August 14, 2007

Buddhists vs. Environmentalists in New Jersey and the Kalinga War Revisited

snakehead.jpgMembers of the Amitabha Buddhist Society, a Pure Land sect, released various fish, reptiles and other critters destined for dinner plates in New York's Chinatown into the Passaic River in Paterson, New Jersey this past Sunday. Well, someone told New Jersey and the state apparatus may be irked to the point of issuing a $1,000 fine. The Amitabha folks, many of them strict vegans, were doing their part to spare the animals some extreme suffering, but the state remembers those freaky walking snakehead fish (see pic, courtesy the U.S. Dept. of Transportation) and the bighead carp, among many others. I never thought I'd say this but I'm with the great state of New Jersey on this one. Amitabha member Ann Chin said the Passaic River was chosen because it was the closest body of freshwater to New York. (What about the Hudson, you ask? It is estuarine. But if you know that much, wouldn't you have a good chance of knowing about invasive species and such?) A Princeton professor said that with the U.S. becoming an "increasingly pluralistic society," we can expect more of this.

"They probably thought they were doing a good deed and didn't think about permits," he said, stressing that he was neither defending nor attacking the group. "The Buddhists are probably going to learn they're in a non-Buddhist culture, and the Americans will learn they're in a culture with a lot of Buddhists."

The Wall Street Journal discusses China's repression of Buddhism in Tibet. The WSJ hates Commies, even though the world economy is balanced on Hu Jintao's pinky. The Dalai Lama has said he won't be reborn in Tibet. Smart money is probably on India, but if enough people let His Holiness know that California would really love a homegrown DL, maybe he could pull some strings in important / celestial places.

Also, The Hindu features an archaeologist who locates the Buddha's birthplace in the east Indian state of Orissa (where Ashoka realized the horror of war and converted to Buddhism) rather than Lumbini, which is inconveniently located across India's northern border in Nepal. Don't forget India's campaign to embrace its prodigal son, Buddhism, before China can. Competition can be good, right? So the future of Buddhist tourism in South and East Asia should be bright.

- Philip Ryan, Webmaster

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ph0kin's picture

Buddhism espouses a healthy balance of wisdom and compassion, and Amida Buddha symbolizes this. I suspect these folks meant well, but really didn't think through their actions. All compassion, no wisdom. I'd even go so far as to call it a bit selfish since they released the animals to relieve their conscious.

If they wanted to help they should have:

* Protested the sale and consumption of these animals
* Donate to professionals who can help
* Release the animals in their native habitat

Being a Pure Land Buddhist myself, I think they're nice folks, but they really ought to know better. Now the state has to clean up the ecological mess. :(

All animals are created equal, some more so than others « mo's picture

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