Accepted Paper:

Dharma and animal welfare  


Chow Wah Chan

Paper short abstract:

Using Venerable Hongyi's Animal Protection volumes, I demonstrate Chinese Mahayana Buddhism's concept of compassion and animals as fellow beings. Almost half a century after its publication, these ideas continue to resonate in the promotion of vegetarianism and animal welfare.

Paper long abstract:

In 1929, a Chinese Mahayana Buddhist monk Venerable Hongyi (弘一法师)published the first volume of "Animal protection" (护生画集)paintings. This was the first of 5 volumes published over a 50-year period.

The volumes revolved around the central Buddhist theme of compassion to all sentient beings and animals are presented as fellow beings with feelings and intelligence to be treated with compassion.

Using the animal paintings in these volumes, I argue that while the concept of compassion to sentient beings remains unchanged, the activities and programs respond to social, cultural, and even technological changes to "update" the practice of compassion.

China became less Buddhist friendly after 1949, the last few volumes were sent to Venerable Hong Kiap (广洽法师)in Singapore who raised funds for its publication. As such, I will use Singapore as a site to explore how the values from the paintings continue inspire.

At the very public level, Venerable Hongyi's painting are reproduced and displayed at vegetarian restaurants to promote vegetarianism as an act of compassion to animals.

In response to government's culling program, a Dharma inspired no kill shelter was established as a refuge for abused and abandoned animals.

While these activities might be similar to various animal welfare groups, it differs in that the participants are not driven by an affection for an animal but motivated by a sense of compassion for animals as follow beings to be care for, loved and protected.

Panel P003
Representing and Depicting Animals