By Anita Patel
“Do not believe in a thing because you have read it in a book. Do not believe in a thing because another man has said it. Do not believe in words because they are hallowed by tradition. Find out the Truth for yourself. That is realization.” - Swami Vivekananda.
After having gained some amazing experiences in my recent pravaas (journey) to South Africa and Bharat, the above statement makes perfect sense! Since I was a child, I’ve been hearing about the most fundamental thought of the Hindus – ‘the existence of Paramatma in everything around us’. Great saints have lived their lives with this idea. This idea of the same Aatma pervading the whole universe took concrete shape in the life of Shri Ramkrishna Paramahansa. His self-identity did not remain confined to the human world; it spread to mute Nature as well. He could feel the pain of the grass, the cows and all those suffering around him. So real was his self-identity with these that often people around him saw physical wounds on his body.
While in South Africa, I heard the story of Lawrence Anthony, the “Elephant Whisperer”. He was an international conservationist, environmentalist, explorer, and bestselling author who saved the lives of many violent and rogue elephants who were to be shot dead, by rescuing and rehabilitating them. Lawrence possessed a unique ability to communicate with the elephants, and so he left his home to go live in theirs.
The day Lawrence passed away, something extraordinary happened. Herds of elephants, from different directions, slowly made their way through the Zululand bush. After walking for 12 hours they reached Lawrence’s homestead. His family witnessed a solemn procession of elephants that defies human explanation. For two continuous days, the elephants mourned the loss of their beloved friend, as one of their own. On the third day they left for their home. A man’s heart stops, and hundreds of elephants’ hearts are grieving. Many questions arose in my mind. How did the elephants know that Lawrence had died?
They were miles and miles apart. Who told them? How did they know where he lived? Truly, some things in this universe are much greater and deeper than human intelligence.
Similar was the experience of Sarisha Didi’s dogs; Khushi, Chand and Sonu. I was mesmerized by their selfless love and affection. Khushi, once explained to a “Dog Whisperer” that he does not like the ‘green’ cage. He also expressed his likes and dislikes to his parents (owners). This was something beyond my wildest imagination! On the other hand, Sonu would first make his way to the temple room everyday in the morning, to prostrate in front of Paramatma before continuing with his daily activities. When Sarisha, came home after months, Chand would cry for hours just to express his feeling that he missed her.
These experiences have been both Physical and Spiritual. Physical in the sense that I now comfortably pat pets and do not run away from them; Spiritual because these wonderful animals took me deep into their world. In the beginning it was only self-imposed human limitations that impeded my understanding. But now, these animals have whispered and taught me how to listen.
Amazingly this transcends even to plant life. This makes me wonder, how many of us have heard the call of these amazing animals around us? How many of us have experienced oneness with the nature? Hearing is one thing, but experiencing is definitely another. The wilderness is alive; its whispers are there for all to hear and to respond to. It is time for us to reclaim oneness and bring some alchemy to our world. These experiences have definitely changed my perspective of life. Without these, I would have never experienced life in everything around me. They have taught me that all life forms are important to each other in our common quest for happiness and survival and that there is more to life than just yourself, your own family, or your own kind.
Anita Patel is a Sevika from Nairobi, Kenya. She is currently a Pracharika for Hindu Sevika Samiti after being inspired by the message of Swami Vivekananda.