The Way of Peace: Equality and Compassion
The practice of compassion is based on the view of equality. In Buddhism, equality refers not only to the equality between different humans but also between humans and animals. If we can put this concept into practice, we can achieve both inner and outer peace.
In Buddhism the concept of equality means not only equality between humans but also between humans and animals. Why should humans and animals be treated equally? Many religions and scholars in the world feel deep sorrow at the abuse and killing of animals. I have heard that in Germany, anesthetics are applied to animals before they are killed. I think that if you have no other choice but to kill animals, certainly it is better to consider their feelings, but to be clear, I am not praising you for killing animals like this, as in every case, killing is a very bad action. But if you really have to kill an animal, you should consider their feelings. This is appropriate. Nevertheless, as I said, in every case, killing an animal is unfair to them.
Although, there is much talk these days about the need to adopt the view of equality, in fact, the phenomenon of inequality was created by people. During World War II, the concept of inequality between different people was used as an excuse for slaughtering other human beings. Today, we continue to use our power and strength to kill animals. For instance, recently the bird flu broke out in some places; as a result, many kinds of birds were killed. To me, such cruelty towards animals by human beings is really unacceptable; I believe that this is one form of very foolish behavior by humankind. The Buddhist concept of equality is worth being examined by every scholar here. Actually in current society, people hold many different views on the concept of inequality. Such views have a direct relationship to our education and to the current circumstances related to humankind’s survival.
Another subject I would like to address is the Buddhist view of peace. Everybody talks about world peace, but the idea of world peace, whether from a political perspective or from any other perspective, should include all of the lives that coexist together on this planet. We all love and need peace. In Buddhism, with its history of more than 2,500 years, we can find the ultimate idea of world peace.
Buddhism teaches that, of all the types of negative karma, taking the life of a human or of any other living being is the most terrible of human behaviors. If humankind had held onto this concept firmly, World War I and World War II would not have taken place. Even today, there are some countries that threaten other countries with annihilation by nuclear weapons. This is a sure indication that people still lack the Buddhist view of peace.
Genuine peace should come from the inner heart rather than from such external actions as holding meetings or giving lectures, or for a few leaders to make official visits to each other. These do not result in the realization of genuine peace. In principle, if I don’t hurt you, you won’t hurt me back. Among the most fundamental five precepts of Buddhism, there is a precept of non-killing. I myself think that if we really want to actualize world peace, starting with the Buddhist view of compassion would be an easy first step.