David N. Snyder wrote:Altruism has been seen in the animal kingdom.
plwk wrote:And this 'altruism' is from an animal's or a human's perspective?Altruism has been seen in the animal kingdom.
David N. Snyder wrote:We are animals too and not much different, except for the capacity for greater knowledge and insight, which if not gained -- well then we have lived a life not much different from them.
I read an interesting news story in Taiwan.
An old woman owned a few dogs. There was a fire at her home and she died. One of the dogs had an opportunity to escape the fire but it stayed behind with its master and it too died. At her funeral, one of her other dogs tried time and again to jump into the grave. Several people had to restrain it. Afterwards, the dog refused to eat and it died as well.
The old woman also had children. Soon after her death, they began quarreling over the property she left behind. The newspapers commented that the dogs were more dignified and remorseful than the humans were. From the human perspective, the dogs seem to have more compassion than the people and their behaviour morally superior.
However this is not the case, dogs do not think and act with the same complexity that people do. These particular dogs remembered the old lady being nice to them and they experienced grief when she died. True, the woman's children did not act nobly but those are judgements based on a sense of morality and justice. Were the dogs making moral judgements and thinking logically? Dogs do not ponder what should or should not be done, they do what they do. If it is thinking, it is governed by instinct and habit. Humans on the other hand, make moral judgements. The fact that human beings can reason and make such judgements demonstrates that their mental functions are of a higher order than that of other animals.
A sentient being with a nervous system can experience pain and pleasure, which are retributions for previous actions.
A sentient being with memory can recall, anticipate and enhance its experiences of pain and pleasure.
This means that the experiences of suffering and pleasure are not limited to immediate physical responses.
Memory allows organisms to respond to the environment with greater sophistication and complexity.
Finally, if sentient beings can reason abstractly, speculate about the future and rearrange memories to form new thoughts, they can also distinguish between desirable and undesirable, the beneficial and harmful and the moral and immoral. The ability to differentiate in this manner is the basis of all vexations.
To experience vexations means to further the creation of good and bad karma. These actions that create karma in turn lead to further consequences or retributions.
Only sentient beings with all four characteristics have the ability to reason, to ponder, to contemplate-to understand that they create karma.
Sentient beings that cannot reason and distinguish between what is moral and immoral only receive retribution for their previous karma. In their present life form, they cannot create further karma. Their actions are natural and immediate responses to whatever situation arises. A lion that kills for food creates no karma by that act. Only human beings generate karma because they reason and make judgements. Reasoning, then, is the basis of all vexations and these vexations lead human beings to create new karma which in turn further retribution. On the other hand, only humans, among all sentient beings are capable of practising Buddha Dharma. Buddhist Sutras have talked about other animals that could practice but these Sutras explained that these animals were incarnations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and not just ordinary animals.
Once, I observed one of my students watching a mosquito sucking blood from his wrist. He patiently watched until the mosquito was finished and bloated with blood. Then he thumped the mosquito with his finger and killed it. I asked him why he did that and he said, 'That is the mosquito's retribution. It took my blood and it paid for it with its life'. I said, 'That wasn't equal retribution. The mosquito only took a little blood from you and you took its life. Furthermore, the mosquito doesn't know what it is doing. it has no idea that it is causing you discomfort. The mosquito that causes you pain is not doing wrong. It cannot reason or make judgements. You on the other hand, can. The normal reaction would be to swat the mosquito. That is your choice, especially if you are concerned about being infected with disease but if you do, realise that you have created karma.'
Student: If animals cannot create karma but only receive retribution of previous karma, were they not previously human, because humans are the only creatures that can create karma?
Shifu: This is a common question. People are always trying to find a begining. Where does it all begin? It is not that simple.
First, there are beings on other worlds. Second, there are other realms besides the human realm. In all worlds and all realms of sentient beings, karma is without begining and without end.
If there is a begining, then we must answer the question, 'Where did these sentient beings come from and why did they arrive in the form they did?' There have always been innumerable sentient being and there always will be innumerable sentient beings. Animals are sentient beings that are receiving the retribution for previous karma, therefore they must have been at one point sentient beings that could create karma. But it does not mean that they had to be human beings living on planet Earth. There are other sentient beings that can create karma and there are other worlds. They can also become the same animal, a different animal or a being in another world. Who is to say?
There are very few hard and fast rules in Buddha Dharma. Buddhism says that only humans can practice but certain individual animals, deities and spirits can practice too. They know something that enables them to practice. There are also certain heavenly realms where beings can practice. For the most part however, it is humans that can practice Buddha Dharma.
The wheel is being held by a fearsome figure who represents impermanence. The Dalai Lama states:
The fierce being holding the wheel symbolizes impermanence, which is why the being is a wrathful monster, though there is no need for it to be drawn with ornaments and so forth... Once I had such a painting drawn with a skeleton rather than a monster, in order to symbolize impermanence more clearly.
This figure is most commonly depicted as Yama, the lord of death. Regardless of the figure depicted, the inner meaning remains the same–that the entire process of cyclic existence (samsara) is transient; everything within this wheel is constantly changing.
Yama has the following attributes:
He wears of crown of five skulls that symbolize the impermanence of the five aggregates. (The skulls are also said to symbolize the five poisons.)
He has a third eye that symbolizes the wisdom of understanding impermanence.
He is sometimes shown adorned with a tiger skin, which symbolizes fearfulness. (The tiger skin is typically seen hanging beneath the wheel.)
His four limbs (that are clutching the wheel) symbolize the sufferings of birth, old age, sickness, and death.
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