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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2674

Daya Dissanayake preaches new 'Buddhism'

By Janaka Perera - Asian Tribune

Is elephant `rights’ champion Daya Dissanayake trying to preach a new Buddhism? At least that is the impression I got reading his comments unless I am mistaken.

Responding to `Crocodile tears for elephants,’ he says that when Buddha preached against the torture of living creatures, it also meant domestication of elephants and other wild animals. This is indeed to new to Buddhists. I challenge Dissanayake to prove in which Buddhist text say so? When and where did the Buddha equate domestication of wild beasts with torturing them? To me this appears more like baloney than Buddhism.

Is Dissanayake indirectly trying to say that the Buddha was a hypocrite, because he did not criticize his royal patrons who owned large numbers of domesticated elephants, horses, cattle and other animals? If the Buddha were against domestication of wild beasts he would have explained so to his followers very clearly.

The Enlightened One always elaborated on the points he made on various issues. Numerous examples of this can be found in Buddhist literature.

No civilization worth its name could have existed without the domestication of animals. The real issue here is whether or not these animals are well looked after. It appears that Dissanayake is more concerned with Emperor Dharmasoka domesticating elephants than his invaluable contributions to the cause of Buddhism. The emperor’s services in the area of animal welfare seem to have escaped Dissanayake’s attention.

He says that kings were tyrants. Throughout history some rulers were despots while others were benevolent in varying degrees. It is true today as it was then. There is nothing new this argument.

One of the best-known Sri Lankan monarchs who took special care of animals was Buddhadasa, the physician-king.

Dissanayake’s views sounds very much like the absurd logic of some people who argue that a predominantly Buddhist state should have no armed forces, because according to them it violates the basic tenets of the Dhamma. They forget that no state anywhere can survive without the enforcement of the law, which requires police, prisons and armed forces.

Dissanayake calls elephant-owners pimps. By the same logic any company owner who offers the services of his employees to another organization on payment is also a pimp. So for example the proprietor of a security service agency is a pimp, according to the Dissanayake doctrine.

He calls for releasing all domesticated elephants to the wilds. Anyone with an iota of knowledge domesticated animals such as dogs, horses, elephants and apes know that these animals seldom or never get used to the wilds and keep coming back to human habitats if or when they are released to the wilds. Not only are they unable to fend for themselves in the wilds but also the strong bonds that have grown between them would always make them yearn for the company of their human masters. There are numerous incidents that prove elephant-human friendship, since these beasts respond well to kind treatment.

Besides, Sri Lanka’s forest cover is fast diminishing and wild elephants raid villages in search of food and living space. In this conflict between man and beast it is the latter which is the eventual loser. Some of these creatures are run over by trains.

As a result of all this the number of wild elephants are fast dwindling, despite the protection afforded to them by law in wildlife sanctuaries. If the inane objective of releasing all domesticated elephants into the jungle is ever realized not a single one of them would be left in Sri Lanka in less than 20 years time.

Dissanayake says that the Kandy Esala festival is a mere tourist attraction. It may be so it him. But to millions of Buddhists it is a historic festival that symbolizes Sri Lanka's cultural heritage. Was it just tourism that resulted in the birth of the historic pageant? If he thinks that the Kandy Esala festival and other such Buddhist and Hindu festivals will cease to exist if tourists stop coming to Sri Lanka he is sadly mistaken.

If Dissanayake is really concerned about animal rights, he should start by promoting vegetarianism and campaigning against the meat industry and the brutal killing of stray dogs.

- Asian Tribune -

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