Stop exporting elephants from Sri Lanka as gifts – it debases our humanity and Buddhist heritage
Posted on April 6th, 2013

Shenali Waduge

No ruler of Sri Lanka can afford to ignore Buddhist injunctions which used to form the moral and ethical framework of governance of this country under our pre-colonial Sinhalese Kings.  

One of the most celebrated injunctions conveyed by a monk to a King in recorded history is that moving plea made by Arahant Mahinda to King Devanampiyatissa in their very first encounter at Mihintale about 2300 years ago, in the following words:

“Oh! Great King, the birds of the air and the beasts have an equal right to live and move about in any part of this land as thou.  The land belongs to the peoples and all other beings and thou art only the guardian of it.”

The Buddha in spelling out the duties of an ideal ruler declared in the Cakkavatti “”…” Sihanada Sutta (Digha Nikaya of the Sutta Pitaka) that the Cakkavatti King (Righteous King) will give protection, shelter and ward to both human beings, and birds and beasts.

The Karaniya Metta Sutra calls for unselfish and all-embracing love; for the well-being and safety of others i.e. all beings, just as a mother gives her own life to protect her only child.

The Dhammapada is one of the best known books of the Pitaka. It is a collection of the teachings of the Buddha expressed in clear, pithy verses. In one Dhammapada verse it is highlighted that “ƒ”¹…”Life is dear to all’, and then says “ƒ”¹…”Comparing others with oneself, one should neither kill nor cause to kill’.

There is enough in the aforesaid passages for both the ruler and the subject in Sri Lanka to re-fashion oneself to accommodate and respect the vital interests of other living beings including their right to life and right to protection from man’s inhumanity and abuse.   

Pain and Grief

One of the most natural emotions humans feel is grief. That feeling is no different for elephants whether it is due to the death or the distancing of her child from her. Both sentiments speak volumes through tears that stream down the elephants eyes unable to appeal to us humans not to grab her child to be taken away never to be seen.

The gifting of elephants to leaders of foreign nations is considered with pride and honour yet it betrays the compassionate nature of Buddhist tenets, Animals particularly majestic creatures like elephants are entitled to live out their natural lives in the country they are born in and not live somewhere else which are climatically unsuitable for both their well being and health. We must try to understand that the sorrow a mother goes through when parted from her child is no different to the sorrow that a mother elephant can be expected to go through when parted from her own young ones. 

The gifting of our beloved elephants to other countries is a national shame.  It debases our humanity and Sri Lanka’s animal friendly Buddhist cultural heritage.  This reprehensible practice must be brought to a halt without delay.


5 Responses to “Stop exporting elephants from Sri Lanka as gifts – it debases our humanity and Buddhist heritage”

  1. callistus Says:

    There is nothing wrong in giving an animal as a gift.

  2. Lorenzo Says:

    I disagree.

    If we donate a pair each, then the grief problem can be overcome.

  3. herman Says:

    If SL can export professionals and maids, why not elephants? These Elephants, maybe better treated in a foreign land than in SL?

  4. Voice123 Says:

    This idea of Shenali’s is actually sensible and practical. The elephants are distressed and often not looked after well. We should substitute live elephants with wood carvings etc.

  5. Ratanapala Says:

    Shenali has written on all manner of subjects and topics. There is enough wisdom and compassion in her writings for a sane politician to take heed and act in a manner in keeping with the dignity of our Buddhist nation. All what is said seems to fall on deaf ears all to the detriment of our Buddhist heritage.

    Only a true Buddhist heart can understand the pain in another being and especially an animal. For all others they are creations of their God for the benefit of man alone to be used and misused at will. What can one expect from the followers of a God who loves the smell of burnt flesh – Leviticus.

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