The mother doesn’t know why, or how, or so we tell ourselves. She’s not a veterinarian, she wouldn’t possibly know symptoms, diagnosis or treatments…
She’s just a poor, ignorant, helpless camel, bewildered by excruciating loss and pain.
We might look at this image and feel remorse, pity and empathy. All that we see is shaped by our point of view, and point of view limits all else we can see.
In a mortal situation like this, we are as ignorant and bewildered as we imagine this camel is. We rely on trained experts to know our problems and fix them for us, while we remain largely ignorant, dependent and essentially lost. As children.
But, perhaps this mature mother camel does know why her baby died. Perhaps she knows why more fully than we can comprehend. Is this possible?
Her sense of smell is powerful, acute and subtle. Her intuition and depth of feeling awareness are extraordinary. Through the intricately changing scents of her calf, through his faltering heart-beat, temperature, vocalizations and body tensions, can she feel and know his condition, and follow it closely enough to serve the process unfolding before her, to a profundity we can hardly imagine?
Her personal, and cultural, view has never been one where she and her kind must, at all costs, save the baby from death. There is no man-made Hippocratic oath in her world. There is no moral “need” to uphold a healer’s dictum. There is just what is happening. There is no one telling her that this is terrible and should not be happening. There’s no one saying, “what if?” or “did you try this?”
It’s just her, sitting in the desert, under the sky, with a baby she birthed, already departing her side.
When the venerable Tibetan Lama, Chogyum Trungpa, was asked by his disciple what could possibly be the cause for the great Karmarpa’s terrible and painful disease, Trunpga replied, “it happened long ago, when they were setting up his tent and someone stepped on the fabric”.
Trungpa Rinpoche didn’t give a 2oth century medical reason for the Karmapa’s condition. He described a profoundly subtle, mystical, view drawn from an entirely different, and vastly more ancient and sacred tradition; a view we cannot comprehend, unless we live it.
And I suggest something like this may be the case with this camel, and with all non-humans.
She is a mother mourning the loss of her calf. That much is clear. Maybe she’s also engaged in an exquisitely refined process that we generally aren’t aware of anymore, even when we see it… because our particularly “human view” would never credit such an awareness, let alone capability, to an animal.
The physical and emotional loss of an “other”, whether an offspring or a companion, is a literal psycho-physical “tearing of the flesh” in the felt separation from those we love and are attached too. It can take weeks, months and years, to get over these events, if we ever do. Sometimes we don’t. This is the view of death and loss most of us feel and experience, and it is very real… equalizing everyone and everything.
Beyond the mother camel’s unrestrained wailing at the loss of her calf, I propose that she may also be “singing” the calf, no longer hers, into his transition away from here, singing him into and through the death passage to the other side, invoking for him that rite of passage, guiding and protecting him with her mother’s song. I suggest that she is engaged in far more than a self-involved, self-pitying, bemoaning of the now lifeless form before her. I charge that she is, even spontaneously, moved to profoundly serve the transition of the one who’s passed. And she sits and sings in vigil until her responsibilities are felt done.
All non-humans, unlike most humans, freely and naturally participate in Divine Awareness. Being natural spiritual contemplatives theirs is a natural spiritual culture, free of church, books, sentimentality, man-made rules and priestly intermediaries. Consequently, their view of the world, and life, is typically much truer than ours.
As Adi Da says: “The non-humans are almost Free.”
Where our view of mortality tends to be more cloistered in the mind, theirs is more connected to the process of apparent death as a profoundly spontaneous psycho-physical transition within a greater sphere of appearances than we can see with our eyes, a moving on out to further life, not an ending only.
The non-humans’ participation in death is simply sacred. We can either support this in them, and ourselves, by allowing for this potential (at least as a possibility if we don’t clearly feel it), or we can stay with our fear, loss and grief only.
When we are around dying animals, and stay only within the pain and grief of death, if they are connected to us at all, our resistance to feel beyond fear may confuse their participation in the relentless process enfolding them.
Nothing is more intimate than death. Indeed, nothing could be more loving, more released, more certain. Why do we view it with such horror, then? There is no getting away from it. We must look at this. Not doing so results in the growing insanity we see all around us.
The more we observe the non-humans sensitively, strongly, the more their cultures and ways may draw us to see and feel things beyond what we merely think.
Because non-humans are not mind-based they have little or no armoring against loss. They therefore feel the loss fully, much more than we. And it is this freedom to feel that widens their experience out beyond the visible physical…
The act of mourning thus becomes sacred ceremony; an acknowledgment of, and participation in, the limitations of this physical appearance, as well as an invocation of, and participation in, what is greater than our mere, brief, belief in the ultimacy of the body point of view.
The mourning camel celebrates the law of sacrifice and surrender inarguably presented before her on the sand.
Unlike her, we have lost touch with how to rightly participate with life and so-called death.
But “It” can learn us again…