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Far Eastern Vegetarianism

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  • vasumurti@netscape.net
    Far Eastern Vegetarianism by Misturu Kakimoto A survey that I conducted of 80 Westerners, including Americans, Englishmen and Canadians, revealed that
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 18, 2006
      Far Eastern Vegetarianism

      by Misturu Kakimoto

      A survey that I conducted of 80 Westerners, including Americans,
      Englishmen and Canadians, revealed that approximately half of them
      believed that vegetarianism originated in India. Some respondents
      assumed that vegetarianism had its origin in China or Japan. It seems
      to me that the reason Westerners associate vegetarianism with China or
      Japan is Buddhism. It is no wonder, and in fact we could say that Japan
      used to be a country where vegetarianism prevailed.

      Gishi-wajin-denn, a history book on Japan written in China around the
      third century BC, says, "there are no cattle, no horses, no tigers, no
      leopards, no goats and no magpies in that land. The climate is mild and
      people over there eat fresh vegetables both in summer and in winter."
      It also says that "people catch fish and shellfish in the water."
      Apparently, the Japanese ate fresh vegetables as well as rice and other
      cereals as staple foods. They also took some fish and shellfish, but
      hardly any flesh.
      Shinto, the prevailing religion at the time, is essentially
      pantheistic, based upon the worship of the forces of nature. In the
      early days of Shinto, no animal food was offered in sacrifice because
      of the injunction against shedding blood in the sacred area of the

      Several hundred years later, Buddhism came to Japan and the
      prohibition of hunting and fishing permeated the Japanese people. In
      7th century Japan, the Empress Jito encouraged "hojo," or the releasing
      of captive animals, and established wildlife preserves, where animals
      could not be hunted. There are many similarities between the Hindu
      literature and the Buddhist religions of the Far East. For example, the
      word Cha'an of the Cha'an school of Chinese Buddhism is Chinese for the
      Sanskrit word "dhyana", which means meditation, as does the word "zen"
      in Japanese. In 676 AD, the then Japanese emperor Tenmu proclaimed an
      ordinance prohibiting the eating of fish and shellfish as well as
      animal flesh and fowl. Subsequently, in the year 737 of the Nara
      period, the emperor Seimu approved the eating of fish and shellfish.
      During the twelve hundred years from the Nara period to the Meiji
      restoration in the second half of the 19th century, Japanese people
      enjoyed vegetarian style meals. They usually ate rice as staple food
      and beans and vegetables. It was only on special occasions or
      celebrations that fish was served. Under these circumstances the
      Japanese people developed a vegetarian cuisine, Shojin Ryori (ryori
      means cooking or cuisine), which was native to Japan.

      The word "shojin" is a Japanese translation of "vyria" in Sanskrit,
      meaning "to have the goodness and keep away evils." Buddhist priests of
      the Tendai-shu and Shingon-shu sects, whose founders studied in China
      in the ninth century before they founded their respective sects, have
      handed down vegetarian cooking practices from Chinese temples strictly
      in accordance with the teachings of the Buddha. In the 13th century,
      Dogen, the founder of the Soto sect of Zen, formally established Shojin
      Ryori or Japanese vegetarian cuisine. Dogen studied and learned the Zen
      teachings abroad in China, during the Sung Dynasty. He fixed rules
      aiming to establish (the) pure vegetarian life as a means of training
      the mind.

      One of the other (influences) Zen exerted on (the) Japanese people
      manifested itself in Sado, the Japanese tea ceremony. It is believed
      that Esai, founder of the Rinzai-shu sect, introduced tea to Japan and
      it is the custom for Zen followers to drink tea. The customs preserved
      in the teaching of Zen lead to a systematic rule called Sado...a
      Cha-shitsu or tea ceremony room is so constructed as to resemble the
      Shojin, where the chief priest is at a Buddhist temple. Food serve at a
      tea ceremony is called Kaiseki in Japanese, which literally means a
      stone in the breast. Monks practicing asceticism used to press heated
      stones to their bosom to suppress hunger. Then the word Kaiseki itself
      came to mean a light meal served at Shojin and Kaiseki meals had great
      influence on the Japanese...

      As an example of a Buddhist vegetarian in the modern age, I can
      mention Kenji Miyazawa, a Japanese writer and poet of the early 20th
      century, who wrote a novel entitled "Vegetarian-Taisai", in which he
      depicted a fictitious vegetarian congress...His works played an
      important role in the advocacy of modern vegetarianism. Today, no
      animal flesh is ever eaten in a Zen Buddhist monastery, and such
      Buddhist denominations such as the Cao Dai sect (which originated in
      South Vietnam), now boasts some two million followers, all of whom are

      The Buddhist teachings are not the only source contributing to the
      growth of vegetarianism in Japan. In the late 19th century, Dr. Gensai
      Ishizuka published an academic book...in which he advocated vegetarian
      cooking with an emphasis on brown rice and vegetables. His method is
      called Seisyoku (Macrobiotics) and is based upon ancient Chinese
      philosophy such as the principles of Yin and Yang and Taoism. Now some
      people support his method...of preventive medicine. Japanese
      macrobiotics suggest taking brown rice as half of the whole intake,
      with vegetables, beans, seaweeds, and a small amount of fish.

      The "Temple of the Butchered Cow" can be found in Shimoda, Japan. It
      was erected shortly after Japan opened its doors to the West in the
      1850s. It was erected in honor of the first cow slaughtered in Japan,
      marking the first violation of the Buddhist tenet against the eating of
      meat. In his 1923 book, The Natural Diet of Man, Dr. John Harvey
      Kellogg writes: "According to Mori, the Japanese peasant of the
      interior is almost an exclusive vegetarian. He eats fish once or twice
      a month and meat once or twice a year." Dr. Kellogg writes that in
      1899, the Emperor of Japan appointed a commission to determine whether
      it was necessary to add meat to the nation's diet to improve the
      people's strength and stature. The commission concluded that as far as
      meat was concerned, "the Japanese had always managed to do without it,
      and that their powers of endurance and their athletic prowess exceeded
      that of any of the Caucasian races. Japan's diet stands on a foundation
      of rice."

      According to Dr. Kellogg: "the rice diet of the Japanese is
      supplemented by the free use of peanuts, soy beans and greens, which...
      constitute a wholly sufficient bill of fare. Throughout the Island
      Empire, rice is largely used, together with buckwheat, barley, wheat
      and millet. Turnips and radishes, yams and sweet potatos are frequently
      used, also cucumbers, pumpkins and squashes. The soy bean is held in
      high esteem and used largely in the form of miso, a puree prepared from
      the bean and fermented; also to-fu, a sort of cheese; and cho-yu, which
      is prepared by mixing the pulverized beans with wheat flour, salt, and
      water and fermenting from one and a half to five years.

      "The Chinese peasant lives on essentially the same diet, as do also
      the Siamese, the Koreans, and most other Oriental peoples.
      Three-fourths of the world's population eat so little meat that it
      cannot be regarded as anything more than an incidental factor in their
      bill of fare. The countless millions of China," writes Dr. Kellogg,
      "are for the most part flesh-abstainers. In fact, at east two-thirds of
      the inhabitants of the world make so little use of flesh that it can
      hardly be considered an essential part of their dietary..."

      Japanese people started eating meat some 150 years ago and now suffer
      the crippling diseases caused by the excess intake of fat in flesh and
      the possible hazards from the use of agricultural chemicals and
      additives. This is persuading them to seek natural and safe food and to
      adopt once again the traditional Japanese cuisine.
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