Question: Why do animals have to suffer pain, illness and injury since they are not conscious like human beings?1
Sri Chinmoy: There are some animals who are far more conscious than human beings. Not only in terms of self-giving, but in terms of many, many good qualities, divine qualities, some animals are more advanced. They do not have the mind that human beings have, but their instincts are coming from a deeper level of consciousness. We do not understand their language. We feel they have limited intelligence, and that is why they fight and kill each other. We feel that we are far better. But in the inner world we quarrel, we fight, we strangle one another more than they do. Only when one animal is facing another animal do they fight. But we human beings have enemies in Africa or Australia or some other part of the world, and with our mind we try to destroy that person in the twinkling of an eye. Our attitude is that nobody will know what we do inwardly. Not only God, but the soul of that individual knows what sharp, drastic, aggressive or destructive blows we have rendered to our enemies through our thoughts. Our thoughts can be so powerful. If we cherish destructive thoughts towards someone, then nothing may happen on the outer plane, but on the inner plane of that person, something will definitely be damaged.
To come back to your question, if we use our mind, then naturally we will say that animals are not as developed as we are. They are innocent; they are helpless — it is so true. Again, human beings are also so often helpless. Sometimes we pray to God most intensely, but God does not answer for days or months. Our dear ones are about to die, or some little ones are about to die, so we cry and pray to God to save them. Then we see that God does not listen to our prayer. Is God so cruel? No. He has His own Way of operating. But just because we pray and meditate, we do feel that there is Someone who is a little higher than we are. If we are sincere, we have to feel that there is Someone who loves our dear ones more than we do. There is Somebody who has the capacity to sympathise with the suffering of a particular human being or animal more than we do.
We feel that as human beings we have the capacity to sympathise with others. When we see happiness in our friends, we are happy. But most of the time, human rivalry is such that sincere happiness is not to be found. To be sincerely happy in somebody else’s happiness is a very rare thing. If you can really identify yourself with the heart and soul of another person, then you are happy in their happiness. Again, in terms of sympathy, we so often shed crocodile tears when we see the suffering of others. We do not mean it. Their suffering has not touched even for a fleeting second our heart that sincerely sympathises.
When it is a matter of suffering, animals do suffer and we also suffer. But just because we are conscious human beings, we feel that there shall come a time when our sufferings will come to an end. We feel that there is Someone high above in the skies or Somebody deep inside the very depth of our heart who is going to listen to our prayers. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow, but in His own time, He will give us happiness.
The problem is that we do not wait for His choice Hour. Sometimes we are hungry. When we do not get food, we are miserable. Then, after a few hours, our hunger disappears. At that time, the food arrives. Then we say, “Who wants your food now? I do not need it.” At that time we do not need it, or we are dissatisfied with the person who is supplying us with food. But that is the hour, God’s Hour. If we do not accept that particular hour for our happiness, then indefinitely we may remain unhappy.
So when you see unhappiness in the animal kingdom, you have to feel that the same kind of unhappiness we have. They are suffering, and just because we are a little more developed than they are, we also suffer. We are like parents. When their children suffer, the parents feel so miserable. The little animals are like our children or our younger brothers and sisters. We can give them some shelter, comfort or concern.
We have to sympathise with them. At the same time we have to know that there is Someone who not only suffers with the suffering of both human beings and animals, but also has the capacity to liberate them from their suffering. He knows why they are suffering and He knows when He will strike His own Hour to give them joy.
What can we do? We can pray sincerely, soulfully, constantly for His Victory in His own Way. When we pray for God’s Victory in His own Way, then in the inner world we expedite God’s Hour. If something would normally have taken forty years or sixty years or even two hundred years, that very thing, when God accelerates their progress, will take place in ten years or fifteen years or twenty years. Even now, you are praying to God for peace of mind or sincere gratitude or purity or humility or other divine qualities. To develop even an iota of purity in the central being may take forty or fifty years. Unfortunately, so many good qualities which my disciples had once upon a time have disappeared. Why? Because they were not preserved properly with gratitude.
