Shabkar: Food of Bodhisattvas. Buddhist Teachings on Abstain

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Shabkar: Food of Bodhisattvas. Buddhist Teachings on Abstain

Postby admin » Thu Feb 01, 2018 5:50 am

Shabkar: Food of Bodhisattvas. Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining From Meat (Excerpt)
by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol
Translated by the Padmakara Translation Group
© 2004 by Padmakara Translation Group



The Faults of Eating Meat

It is recorded in the Lankavatara-sutra:

AFTER THE GREAT BODHISATTVA Mahamati had recited certain verses before the Lord, he made the following request: "Lord and Tathagata, Foe-Destroyer [1] and Perfect Buddha, I pray you, tell me how I and other Bodhisattva Mahasattvas of the present time and in the future may remove the desire for the taste of meat in those who are soiled by the habit of consuming the flesh and blood of sentient beings. I beseech you, Lord, set forth the teaching so that they may perceive the wrongfulness of consuming meat, and that, longing instead for the taste of Dharma, they may cultivate the kind of love that embraces all beings, cherishing them as their own dear children. Explain your doctrine so that, filled with love, they may progress upon the grounds of realization of the Bodhisattvas and come swiftly to enlightenment, perfect and unsurpassed, or, failing this, to refreshment in the state of Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, thence to progress to the unsurpassable state of Buddhahood. Lord, even those who follow not the Dharma but uphold false doctrines, falling to the extreme positions of existence or nonexistence, propounding an eternal entity or the nihilistic void of the materialists -- even they proscribe the eating of meat. Even they abstain from it! But you, Lord, Protector of the World, you teach a doctrine that is flavored with compassion. It is the teaching of the perfect Buddhas. And yet we eat meat nonetheless; we have not put an end to it. Therefore, that I and the other great Bodhisattvas may set forth your doctrine as it is indeed, I entreat you, reveal the faults of consuming meat in the name of that compassion with which you regard all the beings in the world with an equal love."

The Lord answered, "Mahamati, listen carefully and remember what I say. For excellent is your request, and I will teach you."

And the Bodhisattva, the great being Mahamati, listened attentively to the Lord, who said:

"Mahamati," he said, "a loving and compassionate Bodhisattva should not eat meat. There are countless reasons for this, only some of which I will explain to you. It is not easy, Mahamati, to come upon a being who, in the endless ages of samsara, has not been once your father or your mother, your brother or your sister, your son or daughter, kinsman, friend, or close companion. Your kith and kin in one existence, they have donned a different shape in later lives. They have become animals, wild or tame, beast or bird. Bodhisattva, great being Mahamati, all those who have faith in Buddha Dharma, those who wish to follow in my footsteps-how could they consume the flesh of living beings? Mahamati, when they hear the perfect Dharma of the Tathagatas, even demons keep from eating flesh; they turn from their demonic nature and begin to be compassionate. Is there any need therefore for me to mention those who have true faith in Dharma? Mahamati, since Bodhisattvas look upon all beings, the friends and close ones of their former lives, as their dearest children, they must shy away from every type of meat. It is unfitting, it is wrong, Mahamati, for those engaged upon the Bodhisattva path to partake of meat. Therefore they should abstain from it. Ordinary, worldly people naturally refrain from the flesh of donkeys, camels, dogs, elephants, and humans (though butchers, in order to enrich themselves, claim that it is edible and hawk it in the streets). It follows naturally that Bodhisattvas should refrain from meat of every kind. Mahamati, Bodhisattvas who wish to live pure lives should shrink from meat, for it is but the outcome of the male and female essential fluids. [2]

"Moreover, Mahamati, Bodhisattvas, who cherish all that lives, should keep from eating meat, for they do not wish to frighten beings, those endowed with physical form. O Mahamati, dogs are filled with terror, even at a distance, on catching sight of outcasts such as butchers, fishermen, and hunters-all of whom devour the flesh of dogs. Thinking that such people are coming to kill them, they almost die of fear. And likewise, Mahamati, when the small animals that live upon the earth or in the air and water see, even from afar, and detect with their keen sense of smell anyone who eats meat, they flee at once as quickly as a man might run from a cannibal for fear of being killed. Therefore, Mahamati, that they might not become a source of terror, Bodhisattvas, who abide in love, should not partake of meat. Ordinary beings, Mahamati, those who are not Aryas, [3] have an evil smell deriving from the meat that they consume. They thus become repulsive. But Aryas forsake such food completely, and therefore Bodhisattvas likewise should refrain from meat. The Aryas, O Mahamati, eat the food of sages; they abstain from meat and blood, and Bodhisattvas too should do as much.

"Mahamati, a compassionate Bodhisattva, wishing not to scandalize the people who might then decry my teaching, should eat no meat of any kind. This is how it is, O Mahamati. Some people in the world have criticized my doctrine, saying, 'Alas, what kind of virtue is it that these people practice? They do not live pure lives. They have abandoned what the "vise of old once ate, and now they fill their bellies with the flesh of beasts, bringing fear to animals that live in air or water or upon the earth! They wander through the world; their virtuous practice has declined; they do not turn from evil ways. They are destitute of spiritual teachings and devoid of discipline!' Thus these people angrily decry my doctrine in many different ways. Therefore, Mahamati, a compassionate Bodhisattva, wishing not to scandalize the people so that they disdain my teaching, should not partake of meat of any kind.

"Bodhisattvas should refrain from meat. The smell of meat, O Mahamati, is no different from the stink of corpses. Between the stench of the burning flesh of corpses and the burned flesh of a beast there is no difference. Both are equally revolting. This is yet another reason a Bodhisattva on the path, who wishes for a life of purity, should not eat meat of any kind. Likewise, Mahamati, yogis living in the charnel grounds and in the spirit-haunted wilds, practitioners who live in solitude, and all who meditate on loving kindness, all those who uphold the vidya mantras and those who wish to accomplish the same-in short, all my noble sons and daughters who embrace the Mahayana-all perceive that eating meat brings obstacles to liberation. And since they wish to benefit themselves and others, they do not eat meat of any kind.

"The consciousness of beings focuses upon their physical form; a powerful clinging to this form takes hold and living beings thus identify their bodies as themselves. This is why a Bodhisattva, practicing compassion, should abstain from meat.

"O Mahamati, in order to avoid such things, a Bodhisattva -- one who has compassion-should never eat meat of any kind. O Mahamati, Bodhisattvas keep themselves from meat of every kind. For those who feed on meat, already in this present life, their breath is foul and rank; they sleep with little ease, and they awake in pain. Dreadful visions haunt their dreams enough to make their hair stand up. Alone in solitude or else in empty houses, they fall victim to spirits that come and prey upon their vital strength. They easily succumb to fits of rage and the sudden onset of intense anxiety and dread. They lose all mastery of the way they eat and gorge themselves excessively. Food and drink and every vital nourishment they cannot properly digest. Worms infest their bowels, and they fall victim to contagious ailments, leprosy, and other ills. Yet, thus beset, they never think that eating meat might be the cause.

