Generating Compassion For Innocent Animals

Lotus Feature by Bhikkhu Sanghasena

Ladakh, India: There are some lovely horses grazing the upland pasture here in the beautiful valley of Gyamsa, which is where my remote hermitage is located.One of these horses appears to be quite aged and a little feeble; one of them seems to be pregnant, while the other appears to be in the prime of health.

As the harsh winter steadily encroaches on the valley, there does not now seem to be enough grass for these horses to graze on. It seems that the time has now arrived for their owner to come and guide them down from their dwindling upland pasture, to overwinter in the relative warmth and safety of their stable.

My personal assistant and I have taken to carrying some fodder for the horses – armfuls of cut grass, taken from my little hermitage garden – when we go out for our daily afternoon walk in the beautiful surroundings of the valley.

The horse is one of the most elegant, intelligent and loyal creatures in the animal kingdom. It also plays an important iconographical role in Tibetan Buddhism, which is so widespread here in Ladakh, representing superior qualities of power and purity. In fact, we often see it depicted at the centre of the countless colourful prayer flags that adorn the hilltops of Ladakh and the wider Himalayan region – a white horse carrying a symbol of the Triratna (the Three Jewels) on its back.

While watching these lovely horses, and feeding them the grass we have carried up for them, I recall with fondness and emotion my childhood days, my eyes filling with nostalgic tears. I remember how I used to walk with my father, alongside our horses, when my father used to embark on kind of trade between our village of Timisgam, which is situated in the Sham region of Ladakh and the Changthang region, the eastern part of Ladakh. These trades used to be very popular those days.

My father had several horses and donkeys. During my childhood, I used to enjoy horse riding so much. Those days, there were no cars and buses like today. Horses, during those days were equivalence to the cars of today’s world. In those days, when there was no motorable road and very little, if any, modern transportation, horses, donkeys and yaks would walk the ancient trade paths that connected remote villages with Leh. We used to take three days to walk from our village to Leh – a journey which now takes less than 3 hours by car!

Animals play a vital role in our lives. Human beings could not survive without these beautiful creatures. Animals are far more innocent, honest and contented than human beings, their hearts being somehow purer than ours, in their simplicity. They do not have health insurance, life insurance or bank accounts. They are not concerned with food storage and preparation, kitchens and refrigerators. When they go to sleep at night, they are not preoccupied with thoughts of what they will have for breakfast the following morning. Altogether, they seem happier, healthier and much more satisfied with their lot than we human beings.

When animals suffer, either physically or mentally, they cannot express their suffering like human beings. Therefore, we must be much more attentive to their unspoken needs, and respond to their suffering with genuine love and compassion, knowing what it is to suffer ourselves.

Let us not kill, or even harm, any living creature; let us not eat them, whether they have been intentionally killed for us or not; let us be vegetarian!

Vegetarian food is much healthier and more wholesome than non-vegetarian food – it is scientifically proven!

May we all generate great compassion for all the beautiful animals in this world!

* Bhikku Sanghasena is the founder and president of the Mahabodhi International Meditation Centre in Leh, Ladakh.

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