Our difficulty is that we see what we had as one reality, what we have as another reality and what we are going to have as another reality. Before, we were happy; now we are not happy. In the future we may be even more unhappy. Whichever way we turn, we do not get abiding satisfaction. Previously, before we took incarnation, when we were in the soul’s world, we were very happy. While you are in the soul’s world, when you look down to see the manifestation on earth, you see that some souls have taken human bodies and they are manifesting God’s Light. You see people who are struggling for their own perfection and trying to manifest God’s Light on earth. You see clearly that God is infinitely more proud of them than of the souls who are just watching. The souls that are struggling and suffering and trying in many ways to spread God’s Light are divine heroes. Naturally, God has more Affection, Compassion, Love and blessingful Gratitude for those people.
To come back to your question, animals do suffer. Categorically I cannot say why. If I see the animal, I will be able to tell. In general, the answer is that God is having an experience in and through them. Even to come to that realisation is a most difficult thing. When somebody pinches me, I want to give a slap to that person — tit for tat. But if we have a higher realisation, then we can see that it is God who is pinching us and God who is experiencing in and through us either suffering or joy. God has formed a circle and He is moving around the circle. This moment we call it joy; the next moment we call it sadness or sorrow, and the next moment we see that this is only His Game. Perfection is in accepting the suffering as such and the joy as such. We have to become conscious instruments of God to give Him the satisfaction of experiencing suffering or joy. If we have a higher realisation, we do not see imperfection in God’s creation. We see that what we call imperfection or suffering is something that has to be transformed into permanent ecstasy or delight.
Sometimes we get an experience and our mind tells us, “This is joy.” But God may not call that particular experience joy at all. He may say it is only mental pleasure or vital pleasure. We say, “Oh, it is sheer delight,” but God says it is our pure mental imagination; it is our pleasure-life that we are enjoying. Real joy is only in accepting God’s Will. For that we have to pray and meditate with utmost sincerity, utmost humility. We have to tell the Supreme, “I do not know Your Will, but do give me the capacity to serve You for Your own Satisfaction.” Sometimes we pray, “God, make me perfect so that I can be a better instrument.” But even that prayer can be a waste of time. God knows our imperfections better than anybody else. We do not have to tell God how imperfect we are. We should pray to God, “You know how imperfect I am because You have created me. Now only give me the capacity to pray for Your Satisfaction in my life.”
But that kind of prayer we do not offer. Even when everything is going against us, when we are suffering, we have to say to God, “Please satisfy Yourself in and through me. I only want to make You happy. If You make me happy in my own way, then I will be a real failure.”
Usually we tell God, in a clever way, “God, if You make me happy for one hour, then out of sheer gratitude, out of sheer joy, I will be able to meditate for Your Victory twenty-four hours a day.” God laughs and says, “I do not need your twenty-four hours of prayer and meditation to make Me happy. If I can get only five minutes or even one minute of your oneness with My Will, I will have got everything from you.”
In the same way, if an animal is suffering, then our prayer to God should be, “I do not know why this animal is suffering, but I do know that You are inside this animal, and I want Your Satisfaction inside this suffering creature.” At every moment we have to tell God that we want only His Satisfaction.
But instead, we ask for a candy or something else. Then, the next moment, when God gives us the candy, we just throw it away. We feel that we do not need it. Before we get it, our mind says, “O God, if I get this, I do not need anything else from You in this incarnation. If I can get happiness from this, then in this incarnation I will not bother You any more.” Then that very thing God gives us, but we are not satisfied.
God can never satisfy us by pleasing us in our own way. Satisfaction will dawn only when we please God in His own Way. If there is anything that we want and God gives it to us, we may be happy for five seconds or five days. But then we will want something else. Inside that particular thing there can never be lasting happiness because it was not done in God’s own Way for God’s sake. Instead we have to tell God, “Only keep me on earth to satisfy You, to please You in Your own Way.” Then He may take away our name, our fame, our prosperity, everything that we call our own, but what will we have? We will have God as our very own.
Happiness comes from real satisfaction, and that satisfaction we can get only by surrendering to God’s Will or by identifying ourselves consciously with God’s Will. Otherwise, everything that we desire in our own way, God can give and God will give, if He wants to, but it will not make us happy. All of our desires God can fulfil in the twinkling of an eye. But in the depths of our heart is our luminous soul. That soul is pleased only when we please God in His own Way.
