I have gains many benefits as a vegetarian, and I like very much to share my experience. In some sutra, Buddha has the precept or commandment: meat eaters are committing sins; meat eaters are without mercy and all living beings keep away from them. The Surangama Sutra says, “you shall know that those who eat meat, though their minds may open and realize a semblance of Samadhi, are but great raksasas who after this life, will sink back into the bitter ocean of samsara and can not be my disciples. They will kill and devour one another ceaselessly; how then can they escape from the three worlds of existence?” Therefore as a authentic Buddhist, I encourage my fellow readers to be vegetarians as well.
Human beings are born to be vegetarians; the purpose of this is to have a merciful heart. People in this world have complicated life styles and qualities, and they need guidance. Some sutras mention that Buddha permits the bhiksus to eat the three or five kinds of pure flesh which are the product of Buddha’s transcendental power of transformation and not of animal slaughter. The Buddha has used his spiritual power of compassion to provide us with illusory meat to satisfy our appetite. Buddha has made the precepts only for monks and nuns and only encourages other people in the society to follow suit. Why? If people are prohibited to kill animals, they might kill more. In order to direct people to the ultimate goal, the Buddha tells about a merciful heart. If a person has a merciful heart, he shall never kill. If he has mercy for others, he also has mercy for the killers. This is the key to dissolve hatred, instead of building up more conflicts among people. A sutra says, after a man dies, he might be reborn as a sheep; and when a sheep dies, it might be reborn as a human. A man who knows about similar reasons shall not kill and understands why we need to eat vegetables instead of meat.
Eating is a desire and wanting for more food is greed. We like different flavors and we may become greedy when we are faced with many foods. Our wants and desires for more meat cause more killing. A Buddhist song says: wars are results of animal killing. In this world human beings have experienced too many wars and plagues; and those are results of our killing. How many people have been aware of this? Eating is a desire; and as human, we have no alternatives but to eat, because we have a physical body to grow. To keep alive, we have to eat something. So the purpose to eat should only be keeping us alive. But people are wanting more than that; they want comfort of the tongue; they want comfort of the stomach. Some people have another bad eating habit; they like to have big meals with many dishes. In some cities, people eat everything: those flying in the sky, running on earth, swimming in water. People thus compete in killing; they think eating is a culture. They want to publicize this as a culture. Do they have great mercy? There are many family gatherings, during birthdays and festivals, when people sit together and just eat. And people will not think that they are doing a stupid thing. We should make better use of these occasions to educate people, to let the younger respect the older, to teach young people how to behave, or to give the elders more spiritual comfort. We should do something different for the public good instead of just eating.
Seasonings refer to garlic and onions; meats refer to fish or beef; and vegetarian foods include vegetables and fruits. Being a vegetarian has a broader meaning; it relates more as eating anything that has been offered. As a vegetarian, we don’t choose what to eat or what not to eat; we don’t think that some foods are delicious and some are not. Being a vegetarian means that we have a heart of mercy; when our mind is clean, everything we eat becomes clean. If we eat only fruits and vegetables in a way that they must be prepared or cooked into delicacies, we are not acting as a true vegetarian. According to Buddhist precepts, a Buddhist shall not eat garlic, onions and three others (leek) called the five seasonings. Buddha says, those eating the five seasonings will frighten others. Although he can give lectures of all the Buddhist scriptures, Buddhas, ghosts and spirits from all sides shall drive him away because of his tongue tastes. Eating those five seasonings can bring about bad temper; eating meats can help with sex desires. Bad temper hurts the liver; and sex desires hurts the kidney. Eating too much of everything hurts the digestive system. They are all causes of our liver, kidney, heart or lung diseases. And that is not the aim of eating.
Human being is one of the six realms of existence. And eating habits are different among these six realms of existence. Celestial being are mind-nourished; devil being eats semen and blood vitality as food; animals eat food in forms; ghosts smell food and become full. Hell being has nothing to eat. Only human being eats by wants and desires. Our eating habits change very often, according to different living conditions. Human being can survive without eating; he can live on energy, from breaths or nature’s vitality. Because of our greed, we eat almost everything now, meats and vegetables and others, and we can eat many times a day. We shall feel ashamed for that. Buddha encourages us to be vegetarian, hoping that we shall be enlightened one day and have mercy for all beings. But seldom of us know about Buddha’s teachings. I am also ashamed myself, that although I received a college education, I did not know about Buddha’s teachings until I was almost forty. Buddha says, if you are a real Buddhist, you shall not think that the world is wrong. I have realized our own wrong doings, and know I am learning to overcome my shortcomings. Sometimes I teach others to behave well; but I try not to force others to be vegetarian.
For elders who have a mind for Buddhist teachings, asking them to become vegetarians may be a very difficult job and keep them away from learning more. We shall have mercy for them as well. Some people do not believe in Buddha’s teaching; and they are helpless when we tell them about how to become a vegetarian. I encourage others to make changes to their behaviors and life style, but I also say that we shall do things according to different conditions. We must read a whole book to get the general meaning. To gain health may mean a long process, and cannot be done in one day. We must be smart. We can quit smoking or alcohol in one day, but we cannot become a vegetarian in one day. If you have a heart for that, you can finally reach that. This is my word for you: we need to work hard to have good results!