[The Theosophist, Vol. V, No. 9(57), June, 1884, p. 223]
It is generally supposed that animals are not under the operation of the law of Karma, as applied to human beings. If so, how can we explain the difference between the position of an animal exposed to all the torments that can afflict sentient beings, whipped almost to death, starved out of existence, and that of another, enjoying all the luxuries of the material world, fed with the best of food and treated with extreme kindness? How again can the cases of animals born blind be explained? We do not actually mean to invest them with as much responsibility as human beings, but can they not be supposed to possess it in a far less degree? A solution from you on this point will go much toward elucidating our ideas on the subject.
GYANENDRA N. CHAKRAVARTY,
Professor, Physical Science.
Note:—The error often committed, is to mistake the general law of cause and effect for the law of merit and demerit. If we ask, why has one animal an easy life to lead and another a hard one, we might ask also, why is one tree cut down before it is grown up, while another tree is allowed to die of old age? Why is one pair of shoes made to adorn the feet of a lady in a ball room, and another pair to be dragged through the mud by a boor? No one will maintain that minerals and plants have any moral responsibility. Neither have animals, children, idiots or the insane any such moral responsibility. This is a fact recognized by human legislation, and it was reserved for the ignorance of the 14th Century to judicially try and punish animals according to a Jewish law, laid down in
Exodus, xxi, 28, which says: “If an ox gore a man or a woman, that they die: then the ox shall be surely stoned, and his flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall be quit.” According to that law in 1386 the judge of Falaise condemned a sow to be mutilated in the leg and head, and afterwards to be hung, for having torn the face and arm of a child and then killing it. This was a Draconian infliction of punishment. The sow was executed in the public square, clothed in a man’s dress.
The law of Karma is a moral law, and where no moral responsibility exists, there can be no application of the law of Karma; but the law of cause and effect applies to all departments of nature.
A celebrated writer says: “Suffering is heaven’s divine medicine.” The law of compensation is also active in the animal world. A dog, that has to exercise its own sagacity to find food, will sooner develop psychical powers in that direction, than one that does nothing but eat and sleep, and the individual or differentiated monad of the former will sooner reach the condition necessary to enter the human kingdom. The rudiments of hope, patience, faith, fidelity, confidence, etc., are found in the animal kingdom. By putting them into exercise, they will become stronger, and as no effort in nature is ever lost, they will find their uses. If we understand the laws of the universe, we shall have no occasion to find fault with them, and become convinced of the uselessness to attempt to improve or correct Supreme Wisdom, or “God.”