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Animal friends

lobsterlobster Veteran
edited February 24 in Buddhism Today

As a part animal (wer-lobster) I am always pleased to hear about peoples edible pets experiences and interactions with wild, domesticated and farmed animals.

I was very impressed with the dairy farm run by the ahimsa school of Hari Krishna at the former Beatle home that I visited.
http://www.bhaktivedantamanor.co.uk/home/?page_id=4073
The New Gokula farmers consider themselves Buddhists as Buddha and a Divine Fish are incarnations of Vishnu ...
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashavatara

Traditionally unlike the Vishnu based Buddhists, Theravadin and other monks are not allowed to till the land in case they inadvertently slice ground based life with a plough. Far better for the lays to take the karmic hit!

As a circumstantial omnivore and mass murderer when gardening, I still love and cherish the animals that escape my atrocities. No enslaved animals pets sadly at the moment. However I am trying to speak more animal languages, most of which understand the universal language of metta.

Do we respect, anthropomorphise, become soppy etc around Bambi and our animal relatives? Are animals people (my belief incidentally) - yes lobsters are cannibals ... Do you prefer the company of animals? Maybe animals are representative of psychological states? Perhaps most pertinently can animals become enlightened?
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animals_in_Buddhism

Comments

  • TiggerTigger Toronto, Canada Veteran
    edited February 24

    Personally I prefer the company of animals....domesticated, farm and wild (either one). Wild animals can be a challenge but I live in Southern Ontario where you don't really encounter dangerous wild animals, unless you go further up north where you can bump into bears and wolves. Animals, to me, are like children, very innocent and they lack the baggage and deceptive personalities that some humans have. When I'm with an animal, I truly feel their metta radiate from them. Their unguarded love is inspirational.

    Can they be enlightened? On one hand I feel their needs in life are so basic (food and sleep) that I don't think they are able to be enlightened, in the sense that we are talking about here but then I thought of dogs....

    They are always truly happy (no dukkha)
    They are always living in the moment (mindful - but then again, I can't read their minds)
    They show love and kindness to everyone (metta - unless their treated poorly)

    Maybe they can.....maybe they can

    True story - I remember being a child and wanting to live in the Garden of Edan sooooo bad so I can live with all the animals.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Well I was attacked by a wild seagull today. I was about to take a bite out of my pickled herring on a bun when it just lands on top of my head and swishes away with my gherkin garnish. The bare-faced cheek! It quite put me off my lunch...

    Still I think both dogs and cats have a pretty enlightened attitude towards enjoying life, although they can't truly be enlightened because they don't have a mind... although if I remember rightly all things do have a measure of Buddha nature :)

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    All the studies about animals and how we relate to them are interesting. I always enjoy how science figures things out. But often we already innately know these things, and while science definitely has a place, it mostly only look at one aspect separated out from the whole and then fails later to put the whole puzzle together. Things like our relationships to the natural world, including animals, are much too complex to narrow into a study about how dogs recognize human emotion. Of course they do. But once the study proves what we know it does nothing to add to the bigger, more complex puzzle of human-animal relations. As another example, the way science and thus the medical world views the human body results in very poor care of it because it mostly lacks the big picture. Just like the way we take care of our planet and relationships within it.

    But I think a lot of that is because of our view that nature (and its inhabitants) are "out there" while we are observing from another side. But it wasn't until we over-comfortized our homes that they became less shelter and more way of life, disconnecting us from our natural lives as we removed ourselves from it and then outsourced everything that keeps us alive to other people. The more time you spend with nature and with animals of all sorts, the more you know it. Thinking we can truly understand that vast connection by going to the zoo or spending 20 minutes watching birds and then draw conclusions is a little silly. Every attribute of "nature" interacts with our cells and gives them information. The less time you spend within it, the more processed your body is. Just like food, the more processed crap you eat, the worse off you are. The more processed climate control, furniture, lights, etc increase our inability to adapt and traverse the natural world-the worse off we are as a result. We think of ourselves as "civilized" because we look at the uncivilized world and think of them as savage people who are behind the times. When in reality, many of them are much more grounded in the natural world and are better off than we are despite our insistence otherwise.

    I'm not really sure where I am going with this, lol. Just that I think yes, we have immense connections to nature and animals. But we do a poor job understanding it because it's a huge, complex web and we tend to always look at only segments. We are every bit a part of nature as a wolf is, and our insistence that we are not has only brought us, and our planet and our relationship with it, great harm.

    federicalobster
  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    It's easy to anthropomorphize our fur-covered or feathered counterparts because of their attunement to our moods/personalities etc. Over the years, I've usually had one or two cats and the last two were the most memorable and not just because they were the last. Fluffy would respond to me when I'd cry by coming right up to my face and meowing in a caring and compassionate manner. There was no doubt he was deeply concerned.

