Campaign to turn Bodh Gaya into vegetarian zone

IANS, Dec 30, 2008

PATNA, India -- Lord Buddha preached non-violence towards all living beings and in accordance with the teachings of the founder of Buddhism a campaign is under way to turn Bodh Gaya, the land where the Buddha attained enlightenment, into a vegetarian zone.

"We are trying to create awareness and mobilise support of locals as well as tourists in transforming Bodh Gaya into a vegetarian zone," Tenzin Kunga Luding of Tibetans for a Vegetarian Society, a non-profit public charitable trust, said.

"Abstaining from buying, selling, or consuming any form of meat during the pilgrimage tour in the holy land is the key to the success of the campaign," Luding said.

He said the society has been urging the people to follow vegetarianism and encourage all including Buddhists and non-Buddhists to do the same at least within the Bodh Gaya zone, 110 km from Bihar state capital Patna.

Bodh Gaya is an integral part of the Buddhist pilgrimage circuit that usually starts in either Delhi or Kolkata and includes places associated with Lord Buddha, such as Lumbini in Nepal where he was born, and then places in India such as Bodh Gaya, Varanasi, Sravasti, Rajgir and Nalanda.

"The campaign has been going on since 2006 and gaining support. We hope to realise the dream of turning Bodh Gaya into a vegetarian zone one day," Luding said.

The society has been spreading awareness about the drive through pamphlets, posters, stickers and signature campaigns.

"The society will also show a film related to the cause near the Mahabodhi temple every day from this year," he said.

"Since Bodh Gaya is the holy land where the Buddha attained enlightenment, a vegetarian Bodh Gaya zone would be in accordance with the true teachings of the Buddha," he added.

"A vegetarian zone will promote peace. It would also save tens of thousands of innocent animals that are killed every year. For those who reside in or visit Bodh Gaya, we ask them not to engage in eating, selling or buying animal meat in this zone. In this way we would be helping to restore the sanctity of the holy land," Luding said.

The 1,500-year-old temple stands behind the sacred Bodhi Tree under which the Buddha attained enlightenment 2,550 years ago.

The Mahabodhi Temple, declared a World Heritage Site in 2002 by Unesco, is visited annually by thousands of tourists, especially from countries where there is a strong Buddhist community.