Animal Sacrifice: 8th day of Navaratri festival in Nepal
It is a seemingly endless stream of cars along a windy dirt road. With barely enough room for vehicles to pass between a ledge and the mountain we squeezed past pedestrians and villagers carrying out their daily deeds. The buses are filled to the brim with pilgrims and families of three fly by on their motorcycles, often a baby sleeps nestled in between its mother and father. Luckily he police are out to guide traffic, otherwise it could be a real shit storm, and the neighbors step outside their homes watching as we all drive by.
I am wearing all red. From head to toe. I am eating mouth fulls of dust. It lines my glossed up lips and I can taste its dry earthiness. We are all in this together. I often wonder why I am here and ask myself, “what are you doing woman!?” This is not the world I know. From where I sit now this seems painfully close to hell. The smell of exhaust mixed with dirt and the excruciating traffic. It feels like it will never end. Yet I know, this too shall pass. And we all want our moment with Her. We want to see and be seen by her. We want her blessings. We want our prayers answered. I pray for peace and the liberation of myself, my students and anyone who wants it. I pray for forgiveness for all the times I take life for granted. I pray to end the childish complaining that life should be anything other than what it is. I pray for healing. I pray for those who are suffering, for those is pain. I pray for clean water and air and a place to test my head now and until the moment of my passing. I pray for the protection of all lifeforms on earth that cannot protect themselves. I pray to always be held in the arms of Ma and to be the arms of Ma so I may hold others in her all consuming embrace. I pray we all find a way to live together on earth with as little destruction as possible.
Today is a big sacrifice day here in Nepal. It is the 8th day of Navaratri, a festival in which devotees worshhip the goddess for nine nights. I drive up to the Dakshin Temple to visit the Mother in the form of Kali to honor her with my vegan offering among the animal sacrifices. As I carry a bowl of flowers, coconut, candles and incenses I am very aware that for many sacrificing animals is primitive. For others it is simply what you do on this day, its what you always have done, its tradition. For me its something else.
We are all making our sacrifice. No one on this earth is above that. I sacrifice my comfort for spiritual growth. I sacrifice luxury for simplicity. I sacrifice my morals for my treasures. I sacrifice my pain for pleasure and my pleasure for pain. Life eats life. There are few who would not sacrifice the life of another for their own life if it came to that point.
I am returning to Ma. I return to the still point of now. I rest in her smile as I suckle her breast. I am feed.
We pay the parking attendant and drive toward the temple. Cars line the hillside road. Nothing here looks stable. Everything is holding on by Her grace. And somehow we all trust. I bring Kali my vegan offering. She doesn’t require anything from me but I like to hold it in my hands when I stand before her for darshan. I give to her what I want in return. And she already knows before I think it. Ritual works. It is deep yet simple. Or at least it can be.
I could say I spent my whole life waiting for these remote and spiritual experiences but that would be an exaggeration. There is no way to prepare for something like this. For my western mind this is extreme. Sacrifice sounds cruel. Why we do humans do what we do?
Pilgrims stand in line waiting with their chicken and goat in hand. Many have spent at least an hour waiting for their turn at the altar.
It’s not at all what you think, in fact it was the opposite. Village people went to the temple for puja and prayer. They brought to the temple the animal they will eat this evening as they celebrate their holiday. In America we pick up a turkey or ham at the market. Here they raise it then place it at the altar of their goddess to be blessed before they feed it to their families. There is blood, yes. It is hard to watch, yes. It pains me to see the suffering of another animal, yes. But can we look down on something because we don’t understand it? I know for sure there are less human things going on in America, without even a thought to bless the deed.
The animals are eaten for dinner like Americans eat turkey or ham for dinner. Most kids in America don’t know where meat comes from and that it comes from dead animals. We have lost the farm in America, literally. I am not saying that animal sacrifice is good or bad. Witnessing the way people are in the world is at times challenging and at other times rewarding. I go to Kali Temples becuase I know who Kali is. She doesn’t require blood or anything from me. But, other people who worship Her have this tradition. There are many things to learn about life beneath the surface of what we like or don’t like.
Those goats and chickens will be in the belly of one happy family celebrating their holiday. Blessings to all the animals of the world that are serving mankind. Across the western world humans are sacrificing animals to produce and test their cosmetics, products, food, medicine, cleaners..etc. We humans sacrifice animals by destroying their habitat and displacing innocent creatures for our own use. Palm oil is a prime example of how we are sacrificing our primate brothers and sisters. Yet most people have nothing to say on that.
It goes on and on… As we wake up to the world around us we see how difficult it is to remove ourselves from the equation and suss out where something ends and another thing begins. We all play our part and everything is connected. Whether we are conscious of it or not. Whether we bless the animals life before we take it or not. Animals are being sacrificed so humans can prosper. Lets all see that each one of us makes a sacrifice to be here on Earth and every one of us has in some way benefited from the sacrifice of an innocent animal. Even if you consider yourself a “pure” vegan and go to great lengths to maintain that ideal. We can only pray that these superstitious acts and all acts of violence cease on planet earth. We all must pray for and be peace and still see the truth of things that are unsettling.
One reason why I travel, study and bring groups here to South East Asia is that it puts these truths right in front of us to see or not see, and demands that we deal with how it makes us feel, observe how we react and consciously choose how we respond.
Who is free from the wheel of karma?