    Axel (Fluffy's sister) never liked being held, but she would creep up my back when I was lying down to pet and stroke my hair, which was THE most amazing thing any cat I've owned has ever done. Amazing intelligence too - she sat on the arm of the couch and reached over and turned the knob on the floor lamp and turned the light on, while looking at me as if to garner approval like a little kid. The horse I owned, Ray, would wrap his head and neck around me while I was grooming him - a nice little 'horse hug'. Very amusing - very touching. Animals - and not just other humans - seem to complete us.

  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran

    Are animals people (my belief incidentally)
    -In my opinion, yes...

    Do you prefer the company of animals?
    -Generally speaking, yes...

    Perhaps most pertinently can animals become enlightened?
    -"The road in front of every house leads to the capital."

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    Still I think both dogs and cats have a pretty enlightened attitude towards enjoying life, although they can't truly be enlightened because they don't have a mind...

    How do you define mind in order to reach the (to me) peculiar conclusion that animals don't have one?

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited February 25

    @Fosdick said:
    @Kerome said:

    Still I think both dogs and cats have a pretty enlightened attitude towards enjoying life, although they can't truly be enlightened because they don't have a mind...

    How do you define mind in order to reach the (to me) peculiar conclusion that animals don't have one?

    Reason, free will and emotion. Animals probably have emotion, but seem to be very stuck in instinctual patterns for their behaviour. For some animals the existence of a mind is more debateable than others, for example gorillas can be taught sign language, some forms of chimpanzees have tool use and so on.

    Its a question of where you put the threshold, animals undoubtedly have a brain and have behaviour, but they don't seem to think as we do and so the existence of a mind is questionable. After all a mind is commonly primarily characterised by having thoughts.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The last time I checked...we 'humans' are animals part and parcel of the animal kingdom ....

    lobster
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited February 25

    ...And I sometimes think that we humans - having a mind - behave in a far more "animalistic" way than some of our fellow primates and other members of the mammal classification ...

    So is having a Mind, better for some, than not having one?

    lobsterkarasti
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran
    edited February 25

    @Kerome - So non-humans do not seem to think as we do, therefore they do not have thoughts, and therefore they do not have a mind, is that about right?

    What is a thought? When does an emergent idea become a thought? Is it at the moment that the idea is translated into abstract language, into human speech? Or are idea and thought synonymous?

    Like us, non-humans encounter situations in which more than one course of action is possible, and they must choose one or the other. Without a mind, how can a choice be made?

    @lobster said

    Perhaps most pertinently can animals become enlightened?

    Mu.

    Should leave it at that, but since we can probably assume that animals are not burdened by any dualistic concept of enlightenment vs. unenlightenment, can they inhabit either of those conditions ? Do they exist in a state of primal unity?

    Mu again?

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    Remember that it is said that the Buddha experienced memories of past lives in which he was at various times, an animal of some sort. And I dispute the idea (if it is tabled at all) that animals are incapable of Compassion - which MUST take some kind of Mind to be so...

    https://www.buzzfeed.com/expresident/stories-that-prove-animals-have-souls?utm_term=.qmEknrrvm#.bd3yvrrP7

    http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/04/6-amazing-ways-animals-show-compassion

    dhammachick
  • Many thanks.

    Appreciate all the varied responses. Yesterday, on a path, I saw many dead frogs, some with unfertilised eggs. They get eaten in the 'circle of life', that we are involved in. As some have said, the animal realm is a lesson we are part of ...

    I started this thread to explore the difference between sentimentality and sentiment (kind feeling) towards our fellow sentients. It is a question of value and cherishing. Do we care for our well being and that of other people (I am misusing 'people' to include animals)?

    We are sad to say, not naturally at all times, good animals :cry: However uniquely because we are also in the human realm, we can make choices above our instincts and emotions ... <3

    Be kind. Iz master plan.

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited February 25

    @Fosdick said:
    What is a thought? When does an emergent idea become a thought? Is it at the moment that the idea is translated into abstract language, into human speech? Or are idea and thought synonymous?

    This goes into the realm of Descartes' philosophy, which is not my strongest suit, but animals cannot reason. They may have an impulse to do something, but I don't think it is a thought as we know it, since we can rationally examine our thoughts and weigh them off against other things.

    Like us, non-humans encounter situations in which more than one course of action is possible, and they must choose one or the other. Without a mind, how can a choice be made?

