Metta and karuna are extended to living beings, not ecosystems

by Visakha Kawasaki, The Buddhist Channel, Aug 29, 2007

I write in response to the letter "Live and let live at what cost?" by Ven. Dharmakara Boda.

Sadhu! Sadhu!! Sadhu!!!

For all compassionate acts of freeing animals destined for slaughter. We too have released fish, crabs, eels and turtles purchased in Thai markets. They had been locally caught, so we were simply returning them to the environment from which they had been removed.

Were they caught again? Who knows? We had no control over that, but we were sure that our intentions were good and we happily shared merit afterwards with all.

Having observed environmental degradation in Thailand for more than thirty years, I would suggest that the compassionate release of animals into the wild has played virtually no part in Thailand’s ecological decline.

Of course we need to use wisdom when we practice compassion but as our Sayadaw often told us, it is possible to overdose on anything except mindfulness. An overdose of compassion can result in sentimentality while too much wisdom can become harsh and cunning.

Isn't Ven. Dharmakara Bodhi being naive, when he suggests that in the US environmental laws are intended to protect the environment, not benefit corporations, ranchers, big farmers, miner owners, or other special interests? Be that as it may, he would do well to at least say Sadhu! rather than caustically criticize other well-intentioned Buddhists who seek to relieve suffering, be it by freeing animals from a market or teaching meditation to prisoners in Florida.

As far as I am aware, metta and karuna are not “cultural baggage of Asia” but instead are essential aspects of Buddha Dhamma. After all, compassion for suffering beings is why our Teacher troubled himself to teach Dhamma at all.

Ven. Dharmakara Bodhi appears to be a monk of strong opinions and overweening self-confidence. His demands -- that Buddhists must “like America or leave it” and that members of the Sangha who don’t agree with him should disrobe -- are intolerant and unkind.