DVA'S THIRD TRIP TO ASIA HUGE SUCCESS
In a whirlwind four week trip to Asia, DVA president Bob Isaacson continued to spread DVA's message of compassion towards all sentient beings throughout the world.
The trip began at the 28th bi-annual conference of the World Federation of Buddhists (WFB) in Seoul, South Korea, attended by 500 representatives from the WFB's 189 Regional Centers. DVA is the only animal advocacy Regional Center in the WFB and was represented by Bob, Kandy, Sri Lanka, Chapter Leader Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara, Perth, Australia, Chapter Leader Albert Mah, and San Diego chapter member Ananda Mahinkanda.
For five days Bob and the others spoke with other attendees, signed up new members, and handed out DVDs of our widely-acclaimed film, Animals and the Buddha – now translated into ten languages – and our new colorful eight page brochure (available for download on our website).
A highlight of the conference was the meeting of the Standing Committee of Humanitarian Services. DVA is now an equal partner on that committee, working side by side with fellow members who are focused on compassion for humans.
FIRST EVER ASIAN BUDDHIST ANIMAL RIGHTS CONFERENCE
An important part of the trip was DVA's co-sponsorship, along with the Korean organization CARE (Coexistence of Animal Rights on Earth), of the inaugural Asian Buddhist Animal rights conference. The keynote speaker was the renowned Venerable Master Hai Tao of Taiwan, who flew to Seoul just for the event and spoke on Why Buddhists Should Eat a Plant-based or Vegetarian Diet.
Other speakers included:
Bob Isaacson: The Buddha’s unique teaching about our relationship to animals.
Soyoun Park, CARE founder and president: Is happiness the exclusive property of humans?
Dr. Nanayakkara: The importance of implementing humane animal control methods.
Movie Director Yun Hwang: Mercy and peace of eating.
Prof. Changkil Park: What Buddhist organizations can do to protect world laboratory animals.
Four professional translators provided simultaneous translations into Chinese, Korean, and English for those attending through headsets, and a delicious, inspiring vegan lunch was offered to everyone in attendance. Master Hai Tao’s 90 minute presentation was very moving as he urged Buddhists everywhere to follow the teachings of the Buddha and adopt a cruelty-free diet. Master is himself a vegan or, as he self-identifies, a “pure vegetarian.” The conference also included two interactive workshops where everyone could process the teachings.
Some of the participants at Buddhist AR conference
At the conclusion of the AR conference, DVA announced four resolutions:
Extending to Buddhist centers around the world veterinarian treatment, including spaying and neutering homeless dogs, cats, and other animals, led by Dr. Nanayakkara in Sri Lanka.
Ending animal sacrifice.
Working for the immediate passage of the Sri Lankan Animal Rights/Welfare bill that DVA has been supporting since 2013.
Educating the WFB on the importance of not commingling vegetarian and non-vegetarian food at the conference, so that attendees could make choices of what to eat consistent with their Dharma practice of non harming and compassion towards all sentient beings.
After the conference Bob and Albert flew to Singapore, an island/city/nation of approximately 5.5 million people, 2 million of whom are Buddhist. The trip began with a public talk at the Phor Kark See Temple, attended by 120 people to celebrate Vegetarian Day. During the event forty people became new DVA members, and DVA added both a new Chapter Leader, Meng Wei Chai (“Daniel”) and coordinator, Ng Xin Zhao.
The next stop was the Fo Guang Shan monastery of the Buddha’s Light Association, where Bob and others were hosted by a wonderful group of vegetarian nuns.
Daniel, Ng Xin Zhao, and Albert outside the monastery
The next afternoon Bob and Albert talked with Ven. Shravasti Dhammika, who offered an interesting prospective on why so few Theravadan monastics are vegetarian.
Albert and the Venerable outside a Burmese temple
The evening was spent with a group of doctors and a Dharma talk on why we should practice as vegetarians.
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA
The next stop was Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Albert's birthplace, where Bob and Albert met with the senior monk at the Brickfields Temple, home of DVA member Bhante Henapola Gunaratana (Bhante G) from 1957 to 1967. The senior monk there became a DVA member as they shared specific suggestions on how to talk to Buddhists about their diet.
Next was the Sentul Temple, where Bob and Albert were welcomed by Bhante Saranankara, the Sri Lankan abbot who holds the position of “Chief High Priest of Malaysia,” as the top monastic in that country. Bhante enthusiastically became a DVA member and helped by trying to set up a chapter in his city. Also joining DVA was Bhante Seevali, a professor of Buddhist Studies.
"Chief High Priest of Malaysia" with Bob and Albert
The following day Bob and Albert had lunch with three members of the Buddhist Union of Malaysia, including President Pai Ling, brainstorming on how to begin a DVA chapter.
The next day Albert and Bob flew to Penang, the second largest city in Malaysia, to stay at the Than Hsiang Monastery as guests of the abbot, the Ven. Wei Wu, who also became a DVA member. The Venerable also runs the International Buddhist College in Songkhla, across the border in Thailand.
After visiting two more Buddhist centers and adding their abbots as DVA members, Bob and Albert returned to Than Hsiang to present a public talk to 100 people.
