A Buddhist Perspective on Vegetarianism
by Lin Ching Shywan, from Vegetarian Cooking — Chinese Style, 1995
I have been a strict vegetarian for more than four years now. When I first gave up meat, quite a few of my friends and relatives expressed concern; most people seem to have the idea that vegetarian food lacks adequate nutrients. And being vegetarian can be a more than minor inconvenience with the amounts of meat and fish that people now eat. Chinese have a traditional notion that foods that are « warming » in nature, like meat, are important for building up physical strength; so in the minds of some of the older generation, one could not possibly get all the nutrition one needed from the « cool » bean greens, white radishes, and so forth that vegetarians favor. In their book, the only things that strengthen the body are foods like tiger phallus, snake blood, stewed chicken and crab in wine.
Before taking the big step, I didn’t give nutrition, convenience, or building up physical strength a second thought, since my reason for becoming vegetarian had nothing to do with any of these. I became vegetarian because of my belief in Buddhism.
Why do Buddhists advocate vegetarianism? The main reason is « mercy », and because we « cannot bear to eat the flesh of living creatures. » And our belief in karma tells us that we must eventually suffer the consequences of our evil actions. A Buddhist sutra says: « The bodhisattva fears the original action; the myriad of living creatures fear the consequences. » This means that the bodhisattva knows the seriousness of the consequences and does not do evil things; neither does he think about the causes of bad consequences. Finally, I also believe that a vegetarian diet better enables one to keep a pure body and mind and this purity is an important foundation of self-cultivation. My conversion to vegetarianism was based on these three considerations.
« Mercy » is an important way of learning to be a better person. Being without mercy is simply incompatible with being a Buddhist. Having a merciful and compassionate heart will show up in all aspects of one’s life; but the simplest and most direct way is to follow a vegetarian diet. Think of the intense pain of accidentally stepping on a nail is. So how can one have the heart to eat the flesh of creatures who have suffered the pain of being slaughtered, skinned, dismembered, and cooked? Being unable to bring ourselves to eat the flesh of these poor creatures is an expression of mercy.
The pain of creatures on the road to our table is not some fanciful concoction; it is excruciatingly real. Let us cite the cooked live shrimp and crab that are so popular today as an example. Meeting their end by being cooked in water is like being sent to a boiling hell. Their desperate but doomed efforts to crawl or jump out betray the unbearable pain they experience. Finally they give their life in sorrow as they turn bright red. What a painful end!
Frogs are put through even more suffering than shrimp and crabs. From the first made in their bodies to the time they are swallowed they go through the equivalent of eight different hells: 1. decapitation; 2. skinning; 3. removing the legs; 4. slitting of the belly; 5. frying or boiling; 6. salt, sugar and seasoning; 7. chewing; and 8. digestion and excretion. Anyone who put himself in take place of a frog would be unable to ever stomach another one.
Among the different kinds of suffering the human race can experience, the most intense is certainly that of war. Documentaries of the Nanking massacre and the Nazi holocaust leave few people unmoved and dry-eyed-and most indignant. But humans can go for years or decades without war; animals face suffering and death every day. For meat eaters, every banquet means the death of hundreds and thousands of animals. Is this any different from human war?
Preventing the suffering of living creatures by not using their flesh to satisfy our taste buds and hunger is the minimal expression of compassion we can offer. We choose not to kill out of kindness, and not to eat out of compassion.
I felt deeply moved upon reading two stories on the theme of mercy; they will be etched forever in my memory. One is recorded in the book « Record of Protecting Life »:
When a scholar named Chou Yu was cooking some eel to eat, he noticed the one of the eels bending in its body such that its head and tail were still in the boiling point liquid, but its body arched upward above the soup. It did not fall completely in until finally dying. Chou Yu found the occurrence a strange one, pulled out the eel, and cut it open. He found thousands of eggs inside. The eel had arched its belly out of the hot soup to protect its offspring. He cried at the sight, sighed with emotion, and swore never to eat eel.
This story tells us that the myriad living creatures are not without feeling and intelligence.
Another story is recorded in some Buddhist sutra.
A king of heaven was stalemated in a war with a demon, and neither side emerged as winner. As the king of heaven was leading his soldiers back, he saw the nest of a golden-winged bird in a tree by the roadside. « If the soldiers and chariots pass by here, the eggs in the nest will certainly fall to the ground and be scattered, » he thought to himself. So he led his thousand chariots back the same road by which they came. When the demon saw the king of heaven returning, he fled in terror.
The sutra’s conclusion was that « if you use mercy to seek salvation, the lord of heaven will see it. » This story tells us that mercy may not seem like much at first glance, but it is in fact extremely powerful. The Buddhist sutras frequently mention « the power of mercy, » from this we know that mercy is indeed a potent force. If a Buddhist wants to learn to use this strength of mercy, he must be like the king of heaven in this story, and be ready to change the route of a thousand chariots rather than let a nest full of bird eggs fall to the ground.
