Is in Accordance with
By brother-initiate S.S. Aik, Yangon, Myanmar (Originally in Burmese)
I was a traditional Buddhist, like many others in Southeast Asia. From Myanmar, I went to Malaysia in 1992 and came across the Key to Immediate Enlightenment sample booklet. I read it many, many times and liked it so much that I wanted to share it with my friends at home. I got permission to translate it to Burmese. In 1993 I came back to Yangon; in 1996 I had our sample booklet printed in Burmese. I got my initiation in 1997. My life at the present time is much more at peace than 10 years ago. I am very grateful to Master.
As Master’s disciples, we have no problem with vegetarianism. My concern now is how to convince traditional Buddhists here, because many of them believe that Buddha ate pork and did not forbid meat eating. They say that in the monks’ precepts, the Buddha only forbade eating meat of the ten beings (man, dog, horse, elephant, leopard, tiger, lion, bear, long hair cattle, and snake), but allowed his followers to eat the three kinds of purified meat.
Regarding this subject, Master explained very clearly in Her lecture on June 12, 1993, in Bangkok, Thailand (videotape #378): “In many sutras, the Buddha explained that you should not eat the meat of sentient beings. But in the beginning of His teaching, He did allow people to eat three kinds of purified meat. That means you don’t kill it yourself; you don’t hear the animal crying for being killed; and animals that die of sickness or die a natural death in old age, you can eat. But later in the Surangama sutra, He said to the monks, ‘Now that you have progressed and grown up, don’t eat meat anymore.’ And in the Nirvana sutra, another scripture, a monk asked Buddha, ‘If someone offers us food and inside there’s meat, what should we do?’ So the Buddha said, ‘Wash the meat part away, and eat.’ So if He tells the disciple not to eat meat, He would not eat meat Himself. And in another scripture, the Lankavatara sutra, the Buddha said, ‘Eating meat will produce a very bad effect in the world; it will make war and make many kinds of meat-eating and blood-sucking ghosts.’”
In Her sample booklet, Master also explained what the Buddha ate was not pork, but a kind of mushroom called the “pig’s foot,” or “pig’s joy.” This mushroom cannot be found above the ground; it grows under the ground. If people want to find it they must search with the help of an old pig, which likes very much to eat this kind of mushroom. Pigs detect it by their smell, and when they discover it, they use their feet to dig in the mud to find and eat it. That was why this kind of mushroom is called the “pig’s joy” or “pig’s foot.” But because it was translated carelessly and because people did not truly understand the derivation, the following generations have been caused to misunderstand and mistake Buddha for a flesh devouring man. This is really a regrettable thing.
Some people also think that since they did not kill the meats in markets by themselves, it is alright to eat them. However, the killing actually was indirectly done for them so the correct principle is “no buying, no killing.”
Some even think that it is spiritually unnecessary to be a vegetarian. However, it has been stated very clearly in the Avatamsaka Sutra: “All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas essentially practice the principle of great compassion. The suffering of living beings brings forth Their great compassion. From this great compassion emerges the great wisdom, and with this great wisdom They attain the ultimate enlightenment.” Master elaborated further: “In the Surangama Sutra, Sakyamuni Buddha said, ‘Spiritual practitioners who consume the meat of sentient beings can at the most only reach the status of the king of Maya.’ That does not mean that we can become the king of Maya by eating meat! It means that our level is so low and so merciless that we only deserve to be the king of Maya. The vegetarian diet does not turn humans into Buddhas, nor does the meat diet turn humans into demons. It just shows that the people who still can eat meat or who still enjoy consuming the meat of sentient beings have very little mercy in their hearts. Although they can still enjoy life while eating meat, it is simply impossible for their Buddha Nature to manifest fully in them! If their Buddha Nature became fully developed, they would feel agitated at the sight of meat; they would feel the pain of sentient beings, and they would not dare or wish to eat meat. It would be extremely painful for them to swallow any meat; they just could not eat it. Their body and their mind could not accept it. Their eyes would refuse to see it and their mouth would refuse to taste it; it would be an automatic reaction.” (Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai at a group meditation in Taipei, Formosa, April 14, 1989)
Some say that when they eat meat, it is without meat attachment and without taste desire, so they argue that the vegetarians who eat imitation fish, chicken and pork, etc., show a kind of craving for meat. My understanding is that the meat substitutes are designed to attract and satisfy those who are used to the meat taste and help them to switch to a vegetarian diet more easily; most importantly, this has nothing to do with real killing and it helps our compassionate nature to grow.
There is no doubt that vegetarianism is in accordance with the Buddhist principles. Why did the Buddha put “No killing” as the first of the Five Precepts if He were not vegetarian and if He had not requested his disciples to keep a vegetarian diet?
The following are several more of Sakyamuni Buddha’s instructions regarding the vegetarian diet:
“People who eat meat are destroying the great merciful seed of their own Buddha nature, and any sentient beings seeing them would leave them. Therefore, all Bodhisattvas must refrain from eating the flesh of any sentient beings, as this will incur boundless sin.”
“People who eat meat will fall into the horrible paths of transmigration and suffer boundless pain.”
“People who eat meat will never succeed in getting any blessing or merit that they pray for.”
“Meat-eaters cause the celestial beings to avoid them and other sentient beings to be afraid of them.”
“All the saints abhorred eating blood or flesh…. Celestial beings never go near people who eat meat as their mouth always has a foul smell…. Meat is not good, meat is unclean; meat eating generates evils and destroys merits and blessings. All the saints denounce eating meat!”
“At some places, I forbade people to eat ten kinds of meat and allowed them to eat three kinds of pure meat, so as to help them quit meat eating gradually and subsequently embark on spiritual practice. Now I say: I forbid all meat eating, regardless of whether the animal dies naturally or is killed. I have never allowed my disciples to eat meat, and I will not allow in the present or future.”
“All sentient beings came from the same origin. Through myriad reincarnations, all sentient beings have been relatives of each other. How can we eat the meat of our relatives?”
Kasyapa asked the Buddha: “Why did the Lord previously allow Bhiksus to eat the ‘three pure meats’ or even ‘nine pure meats’?” The Buddha said, “It was so instituted following the need of the occasion, and as gradual steps in the actual segregation from eating meat.”