes sharp.

Aum Namah Shivaya