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Volume VIII - The Art of Being

The Privilege of Being Human

Chapter XXVI

Harmlessness is a good moral, but the difficulty is that we cannot be good to one without being harmful to another. For instance, we are good to our cat and we give it lamb's meat to eat; so we are harmful to the lamb. Or we sacrifice the vegetable for the sake of being good to the lamb. We harm the mineral when for the sake of some flowers we put clay in water, bend and knead it and then put in the fire in order to make a bowl to hold the flowers. How many things do we make out of iron, how much do we torment it in order to make ourselves comfortable? How many things do we make out of wood? The lives of how many animals do we sacrifice in order to make ourselves comfortable and happy? As to ourselves, how much do we sacrifice the benefit, the comfort of our fellow beings for our own benefit? We do not ponder upon it, but it is so.

How many things do we make out of the bones of animals? Our shoes are made out of the skin of animals; the furs of animals cover us warmly. The flesh of animals we use for our food. Fishes, which never dreamed of harming us, we catch in nets. We load burdens upon horses, camels and elephants, and we take from the calf its share in the form of milk and butter upon which our everyday's livelihood depends. This shows that what we have built up and have comforted ourselves with is nothing else than tyranny – of which we never stop to think for a while.

We are so placed that we cannot live one instant without being harmful. In Persian it is said: Bandagi bi-charagi – bondage is helplessness. Man cannot help being harmful, and without being that, he is helpless. It is this dependence, this helplessness, which makes him the servant of God. The Quran speaks of abd Allah, the servant of God, and this is the highest title that can be given to man.

The moral is rather to be harmful to the lower creation for the sake of the higher, rather than to be harmful to the animal than to man. If a man has stolen your dog, rather let him have the dog, than have him sent to prison, because the man is more valuable than the dog. If your child has hurt the cat a little, and if you shake the child and hurt it, it is a mistake, because the child is of more value than the cat. If an animal has eaten your corn, your flowers and fruits let the corn go, do not break the back of the animal. By this moral a person becomes so harmless that in the end he is not harmful any more – not even to the mineral. Harmlessness is the essence of moral.


checked 30-nov-2015