We scream and squirm as the spider crawls back and forth on the ceiling near our beds. It peers down at us and surely wonders, what is their problem? Did I do something? Jeanne instructs me on what she thinks I should do, and I respond with what I think she should do. She moves a chair over and tells me to get on it, slide a piece a paper under the spider and catch him in a cup. I tell her that is a fantastic idea, thank you for sharing, and that she should do it. We giggle for a moment and then return to our moment of frenzy.
Feeling helpless, I reach for a bottle of bug spray and step up to confront the spider. He dances further down the wall to linger almost directly over my bed. Jeanne laughs and I shout out: enough already! I walk outside the room and look for the front desk attendant, who I quickly learn has gone home for the night. A security guard in the distance waves at me and I motion for him to come over. He walks to meet me and I say, Namaste, can you help? and point to the room. He comes in smiling and we direct his attention to the spider. He puts his finger up and nods as if to say, just one moment. Disappearing around the corner, he quickly returns with 2 straw brooms. He reaches up and brushes the surface behind the spider, enticing it to walk on its own towards the door. His nature is soft and caring. The concern in this moment was for the spider, not for the two girls squealing in their room as if there were a grizzly bear standing on its hind legs. The delicate process ends when the spider is safely outside the room. We smile and say thank you. The security guard leaves and we immediately look at each other- completely mesmerized by his compassion and patience with our long-legged intruder.
Buddhists have an undiscriminating and all-embracing compassion for all living things. With this, they believe that insects are just as important as mammals and it is our duty as humans to protect their livelihood instead of using our power to destroy them. Handling the spider in any other way would disrupt the balance of nature, which Buddhists are careful not to do. Hindus also practice this notion of ahimsa which is non-violence to all living things. This is why we see cows, bulls, goats, dogs, and chickens in streets – cars moving around them and traffic stopping to let them pass. You don’t see people honking or smacking them to get out of the way. In fact, in most places cows are specifically treated with such reverence that you can be sent to jail for injuring or killing a one. The Humane Society, in an article titled Hinduism and the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says:
“The cow, in particular, enjoys special status amongst animals in Hinduism. The cow is seen as a symbol of motherhood, selflessly providing during her lifetime life-sustaining milk, service in the labor of tilling land or transport and even fuel made from cow dung. The cow also continues to give after death by way of its leather and hide.”
If you look further into Hinduism, you see that many gods that are worshipped have manifested into the form of an animal. Ganseha, for example, has an elephant head that symbolizes wisdom and he is considered the remover of obstacles. Hanuman is depicted as a monkey and symbolizes our “monkey mind” which is constantly vacillating and jumping from thing to thing. In worshipping Hanuman, Hindus hope to gain control over their racing and impulsive mind. There is much to learn from these all-inclusive cultures, and I just love learning more and more. If the divine can exist in each of us, then why shouldn’t we assume it exists in all living beings? I have always been a lover of animals, but this lesson certainly opened my eyes to those beings that aren’t necessarily ones we want to cuddle up with in our homes. Who are we to say what is and is no deserving of a life?