David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A

Postby yawares » Thu Sep 27, 2012 12:27 pm

Dear Members,

David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A
[By Dr.David N. Snyder]


Q. What about other nutrients that the vegetarian diet does not provide?

A. The vegetarian diet provides all the nutrients a human needs. The only exception is the vegan
who does not eat any animal products could be missing vitamin B-12. This vitamin can be found
in miso (fermented soy paste) and shitake mushrooms. The lacto-ovo vegetarian has no problem
as animal products contain high amounts of B-12.

The cause of nearly all diseases, especially in developed countries, is not the lack of any
nutrients, but rather the excess of too much food and fat. We do not hear on the news of anyone
dying from lack of protein or lack of iron or lack of amino acids. The real problem is too much
food and fat. People in developed countries eat too much fat and protein. The excess iron and
protein leads to the health problems listed above.

An example is vitamin B-12, discussed above. We only need very miniscule amounts of this
vitamin and it is stored in the body. The amount of vitamin B-12 that we need is a very puny one
milligram for every 667 days (almost two years)! Yet, some meat eaters continue to argue that
vegetarians are not getting enough nutrients such as protein and vitamin B-12. If you watch the
news and live in a developed country such as the U.S., ask yourself how many times do you hear
of people dying of scurvy or protein deficiency and other nutrient deficiencies? It just does not
happen. The problem in developed countries‘ nutrition is excess protein and excess fat which has
made heart disease the number one killer in men and women.


Q. What about the violence vegetarians do to plants and the environment in the
construction of their homes and all the insects they kill in the production of their foods?

A. A couple of other arguments meat eaters like to throw back on vegetarians is that the
construction of homes and buildings, which vegetarians live in required the displacement of
animals and the killing of insects. Also, that the agriculture of plant foods causes the killing of
insects too. They also argue that the eating of the plants itself is a form of killing.
The displacement of animals is a far less form of violence to killing animals for food. The
development of homes and buildings does cause death to insects, but this is unavoidable as is
accidentally stepping on an ant walking down the street. The difference is the intent. The Buddha
said that there is no ―crime when there is no intent. A vegetarian builder does not intend to kill
insects just as the person walking down the street does not purposely step on the ant. The
consumption of meat, however, is a voluntary choice matter.

It is true that vegetarians do need to kill plants to eat their vegetarian diet, but the point is to
inflict the least amount of violence. Another important point is that there is a huge difference
between killing a plant and killing an animal. Vegetables and fruits are life forms, but they are
not animals, like humans, cows, and chickens. A vegetable does not have a face or a central
nervous system and does not scream in pain.

Many fruits and vegetables can be eaten without harming the plant, including legumes, berries,
nuts, seeds, pumpkins, melons, squash, okra, and others. Another very important point is that
most fruits and vegetables are eaten at the end of their natural life. In fact, fruit trees actually
produce their fruit so that they may survive and produce another tree. If the tree could talk, it
would beg us to eat its fruit. Seriously, when a human or animal eats a fruit, the food travels
down the intestinal tract, along with some seeds. Later, when the human or animal defecates, the
seeds end up back on the ground at a different location. The seeds then produce another tree. The
tree remains alive and by eating the fruit, we are assisting in the production of another tree.
Now when a person eats an animal, do you think the animal had the same wish to be killed and
eaten? Videos of slaughterhouse procedures have graphically shown how the animals feel about
being killed. They are prodded, often with electric shock devices into the slaughterhouse. Once
their throats are cut, they can be seen crying in pain and kicking with all their might to be free.
Gallons and gallons of blood pour out from the cuts. It is quite graphic and would probably need
an ―X rating for violence if it were shown in theatres.


Q. What about the plants and minerals? From a Buddhist perspective are we not reborn
sometimes in the plant and mineral worlds, so are we not killing and eating our kin when
we eat vegetarian foods too?

