Live and let live at what cost?
by Ve. Dharmakara Boda, Los Angeles, CA, The Buddhist Channel, Aug 18, 2007
The Buddhist Channel serves many purposes, including to inform and educate, so this letter should not be perceived as personal reply to Pavitara's criticism of my previous letter, but to clarify the issue at hand.
Live and let live at what cost?
Ignorance perhaps, especially when one takes into account the recent concerns of Her Majesty Queen Sirikit when it comes to ecology, but then again we are also talking about Thailand's Buddhist community which for the most part has a long track record of sticking it's head in the sand, not only when it comes to deforestation and ecology in general, but also child prostitution on their own streets.
This should not be taken in the wrong way, as there is this tendency to find fault with other societies and cultures other than one's own --- in otherwords, there are many shortcomings in the United States and other countries which are just as grievious, shortcomings which need to be dealt with, not ignored --- but the day that any particular culture is truly a perfect model for society, it will also be the same day that pigs learn to fly.
Does any country in Asia or elsewhere in the world have flying pigs? Then again, people can resort to saying "it's real if I believe it is" and you'll have thousands of flying pigs, but very little truth.
While I respect Pavitara's choice to release four-foot monitor lizards into the jungle in Thailand, please keep in mind that if you release such creatures outside of their natural habitat in the United States, including areas where other species are protected, you will go to jail, but rest assured that you would not only receive a care package from me, I would also come and visit you.
As I stated in my letter entitled "Dharma Retardation", there is a big difference between equal rights and special rights. If any religious and/or social awareness group did this they should be, and in most cases are, treated the same.
Once again, live and let live at what cost? By disregarding environmental regulations and potentionally harming an already damaged eco-sysyem? Although this was clearly not their original intent in saving and releasing the various aquatic life, this is still the end result of their behavior. This is also the reason why the regulations exist in the first place.
If members of the Buddhist community believe they are above such laws, then they are seeking special rights. If they don't like such laws, they need to either work to have those laws changed or "cease and desist" --- and if neither of these choices appeal to them, then they just need to leave the country and take their disregard and irresponsibility with them.
The United States is not the jungles of Thailand, nor is it influenced by the cultural baggage of Asia.
When was the last time anyone really took a good look at the cows that roam the streets of India? Even sadder is the fact that these cows are afforded more protection than the majority of the people who live there.
Why don't we ask the cows how they feel, just like the turtles dumped into the Passaic River?
Let's just stick our heads in the sand and continue ignoring the suffering of humankind, preferring animals and other wildlife because they don't talk back and point out the hypocrisy of our own practice, of our own ignorance.
Let's continue to cling to the written letter of the Dharma, but fail to recognize the spirit in which it was first given.
Another example of this type of ignorance can be seen in the reaction to Frank Tedesco, the Buddhist chaplain who was barred from entering the Pinellas County Jail in Florida, where his ministry was brought to an end because he felt that he was above the same rules that applied to every other chaplain and minister when entering the jail.
He even brought a steel-pointed calligraphy pen into the jail for inmates to sign his guest book, not his first offence, but his last.
Just like the irresponsibility of releasing different aquatic wildlife into Passaic River without permission, this practioner put his intentions above not only the rules that govern the jail and the safety of the staff and those incarcerated, but in his arrogance he also ensured that there would be no more face-to-face Buddhist outreach to inmates.
Although the Buddhist community at large voiced it's opposition to Frank Tedesco being barred from entering the jail, the question is who was harmed here, the Buddhist chaplain or the inmates?
If any member of the Sangha does not know the answer to that question, please disrobe.