Animating Samadhi by Dr Valpey, aka Krishna Kshetra Swami

 

Animating Samadhi full essay

Abstract
This paper seeks to move us beyond the commonly held images of Hindu (and Jain) traditions
associated with animal protection, namely, the principle of ahiṁsā (non-harming) and the
worship of the “holy cow.” Approaching the theme of animal protection through Yoga theory and
practice, which in turn draws from the ancient Sāṅkhya darshana (philosophical vision), my aim
is to show how important features of Sāṅkhya-Yoga could help to address the urgent crisis of
animal exploitation and environmental degradation.

The central argument of this paper is that Yoga traditions, in their acknowledgement of
consciousness as foundational to existence as a whole, provide processes and methods for
elevating individual human consciousness in ways that have direct bearing on collective animal
and human well-being. These processes and methods are informed by Sāṅkhya’s triadic modal
mapping of consciousness: Of the three modalities of behavior and experience, the luminosity
and balance of sattva-guṇa is favoured over the passion of raja-guṇa and the inebriety of tomaguṇa.
From this perspective, among animal species, cows are considered to be representative
of and characterized in their behavior by sattva-guṇa. Hence their protection by human beings is
understood as integral to both the cultivation of sattvika (illumined) consciousness in human
society and the expansion of what may be called the “circle of protection” that is the basis of
human civilization.

By seeing animals in general as sensate, conscious beings that are progressing on the
path of Yoga, the ultimate aim of classical Yoga practice – the attainment of samādhi (perfect
absorption) — takes on significance for animal-human relationality, extending Yoga’s potential
for environmental healing far beyond the pursuit of individual yogic accomplishment.

Research survey for yoga teachers launched!

Historical animal-inspired yoga movements to be unveiled!

Animalia Asana® is excited to be partaking in a unique event unveiling newly discovered historical yoga sequences. The workshop will be facilitated by yoga academics/teachers Jacqueline Hargreaves and Jason Birch. Join us if you can: https://www.yogacampus.com/workshops/hathaabhyaasapaddhati-a-precursor-of-modern-yoga#

“One hundred and twelve āsanas, many of which are based on the movements of animals, are described in an eighteenth-century yoga text called the Haṭhābhyāsapaddhati, ‘a manual on the practice of Haṭhayoga’. The āsanas are divided into six sequences and some of them involve repetitive movement and require extraordinary strength and flexibility, as well as the use of rope. Many of these āsanas remain unknown to modern yoga practitioners.”

Human-dog conflict in India

Human-dog conflict in India

Feeding
                                                     (a)

India has up to 59 million street dogs1 and endures approximately 20,000 human cases of the rabies virus annually2. These figures are the highest in the world and inextricably linked to each other as dogs mediate over 99% of human rabies cases, primarily through bites2. In some areas, dog-human bites increased by 88% in one year. These aspects generate further ill-feeling towards dogs in a culture that is vulnerable to negative perceptions of dogs as dirty outcasts3. Some citizens have begun killing dogs. What humane alternatives exist to ease the human-dog conflict?

Welfare issues and the current situation

Dog bites among humans, livestock and wildlife lead to injury, or death either directly or indirectly through rabies4. If provoked, dogs can bite out of self-defence5. Unprovoked attacks may result from hunger; trying to access food from humans; a deep-rooted fear of humans caused by witnessing human violence towards dogs; or a predatory instinct if people or other animals flee when dogs approach5. Rabies damages the central nervous system, frequently causing aggression in its victims6; this could also cause dogs’ aggression. Dogs further affect humans due to the emotional and economic costs of attacks on livestock and wildlife including critically endangered species7.

Improper garbage management, suboptimal pet ownership and ensuing inadequate mass sterilisation and care programmes have caused burgeoning street-dog populations5. India’s street dogs battle starvation, heat, human violence, disease and drastically shortened lifespans5. Panic, ignorance and a need for immediate action5 cause indiscriminate inhumane dog culling at individual, group and state levels. Children and other dogs often witness this, which reinforces fear and leads to

further attacks from both sides of the conflict8.

(b)
                                                                                  (b)

Dog culling breaches India’s Animal Birth Control (Dogs) Rules, 2001. Studies also highlight dog culling as ineffective for population control because dogs from surrounding areas claim the newly available territory9. Moreover, in the north-eastern state Nagaland, an illegal dog meat trade exists that hostility to dogs could fuel further.

