Animal Welfare and Nature: Hindu Scriptural Perspectives

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Item Code: IDF624
Author: G. Naganathan
Language: English
Edition: 2000
ISBN: 8170594170
Pages: 28 (Color Illus: 21)
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.2" X 6.2"
Weight 140 gm
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Book Description
About the Author:

He was born 1926 in Tiruchi of Tamil Nadu. He had a distinguished academic career and did a First Class Honors Degree in Pure Physics. In 1947 he joined the Engineering Wing of All India Radio a Central Government Department under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting. He soon qualified as a Chartered Telecommunication Engineer. He retired at the age of 58 in the capacity of Director of Engineering of the South Zone, comprising the four states of Southern India, for both AIR and TV.

Influenced by his father a great scholar and linguist, Mr. Naganathan enjoyed an unusual and highly classical education almost a Gurukulavasa under his father's tutelage. He Developed a love of the classics literature of various languages like Sanskrit Latin, English and French and of philosophy. The Adwaita Vedanta always fascinated him. Through out his professional career he sedulously cultivated his love of the humanities and philosophy and spiritual matters. His spiritual convictions led him to progressively greater and greater disenchantment with technology whose handmaiden is engineering. While he has no quarrels with pure science as pursuit of truth, he felt technology was prostitution, trivialization pure and simple. He was therefore only too happy to distance himself from engineering at his retirement.

He has always been a Theosophist at heart, enjoying an early exposure to Theosophical literature through his father. He sees no incompatibility of Theosophical tenets with Adwaita and he has pursued a purely honorary service for the society of Adyar since his retirement. He is presently working as the Assistant Editor of The Theosophist, the official organ of the International Headquarters of the Society.


In the Hindu view of life, all creation is linked together by a golden thread, because all manifestation has sprung from the eternal Brahman—Ishavasyarnidam Sarvam Yatkincha Jagatyam Jagat, as the Upanishad has it. The seers of the Vedas, therefore, prayed for the welfare not only of the human race but for all living creatures, including animals, and indeed even for such apparently inanimate objects as trees and plants.

Animals have always played a central role in the Hindu perception. In its mythology every God and Goddess is associated with a particular animal as its vehicle or vahana. Thus, Lord Shiva has his Bull, Vishnu the Eagle, Durga the Lion, Mahalakshmi the Elephant, Saraswati the Swan, Sri Krishna the Calf, Ganesha the Mouse, Kartikeya the Peacock, and so on. Of the ten avararas of Vishnu, the first four represent animal appearances. There are also zoomorphic deities such as Ganesha and Hanuman, which are extremely popular in the Hindu pantheon.

The point that emerges is that animals are not to be looked upon as creatures to be cruelly exploited but as partners with human beings in the spiritual adventure of living. Indeed, although hunting was also an old Hindu tradition, it is surely significant that in both our great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, tragedy should have been triggered by hunting episodes. In the Ramayana, Prince Dasharatha’s aborted hunting trip resulted in the killing of Shravan Kumar, which brought upon him the curse that he himself would die of grief at his son’s separation. Later in the epic, Sri Rama’s quest for the golden deer at Sita’s insistence sets the stage for yet another tragedy. In the Mahabharata also, Pandu’s hunting arrow killed a forest sage and his wife, and this also elicited a terrible curse, which had grave repercussions in the future.

The whole question of animals as bound to human beings in a benign symbiosis receives considerable attention in the Hindu scriptural tradition, the most popular symbol of which, of course, became the cow, which is still looked upon by millions as sacred.

I am glad to commend this monograph by Mr. G. Naganathan, which deals with this interesting area succinctly but with scholastic ability.


It gives me great pleasure to have the opportunity to write the introduction to this scholarly review of Hindu scriptures as they relate to our perception and treatment of Nature and fellow creatures. In these distressing times we find our inhumanity toward our own kind is matched only by our disrespect for the whole of Creation, by the desecration of the natural world, by the accelerating extinction of plant and animal species, and by institutionalized forms of cruel and unnecessary animal exploitation. All these are symptomatic, I believe, of a pathological condition of heart and mind that is in pan attributable not simply to the desperate poverty of the many and the insatiable greed of the few; but rather to an attitude toward and perception of other sentient beings that has neither respect for the sanctity of life nor reverence for the sacred unity and interdependence of all life.

Long forgotten by the industrial and developing nations of today are the scriptural teachings of their respective religious and cultural traditions These are relevant today in helping us correctly identify and rectify the inhuman and inhumane conditions of the times. And they are especially relevant to the efforts of dedicated conservationists, humane educators, and animal protectionists to bring about a metancia, a change in attitude toward the nonhuman Creation.

But how do we open the heart of humankind so that every soul may witness the wisdom of living in reverence for all of Nature’s Creation and see it as a way of life that is now as much a survival necessity as is a spiritual imperative?

The selected Hindu scriptural quotations in this monograph will do much in this regard; they embody a worldview or Gestalt that is fundamentally holistic (whole = holy), nondualistic, and nonhierarchical. As the world’s oldest major religion with millions of followers, Hinduism undoubtedly has its roots in that Edenic, preindustrial, and preagrarian age when humankind enjoyed a much closer communion with the Earth’s Creation. In many respects, Hinduism, in teaching the art and ethics of living in communion, presages, in its panentheistic (as distinct from pantheistic) worldview, the sacramentalism of St. Francis of Assisi and the “process” theology and ecophilosophy or deep ecology of contemporary Western thinkers. By panentheism I mean the apperception of the essential unity of Creator and Creation: God is not simply transcendent but is in all, and all is in God. Some may see this conception, and Hinduism per se as primitive polytheism and point disparagingly at cow worship in India as exemplifying superstitious heathenism and pagan animism. However every living thing is seen not as a god but as an aspect of divinity. The great Hindu text the Bhagavadgita declares we bow to all beings with great reverence in the thought that god enters into them through fractioning himself as living creatures. And in the Brihad Aranyaka Upanishad it is observed. The immortal is veiled by the unreal. The spirit of life it is immortal. Name and form are unreal and by them the spirit is veiled.

The spirit of life on earth today the anima mundi is in as much danger of extinction as is the human race spiritually and ethically if not also physically. The following selections from the Hindu scriptures will give us all hope insight and inspiration and will help guide us through this difficult age of transition toward a truly compassionate and creative role on planet Earth and beyond.


Ahimsa or Non Injury 10
Ahimsa: Further Qualifications 12
Sacrifice 14
Dharma 20
References 26

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