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Why Animals Matter: Buddhist Quotations
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all beings be free from enmity;
May all beings be free from injury;
May all beings be free from suffering;
May all beings be happy.
Buddhist Prayer for Animals to be Free From Suffering.
This article consists of four sections:
animals matter in the Buddhist tradition ? Why should a Buddhist be a
vegetarian and preferably a vegan? Why should animal
rights be important to Buddhists. To answer these
questions and others lets take a look at the Buddhist tradition,
its teachings and philosophy as it applies to our
relationship and treatment of the myriad of living beings
with whom we share this planet.
Keep in mind that a basic precept in Buddhism is that of
non-harm, Ahimsa, a Sanskrit term meaning to do
no harm, no violence. Ahimsa is and was an important belief amongst the
religions that originated in ancient India, namely
Hinduism, Buddhism and especially
Jainism. Ahimsa is a
rule of conduct that prohibits the killing or injuring
of all living beings. It is closely connected with the
idea that all kinds of violence bring about negative
karmic consequences, I will explain more about Karma later. Although
the technical term Ahimsa, unlike in the
teachings of Jainism and Hinduism, is not used in
Buddhist scripture in so many words, it is nevertheless practiced in its essence albeit perhaps not to the
extent as it is in the Jain tradition, but like the Jain's,
Buddhists have always condemned the killing of all
Therefore actions which result in the taking of life,
directly or indirectly, contradicts this basic Buddhist
But first in order to understand the Buddhist
perspective concerning our relationship with non human animals a short history and basic teachings of
Buddhism is helpful.
Buddhism began in the 6th century BCE with the birth of
Siddhartha Guatama who is sometimes referred to as the
historical Buddha. Siddhartha was born
into the Shakya clan, in the plains of Lumbini,
in present day southern Nepal
The early life of Siddhartha was one of opulence protected
from the reality of life by his father Uddhodana the
king of the Shakyas. Siddhartha however became curious
about life outside his protected environs and soon
realised that existence involved much suffering.
He consequently renounced his comfortable life, leaving
behind his wife and newly born son to seek out a more
meaningful existence and try to understand why all
creatures suffer, and find out how they could escape
from suffering. At the age
of Twenty nine Siddhartha began the homeless life
of a monk.
After begging for his first meal he made his
way to the mountains
where lived many hermits and sages seeking religious
enlightenment. On the way he came across a flock of
sheep being driven towards the city of Rajagaha to be
sacrificed. Among the sheep a lamb was injured and
Buddha feeling compassion for the poor creature picked
him up and followed the shepherds into the city and
prevented the sacrifice from taking place asking King Bimbisara to stop
animal sacrifices saying :
All beings tremble before danger, all fear death.
When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to
All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all. When
a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.
Moved by Siddhartha's words the King became a follower
of the Buddha.
After leaving Rajagaha, Siddhartha studied with
the sage, Alara Kalama, under whose tutelage he learned
to calm his mind, but still he did not discover freedom
from suffering and in time through diligent study he
knew as much as his teacher. Siddhartha than received
tuition from the sage Uddaka Ramaputta under whose guidance he learnt to still his mind,
emptying it of all thoughts and emotions. Nonetheless
the mystery of suffering eluded him. By this time the
Buddha determined that he should find the truth in his
own way by his own efforts and embarked on the path of asceticism,
a common practice in India in those days when wondering
monks left their families to pursue religious
enlightenment with austerities such as starving
themselves or living off very little, lying on beds of
nails and other grievous hardships. He made his way to a
place called Uruvela near a village and the river Nera˝jarā, here he met five other men each of whom
were also on a similar
spiritual quest. These men where ascetics and became
Over a period of six years Siddhartha practiced
extreme asceticism reducing his eating until he ate
nothing at all. After passing out as a result of his
excessive practice and being revived and cared for
by a passing shepherd boy, Siddhartha realised that
was not the way; had the shepherd boy not helped
him he would have died without attaining enlightenment
and understanding the reasons for suffering. His companions left him
for a time thinking he had reneged his ascetic vows.
morning, a girl named Sujata offered Siddhartha some
milk-rice porridge and said to him: "May you be
successful in obtaining your
wishes!" The same day Siddharth accepted an offering of soft Khusha grass and
sitting upon this in the classic meditation pose under a
fig tree, now known as the Bodhi tree, Siddhartha vowed to remain in a state of
meditation until he understood the nature of suffering
and attained enlightenment, he said
"I will not leave
this spot until I find an end to suffering."
the night he was assailed by the constant attempts of Mara*1)
the evil one who attempted to distract Buddha from his
worthy quest. Hoping to turn Siddhartha's attention
towards pleasure he tempted him with his
beautiful daughter, than bolts of lightening and heavy
rain and finally armies of demons to distract him. At length defeating the
temptations of Mara Siddhartha realised the
cause of suffering and the way to remove it. Gaining
supreme wisdom he understood the nature of reality and
less literal interpretation of Buddha's enlightenment
and his battle with Mara may have been as follows. As
Siddhartha entered a deep state of meditation he let go all outside disturbances and thoughts of the past
or the present, pleasure or desire and turned his
attention towards finding the truth about life and the
nature of existence. He contemplated the cause of
suffering and how all beings can be free from suffering.
