|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
MESSAGE FROM BUDDHIST ARCHBISHOP
In many parts of the world animals flee from man as from
a ruthless demon, because man spreads terror and agony among the animals.
Man exploits them pitilessly. But Our Lord Buddha Gautama Shakyamuni,
the World-Honoured One, said that such conduct is evil and is unworthy
of a decent man. And it is not enough that you yourself do not directly
injure animals : You should neither cause injury through an agent or
indirectly approve of the behavior of others, when they indulge in acts
of cruelty to poor animals.
The idea of kindness and humameness to animals is a very
fundamental concept in Buddhism. Maitri (in Pali Metta). love
in the sense of loving-kindness, to the brute creation is plainly inculcated
in a great number of Buddhist sacred texts of both Pali and Sanskrit
It is good for us to remember that Our Lord Buddha Guatama
Shakyamuni, who had unfolded the way to perfection and who found the
answer to the problem of suffering, while practising Paramitas (the
perfections) in his Bodhisattva-existences, was himself born as a hare,
a swan, a fish, a quail, an ape, a woodpecker, a deer, and an elephant.
Already for this reason the Buddhists will not regard the animal world
with disdainful contempt.
Buddhism teaches that for sinful deeds done in one life,
men and women may be reborn in another life as animals. The Karmic pendulum
will bring them the suffering, which their previous acts have caused.
Sins and transgression of different kinds lead to rebirth as an animal.
Therefore. those who are not kind to animals, would do
well to develop the feeling of love and compassion for animals. Remember
that the animals have feelings of pleasure and pain, of joy and sorrow,
like all of us. It is not possible to escape the consequences of one's
deeds. Remember, therefore, that some of your own relatives or friends
may by the process of the inexorable law of Karma be reborn in this
state of woe, and so even yourself, if you are not sufficiently virtuous.
Buddhism teaches infinite compassion to all the sentient
beings - men, animals, fishes and birds ( and even plants) "situated
above and below and crosswise." KARUNA,
or pure compassion, is the quintessence of our religion.
A virtuous Buddhist, whether priest or layman, is consumed
with grief on account of the sufferings of animals and therefore he
condemns animal sacrifice, hunting, and flesh-eating. He loves all beings,
as a mother loves her only child (VIDE METTA
SUTTA). Assiduous in cherishing the life of another
as his own by thought, word or deed. a devout Buddhist entertains the
feeling of deep sorrow at the sight of meat, which is always blended
with blood and the secretions of the animal's body, and is obtained
by killing. He knows that all beings hate pain, and so he censures slaying,
torture, and heartless exploitation of helpless animals.
It is a fact that one who is kind to animals lives happily,
sleeps soundly, and dies peacefully.
A certain event favourable to the general welfare of animals in many lands took place last year. It was the Fourth Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists held in Kathmandu, capital of the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal, in November, 1956. The Kathmandu Conference was attend by more than 450 delegates and observers from 43 lands. I was fortunate to take part in it as Delegate of Latvia, and my deputy was Delegate of Estonia, The Conference was opened by His Majesty Mahendra Bir Bikram Shah Deva, the King of Nepal. We all discussed many problems of the modern world. The consensus of opinion at the Conference was entirely in favour of vegetarianism.
As the actions of a Buddhist should be in harmony with his vows, it was agreed in principle in Kathmandu that the conscientious Buddhists of all countries should refrain from eating meat of any kind in order to live up to the spirit of Buddhist Precepts (Sila) of which the first is :
Panatipana Veramai Sikkhapadam Samadiyami.
i.e,. "I undertake the rule of training to refrain
from injury to living things."
When in 1923 I was elevated to the position of the Head
(Sangharaja) of Buddhists in the three Baltic States. Estonia, Latvia
and Lithuania, with the Episcopal seat at Riga, the capital of Latvia,
I was given the official title of the Buddhist Archbishop of Latvia,
I was happy in the knowledge that, though the Buddhists in Latvia were
only a small minority, the Buddhist spirit in the country was strong.