A. According to the Buddhist cosmology, rebirth occurs into the six realms of hells, purgatory,
hungry ghosts, animals, humans, and angelic higher beings (impermanent gods). There is no
rebirth into the plant kingdom. Plants do not have a developed central nervous system, a brain, or
a developed consciousness.


Q. Are Vegetarian Buddhists Animal Rights Activists?

A. If the ideal Buddhist diet is vegetarian, should Buddhists also be animal rights activists?
Being an animal rights activist is certainly a noble cause to undertake, if one so chooses, but it
has been my experience that only a very small percentage of Buddhists take the vegetarian
message that far. There is nothing wrong with being an animal rights activist for those who want
to, but the media does tend to portray the activists as extremists and sometimes as terrorists.
A Buddhist middle way position could be to take the view on the sanctity of all life and to
prevent the misuse, abuse, and killing of animals as much as possible.
Here are some of the positions animal rights activists have taken and a potential Buddhist middle
way answer:
Animal products – Nearly all animal rights activists are opposed to eating or promoting the
consumption of animal products, such as eggs, milk, and cheese. The activists note that many
farms that produce animal products keep the animals in confined quarters, such as ten or more
hens in one very small cage, producing eggs. The lights are kept on 24 hours a day so that they
will produce more eggs.

A Buddhist middle way position could be to eat animal products, if you so choose, if they came
from cage free, organic, more natural farms. Now there are farms where the animals are kept in
a more natural setting without hormone and anti-biotic injections and other bad conditions.
Animal experimentation – Nearly all animal rights activists are opposed to animal
experimentation of any kind, including dissection for educational purposes in schools.
A Buddhist middle way position could be to allow animal testing only if it is absolutely
necessary and if it can be definitely shown that doing such research would save human lives. It
is always terrible to kill any living being for any purpose, but in many cases animal research has
led to cures to some diseases which have actually saved thousands of lives or more. Humans are
members of the Animal Kingdom and we share virtually identical organs to many animal
species. This is why animal research has been so successful, including the vaccine for polio.
But we must still not forget the ethical arguments. The animals should be kept in humane
conditions and not be tortured under any circumstance. There is far too much animal
experimentation in the name of research and some of the repetition should be cut back, but the
number of animals killed in experiments still pales in comparison to the number killed for food.
The number killed in research laboratories is in the millions while the number killed for food is
in the billions to nearly trillions per year.

Fur and leather – All animal rights activists are opposed to the wearing of fur. The arguments
are very valid; that no one needs fur to keep warm (there are numerous alternatives), the animals
the fur comes from need to be trapped which can be quite painful, and it takes several fur
animals to make one coat. Many activists are also opposed to wearing leather because it is
usually from the skins of cows and bulls.

A Buddhist middle way position would be to agree with the activists one hundred percent on the
fur issue. In this day and age there is no need for furs and there is no consumption of the fur
animal‘s meat. The animals are being killed strictly for the furs. However, with the case of
leather, no animal is being killed to make leather as the leather is made from the skins of animals
killed for food. If we lived in a vegetarian world, animals would have to be killed to make
leather. But, since a vegetarian world is a long way off, there is no harm in using leather
products, if one so chooses.

In the Buddhist Vinaya (rules for monks and nuns) the Buddha makes it a rule that the monastics
cannot use antelope skins (Mahavagga 8.28) and also deer skins (Mahavagga 5.10), but then
makes an exception (Mahavagga 5.13) where it is the custom / culture and so long as no being
was killed specifically for the leather.


Q. Some have said that what matters is the state of your mind, not your diet. A vegetarian
could have an impure mind and a meat eater could potentially have a pure mind, which is
paramount in Buddhism, so what difference does diet make?

