Anuvrat Movement

Forgive someone or seek forgiveness 

Wednesday, 05 Jun, 2024
(Image provide by John Di Leonardo)

By John Di Leonardo
If you’ve spent much time in Jain circles, you have likely heard the phrase, “Micchami Dukkadam.” Michhami means to be fruitless (forgiven) and Dukkadam (Dushkrut) means bad deeds, so when put together this phrase means literally, “may my bad deeds be fruitless” or less literally “I sincerely ask your forgiveness.” The willingness to humble oneself to ask for forgiveness and the willingness to genuinely forgive those who do “bad deeds” — even, or perhaps especially, when those bad deeds harm us — is critical to practicing Jain dharma. 

Working in the field of animal advocacy, I often meet people who ask me how I deal with all the animal abuse I come across in my daily life. Just this past week, I rescued 13 ducks, 4 geese, and a peafowl – all abandoned to the wild and several with life-threatening injuries; and earlier today I came across a fawn, or baby deer, flailing in the middle of the road – the victim of a hit-and-run. I am human, so of course I get angry, but more often than not I remember that a person's every action is the result of the disposition they were born with — whether one calls that a soul, a Jiva, or simply their genetic makeup — and how that disposition is influenced by environmental factors, experiences, or karmas. A wicked person is not someone to be feared or loathed, but rather a broken person who needs to be loved and healed.

 

Acharya Tulsi Ji (Photo provided by Arvind Vora)

While this philosophy sounds nice in theory, it is even better in practice, opening doors to save animals, creating vegans, and making new friends. Today, my friend Alex helped me put together an aviary for the four geese rescued this week. Alex is the son of a slaughterhouse owner who was jailed for killing two dogs. I met him after being called to rescue more than a hundred cows, piglets, sheep, goat, bunnies, chickens, ducks, and geese from the property. While many would judge Alex by the sins of his father, they would be remiss in never learning the kindness of his son. Similarly, at the end of last year, I befriended several former employees of Sloth Encounters – a ramshackle petting zoo where animals have been beaten, died, and exploited for photo ops – working with them to shut down the business’s storefront in March. One of these employees has since become vegan and several have become volunteers with my nonprofit Humane Long Island, helping us with rescues, raids, protesting animal abuse, and transporting animals we’ve rehabilitated to reputable animal sanctuaries.   

Sloth Encounters' owner Larry Wallach has been cited more than 60 times for violating the Animal Welfare Act. In 2023, he pleaded guilty to trafficking prohibited Nile monitors- venomous reptiles that grow up to 7ft long - and was found guilty of civil contempt in the Supreme Court. In January, the Humane Society of the United States released an undercover investigation that captured disturbing footage of staff hitting sloths, stressed sloths kept in crowded conditions, sloths fighting with one another, and a wounded sloth struggling when Wallach roughly grabbed his head and neck. He’s now facing criminal charges for defying court orders.   

Larry Wallach is a friend of a petting zoo owner who amicably surrendered us his animals a few years ago, so we have offered to end our campaign if he likewise surrenders the animals as well as his license to keep them, however, as Mahavir said, "Only that man can take a right decision, whose soul is not tormented by the afflictions of attachment and aversion," so our campaign continues.

For this week’s Anuvrat, I invite you to forgive someone in your life who has wronged you or to humble yourself and ask forgiveness for something you regret. I also invite you to consider contacting [email protected] to urge the U.S. Department of Agriculture not to renew Wallach’s license (#21-C-0069), which is up for renewal on June 12th. While none of us should hold ill will against any transgressor, forgiveness for the past does not require standing by idly while bad deeds continue to bear fruit.

 

John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master's degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected]. (Photo provided by: John Di Leonardo)

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