A gathering on Mothers’ Day at an animal welfare shelter might have been unusual, with little apparent connection to a calendar occasion that principally celebrates human mothers. The event was to cut a ribbon for a facility for pregnant homeless animals and their litters who have a rough time in public places, and later integrate them with the Animal Birth Control Program.
Speaking on the occasion, I noted the happy co-incidence that an article of mine published on Mothers’ Day last year called “ Love that Transcends Boundaries” makes a plea for the expanded application of the maternal mindset. Animal lovers would surely relate to the experience of cradling a young or injured animal in our arms, and the words “ my baby, my little one” spontaneously emerge in offering re-assurance. Animal Planet thoughtfully has a Mother’s Day Special to celebrate good mothers in the animal kingdom, but I’ve always felt an instinctive oneness with a mother of whatever species- whether a lioness seen on safari in Kenya suckling her cubs, a bird painstakingly building her nest, or the rather common sight of a stray dog valiantly fending for her pups in streets and gutters. The facility is named ” Matruchaya”= the ancient Sanskrit word for a mother’s protective shade.
I had another personal point of meaning with the Mothers’ Day event. My late mother Louella Lobo Prabhu was revered as a creative and intellectual person in her lifetime. She also stirred up my earliest sensitivities towards animals. Her wide reading shared with me at a very young age cruelties of testing on animals in pharmaceutical, cosmetic and automobile industries, against which I still remain an ardent opponent. My childhood was not only enriched by pets at home and shelter given to animals who gravitated to our surroundings, but I was inspired by the example of a leading public figure who thought nothing of stopping the car to buy bananas for a performing roadside monkey. She gave me an exposure to literary classics like ” Black Beauty” which told powerful and poignant tales from an animal’s viewpoint.
Matruchaya’s board meaningfully proclaims its goal of “ Extending Family Bonds”, because the furred and feathered also deserve an opportunity to feel secure. We may have factually experienced that a puppy taken away before its time from the litter has behavioral problems. And we ourselves may have been touched to witness the bonds of tenderness and playfulness that bind a litter, quite akin to that of a human family.
But there is yet another relevant extension of this beautiful idea. Earlier this week, I was reading a book on Zen which thoughtfully says the universe is not a brutal whole whose parts are engaged in a survival of the fittest. Rather there is an inter-connectedness among all living creatures. I also recall a teaching of the Dalai Lama that each living being is connected with every other through familyhood in millions of past births. Notional constructs perhaps, but eloquent appeals to practical demonstrations of the compassionate spirit.
At the very least, we must perceive that animals surrounding us gave up their independence and wildness to become friends of human beings. We ought to repay what one may term that “ evolutionary debt” with protective and compassionate actions, by integrating them into the larger spirit of earthly familyhood.
Right now, in Ukraine which is hosting the European cup, the merciless massacre of street animals is happening- I just signed an online petition to try and stop the horror. Amidst the carnage and heartlessness around, the activities of welfare organizations like Animal Care Trust in my city stand out as a beacon of hope and appeal to the heart that beats in all of us.
I have been deeply influenced by Thic Nhat Hanh’s ” The Art of Power” which says we are at our most powerful when we are compassionate. My hope is that every person present at the gathering would be a role model of the nurturing spirit, with enough kindness and courage to reach out to a living being in want or pain. The hope is for those who will lead their fellows in compassionate power, to inspire the greater growth of caring communities.