The high-pitched whine of the chain saw startled me, breaking the stillness of tall moss-covered cedars and lush green ferns. We’d been visiting the Ananda communities in Oregon and Washington, and now were enjoying a day on Camano Island off the coast of Seattle.
I’d been walking along absorbed in the forest’s peace and quiet, which was accented only by an occasional bird song. Then as I came to a place where the trees were less dense, I first heard and then saw work crews high up on hoists limbing up trees to protect power lines.
The juxtaposition of the sounds of chain saws and birds’ songs reminded me of a fascinating story. Biologists in the Amazon rainforest were studying what impact the destruction of the natural environment was having on animals there.
One day out in the field the biologists heard what sounded like a chain saw: the revving up of the motor as the saw was turned on, and the different pitches of whines as it cut through the trees. It turned out to be not a chain saw but a bird: the superb lyrebird, which has a tremendous gift of mimicry.
Perhaps to show that he was a versatile performer, the lyrebird also did a remarkable imitation of the click of a camera button and the soft whirring of its motor drive.
These were the sounds that it was hearing in its disappearing natural environment, and it was duplicating them with astonishing accuracy.
All life imitates what it hears—whether it’s beautiful and uplifting or destructive and dissonant. When people express attitudes of hatred, racism, or religious bigotry, someone hears them. Perhaps it is a child who hears and imitates them as mindlessly as the bird mimicking the chain saw. Gradually, hatred and intolerance become hardwired into the child’s mind, and, as in the rainforest, the natural environment of his soul qualities is destroyed.
As followers of the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda, we need to sing his song of universal love and brotherhood so loudly that all can hear. Perhaps others, too, will join us in expressing his divine harmony, until people everywhere awaken from their dark dreams of hatred.
Here is one of my favorites prayers of Yoganandaji:
Prayer for a United World
“Let us pray in our hearts to establish a League of Souls and a United World. Though we may seem divided by race, creed, color, class, and political prejudices, still, as children of one God, we are able in our souls to feel brotherhood and world unity. . . . In our hearts we can all learn to be free from hate and selfishness. Let us pray for harmony among the nations, that they march hand in hand through the gate of a fair new civilization.”
With a song of divine friendship,