Humane solutions and challenges

Past attempts at managing India’s human-dog conflict have concentrated on dog sterilisation. Whilst vital for future dog population control, focusing only on this fails to resolve present conflicts5. In 2017, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) piloted a more holistic programme in the state of Kerala5. Mirroring strategies of the global campaign to eliminate rabies by 2030, this pilot boasted the following factors5:

  • A One Health approach. This considers both human and animal welfare, recognising our interdependence and preventing friction forming between different stakeholders.
  • A multi-dimensional approach. This addresses the causes and immediate effects of human-dog conflict concurrently, alongside systematic sterilisation efforts.
  • Education about dog-bite prevention and rabies treatment. This helps people to feel confident around dogs and ensures they know what action to take if dog bites do occur.
  • Counselling for dog-bite victims. This safeguards human psychological welfare and encourages neutral or positive attitudes towards dogs.
  • Systematic vaccination of 70% of dog populations. This safeguards dog and human welfare and creates a buffer against non-vaccinated dogs.

The pilot’s impact assessment indicates success5. For example, awareness about dog body language and appropriate behaviour around dogs increased 100% (if dogs approach, stand still and let them sniff you rather than fleeing), and patients hospitalised by dog bites showed a 50% increase in awareness about rabies prevention. FIAPO is lobbying for the programme to spread across India5.

The following challenges remain in resolving the human-dog conflict:

  • All Indian states and neighbouring countries sharing high incidences of rabies and street-dog problems need to commit to such initiatives5. Otherwise, non-local street dogs will simply spread into well-managed areas.
  • India is a lower-middle income country10, thus significant on-going investment will also be necessary. Moreover, India’s human-dog conflict typically affects India’s vulnerable young, poor, uneducated and rural-dwelling citizens5. Rural areas must receive extensive coverage where there is the least access to education and medical resources11. Research into non-surgical sterilisation and oral vaccines may help them become more viable2, potentially freeing-up time-intensive and staff-expertise resources involved in the current methods used.
  • During surveys, citizens may provide conflicting information regarding the extent of dog supervision and purposefully misreport due to fear of punishment (e.g., fines)5. This could misinform our understanding of human behaviour towards dogs, and thus hamper treatment efforts.

Summary and how you can help

Key stakeholders recognise dog culling as inhumane and counterproductive to citizens’ needs concerning India’s human-dog conflict. The conflict’s cause is multi-factorial and requires a multi-factorial response. You can learn more here and help by maintaining pressure on international organisations to continue to invest resources into eliminating rabies humanely and effectively.


References

  1. Gompper, M.E. (2014). The dog-human-wildlife interface: Assessing the scope of the problem. In: Gompper, M.E. (ed.). Free-Ranging Dogs and Wildlife Conservation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 9-54.
  2. World Health Organization (2013). WHO Expert Consultation on Rabies. Available at: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/10665/85346/1/9789240690943_eng.pdf [accessed 19 Feb. 2018].
  3. Kellett, P.M. (2017). Pariahs among us? Transforming conflicted constructions of urban street dogs in India. In: Kellet, P.M. and Matyok, T.G. (eds.). Communication and Conflict Transformation through Local, Regional, and Global Engagement. Lanham, MD, USA: Lexington Books. 159-172.
  4. Home, C., Pal, R., Sharma, R.K., Suryawanshi, K.R. and Bhatnagar, Y.V. (2017). Commensal in conflict: Livestock depredation patterns by free-ranging domestic dogs in the Upper Spiti Landscape, Himachal Pradesh, India. Ambio. 46 (6). 655-666.
  5. Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (2017). Rabies Free India – Kerala: Successful Pilot for the Holistic Programme to Minimize Human-Dog Conflict. Available at: http://fiapo.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Rabies-Free-India-Report-final-2.pdf [accessed 15 Feb. 2018].
  6. American Friends of Tel Aviv University (2014). How rabies ‘hijacks’ neurons to attack brain. 6 (2014). Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/10/141006133424.htm [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  7. Home, C., Bhatnagar, Y.V. and Vanak, A.T. (2017). Canine conundrum: Domestic dogs as an invasive species and their impacts on wildlife in India. Animal Conservation. DOI:10.1111/acv.12389.
  8. Arluke, A. and Atema, K.N. (2017). Roaming dogs. In: Kalof, L. (ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies. New York, USA: Oxford University Press. 113-134.
  9. IFAW (2015). World Rabies Day: Culling is not the answer. September 28, 2015. Available at: https://www.ifaw.org/united-states/news/world-rabies-day-culling-not-answer [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  10. World Bank (2016). Data for lower middle income, India. Available at: https://data.worldbank.org/?locations=XN-IN [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  11. Sharma, S., Agarwal, A., Khan, A.M. and Ingle, G.K. (2016). Prevalence of dog bites in rural and urban slums of Delhi: A community-based study. Annals of Medical and Health Sciences Research. 6 (2). 115-119.

Images

  1. Frederic Spycher (2014). Man feeding some stray dogs [digital image]. Distributed under a CC-BY 2.0 license. Retrieved from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spycherf/12527535113 [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].
  2. Achat1999 (2016). Female and adolescent Indogs rummaging through a garbage bin for food [digital image]. Distributed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Retrieved from: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Female_and_adolescent_Indogs_rummaging_through_a_garbage_bin_for_food._02.jpg [accessed 22 Feb. 2018].