The Surangama Sutra tells us that « if we eat the flesh of living creatures, we are destroying the seeds of compassion. » That is, if we do not eat the flesh of living creatures, we are cultivating and irrigating the seeds of compassion, » and to « cultivate a compassionate heart, » I chose to become a vegetarian; and this is my main reason for doing so.
In Buddhist teaching, volume upon volume has been written regarding cause and consequence, but the basic concept is a simple one. « Good is rewarded with good; evil is rewarded with evil; and the rewarding of good and evil is only a matter of time. » Viewed from this concept, we will have to pay for every piece of flesh we eat with a piece of flesh, and with a life for every creature’s life that we take. Viewed over the long term, eating meat is an extremely frightening prospect. Before their death, living creatures experience not joy, and not fear, but anger; not complaint, but hatred and resentment. And who receives the « reward » for taking these lives?
It would be difficult to try to prove the existence of this concept of cause and consequence, and it may even sound a bit farfetched. However, in terms of this life, the negative consequences of eating meat include arterial sclerosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, encephalemia, stroke, gall stones, cirrhosis of the liver and cancer. In all these diseases, a link has been established to animal fat and cholesterol.
So the consequences of eating meat are in fact immediate and in clear view. But even if you could still make it from day to day eating meat, the other advantages of being vegetarian-promotion of good health and being free from worry about future negative consequences-to me fully justify the decision to be vegetarian, and constitute my second main reason for doing so.
My third reason is to « purify body and mind. » This one might seem to escape logical explanation. An American vegetarian physician summed it up well when he said that « It’s good not having to worry about the conditions under which your food died. » This statement points out that animals are not always healthy themselves, and before death, they secrete toxic substances. When we eat the flesh of animals, we also ingest disease-carrying microorganisms and toxins.
According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, our bodies contain uric acid and other toxic waste products which turn up in our blood and body tissues. Compared to the 65% impure moisture content of beef, protein obtained from nuts, beans and legumes is markedly purer. Vegetarian food is indeed much cleaner than meat, and it also retains its freshness better than meat. Vegetarian food is in every case cleaner and purer than meat with comparable nutritious value. We know that meat spoils easily, and fish and shrimp begin to become putrid after being left out for just half an hour. Meat and meat products begin to decay after one hour.
Vegetables, on the other hand, can usually be kept for three to five days. Although beans become rancid relatively quickly, the deterioration is very easy to detect and recognize.
One problem with vegetable foods today is contamination by pesticides; but even so, they are still much cleaner than meat. A person who habitually eats pure food keeps his body and mind in a pure state; this follows of course, and is beyond argument.
Another question that vegetarians are frequently asked is, « Why can’t you eat scallions, chives, onions, and garlic? » This again relates back to purity. The Surangama Sutra says: « All living creatures seek the ‘three kinds of wisdom,’ and should refrain from eating the ‘five pungent.’ These five pungent foods create lust when eaten cooked, and rage when eaten raw. » It goes on to say that « Even if someone can recite twelve sutras from memory, the gods of the ten heavens will all disdain him if he eats pungent foods in this world, because of his strong odor and uncleanliness, and will give distance themselves far from him. »
This means that pungent foods arouse lust, and give one an explosive temper and one’s body a bad odor. These foods are unclean, and if a person’s body and mind are not clean, how can he succeed at purifying himself through Buddhism? This is why yet another sutra says: « That which has blood and flesh will be rejected by the gods and not eaten by the saints; all in heaven distance themselves far from one who eats meat; his breath is always foul…meat is not a good thing, meat is not pure, it is born in evil and spoils in merit and virtue; it is rejected by all the gods and saints! »
In recent years, I have spent much time thinking about what I eat; in fact I don’t have many great insights on vegetarianism. However, the three reasons I just stated are sufficient to make me feel confident about my choice. Issues like whether a vegetarian diet is more nutritious, whether there is great merit in following a vegetarian diet, whether it can promote world peace, and so forth, are all secondary.
What I strongly believe is that if a person wants to take joy in the Buddhist way and enter into the mercy and knowledge of the Buddha, he must begin at the dining table. There is a British promoter of vegetarianism named Dr. Walsh who once said that « To prevent human bloodshed one must start at the dinner table. » Turning back to Taiwan today, one banquet takes a thousand lives; clothing oneself requires minks and silk spun by worms; shoes are made from alligator skin and leather; and lust and luxury are carried to extremes.
To begin one’s enlightenment of mercy and cause of consequence at the dinner table in this kind of an environment is perhaps more than a little difficult. The prospects for long-term peace and prosperity here are indeed cause for concern.
Was the Buddha a Vegetarian ?
With reference to the current discussion on the BNC site on Buddhism, Animal Rights and Vegetarianism, we have extracted an article from the website of the International Vegetarian Union on the question of whether the Buddha was a vegetarian. We reproduce it below for your kind information:
The Buddha: a title applied to Gautama Siddhartha, a nobleman and religious teacher of North India, regarded by his followers as the most recent re-discoverer of the path to enlightenment; the founder of Buddhism.
