two basic premises in Buddhism based on which I propose to talk
to you on this subject of animal rights this evening. At the
very outset, it is good to remind ourselves that more than two
and half millennia ago, the Buddha had a vision of the universe,
not as one created by any one at any specific point of time,
but as one which has evolved itself through both time and space.
In this vision, one sees on the one hand a very close parallel
to what is referred today as the Big Bang theory. On the other,
in its graphic details about life therein, Buddhism reflects
a keen awareness and a serious reckoning of concepts like ecosystems
and the biodiversity in which the more serious-minded philosopher-
scientists of the world are deeply concerned.
very reason, Buddhism looks upon life in the universe as a totality
which has by itself a right to exist unhindered, with no threats
of destruction from outside to serve the needs of any single
person or group, whether they be under the direction of any
human or divine authority. It is reckoned that the harmonious
continuance of the universe does not permit or allow of such
crude and clumsy handling of mother nature. In Buddhism, in
a book called the Manual of Good Living or Dhammpada, this idea
is expressad as follows.
living things fear being beaten with clubs.
All living things fear being put to death.
Putting oneself in the place of the other,
Let no one kill nor cause another to kill.
verse no. 129
Buddhism also offers definite and positive instructions with
regard to the manner in which humans should develop universal
loving kindness towards all living things that exist in the
universe, whether in close proximity or at a distance, seen
or unseen, large or small, fierce or timid. Even those seeking
to come into existence [ sambhavesã ] like foetal
bodies of unborn babies or those in the stage of eggs are encompassed
within this range of universal loving kindness or mettà
in Buddhism. It specifies this attitude thus declaring ' May
all beings be well and happy' [ Sabbe sattà bhavantu
the two major premises which we should bear in mind. Our precise
awareness of the real relationship in which the rest of the
universe stands towards the humans as well as the healthy and
sound attitude of mind with which humans should handle whatever
is besides themselves. Buddhism highlights this relationship
very much. The word mettà which is used to designate
this attitude of mind simply means 'respectful friendliness'
or absence of hostility in humans [ avyàpàda
] towards all those who are besides themselves. It is categorically
stated that with such thoughts of hostility one should not wish
to bring about unhappiness upon another [ Byàrosanà
pañighasa§§à nà§§ama§§assa dukkham iccheyya
prefatory remarks to Rupert Sheldrake's The Rebirth of Nature
- Rider [ 1994 Reprint ] we discover the following observations
which appear extraordinarily interesting in the light of early
Rupert Sheldrake goes on to present a compelling case for the
revival of animism, and for a new code of ethics that acknowledges
our involvement as individuals and communities in the living
world of nature. He shows how we are on the threshold of a new
synthesis in which traditional wisdom, personal experience and
scientific insight can be mutually enriching.'
It is in
this same spirit that Biophelia Hypothesis emphasises the need
to retrieve human respect for and recognition of the biodiversity
in the universe and its ecosystems.