Question: If a man dies and he is very fond of a dog or other animal, and if he has compassion for that animal, will this cause him to reincarnate as an animal? I understand that in India while a great sage was meditating in the woods something happened to a small lamb. He took care of it and became very fond of it and, as a result, in his next incarnation he was a lamb.

Sri Chinmoy: The greatest scripture in India and the largest in the world is called the Mahabharata. In the Mahabharata there are quite a few stories in which a man later reincarnates as an animal. There is a famous story about a king name Bharata, who was very fond of deer and who supposedly became a deer in his next incarnation. Now Ramakrishna, the great spiritual Master, was very fond of Swami Vivekananda, his dearest disciple. He used to seek out the disciple and talk to him, and people thought that Ramakrishna was mad. So one day Vivekananda said to him: “What are you doing? Don’t you know the story of King Bharata who was so attached to a deer that he became a deer in his next incarnation? So your fate is also going to be like that, if you constantly think of an ordinary human being like me.” Ramakrishna took Vivekananda seriously, and asked Mother Kali: “Is this true that my fate will be also like that of King Bharata?” She said, “That is stupid! You are fond of Naren [Vivekananda] because you are seeing God in him. It is not because he is beautiful or something else. No! You are fond of him because the manifestation of God is expressed in him. That is why you are so delighted when you see him.”

So if you show compassion to someone, that does not mean that you are going to become that person. If a beggar comes to you for alms and you show your utmost compassion to the beggar and give him some money or food, it doesn’t mean that you are going to become a beggar yourself. Similarly, if you have a dog, you can show your love for the dog because it is extremely faithful to you and so on. But this does not mean that you will become a dog because you admire the qualities of the dog that you love. The good qualities that the dog has, the faithfulness the dog has, you can have in your human existence without taking an animal life. Just by showing attachment to an animal you are not going to become an animal. You have already passed through that stage. What you get is the good qualities of the animal.