Buddhist writings: from The Extended Circle by Jon Wynne-Tyson. Direct link: amazon.co.uk
For the sake of love of purity, the Bodhisattva should refrain from eating flesh, which is born of semen, blood, etc. For fear of causing terror to living beings let the Bodhisattva, who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh…
It is not true that meat is proper food and permissible when the animal was not killed by himself, when he did not order others to kill it, when it was not specially meant for him Again, there may be some people in the future who, being under the influence of the taste for meat will string together in various ways sophistic arguments to defend meat eating …
But… meat eating in any form, in any manner, and in any place is unconditionally and once for all prohibited… Meat eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit.
– Lankavatara Sutra
The reason for practicing dhyana [concentration of mind and seeking to attain Samadhi [equilibrium; tranquility; heightened and expanded awareness] is to escape from the suffering of life, but in seeking to escape from suffering ourselves why should we inflict it upon others? Unless you can so control your minds that even the thought of brutal unkindness and killing is abhorrent, you will never be able to escape from the bondage of the world’s life. . . After my Parinirvana [complete extinction] in the last kalpa [the time between the start of a world cycle and its extinction] different kinds of ghosts will be encountered everywhere deceiving people and teaching them that they can eat meat and still attain enlightenment . . . How can a bhikshu, who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself he living on the flesh of other sentient beings? –
The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion. – Mahaparinirvana Sutra
I have enforced the law against killing certain animals and many others, but the greatest progress of righteousness among men comes from the exhortation in favor of non-injury to life and abstention from killing living beings. – Asoka’s Edicts
Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. – Udanavarga
By whomsoever no evil is done in deed, or word, or thought, him I call a Brahmin who is guarded in these three. – Dhammapada
The Buddha has mercy even on the meanest thing. – Vinaya, Cullavagga Khandhaka
To serve the creatures is to serve the Buddha. – Indian Proverb
All beings seek for happiness; so let your compassion extend itself to all. – Mahavamsa
The sacred eightfold path or middle way – right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right attention, right meditation . . which lead to the extinction of suffering and Nirvana.
– The Buddha’s first sermon 4th truth. Vinaya, Mahavagga
The Goddess of Mercy has a thousand hands – and needs them all. – Japanese Proverb
He who, seeking his own happiness, punishes or kills beings who also long for happiness, will not find happiness after death. – Dhammapada
Let him not destroy, or cause to be destroyed, any life at all, nor sanction the acts of those who do so. Let him refrain from even hurting any creature, both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world. – Sutta-Nipata
Because he has pity on every living creature, therefore is a man called ‘holy’. – Dhammapada
Full of love for all things in the world, practicing virtue, in order to benefit others, this man alone is happy. – Dhammapada
One act of pure love in saving life is greater than spending the whole of one’s time in religious offerings to the gods – Dhammapada
Some comments from readers of these pages:
Many sources say Buddha died from eating bad mushrooms, not pork. It is understood that the Buddha taught his monks against killing animals, but, since they were to live on alms, to accept meat given to them so long as the animal had not been killed specifically for their benefit. However, people who offered food to Buddha would have certainly known his preference for vegetarian meals, so may have prepared fitting food.
While there have been arguments that he ate meat when it was given as an alm, there are just as many arguments to the contrary (See To Cherish all Life by Roshi P. Kapleau). It is against the basic tenets of Buddhism to eat meat, and only those who wish to justify meat eating will argue differently.
The Buddha was most certainly a vegetarian. There are many sutras composed after his death containing almost any imaginable sort of distortion or misrepresentation of the original teachings, so the fact that some sutra somewhere (or even many) claims that he ate meat is in itself meaningless. The only important criterion is what those sutras which are indisputably authentic say. These, without exception, very strongly advocate, even mandate, vegetarianism.
I am a medical student at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in NYC, and was a history major concentrating on Asian history, at Cornell U. I have lived in Japan for two and a half years, and my wife is Japanese and Buddhist. (She eats meat, just as many Christians do not forgive their enemies, etc. The practice of the nominal followers of the founder of a religion is no guide to the lives or even teachings of that founder.)
Religion and Vegetarianism
Jon Wynne-Tyson on Buddhism
An extract from Food for a Future by Jon Wynne-Tyson, 1975 (now out of print)
» ……perhaps the main cradle of a more humane concern lay in the Far East. But although in general modern India, Sri Lanka, Burma and Thailand are vegetarian, Tibet and Japan are not, although Zen monks are among the exceptions and might have been expected to disseminate a wider interpretation of what must seem to many the unfortunately inconsistent doctrine of ahimsa (‘non-killing’). The orthodox Hindu is vegetarian, but although Buddhists are forbidden to take life, ahimsa subscribing to the belief that all life is sacred and that it is man’s duty to abstain from harming any living creature, less conscientious Buddhists have for long eaten meat if provided by another. There is even a sutta in the Buddhist scriptures where the Buddha flatly refused to make a strict rule that his monks must be vegetarian on the ground that the more strict rule was that they should take and eat whatever was put into their bowls when they went round begging. However, as the eminent Judge Christmas Humphreys, founder and president of The Buddhist Society, has pointed out, since what was given to them would almost certainly be rice and vegetables, the effect on their eating habits cannot have been great. (1)
Furthermore, it should be remembered that Buddhism is second not even to the Holy Bible in the number of interpretations it offers and invites. ‘Buddha’ is a title (meaning in the Sanskrit ‘enlightened,’ or ‘to wake’, and equating with Supreme Truth), not the name of a person, and although it is particularly and generally applied to Gautama, the historical founder of Buddhism, it is equally applicable to literally thousands of other teachers, especially in the field of Mahayana Buddhism which subscribes to countless Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (beings who present ideals of life and embodiments of compassion, sometimes loosely called ‘Buddhas of Compassion’). Mahayana (meaning ‘Great vehicle’) is the major part of Buddhism and evolved at about the beginning of the Christian era, adding its scriptures to (but not opposing) the Hinayana (‘small vehicle’) that represented the earliest school of Buddhism (now found only in the Theravada).
