Killing whales and Japanese Buddhism

The Japanese whaling industry, seeking to make amends for the heavy burden of guilt for the continued extermination of whales, but not wanting to change the status quo in any way (read: stop killing whales, thus eliminating the very need to experience this feeling of guilt), found it more profitable for herself to start manipulating Buddhism to achieve her dubious goals. I am referring to that grand funeral ceremony that took place recently in one of the Zen temples in Japan. In addition to a number of government officials, as well as the management and ordinary employees of one of the largest corporations in Japan, this event was witnessed by a correspondent for the American newspaper Baltimore Sun, who wrote the following report about what he saw:

“The Zen temple was spacious inside, richly furnished, and gave the impression of being very prosperous. The reason for the meeting was the holding of a memorial prayer service for the souls of 15 dead, who over the past three years gave their lives for the sake of the prosperity of the Japanese people.

The mourners were seated in strict accordance with the hierarchy, guided by their official position in the company to which they all belonged. About twenty people – male leaders and invited government officials, dressed in formal suits – sat on benches located on a raised podium, directly in front of the altar. The rest, about a hundred and eighty in number, mostly men without jackets, and a small group of young women sat cross-legged on mats on either side of the podium.

To the sounds of a gong, the priests entered the temple and settled down facing the altar. They hit a huge drum. One of the men in suits stood up and greeted the crowd.

The chief priest, dressed in a canary-yellow robe and with a shaved head, began a prayer: “Free their souls from torment. Let them cross over to the Other Shore and become Perfect Buddhas.” Then, all the priests began to recite one of the sutras in unison and in a singsong voice. This went on for quite a long time and produced some kind of hypnotic effect.

When the singing ended, all those present, in turn, approached the altar in pairs to burn incense.

At the end of the offering ceremony, the head priest summed it up with a short notation: “I am very flattered that you have chosen our temple to hold this service. In the army, I often ate whale meat myself and I feel a special connection with these animals.”

His mention of whales was not a reservation, for the entire service was organized by employees of Japan’s largest whaling corporation. The 15 souls they prayed for were the souls of the whales they had killed.”

The journalist goes on to describe how surprised and dismayed the whalers are by the criticism they receive from abroad, especially from the United States, which portrays them as “cruel and heartless creatures needlessly taking the lives of some of the noblest animals on the planet.” The author cites the words of the captain of a whaling schooner, who recalls what exactly “The American occupation authorities, immediately after the Second World War, ordered the sending of fishing boats to fish for whales in order to save the defeated country from starvation”.

Now that the Japanese are no longer at risk of malnutrition, their animal protein intake is still half that of the United States, and whale meat is often included in school lunches. One former harpooner told a journalist the following:

“I just can’t understand the arguments of whaling opponents. After all, this is the same as killing a cow, chicken or fish for the purpose of subsequent consumption. If whales behaved like cows or pigs before they died, making a lot of noise, I would never be able to shoot them. Whales, on the other hand, accept death without a sound, like fish.”

The writer concludes his article with the following observation:

Their (whalers’) sensitivity may surprise quite a few activists who advocate for a ban on whaling. Inai, for example, killed more than seven thousand whales in his twenty-four years as a harpooner. One day he saw how a caring mother, having the opportunity to flee herself, deliberately returned to the danger zone in order to dive, take away her slow cub and thereby save him. He was so moved by what he saw that, according to him, he could not pull the trigger.

At first glance, this service in the monastery looks like a sincere attempt to ask for forgiveness from the “innocently killed” whales, a kind of “tear of repentance”. However, the facts speak quite differently. As we already know, the first commandment forbids the willful taking of life. Therefore, this also applies to fishing (both in the form of sport fishing and as a trade), which Buddhists are forbidden to engage in. Butchers, slaughterers and hunters are classified by the Buddha in the same category as fishermen. The whaling company – to resort to the services of Buddhist clergy and temples in order to create the appearance of some kind of religious patronage for their frankly anti-Buddhist actions, and its employees – to turn to the Buddha with a prayer for the liberation from the torment of the souls of the whales killed by them (by this murder, completely disregarding the very teachings of the Buddha) as if a teenager who brutally murdered both his parents asked the court to show him leniency on the grounds that he is an orphan.

