Good morning everyone, I'll talk about the topic of being vegetarian many more times, but in today's Dharma Espresso, I'll talk about the consciousness of why we are vegetarian.
This is the consciousness that expresses loving-kindness and compassion, not wanting to harm the lives of living beings. Therefore, we don't want to eat meat, to kill animals, and to cause their killing, directly or indirectly, on our account. This is the most basic precept of the Brahma Net Precepts and the Bodhisattva Precept: Not to kill or encourage others to kill.
Indirect killing can be seen everywhere, and there are different types of vegetarians. Lactovegetarians can drink milk and eat cheese or other dairy products which can cause health problems. They also eat different kinds of eggs. Industrial eggs (eggs produced without roosters) are even more inhuman than fertilized eggs (with the help of a rooster). Industrial hens are force fed with food being pumped down their throats so they can grow fast to produce eggs. They are raised in crowded cages with artificial lights and in places not suitable for chickens at all. Hence, we shouldn't eat eggs, especially industrial eggs, and avoid dairy products like milk and cheese, etc., since eating them is an indirect way to sustain the so-called cycle of violence.
A friend of mine became a vegetarian when he heard the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua said, "Why don't we eat meat? Because we want to end the cycle of killing, the cycle of violence." Many people think that vegetarians can eat fish, but fish are also living creatures. We should have pity for them and not eat them. Eating fish is even more terrible since they are still alive when we catch them.
The motive for being vegetarian is: not wanting to harm and kill living beings. It is not selfish. In the world of vegetarians, there are still those who eat what the Buddha called pungent. They are onions, garlic, chives, green onions, and leeks. They cause stimulation, so Buddhists should not eat them. We may eat them unintentionally once in a while, but we should not eat them intentionally. We should be cautious about packaged and canned food. If we're in a temple, we really should avoid leek and eggs since they're very impure.
In general, the motive for being vegetarian is not wanting to harm or kill living beings, causing them to suffer on our account. We want our life to be gentle and our compassion to manifest everywhere; hence, we're not selfish or egocentric.
Now, we should move forward a little more, and eat vegetables and fruits which can also be very healing. There are many healing methods. In Vietnam, we have heard of the Oshawa method of treating disease by eating brown rice and sesame seeds. I've heard of people eating foods that are harmonized in yin and yang, or eating raw, uncooked food for healing, and they are healthy. But not everyone can follow this diet. There are some who only eat fruits, or drink fruit juice. Others are more particular, eating cordyceps (a kind of sac fungi or mushrooms) in winter and summer, consuming only ginseng, Linhzhi (reishi) mushrooms, or herbs. Still others eat them as supplements.
In the U.S., there are many types of diet for healing, for example, eating food with low fat, low carb, low or no sugar, etc., but just for a certain period of time. People keep changing their diets to treat their health problems. Once they're healed, they go back to their regular diets. The most common and easiest vegetarian diet is to "eat the rainbow", such as red tomato, green broccoli, etc. We get good vitamins and nutritious values from eating fruits and vegetables of various colors.
Changing from not harming living creatures to focusing on our health, we're still egocentric. We can't help it, though, since we eat for ourselves and not for others. However, we should take care not to harm the environment. Industrial food production uses all kinds of insecticides, so we need to be an educated vegetarian. Vegans eat no dairy products, onion, garlic, etc., as mentioned above. They follow a balanced diet, not just for healing. They only eat vegetables and foods from organic farms, and they are careful about what they consume. So you see that there is a wide range of vegetarians. There are also many diet methods from each country. I have a friend from Lebanon who has a unique diet with unique spices for unique healing. I also know an imam from Pakistan who eats Indian and Pakistani foods for health and healing.
Thus, vegetarianism is a wide topic with many directions. But we should remember the basic points, and ponder. First, eat without harming living beings. Second, eat without damaging our environment too much. Third, eat not for our own selfishness. Fourth, eat to heal sickness and regain our health and peace. Fifth, eat foods that can give us purity and serenity; that means not to eat onion, garlic, chives, leeks, etc., so we can meditate more deeply and our breath is not stinking, foul, and offensive to those sitting around us.
So you see that the vegetarian trend is very important and has many tendencies, but we should keep in mind the basic point of a consciousness not hurting or harming others, not eating for our own selfish reasons. Then we can start to go deeper and study more about what Americans call plant-based diet.
I'll stop now and talk about this topic again another time. Thank you for listening to today's Dharma Espresso. May you be joyful and awake.
Dharma Master Heng Chang
(Translated and transcribed by Compassionate Service Society)