Protecting Animal Welfare

By Geshe Thubten Soepa

This teaching by Geshe Thubten Soepa is transcribed by Carol Beairsto.  Click here to find out more about FPMT's Animal Liberation Sanctuary.  Visit Enlightenment for the Dear Animals for more resources and information about helping animals.

First, I would like to tell you a little about myself. My name is Geshe Thubten Soepa. I completed my Geshe Lharampa exam, and then taught philosophy in Asian monasteries. Afterwards, I went to Germany and around Europe for nine years at FPMT centers. I am still a travelling FPMT Dharma teacher.

I would like to say that Lama Zopa Rinpoche has taken responsibility to protect animals with his animal sanctuary project. His work is a fantastic example of a Tibetan Buddhist lineage lama. I rejoice and may these merits result in him having a long life and good health.

You, as the director of Lama Zopa´s animal sanctuary and all those who are involved, working for the wishes of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, as you know, you too are collecting good karma. I rejoice!

I say this with scriptural proof. 

Shakyamuni Buddha says in the Karmavibanga Sutra,

In this regard, there are actions extending life. What are they? To give up killing, to praise giving up killing, to encourage others to give up killing, to save the lives of those sure to be killed or supposed to be killed such as humans, cattle, goats, sheep, fish, pigs, birds, game, and so on.... To protect from fear beings oppressed by it, to generate compassion towards those who do not have a protector, to generate loving kindness towards the sick, towards children, and towards the elderly, to give them food, medicine, and so on, to generate compassion towards beggars, as well as preventing war, and the like.

Similarly, the Dalai Lama has said:

Being kind to animals, saving them, and protecting them is not a matter of religion... It is something everyone should do.

Except for a few cultures and religions, and some people who naturally don’t eat meat, most of the world has the bad habit of eating meat without analyzing.

If we analyze the details, humans don´t need to eat meat. Their natural body system is not like tigers, snakes or lions. Humans don´t have fangs.

According to Buddhist cosmology, in the Abhidharmakosha it says that at the beginning of this earth, countless years ago, our lineage grandfather, Vramah and the gods and goddesses were miraculously reborn. They had light and were able to fly. They didn´t eat dirty food, meat, egg or blood. They used concentration food and nectars. (Further information can be found in the Abhidharmakosha and its commentary.)

Many years later, some gods and goddesses ate earth and dirty foods. Their light disappeared and they could not fly. They could not see their companion gods and goddesses. Then they started to have sexual relations. Generations later they ate meat and blood. They started to become violent and kill each other. That was the beginning of being human. Human translates into Tibetan terminology as “mi” or “minang”. “Mi” means "I cannot see my companion gods and goddesses."

Therefore, countless years ago, our lineage grandfather and grandmother gods, did not eat meat. Generations later eating meat became a bad habit. This explanation comes from Abhidharmakosha cosmology.

Abhidharmakosha comes from the seven arhat`s Abhidharma great Buddhist texts. It doesn´t come from Buddha Shakyamuni sutras. Buddhist philosophies agree that our lineage originated from grandfather Brahma and many gods and goddesses. Buddhist philosophy never believed in a creator god. Also, Jain, Sankhya and Carvaka philosophies don´t believe in a creator god.

But some religions believe that grandfather Brahma is creator god, such as different Hindu religions and philosophies.

Buddhist religion-philosophy believes in natural law by reason of interdependency. According to Jainism there is no creator god, but by reason believe in karma or causes and effects. Sankhya believes in "main" or principle energy. For the Carvaka,  "seeing is believing". So if they don´t see something, they don´t believe in it. (Detailed information can be found in the tenets of the various religions.)

Nowadays, we have bad habits everywhere. Millions and millions of people buy and eat meat. This creates the killing, suffering and torture of millions of animals everyday! Indirectly this creates animal hell.

Therefore all virtuous buyers, sellers and consumers create the same negative karma or sin. This explanation comes from Shakyamuni Buddha’s Lankavatara Sutra and Kalachakra tantra.

In Chapter Six of the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha says:

Hey, Mahamati, if no one eats meat in any way whatsoever, then no living beings will be killed for its sake. Mahamati, innocent living bengs are killed for the sake of their value; killing for other reasons is rather rare.

Furthermore, in the tenth chapter of the Dhammapada it says:

All tremble at violence; all fear death.
Putting oneself in the place of another,
One should not kill, nor cause to kill.
All tremble at violence; life is dear to all.
Putting oneself in the place of another,
One should not kill, nor cause to kill.

Likewise, it says in one tantra in the Kangyur:

Those who give up harming beings
Are bhiksus, sramanas, and brahmanas.
No weapons exist that don´t cause fear;
Everyone shuns them to stay alive.
Take your body as example
Don’t cause any harm to others!

It says that whoever gives up harming others, having understood this in accordance with the situation set forth, is a virtuous practitioner.

Furthermore, in our ordinary thinking, we believe that when we eat meat, it will make us strong and healthy. But in reality, it indirectly causes the decline of our physical health, mental health, brings many sicknesses such as heart and liver disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, breast cancer, diseases of the womb and digestive system. You become forgetful, less intelligent, overly aggressive and violent.

And it destroys our realizations, compassion, perfect wisdom or correct understanding and peaceful mind.

Also, you wrote about millions of turkeys, chickens and animals being killed every day for food and profit. This problem comes from nowadays our situation money has big power. Money looks like creator god. Of course, people are over-focused on making money. Even money controls leaders of countries.

They think that if they have a lot of money and can do anything. When people believe in this idea, then they care less about an ethical life and good morality. They over-focus on money which results in killing, stealing, cheating, lying, destroying the natural environment, the killing of animals and the selling of meat.

This reality is a foolish idea because it results in our poor health and brings many sicknesses. It destroys our welfare. This is my opinion. Please immediately don´t believe this. We will continually need to analyze, and come to a real understanding ourselves.

The Buddha as well as the Lankavatara Sutra says:

Hey, Mahamati, moreover, in this regard those who kill, kill and trade because they want profit. Whatever fools eat meat, buy the meat for money. Those who perform the killing want profit, so they kill animals that fly in the sky, live in the water, or walk on the earth, in many different ways--with iron hooks, slings, and nets--thus seeking profit. Mahamati, as there is no so--called meat that has not been ordered, that is without seeking and without perception, you should not eat meat.

And so, we need to develop great compassion with correct wisdom. This is everyone´s important responsibility. I will continue to read Buddhist sutras and analyze logically.

Perhaps one day I will write another book about it.