Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda Maha Thera
Buddhist Attitude to Animal Life
If we believe that animals were
created by someone for men, it would follow that men were also created
for animals since some animals do eat human flesh.
are said to be conscious only of the present. They live with no concern
for the past or future. Likewise, little children seem to have no notion
of the future. They also live in the present until their faculties of
memory and imagination are developed.
Men possesses the faculty
of reasoning. The gap between man and animal widens only to the extent
that man develops his reasoning faculty and acts accordingly. Buddhists
accept that animals not only possesses instinctive power but also, to a
lesser degree, thinking power.
In some respects, animals
are superior to men. Dogs have a keener sense of hearing; insects have a
keener sense of smell; hawks are speedier; eagles can see a greater
distance. Undoubtedly, men are wiser; but men have so much to learn from
the ants and bees. Much of the animal is still in us. But we also have
much more: we have the potential of spiritual development.
Buddhism cannot accept
that animals were created by someone for men; if animals were created for
men then it could follow that men were also created for animals since
there are some animals which eat human flesh.
encouraged to love all living beings and not to restrict their love only
to human beings. They should practise loving kindness towards every living
being. The Buddha's advice is that is not right for us to take away the
life of any living being since every living being has a right to exist.
Animals also have fear and pain as do human beings. It is wrong to take
away their lives. We should not misuse our intelligence and strength to
destroy animals even though they may sometimes be a nuisance to us.
Animals need our sympathy. Destroying them is not the only method to get
rid of them. Every living being is contributing something to maintain this
world. It is unfair for us to deprive their living rights.
In his Handbook of reason,
D. Runes says:
'We can hardly
speak of morals in relation to creatures we systematically devour, mostly
singed but sometimes raw. There are men and women who practise horse love,
dog love, cat love. But these very same people would take a deer or a calf
by its neck, slit its throat, drink the blood straight away or in a
pudding, and bite off the flesh. And who is to say that a horse they
cherish is nobler than a deer they feed on? Indeed, there are people who
eat cats, dogs and horses but would use a cow only as a work animal.'
Some cry over a little
bird or goldfish that expired; others travel long distances to catch fish
on a nasty hook for food or mere pleasure or shooting birds for fun. Some
go into deep jungle for hunting animals as a game while others spend a lot
to keep the same animals at home as their pets.
Some keep frogs to
foretell the weather; others cut off their legs and fry them. Some
tenderly tend birds in gilded cages; others serve them for breakfast. It
is all quite confusing. One thought stands out in a world where man clubs
man for gain or sheer gore, there is hardly time to ponder over his morals
in relation to animals.
Every religion advises us
to love our fellow humans. Some even teach us to love them more if they
belong to the same religion. But Buddhism is supreme in that it teaches us
to show equal care and compassion for each and every creature in the
universe. The destruction of any creature represents a disturbance of the
The Buddha was very clear
in His teachings against any form of cruelty to any living being. One day
the Buddha saw a man preparing to make a animal sacrifice. On being asked
why he was going to kill innocent animals, the man replied that it was
because it would please the gods. The Buddha then offered Himself as the
sacrifice, saying that if the life of an animal would please the gods then
the life of a human being, more valuable, would please the gods even more.
towards animals is another expression of his uncontrolled greed. Today we
destroy animals and deprive them of their natural rights so that we can
expend our environments for our convenience. But we are already beginning
to pay the price for this selfish and cruel act. Our environment is
threatened and if we do not take stern measures for the survival of other
creatures, our own existence on this earth may not be guaranteed. It is
true that the existence of certain creatures is a threat to human
existence. But we never consider that human are the greatest threat to
every living being on this earth and in the air whereas the existence of
other creatures is a threat only to certain living beings.
Since every creature
contributes something for the maintenance of the planet and atmosphere,
destroying them is not the solution to overcome our disturbances. We
should take other measures to maintain the balance of nature.
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Update : 01-11-2002