"I have declared that food can be either as wholesome as medicine or as dreadful as the flesh of children eaten and consumed as food. Meat is the food of ordinary people, Mahamati, but the Aryas reject it utterly. Meat consumption is the source of many evils; it is wholly destitute of virtue. It is not the food on which the wise sustain themselves. How could I permit my followers to taste of such unwholesome and unfitting nourishment as meat and blood? I say rather, Mahamati, that those who follow me should eat the food that Aryas themselves consume and that the common folk reject- food that is productive of good qualities and is free of taint-the wholesome foodstuffs of the wise of old. For my disciples, I prescribe a fitting nourishment: rice and barley, wheat and peas, every kind of bean and lentil, butter, oil, honey, treacle, fruits and sugar cane. I do this, Mahamati, because the time will come when fools whose minds are busy with speculation will chatter about the Vinaya. And strong in their desire for meat due to habit, they will say that flesh is wholesome fare.

"All this I teach for all who follow in the footsteps of the Buddhas of the past, for those who act with virtue, who are faithful and untouched by doubt. These are the noble daughters and the noble sons of Shakyamuni's lineage, who have no clinging to their bodies, lives, possessions, and to their sense of taste. Indeed they crave no tastes of any kind; they are compassionate and, like me, hold all beings in their love. They are great beings, Bodhisattvas. All living things are dear to them as though they were their own beloved children. May they keep this teaching in their minds!

"Once upon a time, O Mahamati, there was a king whose name was Senge Bangzang. He was a meat devourer. Indeed, if truth be told, he craved the taste of meats that are forbidden and at length began to eat the flesh of human beings. His family, his court, his relatives and friends all fled from him, as did all the people of his town and country. Thus abandoned, he suffered greatly. O Mahamati, even Indra, when in the past he came to be the ruler of the gods, due to his ingrained propensity for the consumption of meat, would at times take the shape of a hawk and do many cruel and evil things, even tearing at the breast of the innocent Shiden, the compassionate king, causing him great pain. Mahamati, the habit of eating meat, acquired over many lives, is the cause of many defects in oneself and is the source of the evils that one does to others-though one be born as Indra, let alone some lesser being.

"Mahamati, there is another tale about a ruler of men who was carried away by a powerful and unruly horse so that he lost his way and wandered in the wilderness. In order to survive, he took to living with a lioness, and children were at length born to them. The king's offspring, Kangtra and his brothers, growing up among the lions, became meat eaters. Owing to the habit acquired at this time, Kangtra continued to eat meat in his later lives even when he eventually became a king of men. And, Mahamati, this same king Kangtra and his brothers, even in their present existence, in the city of Khyimdun, still retain their craving for meat and even feed on flesh that is forbidden, wherefore they will be born as evil, flesh-devouring ghouls, both male and female. In times to come, Mahamati, in their subsequent existences, due to the longing for the taste of meat, they will be born as carnivorous beasts-lions, tigers, leopards, wolves, cats, foxes, and owls-and as rakshasas and other demons, all of them cruel devourers of flesh. And after such experience it will be hard for them ever to regain a human form, let alone attain nirvana. Such, Mahamati, are the defects of eating meat, and such indeed is the destiny of those who consume it in great quantity. On the other hand, to give up eating meat is the source of many excellent qualities. But, Mahamati, ordinary people know nothing of this, and therefore I have taught that Bodhisattvas should not eat meat, that they might understand.

"If people were to refrain from eating meat, Mahamati, animals would not be slain. For the majority of innocent beasts are slaughtered for the sake of money; few are killed for other reasons. Craving for the taste of meat can be unbearably strong and can lead even to the eating of human flesh, to say nothing of the flesh of beast and bird, wild or tame. Mahamati, people lusting for the taste of meat lay traps and nets to catch their prey. With such devices, hunters, butchers, fishermen, and their like take the lives of innocent creatures dwelling on the earth or in the air and water. Cruel folk such as these, devoid of pity like demonic rakshasas, who kill animals and devour them-such people will never generate compassion.

"Mahamati, every kind of meat, whether that which I have allowed the Shravakas, who are close to me, to consume, or that which I have not allowed, and all meat that is said to be unexamined,4 is pernicious. In times to come, however, foolish people, ordained in my tradition, upholding the victory banner of the saffron robes, and claiming to be the children of Shakyamuni, will have their minds perverted by wrong thoughts. They will lose themselves in speculation about the rules of the Vinaya. Their ego clinging will be strong, and they will have a powerful craving for the taste of meat. They "viII concoct all sorts of excuses for eating meat, and thus they will blacken my reputation. They will examine the histories of events in the past and say, 'Since the Lord permitted meat to be eaten then, this shows that it is fitting nourishment.' They will say that the Lord taught that meat was healthy food, and they will go so far as to say that he himself enjoyed its taste. But, Mahamati, in none of my discourses did I ever give such general leave, and never did I teach that it was right to consider meat as wholesome fare.

"O Mahamati, you may believe that I have permitted the eating of meat; you may believe that Shravakas can eat it. But I say to you that I forbid it for the yogis dwelling in the charnel grounds who meditate on love. I forbid it for my noble sons and daughters who have embarked upon the true path of the Mahayana and who consider all beings as their own dear children. Mahamati, I do indeed forbid the eating of meat to all who consider living beings as their only children -- the sons and daughters of my lineage who have faith in Dharma and are engaged in any of the paths of practice, yogis living in charnel grounds and practitioners meditating in solitude. The precepts of my Doctrine were formulated gradually, and they are successive steps upon a single path. Accordingly, the eating of meat is proscribed in the precepts of the Mahayana. Even though the flesh of beasts that have perished from ten natural causes is not forbidden to the Shravakas, nevertheless, in the Mahayana, all meat is utterly prohibited under all circumstances. And therefore, Mahamati, I have not given permission to anyone to consume meat. [5] I do not grant permission and I never shall. To all who wear the robe, O Mahamati, I declare that meat is an unfitting source of nourishment. Foolish people, benighted by their karma, who blacken my reputation by saying that even the Tathagata has eaten meat, will suffer long and meaninglessly, devoid of every joy. Moreover, Mahamati, my noble Shravakas in fact do not eat even ordinary food; how much less could they feed on the baneful fare of flesh and blood? O Mahamati, the Shravakas, Pratyekabuddhas, and Bodhisattvas eat the food of Dharma, which is by no means something material. Is there any need to speak of the food of Tathagatas? Mahamati, the Tathagatas are the dharmakaya; they are sustained by the food of Dharma. Their bodies are not formed of gross and solid matter; they are not sustained by material food. They have discarded all propensities related to samsara, the thirst for existence and the things of this life. They are utterly emancipated from all unwholesome and defiled tendencies; their minds are wholly freed in wisdom. They know everything; they see everything. They are replete with great compassion, loving all beings as though they were their only children. Therefore, O Mahamati, since I consider all beings as my children, how could I permit the Shravakas to eat my children's flesh? And how could I partake of it? It is wrong to say that I allowed the Shravakas to eat meat and that I myself have eaten it. For so it is:

