It is possible to respect and revere all creation as God and as part of ourselves only when we experience the divinity within us and see it radiating throughout the Universe. This is the main goal of human existence. To arrive at this point, we need to learn to respect all creation at the basic level – that all creation has feelings like us and just like we do not like to be disrespected or hurt or insulted, we should also not disrespect, hurt or insult any part of creation. We should accord the same honour and respect to all that we seek for ourselves.
We are taught by our parents and elders at a young age to speak politely and give respect to all. From very young age we are taught to listen to others and understand and then reply politely. Respect through actions, respect through speech and later on respect at even thought levels are taught to us. When we give respect to others we receive respect. Many would argue that some persons are not worthy of being given respect. So why respect them and receive insults and disrespect in return? We should give respect as the light of Divinity is present in all creation and the same light is within us. We should give respect as it is our standard of behaviour and character and it does not depend on the behaviour or character of another person or thing.
All religions teach their followers to respect each other and all life forms. If this very simple rule is followed, there would be less hatred, hostility, need for vengeance and warfare between people and nations. Merely making a statement is not enough. Respecting all life should be taught through practical daily rules. Hinduism teaches respecting all life and creation in various ways. The Sun, Moon, Wind, Water, Fire and Earth are designated as Gods. We are taught to respect and revere these forms and use them wisely. Various trees and plants such as Pipal tree, Tulsi plant, etc., are worshipped. This is to teach that plants are sacred and must be taken care of. All flowers, fruits, vegetables, grains, grass, cereals and pulses are offered as naivedya or offering to God. Hence they are respected. Many animals and birds are placed alongside Gods as their vehicles and hence worshipped – eg – mouse for Lord Ganesh, bull for Lord Shiva, swan for Mother Saraswati, owl for Mother Laxmi, the tiger and lion for Mother Parvati, the Serpent for Kundalini Shakti etc. Hence we are taught to respect and worship all birds and animals. The worship rites including invoking God within self before start of worship and it is drummed into us that divinity is within us and must be invoked and we should rise higher to our real noble nature. The cow which gives us milk and nurtures us is a gentle creature and is seen as abode of Divinity. When we wake up in the morning, we invoke Devi Laxmi in our palms and offer respect to Mother Earth before putting our feet on the ground. Such daily practices help to use all resources wisely and with love and respect.
Many of our problems today are caused by misuse and pollution of natural resources – trees, plants, animal life, bird life and insect life. We have desecrated and destroyed forests, water bodies, land and desert. Many species of birds and animals are now extinct and many on verge of extinction. Our greed for profit has made us exploit our own species and a great deal of poverty and pain that we see across globe is due to our own lack of foresight and disrespect for mankind.
Let us follow the very simple rule of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Let us honor and respect all as we want it for us. When we do the SitaRam mantra, meditation and follow the teachings of the Guru, it becomes easy for us to see the Oneness and Sanctity of Life and we automatically respect all.