The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights

Overview

Buddhism ought to be an animal rights religion par excellence. It has long held that all life forms are sacred and considers kindness and compassion the highest virtues. Moreover, Buddhism explicitly includes animals in its moral universe. Buddhist rules of conduct—including the first precept, “Do not kill”—apply to our treatment of animals as well as to our treatment of other human beings.

Consequently, we would expect Buddhism to oppose all forms of animal exploitation, and there is, in fact, wide agreement ...

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Overview

Buddhism ought to be an animal rights religion par excellence. It has long held that all life forms are sacred and considers kindness and compassion the highest virtues. Moreover, Buddhism explicitly includes animals in its moral universe. Buddhist rules of conduct—including the first precept, “Do not kill”—apply to our treatment of animals as well as to our treatment of other human beings.

Consequently, we would expect Buddhism to oppose all forms of animal exploitation, and there is, in fact, wide agreement that most forms of animal exploitation are contrary to Buddhist teaching. Yet many Buddhists eat meat—although many do not—and monks, priests, and scholars sometimes defend meat-eating as consistent with Buddhist teaching.

The Great Compassion studies the various strains of Buddhism and the sutras that command respect for all life. Norm Phelps, a longtime student of Buddhism and an acquaintance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, answers the central questions of whether Buddhism demands vegetarianism and whether the Buddha ate meat. He is not afraid to examine anti-animal statements in Buddhist lore—particularly the issues of whether Buddhists in non-historically Buddhist countries need to keep or to jettison the practices of their historical homelands.

 

About the Author:

Norm Phelps is spiritual outreach director of The Fund for Animals, where he works to encourage faith communities of all traditions to include animals within the scope of their compassionate ministries. He lives in Funkstown, Maryland.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590560693
  • Publisher: Steiner Books
  • Publication date: 5/28/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments xi
Introduction xiii
1. The Rosary of Death 1
2. Life on the Farm 7
3. Mother Beings 25
4. Reason and Rights 35
5. The Great Compassion 42
6. Thus Have I Heard 55
7. The Last Supper 73
8. A Branch of Sorrow 85
9. Precious Human Birth 95
10. The Cabbage and the Cow 109
11. More Mind Games 120
12. The Western Seduction 135
13. The Diamond Vehicle and the Dalai Lama 147
14. The Rosary of Life 160
Notes 171
Glossary of Animal-Related Terms 183
Glossary of Buddhist Terms 187
Suggestions for Further Reading 193
Websites/Resources 199
Bibliography 203
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