The Bodhisattvas, mighty beings,
Consume no alcohol; they eat
No meat, no garlic, and no onion.
This the Conquerors, the leaders if the flock, have taught.
But common folk partake if evil-smelling fare;
Their actions are unfitting

For flesh is food for wild and ravening beasts.
It is unfitting food, the Buddha taught.
The defects that arise from eating meat,
The qualities that come when one abstains,
However it may be for those who thus consume,
All this, O Mahamati, you should understand.
All flesh, of animals as well as if one's friends,
Derives from unclean substances, both blood and sperm;
And those who feed on flesh become a source if fear.
Therefore yogis shall refrain from eating meat.
Every kind if flesh, all onions and garlic,
Alcoholic drinks in various forms,
Leeks, wild garlic also-these indeed
Are foods the yogis shall reject.
All massaging with oil they spurn;
And since it is upon a bed
That living beings enter in the womb of pain,
On such the yogis do not sleep or take their rest.

From all such food derives the pride of self,
And from this pride all thoughts, and thence
Desire and craving, rise in all their strength.
All such foods therefore you should refuse.
Indeed it is from thought that craving comes;
By craving, then, the mind is rendered dull.
This dullness thence disturbs the body's elements;
Disease occurs with every movement crippled.

For sake if profit, animals are killed,
And wealth is given in exchange for meat.
Slayer, buyer, both are caught in sin,
And both will boil in hells of lamentation.
All those who contravene the Buddha's word,
Who with an evil attitude partake of meat,
Destroy their lives, both now and those to come,
And blight the discipline of Shakyamuni.

Such people, evil in their deeds, desire
What brings an endlessly enduring hell;
The destiny of those who feed on meat
Lies in the house of dreadful lamentation.
There is no meat that's pure in the three ways, [6]
And so you must refrain from eating flesh.

Those who are true yogis eat no meat:
This is the instruction of myself and all the Buddhas.
Creatures that devour each other
Are born again as carnivores and evil-smelling beasts.
Insane or universally despised,
They will be born among the outcasts:
Butchers, dyers, prostitutes, the lowest ranks,
Or else as flesh-devouring beasts and ghosts.
And after this, their present human life,
They will return as cats or evil wraiths.

And so in all my teachings I decry the eating of all flesh:
The Parinirvana and Angulimala,
The Lankavatara, Hastikakshya, and Mahamegha sutras. [7]
Therifore the Buddhas and the Bodhisattvas both,
And Shravakas as well have also criticized
The shameless eating of the flesh if beings.

It leads, in all one's later lives, to madness.

But if instead you fast from meat and other evil fare,
You will take birth in pure and human form,
As yogis, or as people rich in wisdom and in wealth.
The meat of beasts that you have seen or heard
Or think are killed for food, I utterly denounce.

Those born in families where meat is eaten
Know none of this, despite their cleverness.
Just as craving is an obstacle to freedom,
Even so are alcohol and meat.
People who eat meat in future times
Will ignorantly say that Buddha has declared
That eating meat is sinless and appropriate.
But yogis, moderate in what they eat,
Regarding food as nothing more than medicine,
Should not consume the flesh of beings, who are like their children.

Those who keep the company
Of tigers, lions, and the crafty fox
I censure-I who dwell in love.
To eat meat is to contravene
The Dharma, path to liberation.
Those who practice Dharma should refrain from meat,
For eating it they are a source of fear to beings.
To fast from meat-this is the banner of the Noble Beings' victory.

This concludes the sixth chapter of the Lankavatara-sutra, the quintessential teachings of the Buddhas, which treats of the question of meat eating.
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Re: Shabkar: Food of Bodhisattvas. Buddhist Teachings on Abs

Postby admin » Thu Feb 01, 2018 5:52 am

The Nectar of Immortality
by Shabkar Tsogdruk Rangdrol

I bow down in devotion and take refuge in all my venerable teachers, lords and treasuries of great love that is unconditional beyond all reference. I implore them to bless me and all other beings with their great compassion, so that loving-kindness, compassion, and bodhichitta take birth in our minds.

In all the births that we have taken in the unending circles of samsara, there is no being that has not once been our mother. And when these beings nurtured us, they were as kind to us as our own mothers have been in this present life. This is something our Teacher, the Buddha, has said not once but time and time again. And who is there who could doubt his word?

This is why we must adopt the practice of the seven-point instruction in causal sequence to train our minds in bodhichitta. [1] First, we must learn to recognize that all beings have been our mothers. Second, we must be mindful of the kindness they have shown us and, third, resolve to repay them. Fourth, we must feel a tender love for them and, fifth, great compassion. Sixth, we must then cultivate the extraordinary thought of universal responsibility, [2] and, seventh, come thereby to the unsurpassable result, the attitude of bodhichitta. We must likewise train ourselves repeatedly in the practice of the equalization and exchange of self and other. [3] Then, taking our teacher and the Three Jewels as our witness, we must take the vows of bodhichitta both in aspiration and in action, and keep them.

When we have acquired an awareness of the fact that all beings have been our mothers, and when this awareness is constant, the result will be that when we see meat, we will be conscious of the fact that it is the flesh of our own mothers. And, far from putting it in our mouths and eating it, we will be unable even to take it into our hands or smell its odor. This is the message of many holy teachers of the past, who were the very personifications of compassion. What is the reason for this teaching of theirs? Goats, sheep, and so forth have all been our kind mothers at some point. Slaying them by binding their muzzles, plunging one's hands into their bodies to cut the vital artery, so that one may eat their fresh red meat -- all this is nothing but the monstrous behavior of demon rakshasas. It is an action that the Buddha has denounced in many ways, saying:

And so in all my teachings I decry the eating of all flesh:
The Parinirvana and Angulimala,
The Lankavatara, Hastikakshya, and Mahamegha sutras.

I do not intend here to give a detailed exposition of the wrongs entailed in the eating of meat, as these have been laid down on numerous occasions in the sutras, tantras, and shastras. Instead, I propose to give no more than a short and general explanation of the main issues.

