China Issues First Buddhist Edict Protecting Wildlife

buddhist temple tianjin china wikicommons

Calling upon all Buddhists around the country, the China Buddhist Association has issued a landmark declaration for Buddhists to “obey rules and laws on wildlife protection, to refrain from participating in any killing or trade of wildlife.”

Furthermore, the edict requests Chinese Buddhists to “refuse to buy and use wildlife products such as ivory and rhino horns; to actively inform law-enforcement or conservation organizations on activities involving killing or trade of wildlife; to help save those wild animals captured illegally; to encourage those who are available to participate in animal conservation NGOs or support wildlife projects.”

“Malicious Killing Will Bring Bad Karma”

The formal Buddhist edict opens with the following statement, “The Buddha’s nature is in all living things. The lives of animals are just as precious as those of humans. Malicious killing will bring bad karma. Buddhism teaches that ‘all living things in the Six Realms of Samsara are my father and mother,’ therefore all Buddhist followers should love and protect all lives with gratefulness and compassion — if you see people killing an animal, you should try to save the animal and shelter it from suffering.”

The sweeping declaration by the China Buddhist Association calls upon Buddhists for more than just the protection of wildlife. In fact it serves an encouragement to all Buddhists to live their daily lives with compassion, to refrain always from killing, and always to offer protection. Buddhism considers that killing is the worst crime — “no killing” is the primary injunction — and that protecting life with compassion is a great accomplishment.

The declaration also calls for “Buddhist temples to advertise in different forms the ban against killing, a vow to protect life, to encourage a healthy vegetarian diet and to persuade people to protect life with compassion…”.

The significant role of Buddhism in Chinese life has been formally promoted lately in China. This new edict is both timely and critical, as may be noted by the huge elephant tusks in front of this statue of Buddha at a Buddhist temple in China:

image (Image note and source: Carved ivory elephant tusks offered to Buddha at a Buddhist temple in China. Pixabay)

International Acclaim for China’s Buddhist Edict

The landmark statement sets a precedent as the first formal Buddhist edict issued on the environmental conservation of wildlife in China. Celebrated in a statement on the website of Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC), ARC Secretary General Martin Palmer said, “We were delighted to hear from our colleagues in the State Administration for Religious Affairs that, inspired by the Daoist stance on the illegal wildlife trade, the China Buddhist Association has now launched their own statement.”

ARC Secretary General Palmer also announced, “This is potentially great news for the many species around the world which the illegal wildlife trade is pushing towards extinction.” The ARC helps major faith bodies develop environmental programs and projects, in association with secular organizations such as the World Bank, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

The Alliance of Religion and Conservation

Interfaith environmental activity began in earnest in 1986 in Assisi, Italy. The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) International invited top representatives of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism to a meeting on how they could work together on environmental issues.

Due to this successful encounter, in 1995 then WWF International President His Royal Highness the Duke of Edinburgh launched a new international not-for-profit organization, the Alliance of Religion and Conservation (ARC).

The Growing Relationship Between Faith and Creation

By 2000 ARC was working in more than 50 countries, and the collaborating faiths in the alliance included Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Baha’ism, Daoism, Jainism, Shintoism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism. As part of the Alliance, each of the faiths has compiled its own statement summarizing its relationship with and beliefs about the environment.

The relationship between faith groups and God’s creation is growing stronger with the nurturing attention and tireless efforts of groups like the Alliance of Religion and Conservation.

Applauding the latest step of formal Buddhist protection for wildlife taken in China as we enter 2015, ARC Secretary General Palmer announced, “This means all three of the historic faiths of China, Daoism, Confucianism and Buddhism have officially come out against the illegal wildlife trade. We look forward to our meetings in the New Year with the Buddhists as we see how together the three faiths can have a real impact on public opinion and behaviour.”

image (Image note and source: Religious leaders from nine faiths launch action plans at Windsor Castle, UK, in 2009. Photo ARC/Richard Stonehouse)
(Top image note and source: Buddhist Temple Tianjin China, Wikicommons)
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About the Author

Aisha Abdelhamid (Birth-name Kathleen Vail) is a freelance lifestyle and environmental science writer currently living in Vancouver, BC. Her interests include environmental conservation, climate science, renewable energy, faith-based environmental activism, sustainable economics, corporate social responsibility, creative lifestyles, and healthy living.