    Impulses have a strength, even humans can feel that when tempted into impulsive behaviour. Some impulses are stronger than others. Some animals are doubtlessly a lot closer to having human minds than others... cuttlefish for example with their sophisticated visual communication, or gorillas.

    @lobster said

    Perhaps most pertinently can animals become enlightened?

    Should leave it at that, but since we can probably assume that animals are not burdened by any dualistic concept of enlightenment vs. unenlightenment, can they inhabit either of those conditions ? Do they exist in a state of primal unity?

    I'd suspect animals have a kind of purity, a single track mind not much subject to ignorance, doubt or choice. They just do, and that's it.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited February 25

    @Kerome said: This goes into the realm of Descartes' philosophy, which is not my strongest suit, but animals cannot reason. They may have an impulse to do something, but I don't think it is a thought as we know it, since we can rationally examine our thoughts and weigh them off against other things.

    I'm glad to say you are completely wrong, and have been proven so many times over. Examples are given in the first link in my previous post.
    A recent programme on the behaviour of dogs gave some astonishing insight into how well dogs can rationalise certain situations.

    A dog, ( a dalmatian) who had been trained to 'fetch' was placed facing its human owner, who knelt directly facing the dog, around 8' away. At the half-way point, two identical dog toys had been placed, 10 feet apart, so that both toys were to the right and left of both the dog and the owner.
    Now, two screens were placed next to the toys, so that they were on the owner's side, but behind the toys, from the dog's PoV.
    One screen was opaque, the other, transparent.
    It was only at this point in fact, that the dog and owner took their positions. Until this moment, I have been describing the final position of everything, in order to "draw a picture".
    The owner approached the screens from her side.
    The dog approached the toys from his side.
    The owner then told the dog to 'fetch.

    The dog hesitated for a second, then approached the toy in front of the CLEAR screen, and took it to the owner.
    This experiment was repeated several times, switching the positions of the screens. Every time the owner asked the dog to 'fetch', it would retrieve the toy in front of the clear screen.

    The dog had rationalised that if the screen was opaque, the owner could not possibly see the toy behind it, so the owner MUST have meant the toy that was visible to her; the dog fetched the toy the owner could obviously and clearly see through the transparent screen.

    An emeritus professor of Psychology, who had spent a lifetime studying the cognitive behaviour of dogs, trained his collie to recognise its toys by name. The dog ended up with one thousand toys, all with an individual name, which it had memorised and could retrive as asked.

    The owner then laid out 12 toys, 11 of which the collie knew well, but one of which was new and was as yet, unknown and un-named.
    The professor then asked the dog to fetch several of its toys by name. Then, about half way through, it asked the dog to retrieve the new toy, giving it a name the dog had never heard. The dog, calculating the identity of the remaining toys, rationalised that as it knew all the names of the remaining toys, then this new toy had to have the name it had never heard, and picked it up and duly delivered it - correctly, to the Professor.

    Impulses have a strength, even humans can feel that when tempted into impulsive behaviour. Some impulses are stronger than others. Some animals are doubtlessly a lot closer to having human minds than others... cuttlefish for example with their sophisticated visual communication, or gorillas.

    Or more probably, we have a mind like theirs. After all, primates and cephalopods were here first.

    I'd suspect animals have a kind of purity, a single track mind not much subject to ignorance, doubt or choice. They just do, and that's it.

    I think this has actually proven to not be the case. Animals are capable of stream-thought, calculation and certainly know how to choose, going for the point of advantage. Single track mind my foot. Dogs are capable of cunning and self-serving intention. "They just do, and that's it"...? Never a more untrue word spoken....! :D

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    Well there you go... it seems they can reason a bit, contrary to ancient philosophy.

    On a related note:
    Ball-rolling bees reveal complex learning

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited February 25

    @Kerome said:
    Well there you go... it seems they can reason a bit, contrary to ancient philosophy.

    The emphasis is on the word 'ancient'. Modern research and current studies of animal behaviour give countless examples of how we, in our own superior, yet blinkered and ignorant way, have largely assumed much about animals in the past, much of which has been shot down in flames, and consinged to the 'boy did we ever get it wrong!' bin....

