Who Needs a Fancy Cushion?
Thanks for another fine issue of Tricycle. When I look at the advertisements for meditation paraphernalia, I am reminded of the boy who complained to his father that he had nothing to do. The father said, "Why don't you go out and play baseball?" The boy replied, "I can't. There's no Little League here."
—Robert Olson, Albuquerque, New Mexico
While your Winter 2003 issue had many excellent and provocative articles, I found "The Buckshot Bodhisattva" to be extremely disturbing. The fact that a leading Buddhist journal would print such an article is an illustration of the depths to which Buddhism has fallen in the United States in its failure to be an effective voice for those sentient beings we call animals. In that article, you merely reflected the current cultural atmosphere and failed to question it. Then, in the letters section of the following issue (Spring 2004), you gave Michael Soule yet another opportunity to spread misinformation and harden readers' hearts toward the suffering we humans routinely inflict on animals.
Contemporary American culture virtually completely dominates animals, seeing them as commodities to be genetically manipulated, confined, killed, sold, eaten, worn, used for our entertainment, and subjected to vivisection. Where are the Buddhist voices speaking up for the billions of animals terrorized and brutalized in this country every year? I've seen precious little on this in Buddhist writings and periodicals, and yet this should be a matter of pressing concern for all Buddhists. Instead, your magazine goes the other way and glorifies a fellow who, in your words, "finds the dharma, opens his heart, and goes hunting."
Hunting is killing and turns a human being into a predator, which is the antithesis of the bodhisattva ideal and of the dharma itself. As long as we eat animal products, we will inevitably see animals as commodities to be eaten, and by extension, to be hunted and used. According to the dharma, sentient beings are not commodities. By treating them as such, we sow seeds of violence in our lives that invariably come back to haunt us. As Buddhists, we should be helping to raise consciousness in our culture so that beings-all beings-are respected as beings and treated with kindness, and not seen and treated as mere objects. Ahimsa, nonharming, a core teaching of Buddhism, is sadly neglected in American Buddhism, and this whole affair is a telling manifestation of that fact.
—Will Tuttle, Ph.D., Healdsburg, California
I find it interesting to read the controversy developing over Soule's hunting article. The first law of our existence on this planet, perhaps a universal one, is that we must kill to live. To be critical of one being's choice of how to accomplish this is to misunderstand one of the basic principles of our lives. We are all predators, and life is violent and cruel. It is a human concept that we differentiate between various forms of life and construct opinions as to what is morally acceptable. The life in a soybean is as valid and sacred as the life in a deer or a human.
—Rick Klepfer, Cushing, Maine
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Image 1: © Patrick Hardin
Image 2: © Neal Crosbie
Image 3: © Mike Taylor