24
Oct
07

The Dalai Lama on Animals and Compassion

His Holiness The 14th Dalai Lama
Tenzin Gyatso 59, Dharamsala, India
photo: ©Phil Borges from his book Tibetan Portrait – All Rights Reserved

I have been working with some fantastic people at the Washington Humane Society. Bridget, the director of CatNipp, a popular Trap-Neuter-Release program, has helped me in my quest to capture and spay Shadow’s Momma, who still lives in my backyard woodpile raising another bunch of adorable kittens (please adopt one!)

Bridget and some of her colleagues were honored to be included in an intimate audience with His Holiness the Lalai Lama during his recent visit to Washington to accept the Congressional Gold Medal. The video of HH’s remarks is, well, amazing. Please take a look at it, I guarantee you’ll be moved and inspired. With disarming giggles and self-effacing humor he conveys a tightly packed bundle of wisdom about the importance and holiness of all sentient life.

The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, with fans and followers around the world, always describes himself as “a simple monk.” But in his remarks to the Humane Society and a coalition for the homeless, he said “I myself am also homeless.” For most of his life he has been in exile from Tibet, having escaped from a harsh Communist Chinese occupation in a daring trek over the Himalayans in 1959. Since then he has traveled the world tirelessly making the case for compassion, religious tolerance, and autonomy for Tibet.

His remarks the other day were especially poignant for animal lovers – and fairly mind-blowing for on-again-off-again vegetarians like me. With few words and a simple gesture he conjured a vivid image of the misery of farm animals that we “regard as vegetables.” To the Dalai Lama, a plate of shrimp is not a feast, but a tragedy: “Too many lives, too many lives.” Whew. And I had just suggested to Brett that we check out the “ShrimpFest” at Red Lobster… I’m seeing things with new eyes.

His Holiness noted that even his adopted home, India, has been turning away from its traditional vegetarianism “in the name of progress.” He decried the industrial-scale production of animals for consumption:

“We human beings forgot their right … all lives, all descended beings basically have same sense of being. They also have feelings, experiences. Therefore they also have same right to live peacefully, happily.”

These words, coming at a time when I find myself becoming more involved with stray animal advocacy groups, are not only inspiring, but energizing. “All actions out of compassionate motivation become constructive and meaningful.”

Over the course of his amazing life the Dalai Lama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, has become one of the world’s most effective communicators. This is perhaps why the Chinese have their knickers in a twist over the honors the U.S. and other nations have bestowed upon him. Check out this piece he wrote for the Washington Post while he was in town: with laser-like precision and an elegant economy of words he hones right in on the most important issues facing humanity: aggression, compassion, tolerance.

Find out more about the Dalai Lama at his official website, and at the Campaign for Tibet.


2 Responses to “The Dalai Lama on Animals and Compassion”


  1. 1 Ruben Fowler Oct 24th, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    And it occurred to me today that all of this meat eating contributes pretty significantly to global warming. We’ve all heard how cattle add to carbon dioxide and methane, which is no doubt the main thing, but also, the sort of plants that would be grown for human consumption are much more complex and would absorb much more carbon dioxide than the grass cattle eat. And of course, meat marketers like McDonalds are encroaching on rain forests and replacing them with land for cattle.

  2. 2 Marcus Oct 24th, 2007 at 9:43 pm

    Great points all, Ruben. Points that will be debated in terms of science, practicality, and logic. If the arguments remain there, without attempts to discuss the moral implication of mass animal killings, then, as The Dalai Lama pointed out, our eagerness to use animals for power and profit will (has) inevitably become a similar exploitation of human beings.

    The real issue is not what to do about global warming. Or eating meat. The real issue is what to do about the moral and psychological development of Human Beings.

    ON FURTHER REFLECTION: Having said that, I must admit, moral arguments are dime-a-dozen and tend to cancel each other out. The practical downsides of the global meat factory can be observed and proven through the scientific method (when applied by objective scientists who are not on McDonalds’ payroll).

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