It is said that if we eat evil food, if we consume the flesh and blood of beings who were once our mother or our father, we will, in a future life, take birth in the hell of Screaming, which, of the eighteen, is one of the hot hells. To the extent that we once consumed their flesh, so now red-hot clubs of iron will be forced into our mouths, burning our vital organs and emerging from our lower parts. We will have the experience of endless pain. And even when we are born again in this world, for five hundred lives we will take birth in monstrous and devouring forms. [4] We will become demons, ogres, and executioners. It is said too that we will be born countless times among the outcasts, as butchers, fishermen, and dyers, or as carnivorous beasts thirsting for blood: lions, tigers, leopards, bears, venomous snakes, wolves, foxes, cats, eagles, and hawks. It is clear therefore that, for the gaining of high rebirth in divine or human form, and thus for progress on the path to freedom, the eating of meat constitutes a major obstacle.

Most especially, we have been taught that the primordial wisdom of omniscience arises from bodhichitta. Bodhichitta in turn arises from the roots of compassion and is the final consummation of the skillful means of the six paramitas. It is stated in the tantra The Perfect Enlightenment of Bhagavan Vairochana: [5] "The primordial wisdom of omniscience arises from bodhichitta, which arises from the roots of compassion and is the fulfillment of the entire scope of skillful means." It is therefore said that one of the greatest obstacles to the birth of bodhichitta in our minds is our craving for meat. For if great compassion has not arisen in our minds, the foundation of bodhichitta is not firm. And if bodhichitta is not firm, we may well claim a hundred times that we are of the Mahayana, but the truth is that we are not; we are not Bodhisattvas of the great vehicle. From this it should be understood that the inability to eliminate the desire for meat is an impediment to the attainment of omniscience. For this reason, all those who practice the Dharma -- and indeed everyone -- should strive, to the best of their ability, to forsake this evil food, the flesh of their parents.

Some people will object that it is said in the teachings that one only encounters the karmic result of actions that one has actually committed; no result accrues from actions not performed. In accordance with the law of karma, therefore, if one eats the meat of animals that one has not seen to have been killed for one's consumption, if one receives no report that they have been killed for that purpose, and if one has no suspicion that they might have been so killed, no fault is incurred. "It's quite all right," they will say. "We had no hand in the killing of this sheep (or whatever other animal may be concerned). We can be sure therefore that the karma of killing will not ripen upon us; it will ripen on the killers."

This argument needs to be examined closely. Let us imagine that there is a homestead in the vicinity of a large monastery where the monks eat meat. The inhabitants of the homestead calculate that if they kill a sheep and sell its best meat in spring to the monastic community, they will make a profit on the sheep since they will keep its tripe and offal, head, legs, and hide for themselves. And the monks, knowing full well that the sheep has been slaughtered and its meat preserved, will come and buy it. The following year, the family will kill more sheep and sell the meat. And if they make a good living out of it, when the next year arrives, there will be a hundred times more animals slaughtered, and the family will get rich. Thus by trying to enrich themselves through the killing of sheep, they become butchers. They will teach this trade to their children and their grandchildren and all those close to them. And even if they do not actively teach it to others, other people will see their wicked work. They in turn will become butchers doing acts of dreadful evil, and they will set in motion a great stream of negativity that will persist until the ending of samsara. Now all this has happened for one reason only: the monastic community and others eat meat. Who therefore behaves in a more consistently evil manner than they?

If there is no meat eater, there will be no animal killer -- just as in Nepal and India, there are no tea merchants because nobody drinks tea there.6 The meat eater participates in the evil action of the animal killer. And since the meat eater's action is negative, it is quite mistaken to claim that its fully ripened effect will not be negative also. The Buddha has defined as evil any action that directly or indirectly brings harm to beings. And since what he says is true, it is clear that the eating of meat most certainly involves more injury to beings than the consumption of any other food. For this reason, the Kalachakra-tantra and its commentary both declare that, of the meat eater and the animal slayer, it is the former that has the greater sin. This being so, those who still contend that the fault of meat eaters is not so severe, or that they are not as guilty as the butcher, or indeed that they are entirely innocent, are being extremely rash. But right or wrong, why must they have such eating habits? My own belief is that they would be far better off if they could only rid themselves of their dependency.

Again, let us consider the case of a small monastery where the monks are poor and have no money, or else are thrifty and tight-fisted, or else are followers of the ancient Kadampa lineage, consuming only the three white foods. It would never even cross the minds of the lay people living nearby that they might kill animals so as to supply the monks with meat. It is said moreover that the mark of a virtuous action is that it brings direct or indirect benefit both to oneself and others. I believe therefore that if one wishes to commit oneself to an ongoing habit of goodness, there is nothing better than the resolve to abstain from meat. Those few monks who do actually have compassion should keep this in their hearts!

When a lama who eats meat goes on his summer or autumn alms tour, all his faithful benefactors think how fortunate they are that he will visit their house. "He's not just any old lama," they say. "He's an incarnate tulku! We must make him a good meal." Being aware of his eating habits, they slaughter a sheep and offer him the best cuts. The benefactors, for their part, make do with the entrails and think to themselves that the sheep came to a good end. How fortunate to be killed for the lama's dinner! And they tell each other it was right to put the sheep to death and that the sheep was really one of the lucky ones. But when it comes to their next life, the killers will find out how lucky they are!

By contrast, when the visiting lama does not eat meat, not only do the benefactors kill no animals, they hide whatever meat they have and go the whole day without it. They eat other food instead, sweet potatoes, for instance, curd and so on, so that both lama and benefactor keep themselves pure and unstained by negativity-while the sheep, for its part, stays alive and well! Let us pray that all lamas behave like this. For if they display wrong actions, other lamas and incarnations who follow after them will imitate them, and the net result will be that in summer and autumn, lamas and benefactors will join forces in planting the seeds of evil action at the very moment when they turn the wheel of Dharma! Bad for themselves and bad for others, this is the source of nothing but suffering in this life and the next. What else can one say but lama konchok khyen, "O Lama and the Three Jewels, think of us!"?

Then there are other people who say, "Je Tsongkhapa and his heart sons, and other learned and accomplished masters of the past, have taught, on the strength of quotations from the scriptures, that according to the vows of Pratimoksha one is allowed to eat meat that is pure in the three ways. But nowadays," they continue, "benighted Dharma practitioners, hermits and the like, talk a lot of nonsense about this and forbid the eating of meat. They are black demons, trying to deprive the monks of their food. On the contrary, it is by eating meat that the monks keep up their strength, the better to practice the Dharma. And anyway, if the sangha were not supported in this way, it would be as if their share of food were being given to butchers and ordinary people instead-which would be an extremely vicious and inconsiderate state of affairs. In any case," they conclude, "however many times people say that meat should not be eaten, the fact is that if monks and nuns are not allowed to eat meat (unstained by negativity), it follows that ordinary people should not be allowed to eat it either. And there are many good reasons for allowing Dharma practitioners to eat meat."

