A letter written in 2001 from David Life to Carlos Menjivar, General Manager of Jivamukti.
I wanted to share with you these observations on our Jivamukti Asian Tour.
We visited an aquarium in Sidney today, with many varieties of tropical fish in huge pools that you walk through in see-through tubes. They swim over and under you and it is quite a spectacle. Eileen, our host, who has taken many people there (including Guruji Pattabhi Jois), said it was much different seeing it with us—knowing our feelings about animals and ahimsa. She saw it in a whole new light, not because we were outwardly critical, (we weren’t) but we were sad, where others were delighted. It seemed not too much different than Hong Kong, where the same colorful fish are in death row aquariums at sushi restaurants. Here, they just had a life sentence instead of a death sentence. China has almost single-handedly fished out most of the coral-dwelling species from the South China Sea. It is very harsh to see these beautiful creatures—which swim in loving groups, and some of which mate for life, and all of which are sensitive creatures craving only happiness—almost eliminated from the Earth. Perhaps aquariums will be their final domain.
In Hong Kong I met a group of people who are saving bears in China. These bears are captured and spend as long as 20 years lying in tiny crates with catheters in their gall bladders, being milked of bile twice daily. These people have been able to work with the Chinese government to free some bears and are trying to establish sanctuaries in China where the bears are rehabilitated. After the catheters are removed they can live out their lives in peace. Many of them have been snared as babies and are missing legs; some are declawed, some detoothed, and none can be returned to the wild.
They also rescue dogs from the markets where they are kept in cages too small to stand in— until someone buys them and beats them to death (buyers feel this tenderizes them). They showed me pictures with hundreds of dogs at markets. Apparently this is a common practice in both China and the Philippines.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” —Jesus
Filipino people regularly contrive cock-fights, dog-fights, and horse-fights (that’s right, horse-fights). The national sacrament is pig flesh, and there are fewer vegetarians in this predominantly Catholic country than in any other country that we have visited. Sharon, Duncan and I led classes of 60+ people here, and read from the scriptures of Jesus and the teaching of Saint Francis together with the yogic teachings of non-harming, and we were interviewed as many as five times daily by newspapers, radio and TV. We felt like we were putting a sliver of discomfort in the foot of a giant.
The work is difficult, and the cruelty of people is just unbelievable. The response in our classes is positive though, and many claim that they will change their eating and living habits and try to influence others. I’m sure that at some point a critical mass of awareness will be reached and the whole thing will flip over, but it can’t come soon enough for us. We cry each night for the suffering, innocent creatures.
Mad cow disease and the epidemic of hoof-and-mouth are only the beginning. Now we are hearing of mad fish, mad chicken and mad people disease. Mother will do what is necessary to rid herself of this parasitic blight of inhumane humans!
Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu
May all beings everywhere be happy and free. And may my life contribute in some way to that happiness and that freedom for all.
Sydney, Australia 2001