As soon as we use the words ‘in His own Way’, we feel that our whole world is gone. That is what our mind or our vital is telling us, and then the poor heart becomes weak because of the pressure of the mind, the vital and the physical consciousness. The heart is in prison, and who is guarding the cell? Our mind, our vital or our physical existence. But the soul, the divine spark in us, saves us. At every moment the soul is only praying to God to satisfy Him in His own Way. There is not a single soul that does not want to satisfy God. If we can satisfy our Beloved Supreme in His own Way, then we are happy.
So from the animal level I have brought your question up to the human level. There is only one way to become happy. We cannot see the Truth; we cannot feel the Truth; we can only become the Truth. Once we become the Truth, we can feel it easily, we can see it easily. Until we become the Truth in God’s own Way, we will not be able to feel it; we will not be able to see it properly.
The whole world is miserable. Why? Not because God has not fulfilled our desires. Even if God fulfils our desires, we are not happy, because that choice did not come from God. Do you think that God has no choice? At every moment He has a choice; He has some vision to execute in and through us. But we are not telling God, “Please, please fulfil Your Will in and through me.” We only tell God, “Give me this; give me that.”
Sometimes it can happen that a spiritual seeker can be on the verge of realisation or meditating in a very high consciousness and God will fulfil a desire of his that he had twenty years ago just to give him joy. Twenty years ago it was not the right time. Then twenty years later, when God gives him his wish, he becomes so sad. He says, “I wanted this thing so many years ago. Now You feel that this is the right time? Now I feel that I made a wrong choice twenty years ago by praying for this thing. You are fulfilling my desire because I have pleased You in millions of ways. But now I have gone beyond it. I do not need it any more.”
I had a desire in my childhood to work in a train. My father was the chief inspector of the Assam-Bengal railway line. I thought, “Oh, if I can blow the whistle or wave the lamp, I will have the whole world!” That was my desire. Now, at this age, a train has been named after me. At that time, I was in the desire-world. Now, because God is pleased with me, with my aspiration, I am getting all the candies. But I am not happy, believe me, because I have identified myself with all my disciples. Your sadness is my sadness, and I am helpless because I am trying desperately to remove your sadness.
When I see somebody’s suffering on the physical plane, mental plane or vital plane, I identify myself with that person. Outwardly, in a joking way I may say, “Oh, you have that pain!” I may even mock at them, laugh at them. The person may say, “Oh, Guru is cutting jokes! Here I have got such severe pain and he is smiling and cutting jokes!” But I know the depth, the intensity of your suffering. I have entered into your suffering and my heart of oneness is simply smashed.
So, by becoming one at every moment with the One who wants to really satisfy us, we will have happiness. Our way of happiness will fail us and is bound to fail us, but if we can follow His Way of happiness, we will not need anything from this world. Our happiness is just a joke. How long can you cut jokes? As soon as you become the Real, then silly jokes you do not want to enjoy. In His Happiness, in His Satisfaction there is joy at every second.
There are so many things you can do to please God in His own Way, but the highest is constantly to make Him happy through your prayer and meditation. After you meditate, how many of you sing the Invocation? Every day I sing the Invocation. Sometimes it is at three o’clock; sometimes it is at four o’clock; sometimes later. Who is the witness? My synthesizer. I play my synthesizer and sing. I have written many songs, but my Invocation is my own highest reality, my own divinity. To all of you I am saying, you do not have to be a good singer. No, no, no. If you cannot sing, just repeat the words. If you do not want to meditate, only think of the Invocation: “Supreme, I bow to Thee!” As soon as you bow, you give everything that you have and everything that you are. What you have is unwillingness, and what you are is ingratitude. But if what you have is willingness to please our Lord Beloved Supreme in His own Way, and if what you are is a spark, a grain, a speck of gratitude, then in your dictionary there will be no such word as ‘unhappiness’. Try, try, right from today, right from this moment, and see if I am right or wrong.
SCA 680. Sri Chinmoy answered this question, asked by a disciple at a celebration of her birthday, on 26 September 1992 in Jamaica, New York.↩