By Janaka Perera
Colombo, 28 August, (Asiantribune.com):
President of the Dharma Vijaya Foundation Olcott Gunasekera has written to President Mahinda Rajapaksa requesting him to explore the possibility of enacting Animal Welfare Bill without further delay.
Gunasekera’s appeal comes in the wake of this week’s horrendous animal sacrifice at Munnseswaram Temple, Chilaw amidst massive protests by Buddhists and Hindus as well as brutal killing of animals for food and other purposes. Around 500 goats and chicken were slaughtered at the temple premises.
His letter further states:
“.With King Devanampiya Tissa becoming a Buddhist after the coming of Arahant Mahinda, abahya daana (sparing lives) was given to all animals by royal decree. It is a question that is coming up among the Buddhists of this country whether pluralistic politics are undermining its Buddhist ethos. Many are also questioning why the Animal Welfare Bill prepared by the Law Commission is hibernating without being presented to Parliament. It is most appropriate and will help to win the hearts of all Buddhists in this country if the leadership given by Emperor Asoka of India and KIng Devanampiya Tissa of Sri Lanka is emulated by having this Bill passed to mark the 2600th Sambuddhatva Jayanti that will be commemorated next year.”
Drawing attention to Arahant Mahinda's advice to King Devanampiyatissa in their very first encounter at Mihintale about 2300 years ago the Dharma Vijaya Foundation President states that Arahant’s words, "Oh! Great King, the birds of the air and the beasts have an equal right to live and move about in any part of this land as thou. The land belongs to the peoples and all other beings and thou art only the guardian of it" are still is still valid and deserves the highest respect from the people of this land.
Professor Mahinda Palihawadana President of the Sri Lanka Vegetarian Society says,
“It is not a matter for surprise that the Buddhism along with Jainism, the other great religion of Ahimsa, as well as several sects of Hinduism, rejected animal sacrifice, although many other religions approved of it to some extent or another. The Buddha in fact was outspoken in his criticism of such entrenched features of the contemporary religious and social scene as sacrificial rituals and the caste system...”
He also observes:
“In the modern world, there is a powerful movement which seeks to reduce and eliminate the crimes that are perpetrated on animals and to introduce to the social ethic an element of justice to other sentient beings who share the planet with us humans. This movement is all the more remarkable in that it reflects an attitudinal shift in the predominantly Christian West which is beginning to see the true nature of the moral evil that the abuse and exploitation of animals is. The fundamental thrust of this movement stems from the realization that animals are like us when it comes to suffering pain and the prospect of the deprivation of life. It is this very sympathy with the suffering of animals and other sentient beings that is at the core of Buddhist compassion or loving kindness (metta). Says a verse in the Dhammapada, the most popular of Buddhist texts”
The Professor draws attention to the Indian Constitution according to which, it is a fundamental duty of every citizen to have compassion for living creatures. The tradition of royal decrees based on the ethic of respect for animal life was also followed in Sri Lanka prior to the advent of European colonialism.
In Sri Lanka Kirti Sri Nissankamalla, one of the kings who came after Parakramabahu had promulgated a remarkable decree, which he publicised in six of his famous inscriptions, forbidding the killing of all living beings in the irrigation lakes of the entire country. In his Anuradhapura inscription he had decreed that no animals should be killed within seven leagues of the city and induced a certain group of hunters to desist from the trapping of birds. These few instances suffice to give us an idea of the pervasive influence of the Buddhist attitude to animal life in the social and legal history of Sri Lanka.
Prof. Palihawadana regrets that post-independence Sri Lanka done nothing constitutionally and legally to foster the Ahimsa ethic. According to him state intervention in favour of compassion towards animals, the record is equally barren. One among many examples, he says, will suffice to underscore this point.
”A stark contrast to the respect for animal life shown throughout the history of this country is the present-day encouragement of inland fishing. There can be no doubt that it is the greatest threat to the fabric of the Ahimsa ethic which still prevails to a considerable extent among the village communities of Sri Lanka. The destruction of this ethic will undoubtedly facilitate the subversion of Buddhist values and the conversion of Buddhists to ideologies which are not averse to the killing of animals.”
Palihawadana concludes that the Sangha hierarchy of Sri Lanka will be as guilty of complicity as the rest of Sri Lankan Buddhists who stand as silent and helpless onlookers in the face of this onslaught on a humane and compassionate religious ethic which had stood the test of time for 25 five centuries.
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