My wife received an email from a friend, inviting us to visit the Chinese Phoenix TV website. While surfing the website, I came upon an article that admonishes us to complement compassion with wisdom, via the example of a noble act, releasing life. I find it worthwhile to translate it into English to share in this blog. So here it is.
Releasing Life: We Must Complement Compassion with Wisdom
July 11, 2007 09:28 Life Forum
“Hey, boss, how much for the birds?”
“Three bucks each,” replied the pet shop owner. And when I pointed to another cage with a larger bird, the owner said, “Sorry, that’s not for sale. It has been reserved.”
“How come business is so good?”
“Because next week is the celebration of the birthday of Guang Yin [the Goddess of Mercy]. A lot of people have made their bookings, numbering in the thousands. So business is brisk indeed.”
My heart sank upon hearing the mass booking of live birdies. I and my friend bought some cicadas, small birds, and small frogs. Then we adjourned to the isolated riverside to release them. Small frogs are favored by anglers while fish aficionados feed crickets to their prized aquatic collections. The released crickets jumped onto the trees, incessantly devouring the leaves, a testimony to their famished state. The emaciated frogs frolic by hopping around, immensely enjoying their new-found liberation in a free environment they have been denied to for so long.
As a matter of fact, whenever the birthday of Guang Yin, or the First and the Fifteen of the lunar month is pending, those with vested interests are always busy hunting for these so-called hot items, the animals and the birds, for releasing life activities. Then they congregate at temples to sell their catches for quick profits. They always drive truck loads of these captured items and place them on parade at the temples nearby my house, their owners peddling to a captive market. Obviously some of these do not survive the trip. In this regard, both the sellers and the buyers are equally ignorant, and it is sad that both groups would have to shoulder some of the blame for the misdeed, and hence, suffer the karmic retribution.
A purely compassionate approach to releasing life is inadequate. It needs to be supplemented by wisdom. Then only then can any potential post-event harm be diminished. Making bookings for animals from pet shops for releasing life activities lacks wisdom. And compassion without wisdom is wasteful compassion. Just think about it. Pet shop operators will do their best to source for all kinds of animals to satisfy the demands and hence, maximize their profits. Thus, those doing the booking of these animals, albeit for a noble cause of releasing life, are indirectly abetting those performing the actual capturing. Would you consider this kind of releasing life as generating good merits? Maybe the birds are all screaming in their hearts: we all have to lose our freedom simply for people to act out their hypocritical rites of releasing life, and if such an expedient behavior is rewarded with good merits, where then is the natural justice in all this charade?
This is precisely why Venerable Master Lian Chi always stressed that we have to change the time, the place, and the animals in releasing life activities regularly, expressly to prevent those with vested interests from going on a catching spree in order to satisfy the demand. Those who subscribe to eating the three kinds of kosher meats (not killed because of me, the killing not seen by me, nor heard by me) are not supposed to make the booking. Instead, they should only buy those off the shelf, i..e, those already dead.
Of course, provided we adhere to the principles as laid down by Venerable Master Lian Chi, any untoward consequence after the event is clearly beyond our control. Regardless of whether there is any ready buyer, those who catch animals for a living will still engage in their daily business, the only difference being in the quantity. If there is a seasonal demand, and the market for certain animals is good, they will definitely catch more.
The targets of the releasing life activities are those fish, frog, turtles, cows, goats, chicken, duck, etc. destined for immediate consumption; and the juvenile fish, worms, cicadas, lizards, and small frogs in the pet shops. Then there are the birds caged in captivity. We buy these animals to be released into the wild precisely to eliminate their doomed fate because all animals and human beings are equal, endowed with Buddha nature, and hence have the potential to achieve buddhahood. They all can feel pain and are fearful of dying just like we all are.
We must always be mindful of the fact that just because they have their backs skyward, animals are not God’s gift to us as food. If such is the case, then animals should feel happy to serve our gastronomic needs. But the truth is worlds apart. There are reports of cows shedding their tears come slaughtering time, as if they could sense their immediate demise and are begging for mercy. In the wee hours of the morning, the shrill cries from pigs in a abattoir can make you stop eating pork for the rest of your life. As Confucius put it succinctly, hearing the sound alone is enough to move you to not eating the meat.
We can go to any pet shop, an aquarium, or a market, to buy animals for the purpose of releasing life. But we should not set our sight on a particular shop for that purpose, nor should we request for a particular kind of animals. All we have to do is to look at the quantity and assess our capacity to pay. Never place a booking. Otherwise we will bring suffering upon the animals, and upon ourselves (through the tenet of causality).