Just as ‘The Buddha’ is equated with Gautama, so is Gautama with the Dhammapada (The Path of the Buddha’s Dhamma, or Teaching). The Pali version can be read in several English translations, and perhaps this is the best way to judge Gautama’s actual attitude to taking life, bearing in mind that the Mahayana scriptures have appeared in Sanskrit, Chinese and other languages for the edification of a world population of Buddhists today estimated to be in the region of 400 million. One sect of the northern (Mahayana) Buddhists were the Shakyas (thought to have lived on the Indian side of the borders of Nepal in the Himalayan foothills), and their scriptural authority was one that left no doubt as to the ‘Lord of Compassion’s’ views on eating meat. The Shakyamuni (Sanskrit, meaning ‘the sage of the Shakyas’, and a title of Gautama) Buddha says loud and clear:
“To avoid causing terror to living beings, let the Disciple refrain from eating meat . . the food of the wise is that which is consumed by the Sadhus (Yogis); it does not consist of meat . . . there may be some foolish people in the future who will say that I permitted meat-eating and that I partook of meat myself, but… meat-eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit. . . meat-eating in any form, in any manner, and in any place, is unconditionally and once and for all prohibited for all »
And one could hardly say it more flatly than that. However, the incursion of Western values has undoubtedly contributed to some unfortunate broadening of The Middle Path concept, and many Buddhists have extended their eating patterns well beyond the original tenets of their religious belief.
1) Another non-story, which appears in the Pali Canon and is oft quoted by Western people anxious to prove that Eastern nations are no less insensitive to animals’ suffering than they are themselves, is that the Buddha died after eating tainted pork. However, as scholars have pointed out, the term ‘tainted pork’ has an obvious symbolic meaning, concerning the much older tradition that the Buddha gave out too much and brought about the tremendous reaction of the Brahmins against his rashness. Delving into such legends achieves little, especially when language, metaphor and parable do so much to confuse the issue (the word ‘pork’, for instance, can mean ‘esoteric teaching’!), and once again one must take into account the whole spirit and tone of a prophet’s life and teachings rather than pick on his isolated remarks, or on those of his alleged spokesmen. As Christmas Humphreys has remarked, ‘one cannot imagine the world’s greatest teacher eating meat, or for that matter, not knowing that what he ate was tainted.’
International Religious Freedom Report 2004
“Extremists hurt religious freedom in Sri Lanka-US”
The US State Department in a report on religious freedom issued recently described “an overall deterioration of religious freedom due the actions of extremists” in Sri Lanka. According to a newspaper report which appeared in The Sunday Island of 19th September 2004, this report was submitted to Congress by the State Department. According to the report made by the State Department, over one hundred attacks on Christian church buildings and members by extremists have been reported in late 2003 and early 2004. It says that many of the observations are based on information provided and confirmed by diplomatic observers, and unnamed non-governmental organizations. The report on Sri Lanka under sub-section South Asia makes special reference to the “Draft Anti-Conversion Bill” which was presented in the Sri Lankan Parliament recently.
The timing of this report in the US, is clearly to send a message to the Sri Lankan government and her people who are predominantly Buddhists, that it should not go ahead and pass the Anti-Conversion Bill and also to give warning signals that the US “may consider” some of its famous blackmailing tactics to silence the demand of the majority religion /race of Sri Lanka which is a small Third World Country. The US which is a “self-proclaimed champion of democracy, human rights & international police man “ is quite famous the world over, for using similar threatening methods in many other developing countries as well. The irony is that most of these sweet sounding “slogans” are not being adhered to or respected, within the soil of the US itself but those in the Third World Asian countries are expected to abide by them. Double standard hypocrisy on the part of the US is not a new thing to those who know US foreign policy well.
We need to study the backdrop to the above mentioned comments made by the State Department of the US which is obviously insensitive and unconcerned about the fact that Sri Lanka is a sovereign state which has a very longstanding cultural and religious heritage which spans over 2300 years as against the history of the US which is a mere 200-300 years! Little wonder that the leaders of the US, cannot and do not understand the emotional bonds of the Buddhists of Sri Lanka.
