In what could turn out to be a repeat of the Henry Steel Olcott era for the revival of Buddhist values and virtues, another American is now in Sri Lanka for the launching of the Colombo and Kandy Chapters of the worldwide movement known as the Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA).
Bob Isaacson, founder–leader of the Santiago–based DVA, says they act on Gautama the Buddha’s fundamental teaching that every living being is born free and has a fundamental right to life and liberty.
Mr. Isaacson for several decades had worked as a human rights or right-to-life lawyer, appearing mainly in appeal cases where people had been sentenced to death.
He has the lifetime achievement of having saved the lives of more than 200 people whose death sentences were commuted largely because of Mr. Isaacson’s powerful advocacy based on his conviction that the death penalty, though legal in some countries, is illegitimate, immoral and unmerciful. DVA organisers describe the death penalty as ‘judicial killing’.
After completing his noble mission as a right-to-life advocate for human beings, Mr. Isaacson in 2011 was led to form the DVA where he is now the advocate and powerful voice for the voiceless, ‘viceless’ and innocent animals. He and other members are fully-fledged vegetarians and more so they are vegans-those who do not use any items such as leather or fur products which are made by killing animals.
When Henry Steel Olcott began the revival of Buddhist values, the mission started in the heart of the issue - the schools and the children. He thus took initiatives to begin Buddhist or Dhamma schools ranging from Ananda and Nalanda in Colombo, Mahinda and Richmond in Galle to Dharmaraja in Kandy. Today there are thousands of Buddhist or Dhamma schools, and with the 2016 budgetary allocation for education being increased four-fold, the Government is expected to give much more priority to spiritual education without which children may learn to fly like birds and swim like fish, but not how to walk like selfless, sacrificial and sincere human beings.
According to worldwide figures compiled by Bob Isaacson’s DVA, a wicked and merciless world kills about 70 billion animals every year with millions of marine species also being exterminated.The World Wildlife Fund reported reasently that as much as 48% of the marine species had been killed or made extinct.
In line with Bob Isaacson’s vision and also that of Henry Steel Olcott, the DVA organisers here hope to start their education, awareness and action mission in schools because the minds of innocent children are known to be more open to new thinking and virtues, missions and dreams.
They dare to dream the impossible dream and fight the impossible foes. Today’s children with access to the creative and innovative talents through the World Wide Web, are ready to climb mountains, search seas and follow rainbows till they find their dreams.
Mr. Isaacson, who hopes to meet President Maithripala Sirisena and other Government leaders, believes that Sri Lanka, as the hub of Theravada Buddhism, could and should play a major role in being a Dharma voice for the voiceless animals. According to the DVA, kindness is a language that any animal speaks. But every day tens of thousands of animals find themselves victims of abuse, neglect and cruelty. We can change all this by creating a world where we can co-exist in kindness, love and compassion.
Mr. Isaacson says at the heart of Gautama the Buddha’s teachings or the Dhamma, is the practice of Sila or morality. Throughout his teachings the Buddha made it clear that humans must not harm animals or other humans and must treat all living beings with compassion.
During the past few decades Sri Lanka has swallowed lots of wrong lessons from America, including Western diet or nutrition models, with excessive animal fat to bring about a growing trend, where children are dying before their parents.
Now, the time has come, with a new consensus Government also, to take the right lessons from another American as we did from Henry Steel Olcott.
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