People who talk like this not only eat meat on their own account; they also advocate it in formal exposition and in private conversation. It is as if demons were advising them on what to eat. For all the Buddhas of the past have declared with one voice that it is on the basis of Pratimoksha that one must cultivate bodhichitta, the characteristic attitude of the Mahayana. By training in the causal vehicle of the paramitas and thence in the resultant vehicle of the Vajrayana, one must at length become the vajra holder of all three vows. Accordingly, we who practice the Dharma now, by following and serving our teachers, first take the vows of Pratimoksha, and then by gradual degrees we exercise our minds in bodhichitta, aiming for the practices of Mahamudra, Dzogchen, Path and Fruit, Pacification, and Cho. But even if we do not manage to get this far, I think that there is no one who, having taken refuge and bodhichitta, does not renew the associated vows every day.

If people take the vow early in the morning, in the presence of the Buddhas and their teacher, to cultivate bodhichitta both in aspiration and action, pledging themselves to the ways of the Bodhisattvas; and if, by the afternoon, they are harming beings-not of course directly but nevertheless indirectly-by saying that it is permissible to eat meat (consciously ignoring what the Buddha has repeatedly taught in the context of the Bodhisattva precepts-that meat, the outcome of harm done to others, should not be consumed), it can only mean that, gorged on meat, such people have lost their wits and are babbling in delirium. For this cannot be the view of a sane person. What a wonderful contrast if instead they can honestly say, "I am practicing the teachings of the sutras and the tantras, and I am sure that my conduct is unstained by faults."

Now, from the point of view of any of the three vows, when there is an important need and benefit for others and oneself, there are many special permissions that allow what is normally proscribed. [7] But it is a mistake to think that such dispensations are granted easily, without specific need. It may be objected that Khedrup Rinpoche taught, on the basis of reasoning and scripture, that it is permissible to eat meat that is pure in the threefold way. And people will no doubt refer to his book The Outline if the Three Vows and tell us to study it.

To be sure, we should attend to this matter with intelligence and care. There is not a single syllable of the Buddha's scriptures that the lord Khedrup has overlooked. He took them all to himself as personal instructions. He demonstrated by reasoning and scripture that the sutras and the tantras are in perfect harmony and mutually support each other, thus presenting the whole range of the Buddha's teaching as a coherent path. But when on one occasion, he said that for someone who has taken the Bodhisattva vow, the teaching of the Lankavatara-sutra [8] does not contradict the Pratimoksha precepts (which sanction the consumption of fish and the flesh of cloven-hoofed animals), he was merely presenting the view of those who said that to eat with desire the kind of meat prohibited in the Pratimoksha was allowed to people who had taken the Mantrayana vows. This view, however, he went on to refute.

Indeed, the eating of meat has never been permitted for those who have taken the Bodhisattva vows. On the contrary, it is clearly said that for them the consumption of meat is forbidden. This being so, those who are addicted to meat and who shift the burden of responsibility onto Lord Tsongkhapa, his heart son Khedrup, and other teachers of the past, by claiming that they allowed it, are very far from compassion, the mental soil in which the aspiration to supreme enlightenment is cultivated. They have no karmic connection with the Bodhisatttva precepts, high, medium, or low. So let them go ahead and say what they like-that they are eating meat because they are Shravakas or because they are tantrikas. And we will see what happens to them in the end!

Some people may object that, although meat eating is indeed wrong, the texts of both sutra and tantra say that if one recites the name of the Buddhas or certain mantras and dharanis, or if one performs a short meditation on the yidam deity together with the recitation of the mantra, the fault is purified. No wrong action is thus performed. Moreover, they say, if one does all this while concentrating on the slaughtered animal, the latter will be benefited and may even be considered fortunate, karmically speaking. Granted, they continue, when ordinary people kill goats, sheep, and yaks and eat their flesh with the blood still warm, their actions are wholly wrong. But when Dharma practitioners eat meat, and when they recite over it the words of the Buddha, charged with blessings as these are, the animal itself is greatly benefited. Therefore, they conclude, it is fine to eat meat, provided one does not have an excessive craving for it. And they also excuse themselves by saying that people and circumstances practically oblige them to eat meat.

But such people are to consider as follows-then they will understand. In the past, the compassionate Buddha said in the first turning of the wheel of Dharma that negative actions should be avoided, virtuous actions should be performed, and at all times one should have a good, kind heart. The Buddha did not, as part of his original teachings, say that Dharma practitioners could and should eat meat. He gave no guarantee that by the recitation of his words (mantras and so on) meat eaters might be preserved from evil. It is best therefore to refrain completely from eating meat.

Why then did the Buddha speak about the possibility of purifying the evils involved in the killing of animals for meat, in the consumption of meat, and other negativities? In fact, he was referring to the negative actions accumulated in one's past lives, from beginningless samsara till the present, while one was sunk in ignorance. Even more, he was alluding to the actions performed earlier in one's present existence, when one had no other means of sustenance or was overpowered and oppressed by ignorance, craving, and aversion. But now, if one recognizes one's evil behavior for what it is; if one confesses it with a regret as powerful as if one had just swallowed deadly poison; and if one has a strong purpose of amendment, vowing never to repeat one's mistake even at the cost of one's life; if one recites the names of the Buddhas, mantras, and dharanis, and if one makes tsa-tsas, performs circumambulations, and so on (which, of the four strengths of confession, is the "strength of remedial practice")-one's evil actions will indeed be purified. This is the teaching. [9]

The Buddha said time and time again in the sutras such things as: "My followers should give up all evil actions that directly or indirectly injure others." One may disregard his words; one may consciously lead others to commit evil in provisioning oneself with meat. One may think, "There are always skillful means in the sutras and tantras that counteract the evil so that I shall still be pure of stain." And one can let oneself off the hook by telling oneself that there are substances to be placed into the animals' mouths and words that can be whispered in their ears and impressed upon their minds so that they will not remain in the lower realms. But to do all this reveals a complete failure to grasp the meaning of the Buddha's teaching. It is a perversion of the Dharma. To behave in this way is to act like the Chinese Muslims10 who are outside the Dharma. For their clerics say that a great sin is committed if other people kill sentient beings but that if they do the killing, there is no sin. And since, they say, the slain creatures have thus encountered their religion, it will be better for them in the future. I have heard that these clerics take sheep by the neck and kill them by cutting off their heads. If this is true, there is absolutely no difference, in action and in intention, between such people and the kind of Buddhists we have just been describing. Henceforth, therefore, those who wish to eat meat should, in addition to their earlier justifications, take a few lessons from the Muslim clerics and study their tradition! They might learn a thing or two! Perhaps it will do them good and they will escape defilement!