A. An argument that some meat eating Buddhist teachers make is that what really matters is the
state of your mind. They say that a mind that is pure while eating meat is better than a mind that
is impure, but vegetarian. This argument takes aim at the importance of mind purification in the
Buddha‘s teachings. But this argument fails for two big reasons. If we take the view that we can
do whatever we want as long as our mind is pure, then we could never convict sociopathic
killers. Sociopaths commit crimes such as rape and murder and feel no remorse. They have a
clear mind about their actions. They know they are violating societies laws and just do not care.
They are care-free and go about their daily routines with no remorse. The Buddha specifically
stated that a clear mind does not get you off the hook. One monk performed immoral acts and
stated that "I feel neither ease nor discomfort, thus there will be no offense for me." The Buddha
responded, "whether this foolish man felt or did not feel, there is an offense." (Vinaya,
Suttavibhanga 3.36)

This argument that meat eating is okay with a clear mind also fails, because it does not take into
account the spiritual and biological effect of the food we eat. When you eat meat you are eating
the craving, fear, and poisons which the animal feels or secretes as it is being slaughtered. Since
a meditator is trying to alleviate craving and suffering it is best to avoid such poisons which
harm others and yourself. The Buddha and modern medical doctors have demonstrated the interconnection
of the mind-body with the famous saying ―you are what you eat. Many people are
vegetarians for the ethical and nutritional reasons and / or the benefits to the environment. But in
vipassana we realize that there is an advantage for the purification of the mind too. Albert
Einstein was a vegetarian and realized this connection with his statement, “It is my view that the
vegetarian way of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most
beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”

The Buddhist commentaries on the suttas tell a story of two yogis who were very close to full
enlightenment. Then they ate some meat. This created an obstacle to the complete awakening,
which therefore, did not manifest. (Shabkar)

Since it is apparent that meat eating does effect the mind and continue the craving process and
the slaughterhouse process, it is important for Dhamma teachers to advise their students of the
risks to health and mind purification with the consumption of meat. Many teachers have avoided
this issue to stay away from controversy or to sell more books or get more followers. It would be
good if teachers would change as we have the evidence of the damage meat can do to health and
the mind. This does not need to be done in a forceful way, but in a way that recommends as a
helpful teacher leading by example, with compassion.

Many famous Buddhist leaders have adopted a vegetarian diet and have advocated a vegetarian
diet for their followers.

This includes:
Thich Nhat Hanh, founder of the socially engaged Buddhist ―Order of Interbeing.‖ He has
written at least one hundred books and has centers and monasteries around the world.
Ayya Khema, very famous German born nun who has written several Dhamma books and
opened many centers and monasteries in Europe and Sri Lanka. She was one of the first western
women to receive full ordination.

Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, author of the best selling book, Mindfulness in Plain English,
and founder and abbot of Bhavana Society in West Virginia is a vegetarian and the monks and
nuns at his retreat center are also vegetarian.

S. N. Goenka, perhaps the most famous lay Buddhist, who led a successful business and family
life along with the teaching of Dhamma. He has opened several Dhamma centers and is famous
for his ten day retreats using the body sensations, vipassana technique.

―Now I will tell you the rules of conduct for a householder, according to which, he becomes a
good disciple... Let him not destroy life nor cause others to destroy life and, also, not approve
of others‘ killing. Let him refrain from oppressing all living beings in the world, whether
strong or weak. Dhammika Sutta

Interestingly there is a Theravada monk by the name of Ven. Dhammika. He wrote the famous
Good Question, Good Answer. In the first edition, written nearly 25 years ago he came out very
strongly with the opinion that one does not need to be a vegetarian at all and vegetarian views are
basically wrong.

Since that time he has become a vegetarian and now he has come out with a fourth edition which
states:
―Many people find that as they develop in the Dhamma that they have a natural tendency to
move toward vegetarianism. (Good Question, Good Answer, 4th edition)

Thich Nhat Hanh has said,
"To practice nonviolence, first of all we have to practice it within ourselves. In each of us,
there is a certain amount of violence and a certain amount of nonviolence. Depending on our
state of being, our response to things will be more or less nonviolent. Even if we take pride in
being vegetarian, for example, we have to acknowledge that the water in which we boil our
vegetables contains many tiny microorganisms. We cannot be completely nonviolent, but by
being vegetarian, we are going in the direction of nonviolence. If we want to head north, we
can use the North Star to guide us, but it is impossible to arrive at the North Star. Our effort is
only to proceed in that direction."