Dr. D.T. Suzuki, the famous Buddhist philosopher, agrees with this view. In his book The Chain of Compassion, he denounces the hypocrisy of those who first needlessly, cruelly kill, and then order Buddhist memorial services for the repose of the souls of their victims. He’s writing:

“Buddhists chant sutras and burn incense after these creatures have already been killed, and they say that by doing so they pacify the souls of the animals they have executed. Thus, they decide, everyone is satisfied, and the matter can be considered closed. But can we seriously think that this is the solution to the problem, and our conscience can rest on this? …Love and compassion live in the hearts of all beings inhabiting the universe. Why is it that only a person uses his so-called “knowledge” to satisfy his selfish passions, then trying to justify his deeds with such sophisticated hypocrisy? …Buddhists should strive to teach everyone else compassion for all living things — compassion, which is the basis of their religion…”

If this ceremony in the temple were not a hypocritical performance, but an act of genuine Buddhist piety, the whalers and employees of the company would have to repent of their violations of the first commandment, which are innumerable, pray to Kannon, the bodhisattva of compassion, asking her forgiveness for their deeds, and swear henceforth not to kill innocent creatures. There is no need to explain to the reader that none of this happens in practice. As for those Buddhist priests who rent themselves and their temple for this buffoonery, motivated no doubt by the expectation of a substantial donation from the whaling company, then the very fact of their existence eloquently testifies to the decadent state in which Japanese Buddhism is today.

In the post-war years, Japan was undoubtedly a poor and hungry country, and the circumstances of that time could still try to justify the unlimited fight of whales for meat. Guided precisely by these considerations, the American occupation authorities insisted on the development of the whaling fleet. Today when Japan is one of the richest countries in the world, with a gross national product in the free world second only to that of the United States., this state of affairs can no longer be tolerated.

Among other things, whale meat no longer plays the significant role in the diet of the Japanese that the author of the article ascribes to it. According to recent data, the average Japanese gets only three-tenths of a percent of their protein from whale meat.

When I lived in Japan in the post-war years, and even in the early fifties, only the poorest people bought cheap kujira – whale meat. Few people really like it – most Japanese do not like this excessively fatty meat. Now that the benefits of the “Japanese economic miracle” have reached ordinary Japanese workers, elevating them to the ranks of the highest paid workers in the world, it is reasonable to assume that they, too, prefer to eat more refined meat products than the notorious kujira meat. In fact, Japanese meat consumption has risen to such an extreme height that, according to observers, Japan in this indicator is second only to the United States today.

The sad truth is that these days, the Japanese and Russians continue, ignoring the protests of the world community, to exterminate whales mainly for the sake of obtaining by-products used in the manufacture of shoe polish, cosmetics, fertilizers, pet food, industrial fats and other products. , which, without exception, can be obtained in another way.

All of the above in no way justifies the exorbitant amount of animal protein consumed by Americans, and the ensuing facts of the massacre of pigs, cows and poultry that serve these consumption figures. I just want to draw the reader’s attention to the fact that none of these animals belongs to endangered species, while Whales are on the verge of extinction!

It is well known that whales are highly developed marine mammals, no doubt much less aggressive and bloodthirsty than humans. Whalers themselves admit that in their attitude towards offspring, whales are exactly like people. How then can Japanese whalers claim that whales behave like fish in everything?

Even more important in this context is the fact that along with intelligence, whales also have a highly developed nervous system, dooming them to the ability to experience the full range of physical suffering and pain. Try to imagine what it’s like when a harpoon bursts in your insides! In this regard, the testimony of Dr. G.R. Lilly, a doctor who worked for the British whaling fleet in the South Seas:

“To this day, whale hunting uses an ancient and barbaric method in its cruelty … In one case that I happened to observe, it took five hours and nine harpoons to kill a female blue whale, who was also in the late stages of pregnancy“.

Or imagine the feelings of dolphins, whose fate is to be beaten to death with sticks, because this is how it is customary for Japanese fishermen to deal with them. Recent photo ops in the press have captured fishermen slaughtering these highly advanced mammals by the thousands and throwing their carcasses into huge meat grinders, again not for human consumption, but for animal feed and fertilizer! What makes the dolphin massacre particularly abhorrent is the world’s accepted fact that these unique creatures have always had a special bond with humans. Through the centuries, legends reach us about how dolphins saved a person in trouble.

Jacques Cousteau has filmed how dolphins in Mauritania and Africa bring fish to humans, and naturalist Tom Garrett talks about Amazon tribes that have achieved such a symbiosis with dolphins that they protect them from piranhas and other dangers. Folklore, legends, songs and legends of many peoples of the world praise “spirituality and kindness”; these creatures. Aristotle wrote that “these creatures are distinguished by the noble power of their parental care.” The Greek poet Oppian anathematized those who raised their hands against the dolphin in his lines:

Dolphin hunting is disgusting. The one who deliberately kills them, No longer has the right to appeal to the gods with a prayer, They will not accept his offerings, Enraged by this crime. His touch will only defile the altar, With his presence he will discredit All those who are forced to share shelter with him. How disgusting is the killing of a man to the gods, So condemningly they look from their peaks At those who cause death to dolphins – Rulers of the deep sea.

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