It needs to be mentioned here, that although Sri Lanka is a predominantly Buddhist country, we have maintained religious harmony with all religions since time immemorial. Children of all religions have attended the same schools with no religious animosity. It has been like one big family sharing the joys and woes together. In the past (before 1978) each religion, their customs and habits were given due respect, each religious institution whether it was a church, mosque, kovil or temple conducted their own religious activities without disruption from any other group. During different religious festivals, those of other religions also enjoyed themselves. But, there was no over – stepping of boundaries, the limits were quite clear. All clergy who belonged to all different religious denominations were respected whether male or female.
Who Created Religious Disharmony?
Each religion in this country has its own religious identity which calls for the highest respect of all citizens. In order to blend with the local culture, it is not necessary to borrow the identity of another religion as we have seen happening in a subtle manner. The Christians (orthodox churches) have their own practices, culture and it is beautiful. So does the Catholic church of this country. Authentic Catholic rituals have a beauty of their own which gives them that special value and respect. However, we have seen the Catholic Church changing the tune of its hymns to sound like the ‘Bhakthi Gee’ of Buddhists. We have seen the Catholic church use traditional Gok Kola which Buddhists use (coconut leaves) to decorate their churches during religious festivals. We have also noticed the Catholic church adopting terminology used by the Buddhist clergy such as ‘ Maha Nayake’(Chief Monk), ‘Anunayake’(Deputy Chief Monk) to address their Catholic clergy, ‘Aramaya ‘(which is the Sinhala term for a Buddhist temple) being used to call a church, to use ‘Bhavana’ for meditation in the church. The very meaning of ‘Bhavana’ in the Buddhist sense, is totally different from the Catholic implication. Formerly Christians went to “Sunday School’ now they go to “Daham Pasala’ like in the Buddhist practices. The word ‘Sunday School’ has a very specific meaning to the Christian community- why change it to ‘Daham Pasala?’ The word ‘Daham Pasala’ or ‘Dhamma School’ is very special to Buddhists because they are taught the Buddha Dhamma. Where would you find Dhamma being taught in a Catholic/Christian church? There are many more similar terminologies which have been adopted by the Catholic Church on instructions received from Rome, through a period of time which has given the Catholic Church an artificial flavor. These changes have not been done without a motive behind it. The Muslim mosques and Hindu kovils have continued to use their own forms without any distortions.
The problems began when governments changed in the late 1970s and the then government began what they called “the open economy” and permitted foreign NGOs to enter this country in the guise of helping Sri Lanka in socio-economic development work. Needless to say that these so called “wonderfully philanthropist” NGOs were/are, all Christian backed organizations. This was only a ruse for them to enter and destroy our culture. With this came the hordes of US based Evangelical Groups who thought that they were the “only saviors” for this Asian nation. They did not enter with permission to spread their Christian faith but began their evangelical work once they set foot in this land. We may call that intrusion into “our privacy- the privacy of this nation.” It is they who began a systematic onslaught to create religious and racial disharmony. It is they who coined the word “ethnic problems in Sri Lanka.” If Sri Lanka has an ethnic problem, how come that the majority Tamil, Muslim and Sinhala communities are working so harmoniously in all parts of Sri Lanka except in the North? The Tamil terrorists (LTTE) are fully backed by the Catholic/Christian Churches and it is no secret. When they attacked religious places of worship, only Hindu and Buddhist places were attacked- not Catholic/Christian Churches! The same applies to “religious disharmony” as used by the Evangelists- the Buddhist citizens of Sri Lanka have lived for so long with Christians who belong to the Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Wesleyan, Church of England and Hindus and Muslims with no animosity. However, it has to be mentioned here that the “disharmony” began with the entry of Evangelical Christians groups from the USA, UK, Australia, South Korea and some European countries into this country.
The disharmony began, when these Evangelical groups began to coerce Buddhists and use unethical methods to convert them; the disharmony began when they deceived people by promising them instant cures to illnesses by praying and when the patients died; the disharmony began when they began to sow the seeds of disunity in the rural villages by adopting favoritism to those who follow them as against those who don’t; the disharmony began when they began to insult Buddha statues by smashing them and getting “the new entrants” to their faith to spit and urinate on the smithereens; the disharmony began when they began to open Pre-schools like mushrooms all over the island in the guise of offering good English education, with a promise of entry into good schools-the objective was “child proselytization”; the disharmony began when they began to teach these innocent Buddhist children of 4-5 years, that they “must not kneel in front of anyone other than God” thereby destroying the age old cultural practices of our Sinhala people who pay reverence to the Buddhist clergy, teachers , parents and elders; the disharmony began when they paid men to don the yellow robe and misbehave in society to create a rift between the Buddhist temples and the Buddhists by getting these “fake Buddhist monks” to go and purchase liquor from the liquor bars, to go into meat stalls and super markets and purchase meat and fish for everyone to see, to go into restaurants after 12 noon and order food and partake of it, to be seen by others, etc; the disharmony began when they use young couples to go into village temples in the night requesting shelter from the temple monk (on the excuse that they were travelling far) and in a short while the male would leave the female alone in the temple, and go out- within minutes, the girl would ring the temple bell and inform the villagers that the monk had tried to molest her (the purpose is to bring disrepute to innocent monks); the disharmony began when they started to chase the monks out of their temples; the disharmony began when they began a scheme to send paid workers to destroy Buddhist archeological sites and rob temples; the disharmony began when they began to teach innocent Pre-school children not to offer flowers at the temple, because the bees and butterflies will have no food; the disharmony began when they teach the children that Prince Siddhartha was a bad father because he left his baby of one day and renounced the world to seek The Truth and ultimately to become Gautama Buddha-The Enlightened One. Gift boxes are opened for the children saying “this is Lord Buddha’s, this is Jesus Christ’s “ & in the box allocated to Lord Buddha they cleverly keep it empty while filling the box allocated to Jesus Christ with lots of goodies that children love! When the “Evangelical Visitors” to this country behave and act insensitively to the culture of this country, when they try to force themselves into villages which are 100% Buddhist or Hindu without an invitation, they are rubbing too hard.