In this wonderful quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, he admits that we cannot be completely
nonviolent, but by being vegetarian, we are in the right direction. The violence to microorganisms,
plants, and minerals, or even the displacement of animals for construction is in no
way comparable to the screaming and pain of the slaughterhouse to highly sentient beings.
I like his analogy to the North Star too. To me, this says that it is true that vegetarianism is not
the goal of practice, liberation is the goal; but it does provide a light and direction for reaching
that goal.

Can you be a Buddhist and still eat meat? Yes, of course, everyone is at different places on the
path. Can you reach full liberation without following the North Star (vegetarianism), well
according to the Buddha's teachings one cannot intentionally violate any of the five precepts
(first precept is to not kill, cause to kill, or incite another to kill) and be a stream entrant or
higher. A stream entrant is just the first stage of enlightenment (followed by once-returner, nonreturner,and fully liberated arahant). To be just the first stage of stream entrant one cannot
purposely violate any of the five precepts. Does buying meat encourage or cause someone else
to kill another living sentient being? That is for each of us to study and contemplate with our
practice of meditation and Sutta study and come to our conclusions.

------------to be continued----------- :thumbsup:
yawares
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Re: David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A

Postby yawares » Thu Sep 27, 2012 5:56 pm

Dear David,

Once in Thailand, I/Tep went to pay respect to the famous Thera Poot (Luangta Bua's friend), many people were there, they asked many questions about animals being killed for food. Thera Poot said that these animals were born to pay back for their sins of taking bribes or stealing lots of money from people(like politicians/bank robbers etc.)..so they had to be reborn as animals to pay debt with their own meat etc...People who do researchs using animals will be reborn as animals for people to do researchs....'they reap what they sow' etc.
:anjali:

What do you think? :thinking:

I/Tep listened to the talking until after midnight...Thera Poot let us stay overnight in his guest-kuti.
yawares
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Re: David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Sep 27, 2012 6:05 pm

yawares wrote:What do you think? :thinking:


Hi yawares,

I don't know, sounds like it could be speculation on another's kamma.

I believe it was Ajahn Chah who said "some people or animals may be deserving of receiving some bad kamma, but I don't want to be the one to administer the bad kamma."

:thumbsup: I like this quote (pretty sure it is Ajahn Chah).
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Re: David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A

Postby Hanzze » Fri Sep 28, 2012 2:28 am

It would be good to have a lots of plants and trees in the future :tongue: wouldn't it?
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A

Postby yawares » Fri Sep 28, 2012 3:38 pm

Hanzze wrote:It would be good to have a lots of plants and trees in the future :tongue: wouldn't it?

Dear Hanzze,
Please tell me all popular fruits that Cambodian people love...What are your favorites trees/fruits/flowers??
yawares
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Re: David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A

Postby Hanzze » Fri Sep 28, 2012 11:43 pm

Those which are nead :tongue: If I tell you about good fruits, you maybe would like to have them and they would cut more forest, till the lands make it to places without the possibility for any rebrith to get some benefit from it.

What fruits are growing next to you in your neigborhood?
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_
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Re: David's Book: Vegetarians/Bhuddists Q/A

Postby yawares » Sat Sep 29, 2012 1:25 am

Hanzze wrote:Those which are nead :tongue: If I tell you about good fruits, you maybe would like to have them and they would cut more forest, till the lands make it to places without the possibility for any rebrith to get some benefit from it.

What fruits are growing next to you in your neigborhood?

Dear Hanzze,
I'll post Thai fruits tomorrow...I think Thailand/Cambodia have same kind of exotic fruits :heart:
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