Dalai Lama campaigns for wildlife

Care for the Wild International, 6 Apr 2005

Dharmsala, India -- Wildlife and nature conservation was the core concern today, when His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed his people at the formal launch of an awareness campaign.

The joint campaign launched by the Wildlife Trust of India and Care for the Wild International aims to build awareness on the significance of nature conservation and the status of protection of wild species among the Tibetan community living in India and the Buddhists of the Himalayan region.

Speaking at the function before a select audience that comprised of a majority of Tibetans, His Holiness said, "We Tibetans are basically Buddhists and particularly in the Mahayana tradition which we follow, we preach love and compassion towards all other living beings on earth. And therefore it is the responsibility of all of us to realize the importance of wildlife conservation. It is also in the Pali and Sanskrit tradition to show love and compassion for all living beings. It is a shame that we kill these poor animals to satisfy our own aggrandizement. Personally I never took any interest in worldly pleasures, particularly the ones that may harm our immediate environment. For instance, in Tibet some people use fox tails to decorate their head gear and this forms a part of their tradition. We must realize that because of our own follies a large number of our animals are getting killed or destroyed and we must stop this. Everything that our earth holds is a treasure and is like ornaments, without which life would be very boring and dull. When in Tibet we have also popularized the concept of vegetarianism and we did create an impression on the minds of the people. Lately I have also turned to a vegetarian diet. Today?s youth, particularly the ones who have come from Tibet and have a refugee status must inculcate these principles for their own development and to have peace of mind. The message from ?mahakaruna" has clearly asked us to follow and preach love and compassion for all living beings."

Until a few years ago, herds of wild blue sheep, yak, deer and flocks of migrating birds would travel with Tibetan nomads, or land in the midst of human settlements -- apparently sensing they were safe. For the most part they were safe from harm. The same cannot be vouched for today. The Jataka tales we grew up on describe scenes with a rich variety of wild animals -- antelope and elephant, gaur, buffalo, deer, yak, lion, and rhinoceros, then tiger, panther, bear, hyena, otter, hare and more. If such scenes seem "other worldly" now, it is because, through ignorance, greed, and lack of respect for the earth, the world's growing human population has already rendered many of the earth's natural resources incapable of sustaining Nature's rich diversity.

"Today more than ever before", said His Holiness The Dalai Lama, "life must be characterized by a sense of Universal Responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life."

The very core of Buddhism evolves around compassion, encouraging a better respect for and tolerance of every human being and living thing sharing the planet. Teachings emphasize the importance of coexisting with nature, rather than conquering it. Devout Buddhists admire a conserving lifestyle, rather than one which is licentious. ?This forms the essence of a campaign to spread the message on nature conservation, to build awareness in the Tibetan community and remind the ones who have veered away from the tenets of compassion and respect for all living beings," says Ashok Kumar, Senior Advisor and Trustee of the Wildlife Trust of India.

Dr Barbara Maas, the Chief Executive of Care for the Wild International introduced the campaign. ?Buddhism plays an important role in the everyday lives of most Tibetans. It has compassion for all sentient beings at its core", she said. ?Yet, the life of each and every animal killed for its body parts has ended in an act of violence. Cumulatively, this violence has consequences not only for the fate of individuals but, as we have seen, for entire species. Species become extinct one animal at a time. Wild animals ? as individuals or species - can not protect themselves against our violent interference. But whether or not we exploit their defencelessness is our choice. In terms of guiding this choice, Buddhism and its focus on compassion and the elimination of suffering has many useful things to say to each and every one of us about how to live side by side with other species. It offers us a different way of being," added Dr Maas.

?It is my sincere hope that this work will save and improve many lives, which lie in the hands of people who are known around the world for their commitment to non-violence and compassion," said Dr Maas.

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