The Urban Dharma Newsletter - Febuary 11, 2008
In This Issue: Buddhism, Meat and Global Warming
1. Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler - By MARK BITTMAN
2. Vegetarians Help Reduce Greenhouse Gases
3. Vegetarian is the New Prius - by Kathy Freston
4. Vegetarianism, Buddhism and the Climate Crisis by Chaplain Danny
5. Eating Vegetarian Is Taking Global Warming Personally - By Kathy Freston
6. What the Buddha Said About Eating Meat - by Ajahn Brahmavamso
7. Reflections on Meat by a Buddhist Vegetarian by the buddhist blog
8. Buddha: Christs Gardener - Scott Arnold
A friend sent me the below article from the New York Times (Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler) I've added the link, so you can read the entire article. One of the things that impressed me most; the author Mark Bittman wasn't a vegetarian.
There are many practicing Buddhists who have not become vegetarian, in the same way the Buddha was not a vegetarian. It doesn't seem to hurt their practice at all. I am one of those Buddhists, and yet as I read the Mark Bittman article I came to understand in a new way, the inter-connectedness of all things... That eating a cheeseburger, at some level, has a direct effect on the earth and all the living and not so living things that populate it.
Maybe our most important concern is... Not to save the planet from global warming, but to save the humans from global warming. The earth seemed to do fine without us, I suppose it wouldn't mind, if humans were absent again.
1. Rethinking the Meat-Guzzler - By MARK BITTMAN - January 27, 2008 / THE WORLD / The New York Times.
A SEA change in the consumption of a resource that Americans take for granted may be in store something cheap, plentiful, widely enjoyed and a part of daily life. And it isnt oil.
The two commodities share a great deal: Like oil, meat is subsidized by the federal government. Like oil, meat is subject to accelerating demand as nations become wealthier, and this, in turn, sends prices higher. Finally like oil meat is something people are encouraged to consume less of, as the toll exacted by industrial production increases, and becomes increasingly visible.
Global demand for meat has multiplied in recent years, encouraged by growing affluence and nourished by the proliferation of huge, confined animal feeding operations. These assembly-line meat factories consume enormous amounts of energy, pollute water supplies, generate significant greenhouse gases and require everincreasing amounts of corn, soy and other grains, a dependency that has led to the destruction of vast swaths of the worlds tropical rain forests.
Just this week, the president of Brazil announced emergency measures to halt the burning and cutting of the countrys rain forests for crop and grazing land. In the last five months alone, the government says, 1,250 square miles were lost.
The worlds total meat supply was 71 million tons in 1961. In 2007, it was estimated to be 284 million tons. Per capita consumption has more than doubled over that period. (In the developing world, it rose twice as fast, doubling in the last 20 years.) World meat consumption is expected to double again by 2050, which one expert, Henning Steinfeld of the United Nations, says is resulting in a relentless growth in livestock production.
Americans eat about the same amount of meat as we have for some time, about eight ounces a day, roughly twice the global average. At about 5 percent of the worlds population, we process (that is, grow and kill nearly 10 billion animals a year, more than 15 percent of the worlds total.
You can read the complete article on-line at:
2. Vegetarians Help Reduce Greenhouse Gases / Fight Global Warming by Going Vegetarian
According to the United Nations, the meat industry emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.
Global warming has been called humankinds greatest challenge and the worlds most grave environmental threat.1 The scientific community says that there is no doubt that global warming is real and that humans are largely to blame. Human activities are emitting vast amounts of greenhouse gases that prevent heat from escaping from the Earths atmosphere. Scientists report that this phenomenon will increasingly lead to catastrophic natural disasters, such as more frequent and intense droughts, floods, and hurricanes; rising sea levels; and more disease outbreaks. Scientists also warn that global warming threatens the lives of millions of humans and countless other animals. Many conscientious people are trying to help reduce global warming by driving more fuel-efficient cars and using energy-saving light bulbs. Although this helps, science shows that going vegetarian is perhaps the most effective way to fight global warming.
In a groundbreaking 2006 report, the United Nations (U.N.) said that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Senior U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization official Henning Steinfeld reported that the meat industry is one of the most significant contributors to todays most serious environmental problems.2
Carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide together cause the vast majority of global warming. Raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions.