While doing so his mind was beset by distracting images,
some tempting him with pleasure others distracting him
with fearful imaginings, intrusive thoughts turning his
attention to the past and than to the future. However
after persistence his mind became calm like a still
pond, he recalled previous lives, and he saw beings born
and reborn in a continuous cycle of birth and rebirth in
accordance with the laws of cause and effect called
karma. He understood that grasping craving and desiring
resulted in suffering, and kept all beings trapped
with in this cycle.
Now that Buddha had reached enlightenment he now was free from the type of thinking
that resulted in suffering, he had reached a state of
being, enlightenment, called nirvana.
After his enlightenment he
was known as Gautama Buddha, or Shakyamuni Buddha or simply "The Buddha",
which means "the enlightened one".
Thereafter for the next 45 years he travelled around
central India acquiring many
adherents, teaching anyone who would listen. He
established a community of followers called the
Sangha, which in time became the Buddhist monastic
order. He died aged eighty by which time his
teachings were widely accepted and the Sangha
Since this time Buddhism has spread to many countries
changing and adapting to various cultures and is now the
4th religion of importance in terms of numbers of followers. In recent
years Buddhism has increased in popularity in the west.
The following is a very basic account of the teachings of
Buddha after his enlightenment. These teachings are of
course central to Buddhist belief and practiced in modern
Buddhism like all religions is a complex topic and an
in-depth discussion is beyond the scope of this article.
Below are very basic facts concerning the teachings of
Buddhism. For more detailed information please refer to
the links at the conclusion of this article.
Buddhism varies considerably depending upon tradition, from the
very ritualistic Tibetan Buddhism to the more simple
approach of Zen. Buddhism is more than a
religion and is considered a philosophy or way
of life. In addition Buddhism has also been described as a
science of the mind as it's teachings provide a deep understanding of the human mind presenting an
advanced and effective psychological approach to life and
its problems, factors which may have increased its popularly in
Buddha taught many things, one of the most important of
which were the four Noble truths:
The first noble truth is that life is suffering, both
physical - pain, illness and death - and psychological - fear,
loneliness, frustration, anger and so on.
The second noble truth is that suffering is caused by
craving and aversion, desiring things to be different
than they are. Grasping craving and desiring leads to
suffering and furthermore the ultimate desire for continued existence
leads to a continuous cycle of death and rebirth, which
continues the cycle of suffering.
The third noble truth is that suffering can be overcome
and happiness attained by abandoning desire and aversion, the abandonment of which is the state of
Nirvana and the cessation of continual birth and rebirth.
The forth noble truth is that following the the Noble
8-fold Path leads to the end of suffering and the
achievement of self awakening.
8-fold Path is a way taught by the Buddha to become moral in both word
and deed, to practice right livelihood, to be
aware of our thoughts and to develop wisdom.
Briefly The eight fold path:
Right View -To Understand and accept the four noble
Right Intention - This means to be determined to follow
the eight fold path.
Right speech - The use only of kind, compassionate
words, to refrain from gossip and back biting, lying and
Right Action - To practice good needs and avoid wrong
doing such as theft, killing, sexual misconduct,
drinking alcohol or taking drugs
Right Livelihood - avoiding a job that involves violence
to any being, for instance a butcher, a soldier and
instead to be employed in tasks that help people or
Right Effort - Make an effort to think good wholesome
thoughts whilst trying to avoid all evil thoughts
Right Mindfulness - To remain mindful or aware of
your body and mind and of your immediate environment and
Right Concentration - Refers to the practice of
The path of a Buddhist advocate in short is to lead a
moral life, be mindful and aware of thoughts and their
actions and to develop wisdom and understanding.
Buddha admonished his adherents to follow a way of life based upon
the five precepts which followers vow to undertake:
I undertake the precept to abstain from killing living
I undertake the precept to not take what is not given
I undertake the precept to abstain from sexual
I undertake the precept to abstain from false speech
I undertake the precept to abstain from liquor that
causes intoxication and heedlessness.
All the precepts are of course important for a follower
of Buddhism but for our discussion the first precept is
of great importance in considering our behaviour towards
all beings, not just the human beings.
Buddhists believe in Karma, a cause and effect
consequence of our behaviours. Most importantly Karma
emphasises the importance of our actions and our need to
be responsible for them. Karma is effected by both present and
Meditation plays a significant role in Buddhism as a
means to achieve enlightenment.
Why animals matter in the Buddhist tradition
Learn more about Buddhism
BuddhaNet - Worldwide Buddhist Information and Education
Buddhism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
1) "In Buddhism, Māra is the demon who tempted Gautama
Buddha by trying to seduce him with the vision of
beautiful women who, in various legends, are often said
to be his daughters. In Buddhist cosmology, Mara
personifies unskillfulness, the "death" of the spiritual
life. He is a tempter, distracting humans from
practicing the spiritual life by making the mundane
alluring or the negative seem positive."
acknowledged both a literal and "psychological"
interpretation of Mara. Mara is described both as an
entity having a literal existence, just as the various
deities of the Vedic pantheon are shown existing around
the Buddha, and also is described as a primarily
psychological force - a metaphor for various processes
of doubt and temptation that obstruct religious
Mara (demon) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Important please note:
am not an animal expert of any kind just your average
person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply
about the plight of many of our fellow creatures.
Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore
please keep in mind that the information included in
this website has been researched to the best of my
ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but
of course possible.
Copyright, accreditations and
other matters, please read