    You do realise you're painting yourself into a corner....? :p

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran
    edited February 25

    The existence of any corner is purely a device of the ego (and the delusion of self)... in short I have no corner.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    Well, it's your corner, not mine..... ;)

  • At least one mahasiddha relied on a dog (or his compassion for her) for supreme realization in the corner of his cave.....

    http://thenon2.com/en/knowledge/mahasiddhas/28-mahasiddha-kukuripa…-kukkuripa-ku-ku-ri-pa-“-dog-lover”

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Dogs, all the species of apes, elephants, and other animals (many others) have the ability to read emotion and respond to it. They may not have the ridiculous monkey minds that we do, but it hardly means that they lack a mind. Have you seen the videos of organutans responding to pregnant women? Have you see the movie about chimpanzees where they grieve the loss of one of their members and perform rituals? I've watched, in person, a black bear grieve the loss of her cub. They have an ability to read/feel emotion and respond to it. They have the ability to make choices. It seems to me that indicates a sense of mind. Human mind, no. But I'm not so sure human mind is as great as we like to believe it is. To me, having mind is about connection, and there is a lot of connection on an emotional level with a lot of creatures. The other ones, I couldn't tell you, but I'm not going to assume they don't have it just because they don't behave like others.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited February 25

    I am rather inclined to believe that we have, to all intents and purposes, achieved a much higher level of awareness than our animal counterparts (any animals other than humans). And this, I believe, is instrumental in our possible 'downfall'. It may be a triumphant advantage, mentally and intellectually. But actually, in general, as a human race, by developing a higher level of knowledge, ability and awareness, through all avenues of science, maths, biology, socio-economics and social interaction, we have moved far away from what being a genuine, honest animal actually is.

    In grouping together, we have actually become more isolated, anti-social and selfish. The bottom line is that even in concentrated and cohesive groups, the bottom line for many is always "what's in it for me?"

    Through increasing numbers, we have actually distanced ourselves from what it actually means to be part of a group. In spite of all the clever cliches regarding what it means to be a group member ('There's no 'I' in 'Team', and the suchlike) we're actually more guarded, less trusting and more inclined to believe that we are all there is, and we have it all worked out.

    In terms of achievements, the Human Race has advanced more in the last 250 years than it ever did in its entire preceding existence.
    yet Emotionally, humanely, in terms of being more interconnected, Conscious, aware and universally compassionate, it's my opinion that we're ..."farther off from Heav'n, than when I was a boy".

    I think merely living with an animal, in harmony, can teach us more about who we should be, than any number of books ever could.

    eggsaviorFosdickkarastishanyin
  • eggsavioreggsavior Illinois, USA Explorer

    I believe animals occupy a different plane of awareness than us. Not better or worse, just different. It should be remembered that some animals have brain functions more refined than even a human's, like whales' emotional capacity and responsiveness. There is a tiny shrimp like creature that has the most complex eyes in the animal kingdom and can see a vast array of colors across many spectrums. Can this animal see a higher truth or perspective of reality with its great sight? Or bird's who fly above everything, turning it meaningless? Or ants who live in intricate tunnels with a massive community?

    Humans have the largest intellectual capacity. But we have limitations of our own. And other creatures have abilities we can only imagine. We all experience life in different ways and places. Is it our interconnectedness that sums everything together? Makes me think of Gaia...

    karasti
  • In Buddhism the animal realm is below that of humans. Only in the human realm is awakening possible. That is because we can let go of our karmic/circumstantial being. As well as learning from animals, nature, books, experience etc we can learn to wake up.

    Do we leave behind our animal self, our body, our karma, our dukkha? To what extent?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Are we sure Buddha had everything right though? I mean, EVERYTHING? His time was so much different, their level of understanding of animals and other areas of science. What about service dogs? Are they not working on Karma to a great extent? Most pets live in service to their families, even to their detriment. We know we have to let go of our karmic being. But if they don't have those dualistic hangups ,does that have to mean they are below us? Just because we think that is so, perhaps it is not. Some days, I think being on otter would be a better life than being a human, lol. I just think we are only starting to glimpse understanding of various animal worlds. Those glimpses weren't even sparkles in the eye of science 2500 years ago.

  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    @lobster said

    In Buddhism the animal realm is below that of humans

    I know that is the orthodox view, but where does this "above" and "below" stuff come from? Is that not dualistic thinking, one of those things of which we are encouraged to rid ourselves?

    Perhaps only humans can be awakened because only humans are asleep in the first place. >:)

    Do we leave behind our animal self, our body, our karma, our dukkha?

    Yes. And then eternity begins to seem so damned boring that we thirst for rebirth - and it is so! >:) >:)

    eggsavior
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Perhaps most pertinently can animals become enlightened?

    I take it that you mean can animals other than human animals become enlightened without having to ( through developed karmic patterns) become human animals first ?

    Why not ? after all, we human animals can only perceive enlightenment from the human perspective, ie, what enlightenment means for us.... our mindset...

    If enlightenment is beyond bodily experience ie, a 'mind' thing and all sentient beings have a mind of sorts, (mind in this case being that which knows) what's stopping a non human animal from becoming enlightened, if one takes into account that so-called enlightenment is beyond the mundane, conventional mindset....