Carbon Dioxide: The burning of fossil fuels (such as oil and gasoline) releases carbon dioxide, the primary gas responsible for global warming. Producing one calorie of animal protein requires more than 10 times as much fossil fuel inputreleasing more than 10 times as much carbon dioxidethan does a calorie of plant protein.3 Feeding massive amounts of grain and water to farmed animals and then killing them and processing, transporting, and storing their flesh is extremely energy-intensive. In addition, enormous amounts of carbon dioxide stored in trees are released during the destruction of vast acres of forest to provide pastureland and to grow crops for farmed animals. On top of this, animal manure also releases large quantities of carbon dioxide.
You could exchange your regular car for a hybrid Toyota Prius and, by doing so, prevent about 1 ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, but according to the University of Chicago, being vegan is more effective in the fight against global warming; a vegan prevents approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year than a meat-eater does.4 The math is simple: You could spend more than $20,000 on a Prius and still emit 50 percent more carbon dioxide than you would if you just gave up eating meat and other animal products.
Methane: The billions of chickens, turkeys, pigs, and cows who are crammed into factory farms each year in the U.S. produce enormous amounts of methane, both during digestion and from the acres of cesspools filled with feces that they excrete. Scientists report that every pound of methane is more than 20 times as effective as carbon dioxide is at trapping heat in our atmosphere.5 The Environmental Protection Agency shows that animal agriculture is the single largest source of methane emissions in the U.S.6
Nitrous Oxide: Nitrous oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide. According to the U.N., the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65 percent of worldwide nitrous oxide emissions.
3. Vegetarian is the New Prius - by Kathy Freston
President Herbert Hoover promised "a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage." With warnings about global warming reaching feverish levels, many are having second thoughts about all those cars. It seems they should instead be worrying about the chickens.
Last month, the United Nations published a report on livestock and the environment with a stunning conclusion: "The livestock sector emerges as one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global." It turns out that raising animals for food is a primary cause of land degradation, air pollution, water shortage, water pollution, loss of biodiversity, and not least of all, global warming.
That's right, global warming. You've probably heard the story: emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are changing our climate, and scientists warn of more extreme weather, coastal flooding, spreading disease, and mass extinctions. It seems that when you step outside and wonder what happened to winter, you might want to think about what you had for dinner last night. The U.N. report says almost a fifth of global warming emissions come from livestock (i.e., those chickens Hoover was talking about, plus pigs, cattle, and others)--that's more emissions than from all of the world's transportation combined.
For a decade now, the image of Leonardo DiCaprio cruising in his hybrid Toyota Prius has defined the gold standard for environmentalism. These gas-sipping vehicles became a veritable symbol of the consumers' power to strike a blow against global warming. Just think: a car that could cut your vehicle emissions in half - in a country responsible for 25% of the world's total greenhouse gas emissions. Federal fuel economy standards languished in Congress, and average vehicle mileage dropped to its lowest level in decades, but the Prius showed people that another way is possible. Toyota could not import the cars fast enough to meet demand.
Last year researchers at the University of Chicago took the Prius down a peg when they turned their attention to another gas guzzling consumer purchase. They noted that feeding animals for meat, dairy, and egg production requires growing some ten times as much crops as we'd need if we just ate pasta primavera, faux chicken nuggets, and other plant foods. On top of that, we have to transport the animals to slaughterhouses, slaughter them, refrigerate their carcasses, and distribute their flesh all across the country. Producing a calorie of meat protein means burning more than ten times as much fossil fuels--and spewing more than ten times as much heat-trapping carbon dioxide--as does a calorie of plant protein. The researchers found that, when it's all added up, the average American does more to reduce global warming emissions by going vegetarian than by switching to a Prius.
According to the UN report, it gets even worse when we include the vast quantities of land needed to give us our steak and pork chops. Animal agriculture takes up an incredible 70% of all agricultural land, and 30% of the total land surface of the planet. As a result, farmed animals are probably the biggest cause of slashing and burning the world's forests. Today, 70% of former Amazon rainforest is used for pastureland, and feed crops cover much of the remainder. These forests serve as "sinks," absorbing carbon dioxide from the air, and burning these forests releases all the stored carbon dioxide, quantities that exceed by far the fossil fuel emission of animal agriculture.
As if that wasn't bad enough, the real kicker comes when looking at gases besides carbon dioxide--gases like methane and nitrous oxide, enormously effective greenhouse gases with 23 and 296 times the warming power of carbon dioxide, respectively. If carbon dioxide is responsible for about one-half of human-related greenhouse gas warming since the industrial revolution, methane and nitrous oxide are responsible for another one-third. These super-strong gases come primarily from farmed animals' digestive processes, and from their manure. In fact, while animal agriculture accounts for 9% of our carbon dioxide emissions, it emits 37% of our methane, and a whopping 65% of our nitrous oxide.
