Two seekers came to a Master, asking to be initiated as disciples. The Master gave one parrot to each and told the disciples to go to an absolutely lonely place where nobody is watching, kill the parrot, and come back.
The first seeker went outside, rounded the Master’s cottage to the backyard, looked here and there, saw there was nobody watching — and killed the parrot. He was back within minutes. The Master said, “Wait. Let the other one come back too.”
Days passed, then months, and then years. After three years, the other seeker came back with the parrot still alive, sitting on his shoulder.
Before the Master could ask what he thought he was doing, the seeker said, “Take your parrot back. If this is a condition for initiation, it is impossible to fulfill. I searched in every possible way: I went far up mountains, into dark caves, into deep underground caverns, but it is impossible.”
The Master asked, “Why is it impossible?”
The seeker said, “Firstly, I was watching, so the parrot was not alone. I therefore closed my eyes, blindfolded myself, and put the parrot behind me. But then I found the parrot was watching me! So I drugged the parrot, and he fell unconscious.”
“Then what happened?” prodded the Master.
“It was at that moment I suddenly became aware of the presence of God. And I found Him present everywhere. For the past three years, I have tried hard. But not a single place could I find where he is not present! So please take your parrot back. I have failed in my task.”
The Master laughed hard, then turned to the first seeker: “Did you hear? Get out, you fool! It will take many lives for you to understand what I have to teach.”
To the other seeker, the Master said, “You are already a realized soul. Even before initiation, you have discovered there is no need to go anywhere to find God. He is everywhere. And the way to honour him is to love life, and to love all that life contains.”
Indeed, reverence for life is a central moral principle, irrespective of whether the seeker believes in an all-seeing God or is an atheist. The great humanist and philanthropist Albert Schweitzer believed that reverence for life serves as the foundation for further higher-minded pursuits — of an individual working ceaselessly to perfect his self, of the brotherhood of all human beings, of lasting peace in the world.
In Schweitzer’s words: “Once man begins to think about the mystery of his life and the links connecting him with the life that fills the world, he cannot but accept, for his own life and all other life that surrounds him, the principle of reverence for life. He will act according to this principle of the ethical affirmation of life in everything he does. His life will become in every respect more difficult than if he lived for himself, but at the same time it will be richer, more beautiful, and happier. It will become, instead of mere living, a genuine experience in life.”