Animal Suffering and a Kadampa Buddhist’s Musings

I noticed a few festivals ago that Geshe Kelsang Gyatso talked briefly about animal suffering in comparison to human suffering. He stated at that time that (dispelling) animal suffering was more important than human suffering. Prior to this I have thought about this subject and have thought that, other than my feeling instinctively a stronger wish to protect animals (than humans), dispelling their suffering is more important from the point of view of numbers. What I mean is that when working to dispell the suffering of animals or even praying for animlas to be free of suffering, one is at that time acting (or wishing) to dispel the suffering of unimaginably huge numbers of living beings. Whereas even when genuinly feeling cherishing towards all humans you are cherishing only a tiny number of beings (in comparison). Anyway, putting my own musings aside (for the time being), this was not the reason Geshe Kelsang gave at the teaching I referred to above. He said that alleviating the suffering of animals is more important (than that of humans) because when humans suffer they have some opportunity to do something with that suffering, for example to learn from it or transform it by increasing their endurance, or their compassion. In contrast, when animals suffer they do not have this opportunity and all they can do at that time is just suffer. This is a very clear reason and seems to me to be all about the over-ridding importance of protecting the protectorless.

       While I am on this subject, let me refer to a post on another blog – A Meat Eating  Buddhist – which I find hard to come up with reasons against thier argument. It reminded me of another thing Geshe Kelsang said on the subject more recently which was that humans abuse animals, and we talk about human rights but we abuse the rights of animals. He said that if they (the animals) had a lawyer then they could sue humans, yet almost no-one protects their rights except for a few small groups. I looked at some figures on animals killed for human consumption. The figures were nearly 60 Billion. Bear in mind that there is less then 7 Billion humans at present. So that means that in just over a month humans kill (just for food) a number of animals equal to the human population. So let me set up a scenario. If you convinced evryone in the world to just avoid killing animals for food for one month – This would be equal to an action of saving every single human being alive from being slaughtered. I find this a bit staggerring. I’ve got another scenario, Lets imagine if one country were to make war on all other countries and as a result enslave, imprison and then brutally kill every other human in the world one by one. This would be some feat, and take some time and I think everyone would agree that such a thing would be unimaginably horrific, and create untold amounts of negative karma. The collective negative actions of the country in my example however does not even equal the collection of negative actions that the animal trade (for human food) accrues in one year. It does not even get close. Why? – just look at the numbers.

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Bad Experiences

I can see from just a brief check on the internet that there are many people who for whatever reason have had bad experiences within the NKT. I would like to give my personal opinion regarding this. Sometimes I feel that this may be their own fault. Other times it is clear that they have encountered Resident Teachers who have behaved very strangely and often acted in close-minded and sectarian ways. Unfortunately there are (and have been) various Resident Teachers who do not follow Geshe-la’s approach – which is that of the logician who invites practical exploration and testing of the teachings. 

 

I pray and hope that all can find such Resident Teachers such as I have come across (see previous post on Faith, Reason and Doubt). If people do have such troubles with their Resident Teachers and if they are acting strangely or in ways that seem inconsistent with Geshe-la’s open and natural approach , I can only suggest:

1. Firstly try not to worry

2. If you feel able, then go and tell them how you feel and ask them to please stop acting strangely (this may well have no effect, but it is only fair)

3. If many people seem to be badly effected by their behaviour or teachings then write to the NKT secretary about it, explaining without being critical (anonymously if you wish)

4. But don’t rely on any change occurring. Instead rely on Geshe-la, his books and festival teachings and if possible go and find another Resident Teacher who is more sensible, either in person or by doing a correspondence study programme. 

Finally avoid dwelling on such problems – move on swiftly and focus instead on the beauty, wisdom and good sense found in the Dharma and its practice.

Faith, Reason and Doubt. 1

When I was listening to teachings in the second NKT centre I attended, I was lucky enough to listen to some teachings from quite a skilful resident teacher. During one particular General Programme class there was a quote made that stuck with me 

“ After a discourse the faithful student may have many doubts” 

 

I absolutely loved hearing that and they continued,

 

“A faithful student has many doubts and questions, such a student is not afraid to doubt or question, Why? because they have faith”

 

I really appreciated this and still find it fits with my experiences throughout my life. It became clear to me that following “should’s”, or “should nots” had little place. That as a student in the Kadampa tradition following Geshe Kelsang Gyatso one was meant to explore and delve relying upon one’s own guide of logic and reason as much as the Spiritual Guide.  This gave me a deep contented feeling of faith, one that still resides.

These days I still find that throughout Geshe-la’s own discourses I hear these sentiments echoed repeatedly.

My Experience

When I first came into Kadampa Buddhism I became very intersested since it addressed the main questions I had. These were….

What is Meditation?

How do I get going with Meditation?

What can I accomplish with it?

What was the nature of reality? 

Up to that point in my life I had studied various religions, philosophies and schools of psychology – without being satisfied.

Since first coming to the teachings of Geshe Kelsang Gyatso I have adored his very logical approach. I have heard Geshe-la teach on a broad range of instructions in the Lamrim (stages of the path) and instructions of Generation stage and Completion stage of Highest Yoga Tantra, however within this what struck home was during one summer festival when he emphasized that there was nothing more important than overcoming distraction. Geshe-la explained how with distraction one could remain within a religion for many years even as a monk or a teacher doing many good things but never changing much. This explained a lot to me. He further said it was good to emphasize one aspect of Dharma – rather than constantly changing our practice and focus from one thing to another. Since that time I have driven myself to mainly emphasize and concentrate on one simple but effective meditation within the teachings whilst using the other aspects of the Dharma to support this. This has given me much confidence and happiness and now years later I recognize it as the source of any peace of mind that I have.