It's a little hard to take in when thinking of a small chick hatching from her fragile egg. How can an animal, so seemingly insignificant against the vastness of the earth, give off so much greenhouse gas as to change the global climate? The answer is in their sheer numbers. The United States alone slaughters more than 10 billion land animals every year, all to sustain a meat-ravenous culture that can barely conceive of a time not long ago when "a chicken in every pot" was considered a luxury. Land animals raised for food make up a staggering 20% of the entire land animal biomass of the earth. We are eating our planet to death.
What we're seeing is just the beginning, too. Meat consumption has increased five-fold in the past fifty years, and is expected to double again in the next fifty.
It sounds like a lot of bad news, but in fact it's quite the opposite. It means we have a powerful new weapon to use in addressing the most serious environmental crisis ever to face humanity. The Prius was an important step forward, but how often are people in the market for a new car? Now that we know a greener diet is even more effective than a greener car, we can make a difference at every single meal, simply by leaving the animals off of our plates. Who would have thought: what's good for our health is also good for the health of the planet!
Going veg provides more bang for your buck than driving a Prius. Plus, that bang comes a lot faster. The Prius cuts emissions of carbon dioxide, which spreads its warming effect slowly over a century. A big chunk of the problem with farmed animals, on the other hand, is methane, a gas which cycles out of the atmosphere in just a decade. That means less meat consumption quickly translates into a cooler planet.
Not just a cooler planet, also a cleaner one. Animal agriculture accounts for most of the water consumed in this country, emits two-thirds of the world's acid-rain-causing ammonia, and it the world's largest source of water pollution--killing entire river and marine ecosystems, destroying coral reefs, and of course, making people sick. Try to imagine the prodigious volumes of manure churned out by modern American farms: 5 million tons a day, more than a hundred times that of the human population, and far more than our land can possibly absorb. The acres and acres of cesspools stretching over much of our countryside, polluting the air and contaminating our water, make the Exxon Valdez oil spill look minor in comparison. All of which we can fix surprisingly easily, just by putting down our chicken wings and reaching for a veggie burger.
Doing so has never been easier. Recent years have seen an explosion of environmentally-friendly vegetarian foods. Even chains like Ruby Tuesday, Johnny Rockets, and Burger King offer delicious veggie burgers and supermarket refrigerators are lined with heart-healthy creamy soymilk and tasty veggie deli slices. Vegetarian foods have become staples at environmental gatherings, and garnered celebrity advocates like Bill Maher, Alec Baldwin, Paul McCartney, and of course Leonardo DiCaprio. Just as the Prius showed us that we each have in our hands the power to make a difference against a problem that endangers the future of humanity, going vegetarian gives us a new way to dramatically reduce our dangerous emissions that is even more effective, easier to do, more accessible to everyone and certainly goes better with french fries.
Ever-rising temperatures, melting ice caps, spreading tropical diseases, stronger hurricanes... So, what are you do doing for dinner tonight? Check out www.VegCooking.com for great ideas, free recipes, meal plans, and more! Check out the environmental section of www.GoVeg.com for a lot more information about the harmful effect of meat-eating on the environment.
Kathy Freston is a self-help author and personal growth and spirituality counselor. She is the author of Expect a Miracle: Seven Spiritual Steps to Finding the Right Relationship. Her CDs offering guided meditation have been featured in W, Self, and Mode. Kathy and her husband, Tom Freston, divide their time between New York and Los Angeles. / © 2007 The Huffington Post
4. Vegetarianism, Buddhism and the Climate Crisis by Chaplain Danny
In a post last month, I recounted a conversation with my friend Phil about the important role vegetarianism can play in dealing with water and sanitation problems in the developing world. In an article published yesterday at CommonDreams.org, Bruce Friedrich writes about a connected global crisis that vegetarianism would also help discontinue:
...the UKs Environment Agency has acknowledged that humans can significantly help stop global warming by adopting a vegetarian diet.
Of course, the science could not be more clear. When U.N. scientists looked at all the evidence, they declared in a 408-page report titled Livestocks Long Shadow that raising animals for food is responsible for more greenhouse gases than all vehicles in the world combined. And scientists at the University of Chicago showed that a typical American meat-eater is responsible for nearly 1.5 tons more carbon dioxide a year than a vegan.