    Before enlightenment scavenged for food and drank water...After enlightenment scavenged for food and drank water

    lobster
  • Thanks guys.
    I don't think Gaia, present computers, books or even whole libraries are sentient. I also am not sure at what level self awareness kicks in. Plants, ameobas, viruses, worms, insects, fish, mammals? Don't know.

    Fosdick
  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    @karasti said:
    Are we sure Buddha had everything right though? I mean, EVERYTHING? His time was so much different, their level of understanding of animals and other areas of science. What about service dogs? Are they not working on Karma to a great extent?

    Perhaps it has something to do with the level of choice? They may be doing the right things but they are not following the dharma.

    It seems to me that if Buddhists down the ages have said that a human life is the only one which offers the opportunity of becoming awakened then perhaps we should believe them, lacking any personal insight into these things. After all it is not as if the mass of human beings who do follow the dharma have made massive progress as a group in becoming enlightened.

    Just because science is showing us animals are more able to think than we had thought doesn't mean we should discard thousands of years of guidance.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator
    edited February 26

    Nobody is suggesting we do; but everything evolves, changes and transforms, sometimes for the worse, at other times for the better. And as I stated, the Buddha himself remembered past lives during which he had been an animal, so I do think that animals - if not capable of enlightenment - are capable of advancement.

    I can't prove anything I'm telling you, because all I have to go by is my memory of reading these articles, but I remember reading two specific instances of animals showing comradeship, compassion and willingness, towards others.

    One was where a farmer had to get rid of a rat infestation in his barn, so he used smoke bombs (or carefully-controlled smoky fires) to smoke the rats out, whereupon terriers were able to see, chase, catch and dispatch them accordingly (Let's leave aside the karmic consequences for the farmer, for now!)
    He noticed at one point that one rat was moving slowly backwards, and that it had a long straw in its mouth.
    At the other end of this straw, gripping its end in his mouth, was another rat, walking tentatively forward.
    Keeping the dogs at bay for a while, the farmer watched these two, as they moved further away from the barn, and into the scrub grass, for protection.
    The first rat was leading the second rat, because the second rat was blind, and couldn't have found its way out, on its own.
    Rats are extremely intelligent, as anyone knows....
    (this might have been Lama Surya Das, or Sogyal Rinpoche, can't remember exactly....)

    The second specific incident was regarding a guide dog who used to lead his mistress to and from work, via public transport, every day. It followed the same route, being familiar with the way to and from the bus stop.
    One evening, two muggers tried to attack, assault and rob the woman, but the dog fended them off, and she was shaken, slightly hurt, but all in all, unharmed and safe.
    The following day, the dog began to lead its mistress to the bus stop, but the woman noticed the dog did not follow the same route. Entirely by itself, and with no prompting from her, the dog had chosen a different route to the bus stop, in order to avoid a potential duplicate attack.
    That evening, it took a yet-again different route home. The journey time would differ, certainly, but the dog had decided, of its own accord, and of its own volition, to do whatever it took to keep his mistress safe.
    (I think this was a Reader's Digest article on assistant animals....)

    More recently....

    There's 'advancement', right there.....

  • KeromeKerome Did I fall in the forest? Europe Veteran

    It may be advancement of our understanding of animals, but not of our understanding of enlightenment. The person who understood that best was Siddhartha Gautama, and if in the sutra's it says "only in a human life is there a chance of enlightenment" I'm inclined to believe him...

    Although Osho says that animals can become enlightened, only more rarely than humans. So take your pick as to who you choose to believe...

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Moderator

    You misunderstand me, I think....

    It's not the advancement of our understanding of them I'm talking about.
    It's THEIR advancement of the perceptive diagnostic process.
    I don't believe animals can become enlightened, but I think they can make steps towards it and advance their chances of exiting the Animal Realm.

    But now we venture into the realms of Kamma and Re-Birth, and here, my friend, be dragons....

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran
    edited February 26

    I think it is a mistake to assume only those (human or otherwise) who follow the dharma will become enlightened. I don't think that is the case at all. I think it is perfectly possible, and likely, that a person can arrive at that place without having been immersed in Dharma officially. I don't think enlightenment requires proof of Dharma membership.And I don't think belief is required to be reborn. Perhaps Mother Theresa is now enlightened. Perhaps not. But I don't think her stringent belief in a Christian heaven meant that is where she went. Whatever happens to us when we die happens to us ALL not only to members of the right club.

    Back to animals, this came across my fb feed the other day
    http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/02/monkeys-master-key-sign-self-awareness-recognizing-their-reflections

    Shoshin
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