At this event Bob and Albert met two very impressive young men, Chhen Sela and Chii Chew Hong, selecting them as Penang, Malaysia, Co-Chapter Leaders to launch a chapter in that city. Sela and Hong joined Bob and Albert the following day, driving to Ipoh, Malaysia, to give yet another public talk to an audience of over 100 at a Buddhist Sunday school.
from left to right: Sela (second from the left), Chii Chew, Albert, and Bob
Before leaving Malaysia Bob and Albert gave their final public talk at the well-known Bodhi Heart Center. At their four public talks in Malaysia, Bob and Albert played Part I of Animals and the Buddha, with Chinese subtitles.
Traveling to Vietnam alone, the highlights of Bob's visit were meetings in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), Hue, and Hanoi with leaders of the Vietnam Buddhist Sangha (VBS), the umbrella governmental organization that represents over 45,000 monastics and 14,000 Buddhist centers. Bob’s heart was warmed by hearing that all VBS monastics were vegetarian and all their centers served strictly vegetarian meals. The first VBS leader Bob met was the Ven. Thich Tron Chon in HCMC. With the help of a translator the two shared their compassion for those animals who suffer so terribly on their way to our plates. During the 2 ½ hour meeting, the Venerable and Bob connected on the importance of being a voice for animals and the work that he and DVA have been doing for many years. The Venerable offered to help DVA by working with the leadership of VBS to identify specific projects to partner on with DVA. Bob learned that many Buddhists in Vietnam eat only vegetarian food on the first and fifteenth of each month.
The second meeting with VBS was in the enchanting city of Hue with the Ven. Thich Tri Tuu at his Thien Mu Pagoda, a must-see for every visitor to Hue. The Venerable shared his three-part approach to promoting vegetarianism and veganism: nurture affection for animals; teach about the benefits to animals, the environment, and our water supply; and educate others on the devastating effect of factory farming on global warming. A number of young, novice monastics, ages eight to eleven, joined and sang a song about the virtues of vegetarianism.
Venerable Thich Tri Tuu and Bob
On the final leg of his official meetings with VBS, Bob paid a visit to its national headquarters at the Quan Su Pagoda in Hanoi, meeting its esteemed representative, Thich Thanh Huan. The Venerable regularly gives talks and conducts classes about not eating animals at both the Quan Su and the Phap Van Pagodas. He also has spent quality time with Thich Nhat Hanh, both in the U.S. and in Vietnam. DVA is planning to work very closely with the Venerable in promoting a vegetarian and a plant-based diet in Vietnam, and he has accepted our invitation to travel to the U.S. in late June, 2017 to give public talks, connect with the sizable Vietnamese-American community in California, and discuss specific ways that VBS and DVA can work together toward our common goal of relieving the suffering of all beings.
Ven. Thich Thanh Huan and Bob
Finally, Bob met with the English speaking Thich Nhat Hanh Moon Hamlet Sangha in Hanoi, sharing DVA’s message in the context of Thay’s “first mindfulness training,” leading a meditation, picking up all but one of the group as DVA members, and talking with a potential Chapter Leader.
ACCOMPLISHMENTS OF THE ROAD TO ASIA, PART THREE
DVA's third trip to Asia was, like the others, a huge success. Accomplishments include:
Gathering information and ideas, such as that a large number of Buddhists in Asia are interested in becoming vegetarian but are worried about nutrition and how to cook vegetarian.
Disseminating information about what the Buddha taught about our relationship to animals by distributing our DVD and brochure, giving public talks, and having countless conversations.
Supporting those Buddhists who speak on behalf of animals in Asia.
Significantly increasing DVA's membership, especially in Singapore and Malaysia, including increasing the number of monastic members by 40%.
Starting new chapters in Singapore and Penang, Malaysia with enthusiastic, young leadership.
Developing strong support for starting chapters in Kuala Lumpur and Vietnam.
Developing relationships with professors and leaders at Buddhist Universities. DVA is beginning discussions on adding courses on what the Buddha taught about animals.
Our deepest gratitude to the Venerable Anandajoti, a long-time DVA member who works at the International Buddhist College in Songkhla, Thailand, for organizing major parts of our visit to Singapore and Malaysia!
DVA Welcomes New Members Tara Brach and Guy Armstrong
Tara Brach, Ph.D., is an internationally known teacher of Buddhist meditation, a clinical psychologist, and the founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington. She is author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge, and her popular weekly podcast explores the role of mindfulness and compassion in healing, spiritual awakening and socially engaged living. In addition to her public teaching, Tara is active in bringing meditation into schools, prisons, and underserved populations around the Washington, D.C. area.
Guy Armstrong has been practicing Insight meditation for the last 40 years and began teaching meditation in 1984. Guy became interested in Buddhism in college and got a little closer with a two-year service in the Peace Corps in Malaysia. Upon returning to the U.S. in the mid-1970s, forced to cook for himself, he discovered Diet for a Small Planet and within a year became fully vegetarian.
Soon after that he attended his first vipassana retreat with Joseph Goldstein, Sharon Salzberg, and Jack Kornfield. That led him to Insight Meditation Society (IMS) in Massachusetts, a year in Thailand as a Buddhist monk, and then to the founding of the Sharpham Community in Devon, England. He and his wife Sally landed near Spirit Rock when they moved to California in 1988. Guy and Sally are longtime members of PETA and vegetarian.
Guy is a Guiding Teacher of IMS and a member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council. He regularly teaches the long retreats at IMS and Spirit Rock. His first book, Emptiness, will be published by Wisdom next May.
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DVA Board Members,
Bob, David B., Patti, David H., and Sherry