But for someone in government to admit this is something special, since even Al Gore refuses to talk about it...
I agree with Friedrich: it is very significant indeed that the Environment Agency has begun to talk to about how vegetarianism can help stop global warming. The truth is, though, that a lot more people need to start talking about this particular issue. That includes us Buddhists.
Let me say a bit more...
The first precept of Buddhism is to refrain from killing. The question of whether or not meat-eating violates this precept has been pondered over by all of the various Buddhist traditions, with most taking the view that it does not. (Chinese Buddhists, who adhere to a strict vegetarian diet, are an especially noteworthy exception.)
But, speaking as a Buddhist, it seems to me that it has gotten to the point where eating meat violates the first precept on so many different levels, there can no longer be any logical excuse for doing it.
A Buddhist buying a chicken breast or a pound of hamburger could say, "I'm not killing the animal myself, so I'm not really breaking the first precept." On the other hand, though, that same practitioner should ask him- or herself, "By making this purchase, am I not encouraging an industry to kill?" The answer seems to me to be an unequivocal "yes." Whether or not you kill the animal yourself, eating meat makes killing happen. Ninety-five animal lives are saved each year by one vegetarian. That's how the meat industry responds to just one vegetarian: it kills ninety-five fewer animals per year. Obviously, one's diet dictates whether or not quite a few animals live or die.
Furthermore, in the aforementioned post from last month, I explained how crucial vegetarianism is if we are to address the lack of clean water and the problem of inadequate sanitation in the developing world. Among other factors, the exorbitant agricultural costs of meat-eating explain why it is that over one billion people in the world lack access clean water and why it is that a child dies every fifteen seconds from a disease associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. Clearly, the process that results in meat under cellophane at the grocery contributes greatly to the immense suffering of human beings.
Now, some of the smartest people in the entire world are telling us that the meat production is a major contributor to the killing of the planet. In last month's post, I quoted from Livestock's Long Shadow:
[The raising of animals for food is] one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution and loss of biodiversity. Livestocks contribution to environmental problems is on a massive scale...
I've meditated on the precepts with all of this information in mind, and I've come to conclusion that refraining from killing has to include vegetarianism. It has to. It cannot just be refraining from fly-swatting when in sitting meditation, or being mindful of ants when in walking meditation. It's bigger than that.
For the sake of the world, may we learn to see the virtues of the practice of vegetarianism.
5. Eating Vegetarian Is Taking Global Warming Personally - By Kathy Freston, Huffington Post Posted on November 30, 2007, Printed on February 10, 2008
After the tradition of Thanksgiving overindulgence, wouldn't it be nice if we had a good reason other than vanity to start eating healthfully, some other incentive to help us get on a better track in the wellness arena? Luckily, the United Nations just gave us one.
The U.N.'s latest report on global warming has bad news and good news. On the downside, a lot of scary stuff is heading for us at breakneck speed. On the upside, we still have time to do something about it -- and one thing we can all do is actually fun and delicious.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a panel of thousands of the world's top climate scientists, has described the existence of human-caused global warming in its final assessment report as both "unequivocal," and as having "abrupt and irreversible" effects on global climate. Worse still, these effects are coming stronger and faster than expected in the panel's last report just six years ago. Alarmingly, some effects that had been predicted to arrive decades from now are already here.
The report warns that hundreds of millions of people are threatened with starvation, flooding, and weather disasters. Rain-fed crop production will fall by half, a quarter of the world's species will go extinct, and arctic ice will completely disappear during the summer. We will see more deadly heat waves, stronger hurricanes, and island nations completely obliterated from the map by rising sea levels.
And the good news is...?
Fortunately, there's still time to save ourselves -- but not very much time. The U.N. says point blank: "immediate action is vital." According to the report, we have just a few more years left to avoid the worst effects of global warming.
A problem of such scale will require governments, industries, and private citizens to work together to address what many believe to be the greatest challenge of our time. As with most solutions, the approach must be varied and come from all angles to really make the kind of quantum difference that is necessary. Here's but one -- albeit one of the most powerful -- way to add to the momentum of a turnaround: eat a plant based diet. Give up eating animals and go vegetarian. Seriously.
A U.N. report from just this past November found that a full 18 percent of global warming emissions come from raising chickens, turkeys, pigs, and other animals for food. That's about 40 percent more than all the cars, trucks, airplanes, and all other forms of transport combined (13 percent). It's also more than all the homes and offices in the world put together (8 percent).
