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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2994

Crocodile tears for Buddhism

By Daya Dissanayake

A writer calling himself "Janaka Perera" has written to the “Asian Tribune” in response to my articles about elephants, in the “Asian Tribune “and the “Daily News.” About the Buddha Jayanti year I wish to comment at a later date.

Elephants used in religious festivals are not a sudden concern. People have been criticizing this cruel deed for a long time and I myself tried to convey this message in some of my earlier writings. Mr "Janaka Perera", if he considers himself a true Buddhist, should not get so worked up as to assume so many other issues. Just because I was talking about elephants in this article, how could he claim that I have no concern about the slaughter of animals or caging of birds and animals, or about the meat industry? Should we not try to take all these issues one at a time?

The fact that he considers the torture of cart bulls, slaughter of
cattle, goats, poultry, pigs, and the caging of animals, means that he has an understanding about how these animals suffer. It is a good sign and I believe that if he looks at the elephant issue also as a true Buddhist he will agree with me that using elephants for Buddhist ceremonies is equally cruel, and that it is a total contradiction of what Buddhism stands for.

From time immemorial human beings have been exploiting all other living creatures and natural resources as if he owns everything, as if God has created all other things on earth for his personal use. The use of elephants for work, in war and in religious festivals does not make them good deeds. Kings exploited not only elephants, but all his human subjects too, because he considered that all other human beings too belonged to him and he could do anything with them.

It is a pity that Mr."Janaka Perera" has not understood Buddha' message about harming other living creatures. Buddha preached against torturing or hurting all life forms, and taking animals on processions is a torture to the elephants. Therefore Buddha did not have a reason preach against domestication of elephants or other wild beasts. Not only up to 1940, even today there are farmers who treat their buffaloes and cows as family members, in the deep South they even give names to their cattle, but we also have to accept that the cattle who are bought by butchers have been sold to them by our "Buddhist" farmers too. It is not surprising in a society where men sell their wives and children for domestic labor or for slavery in the Middle East.

Just because elephants have been used in temple festivals and they have been fed and looked after, does no justify the action. In the past, in India, even women were used in the temples as Deva Dasi, does it mean that we should allow the custom to continue? He argues that the elephants in captivity are better fed and that there is not enough food for them in the jungles. Why the elephants do not have enough food and have to come into villages and farms are because man has destroyed his habitat, destroyed the animals’ food sources. He also talks about the risk from poachers. Are all these poachers non-Buddhist? Does he want to domesticate all elephants to save them from poachers?

If the writer is not trying to justify this torture, then why is he
trying to give a totally different interpretation to what I had written?

How does a "Buddhist activist" Attorney-at-Law Mr Senaka Weeraratne know that there are anti-Buddhist elements behind my article? Has he attained Buddha hood that he can see into my mind?

May I kindly suggest that Mr Weeraratne should study the origin of the Kandy Festival and then tell us if it is a "True Buddhist Festival".

Today the Kandy festival has become a major tourist attraction and that is all. True Buddhism is not parading elephants and paid dancers during festivals. The dancers at least could refuse to attend, if they have got other means of livelihood, but do we give any option to the elephant. Do we ask him if he really likes to go in the procession? Do we ask him if he likes to walk a long distance from one temple to another for the festival? Do we ask him if he likes to be chained to a tree like a prisoner who had committed a terrible crime? Do we ask him if he likes to be draped in cloth, illuminated with electric bulbs and made to walk before thousands of people?

As true Buddhists, the best way we could draw international attention to Buddhism is by practicing what Buddha preached, and not by breaking the first precept.

With regard to his comments about the slaughter of animals for meat, all I have to say is that the animals are slaughtered because there is a demand for meat. If all the Buddhists in Lanka, which is 76% of the total population, stopped consuming all kinds of meat, then that would automatically reduce the slaughter of animals by 76%.

Food for thought, Mr "Janaka Perera" and Mr. "Senaka Weeraratne"!

- Asian Tribune -

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