August 02, 2006

A "Buddhist Thing"

By Erik Pema Kunsang

Recently, the folks at Tricycle asked me to begin writing a blog on this website since there was no other Westerner directly representing the Tibetan branch of Buddhism. Now I wonder what I got myself into. I thought about this opportunity and feel that a blog opens up many possibilities for exchange. Here is an opener. All levels of the Buddha’s teachings emphasize respect for the living – not just human life but animals and even insects. But refraining from needlessly snuffing harmless creatures out of existence is not necessarily a “Buddhist thing." Isn't it also the First Commandment? My non-Buddhist mother taught my siblings and me be kind to animals. Early childhood memories include a story, told with abject horror, of a local farmer who put newborn kittens into a sack an smacked them against the wall. I remember being told it was a common way to practice mercy killing because they would be better off dead than alive. My family ended up having 16 cats and one dog. Whether one’s reasons are to avoid bad karma, create merit, save a mother from a past life, or to respect Buddha-nature in all its forms (and I subscribe to all of them), I would like to open up this weblog with questions to the readers here - dedicated to the safety of our fellow sentient beings: How do you take small or large steps in your life to avoid unnecessarily leaving casualties in your wake? In your garden, house or work place, what can one do to save small lives in simple ways? One of my good friends said that rather than spraying “Kill-It” on the bugs on the rose bush, a water solution with coffee grounds or lime can make them peacefully go away. I love that. Which is more important anyway—the rose or a life? Please write in with your life-saving tips and tricks. Small anecdotes are welcome.

Erik Pema Kunsang (Erik Hein Schmidt), a native of Denmark, is the publisher of Rangjung Yeshe Publications, which translates contemporary Tibetan teachings and classical Buddhist texts into English. He studied under Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche and many other masters. Currently, he is a student of and interpreter for Tulku Urgyen's sons, particularly the eldest, Chökyi Nyima Rinpoche. He lives in Nepal, publishing out of Kathmandu, Denmark, and California, together with his wife, Marcia Binder Schmidt.

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