"The Buddhist Perspective on Animals and Life Conservation: Their Changing Roles in Society"

Wu Hung Bhiksu, Secretary General, Life Conservationist Association
Prague, Czechlosovakia - Sept.11, 1998

I. Preamble
IAHAIO, IEMT, Dr. Dennis Turner, Professor Paul Sills, and everyone else in attendance, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to speak today. The preparation gave me a chance to practice my English, and also an opportunity to reflect. I am very happy to be here and to discuss with all of you the attitude of Buddhism towards animals and the ways and the roles of change in society.

II. The World

I will begin by discussing the Buddhist view of the world

Animals, people, and other living matter are formed with three continuously interacting fields -The spiritual field, the living field, and the material field.
-These three fields are not separate, they are continuously interacting.
-Triangle analogy
-There is no absolute spiritual field, living field, and material field.
-For example: an idea has a lot of effects on the body. It goes through organs, through
the mouth, a sound is made, air is used, it is heard by someone, that person has a
physiological reaction, it enters their consciousness, and they understand. This is
a clear example of the interaction of the spiritual and living fields. If the idea is written
down, then the material field is also incorporated.
The interaction of the three fields is the central idea of Buddhism.

Ontology: This is western philosophy terminology
-What is the world?
-What is the world's value?
-The spiritual field is composed of the aggregate of sensations, perceptions, mental
formations, and consciousness. There is also the aggregate of matter which is made of
two parts: the physical organs and matter.
-In the living world there are faculties and senses. Each faculty has three parts. For
example: the eyes are the physiological parts, visible forms are the things we see, and
visual consciousness is what is created in our minds upon seeing the visible form. The
other faculties are the ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind.
-In the material world there is the aggregate of matter. The nature of the earth is solidity.
The nature of water is fluidity. The nature of fire is heat and temperature. The nature
of wind is motion.
-Motion is important- everything is always moving, including people and
-Emptiness is the essential concept. Emptiness is essential for change. Emptiness doesn't
mean nothing, rather that the nature of everything is emptiness.
As large as the universe, as small as the "quantum"
-According to ontology all life is equal. All kinds of "life" are made up of the same groups of amino acids, even matter which basically is made up of the same protons, quantums, and so on. And perhaps it is a possibility at last, according to the Copenhagen Explanation of Quantum Theory. Therefore everyone and everything is equal.

-Epistemology is information.
-How do we know? How do we create the knowledge? How come people are cruel? How come people abandon animals? How come people love animals?
-In the spiritual field, epistemology is the phenomena of aggregation and the
aggregation of feeling, thinking, and willing.
-In the living field there are three ideas to epistemology.
-The first idea is the roots. In every body there are 6 roots with 5 physiological
organs plus the "mind". .
-The second idea are the entrances. The roots are the entrances where information
goes in and out and has been forming forever. You may call this content our
-The third idea is the growing. For example, you hear some pleasant music
through your ears. You want to listen more and more to this music - the
desire (spiritual field) is growing.(living field)
-In the material world there are many obstacles.
-When a chair is put somewhere, nothing else can be put in its place
-Emptiness is a term of existence.
-For example - a room has emptiness so we can use it.
-We are conscious and mindful when we say chair.
-Everything is an obstacle.
-The idea that dogs are dangerous is also an obstacle. But it can be changed.
-Because growing, entrances, and roots are all in part made up of matter from
the material world, they are already obstacles.
-For example, take your physiology at a particular moment in reality.
For that second you are happy and feel good, so for that very moment,
you cannot feel bad since you are already feeling good.
The converse is also true. At any moment you are mad, that madness is an
obstacle to you being happy.
-This is how we create problems with animals and with the human-animal bond.
This is how we may be able to change the roles of animals in society, whether its
in a "good" or a "no good" direction.

-How does the world change? How do we incorporate the changes and the movement of the world's changes?
-Every moment has a different thought.
-Every moment an interaction changes.
-The spiritual field is ever changing and ever interacting.
-The living field is a system with chaos.
-Everything is constantly changing and everything is complex.
-The material field is comprised of existence and disappearance.
There must always be emptiness before existence.
People must become one with and accept this ever changing existence and
Any plan, any thought, any meeting, etc. is constantly changing.
This is reality.
One must live with this and loose one's attachment to people, things, and ideas.
-With quantity and quality, if quantity is increased, then quality changes. Everything
is interacting and changing at any given moment.
-You would say change my mind, but you would not say change my consciousness.
-You would say I have many different thoughts (ideas, conceptions), but you would not say I have different minds.
-Once one understands the idea of ontology, one understands that everything is equal.
-But epistemology makes things, animals, and people unequal.
-When seeking to make changes, it is not enough merely to focus on methodology and change the methodology, one must focus on epistemology and on changing this information. Only then can lasting changes be made.
-Like information, language is ever changing and growing. This is why it is always changing and is never the same.

