Friday, 14 January 2011

An Analytical Study of Metta in Theravada Tradition (3)

Releasing animals and helping the old aged persons relevant to the symbol of mettæ
Burmese New Year is, usually, opened with cultivating good deeds. Showing a symbol of whole-hearted loving-kindness, some animals are liberally released free. The Releasing life involves gathering animals held in captivity (often by purchasing them from butchers and fishmongers) and setting them free (Buddhist scriptures, p-395). The tradition of releasing animals and birds is usually performed by different groups of local people. Sparrows, fishes, doves and sometimes buffalos and cows are also set free. It is often believed that by doing so the merit accrues to those who set the animals free with kind-hearted minds. On the contrary, it seems sinful for them because it is as if they would encourage the captors to seize a large number of animals for the New Year event. In this regard, the captors are thought to be empty-hearted, as they, before the New Year, captured many birds and fishes to earn a huge amount of money. While the majority of people were reckoning to perform the meritorious deeds, they were probably thinking to capture a huge number of animals. Some people sometimes make a special order the captors for several birds and fishes in advance for the reason that they are willing to release them according to the calculation of their ages in the New Year. For example, if they are 80 or 90 years old, the want 80 or 90 birds or fishes to be released. It sounds rather odd. In general speaking, it is not fair that the animals become victims of New Year resembling a type of New Year marketing.
Furthermore, cows and buffalos are regarded as great benefactors in Burma due to that they assist the farmers for cultivating the farms and harvesting the crops and grains. The farmers are depending on them and they might also desire to depend on their owners. However, the farmers set the unable cows and buffalos by sending to the sanctuary as though they would discard them. Many things happen behind the New Year event, but such cultures and traditions are stilling flowing in Burma. It seems to me that the so-called people forcefully seize the unfair mental peace and happiness by making use of the animals.
 Another beautiful cultural event in New Year is to owe gratitude to the old aged persons including one’s own parents and grand-parents by performing as assistants. The younger people pay respect [and bow down] to the elders by offering the necessities to them such as, money, towels, blankets, shirts, longyi [Burmese traditional suits to cover lower part of the body], food, etc. Moreover, the younger people generally assist the old aged persons by cutting off their nails, bathing them, brushing their hair, cleaning their bodies, clothes and their rooms. Such a beautiful cultural tradition is a firm bridge between old people and you adults in Burma. It is clear that such a conduct towards the elders is an iconic feature of mettæ, loving-kindness.

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