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Open AccessArticle

For the Love of Dogs: Finding Compassion in a Time of Famine in Pali Buddhist Stories

Department of Religious Studies, Yale University, New Haven, CT 06520, USA
Religions 2019, 10(3), 183; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030183
Received: 15 February 2019 / Revised: 6 March 2019 / Accepted: 8 March 2019 / Published: 12 March 2019
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PDF [303 KB, uploaded 19 March 2019]

Abstract

This paper focuses on stories from the 13th century Rasavāhinī in which feeding a starving dog is described as an act of great merit, equal even to the care of a monk or the Buddha. It begins with a reevaluation of passages from Buddhist texts that have been taken by scholars as evidence of pan- Buddhist concern for taking care of animals. It argues that they have been over-read and that the Rasavāhinī stories are distinctive. The setting in which these acts occur, a catastrophic famine, helps us to understand the transformation of the despised dog into an object of compassion. In such dire circumstances, when humans themselves behave like animals, compassion for a starving dog is both a new recognition of a fundamental shared kinship between human and animal and a gesture of recovering lost humanity. View Full-Text
Keywords: dogs; Buddhism; famine; merit dogs; Buddhism; famine; merit
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Granoff, P. For the Love of Dogs: Finding Compassion in a Time of Famine in Pali Buddhist Stories. Religions 2019, 10, 183.

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