The Sanctity of Life
Posted on October 30th, 2020

Senaka Weeraratna

The underlying basic premise of the Animal Rights movement is the regard for the sanctity of life.

Sanctity of life of all living beings.

This is highly regarded in Buddhism.

Buddhism and Jainism (both Dharmic religions) see kinship with animals in the Sansaric journey. 

One American Buddhist writer ( Norman Phelps) in his book ‘ The Great Compassion – Buddhism and Animal Rights’

said as follows:

 “Buddhism ought to be an animal rights religion par excellence. It has long held that all life forms are sacred and considers kindness 

and  compassion the highest virtues. Moreover, Buddhism explicitly includes animals in its moral universe. Buddhist rules of 

conduct―including the first precept, Do not kill”―apply to our treatment of animals as well as to our treatment of other human beings.”  

When someone says ‘all lives matter’ it should not be seen as all lives of only one species i.e. human beings, but rather as all lives of all species.

Once you are born you have a right to life until you die of natural causes.

This applies to all species.

This is the natural law.

One sidedness in this context means that you value only the interests of your species and disregard the claims of all other species to live in freedom and contentment in a natural environment.

We evolve when we give up self-serving and self-centeredness, and extend care for others, who are in need and would benefit from such care. Others must necessarily include animals.

Our moral conscience and life are diminished when the precious life of another being is taken away by the hand of a human.

No unacceptable conduct however painful can justify the killing of another person.

That is the huge difference between Buddhism and other major world religions.

That is why as Buddhists we must condemn the killings of 4 people in France recently.

Killing another because he or she belongs to another faith is wrong.

Three innocent people were killed in a church in France in a barbaric fashion two days ago for no reason other than they belonged to another faith.

Such conduct must be condemned unreservedly.

Likewise, iconoclasm i.e. the rejection or destruction of religious images of people of other faiths as heretical, is also wrong and should not be entertained.

Calling adherents of one’s faith in sacred texts to destroy idols of other religions is tantamount to hate speech.

Such conduct must be criminalized through amendments introduced to the Penal Code. 

What happened at Mawanella in Sri Lanka in December 2018 constitutes the best example of people blindly following hate speech in the religious texts and destroying what was sacred to others.

Such conduct has potential to blow up the country through civil unrest. 

It must not be allowed to be repeated. 

The true test of a civilization is tolerance of differences and not intolerance of others’ right to worship.

People must engage in worship in spaces allotted for such worship without causing disturbance to others through use of sound 


The Right to Silence and the Right to Quiet enjoyment of property are well entrenched in our law that under no 

circumstances must these Fundamental Rights be allowed to be breached under the facade of practice of one’s religion.  

If these cardinal rules are broken then the authorities must step in and enforce the law as a matter of public duty. 

Senaka Weeraratna

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