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Is it possible to defend Bullfights?

                                                                                                     By George Mera

One of the most vivid memories in my life, was one sunny afternoon at a bullring in Lima, I must have been younger than 6 years old since I was allowed to sit on my father's lap, the mix of dust, the flickering of the bullfighter dress and the smell of cigars are still deeply embedded in my subconscious mind, bullfight was the strongest connection I had with my father until he died, something in which we could agree or discuss with genuine passion since he knew all the intricacies, rituals and history of tauromachy (bullfights).

Now I'm a vegetarian, many decades have past, I'm living in America where bullfights are considered a barbaric custom; I'm conscious in my life, of the Hindu principle of Ahimsa no harm and no injury to any living thing no harm no injured in your emotions in your relationships in your thoughts no harm to yourself no injured to the world.

 I don't go to extremes as to cover my mouth and nose with a piece of linen, as some Hindu people do, thus they cannot breathe in and kill an insect by accident, for sure I wouldn't play any part in harming any animal; but I cannot endorse the attitude of some animals rights advocators who call criminals the crowds or the countries which permit this tradition, neither I would agree with some who called them hypocrites because they are meat eaters.

I'm not trying to defend or condemn bullfights but to bring some understanding to such a sensitive subject; because if you would have been indoctrinated to this spectacle from your fathers lap, you would probably think differently, it is a cultural issue, not a moral one, but we cannot depose people of any humanity if they go to the plazas around the world; this subject is very cultural since in the countries where bullfights are allowed  the most enthusiastic participants  are some roman catholic priests, like father Francisco Giron who among many other priests in history, were bullfighters and  in their Sunday's homilies they  used bullrings parabolas to spread their faith across .

The real issue here is violence and the repression or acceptance of it. In Hindu tradition the emphasis is in acceptance of whoever you are without denying any aspect of it; violence is part of our constitution, the question is not of getting violent, since the flow of violence has always been there within, you can suppress it or allowed it, but it has always been there.

Accepting means, violence is not an expression of you but rather you are angry you are violence; it is in your nature. Acceptance is somehow the act of throwing our beautiful self- images that we have been working so hard to polish; therefore having these decorated ideals of which we are, help us to become violent and not be disturbed.

 We are violent and we are striving to be nonviolent, so we accept we are violent, but tomorrow we will be non-violent, this is a superficial acceptance. How many wars has been justify in terms of ideas, to promote freedom, we are non violent but we have been forced to violence  to protect innocent people, so our collective consciousness can relax, but  the fact that we are violent cannot be denied, therefore peace has always been just a preparation for another war.

In a personal way, you are violent and you create an ideal of non violence, so you don't need to go into yourself into your violence, there is the only need you say to yourself don't touch violence, you can escape from yourself when you create the ideal of non violence, you can condemn others, you have an idea to judge everyone, you can say to anybody you are violent, but there is not more dangerous mob that a group of pacifists in rampage.



                                                      Animal activists in Pamplona

People who strive on non violence they might be non violent with other people but they will be with themselves, they have strong ideal but ideals are in the same category of wish or dreams, laws can protect people against violence but who can protect us against ourselves, meanwhile some are murdering themselves, like some glorified saints or pacifist that the world venerate.

A violent mind cannot become nonviolent, but something can be done. The violent mind has to understand that is violent, acceptance is not to become non violent but moving deep into violence, you are an animal this is the first step accepting your animalistic nature and go beyond animals, humans are the only animals that can know they are animals, and being the peak of the animal world, being conscious we can transcend.

Tauromachy started with the sacrifice of the bull in pagan times, the Roman emperor Constantine was ordained to rule by both the Pagan Sun God and the Christian God, Adam W. L. Chan (Zeng) writes, "The great festivities of December 25th, which traditionally celebrated the birthday of Pagan sun god Mithras, was officially adopted into Christianity, and renamed "Christmas", the birthday of Jesus. So, whatever he could not remove from Pagan worship, it would later be converted into Christian worship". The similarities between sun God Mithras and Jesus are amazing but this parallel is not pertinent to expand in this article.




