By Juliana Di Leonardo
As Spring continues to awaken the world around us, I think about the estimated 10 quintillion insects that live on planet earth and how they will be treated by other humans. As the weather becomes warmer, people will be spending more time outside connecting with nature and encountering various animals big and small along the way. Some hikers and or nature enthusiasts may share a similar respect for insects as Jain monks who make every effort to preserve our smallest kin, but most will cause harm without a second thought. Often people tend to believe that bugs are cruel, malicious beings looking to wreak havoc on anybody in proximity—hence their name—and due to feeling threatened, they will act out in violent ways to ensure their own safety.
When I think about Svetambara monks, and how they wear a cloth around their faces to prevent living beings from entering their mouths or how they sweep the ground as they walk to prevent hidden casualties, I am reminded that the key to coexistence is respecting an individual’s right to live. Unfortunately, I haven’t met many people with that same level of consideration and instead have witnessed the stomping of ants, the murder of bees and spiders, and the swatting of mosquitos all due to fear, some irrational, and the selfish belief that their own life is more important than another. Insects and arachnids, and most beings, are not looking to terrorize or attack others with no purpose and the best course of action is to live and let live. While doing so, you might even make a friend. Sometimes the scariest of animals may just need a rest, like a yellow jacket landing on your shoulder to clean their face. The patience and space we hold for one another allows us to learn and break prejudices we once had. Since pushing through my own fear, I realized that life can be more pleasant and relaxing when not in a constant state of worry that someone might hurt me.
It might be difficult for someone to see themselves as equal to a gnat but it is quite beautiful to be able to acknowledge the divine within each other and to understand that we all play a role in creating balance in an ecological community. This week, I encourage you to make a small vow, an Anuvrat, to respect someone’s right to live even if your initial reaction is to call an exterminator. The next time you have an unwanted guest, try to see their perspective. Offer that exhausted bee a drink of water before sending him on his way or thank those ants for showing you the crack in your foundation and ahead of repairs, communicate to them that your home is not a place to take up residence by drawing a line with cinnamon to deter them peacefully and naturally. If we cannot coexist with our insect friends, how will we be able to find peace among ourselves?
Juliana Di Leonardo is the Vice President of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION). She is a yoga and ballroom dance instructor, model, and artist. Her advocacy for animals exploited by the fashion industry was credited in the 2021 documentary “The Face of Fashion is Fear” and recognized by PETA with a Hero for Coyotes award.
People Also Ask…
How do Jains believe the world was created?
Nothing in the universe is ever destroyed or created, everything simply changes from one form to another. Jains believe that the universe has always existed and will always exist. It is regulated by cosmic laws and kept going by its own energy processes. Jains do not believe that the universe was created by any sort of God.