So, one of the simplest and most elemental (and most delicious) things you can do to decrease your carbon footprint is to choose a veggie burger over a hamburger, "un-chicken" patties (try Garden Protein, the new and much talked about faux chicken/turkey) over actual chicken, or some grilled Portobello mushrooms with marinated tofu (I swear it's really good!). Order the vegetarian option whenever you go out to a restaurant -- and ask everywhere you go that they expand the vegetarian section on their menu, since it's good for owners of restaurants, hotels, airlines, etc. to know that there is consumer interest for tasty plant-based entrees.
I'm all for participating in the myriad things we can do to assist turning back the tide on human-made global warming: writing to a corporation about being environmentally responsible, turning off unnecessary lights and keeping the heat or a.c. on "low", voting for the politicians who will lead us into cleaner living, and driving a smaller more fuel efficient car. But on an ongoing more fundamental level, we can make a huge shift by simply eating differently. Being vegetarian is being green.
Eating a plant-based diet isn't just kind to animals and good for your health (and waistline!), it is also the single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.
We can each think creatively about how to use our roles in our families, jobs, and social circles, and join as part of the solution to this serious global threat.
With so much at stake, it's the least we can do. After all, the U.N. says there's still time if we act now. Surely that's something to be thankful for.
© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/69275/
6. What the Buddha Said About Eating Meat - by Ajahn Brahmavamso
Since the very beginning of Buddhism over 2500 years ago, Buddhist monks and nuns have depended on almsfood. They were, and still are, prohibited from growing their own food, storing their own provisions or cooking their own meals. Instead, every morning they would make their day's meal out of whatever was freely given to them by lay supporters. Whether it was rich food or coarse food, delicious or awful tasting it was to be accepted with gratitude and eaten regarding it as medicine. The Buddha laid down several rules forbidding monks from asking for the food that they liked. As a result, they would receive just the sort of meals that ordinary people ate - and that was often meat.
Once, a rich and influential general by the name of Siha (meaning 'Lion') went to visit the Buddha. Siha had been a famous lay supporter of the Jain monks but he was so impressed and inspired by the Teachings he heard from the Buddha that he took refuge in the Triple Gem (i.e. he became a Buddhist). General Siha then invited the Buddha, together with the large number of monks accompanying Him, to a meal at his house in the city the following morning. In preparation for the meal, Siha told one of his servants to buy some meat from the market for the feast. When the Jain monks heard of their erstwhile patron's conversion to Buddhism and the meal that he was preparing for the Buddha and the monks, they were somewhat peeved:
"Now at the time many Niganthas (Jain monks), waving their arms, were moaning from carriage road to carriage road, from cross road to cross road in the city: 'Today a fat beast, killed by Siha the general, is made into a meal for the recluse Gotama (the Buddha), the recluse Gotama makes use of this meat knowing that it was killed on purpose for him, that the deed was done for his sake'..." .
Siha was making the ethical distinction between buying meat already prepared for sale and ordering a certain animal to be killed, a distinction which is not obvious to many westerners but which recurs throughout the Buddha's own teachings. Then, to clarify the position on meat eating to the monks, the Buddha said:
"Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you." 
There are many places in the Buddhist scriptures which tell of the Buddha and his monks being offered meat and eating it. One of the most interesting of these passages occurs in the introductory story to a totally unrelated rule (Nissaggiya Pacittiya 5) and the observation that the meat is purely incidental to the main theme of the story emphasizes the authenticity of the passage:
Uppalavanna (meaning 'she of the lotus-like complexion') was one of the two chief female disciples of the Buddha. She was ordained as a nun while still a young woman and soon became fully enlightened. As well as being an arahant (enlightened) she also possessed various psychic powers to the extent that the Buddha declared her to be foremost among all the women in this field. Once, while Uppalavanna was meditating alone in the afternoon in the 'Blind-Men's Grove', a secluded forest outside of the city of Savatthi, some thieves passed by. The thieves had just stolen a cow, butchered it and were escaping with the meat. Seeing the composed and serene nun, the chief of the thieves quickly put some of the meat in a leaf-bag and left it for her. Uppalavanna picked up the meat and resolved to give it to the Buddha. Early next morning, having had the meat prepared, she rose into the air and flew to where the Buddha was staying, in the Bamboo Grove outside of Rajagaha, over 200 kilometres as the crow (or nun?) flies! Though there is no specific mention of the Buddha actually consuming this meat, obviously a nun of such high attainments would certainly have known what the Buddha ate.
