Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Animals in Buddhism (video)

Joel Kincaid (Earth documentaries); Amber Larson, Ananda and Jen (Dharma Meditation Initiative), Ashley Wells, Crystal Quintero (eds.), Wisdom Quarterly Wikipedia edit

Animals in Buddhism
The position of Animals in Buddhism is important for the light it sheds on Buddhists' perception of our relationship to the natural world, Buddhist humanitarian concerns in general, and the relationship between Buddhist theory and practice.
In Buddhist doctrine
Animals are sentient beings in Buddhist. That means they can feel, experience karma, and are reborn again and again like humans and other beings.

Moreover, according to the Mahāyāna school in particular, animals possess Buddha nature (the innate ability to one day become a buddha) and therefore reach enlightenment.

The Cycle of Rebirth as a doctrine holds that any human (other than the noble ones who have reached the first stage of enlightenment called "stream entry" or higher) can be reborn as an animal, and any animal can be reborn as a human.

An animal might be a relative who passed away long ago and is now reborn, and anyone who looks far back enough through this extensive series of lives might come to understand that nearly every animal (and every other being) is a distant relative. So it is a very good idea to be a vegetarian.

Animals are just below humans in the 31 Planes
The historical Buddha taught that sentient beings currently living in the Animal Realm (tirrachana womb) have been our mothers, brothers, sisters, fathers, children, friends in past rebirths. One cannot, therefore, make a hard distinction between moral rules applicable to animals and those applicable to humans.

Ultimately, humans and animals (and devas and narakas and others) are part of a single "family." We are all interconnected and interdependent.

In Buddhist cosmological terms, animals are believed to inhabit a distinct "world" (loka), separated from humans not by space but by state of mind.

That world is called tiryag-yoni in Sanskrit, tiracchāna-yoni in Pāli (the only exclusively-Buddhist language). 

Grumpy Cat: I love math because... (lol)
But rebirth as an animal is considered one of the unhappy rebirths (part of the Downfall), usually involving much more suffering than is found in the human world (manusya loka).

Buddhist commentarial texts depict many kinds of suffering associated with the animal world: even where no humans are present, animals are often attacked and eaten by other animals or, in any case, live in fear of it.

They endure extreme changes of environment throughout the year, living outside in nature, and they have no secure abode.

Wait, humans are going to eat me?!
Those that live among humans are often slaughtered for their flesh, or taken from their family and friends and enslaved, forced to work with many beatings until they are slaughtered at the end of their brief lives.

Worse than this, they suffer from ignorance, not knowing or understanding with any clarity what is happening to them or why. And they are unable to do much about it, acting primarily on instinct rather than reason, wisdom, or cognizant of karma and its consequences.
The Chinese scholar Tiantai taught the principle of the "Mutual Possession of the Ten Worlds." This meant that all living beings have buddha-nature "in their present form."

In the Devadatta (Buddhist Judas figure) chapter of the Lotus Sutra the Dragon King's daughter attains buddhahood in her present form, thus opening the way for women and animals to attain buddhahood.

In the "Rebirth Stories" (Jatakas)
6 realms of samsara consumed by Death (Yama/Mara)
The Jātaka stories, which recount some of the past lives of the Buddha in folktale fashion (which served as the inspiration for Aesop's Fables, according to British scholar Rhys Davids), frequently involve talking animals as peripheral or main characters.

It is common for the Bodhisattva (the "Buddha-to-be") to also appear as an animal. The stories sometimes involve animals alone and sometimes involve conflicts between humans and animals. In the latter cases, the animals often exhibit characteristics of kindness and generosity that are absent in the humans.

Also recorded in the Jatakas is how, in a past life as King Shibi, the Bodhisattva sacrificed himself to save a dove from a hawk.

Recorded in Mahayana's "Golden Light Sutra" is how Shakyamuni, in a past life as Prince Sattva, came across a starving tigress and her cubs. He is said to have been fulfilling the "perfection" of generosity (dana paramita), so he offered his body to them so that they would survive.
  • [This beautiful and very popular story of self-sacrifice was actually taken from a non-Buddhist source and adopted into the mythology of the Bodhisattva.]
Behavior toward animals
Even brutal Neo-Nazi police can be kind.
The first of the Five Precepts is about abstaining from taking the life of living beings. As most narrowly interpreted, it is applied to not killing humans.

However, the better and broader interpretation is that it applies to not killing ANY sentient being, which includes those currently reborn in the Animal Realm.
  • What karma leads to rebirth in the Animal Realm and lower? Violating the Five Precepts, which means excessive greed (craving), aversion (ill-will), and delusion (ignorance).
This is not just mammals like us, but all animal taxa including fish, insects, and invertebrates.

From the beginnings of Buddhism, there were virtues intended to prevent the harming of ALL sentient beings in the Animal Realm for various reasons. More

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