by Renée Hall, Compass Autumn 1995

A recent television documentary on the heartbreaking plight of thousands of wild bears in China incarcerated in small cages for the medicinal bile industry is yet another example of man’s cruelty and inhumanity. How can a human being bring himself to capture and hurt a fellow creature? Has he no feelings? Has he no conscience? The answer is sadly probably not; remember the words: “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.”

Consciousness differs in strength and degree from one individual to another. Mankind’s departure from the allegorical Garden of Eden meant that innocence was replaced by the gift of discernment, i.e. self-consciousness. From then onwards Adam or Mankind had the faculty of mind that could if he so wished, inform his choice between being unselfish or selfish – good or evil.

But if uninvited and discouraged from the arena of our thoughts and judgement, our ever faithful and innate consciousness will remain quiescent and in turn its vehicle, conscience, will also be stillborn and unquickened. So the unenlightened human being will remain brutish, insensitive, limited. Stubbornly shutting out the light of higher mind he could atrophy.

What then? Evolution is compelled by the law of necessity. Nature insists on harmony so the remedy of pain and suffering will inevitably and eventually dissolve the encrusted layers of grossness that have hitherto prevented the light of mind from guiding and chiding human nature to prefer the path of compassion and unselfishness. Trials and tribulations serve to strengthen feeble consciousness and eliminate unreality of separateness that is the cause of unbrotherly attitudes and action. An awakened consciousness rouses a reverence for life and recognition of common identity making impossible and unthinkable the exploitation and cruelty to any living being no matter how seemingly insignificant because consciousness is at the root of each and all.

Adam’s self-consciousness has taken evolutionary aeons to mature. Enlightened minds and groups have courageously stirred and ventures beyond the dormant masses at various times and currently there are signs of an awakening and emergence of higher consciousness among people accepting responsibility for the well-being of all kingdoms. Concern for the treatment of animals is high on the agenda at present; disability rights and age concern were never more important; the fight against careless pollution of water and air is also a current preoccupation; trees are being saved – examples are numerous. The reveille of oneness is urgently calling to slumbering humanity to rise up to the nobler and positive role of benevolent caretaker and guardian.

If it were better realised and understood that individual self-consciousness is the divine, immortal human aspect – the only imperishable part, there would be more eager motivation to cherish and nurture its growth. The light of wisdom can only illuminate a mind when the grime of selfishness is rubbed away from the lower nature. Only then will compassion burn brightly, only then will the poor bears be released from their cages.

“Of a certainty the man who can see all creatures in himself, himself in all creatures, knows no sorrow”

– Isha Upanishad