The Straits Times Forum Online 26 Apr 05
Be kind to animals to mark Vesak Day. Remember what the Buddha teaches
During Vesak Day, Buddhists celebrate the birth of a religion that teaches compassion and wisdom.
Releasing or liberating animals has become a traditional practice in Vesak celebration.
However, the unskillful release of animals has resulted in more suffering to the released animals as well as to other animals in the environment as a result of ecological incompatibility.
Some 2,600 years ago when the Buddha was traveling through the region of Kosala in India, he came across a group of people known as the Kalamas, to whom he gave a sermon that was recorded as the Kalama Sutra.
This was what he taught: ‘Rely not on the teacher/person, but on the teaching. Rely not on the words of the teaching, but on the spirit of the words. Rely not on theory, but on experience.
‘Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. Do not believe anything because it is spoken and rumoured by many.
‘Do not believe in anything because it is written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and the benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.’
Within our communities, we can ‘liberate’ animals by being kind to stray cats and dogs, by teaching our children to be kind to them, by speaking out against abuse, by advocating the humane method of animal population control with sterilisation instead of culling, by adopting rescued pets in shelters instead of buying them from pet shops and by supporting animal welfare organisations.
We can also ‘liberate’ animals from our dining tables by becoming vegetarians or eating less meat.
Dr Tan Chek Wee