Since 1978 this country has been invaded by various ”philanthropic & concerned” foreign organizations that entered on the pretext of investing in socio-economic development projects in this country. They have ventured to “reach out to the un-reached” rural masses of our country, attached themselves to various provincial government projects and worked. No projects have been conducted altruistically purely for charity and development- they have always had some strings attached to the work. After a few years, their “well-meaning intentions” have surfaced to be that of unethical conversions of innocent Buddhists and Hindus living in rural hamlets throughout the country. To achieve this agenda, they have acted in many devious ways such as opening tuition classes to help students preparing for examinations, organizing tours for children and youth “to see the country “which often end up with at least one visit to a Church, doling out dry rations to the families of children attending their pre-schools & providing uniform material to the children free of charge, conducting medical clinics and prayer sessions to heal the sick. Often, they obtain signed consent of parents and children to say they embrace the Christian faith, before further help and education is given. Socio-economic development projects are done together with the relevant regional /provincial governments & on completion of a project, they set up their logo (which often resembles a cross) at these sites. Children’s Homes are opened to help destitute children they say. Children in these homes often have “visitors” who come to check the welfare of the children while throwing in a few words about God and how wonderful He is. Homes for Elders are also opened with the same motive in mind. The list of insensitive/crafty methods can go on and on.
In the process of their “well-meaning concerns”, what they really want to achieve is to get the younger generation weaned away from the religious and cultural customs to which these Buddhist and Hindu children are born into. Instead of teaching the children to continue their age old practices, they are taught to ape western Christian customs and habits. While doing all this, gradually the children are trained in reading and praying in the Christian method. Although they targeted at converting overwhelming numbers to Christianity annually, the evangelists are unhappy that their targeted numbers are still way behind the original targets.
Necessity to Introduce the “Anti-Conversion Bill”
Enough is enough and when Buddhists realized the danger of such plots, they realized that the well-meaning Metta, Karuna, Mudita & Uppekha practiced by the Buddhists of this country to all and sundry, was being abused by the “foreign aunties and uncles.” The Buddhist clergy realized that it was necessary to introduce an “Anti-Conversion Bill” in order to ensure that all citizens of this country have a right to continue the religious practice of their birth and their parents. According to the law and The Human Rights Charter, minors are guided by the religion of their parents until they are adults. Unethical means of converting Buddhists and Hindus and ensuring that the human & religious rights of their families have to be protected at any cost from invading parasites. Except to the Evangelists for whom this has turned out to be a highly lucrative business, any sensible person will realize that it is high time that such a Bill was introduced in this country in order to ensure harmony and understanding among all religions.
Hypocrisy of the Catholic Church
On many occasions when Evangelists have duped the sick into praying without taking medication & where the patients have ended up in coffins, the village has arisen to protest. Often these protests have been by Buddhists and Hindus. At such gatherings, the Catholic Church of the area has sent their clergy to meet the temple monks and express their solidarity with the Buddhists, because they say that even their flock is being snatched mercilessly by the Evangelists. The Archbishop Oswald Gomis himself, has made such public statements in the papers and at gatherings. If this were the case, introduction of an “Anti-Conversion Bill” to stop unethical conversions would be the ideal moment for these orthodox Churches to stand behind the Hindus and Buddhists. On the contrary, during the past months/weeks we have seen many articles appear in the newspapers stating that “Unethical Conversions”- Christian Bodies Against Proposed Legislation”( Sunday Observer 4th July,2004); “Anti-Conversion Bill- A Gross Violation of Religious Freedom”( Sunday Observer 18th July,2004); “Special Catholic Media Programs on Anti-Conversion Bill” (The Island 22nd July,2004); “Church Challenges Anti-Conversion Bill” (Daily Mirror 23rd July, 2004) etc. There is a massive campaign being conducted by the Evangelical Alliance, Catholic as well as Methodist Churches to build up public opinion against the Proposed Bill. How come, so much hypocrisy is exhibited by the Churches?