Just look how a cat behaves. It catches a mouse and is thrilled, thinking that it is going to kill it. But then, almost as if taking pity on the mouse, the cat lets it go and plays with it-although this is certainly no game. Later, after amusing itself for a long time, it takes the mouse in its mouth, carries it off into a comer, and devours it. This is exactly what some Dharma practitioners do! They pretend to have compassion for the goat or sheep that is about to be killed, praying for it and reciting lots of mani mantras. Then, when the animal is killed and its flesh cooked, they take it away with them to some private place where no one can see them, and they gobble it down ravenously. Lots of people do this kind of thing. I heard once about a cat that had caught a mouse and was carrying it off. But then the cat thought to play with it. When it let the mouse go, the mouse escaped and hid under an upturned basket lying nearby. The cat sat there looking under the basket, mewing softly, all sweetness and compassion. But when the mouse ran still deeper into its hiding place, the cat got all upset, looking up and down. Everyone around just burst out laughing! This is just how some modern Dharma practitioners behave! They put on a show of compassion and recite lots of manis as the sheep is being killed. But if the moment of death is long in coming, they get fretful and agitated. Whenever I am confronted with such a farce, I think that not only the Buddhas in the ultimate expanse must be laughing, but ordinary people in the world must be very amused too, when they hear about the antics of certain Dharma practitioners! Even so, if people do generate some sort of compassion and recite mantras, I do in fact think that it is of some benefit to them, even if it is not much use to the dead animal!

This whole question may be summed up by saying that, for good and compassionate practitioners of Dharma, the question as to whether one is stained or unstained by negativities is quite irrelevant. Sincere practitioners feel a natural, visceral compassion for the slaughtered goats and sheep as if they were their old mothers. They will have nothing to do with killing them for the sake of meat. On the contrary, they save life eagerly; they ransom animals set aside for slaughter and release them. Otherwise, it is like trying to punch someone who is not there. Showing compassion for animals after they have been killed and the meat is being eaten-reciting mantras for the animal's sake-is nothing but a silly game. The people who do this kind of thing may appear fine and sympathetic in the eyes of the ignorant, but when you look closely, there is nothing to recommend their conduct, either in action or intent. If people t"vist the meaning of the Buddha's words and act evilly as we have described, this is not the fault of the Buddha's teaching. It is rather that the immaculate doctrine has been distorted by the actions and intentions of others-with the result that it becomes indistinguishable from the teachings of non-Buddhist heathens. If only we could all act in such a way that this does not happen!

Generally speaking, the Buddha's doctrine naturally makes for the welfare and happiness of beings. As it is said in the prayer, "May the Buddha's doctrine, source of every joy and benefit, remain for long!" Consequently, if human beings and animals living in the vicinity of those who say they are Buddhists coexist in happiness and peace, it is a sign that the Buddha's teachings are present. But if the reverse happens and there is harm and strife, this shows that there is no doctrine near. Nowadays, however, on the pretext of collecting for the monastic community, certain monks inflict great hardship on the villages and their inhabitants, whether human or animal. [11] It is heartbreaking to see. But here, I'd better not say too much. Anyway, nobody will listen. What is more, if I point out the personal faults of Dharma practitioners in high places, they mostly respond "vith angry words. And there is a danger that those who really are powerful might catch me and cut my mouth apart "vith a knife. So I'd better watch my step. In any case, people who are really sincere and compassionate vvill be helped by even the little I have said. On the other hand, no matter how much one speaks to people who are destitute of moral conscience and a sense of propriety, the result will be nothing but trouble for the speaker. In which case, as the proverb goes, "Shut your mouth is the best advice."

Our Teacher, great in compassion and skillful means, made a first rule about meat eating for the Shravakas who had taken Pratimoksha vows, specifying that the flesh of one-hoofed animals (horses, donkeys, and so forth), as distinct from the meat of cloven-hoofed animals (yaks, cows, and sheep), was not to be eaten. Later, he made another rule saying that, apart from meat that is pure in the three ways, all flesh products are proscribed. And then, in connection with the bodhichitta vow, and considering that there is not a single being who has not been our kind parent, he forbade the consumption of any kind of meat whatsoever, including the flesh of animals that have died of natural causes. It was said by the Kadampa teachers of old that the first two rules, formulated in the Pratimoksha context, were taught in the beginning for the sake of those who had an intense craving for meat. The Buddha knew that if the consumption of meat were totally prohibited from the start, such people would be unable to embrace the Buddhist teachings. Once they had entered the Dharma, however, and as their minds had been refined-and of course for the Bodhisattvas-the Buddha set forth the principle of total abstinence from meat. What the Kadampas said is very true. When the Buddha turned the wheel of the Dharma of the great vehicle, many Shravakas elevated their minds, and many of them generated bodhichitta, the supreme mind of enlightenment. They then abstained from the consumption of flesh. Consequently it is a mistake to think that all the Shravakas were meat eaters.

The great being, the second Buddha, Lord Tsongkhapa, says repeatedly in his collected writings, and proves his words with reasoning and quotations from the scriptures, that if one understands the line of demarcation between what is permitted and what is proscribed, one will understand that the sutras and the tantras all speak with a single voice. In the context of the three vows, he explains that specific need takes precedence over prohibition. Therefore, if there is good reason for it, and in order to benefit greatly both oneself and others, it is permissible not to abstain from meat and other sense objects such as alcohol and a consort, but rather to enjoy them as an ornament of ultimate reality. But this does not mean that one is allowed to enjoy such things in the ordinary way and in the absence of perfect justification. As Lord Khedrup says in his Outline of the Three Vows, "All those who generate the mind of supreme enlightenment, Bodhisattvas of the great vehicle-how wonderful it would be if they abstained from every kind of meat. Even at the Pratimoksha level, except for meat that is pure in the three ways, no meat eating is permitted. Even in one's dreams one should never claim, because one craves for it, that meat eating is permissible."

These days, however, one only ever sees the meat of animals that have been slaughtered for food. It's rare indeed to come across meat that is pure in the three ways. And rarer still are the practitioners who have no desire for it. It would surely be better, therefore, if the loudmouths who go trumpeting the acceptability of meat eating were to reflect instead upon the measure of their faults!

Not only is the eating of large quantities of meat bad for one in the long term (for one's future lives); it is an obvious fact that, even in the present life, there are many who perish due to the toxins that meat may contain. Many times do we see and hear that when Dharma practitioners tell their benefactors that they need some meat, the latter go off and kill a sheep. And when the bursars in the monasteries say that they have big festivals coming, twenty or thirty sheep are bought from the nomads and are slaughtered in the autumn. This is a common occurrence in monasteries large and small. The result is that when one goes on pilgrimage to a monastery, intending to make offerings and pay one's respects, one is confronted by the spectacle of stacks of carcasses, before one has even seen the images of the enlightened beings. Now if this does not deserve to be called "wrong livelihood," then tell me what does! You "Dharma practitioners" who fail to see the direct and indirect injury done to the lives of goats and sheep, are you blind? Is there something wrong with your eyes? And if you are not blind, don't try to pretend that you don't know anything about it!

