Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Vegetarianism II

Motivation And Meat
Being true to the Dhamma in general and the first Precept in particular, would seem to require being vegetarian. Not everyone sees it this way and most Theravadin and nearly all Vajrayanist Buddhists do not interpret it as being so. Today I would like to examine the motives in practicing the Precepts and see how this could be relevant to the meat eating-vegetarian issue.
The Buddha gave three reasons why we should take ethical discipline seriously. (1) The first is to avoid the negative effects of bad actions – usually called ‘bad kamma’ but more correctly ‘bad vipaka.’ This is mentioned by the Buddha many times and is the only one of the three that is ever mentioned in traditional Theravada teaching, giving rise, quite correctly, to the criticism that Theravada is selfish. (2) The second reason is because following the Precepts lays the foundations for positive qualities like restraint, awareness, mental clarity, the happiness of having a clear conscience (anavaja sukha,D.I,) and which lead to the ultimate good, Nirvana. (3) And the third reason is love and concern for others. I avoid killing others because I care about their welfare, I don’t steal from them because I care about their property, I do not sexually exploit them because I respect their dignity and their right to choose, I do not lie to them because I respect their right to receive and know the truth, and I do not intoxicate myself because when I encounter them I want there to be meaningful communication between us. In short, fidelity to the Precepts is an act of love, not just the person I am directly relating to but the wider community. The Buddha highlights this point when he said that right actions are a type of consideration or thoughtfulness (saraniya) to others that lead to ‘love, respect, kind regard, harmony and peace’ (…piyakarana garukarana sangahaya avivadaya samaggiya…, A.III,289). Just so that there can be no uncertainty about what the Buddha said here – piya = love, affection; karana = making, causing; garu = respect, esteem; sangaha, sympathy, togetherness, mutuality; avivada = non-dispute, harmony; samagga = peace, concord.
Those who do not accept that eating meat creates negative kamma should have no problems about eating meat. If they feel that they can develop good qualities like patience, determination, mindfulness, generosity, courage and honesty while having a meat diet, again should have no concern about doing so. But, anyone who genuinely feels that they should develop an expansive love and kindness towards others - all others (and the Buddha said we should), would have to feel uneasy about being connected in any way to the animals being killed. The knowledge that they are part of a chain that leads to some very nasty things happening (and I do not want to regale you with the horrors of the abattoirs) must make them feel uneasy. It would have to motivate a thoughtful Buddhist to try to do at least something about this cruelty; and the least one could do is not be a link in the chain by abstaining from eating meat.
Tomorrow I will present you with a real quandary. Stay tuned.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the wonderful blog.
Let me share with you some of my views.
From a vegetarian point of view,
the one of the greatest dilemma for me is to decide whether to kill household pests or not.

let's say,
If i discover a nest of cockroaches behind my cupboard, do i kill them? If this mmosquito is sucking my blood and maybe spreading some dangerous virus into my body, should I kill it? And mayb spreading to another person shortly.

During 14th century, one of the greatest pandemic in human history commonly known as black death was believed to be spread by the fleas on rats. In this case, should we kill the rats to save our lives.....

Or do we promote ALL lives without any discrimination even thou it may kill us eventually?

OR another scenario (just in my imagination),
I find myself to be strand on a deserted island. Somehow the island have no fruits and other edible vegetables except pigs.
(yea, I know there is a higher chance to be strand on a island full of fruits than a island full of pigs, but let's just assume this scenario happens...:)
So, should i start to hunt some pigs and eat bacon?

If i have to end another life to save my own life, how should a buddhist
Once again, thanks for the nice blog.

moonpointer said...

This might answer some of Jessica's questions -

(Please copy-paste links w/o gaps.)