III. Interactions

-The spiritual field is simple - it is ontology and ideas.
For example, there is existence only because there is non existence.
-The material field is also simple. If you hit glass hard, it will
break. We value things from the material world.
-However, when combined with the living field, things become more complicated.
For example, you want to hit the glass. However, first physiology must
be taken into account. Perhaps today you have no energy because you did
not eat lunch. The environment is also different - it is a windy day. So even
though the idea and desire to hit the glass and break it is there, it may not be
broken. So even with the cause, other systems caused unexpected differences
and the effect is different from the linear cause and effect.
-Chaos - unexpected systems
-Accidental - unexpected necessity

-Re-incarnation is information
We protect animals because it changes the world's epistemology
If we are cruel, there is war.
Although there is no soul, there is re-incarnation
Everything already exists in the material world, so there is no before birth
and no after death.

IV. Sentient Animates

-Every life with the four elements (ordinary material foods, contact of sense organs, consciousness, and will) is continuously interacting and changing.

V. Life

-All sentient animates will suffer. There are 8 sufferings in life.
-The spiritual aggregates also include the living and material fields.
1. The Blaze of Aggregations creates the problems, it is the main suffering.
-For example: you see a little puppy (living field), you like him (spiritual field),
you pay money and buy him (material world). However, you bring him home
and there are problems, he's barking, he's not housetrained, etc. So he is destroyed
or abandoned.
2. Seeking and getting are always difficult and this counts as the second suffering.
3. Being apart from loving - there may be something we already have and love. (for example -peanuts). If one eats too much, you will be sick and hate it. One must stop.
4. Being together with detesting: There may be something or someone you may not like, but it still may be necessary to come together.
5. Birth
6. Aging
7. Sickness
8. Death
-And this is life. Happiness is inconstant and suffering is always mixed in.

V. Buddhism and Animals

-People acknowledge that in life we are inclined to see the happiness. We desperately want to keep up our happiness but it doesn't work like that. It goes and then comes with suffering.
-Once one acknowledges the information of "suffering" we react in the following ways.
If one is angry, one has already caused harm. Physical cruelty is not necessary for harm,
harm can be caused only by our emotions.

Harm also includes cruelties.
An example of this would be dogs in a cage at a dog pound. They are kept isolated
in the cages, no one talks to them, and they are not taken out for walks.
-As the blaze of the five aggregations increases, there is not only imprisonment, but also inhumane slaughter, abandonment, massacre, and extinction.
-Suffering and actions that cause suffering are affected by and affect all three fields.

-The Buddhist philosophy towards animals is:
No eating - farm animals
No seeing - performing animals
No using - working animals

-People do not eat farm animals, therefore they grow kindness which leads to a better life and to better health.
-People should get no companionship from companion animals so that they can be free from all attachments.
-There should be no hunting of animals and many Buddhists buy and release wildlife as a way to release the suffering. Even if fresh water turtles are released into salt water and die, it is still better than dying in a cooking pot. In fact, they are giving the animals euthanasia.
-Laboratory animals - At the Taipei Animal Health Institute, there is a memorial stone for the sacrificed animals. This is an act of ceremony and remembrance, it's a self-concerned act.
-Animals are treated from a technical/methodological point of view.
-Groups (through the passage of animal protection laws and humane education) are trying to change the epistemology, they are trying to change the information. This re-incarnation of information is part of the changing roles of animals in Buddhist society.
-In Buddhism, animal protection isn't utilitarian, it is not against human centerism
Rather, it is an act of trying to be selfless or others-concerned. Animal protection
shouldn't be done for one's own sake or gratification.
-A Buddhist's behavior towards animals should help improve the quality of life of the whole world, not just for his or her own spiritual, material, and living fields.

VI. Conclusions
I would like to give you all my sincere thanks for being here today and listening to my speech. Twenty minutes was indeed a short time to try and explain this complex issue, and perhaps I have just confused everyone! But maybe from this confusions will come the desire and the incentive to find out more about Buddhism and the position of animals in Buddhism.

For further information please contact Wu Hung:
Life Conservationist Association
3F, No. 90 Nan King East Road, Section 5
Taipei, Taiwan
tel: 886-2-2753-4922
fax: 886-2-2763-4892
email: lcatwn@ms15.hinet.net