However there are some meats which are specifically prohibited for monks to eat: human meat, for obvious reasons; meat from elephants and horses as these were then considered royal animals; dog meat - as this was considered by ordinary people to be disgusting; and meat from snakes, lions, tigers, panthers, bears and hyenas - because one who had just eaten the flesh of such dangerous jungle animals was thought to give forth such a smell as to draw forth revenge from the same species!
Towards the end of the Buddha's life, his cousin Devadatta attempted to usurp the leadership of the Order of monks. In order to win support from other monks, Devadatta tried to be more strict than the Buddha and show Him up as indulgent. Devadatta proposed to the Buddha that all the monks should henceforth be vegetarians. The Buddha refused and repeated once again the regulation that he had established years before, that monks and nuns may eat fish or meat as long as it is not from an animal whose meat is specifically forbidden, and as long as they had no reason to believe that the animal was slaughtered specifically for them.
The Vinaya, then, is quite clear on this matter. Monks and nuns may eat meat. Even the Buddha ate meat. Unfortunately, meat eating is often seen by westerners as an indulgence on the part of the monks. Nothing could be further from the truth - I was a strict vegetarian for three years before I became a monk. In my first years as a monk in North-East Thailand, when I bravely faced many a meal of sticky rice and boiled frog (the whole body bones and all), or rubbery snails, red-ant curry or fried grasshoppers - I would have given ANYTHING to be a vegetarian again! On my first Christmas in N.E. Thailand an American came to visit the monastery a week or so before the 25th. It seemed too good to be true, he had a turkey farm and yes, he quickly understood how we lived and promised us a turkey for Christmas. He said that he would choose a nice fat one especially for us... and my heart sank. We cannot accept meat knowing it was killed especially for monks. We refused his offer. So I had to settle for part of the villager's meal - frogs again.
Monks may not exercise choice when it comes to food and that is much harder than being a vegetarian. Nonetheless, we may encourage vegetarianism and if our lay supporters brought only vegetarian food and no meat, well... monks may not complain either!
May you take the hint and be kind to animals.
 Book of the Discipline, Vol. 4, p. 324
 ibid, p. 325
7. Reflections on Meat by a Buddhist Vegetarian by the buddhist blog
As some of you know, I am a vegetarian and have been for 3 years this past August. It has been interesting to watch my perceptions about meat change over this period of time. At first and for the first two years I didn't really feel sickened when I smelled cooking meat but now I do from time to time. I also sometimes have a hard time looking at raw meat or cooking meat without feeling horrified as if I was looking at human flesh.
The main reason that I decided to become vegetarian was from an immense love of animals and compassion for their suffering. I feel a very deep connection and bond to all sentient beings and feel that eating them is no different then eating my mother.
That being said, I do not, however, look down on those who wish to eat meat nor do I have a problem eating meals with meat eaters. True, I do not like the smell or the idea but I would rather try to focus on the joy of being able to come together and rejoice in the pure presence of others then focus on our differences. Yes, I could turn up my nose and walk out on dinners that serve meat but that is not the middle way. Besides I am sure that I wouldn't (and don't) live up to someone else's standards and we all have to walk our own path and make decisions that seem the most logical to us in adherence to the famous Kalama Sutra. To criticize others for eating meat is less skillful and not conducive to creating and maintaining the environment of peace for all sentient beings including my meat eating friends and family whom I love dearly just as much as any other creature.
I'm not always skillful in my life but then who amongst us is? Which reminds me of something one of my mother's fellow Christian friends said when the subject of perfection came up in a conversation. She said, "You know what they do with perfect people don't you? They crucify them."
Anyway, It has just been interesting to watch my reactions to seeing and smelling meat being cooked. It has been (and continues to be) a fascinating and worthwhile practice in mindfulness. I am still amazed at what a powerful teacher just mindfully watching our lives unfold is to us all.
~Peace to all beings~
8. Buddha: Christs Gardener - Scott Arnold
Planet earth looms on the edge of ecological disaster. Pollution and global warming threaten to severely alter the worlds climate. The rainforests are in danger of being chopped down and several species are near extinction. If mankinds current habit of destruction is not stopped, we risk loosing the earth. Christianity and Buddhism offer different approaches to this dilemma. Buddhism is generally associated with balance and harmony with nature, though it has no doctrine mandating the protection the environment. Christianity declares that all people are stewards of the earth, but Western countries are the main catalysts to the environmental problems. Mankind now must take that which will best protect the environment from each of these Traditions. Specifically, the environment would most benefit if people were to combine Christian beliefs with Buddhist practices.