Animalia Asana® activities in Hungary

After the news of Krishna Kshetra Swami’s endorsement of Animalia Asana®, the year continues to unfold flourishingly for Animalia Asana…. thanks to the fantastic Animalia Asana® teachers!

This message is from Balázs in Hungary: https://scontent-lht6-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t34.0-0/p280x280/27152627_1011655582314731_100944285_n.jpg?oh=cc479789a3785ac91df959db1d069922&oe=5A83EFED

Somewhere in a little village in a little country we feel good during class so again in the end of the month some animals in need will feel better after money transfer”.

Another £34 donated to FIAPO and IAR.

The year’s summary to arrive in April 🙂

Dr Valpey (aka Krishna Kshetra Swami) endorses Animalia Asana®!

Breaking news!

Dr Valpey (aka Krishna Kshetra Swami) from The Oxford Centre of Hindu Studies has endorsed Animalia Asana®

“The term ‘yoga’ originally means ‘connection’. Connecting to our inner selves includes connecting to the variety of sentient beings around us, not least the non-human animals. Animalia Asana is bringing this essential element of yoga practice to the fore, and I’m sure it will have important benefits for all who participate in it.”

You can read more about Dr Valpey and his work here:
http://ww.krks.name/about/ (many free talks, videos and some writings for your info too)
http://www.oxfordanimalethics.com/…/dr-kenneth-valpey-dphil/
http://www.ochs.org.uk/fellows-0

krishna-kshetra-swami 1

What might a yogic Christmas look like?

Cow eyeWhat might a yogic Christmas look like?

Animalia Asana® posits that the upcoming holidays are a time for further enhancement of our yogic practice, be that on or off the mat; a time for indulging in the decadence of awareness and quiet reflection; a time for attuning ever further to the at times elusive connective thread between all beings. How might this be applied? It may be quality time with oneself at home or on retreat. It may be quality time with a significant other or those infrequently seen throughout the rest of the year. It may be quality time spent giving to those in need.

Christmas is thought of as a ‘time of giving’. Indeed, one study details how 1 in 3 of us donate more around Christmas than at other time of the year. An increased sense of giving may also show itself especially in less formal/non-monetary ways too through our interpersonal relations with loved ones and/or strangers. Ironically and very sadly though, the situation gets considerably worse for most animals over Christmas (aside from some spikes in the donations for some animal welfare charities, which a far cry from cancelling out the damage and disrespect done), whether that be unwanted ‘Christmas gift’ animals or the millions of animals being fattened up for feasting upon on this one day.

Some may be sourcing the animal they will eat from a local organic source. This is preferable indeed, but still accompanied by suffering and ethical issues that are inextricably connected to farming for animal meat including cutting animals’ lifespans dramatically short, methods of breeding, stressful and unnatural transportation to the abattoir at their end-of-life stage, and how they are slaughtered; whenever animals are being kept for profit (however small or large a profit it might be), at some point, their welfare is going to take a backseat at some stage to a lesser or greater degree.  It is not possible for small-scale operations that truly cater to all welfare needs (which may not even exist yet) to meet the demand for the world’s 7.6 billion human population; even if it could, significant reductioTurkey headns in the consumption of meat, fish dairy and egg would be necessary anyway…. Thus, whichever way we look at it, we need to eat considerably more plant-based foods.

Reducetarian, flexitarian, vegan, plant-based (the list goes on)… all of these efforts are valid and contribute positively towards a more harmonious world for the future. The label is not as important as earnest action of some sort to honour the reality of the suffering, exploitation, environmental damage and inefficient systems that we otherwise play a key role in. If we needed to eat animals to survive and thrive, it would be a different story; however, leading health authorities have affirmed that plant-based diets can be equally if not more healthy than balanced omnivorous diets. The feats of plant-based athletes are also testimony to this. So, none of the animal agriculture practices are “necessary”.

Can we find a peaceful and authentic practice of kukkutasana (cockerel pose) knowing what our finances would be supporting and what we would be ingesting? The same can be asked for the practice of varahasana (boar pose) or gomukhasana (cowface pose), or other animal postures that reflect animals traditionally eaten for Christmas dinner across different cultures. And how does pondering on the number of corpses generated through animal agriculture affect our authentic and peaceful experience of savasana (corpse pose)?

We don’t need to be religious or Christian to find the current mainstream Christmas practices to be a dishonor to Jesus’s birth. Let’s invite in the wisdom of yoga and move past any urges to remain willfully ignorant of animal farming practices and our involvement within them. Let’s step into our responsibility. What will quiet moments of awareness and reflection offer to you this year?