We are no longer prepared to stand up for the Buddhist First Precept.
The true test of a Buddhist is an unqualified adherence to the First Precept.
The Buddha condemned animal sacrifice.
The Buddhist first precept ' Do not kill' extends to all sentient beings, not just humans.
In the Buddha’s discourse in the Cakkavatti – Sihanada Sutta (Digha Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka) the Buddha spells out the duties of an ideal ruler and declares:
“ The Cakkavatti King (Righteous King) will give protection, shelter and ward both to the different classes of human beings, and also to birds and beasts”
In the pre-colonial era the people, influenced by the principle of 'Ahimsa' generally kept away from occupations that required the killing of animals to earn a living- e.g. hunting, fishing and the slaughter of animals for food. Those who resorted to these activities were usually relegated to the margins of the society.
Being sentient beings, like humans, animals were recognised by the traditional Sri Lankan society as having moral claims to reasonable consideration of their basic interests.
Instead of giving up in resignation at this mass slaughter of innocent harmless animals in NepaL, Buddhists and all other right thinking people must redouble our efforts of spreading compassion to both humans and non – humans. In other words, we must work towards establishing a compassionate society in whichever country we live.
Buddhism teaches that all sentient beings are entitled to full moral consideration, regardless of species, right down to insects, worms, and slugs, and that we should hold all sentient beings as dear like a mother protects her only child.
Buddhaghosa says that virtue begins with no killing i.e. “the states beginning with volition present in one who abstains from killing living things…”
Be not simply good? Be good for something
Alexander Solzhenitsyn recalls, as he says, 'with shame',
an incident he witnessed when he was captain in the Russian army.
"One day I saw a sergeant of the secret police, on horseback, using a whip on a Russian soldier
who had been captured serving in a German unit.
The man, naked from the waist up, was staggering under the blows,
his body covered in blood. Suddenly he looked at me and cried out: "Mister Captain, save me!"
"Any officer in any army in the world should have put a stop to this torture,
but I was a coward. I said nothing, I did nothing. This picture has remained
in my mind ever since."
He could have brought light into a dark situation but he didn't.
"Be not simply good", says Thoreau, "be good for something."
In the larger picture how many times have we looked the other side
when we have seen innocent dumb animals i.e. cattle,buffaloes,goats, pigs and even chicken
being led to slaughter in over crowded vehicles resigned to their fate but nevertheless
looking at us pleadingly using only body language and figuratively suggesting to us
in one final appeal to our humanity to save their precious lives.
As Alexander Solzhenitsyn points out in another context, we do shamelessly nothing.
Our loss of capacity to express moral outrage at injustices inflicted on others whether they be
humans or animals is a sad comment on the type of society we are now fashioning.
It is time to reassert our humanity for the benefit of all living beings.
Ideally speaking, a just world for all beings is the best conceivable world.