Thursday, May 26, 2011

Five Precepts Blues; #2.7 - the fox

Odetta • the Fox

I sometimes find myself feeling as though if I can't finish all of my food, I should at least eat all of the meat, thinking that perhaps the animal suffered the most when its life was stolen for my meal, so it would be worse for it to be wasted.

Though I haven't been able to let go of eating ,eat, I recognize that it would be best not to eat meat at all, so it's not really a question of that. More that while I am eating meat, is it something I should consider?

I wonder, now, if this is just me making opposites, making better and worse, when really it's all the same?

Listening to Zen talks are reading Zen texts, I become timid to use words like better/worse or good/bad, but as I read more text attributed to the Buddha, I find he used similar terms quite often.


  1. There is better and worse. Killkng and eating an animal that has a mother, children, eyes, emotions and thoughts that we can relate to is worse than killing a plant (setience is important in Buddhism). People who say that eating a lettuce and eating a pig is the same has obviously never seen the inside of a factory farm. Of course plants alos suffer, but it's a question of degree - better and worse.

  2. One of my first big "hits" occurred shortly after I began Zen training. I was at Providence Zen Center and watched a Korean monk cleaning a big rice pot. He used chopsticks to get out every grain of stuck rice and put it in a container for later use. I had never seen such a thing, such reverence for food. It completely changed my relationship to food.

    When people went out to dinner with Zen Master Seung Sahn, he made everyone eat every scrap of food on their plates - not a morsel went to waste. The plates would look like they had been polished.

    And, of course, in formal Zen meals (during retreats), a person can take as much food as they like. They only need to eat everything and then wash their bowls with water and tea and drink all the water and tea - so that all food taken is completed consumed.

    This is "better," I suggest, than a cavalier approach to food.

  3. It is not possible to waste food. There are uncountable billions of microorganisms that will finish off anything that is left behind.

  4. Yes, microorganisms will finish off that cheese sandwich. But if you are living on a low wage and if your partner or parent went without that nice bit of cheese in order for you to have it, and if bread is short and ther's not quite enough for breakfast, and if you eat half that sandwich with hardly tasting it and then leave the rest because you're bored or dissatisfied or looking for something else, then the food is wasted and your thoughtless ungratitude is cruel and destructive.

    The microbes will always find something else to eat.

  5. While I've made the decision to go vegetarian, I haven't made that same decision for my 2 year old son. He is stubborn and picky as hell when it comes to food, and there are a few types of meat I'll feed him. If he doesn't finish them, I eat the leftovers. I suppose I feel that if I contributed to the suffering of the animal killed for my son's food, the least I can do is show a little respect by not throwing it out in the garbage. I think that moving in the direction of "better" and making the best choice given the situation is in keeping with the spirit of the dharma.

  6. Thank you for this response.

    I've cut back on the amount of meat I eat, but haven't been able to make the step to total vegetarianism. In Korea, meat is in just about everything, so we hardly ever buy meat anymore, but lunch at work, or eating out with people, I'm bound to have meat on my plate. I've noticed over the last few months that when I'm starting to feel full, I'll try to stuff as much meat into my mouth as I can, even though I'd rather eat the rest of the vegetables....

    In the end, it's probably not even as healthy, which is part of the reason I've been questioning myself.

  7. Sometimes the microbes eat you.

  8. Two things I have found dropped off with committed dharma practice: booze and meat. Dropped off completely? No but there has been a lessening of intake. The strange thing is that it isn't intentional, it just happens with introspection. But again, that is my experience and not anyone else's. For me, just a reduction in consuming meat was enough. It seems a natural reflex to practice rather than a conscious decision.

    However, I do feel strongly about accepting with graditude what is provided or given to us. I remember being invited to a Cypriot Greek's home. They immediately slaughtered a goat and a rabbit for a huge meal. We were all given huge helpings, not being vegetarian, I had little issue with finishing my plate. My vegetarian cousin started just started into her diatribe before I quietly began eating the meat off of the plate.

    I don't really know the point of my story but it seemed that some amount of graditude should be present for those that receive food despite ethical or philosophical preferences.

  9. great comment! Thank you.

    I think it came down to responding to the situation. In Korea, there's meat in just about everything. Even the kimchi usually has shrimp in it, for flavor, I'm not sure if many people even know that. I've had friends try to tell restaurant staff they don't eat meat/flesh and it always creates a lot of confusion, especially the shrimp in the kimchi issue!

  10. "The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great Compassion.”
    - The Buddha, Mahaparinirvana Sutra