From May to July, 2016, the “Vietnamese Buddhists Protect Rhinos” project organized by CHANGE together with WildAid and the African Wildlife Foundation has continuously hosted propagation activities on rhino protection aimed at the Vietnamese Buddhist community nationwide to call for support and solidarity to speak up about rhino poaching as well as the use of rhino horns in Vietnam, in order to raise awareness and strengthen cooperation to preserve the last remaining rhino populations.
The project received a positive response from lecturers including the Venerable Thich Vien Giac – Abbot of Tu Tan pagoda (HCMC), Thero Thich Nhat Tu – Abbot of Giac Ngo pagoda (HCMC), Thero Thich Chan Quang – Abbot of Phat Quang pagoda (Ba Ria – Vung Tau), the Venerable Thich Tam Hoa – Abbot of Hoa Phuc pagoda (Hanoi) with the attendance of over 14,000 Buddhists from all over the country, as well as engaged interest from dozens of Buddhism specialist pages who assisted in spreading the message.
To begin the series of activities, the Venerable Thich Vien Giac – Abbot of Tu Tan pagoda talked to over 1,000 Buddhists regarding the rhino horn trade and consumption in Vietnam. The Venerable was astounded, for Vietnam is poor yet is a leading country in rhino horn consumption. He earnestly called for Buddhists to share correct information about rhino horn and global rhino protection to family, friends and close ones and called for the authorities to strongly apply law enforcement to stop illegal rhino horn trading.
Next, in the spirt and at the time of Buddha’s birthday celebration at Phat Quang pagoda on May 5th, more than 10,000 Buddhists along with the Venerable Thich Chan Quang also adopted the spirit of rhino protection. Together with the mesage of saving the rhino, the Venerable also conveyed a humane message of love for all species, no distinction between human and animal because all lives are of the same value. Humans can change by giving up the concept of killing animals to satisfy selfish needs, and practice vegetarianism in order to reduce the slaughtering. He also gave a more noble message, that is, even if rhino horn were to have medicinal value, we should still refuse to use it to cure illness.
With the hope of spreaing messages of compassion and educating Buddhists nationwide in terms of rhino protection, the project continued at Hoa Phuc pagoda (Hanoi) on July 21st and received an enthusiastic response from more than 1,000 quý chư Tăng bổn tự cùng hàng Phật tử trong đạo tràng (monks?). The Venerable stated that the use of rhino horn will cause the ecosystem to become unbalanced, turn our living environment upside down and directly affect human lives, in addition to the indirect commission to the no slaughtering principle that Buddha has forbid in his apprentices. He urged people to say no to using products from rhino horn and educate their friends and close ones.
Beside the propagation activities at the pagodas, the project also organized a seminar, “Art of balance and happiness” hosted by the Venerable Thich Nhat Tu with the participation of ambassadors of the campaign including actor Hong Anh, singer Thu Minh and 120 businessmen. The seminar was an open and intimate space for businessmen to come, listen and ask questions that many people are concerned about which included how to achieve balance and to feel inner happiness due to the current streeful lifstyle we lead. Afterwhich, the Venerable Thich Nhat Tu conveyed messages and urge the Buddhist and business community to protect the ecosystem, especially to say no to endangered animal products, particularly rhino horn.
“The art of happy living is to find balance between the body and mind and to create harmony beteween humans and nature, to express love to animals, to enjoy virtue, to express selflessness, to control emotions and have leisure in controversial situations” – Venerabl Thich Nhat Tu said, “In fact, rhino horn is made of keratin, like human nails and hair. Rhino horn is not an elixir, therefore it cannot cure diseases or cancer like the rumours say. The psychology of “do what others do” in this situation is contributing to the extinction of this species and it cannot bring blessings to us and future generations.
Through these activities, the specialized Buddhist pages of Giac Ngo pagoda, Hoang Phap pagoda along with Buddhism Today and The Buddhist, etc. have all simultaneously helped spreading the message to Buddhists nationwide with the hope of stopping the rhino trade and rhino horn consumption in the near future.