  Mithras the ancient Indo-Iranian Sun-god is shown wearing a cape and has a starry sky inside his lining

In every Mithraic temple, the place of honor was occupied by a tauroctony, a representation of Mithras killing a sacred bull which was associated with spring. Mithras is depicted as an energetic young man, wearing a Phrygian cap, a short tunic that flares at the border, pants and a cloak which furls out behind him. Mithras grasps the bull (a symbol of spring, of rebirth) so as to force it into submission, with his knee on its back and one hand forcing back its head while he stabs it in the neck with a short sword.

The mythology shows the struggle between Mithras and the bull, which is the central dogma of Mithraism. Ahura Mazda (supreme intelligence) had created a wild bull which Mithra pursued, overcame, and dragged into his cave. This wearisome journey with the struggling bull towards the cave is the symbol of man's troubles on earth. Unfortunately, the bull escapes from the cave, whereupon Ahura Mazda sends a crow with a message to Mithras to find and slay it. Mithra reluctantly obeys and plunges his dagger into the bull as it returns to the cave.

Historian believes that the mythology of the sun God Mithras was brought to Spain, France, and Portugal during the Arabs conquest, most of the recollection of the eight century is vague what is available is a number of stories or legends during those several hundred years of invasion.

There are also theories that bullfight was introduced into Hispania a millennium earlier by Emperor Claudius as a substitute when he instituted a short-lived ban on gladiatorial games. In its original form, the bull was fought from horseback using a javelin so Picadors are the remnants of this tradition, but their role in the contest is now a relatively minor one limited to "preparing" the bull for the matador.

The analogy between the Sun God Mithras with the bullfighter is notorious, the Traje de Luces (suit of lights), the cape, the sword, and the hat. Many people think bullfighting is a glamorous and well pay job, but it is the most dreadful of all the activities. There is a canon of behavior which the matador (bullfighter) has to strictly adhere and any display of fear can bring, in the generally dangerous and intoxicated crowd, so much passion and anger that they could boo and harass the matador to the extreme than some of them prefer to be gored than humiliated.



                                                             Miguel Angel Pereda


Last year in one afternoon in Las Ventas Madrid, Spain, Miguel Angel Pereda a young matador fought alone six bulls, while killing the second one he was run through and pierced in his scrotum, then he was rushed to the plaza's hospital where doctors returned his hanging left testicle back to the scrotum's sack so he could continue with the other bulls, he was finally sent back to the hospital when the fifth bull running at full speed stabbed him one more time in the groin area.


                                             Hemingway and Ordonez


Ernest Hemingway famously said in Death in the Afternoon (1932), "Bullfighting is the only art in which the artist is in danger of death."The matador has to be a bull expert, the rapid understanding of the bull virtues and defects is of primal importance for his survival; the bull raiser should and might have selected the best of the bunch without any deficiencies before he delivered the load.

It is of primal importance the bull vision, the symmetry of the horns, stamina, and strength in the legs; contrary of what people think the bull is not blindly attacking otherwise the matador will have no chance, but you can only know for sure the bull behavior when it is in the ring, since it has only  seen people on horses.

  What people hate the most in other people is what they hate the most in themselves, we are all afraid of death especially if you have been raised in the Christian faith so the spectator in the plaza is emotionally involved in the dilemma of their own ephemeral existence. There are two taboos in life sex and death, so we are constantly brushing the notion of death under the carpet but when you are in the ring you cannot avoid being confronted with it, since the ritual revolves around death, it is a reflective expiatory meditation, it is the acceptance of death in your life.



When the bullfighter forgets his own mortality and let the synchronicity of the bull speed, the cape cadent movement and the proximity between beast and man all harmonize, he is painting a masterpiece in the canvas of the moment, the spectator can only be an observant of the matador emotional or mystical experience, his triumph with art over his fear of death, when the matador successfully kills the bull the public will reward him with the bull ears and even the tail, he walked triumphantly around the ring lifting flowers thrown from the galleries, it is the celebration of Mithras returning the bull to the cave, it is victory against evil forces.