In our country, no one eats the flesh of horses, dogs, or human beings, and this is why we do not find them being killed for meat. But if there were a market for it, you can be quite sure that we would indeed have horse butchers, donkey butchers, dog butchers, and man butchers! Indeed, there are rumors that down in China this kind of thing actually happens. Here, in our own country, there are lots of people who eat the meat of goats, sheep, and yaks-and look at how many butchers there are! The Buddha has said, "All harm done directly or indirectly to living beings is evil. Give it up!" The very same people who understand his words go on to say that they do no harm to beings by eating meat. What demon can have possessed them? Both directly and indirectly, beings are harmed when meat is eaten. No other food is as harmful to the lives of living beings as meat!

The compassionate Buddha, skilled in means, did indeed partake of meat but only on very specific occasions, compelled by the necessity of time and place. He ate it, for example, when there was nothing else to eat and when to abstain from it would have endangered his life. He ate it also in situations where the benefactors had prepared meat that was pure in the three ways-when his refusal would have prevented the action from having its fully positive effect, and when his acceptance of it would have perfected their accumulation of merit. In other words, in circumstances of real necessity, he did partake of meat endowed with threefold purity. But if one thinks that the Buddha consumed flesh without being impelled by circumstances, and gleefully repeats this, one is in fact denigrating the Buddha and implying that he was not even a Bodhisattva. One is overlooking the passage in the Lankavatara-sutra where the Buddha declares, "If I am a meat eater while saying that I am not, then I am not their teacher, and they are not my disciples."

Overwhelmed by envy, Devadatta threw stones at the Buddha and set a wild elephant against him and made many other plans to kill him. He defamed the Lord, saying that he ate meat, whereas he (Devadatta) did not. In fact, Devadatta did eat meat in secret, although in front of others he rejected even the meat that was pure in the three ways. He covered up his pretense with false and hollow words, saying, "Look! The Buddha's discipline is not that of Devadatta. He's a meat eater just like anyone else!" Whoever speaks in the same sense takes the side of Devadatta. In declaring that the Buddha and his entourage were always eating pure meat at their midday meal, even when there was no need for it, such people do no honor to the Buddha and his disciples but rather shame them. They repeat such things not only to Buddhists but to non- Buddhists too. It is thus that they defame our Teacher, implying that he was no match for Devadatta and could not refrain from eating meat. Instead of mouthing such slanders, they should keep their mouths shut. And if they cannot keep them shut, they should just fill them with excrement!

In the past, the Buddha and his disciples depended on alms for their sustenance. They did not stay in one place. They did not keep money and provisions and did not involve themselves in buying and selling. No need to say that they were completely untouched by the meat trade. Accordingly, whatever meat they consumed was of necessity pure in the threefold manner. It was quite impossible for them to be implicated in an evil kind of livelihood. But nowadays monasteries are built, and goods are stockpiled far more than for any private household. Butchers are allowed to live in the vicinity, and they in turn slaughter beasts knowing that the monks will come to buy the meat. And this is exactly what the monks do-it is simply a question of supply and demand. So it is that, thanks to buyers and killers, working hand in glove, hundreds and thousands of goats and sheep are slaughtered. Now if this entails no fault and if meat of this kind is pure in the three ways, it can only mean that, for such people, everything has become infinite purity! [12] It means that the slaughtered beings of this decadent age are most fortunate and there is nothing wrong in harming them either directly or indirectly! It means that the Buddha has not forbidden it in his regulations, whether directly or by implication, and that to eat the flesh of animals killed by meat traders is not wrong! Not that the monks need bother about what the Buddha said, of course, for they can act with the freedom of accomplished siddhas! So let them go ahead!

Now we have a new Dharma tradition never known before! It is the Dharma of the meat-eating Buddha and meat-eating lamas, set forth for their meat-eating disciples and the butchers and purveyors who serve them! It is a tradition that advocates the extermination of the race of goats and sheep. But take care, you followers of our Teacher. If this goes on long enough, the time will come when the sheep and goats and yaks are all extinct. And then the dogs, horses, and even humans will have to watch out!

In times gone by, the gods, nagas, humans, and 8andbarvas venerated the Lord Buddha and his disciples in all sorts of ways. Many times in the sutras it is said that they offered them food prepared from "the three whites and the three sweets." It is never said that they invited them to partake of "the three reds and the three sours"! Such a thing I have never seen in any scripture. In the same way, when the second Buddha, the Lord and his heart son [13] were residing in Yerpa Lhari and elsewhere, they ate only the three whites and the three sweets, foodstuffs that the Buddha himself authorized. Nowhere in his biography or elsewhere does it say that he and his disciples ate much pure meat. Neither is it said in the life stories of Je Rinpoche (who, as an exponent of the teachings, is like the Buddha himself) and of his heart sons that they were much given to eating meat. And for his followers the purchase of pure meat is never advocated, nor is the eating of it as a satisfaction for craving.

Of course, one may object that there is the story of the householder of Rajgir who offered a meaty broth to the Buddha, which was consumed by many of the monks as well. But it should be recalled that the benefactor offered it because he knew that great merit would accrue from paying honor to the Buddha and his followers; and he genuinely thought that broth made from meat was the best and most delicious food of ordinary folk and that therefore it was the best of offerings. For his part, the Buddha knew that if he did not accept the offering and refused to eat the soup, the action of the benefactor would fail to bear fruit and the benefactor himself would gain no merit, whereas to accept it would perfect the benefactor's accumulation of virtue. It was therefore in a complete absence of desire, as a mother might taste the flesh of her own child or as someone might apply dog's grease as a remedy for a wound, that the Buddha tasted the broth once, simply because it was good for someone else. We should not conclude from this that the Buddha made a habit of eating meat broth! In order to benefit others-no need to mention other kinds of food-the Buddha and his disciples ate even the evil, poisonous food prepared by a sorcerer!

Some may object that it was because the Shravakas, disciples of the Buddha, were always eating meat pure in the three ways that Devadatta made his rule: "The Buddha and his disciples eat meat, but we will refrain from it!" And it is true that it is said in The Three Vows that the Shravakas habitually ate meat pure in the three ways. But the truth is that they did so only in great need. Moreover, who can trust Devadatta and Sunakshatra and take their words as the truth? They criticized the Buddha out of jealousy. I think that all who believe, support, and repeat what they said are in fact abandoning the teaching of the Buddha and the lineage of his disciples.

