The Person Within?
- The Person Within?
I received via email an anonymous article that illustrates some of the classic misconcepts of Buddhist vegetarianism. Please see my rebuttal comments in between-
"Many people often ask me if being a Buddhist means they should refrain from eating meat. My answer is that Buddhists can eat meat."
Comments: The above is unskilfully phrased. Of course being Buddhist, one can eat meat. The question is - Should they? Is it more skilful to practise refraining from meat, which is made possible only through slaughter of sentient beings? Of course it is.
"For my students and disciples, my advice is that while they can eat meat, they shouldn't eat is under three circumstances."
Comments: We will see how these three circumstances are very difficult or even near impossible to find these days.
"1) Meat from an animal that you ordered to be killed - The first kind of meat is meat from an animal that you ordered to be killed. Let's say you go to the market and see a fat, live chicken, and out of greed and attachment you order that chicken to be slaughtered for your consumption. We must not eat this kind of meat."
Comments: Does this means that it is totally fine to go to the market to buy a fat already dead chicken out of greed and attachment for your consumption? Does this mean no chicken was indirectly slaughtered for your consumption through the supply-demand cycle? The butcher slaughters for none other than meat buyers and consumers. It is as direct as that. When you stop buying dead chickens regularly, less chickens die regularly. It is this simple and cannot be denied.
"2) Meat from an animal whose dying cries you heard or whom you see being killed - The second kind is meat from an animal whose dying cries you heard or whom you see being killed. Once when I was in Nepal, I went to a restaurant and ordered a dish with chicken in it. I thought they used chicken that had already been killed. After ordering that dish, I went to the bathroom. As I approached the bathroom, I saw the restaurant workers about to kill a chicken for my dish! I immediately threw a shoe at them to stop them! We must not eat such meat."
Comments: What compassion to stop the killing in time! But greater is the compassion that does not even order an already killed animal, because it means that the already killed animal can be eaten by another person instead of oneself, thus reducing demand and saving one more animal from being killed. When you order to eat one dead animal, you are directly feeding the supply-demand cycle by saying you encourage the killing of that animal, and want more. When no one in a restaurant orders a chicken dish, eventually they will phase out chicken dishes and less chickens die. Not hearing an animal cry or seeing it die does not means no animal cried or died terribly for the meat dish to be made possible.
"3) Meat from an animal that someone specifically kills to honour you - The third kind is meat from an animal that someone specially kills to honour you. Let's say that someone respects you a lot and decides to kill an animal to prepare a dish for you to eat. We must not eat such meat."
Comments: The meat you order to eat IS specifically killed to honour you the paying customer, and no one else. The butcher respects you the customer a lot and decides to kill for the customer alone - since you pay for it, even if indirectly.
"It is important to realise that although externally we eat meat, internally we must be vegetarian! What I mean by this is that as Buddhists, we cannot be attached to any particular food and must not be choosy. We must avoid the three kinds of meat above, but for other kinds of food, we must accept whatever is given and not be choosy and desirous of any particular food. Although we eat meat, inside our minds we must not have the strong desire to kill animals and to eat their flesh. We should eat out of compassion, to make our bodies healthy and also to dedicate merit to the dead animal. We can also recite mantras and blow on the flesh of the animals to liberate them."
Comments: It is more important to realise that it is much better for oneself and countless animals if we externally do not eat them. As Buddhists, we should not be unmindful about being able to choose kinder food for oneself and the animals' sake - without attachment to any particular food. If one really has no choice but to eat meat, why not? But one should be honest that one really has no better choice. Most of us are not living like monks who have no choice but to take random almsfood from previously uninformed strangers - we can choose and should do so wisely and kindly. We must see clearly that animals are attached to their lives like us. Even if one does not have any strong desire to kill animals and to eat their flesh, to eat their flesh is to be strongly linked to the killing of them, even if indirectly. There is no real way for ordinary people to eat animals out of compassion for them, and meat eating makes us less healthy than being vegetarian, since our body structure is definitely more herbivorous than carnivorous. If merits and mantras can so conveniently and defintely liberate animals, perhaps we should eat dead humans too, so as to liberate them. We should all eat lots of meat too. But obviously, this is wrong.
"Do you know that the Chinese character for 'meat'? It literally means 'a person within'. implying that when we eat meat, we are ultimately eating sentient beings! Thus, if we have to eat meat, we must do so with compassion and wisdom."
Comments: All sentient beings were highly possibly at least once our mothers. It is more compassionate and wise not to eat them. Are there truly occasions that we have to eat meat, especially in convenient modern society? Not many, if any. There are hardly any good reasons to put 'a person within' oneself, again and again.
"Some people claim to be vegetarians, but inside their hearts, they are carnivores! They eat meat in their hearts! What do I mean by this? Although externally they are vegetarian, they are also always trying to take advantage of other people, are selfish, mean and hurt others. Are they not 'eating' other sentient beings?"
Comments: It is then better to be vegetarian both externally and internally. To eat meat is to link to the exploitation of animals, which is to take advantage of them in a selfish, mean and hurtful manner.
"As such, what is most important is not whether externally we eat meat. What is essential is that inside our hearts we are 'vegetarian', in that we are not attached to meat and we also do not eat other people by always trying to be above them and take advantage of them."
Comments: What is even more important is to strive to both internally and externally not eat meat. Being vegetarian does not mean one has to be attached to it. For instance, we cannot say the Buddha is attached to not killing, when He is simply abstaining from a downright harmful action. We should thus strive to not eat animals, remembering that to take any animal produce is already trying to be above them and take advantage of them.
Overall comments on article: The article above (without the comments) is faulty in that it never really encouraged vegetarianism, when it should, coming from the writer who is assumed a Buddhist teacher. One can almost suspect that the writer is attached to meat. One has to reflect deeper when considering issues that involves the lives and deaths of sentient beings, and not just accept ideas we are comfortable with. The three circumstances mentioned above were supposed to have been taught by the Buddha to the monks of His time, who as mentioned, seek random almsfood. They are not rules relevant to modern consumer society, as shown in the explanations above, since consumers can almost always choose his food. Even Buddhist teachers who eat food offerings should preach the vegetatrian ideal to encourage it. To not do so is to be not compassionate or wise enough. Please note that though vegetarianism is not compulsory for all Buddhists, it is compulsory for practising lay or monastic Bodhisattvas as a Mahayana Bodhisattva precept as stated in the Brahma Net Sutra. Please see too, a detailed and convincing article - Must Buddhists Be Vegetarian?, at http://www.kmspks.org/articles/vege.htm
- comments by zeph: http://www.moonpointer.com/index.php?catid=4&blogid=1