These Churches have been vigorously promoting “inter-religious peace committees” and many other such inter-religious themes, only to serve their agendas and purpose. If your next door neighbor’s house was burgled and the police raided your house to find the culprit, if you were no party to the crime would they find anything? You would have nothing to worry about- isn’t it? Similarly, the fact that the Catholics as well as the Christian Alliance, have come out so vociferously against the Anti-Conversion Bill proves that they have something to fear- it is their guilt that is pricking them into action! It is because they are all guilty of unethical conversion practices that they want to fight tooth and nail against this bill. Otherwise, any sane person will realize that Buddhists of this country have lived peacefully with all racial as well as religious groups without any disharmony whatsoever till the late 1970s. Problems started only after these Church groups aggressively went forth to hurt the Buddhist sentiments and the religious culture of this country.
The Hypocrisy behind Human Rights/Religious Freedom
All the talk about human rights, democracy and freedom of speech and conscience, are brought out as “golden theories” to justify their activities. Where is the human rights and freedom of conscience that is due to the Buddhists and Hindus of this country? When they smash Buddha Statues and spit on them while getting new entrants to follow in their foot-steps, are they being sensitive to the human rights of the Buddhists? When they make insulting remarks about Lord Buddha to Buddhists in order to ridicule and belittle the innocent unsuspecting Buddhist children, are they thinking about human rights? If they do- whose rights are they considering- only their own Evangelical/Catholic rights to convert those of other religions. No one else has a right to object! Any such objections are labeled “extreme” by countries like the US who use religious freedom to twist the arm of poor countries.
With the introduction of the Anti-Conversion Bill, the activities of all guilty parties to which it applies, will find their activities curtailed and together with that, their source of income from foreign Christian organizations will be largely reduced. Their existence here will become redundant. All those guilty of conducting unethical conversion practices against Buddhists and Hindus in this country have never been promoting or protecting the socio-religious culture of this country. Rather, they have been acting as “agents “of foreign powers to destroy our culture and religion. When they vociferously support the LTTE, are they promoting peace of a unitary state? Will the US ever permit Islam to invade and convert Americans in the same manner that their Evangelists are converting people of the Third World? Even in the US, different States have laws prohibiting anyone from “selling” things door to door- including fundamentalist religions, without the express permission of the local authorities! The manner in which they are behaving right now, shows very clearly that they want the religious harmony of this country also to disintegrate, to destroy whatever is left of our culture and identity. If ever there has been growing disharmony among religions in this country, that disharmony has never been initiated or master-minded by Buddhists or the Sinhalese of this country. It has been created by foreign Evangelists who have “intruded into the religious privacy” of this land.
Distortion of Facts through Christian Media
To carry their Catholic/Evangelist plots even further, they are known to give misleading information through various Christian websites to the international communities worldwide, that Sri Lanka is fast becoming a hell-hole of religious extremism, that Sri Lankan Buddhist clergy and laymen are barbarians who are attacking their “Christian Messengers” at every turn. One can check the truth of this if one goes through the websites of International Christian Concern (ICC), World Watch or Christian World News(CWN). Catholics too have their own websites which give similar distorted information. Most of the “so called Churches” mentioned in these reports are “grossly illegal operations” which are not even registered, to which they try to give legality! Typical of their mentality, they overstep levels of moral decency and then rush to give publicity to the repercussions, through the internet and pro-Christian TV channels worldwide! It has also been exposed how Christian organizations have been using pictures and statues of Lord Buddha for commercial purposes solely with the motive of insulting and hurting the feelings of Buddhists worldwide. On the contrary, has there been any evidence of Buddhists or Hindus insulting Christ, Virgin Mary or Prophet Mohamed by using them for commercial purposes?
There is a common golden saying in Sinhalese“ Kata boru kiwuwath diva boru kiyanne ne”( “Even if the mouth lies, the tongue will not lie” is the English translation) has been proven beyond reasonable doubt in this instance. Come on Christian friends, be honest with yourselves and with those around you. “Think” and you will find the answer within yourselves and your conscience! Please show us an example of any country in the world where the minority race or religion of that country is ruling or aspiring to rule the majority race/ religion of that country & trying to justify their actions too except in Sri Lanka!
Is it possible for anyone to inform us whether such activities would be tolerated in any other country other than in a Buddhist country like Sri Lanka? It is due to the principles of Metta, Karuna, Mudita and Upekha as taught by The Lord Buddha that Sinhala Buddhists have tolerated such insults for so long. Tolerance also has its limits.
Please permit us to live in peace and harmony. Buddhists do not expect patronage from Catholic/Christian Churches, Hindu Kovils or Muslim mosques. Neither do these other religions expect patronage from Buddhists for their religious activities. Let each conduct their own activities without infringing or overstepping the boundaries of the other. This is not asking too much- it is only the basics of decent living. Respect one another and be sincere in your actions. Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists should confine their religious activities to their own flock rather than try to “sell their beliefs” to believers of other religions. Peace and harmony among religions can be maintained and fostered only when the “Catholic / Christian Evangelical Aggressors” begin to sincerely and truly respect other religions from the bottom of their hearts & not when it becomes just a hypocritical gesture. Each religion must maintain its own religious identity and cultural heritage -there is absolutely no need for globalization of religions!
