Dharma Voices for Animals is happy to announce the launch of our latest and biggest campaign – The Sri Lanka Project. The Project will focus on the 15 million Sri Lankan Buddhists, encouraging them to transition toward a compassionate plant-based diet.
In October DVA President Bob Isaacson traveled to Sri Lanka to officially launch DVA’s Sri Lanka Project. The trip to Sri Lanka included four important DVA events, described below: 1) DVA’s Chapter Leader Conference October 20-25; 2) DVA’s October 25 Press Conference; 3) DVA’s second annual Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference October 26; and 4) The official launch of DVA’s Sri Lanka Project.
About Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, an island nation of 21 million people including 15 million Buddhists, holds a unique place in the Buddhist world. Buddhism has been the major religion on the island since its official introduction in the 3rd century B.C. by Arahant Mahinda, the son of the Emperor Ashoka of India – the longest continuous history of Buddhism of any nation.
Since that time the Sangha (Order of Monks) has a largely unbroken lineage, and Sri Lankan monks and lay people have played a prominent role in spreading Theravada Buddhism to Asia, the West and even Africa. Buddhism is the official religion under the nation’s Constitution.
Chapter Leader Conference October 20-25
Chapter Leaders from all over the world met in Kandy, Sri Lanka for our second annual Chapter Leader Conference. We were supported by the wonderful generosity of Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara and his Kandy Chapter.
Eight Chapter Leaders attended: Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara (Chapter Leader – Kandy, SriLanka) who hosted everyone, Senaka Weeraratna (Colombo, Sri Lanka), Bhante Sathi (Minnesota, USA), Vicki Seglin (Chicago, USA), Albert Mah (Perth, Australia), Phil Murphy (Los Angeles, USA), Alex Arbogast (Washington, DC, USA), & Bob Isaacson (San Diego).
We also spent quality time sightseeing, which included the Temple of the Tooth, one of the most important places in the Buddhist world (background in photo); Kandyan Cultural dancing, a pulsating display of traditional dance; a wildlife hospital where we hung out with a 2 1/2 month old baby elephant (see photo), rescued from entanglement in fishing nets; and the Kaudulla National Park where we were taken in two land rovers to see approximately 65 elephants in the wild (see photo).
Day after day we ate traditional Sri Lankan plant-based (vegan) food that was delicious, healthy, and so interesting!
On October 25, much of our DVA Sri Lanka Project team, Ms. Keshinie Bandaranaike, Director (as one looks at the table, seated on far left), Ananda Mahinkanda, Senior consultant (second from the left), Bhante Sathi, Co-coordinator third from left), and Bob Isaacson (next to Bhante at the microphones), co-hosted a press conference, along with the Anagarika Dharmapala Foundation.
Animal Rights Conference
DVA officially kicked off our Sri Lanka Project on October 26, 2017, with an audience of 600 people, including the national media, at our second annual Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference at the Buddhist Cultural Center in Colombo. The Speaker of the Sri Lanka Parliament, the Honorable Karu Jayasuriya (pictured), made a public address extremely supportive of DVA and our mission and pledging his full support for DVA and our Sri Lanka Project.
The conference received extensive and very favorable coverage by the national media, pictured at one of our events. Widely respected monks, the Venerable Omalpe Sobhitha Thero, the Venerable Siri Vajiraramaye Nanasiya Thero, and the Venerable Olanda Ananda, also gave public talks, pledging their full support for DVA and our Project. Over the past six years DVA has developed a strong presence in Sri Lanka with influential chapters in both major population centers, Colombo and Kandy, and strong working relationships with the top monks.
All of DVA’s events have received widespread, favorable television, newspaper, and internet media coverage. For example, a major national newspaper, the Daily Mirror, published an editorial which was extremely supportive of DVA and our message promoting vegetarianism/veganism for all Buddhists.
Sri Lanka Project
Our Sri Lanka Project is now underway! Our Project Director, attorney and animal activist Keshinie Bandaranaike, is working closely with our Social Media Coordinator, the Venerable Bibiladeniye Mahanama Thero, to transition Sri Lankans to a plant-based diet by 1) growing our Facebook “likes” in that country to one million and 2) by organizing our team to make personal contact with all Sri Lankans through countless in person public talks, workshops, and forums throughout the island nation. To achieve our goal of plant-based diets, we will also advocate for meatless Mondays, a meatless day every week in the Parliament, and special curriculum in Buddhist schools teaching the value of vegetarianism/veganism. We will post on social media a great variety of our own video recordings of talks by the top monastics, political leaders, entertainers, doctors, nutritionists, chefs, and others.