The Buddhist Understanding of Other Animals

Paul Waldau

in The Specter of Speciesism

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195145717
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834792 | DOI:

Series: AAR Academy Series

The Buddhist Understanding of Other Animals

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Examining the common view that Buddhism is sensitive to nonhuman animals, this chapter concludes that the tradition has an ambivalent view of existence as a nonhuman animal, and that early Buddhists were often very derisive and dismissive of the realities of nonhuman animals. Despite the central place of animal stories and their important emphases on continuity and compassion and the ethical achievements obvious in the First Precept (do not harm), recognizable harms to even the most complicated nonhuman animals, such as elephants, were deemed to be humans’ prerogatives under the moral order. The notion of “speciesism” illuminates features of how mainline Buddhism has come to understand the place of other animals even though there are subtraditions and important ethics‐based attitudes that do not easily fit the description “speciesist.”

Keywords: animal stories; Buddhism; compassion; continuity; elephants; ethics; First Precept; harm; subtraditions

Chapter.  9831 words. 

Subjects: Buddhism

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