Wednesday, February 10, 2010
Don't Eat Meat
Let me just state at the very beginning: meat is not food. Contrary to what the common wisdom may be claiming, meat was never meant to be taken by humans as an edible substance. Unless you live in an extremely harsh climate, such as close to the North Pole, and have no access to vegetables, fruits, grains, nuts, honey, mushrooms, etc., you should avoid eating meat.
Why am I saying this? Firstly, as a Buddhist practitioner, I have a vested interest in creating and maintaining the situation that would be conducive to effective spiritual practice and to a swift progress on the spiritual path. That bias is given, and I am not going to spare efforts in trying to convince people to abandon their meat eating habits.
Secondly, from a pure materialistic perspective, eating meat is very harmful. Not only to the individual who eats meat, but also to the environment, and ultimately, to the climate affecting the entire planet.
Many benefits can be achieved by cutting meat out of our diet. In this article, I will elaborate mostly on the spiritual and psychological benefits, leaving the other aspects to the more qualified experts. From the spiritual perspective, it should be plain as a day to anyone that any act of killing cannot be good for one's spiritual progress. If one believes that the laws of the spirit are indeed in full effect, then it would be impossible to deny that all the acts one performs in their daily life has unavoidable consequences to their spiritual well being.
Whenever we eat meat, we participate in the act of violent killing. Whether it is us who actually do the killing (i.e. we hunt or fish the poor animal), or whether we merely buy an already killed animal, there is not that much difference -- we are perpetuating the activity of killing.
From the psychological perspective, appetite for eating meat is an acquired taste (indeed, babies and little children rarely exhibit enthusiasm for meat; quite the opposite, most children are appalled at the sight of a piece of meat on their plate, and will do anything possible to wiggle out of that duty). But, through training and coaching, many children learn to make truce with meat and then acquire the taste and the appetite for eating it. The detrimental side effects of that habit is that many people who are meat eaters tend to crave meat constantly, and the more they eat meat, the more they crave strong flavors that meat offers.
This then creates addiction and gluttony, which are not healthy traits to have. On the other hand, we rarely, if ever, see addiction and gluttony exhibited by the people who avoid eating meat. From this we see that avoiding meat in our diet leads to a much healthier lifestyle.
Another thing that is intriguing about the difference between people who eat meat and people who avoid meat is that, apparently, those who abstain from eating meat seem to not suffer from bad dreams and reckless sleeping patterns. This phenomenon is easy to explain when we consider the fact that meat is much harder to digest than vegetarian food; consequently, meat eaters don't enjoy such peaceful and restful nights like vegetarians enjoy.
From the psychological perspective, it is not difficult to understand that every living being holds its life dear and is afraid of dying. No animal nor human could ever be brought into a situation where they'd be very glad to voluntarily die. Because of this, inflicting the pain of fear on other beings is not a good practice. Consuming the meat of a being who's been hunted down mercilessly and then killed in a most brutal fashion is not a desirable thing to do.
From the hygienic aspect, meat should be considered feculent; the meat tissue has been produced by ingesting either the bio mass of some plants (as in the case of herbivore animals), or by ingesting the flesh of other animals (as in the case of carnivores and cadaver eating animals). That fact indicates that the animal meat is derivative, as it has already been processed, sometimes even to the point of being a third-hand derivative (the meat of a vulture, for example).
Such substances are quite poisonous (and I hasten to add, extremely repulsive, as the meat tissue consists of blood, puss, lymph, etc.), and should not be ingested by humans. They are detrimental to our health -- our physical health, as well as our psychological and spiritual health.
As spiritual practitioners, our goal is to follow the Buddha's example and view all living beings as our children. If we are to succeed in achieving that goal, how can we then stoop to the level of eating our own children? From the Buddhist point of view, eating animal meat equates to eating the meat of our own son. Simply unthinkable!
Lastly, being on the path of spiritual liberation, our goal and our duty is to comfort, embolden and assist all living beings. By empathizing with the beings around us, our innate compassion comes to the full fruition, and we then quite easily see that all beings fear for their lives, and are under a constant stress that they will get killed for food. If we are to offer them comfort and if we are to console them and show them the way out of that sorrowful state, how are they to trust us if we ourselves eat meat? All trust is broken the moment the beings realize that we too have developed craving for meat and thus cherish the act of killing leading to the procurement of our favorite food.
Because of that, we must absolutely cease consuming any meat coming from any living being. We must work on creating a situation where all living beings feel comfortable in our presence, and can then trust us to show them the way towards the ultimate liberation.
Anyone who claims that he or she can accomplish that while at the same time continuing to eat meat is completely deluded.