Friday, August 20, 2010

Praying for All Sentient Beings

Historically speaking, Tibetan culture has prized meat as a staple commodity within their diet. But as we approach the modern age, many are now questioning whether or not this is a viable practice. Even the Dalai Lama said once, at a speech he gave in Delhi, "we must make every possible effort to promote vegetarianism amongst Tibetans. I am thankful to those who have made such initiatives here in India. It would be far better if such campaigns were organised in the future." But the question is now: why is animal rights now a topic of concern? Many are thinking of the environment and many are thinking about the harm invoked by animal consumption.

For instance: many show consternation at indiscriminate killing. One student argued, in the advancing of this point, that one should get a doctor's note if it is really necessary to eat meat. I suppose we could ask why eating meat is so bad. The answer is, as one might predict, tied to the logic of karma. As one student explained, "we should show kindness to animals because kindness to animals continues the circle of kindness to all life." The sequitur is this: killing begets killing while kindness begets kindness. The law of karma is precise--those who exercise kindness are granted a better life. In my own experiences, even, I remember feeling the violent gaze of a monk after I swatted a mosquito on my arm. Perhaps one could say that karmic merit is the moral fabric of the cosmos. My own swat of the arm inevitably led to my own guilt and humiliation. Karma at its finest...

What is more is that a Tibetan friend of mine, although born and raised an omnivore, switched to vegetarianism after he moved to Dharamsala. I asked him why he did so, he said, "Because I am a Buddhist. And I want to be kind to all sentient beings." I was quite impressed with his answer. But then again, why should I be? I mean, vegetarianism is not an uncommon practice in the States. I suppose it has something to do with the conviction and flexibility, the willingness and commitment to perfection, without an air of arrogance. It is as if my friend was acting as a bodhisattva, an incarnation of a superhuman, devoted to the cause of freeing all suffering beings.

But this is not all. I suppose I was impressed by everyone's willingness to participate in a discourse in animal safety when in fact animal rights were not a substantial part of Tibetan habits. The grip of the historical momentum is not an easy feat to divert; and so anyone who undergoes the courage and poise to neutralize the weight of the past casts themselves, at least I think so, into some kind of hall of fame. Most of my friends, including myself, has yet to shift practices and so to hear my friends here in Dharamsala speak of animal rights as if it is a platform issue shores up my own encouragement towards perfection.

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