There are many Buddhist traditions and virtues that help protect the environment and promote harmony between humans and nature. However, there is an absence of an ecological duty in Buddhist scriptures. Many Buddhists practice vegetarianism, which promotes harmony with nature. The Buddhist vegetarianism comes from the first precepts of monks: I undertake the precept to abstain from the taking of life. (Harris, 115) This abstinence from taking life covers both human and animal life, meaning that some Buddhists do not eat meat. This brings the Buddhist in balance with nature in that he or she is not killing animals nor raising animals for food. After all, intensive animal agriculture causes water pollution, topsoil depletion, and soil degradation, while plant-based diets generally require far less resources. (Schaeffer)
The belief in reincarnation and the circulatory nature of time contributes to the first precept in inspiring vegetarianism. In Buddhism, sentient beings are constantly reincarnated as other life forms. In a previous life a person could have been a silk worm or a kangaroo; our ancestors could be living with us as housecats. Furthermore, because this life cycle is without beginning, Buddha commented it is not easy to find a being who has not formerly been your mother, or your father, or your brother, your sister or your son or daughter. (Harris 118) This interconnectedness amongst all sentient life forms makes it disrespectful to kill an animal. The resulting respect for animals not only encourages vegetarianism, it also deters deforestation.
Plants, especially trees, have a special place in Buddhism. First, they are seen as the home of animals (relating back to reincarnation) as well as deities (Harris 118). Second, the wilderness is seen as a place for enlightenment. Take the life of Buddha, for example, in which all the most significant events occur in the countryside and are associated with trees: his birth at Lumbini as his mother grasped the branch of a sal tree, his early experience of states of meditative absorption beneath the rose apple tree, his Enlightenment beneath the Bodhi-tree, and his Parinirvana between twin sal trees. (Wallis) Trees are so important to Buddhism that recently several monks have taken to ordaining trees by wrapping their robes around them to hopefully protect them from being cut down. (Harris118)
Finally, perhaps one of the most helpful Buddhist virtues in terms of producing harmony with nature is that of contentedness. Buddhists strive to be content with the possessions that they have and not to yearn for material wealth or be wasteful. This practice helps to bring humankind in balance with nature in that Buddhists would not be exploiting the environment for luxuries or anything beyond what they need to survive.
However, despite all of these Buddhist practices and beliefs that promote balance and harmony with nature, Ian Harris, author of Buddhism and the Environment, argues that our modern sense of environmentalism is not crucial to the Buddhist understanding of reality (Harris 113). Harris points out that vegetarianism has only existed in the most recent stages of Buddhist history and that Buddha himself ate meat. Furthermore, many monks, especially in Tibet, relied on meat brought to them by laypeople as a crucial part of their diet. He also brings up the importance of intent in Buddhist ethics. Although having reverence for all animals, even earthworms, Buddhist ethics would not condemn a farmer for plowing his field because the farmers intent was to grow food, not kill the earthworms. Going further into the Buddhist texts, Harris notes that there are many occasions in the canon where texts adopt an uncompromisingly pro-civilization position. (Harris 125) Furthermore, Buddhism teaches that all things within Samsara are impermanent (Harris 122) and that the destiny of Buddhaadharma is more important than the fate of nature. (Harris 123) In other words, Buddhism views the interconnected cycle of life as the most important thing, whereas Samsara, the earth, is merely a place where that cycle takes place.
Harris recognizes that modern Buddhism is frequently related with environmental concerns; he merely comments that this concern is not included in the original teachings. He says despite the fact that this romanticized and nostalgic vision of a timeless and paradisiacal Buddhist past vests on dubious historical foundations, it has become quite common in recent times
Tibetan Buddhism has also been co-opted as support in the discourse of environmental concern, again on rather flimsy and anachronistic evidence. (Harris 136) He does not advocate that Buddhists turn away from this balance with nature, but suggests that the correct Buddhist response to inevitable environmental flux is a mindful equanimity that steers a middle path between the extremes of inaction on the one hand and action on the other. (Harris 116)
Whereas Buddhism offers several practices that aid the environment, the Christian tradition introduces several interesting philosophies about mans relationship with the environment: mainly those of creation and stewardship. The concept of creation is vital to understanding a Christian approach to the environment. One of the most famous Bible verses is Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. This verse transforms the world around us from something that is merely there, to something that was divinely created. God then goes beyond merely creating the world to declaring everything he made
was very good. (Genesis 1:31) This declaration of goodness applies to all things, not just man. Thus Francis Schaeffer suggests that we should treat each thing with integrity because it is the way God made it. (Schaeffer 54)
Mans biblical relation with nature is not, however, merely that of fellow creation. Rather, in Genesis, God places Adam in charge of all the animals in the Garden of Eden. It then follows that man would be in charge of the earth, or in other words, that we are stewards of Gods creation. Some take this story to mean that animals are meant for mans use and dining pleasure, though the interpretation of this varies amongst Christians (as many things do.) Finally, after Adam and Eve are cast out of the Garden of Eden, God tells them that man must now till the ground in order to produce food. Thus by the time Cain enters the scene, the Bible has presented a narrative of how man should treat the environment: he should respect it as something God created, he should protect it as the steward of creation, and he must use it in order to reap the fruit of Gods blessings.