Cruelty to animals was severely punished. Killing of storks, herons,
beavers, squirrels, lynxes. and deer was strictly forbidden all over
Latvia. Destruction of birds' nests was also a criminal offence, and
when punishment was to be meted out, the killed nestlings were counted,
and punishment increased in the same ratio as the number of nestlings
who had lost Life. Protection was afforded in Latvian rivers to many
kinds of fishes, eels, and crayfish.
In winter, when the Latvian countryside is covered with
snow and rivers are frozen, the birds experience great difficulty in
obtaining food. So the municipalities of larger Latvian cities were
providing birds (finches. sparrows, pigeons, and others) with specials
seeds, of which several kinds had even to be imported from abroad, food
for birds not being uniform. Such was kindness shown to birds in winter
Elks, hinds, and hares living in forests were also given some food in winter by the Authorities, for which the citizens, of course, had to pay. The use of catapults, even to scare away birds, was strictly forbidden. Moreover, there were Homes for Aged Dogs and Cats.
Gigantic trees, hundreds of years old, in parks and forests,
mere marked by the State for preservation, and no one would even think
of cutting them.
Prevalence of the Buddhist spirit among the Latvian people
is a sign of good augury for the Buddhist missionary effort in the West,
in general. Anyhow, one who has heard me will have to admit that many,
more important, countries in the world are far behind Latvia in legislation
for the protection of the helpless animals.
The Latvian people, who are Aryans and were Buddhists
in ancient time, inhabited the eastern shores of the Baltic Sea for
more than 5,000 years. The language of the Latvians, rich in inflexions,
is very closely related to Sanskrit. In ancient chronicles Latvia is
known as "Amber Land."
The people of Latvia are familiar with the name of God
Indra, the Chief of the Celestials. There are many villages and farms
in Latvia going by the name of Indra, and many Latvian families carry
the surname of Indra.
I will finish my message with astory from the Jatakas of God Indra, of the Devas
Having well practised meritorious, actions, Our Lord Buddha Gautama Shakyanluni in one of his Bodhisattva existences became Indra, the Lord of the Devas. He ruled the heaven and earth with righteousness, and his splendid glory pervaded the whole world.
On the assumption of Indra's position by the Bodhisattva, the majesty of the Ruler of the Devas shone in a higher degree. And so the Demons, the spirits of darkness (Daityas, the sons of Diti, Danavas or Asuras ) became very jealous and waged war against him.
The Demons marched against Indra with an enormous army
of elephants, chariots, horsemen and footmen.
Indra mounted his excellent golden chariot drawn by a
thousand excellent horses and met the forces of the Demons on the border-line
Then a great battle took place.
At the end, the army of Indra took to flight, scared by
the fiery swords and arrows of the Demons. Sensing danger, Mavali, the
charioteer of the Lord of the Dovas turned the mighty chariot to make
the timely ascent to Indra's residence.
Now when they were making the ascent, all of a sudden
Indra, the Lord of the Devas, caught sight of some eagle-nests which
were placed on a silk-cotton tree exactly in the line of direction of
the chariot-pole, so that they must needs be crushed by it. Seized with
compassion, Indra said to Navali :
"The birds' nests on this silk-cotton tree are filled with not yet winged young ones. Drive my chariot in such a manner that these nests will not fall down crushed by the chariot-pole ".
Mavali replied excitedly that in such case the Lord of
the Devas will be overtaken by the hosts of Demons, and that nothing
short of turning the chariot can save the young birds.
Said then Indra moved by the utmost compassion : ''Well
then, turn the chariot. Take proper care in avoiding these eagle-nests.
Better is it for me to die by the terrible club-strokes of the chiefs
of the Demons than to live blameful and dishonoured, if I should have
murdered those poor terror-stricken creatures."
Now the foes, the spirits of darkness, who had witnessed Indra's heroism got into confusion and fled in terror. Then the overjoyed Devas saluted their Lord, the noble Indra, who was so beautiful by the radiance of victory.
In this way Our Lord Buddha Gautama Shakyamuni, as a Bodhisattva,
did long ago protect animals even at the risk of his own life and at
the risk of the loss of the Celestial sway...
Injuring animals by deed, word or thought never tends to bliss. Selfishness never leads to prosperity. Therefore be kind to animals by not eating them.