                                                                           Jose Tomas


But what about the bull isn't it innocent and suffering,  who would enjoy seeing a dog being hurt insensibly, wouldn't you do something to stop its ordeal, wouldn't you had saved Jesus from the cross if you could.

We are always inclined to take the part of the underdog it is in human nature; Buddha elaborated all his Upaya (tool of teaching) around the metaphor of suffering and the avoiding or acceptance of it. He was a supreme psychologist he said we are all in life looking for Suka (pleasure) and avoiding Durka (suffering).

So as a way of teaching he said everything in life is an illusion and suffering, he was not being negative but acknowledging that every pleasure brings a little bit of suffering and in very suffering, there is a seed of release or pleasure.

Buddha said the source of suffering is that we are full of desires so we should get rid of them, some student went away and after many years they got back, claiming that they finally got rid of the desires, Buddha said you got rid of the desires but you still have the desire to get rid of the desires. So in essence Buddha asked for an impossible task to achieve and he knew it, but during the process of removing desires, they learn something new about themselves.

It is impossible to eliminate all suffering from the world because you will eliminate all pleasure, how do you know you are happy if you never been unhappy how people pretend order without chaos, if you eliminate one you eliminate both; Jesus said if you eat my flesh and drink my blood all your sins will be pardoned, the metaphor was don't worry about what you eat because you are murdering that plant or that animal, don't worry I would take that sin for you, but he was a tough Guru, then he pointed the finger at you and said, now look at your fellow human being in suffering,  what are you going to do about it.





When we enjoy the meat in our meals we ignore the animal's suffering it is not difficult to ignore suffering; in the case of the bull in the plaza, he has lived a privileged life, drinking from the purest streams, running free in reach pastures, he was selected for his fierceness and at the end he will die as a fighter, he has never been dominated, never been a slave, he could even be pardon if he displays extraordinary bravery and he might be able to return to the fields and die of old age. A regular bull has no choice but to live a stupid, slave life deprived of every pleasure inherent to his nature, he is not an animal he is a product and at the end, he will be murder miserably in a pseudo- humanitarian death.

We are all going to die doesn't matter how or when what is important is how we live.

Some people want a pasteurized, sanitized, civilized and unified world where everything should looks perfect, equal, like made of plastic or wax, in this plastic world everybody thinks, smells, feels and behave predictably, in the pursuit of this idea of the world we might lose forever our inherent nature, in the process of bleaching, emotions, culture, myths, and traditions of the world we might lose the link with our human essence, is obvious that people believe that human nature is not to trust and civilization is the fight against human instincts, that malice is inherent in humankind; I do believe the opposite human condition is to trust, morals are not to be forced upon an individual but realized, human beings are essentially good if you don't suffocate them with more laws and restrictions.





So violence will pop up wanted or not, don't worry bullfights are not spreading violence to Spanish kids or the rest of the world, in some countries it might even serve as a valve of escape of their collective violence so they don't eat each other raw, so what credentials we have to tell them to be civilized, to clean their acts, to be sensitive, with what right we poke our noses in somebody else business.



                                                    Female bullfighter Cristina Sanchez

I'm not promoting violence simply accepting that is in me, and I'm sure is necessary to have it in order to be a complete human being and if I need to save my life or somebody's else life, I hope I could be extremely violent. The attitude to violence is a personal equation it has never worked as a moral crusade; should we start eliminating violence from the economic and political systems, suppress the violence in which the federal reserve and banks act, should we stop aggressive speech in the media, should we sanction countries where violence exist and persuade them to be non violent should we rally outside a steak houses and lecture them about violence against animals, where we  draw the line when we can stop the fight and rest.

I probably will never be returned to a plaza, those days are gone, who knows what would had happened if I have never left my country, but I cannot deny the great memories of those afternoons that I had; in the present I have transcended the Tauromachy and hopefully the world will too, but it was a great tool for my understanding of who I am.

Einstein knew a lot about science and physics, Buddha knew about himself, the only subject in life we can really master is ourselves.




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