DVA Launches Sri Lanka Project
The island nation of Sri Lanka has the longest, uninterrupted history of Buddhism of any county in the world. Today about 15 million Buddhists live in Sri Lanka out of a total population of 21 million. For the past two years, Dharma Voices for Animals (DVA) has been engaged in a project throughout the country to encourage compassionate diets.
UPDATE: Beginning in early spring DVA was unable to make live presentations at Dhamma (Sunday) schools, other schools, community centers, army posts, or anywhere else during the COVID 19 lockdown. As soon as the restrictions were lifted, on July 4 we were back in business making a presentation at the Heenapanwila Subodharmama where the audience expressed great interest in the connection between eating animals and pandemics, including the current one.
DVA’s 2nd Annual Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference
Sri Lanka, October 26, 2017: About 700 people filled the large auditorium in the Buddhist Cultural Center in Colombo, Sri Lanka, for DVA’s second annual Asian Buddhist Animal Rights Conference. The Conference officially launched our Sri Lanka Project, which is going strong almost two years later. Speakers, panel discussions, and outstanding plant-based food highlighted our event. The photo on the left shows DVA President/CEO Bob Isaacson giving the keynote address, while the photo on the right shows the Honorable Karu Jayasuriya, the Speaker of the Sri Lanka Parliament, telling the 700 people in attendance and a national audience via television and newspaper coverage that he doesn’t eat animals and fully supports DVA’s Sri Lanka Project. Bob’s keynote address can be seen and heard on our Facebook page.
DVA has been working with the leaders in the country to pass the Animal Rights/Welfare bill, which has been languishing in the system for many years and to pass a resolution that Parliament officially observes Meatless Mondays in order to set a shining example for all Sri Lankans and the rest of the world to adopt Meatless Mondays.
UPDATE: Bob Isaacson again met with the Honorable Speaker on October 2, 2019, to urge passage of both the bill and a Meatless Monday resolution.
Bhante Sathi: Co-Director of DVA’s Sri Lanka Project
Bhante Sathi is a Sri Lankan-American monk, who along with being the co-director of our Sri Lanka Project, is also the Minnesota Chapter Leader, and a member of DVA’s Board of Directors. Bhante has been instrumental in getting our message out to Sri Lankans in the newspapers and on television.
Shanika Gamage: DVA Sri Lanka Project National Event Supervisor.
Shanika Gamage, DVA’s Sri Lanka Project National Event Supervisor.
Dhamma (Sunday) School Program
For the past two years DVA has been making presentations at Dhamma (Sunday) schools where approximately 80% of Sri Lankan Buddhist children attend. Our presentations are made under the supervision of Shanika Gamage, our Project’s Dhamma School Coordinator.
UPDATE: We just expanded by adding three Regional Dhamma School Coordinators, Chathuri Windyani, Vieshnavy Balakrishnan, who will allow us to make presentations at schools far from the capital, Colombo.
The live programs include a Powerpoint presentation and a showing of our short film: Dharma Voices for Animals Sri Lanka Project: Heart or Tongue? We include the history of how Sri Lanka was largely a vegetarian island before the invasion and occupation by European powers and a call to Sri Lankans to return to their culture of non-harming and compassion. Our team also hands out six-page brochures in Sinhala introducing DVA and explaining why Sri Lankans should adopt a plant-based diet:
- to practice the Buddha’s teachings of compassion and non-harming
- to improve the health of children, families, and individuals
- to lessen the impact of environmental disasters such as global warming.
Our team presentations have also focused on medical doctors, soldiers, and farmers. Earlier this year DVA’s Sri Lanka Project team, along with our senior consultant Ananda Mahinkanda, presented at an army post. More than 1,200 soldiers attended with almost all expressing, after our presentation, their intention to switch to a compassionate diet.
UPDATE: On October 10, 2019, DVA held a large event at the Nelum Pokuna Mahinda Rajapaksa Theatre in central Colombo Sri Lanka for soldiers in the Sri Lankan army. For over three hours, 1200 soldiers listened to DVA presenters, including Ananda Mahinkanda, the Senior Consultant to our Sri Lanka Project, who made a presentation on the value of a plant-based diet. The response by the audience was beyond even our high expectations.
We have also made presentations to farmers, to the GMOA (Government Medical Officer’s Association), a prestigious organization of physicians, which resulted in assurances of support for our Sri Lanka Project; and to employees of various companies.
DVA’s Sri Lanka Project team also includes a group of veterinarians led by Dr. Chamith Nanayakkara, who are treating at no cost, the animals that live at the temples and monasteries, making presentations to the Dhamma schools, and organizing vegetarian groups at each school.
DVA also has a very active Sri Lankan Facebook page Follow Your Heart Go Vegan, moving Sri Lankans to a plant-based diet as we reach well over one million people. You can like us on our Facebook page and get updates on nutrition, great food, and DVA activities throughout Sri Lanka.
We have also been busy getting our message on television. Our team recently recorded a number of television programs, focusing on health, the environment, and Buddhist compassion/non-harming. DVA’s Sri Lanka Project Senior Consultant, Ananda Mahinkanda appeared live on the Buddhist Channel television speaking about the benefits of a plant-based diet.
DVA events, such as our May 5, 2018 vegan ice cream social on the streets of Columbo and our October 26, 2017 Animal Rights Conference have received front page coverage in the major newspapers and on national television. Articles and editorials supported DVA and our message have appeared in national newspapers.
Update: A press conference was held on Tuesday, October 8, 2019, with members of DVA’s Sri Lanka team.
We hold special events to bring attention to animal suffering caused by the Buddhist community. On May 5, 2018, DVA’s team of volunteers handed out 2,500 vegan ice cream cones on the streets of Colombo.
If you would like to volunteer to help DVA help animals and/or you have questions or suggestions, please contact DVA’s Sri Lanka Project Dhamma School Coordinator Shanika Gamage: firstname.lastname@example.org