Considering all facts mentioned above, it is highly ironic that the US State Department, without checking on all facts in an impartial manner, has thought it fit to put out an International Religious Freedom Report 2004 in which they claim, that Buddhist extremists hurt Christians- what percentage of the population of this country-7.5% as against 75% of Buddhists! Foreigners who enter the sovereign territory of another country, must understand that they have to respect the culture, religion and sentiments of the locals if they wish to be considered as welcome visitors. Arrogance and insensitivity to the local culture will naturally arouse feelings of animosity towards the aggressors.
Newsweek International – October 4, 2004
‘Mindfulness’ teaches how to step back from pain and the worries of life
Date: Wed, 10 Nov 2004 13:29:18 +1100
From: nimal21 < email@example.com>
A technique called ‘mindfulness’ teaches how to step back from pain and the worries of life
By Claudia Kalb
At the age of 39, Janet Clarke discovered that she had a benign spinal tumor, which caused her unremitting back pain. Painkillers helped, but it wasn’t until she took a meditation course in Lytham that Clarke discovered a powerful weapon inside her own body: her mind. Using a practice called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), Clarke learned to acknowledge the aching, rather than fight it. « It was about getting in touch with your body, rather than your head, » she says. « Mindfulness gives you something painkillers can’t—an attitude for living your life. »
With its roots in ancient Buddhist traditions, mindfulness is now gaining ground as an antidote for everything from type-A stress to depression. At the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care and Society at the University of Massachusetts, where MBSR was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, 15,000 people have taken an eight-week course in the practice; hundreds more have signed up at medical clinics across the United States. Now scientists are using brain imaging and blood tests to study the biological effects of meditation. The research is capturing interest at the highest levels: the Dalai Lama is so intrigued he has joined forces with the Mind & Life Institute in Boulder, Colorado, which supports research on meditation and the mind. Next month, scientists will meet with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, for a major conference on the neuroplasticity of the brain. « People used to think that this was a lot of mystical mumbo jumbo, » says psychologist Ruth Baer, of the University of Kentucky. « Now they’re saying, ‘Hey, we should start paying attention’. »
Paying attention is the very essence of mindfulness. In 45-minute meditations, participants learn to observe the whirring thoughts of the mind and the physical sensations in the body. The guiding principle is to be present moment to moment, to be aware of what’s happening, but without critique or judgment. It is not easy. Our « monkey mind, » as Buddhists call the internal chaos, keeps us swinging from past regrets to future worries, leaving little time for the here and now. First attempts may provoke frustration (« I’ll never be able to do this »), impatience (« When will this be over? ») and even banal mental sparks (« What am I going to make for dinner? »). The goal, however, is not to reach nirvana, but to observe the cacophony in a compassionate way, to accept it as transient, « like bubbles forming in a pot of water or weather patterns in the sky, » says Kabat-Zinn.
The keystone of mindfulness is daily meditation, but the practice is intended to become a way of life. At Stanford University, Philippe Goldin encourages patients battling social-anxiety disorder to take « meaningful pauses » throughout the day as a way to monitor and take charge of their fears and self-doubts. Inner control can be a potent tool in the fight against all sorts of chronic conditions. In a pilot study of 18 obese women, Jean Kristeller, director of the Center for the Study of Health, Religion and Spirituality at Indiana State University, found that mindfulness meditation, augmented with special eating meditations (slowly savoring the flavor of a piece of cheese, say), helped reduce binges from an average of four per week to one and a half.
Mindfulness takes you out of the same old patterns. You’re no longer battling your mind in the boxer’s ring—you’re watching, with interest, from the stands. The detachment doesn’t lead to passivity, but to new ways of thinking. This is especially helpful in depression, which plagues sufferers with relentless ruminations. University of Toronto psychiatry professor Zindel Segal, along with British colleagues John Teasdale at Oxford and Mark Williams at Cambridge, combines mindfulness with conventional cognitive behavioral therapy, teaching patients to observe sadness or unhappiness without judgment.
In a study of patients who had recovered from a depressive episode, Segal and colleagues found that 66 percent of those who learned mindfulness remained stable (no relapse) over a year, compared with 34 percent in a control group.
The biological impact of mindfulness is the next frontier in scientific research. In a study published several years ago, Kabat-Zinn found that when patients with psoriasis listened to meditation tapes during ultraviolet-light therapy, they healed about four times faster than a control group. More recently, Kabat-Zinn and neuroscientist Richard Davidson, of the University of Wisconsin, found that after eight weeks of MBSR, a group of biotech employees showed a greater increase in activity in the left prefrontal cortex—the region of the brain associated with a happier state of mind—than colleagues who received no meditation training. Those with the greatest left-brain activation also mounted the most vigorous antibody assault against a flu vaccine.
There’s more in the pipeline. Stanford’s Goldin is taking brain images to see if mindfulness affects emotional trigger points, like the amygdala, which processes fear. And at the University of Maryland, Dr. Brian Berman is tracking inflammation levels in rheumatoid arthritis patients who study mindfulness. One of them, Dalia Isicoff, says the payoff is already clear: « I’m at peace, » she says. Mind and body together.