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  • Writer's pictureLama Jigme Gyatso

Coping with Animal Cruelty

Good afternoon V., thank you for asking about Resources to Better Accept Animal Death.

Yes, oh fellow vegan as I look into my heart (and the activists that span the globe) I am not unfamiliar with the plight of grief and the sense of powerlessness and how they could fuel both rage and the experience of futility.

Although it is common to reach for a book, during a time of turmoil, doing so could be tantamount to striving to self-talk our emotions away; as is popular in the rational-emotive approach as well as cognitive behavioral therapy. Doing so reminds me of the old saw, "Don't try to teach a pig to sing - it wastes your time and annoys the pig." Only in this case it could be re-stated as "don't wax eloquent to your emotions, for it makes little difference to our under brains which evolved prior to language and it could exhaust our pre frontal cortex thus giving rise to the symptoms of depression.

Just as a carpenter might use large nails while framing, and tiny nails while doing finishing work, (as you probably already know) the Buddha taught both contemplations and meditations to help us deal with both the coarse and subtle facets of caring about our animal siblings in the midst of a human species that is often indifferent, if not cruel.

The details of your practice could be influenced by your spiritual orientation. If you are Theravadan you might contemplate the stress of aversion, craving, and clinging, as well as the play of interdependence, impermanence, and no-self with the four bases of mindfulness followed by the practice of the seven enlightenment factors.

If your orientation is Mahayanan you might use the topics sited in the heart sutra to inform your contemplations and then rest your mind in either: Zazen, Ch'an, or Dhyana.

If your orientation is Tantric you might blend the contemplations of: love, letting-go, and the four bases of mindfulness with mantra recitation, silently contemplate the interplay of interdependence with impermanence and then rest your mind in either sutra-mahamudra or trekcho.

Regardless of which tradition you feel comfortable with, you could find it to be profoundly empowering to bring the turmoil of the present moment into the Buddha's path.

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