Extraordinary Compassion

roshiAnyone familiar with the numerous accounts of the Buddha’s extraordinary compassion and reverence for living beings —for example his insistence that his monks strain the water they drink lest they inadvertently cause the death of any micro-organisms— could never believe that he would be indifferent to the sufferings of domestic animals caused by their slaughter for food.

—Roshi Philip Kapleau

About Tashi Nyima

I am a Dharma student, and aspire to be a companion on the path. I trust that these texts can offer a general approach and basic tools for practicing the Buddha's way to enlightenment. ||| Soy un estudiante del Dharma, y aspiro a ser un compañero en el sendero. Espero que estos textos ofrezcan a algunos un mapa general y herramientas básicas para la práctica del sendero a la iluminación que nos ofrece el Buda.
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4 Responses to Extraordinary Compassion

  1. and when the Awakened One sat under a tree for years and became aware of true reality, think he was on a diet of hamburgers and fries? Nope! maybe nature and being in tune with it and its inherent divinity has something to do with the awakening, just by the example shown, and just maybe, your diet affects your ability to process that intense energy when you fire those chakras up. the story is a teaching, lets concentrate on the fundamentals right in front of us.

  2. Coleen Tew says:

    Dear Tashi; could you respond to this blogger – his name is Quang Tri and I found his answer to the question of abstaining from eating animals to be misleading. Many thanks.

    Would being vegetarian be beneficial to my spiritual journey?

    June 5, 2015 Leave a comment
    Question: “Hi ! So I’m discovering Buddhism and loving it and as I’m researching and reading it seems that many Buddhists are vegitarion… Would becoming a vegetarian help me become more empathetic and mindful towards all living things ? Would it be beneficial to my spiritual journey ?”
    You’re going to get varying answers depending on who you ask. So from my point of view and understanding: No, vegetarianism is not necessary.

    Sure, not eating meat could mean you’re empathetic towards animals and their lives, but unless you’re helping preserve the lives on animals, all you’re doing is bringing down the demand for meat (which is great regardless!). We always see those sad videos and commercials about animal cruelty and we feel extremely sad about it. What do we do? We change the channel or stop watching, we’re not actually helping or doing anything about it. So how is your empathy helping?

    Vegetarianism should mean something and you should actually do something about it, and not just for the sake of being a vegie because you feel sad for animals.

    No where in Buddhism (well, except maybe in a couple of Chinese Mahayana sutras) does it mention that we need to be vegetarian. Not even the Buddha was vegetarian. The Buddha and his disciples went on alms everyday and ate what was given to them. They were begging for food, so they had no right to be picky and only ask for vegetarian food.

    I’m not even vegetarian. I call myself a “Buddhist vegetarian,” I’m vegetarian on my own and when I cook for myself, but if someone invites me over or out for lunch or dinner and offer me meat, then I must accept and eat it. I always say a prayer before meals, thanking those who have worked hard to make the food I’m about to eat possible, and if it’s meat, I thank the animal for their sacrifice to feed me and allow me to live because of them and I wish them a more fortunate rebirth.

    If you accidentally step on a bug and kill it, you should pray for it and wish it a fortunate rebirth. Likewise you would do the same for the meat you’re about to eat.

    Smile and be well!

    • Tashi Nyima says:

      I have answered these false and misleading claims many times before, but here we go again…
      Deceitful Justifications for Meat Eating

      In an attempt to justify their appetite for the flesh and blood of animals, some individuals allege that (1) the Buddha permitted the consumption of meat under three conditions, (2) vegetarians are “the sons of the infamous Devadatta”, and (3) the Buddha himself ate meat. These are patently specious claims.

      The Pali text of the Jivaka Sutta, the putative source of the infamous ‘three purities’ argument, states:

      I say that there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected. I say that meat should not be eaten in those three instances.

      I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected.
      I say that meat may be eaten in these three instances.

      Clearly, the Buddha is stipulating here that if a monk inadvertently consumes meat that has been placed in his begging bowl, he is not at fault. His action is pure. However, if he sees, hears, or even suspects that there is animal flesh in his bowl, he must not eat it.

      Later commentators gratuitously inserted the phrase “that the living being has been slaughtered for oneself” after each repetition of the word ‘suspected’. The phrase does not appear in original the Pali text. It is a spurious addition, making it seem as if the Buddha allowed his monks to eat meat when the animal was not expressly killed to feed them, or at least when they did not see, hear, or suspect it.

      This interpolation is linguistically unwarranted. More importantly, it contradicts the unequivocal teaching of the Buddha on the matter. The Buddha gives extensive arguments against meat-eating in the Angulimaliya Sutra, Nirvana Sutra, Karma Sutra, Shurangama Sutra, Mahamegha Sutra, Lankavatara Sutra, Maha Parinirvana Sutra, and others.

      In the Brahmajala Sutra, the Buddha Shakyamuni clearly exhorts his followers to adopt strict adherence to non-harming:

      Should you willingly and knowingly eat flesh, you defile yourselves.
      Pray, let us not consume any flesh or whatsoever comes from sentient beings.

      In order to preserve a counterfeit harmony, some persons hold that the Buddha instructed us to be silent in the face of blatant misrepresentations of the Dharma, such as this deceptive reasoning of those who pretend that the cruel enslavement, exploitation, and slaughter of animals is approved by the Buddha if we “do not see, hear, or suspect” that the animals were killed expressly for our sake.

