Statement from Phra Bhramapundit,
I am very happy to hear that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has pledged to start a legislative process to end ivory trade in Thailand at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) held in Bangkok this week.
Asian elephants and their ivory are an important element of Thai culture and history and our government and environmental organizations have put a lot of effort to conserve wild elephants and their habitat. However, the demand for ivory in Asia, including Thailand, is leading to a rapid decline of elephants in Africa. I have been told that some of this demand comes from Buddhists who like to wear ivory amulets or collect ivory religious statues. I would like to say here that there is no Buddhist ritual that advocates the use of ivory. Ivory is not sacred in Buddhist worship and should not be used.
Lord Buddha taught that the existence of human beings is completely dependent on the existence of all other things. Since this is the case, we cannot merely look down on other species or act as though nature exists merely to support us in our pursuit for material success. Since none of us can exist as an independent entity, and we would not be alive without the compassion that the earth shows us, we must have an attitude of gratitude to nature and to other species. Lord Buddha often gave teachings depicting animals; he made a clear distinction that they were capable of leadership, compassion, courage, and affection to their offspring. Many of the Jataka tales teach us that animals are able to think and feel compassion for one another.
I feel that Buddhism has a responsibility to teach tolerance and compassion for other species and to encourage a sustainable way of life. Therefore, I am now launching a new curriculum at Mahachulalongkornrajavidyala University that will focus on environmental issues and teach some environmental science and solutions to the monks who study and graduate from here. I hope this will bring benefit to wildlife and create harmony in the world.