“Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, that state he will attain without fail.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 8.6)
यं यं वापि स्मरन् भावं
त्यजत्य् अन्ते कलेवरम्
तं तम् एवैति कौन्तेय
yaṁ yaṁ vāpi smaran bhāvaṁ
tyajaty ante kalevaram
taṁ tam evaiti kaunteya
Friend1: A person might argue that the outpouring of affection towards pets is not wasted.
Friend2: Who is saying that it is a waste? Isn’t sanatana-dharma the only legitimate religious system in the lot that applies ahimsa to most circumstances?
Friend1: Non-violence, though the primary work in which you find that word has the backdrop of a battlefield.
Friend1: Right, and you will find the discussion on ahimsa in that presentation, but the conclusion is violence. Arjuna decides to fight in the war, to preserve justice for humanity.
Friend2: An apparent contradiction that makes Bhagavad-gita that much more appealing to the inquisitive, the distressed, the desirer of wealth, and the person seeking knowledge of the Absolute.
चतुर्-विधा भजन्ते मां
जनाः सुकृतिनो ऽर्जुन
आर्तो जिज्ञासुर् अर्थार्थी
ज्ञानी च भरतर्षभ
catur-vidhā bhajante māṁ
janāḥ sukṛtino ‘rjuna
ārto jijñāsur arthārthī
jñānī ca bharatarṣabha
“O best among the Bharatas [Arjuna], four kinds of pious men render devotional service unto Me—the distressed, the desirer of wealth, the inquisitive, and he who is searching for knowledge of the Absolute.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 7.16)
Friend1: You know what I mean, though. The acharyas of the Vedic tradition tend to decry obsession with animals in the home. For starters, the dog is considered unclean. A person should not be sleeping with their dog in bed. That animal serves a vital purpose in providing protection, but it is from outside the home.
Friend2: Shaucham is another key principle. Cleanliness, both outside and inside, is important for advancing in consciousness.
Friend1: I guess I am specifically referring to the common complaint that man tends to be more interested in dog than in God. At least that is the situation in the modern day.
Friend2: Can you honestly dispute that?
Friend1: No, but I am trying to look at the positives. A person will say that at least they are showing love. They are not completely cold-hearted. They may be childless in adulthood, but at least they are taking care of someone.
Friend2: You would be interested to know that the Sanskrit word for “son” has a deeper meaning.
Friend1: Which word is that? Putra?
Friend2: Yes. The root definition is someone who delivers from hell. Put is a hellish region, and tra refers to delivering. The son delivers the father and other ancestors from hell, if they should happen to fall there in the afterlife.
Friend1: I see. The dog can’t do the same, I assume.
पुन्नाम्नो नरकाद् यस्मात् पितरं त्रायते सुतः।
तस्मात् पुत्र इति प्रोक्तः पितॄन् यः पाति सर्वतः।।
punnāmno narakād yasmāt pitaraṃ trāyate sutaḥ।
tasmāt putra iti proktaḥ pitṝn yaḥ pāti sarvataḥ।।
“Since a son delivers his father from the hell named ‘Put’, a son is called putra; he who protects his ancestors in every way.” (Lord Rama, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kand, 107.12)
Friend2: Putra attains the status through deeds. They deliver the ancestors through specific offerings, in the ritual known as shraddha. A good son satisfies the debt incurred to the forefathers.
Friend1: How does one assume that debt?
Friend2: From the time of birth. A good son can also rescue past generations through pleasing the Supreme Personality of Godhead, who is known as yajna because religious sacrifice is ultimately for His pleasure.
Friend1: Listen, I am not arguing the merits of having children. I am trying to say that there is nothing wasted in showing affection for a cat or a dog kept in the home. Would you rather they be ignored? Would you rather someone not care for any other living being, acting completely selfishly their entire life?
Friend2: Of course it is good to be compassionate. Shri Krishna has a favorite animal, as well. If you are kind to a cow, that accumulate spiritual merits, sukriti. We should generally be nonviolent, as necessary per the situation.
Friend1: Okay, then you agree that it is not a waste.
Friend2: There is a danger. That is one of the reasons the acharya will give warnings.
Friend1: What kind of danger?
Friend2: Of developing too strong an attachment. If you forget religious principles and focus entirely on serving the cat or dog, that will affect the consciousness moving forward. You will achieve a state of being identical to what was on the consciousness at the time of death.
Friend1: Oh, so if I am too much infatuated with my dog, I will become a dog in the future?
Friend2: For sure, and keep in mind that the principle applies to all kinds of attachment. The human birth is meant for tapasya, which has the incorporated feature of vairagya. This Sanskrit word means “lack of attachment.” You can be close with others in any kind of birth, but as a human being you have the chance to break the cycle of dependency. You can focus on the permanent instead, and be forever benefitted.
If pet in the home to keep,
And at night in same bed to sleep.
Then from affection to sway,
Consciousness in material way.
Where opportunity for liberation lost,
For short-term interest a mighty cost.
Putra with higher value so,
This life for towards Supreme to go.