Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Animals, Dervishes and Souls

From the point of view of empirical science it is as yet impossible to prove or disprove that there is such a thing as a "soul." Assuming that souls do in fact exist, it would be interesting to ask if not just humans but also animals have them. A couple of weeks ago I saw the documentary, "The Cove." One of the main points of the film is that dolphins have the intelligence and sense of ethics equivalent to that of humans, and they deserve the same basic respect as humankind. Is it fair to be dismissive of animals just because they see and act in ways that don't make sense to us humans?

Whether observing animals or humans, one should be careful about rejecting as bizarre any behavior that seems to make no sense. Today I saw a youtube video of whirling dervishes, men who spin around in a circle in order to attain spiritual enlightenment. Isn't it unfair to be dismissive of strange behavior simply because we initially perceive it to be pointless or silly?

I believe it is proper to extend the courtesy of not just panning another's misunderstood ways even if that other is an animal. If, for example, we see a dog chasing its tail, can one be ever so sure that in the universe of that dog his spinning in a circle is not some kind of a spiritual quest? According to principles of karma, someone laughing at a dog chasing its tail may find himself being reborn in another life as a whirling dog...