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“How Can You Sit Down And Eat Your Mother?”

I’d been thinking of how to start this article for a while as it’s something I’ve already written about but I felt like adding some commentary. I also stumbled on some great talks by teachers that tackle the idea of veganism and Buddhist practice and I really wanted to share them and some quotes.

In Tibetan Buddhism it is believed that all living beings at one point or another were once your mother. This concept has some validity if you believe in rebirth. Since the universe is infinite and sentience is held by all living beings that have a central nervous system, having been born and reborn over and over it only makes sense that at some point anyone could have been your mother. I can explain more if need be, or provide a link to more info, but I think you get the idea.

That begs the question, so why go ahead and eat them?

I came upon a series of 5 videos on YouTube titled “I Don’t Eat My friends” by respected Tibetan Nun, Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo. She lays out a compelling argument, from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, on why not to eat meat. She also touches on the all beings having been our mother theory, you can view in the video I linked.

There are also videos by another respected Tibetan teacher, Matthieu Ricard. Of course his videos solidify the beliefs and teachings of Tenzin Palmo.

The venerable Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has had quite a bit to say about it. As mentioned in the other piece I wrote, Plum Village (the center he oversees) went vegan in 2007. You can watch a video where he was asked about veganism and why it’s better than vegetarianism. I’ve included a brief quote below.

“We don’t want to eat eggs, and drink cow’s milk, and eat cheese anymore because raising cows and raising chickens creates a lot of suffering.

If you have seen the suffering of the chicken, the suffering of the cows, you would not like to eat chicken, eat eggs, drink milk, or eat cheese anymore. It seems the system has been contaminated.

So to be vegan is not perfect but it helps to reduce the suffering of animals.”

Seung Sahn, founder of the Kwan Um School of Korean Zen, has had a bit to say about eating meat. In the “Compass Of Zen” he goes on to say:

“If we want to understand ourselves and help all beings get out of suffering, we must first understand where this world’s suffering comes from. Everything arises from our minds. Buddhist teaching shows that everything comes from primary cause, condition, and result. This means that some primary cause, when it appears under a certain condition, will always produce a certain result. So what is the reason for so many beings appearing in this world, and what is the result of it? Why is there so much suffering, and why does it seem to increase every day? Perhaps the most important reason for such a dramatic increase in the amount of suffering in this world is the increase in the amount of meat-eating that humans do. Before World War II, human beings did not eat so much meat. In Asia, people have always generally eaten meat only on special occasions, perhaps only twice a year, on one of the major holidays. Nowadays, Asians eat meat sometimes several times a day. The same has been true in the west for generations. This century has seen a very big increase in the amount of meat-eating on the planet.”

I find that interesting. If karma and it’s consequences are to be believed then this makes all the sense in the world. The more suffering that is caused, the more suffering is created.

While the Buddha did not specifically say one way or the other, he did not condone eating meat. His justification was that as long as it was not killed for the consumer, or the monk, than it was ok to eat. I’ve read about the three hand rule which basically means the meat has to pass through three hands to the consumer and it’s believed to not have any karmic consequence. I call bullshit!

To be honest, this sounds like a cop-out. As much as I hate to say it, one of the most well-known Buddhist teachers, the Dalai Lama, eats meat himself all the while telling others to eat vegetarian. Similar to what the Buddha said, the Dalai Lama has been quoted as saying, “it is all right to have meat of dead animals, not those slaughtered or purposefully killed for meat.” So I guess that means roadkill is ok? Or if you stumble upon a dead squirrel out in the yard? Again, this sounds suspicious and not something a “bodhisattva” should get behind.

What’s interesting on the whole is that the very first precept in Buddhism is not to take life or cause harm. I don’t know about you but that certainly sounds like a vegan thought to me.

What do you think?





Meme Monday 11.27.16

buddhistveganmemeThis topic is probably something that’s a little more heavy than just writing up a quick piece based on a meme, but it’s also something I’ve wanted to talk about for a while. This seemed like the right place and the right time.

