Kathmandu, Nepal -- Despite appeals to halt the centuries-old custom of animal sacrifice, Gadhimai festival on Tuesday started in southern Nepal with millions of devotees flocking from various parts of the country and India. Thousands of buffaloes are waiting to be sacrificed at the Gadhimai Mela, the largest "animal slaughter" in the world.
It is estimated that some 35,000 to 40,000 buffaloes, which are brought mostly from India, for the world's largest ritual sacrifice at the temple. French actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot has sent a letter to President Dr Ram Baran Yadav, asking him to stop animal sacrifice at the festival. "I personally find it hard to imagine that your heart can withstand such cruelty, knowing that you, being the head of the country, are ultimately responsible," she wrote. Tibetan Buddhist master Lama Zopa Rinpoche had requested all Buddhist centres and students to read the Golden Sutra and pray for halting the killing.
James: Nepal!! You're breaking my heart!! This story makes my stomach churn with sickness to think of 35,000 to 40,000 innocent animals being slaughtered in the name of spirituality??? I try to be very open minded about religious customs but this is one that I can't be silent over. To be sure this is mass genocide. I see these animals as no different than human beings so this ritual killing horrifies me to the point of nausea. It surprises me that Hindus would engage in such carnage especially given how sacred cows are to them--both cows and water buffaloes are of the bovine family. This "festival" seems in total contradiction to that as well as the teaching of Ahimsa (do no harm, practice non-violence). It is said that to kill a cow in Hinduism is like killing a Brahman so how do they reconcile this festival with that teaching?
It's not my place to tell Hindus what to do in their religion but I beg of them to contemplate how this festival could be in keeping with ahimsa and the sacred veneration of cows. I'm trying not to let anger slip into my heart over this so I will follow the advice of Lama Zopa to read and contemplate the Golden Sutra today (also known as the Golden Light Sutra). It is a sutra that is often coupled with a vow to domestic animals killed that they might be reborn in the human realm. It is usually done by those who have killed animals and wish to atone. I will also be reading and contemplating the Lankavatara Sutra and especially Chapter 8, which speaks of animals and eating meat. I dedicate any merit or good will cultivated from this to all the animals slaughtered during the festival and to the participants that they might realize the suffering they are causing and end it. This is interesting timing with the coming of Thanksgiving here in America. Another holiday where people slaughter animals and come together as friends and family. I don't understand why animals have to be killed in order to celebrate family togetherness. Below I have put together some of the main points of Chapter 8:
Thereby I and other Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas of the present and future may teach the Dharma to make those beings abandon their greed for meat, who, under the influence of the habit-energy belonging to the carnivorous existence, strongly crave meat-food. These meat-eaters thus abandoning their desire for [its] taste will seek the Dharma for their food and enjoyment, and, regarding all beings with love as if they were an only child, will cherish great compassion towards them. Cherishing [great compassion], they will discipline themselves at the stages of Bodhisattvahood and will quickly be awakened in supreme enlightenment; or staying a while at the stage of Śrāvakahood and Pratyekabuddhahood, they will finally reach the highest stage of Tathagatahood. Indeed, let the Blessed One who at heart is filled with pity for the entire world, who regards all beings as his only child, and who possesses great compassion in compliance with his sympathetic feelings, teach us as to the merit and vice of meat-eating, so that I and other Bodhisattva-Mahāsattvas may teach the Dharma.James: In other words, you wouldn't eat your dog or cat so why eat any other animals? I have read the sutras that speak of Buddha saying eating meat is o.k. for monks because they can't be picking and choose what food to accept and not accept. I also know that in some countries the climate does not permit much vegetable growing and some people need meat for the diet though that is being questioned by modern science. So I do not believe Buddhism requires vegetarianism but I do think it is a helpful practice to help cultivate compassion and non-violent attitudes. I try not to be judgmental and forceful when it comes to vegetarianism because that doesn't help convince people of vegetarianism but instead drives them away and causes more suffering. I just let the sutras speak, give my own opinion (it is my blog after all) and as is just in my view -- let people decide for themselves. I do think, however, that we can all agree (or at least most of us) that is "festival" in Nepal is barbaric and excessive. I hope that one day soon it will be abolished.
Mahāmati, in this long course of transmigration here, there is not one living being that, having assumed the form of a living being, has not been your mother, or father, or brother, or sister, or son, or daughter, or the one or the other, in various degrees of kinship; and when acquiring another form of life may live as a beast, as a domestic animal, as a bird, or as a womb-born, or as something standing in some relationship to you; [this being so] how can the Bodhisattva-Mahāsattva who desires to approach all living beings as if they were himself and to practise the Buddha-truths, eat the flesh of any living being that is of the same nature as himself? There is no logic in exempting the meat of some animals on customary grounds while not exempting all meat.