Sunday, June 9, 2013

Philosophy and Animal Rights-- Part III: Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism

I'm currently taking a world religions course at school, so I've been learning a fair bit about how Buddhists and Jains view the concept of animal rights.
How about I "enlighten" you on this matter using quotes instead of explanation?
Vegetarian Resources Group and the Original Buddhism Society
The Vegetarian Resource Group and the Original Buddhism Society had a table together at the Veggie Pride Parade 2012. Photo Courtesy of

"In his final teachings before he physically left this earth, the Buddha foresaw that a situation would arise in the future where those speaking in his name would pervert his Doctrine and encourage meat consumption. So here, in this great Nirvana Sutra, he lays down his last will and testament on the matter: in no circumstances should one eat meat or fish "nor animal corpses, found in the jungle, for instance" nor even accept from a donor a meal which contains an abundance of flesh-foods. The very contact of other food with meat is deemed defiling and requires purification of the food by water. It is quite evident from all this that the Buddha in no way condoned the eating of meat and was keen for his monastic and lay followers to abjure the uncompassionate practice of meat eating and follow the pure path of vegetarian Mahayana. In this, we would be wise and benevolent to follow him."
Dr. Tony Page
Buddha - Self: The "Secret" Teachings of the Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Vol. 2

"The Buddha's teaching leads us to the realization that we must always strive to harm no sentient being, human or nonhuman, whether or not it is in our selfish interest to do so."
Norm Phelps
The Great Compassion: Buddhism & Animal Rights

"Veganism is simply letting compassion guide our choice of food. As such, it is a basic Buddhist practice that ought to be expected of everyone who takes refuge vows."
Norm Phelps
The Great Compassion: Buddhism & Animal Rights
[Refuge vows are the vows that Buddhists make to take refuge in the Buddha (the enlightened one), the dharma (the path), and the sangha (the religious community).]

"As a man values his life,
So do animals love theirs."
Chu-hung, Releasing Life

"Perhaps it is part of being human to question who and what we are. Unfortunately, because we rely almost exclusively on our senses, the harder we look, the more we misinterpret what we see. We believe on the one hand that we are an insignificant dot in the universe, separate from all other humans, much less the natural world. But we also believe that we are the most highly evolved organism in creation, entitled to use whatever we can grasp for our own ends.
"Buddhists have a different view of humanity. In terms of their psycho-spiritual development people stand about midway between Buddhas and amoebas. However, on an absolute level, people, Buddhas, amoebas, dogs, streams, and mountains are one and the same. Buddhism addresses the apparent disparity between what we see and what we actually are. And it does so by delving into the roots of what it means to be human."
Ven. Sunyana Graef
The Foundations of Ecology in Zen Buddhism


"Having well considered the origin of flesh-foods, and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let man entirely abstain from eating flesh."
Manusmriti 5.49

"We observe November 25 worldwide as Meatless Day because of the cruelty involved. Hundreds of thousands of animals are being slaughtered every day; but they love life as much as you and I do, as much as those people do who eat them up. I believe it is injustice, because creation is one family. The breath that animals take is the same breath that we take. They are our kindred, our kin. It is the duty of man to protect his younger brothers and sisters in the one family of creation. And I believe animals should be given their rights. Today wherever I go, they talk of animal welfare. Animal welfare is not the answer -- animal rights are needed. . . Every animal has certain fundamental rights and the first right of every animal is the right to live; for you must not take away what you cannot give. And since you cannot give life to a dead creature, you have no right to take away the life of a living one. The 18th century gave rights to man, the 19th century gave rights to slaves, and the 20th century gave rights to women. The 21st century, I verily believe, will give rights to animals, and that will be a glorious day in the history of humanity. I believe there will be no peace on Earth unless we stop all killing."
Dada J. P. Vaswani, Spiritual Head of Sadhu Vaswani Mission, in an interview with Hinduism Today
Photo Courtesy of

Jainism is a religion that is centred around ahimsa, the principle of non-violence. The recognized founder of Jainism, Mahavira, was a pure vegetarian, a.k.a. vegan.

"Don't kill any living beings. Don't try to rule them."
Acaranga Sutra (one of Jainism's sacred texts)

"One who harms animals, directly or indirectly, has not understood deeds of sin...those whose minds are at peace and who are free from passions do not desire to live at the expense of others."
Acaranga Sutra

"In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self, and should therefore refrain from inflicting upon others such injury as would appear undesirable to us if inflicted upon ourselves."
A commonly-used Jain symbol incorporating Jain beliefs, including ahimsa. The swastika has nothing to do with Nazis, by the way. To learn what this symbol means, please go to

You don't have to be Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, or religious at all to appreciate the wisdom and philosophy of these religions. They are primarily based off the teachings of wise, spiritual individuals, after all-- can't we all benefit from that?
If you don't agree with everything that a religion preaches, that's okay. After all, religions can be interpreted in many different ways, and sometimes they disagree with each other on seemingly important facts. All the same, this is pretty interesting, and it may encourage people to think differently about animal rights!
See you next week!

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