How far should compassion for animals go?

by Lama Chuck Stanford,, Jan 3, 2007

Kansas City, Kansas (USA) -- From the Buddhist perspective, all beings that have a consciousness are considered sentient beings.

And all sentient beings are subject to karma and re-birth. And because we have lived an unlimited number of lifetimes, therefore, all beings have been our mother in a past life. And as our mother they were as incredibly kind to us as our mother in this lifetime.

So we should show unlimited compassion to all beings, including animals.

In Buddhism we have a concept known as bodhitchitta. Translated this means “awakened heart” or “awakened mind.” This is the desire or motivation to alleviate the suffering of all beings without distinction.

That means that we do not exclude anyone, not even our enemies because they, too, were our mothers in a past life. This may seem like a lot to ask of us. However, our minds have the potential for this type of unlimited compassion.

Many people choose to become vegetarians out of the desire not to harm animals. This is a very kind and noble thing to do. We know that animals are often subjected to cruel and inhumane conditions on large commercial farms.

Just as we would not like to be subjected to such conditions, we should care and provide for animals just as if they were a member of our own family. After all they, too, were our mothers in a past life.