Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Chimps: Learning Compassion

Chimpanzees: An Unnatural History , which re-played in PBS's Nature series this past Sunday night, is a heart-breaking lesson in compassion for our fellow living beings. It documents the work of centers like the Fauna Foundation, Save the Chimps, and the Center for Great Apes, havens for animals abused by humans in a variety of ways--whether as inappropriate "pets", as performers for our entertainment in circuses or movies, on on television programs or, at worst, as the living objects of medical or scientific experiment. The program shows animals that have lived the majority--some of them the entirety--of their 35-40 year life span in the cramped quarters of small cages, injected with noxious or toxic substances like the HIV virus, and subjected to horrors of all kinds. It also shows a number of kind-hearted human beings who come to their rescue, offering them loving and respectful homes for the last years of their life.

The first and most fundamental of the Buddha's teaching is: DO NO HARM. We humans, sadly, are an unkind species, and seem incapable of following that simplest and most obviously ethical of all rules. We treat our cousins, the animals, with the cavalier and deeply disrespectful assumption that we are their superiors and that they exist on this planet only at our pleasure and for our benefit. As this video shows, their dignity and forbearance shame us. It was impossible to watch--at least for the two of us--without tears for the dreadful history of some of these unmistakably sentient beings, but also for the compassion of those determined that their last years will be marked not by abuse, but by genuine respect and love.

NOTE: I leave for the Dallas-Ft. Worth area tomorrow morning. I have not decided yet whether to attempt to keep up with The Buddha Diaries; but if you don't hear from me until the coming weekend, please don't be surprised. I will be back. In the meantime, if you don't hear from me, please join me in sending out goodwill, compassion, and wishes for the happiness of all living beings--not forgetting those we dislike, or those who do us harm. As Thanissaro Bhikkhu constantly reminds us, the world would be a much better place if all of us could find true happiness--the kind that takes nothing from others and allows us all to give the best part of ourselves.


CHI SPHERE said...

Jane Goodall has had it right from the beginning.
Grounded in her pioneering study of chimpanzee behavior she is dedicated to the well-being of all living things.

One wonders when science will convert to computer modeling to expand its knowledge rather than using surrogate research methodologies developed in the 30's.

The reason most scientists give me is that it is cheaper and quicker!

Sort of like burning carbon fuels rather than gathering sunlight.

JTieken said...

Humans are predators with brains big enough to have devised a self-deluding self-image that is full of hypocrisy. The word 'humane' itself is a one-word oxymoron if the definition can be thus stretched to include one word.
Unfortunately, the bible tells us animals are here for our use (ideas about that tome would lead to a much longer discussion); many use it as their excuse for all manner of unkindly acts.
The more like-minded of us who fight for the rights of other sentient beings the better chance we have to make change, but we will always be pushing against the tide of hunters, fur-trappers, shark-fin soup fanciers and unfortunately, sociopaths.
I am in for the long haul. Thank you for all you do to add enlightenment.

Vyvyan said...

Yes JT, the Bible tells us that animals are here for our use, but also that we have dominion over the lesser creatures and we are to be good stewards of the earth. That's where it all breaks down! It appears that many people are not even good stewards of their own bodies, let alone anything outside of their own perimeter.