I’ve had experience with a variety of Buddhist traditions though the past 10 years. I’ve sat with Kwan Um Zen teachers and have taken precepts with them as well as sat for kong-an interviews.

I’ve been on Vipassana retreats where it’s just meditation practice all day long, with no speaking, for the length of the retreat.

I took precepts with the Drikung tradition of Buddhism and also received the Chenrezig Empowerment.

I once had a Tibetan teacher (from the Sakya tradition) give me precepts and the Green Tara empowerment. He also gave me a ngöndro practice in which I gave up on after a while based on the fact it felt like I was going through the motions rather than accomplishing anything.

I’ve even been lucky enough to have been in the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and here him talk. This was one of the most humbling moments of my life.

I spent years blogging about my experiences, if interested you can check them out at https://preciousmetal.wordpress.com

Why post this seemingly meaningless resume of sorts? Mainly because I experienced the following issue with all traditions (not necessarily every practitioner); most Buddhists eat meat and consume dairy products. It was a shock to me also, even when I wasn’t vegan. How could it be that a group of people so concerned about suffering cause such suffering? Do they not know what goes on in a slaughterhouse? I mean, they have to right? It was part of the reason I went vegetarian before becoming vegan.

There’s this one teacher (and I use that term loosely with this guy), Bhante Vimalaramsi, from the Theravada tradition who actually says, “When you go into the store and buy some meat, is it a living being? Not was it a living being, is it a living being? No. Did you have intention to kill that living being? No. Did you take a weapon and use that weapon and the being die? No. So there’s no wrong doing in that.”

What the flying f*ck? Are you kidding me dude?! Listen, I understand the idea of intentionality (is that even a real word) but for crying out loud man, when you eat another animals carcass you know that some other person intentionally had to kill it for you, the consumer. So don’t give me that noise, it doesn’t work here.

My 13 year old just sat next to me as I was transcribing that from this video, listened to it and looked at me and said, “WHAT?” He continued to shake his head as it made no sense to him. He is still sitting here nodding his head in disbelief, as I am as well. We continued to watch and listen in horror. I know for sh*t sure that this ignorant, and shameful excuse for a teacher is only a small percentage of those that follow the Buddha’s path, but it is still bewildering none the less. It’s ignorance like this that pushed me away.

Here’s another asinine piece I found online, it’s not a video but will blow you away with irrational ideas such as, “Unless one actually kills an animal oneself (which seldom happens today) by eating meat one is not directly responsible for the animal’s death and in this sense the non- vegetarian is no different from the vegetarian. The latter can only eat his vegetables because the farmer has ploughed his fields (thus killing many creatures) and sprayed the crop (again killing many creatures).” What does that even mean?

Others go on to excuse those monks that seek alms. In some countries, each morning monks walk through villages seeking meals with their outstretched alms bowl. Some believe that they should eat whatever is put in their bowl and be appreciative of the meal that was offered. I understand the respect, but it’s not up to the monk to take on that karma. That’s not their job. You killed, or paid someone else to kill, that animal you deal with that consequence. True respect would be to give that monk food that will nourish their souls and provide them with proper health.

While doing more research, the ignorance is soon washed away by one of the most venerable teachers, and wholesome beings to grace this earth: Thich Nhat Hanh. I watched this video where he speaks about not consuming dairy and meat as to not cause suffering. Now that’s something I can understand and get behind. I went on to learn that Plum Village, the community in which Thay lives and his community practices, in 2007 they switched from vegetarian meals to purely vegan. Again, this made sense.

I guess what I’m getting at and what I’m questioning is this, how can someone who lives a life that’s main purpose is to create the least amount of suffering possible, consume animal products?

I will leave this post on a positive note with one of my favorite quotes from another inspired being, Matthieu Ricard. He says, “It just takes one second to decide to stop. The main reason not to eat meat and fish is to spare others’ lives. This is not an extreme perspective. This is a most reasonable and compassionate point of view.”

Is this to complex of an issue to get into? What are your thoughts?