There are, however, Biblical narratives that suggest we need not take care of the environment. Revelations, after all, prophesies that this world will come to an end. Why bother taking care of the environment if it is going to be destroyed? Further, Genesis notes that man no longer dwells in the Garden of Eden, thus we should not expect the world to be as perfect as it once was. Nevertheless, we are stewards and should strive to be good ones. Jesus tells a parable of three servants who were put in charge of their masters talents (money.) The servants who invested their talents and made a profit were rewarded, whereas the servant who buried his talent was punished. All to say, even though the physical world is only temporary in the Christian tradition, there is still an emphasis on taking care of the environment that mankind has been given.
Schaeffer, author of Pollution and the Death of Man, puts forth that in the process of being stewards of the earth, man must be in constant relationship with God. He suggests that we shouldnt expect for the world to be a perfect paradise anymore, but that we should try, with God, to heal the land. Second Chronicles 7:13 tells us that if we turn from our evil ways, humble ourselves and pray to God, then He will hear from heaven, forgive [our] sins, and heal [our] land. Man then, in the Christian tradition, is charged with taking care of the environment and given the means to do so through a relationship with the Creator.
Schaeffer then claims that the church has not spoken out as it should have done throughout history against the abuse of nature. (Schaeffer 74) Indeed, the Christian tradition is not frequently associated with environmentalist movements. In fact, it has been mainly Western countries (which have been predominantly Christian) that are associated with the destruction of the environment. Six of the G7 nations (nations containing a fifth of the worlds population and using four fifths of the worlds resources) are Western nations. It seems to Schaeffer that Christians have not been very successful stewards.
Neither of these traditions (Buddhism and Christianity) are best suited to protect the environment on their own. Only by combining aspects from each religion will the most ecologically beneficial ideology emerge.
As Harris says, nothing remotely resembling [an environmental philosophy] exists in Buddhism. This attitude is far too subtle too address the environmental issues our modern world is faced with. However, for a tradition that has no necessarily pro-environment beliefs in its scripture, Buddhism has many practices that seem to help the environment. Vegetarianism and a respect for all life certainly aids in the protection of other species. Further, an attitude of contentedness, in contrast to Western ideals of always acquiring more and more material wealth, would vastly cut down on the amount of goods that need to be produced, thus reducing the amount of forests that need leveling and the amount of pollution pumped into the atmosphere. Christianity, on the other hand offers a narrative about the environment that would, if applied, drastically help our ecological condition. If every person were to view him or herself as the steward of the environment and, in a sense, its protector, we would not be facing problems such as forestation or global warming. The problem with the Christian perspective, however, is that, for whatever reason, it seems to have little affect on actual action.
In order to save the world, mankind must make an actual effort to see the world differently and take proper action in accordance with that new perspective. People must start to respect the earth as a gift to be treasured, rather than something to be exploited. Protecting the environment will cost humankind several luxuries, though the consequences of a global disaster seem to far outweigh any extravagances people would have to live without. Thus, by combining a Christian approach to the world as something god created that man has been charged with protecting, with a Buddhist sense of contentedness and harmony with nature, perhaps we truly can save the world that weve been given.
Harris, Ian. Buddhism and the Environment. Contemporary Buddhist Ethics. Edited by Keown, Damien. Curzon Press, 2000
Schaeffer, Francis. "Pollution and the Death of Man" Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL, 1997
Wallis, Nick. Buddhism and the Environment. The Western Buddhis., October 2000
The Bible, New Revised Standard Version. Zondervan Publishing House, 1994
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