      Such persons place the temporary emotional discomfort of their ‘Dharma teachers’ and Sangha peers over the unspeakable suffering of non-human animals. This complicit timidity is contrary to the Dharma.

      The Buddha said:

      Such speech as the Tathagata knows to be true, correct, and beneficial,
      even if unwelcome and disagreeable to others,
      the Tathagata knows the time to use such speech.

      Why is that? Because the Tathagata has compassion for all beings.
      —Middle Length Discourses

      Another tired and tiresome argument trotted out insistently by those who would misrepresent the Dharma to justify their lust for flesh and blood is the refusal of the Buddha Shakyamuni to accept the so-called ‘Five Rules of Devadatta’.

      The five rules proposed by Devadatta were:

      1. that monks reside only in the forest;
      2. that they depend exclusively on begging;
      3. that robes be made from discarded rags;
      4. that they dwell under trees; and
      5. that they abstain from eating flesh.

      These rules were meant to convey the appearance that Devadatta was more austere than the Buddha Shakyamuni, and therefore a more apt leader for the Sangha. In CV vii 276-277, where his intentions are explicitly clear, Devadatta says to one of his co-conspirators:

      “It is possible with these five items to make a schism in the recluse Gautama’s Order, a breaking of the concord. For, your reverence, people esteem austerity.”

      There are three reasons why the Buddha rejected Devadatta’s ‘five rules’, and none had to do with the merits of the proposal on abstaining from flesh:

      1. Devadatta’s intention was to split the Sangha and advance his craving for fame and power. His concerns were not ethical; they were strictly political.
      2. The rules of the Vinaya were developed progressively, and always in response to specific doubts or conflicts. They were never issued ‘a priori’.
      3. The rule concerning the consumption of flesh was redundant, as it was already covered in the very First of the Five Precepts, as well as in innumerable injunctions.

      Perhaps the most infamous of all justifications for flesh consumption is the claim that the Buddha ate meat, and that He died from eating contaminated pork. The term used in the (Pali) Mahaparinibbana Sutta to describe the dish that was served to the Buddha at his last meal is sukara-maddava, which literally means ‘pig’s delight’—a clear reference to a type of mushroom that pigs are keen to eat. The Pali term for pig meat is sukara-mamsa.

      Carolyn Rhys-Davids, who served from 1923 to 1942 as president of the Pali Text Society, clearly noted the faulty translation more than seven decades ago, but proponents of carnivorism still trot out this fallacy today. Unless one is grossly ignorant of the Pali language, or is willfully misleading others, it is impossible to assert that ‘pigs delight’ means ‘pork meat’, as if the Buddha had ordered a fanciful dish at a modern Chinese restaurant.

      Let a person not give credence to the many rationalizations given to justify animal flesh eating. What word-jugglers say under the influence of their addictive craving for animal flesh is sophistic, delusional, and argumentative. —Buddha Shakyamuni, Mahaparinirvana Sutra

      As to the claim that only “in a couple of Chinese sutras” does the Buddha instruct us to abstain from harming animals in any way:
      First among the moral injunctions, accepted and shared by all schools and lineages of the Buddha Dharma, is the precept to abstain from taking life (Anguttara Agama):

      I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying sentient beings.

      The disciples of the Noble Ones, abandoning the taking of life, abstain from taking life. In doing so, they give freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, they gain a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression.

      This is the first gift, the first great gift —original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, untainted, unadulterated from the beginning— that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is praised by knowledgeable contemplatives and sages.
      Is this injunction to abstain from killing solely inclusive of humans? The Buddha gives this instruction in the Griha Vinaya (Rules for Householders, Dharmika Sutra, Kshudraka Agama):

      Let us not destroy, or cause to be destroyed,
      any life at all, or sanction the acts of those who do so.
      Let us refrain even from hurting any creature,
      both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world.

      If we fail to understand the universality of this injunction, the Buddha clarifies (Kshudraka Agama):

      Whether they be creatures of the land or air,
      whoever harms here any living being,
      who has no compassion for all that live,
      let such a one be known as depraved.

      And in the Anguttara Agama:

      I am a friend of the footless,
      I am a friend of all bipeds,
      I am a friend of those with four feet,
      I am a friend of the many-footed.

      May all creatures, all breathing things,
      all beings one and all, without exception,
      experience good fortune only.
      May they not fall into any harm.

      Should we intend to skirt the First Precept by claiming innocence of the deed if others do the killing for us, He adds (Kshudraka Agama):

      We should not kill any living beings,
      nor cause them to be killed,
      nor should we incite any other to kill.
      Do never injure any beings,
      whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

      In the Brahmajala Sutra, the Buddha says to His disciples, confirming the primacy of the First Precept:

      Abandoning the taking of life,
      the ascetic Gautama dwells refraining from taking life,
      without stick or sword, scrupulous, compassionate,
      trembling for the welfare of all living beings.
      Thus the worldling should praise the Tathagata.

      And in the Dharmapada (Udanavarga):

      Those who have left all violence,
      who never harm any beings at all,
      whether they are moving or still,
      who neither kill, nor cause to kill,
      such ones, harmless, are the Holy Ones!

  3. coleentew says:

    Thank you Tashi. I’ll copy and paste this to him.

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