Benediction For The Animals

Animals, referred to by John Muir as our horizontal brothers, have long been recognized as essential to our development and well-being. Throughout history they have played a major role in human thought and culture. They inhabit our myths, fables, proverbs, and stories. There is a profound, inescapable need for animals among all peoples, for while animals have inhabited a world without people, we have never lived without the companionship, example, and practical help of animals.

Today, because of the wide-spread pollution of air and water, the rapid expansion of cities, and the destruction of wilderness habitat, we are seeing an imminent and irreversible loss of untamed animal life. We can only guess at the future effect on our children of living in a world in which elephants exist only in zoos, the great whales no longer fill the seas with their song, and the remaining forests are silent.

The fact that so many of us are increasingly isolated from the presence of animals may contribute to the growing despair we feel. Direct encounter with animals, meeting them eye to eye on their own ground, evokes a sudden wonder and respect. Their vivid life brings us alive to the source that creates and sustains all beings. Without such encounters we risk losing that part of ourselves which most deeply resonates with nature – the heart of compassion.

In safety and in bliss

May all creatures be of a blissful heart.

If our greatest loss with the animals has been to lose touch with the reality of their existence, our second loss has been to banish them from our minds. We assume they have nothing to teach us about the predicaments of our existence. We no longer know how to listen to the wisdom of the various four-legged, six-legged, finned and winged creatures that share our life on this Earth. We forget they are ancestors as well as kindred. Long before we existed they worked out the round of life in thousands of variations, as though anticipating the experiments of human cultures.

In the following selection of Earth Prayers, our powers of empathy and compassion are called upon. We are asked to awaken to the plight of our animal relatives, to let their beauty and power come alive for us once more. We are members of a human family and society, but the presence of animal “others” enlarges our perception of the self beyond the city and opens us inward to that ground of being where live the lizard and monkey, the fish and the bear.

These are our relations. These are, like us, offspring of the great mystery, and necessary parts of a balanced and living whole.

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Hear our humble prayer, O God, for our friends the animals, especially for animals who are suffering; for any that are hunted or lost, or deserted or frightened or hungry; for all that must be put to death. We entreat for them all thy mercy and pity and for those who deal with them we ask a heart of compassion and gentle hands and kindly words. Make us, ourselves, to be true friends to animals and so to share the blessings of the merciful.

(Albert Schweitzer)

[From Earth Prayers from around the world edited by Elizabeth Roberts and Elias Amidon.]