It may be objected that Khedrup Je did say quite clearly, with reasoned proof and quotations from scripture, that meat pure in the threefold way should be eaten. It is quite true that if there is a real and genuine need for it, not only Khedrup Je but the Buddha himself gave his permission. When one comes across meat, one should check which is pure in the threefold way and which is not. Moreover, there are many attitudes with which meat can be eaten. Khedrup je has never said that it is all right to eat meat out of desire. In his Outline if the Three Vows he says, "What does it mean to be without craving for meat? You should feel like the king and queen in the story who had to eat the flesh of their son. Examine whether that is how you feel. You should feel just like someone who is nauseated, who has no desire for food and is revolted at the sight of it, and who, if he has to eat, does so without appetite and relish." Consequently, those who claim that Khedrup je actively advocated the eating of meat are not true disciples of Tsongkhapa and his followers. They are a disgrace to their tradition. The teaching of je Rinpoche that, when one gains high realization, one should eat meat and drink alcohol as factors helpful to the generation of bliss and emptiness is a special instruction. It is not a general license for the ordinary consumption of meat! In any given situation, the necessity is more important than the prohibition. Therefore, we should not allow ourselves to conclude that he was advocating, without more ado and irrespective of circumstances, the eating of meat for those who simply want it!

In a situation of great necessity, it may well be that practitioners of whatever level of vows-Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva, or Mantrayana-are specially allowed, due to their capacity, to eat meat, drink alcohol, and take a consort. This is undeniable. But we who endeavor to understand the real meaning of the Buddha's teachings and those of Je Rinpoche and his spiritual sons must not be concerned exclusively with mere words. If meat, alcohol, and so forth are harmful to one's mind, they should certainly be laid aside.

Again, some may object that the teaching given In the Kalachakra-tantra and its great commentary ("if there is no meat eater, there will be no animal slayer") is no different from that of the Jains. It is therefore unreasonable and is not to be accepted, despite the fact that it is found in the commentary.

The Buddha has said, however, that whatever is of direct or indirect benefit to beings is permissible, even if it appears to be a negative action. Conversely, whatever brings injury to beings directly or indirectly-even if it is an ostensibly positive action-should not, on that occasion, be performed. If the accumulation of merit turns into something unwholesome, it becomes negative. Therefore, if an action accords with the Buddha's instruction-"Abandon every evil deed, practice virtue well, perfectly subdue your mind: this is Buddha's teaching"-it is to be approved, whether it is advocated by Hindu, Bonpo, Hoshang, or Muslim. "Whatever in the non-Buddhist or mundane traditions accords with the Buddha Dharma," the Buddha said, "is to be respected as my teaching." Were it otherwise, if it were forbidden to act according to the beliefs and practices of those outside the Dharma, we would have to give up all the worldly sciences. For, with the exception of the inner science of Dharma, they are practiced equally by non-Buddhists. If, therefore, the evil deed of killing does not occur, our purpose is served and this is enough.

Nevertheless, some people will still argue as follows: "There are many occasions when permission to eat meat is given to the Buddha's followers, whether in the context of the Pratimoksha, Bodhisattva, or Mantrayana vows. And even the vajra holders of the three vows eat meat that is pure in the threefold way. There is no need to single out just those who practice only according to the Pratimoksha. What is more, the Vinaya should always be adapted to the country and time in which it is observed. Meat may well be an evil food, but the kind of nourishment that is in perfect harmony with the Dharma is hard to find in Tibet. Therefore, if practitioners eat meat but at the same time train in the Buddhist teachings, not only is no fault involved, but when the practitioners gain enlightenment, they will be able to help all those who are in some way connected with them. How can the meat eating of such practitioners be compared with the behavior of ordinary people, butchers, and hunters? There may be hundreds, indeed thousands of reasons for not eating meat, but the fact is that it has to be eaten. You may well tell both practitioners and ordinary people that they should not eat meat for fear of hellfire. But no one can live without it!"

"Therefore," these people will say, "if you have a teaching whereby we can eat meat without being defiled by it, please give it to us. If you don't, then in the future you and your like should keep your advice and practice to yourselves; you should meditate on the uncertainty of the time of death and recite some manis for your own good! Your Dharma teaching is too one-sided, and you are destroying the very life of the monasteries. So shut your mouth-and if you don't stay quiet, you'll get what's coming to you! When all is said and done, isn't it precisely because you don't eat meat that you are so excitable? Isn't that the reason you're such a miserable nuisance? But no matter what we say to you, you don't listen-and away you go sounding off to the empty skies!"

Well, they are quite right. It's quite possible that no one can or will heed me. On the other hand, one or two intelligent and compassionate people might. So for their sake I feel I must set forth this teaching to the best of my ability and wits. Regarding the precepts of the three vows, again they are quite right. There are many permissions and many proscriptions. But one has to know where to draw the line. How can it be right simply to say that there is a permission to eat meat and go ahead without a moment's thought? How can we be so reckless in the way we destroy the three vows, like goats jumping into a river and injuring themselves in the process?

The situation in which eating meat is permitted is as follows. According to the Pratimoksha, one is allowed to eat meat when one is on a long journey, let us say from Kham to central Tibet, and when one can find literally no food other than meat-to the point where one would be risking death not to eat it. Similarly, one might be seriously ill, completely debilitated, and close to death, so that one's life depends on eating some meat. In the context of the Bodhisattva vow, it is true that if a Bodhisattva dwelling on the grounds of realization were to pass away, the light of the Doctrine would be extinguished, whereas if he or she were to live long, a great good would result for the teachings and beings. Therefore, when some great teachers grow old and need to restore their strength, they are permitted to eat meat. Again, in the context of the Secret Mantra, yogis who have gained certainty in the generation and perfection stages are allowed to partake of meat during the ganachakra and as a means of developing the realization of bliss and emptiness and so on. In brief, the eating of meat is acceptable when there is an important reason for it in terms of benefit for oneself and others.

To certain persons, special permissions may be granted that are not extended to everyone or at all times. For example, when the monks are being exhorted to virtue, they are admonished that they must always attend the ganachakra, that they must not receive women in their quarters, and that they must not drink alcohol. It is certainly true that all are bound to behave accordingly. If, however, on account of his duties, it is important for the steward of the monastery to stay behind, and if he gives the reason he cannot attend the ganachakra, he is granted special permission to absent himself. Likewise, if old and sick monks ask for permission to stay in their rooms, they are normally allowed to do so. If they have to take some alcohol "vith their medicine as treatment for an illness, they are allowed to drink it. And finally, if the monks are dying, they are given special permission to see their mothers and sisters. Once again, the need outweighs the prohibition. The Buddha's teachings are compassionate by their nature. Therefore, when there is a great need for something beneficial (directly or indirectly, for others and oneself)- something that is normally prohibited-an exception is made and permission is granted. And this is true in the context of any of the three vows. But if there is no such need, one cannot simply go ahead and transgress the rule. If this is clearly understood, the Buddha's teachings, source of every good and joy, will not be distorted, and it will be found that the sutras and the tantras are mutually supportive. All the scriptures take on the character of personal instructions, beneficial to one's mind. This is crucial. [f one cherishes the Buddha's teachings, one will be a source of good to other beings; one will be able to lead them to the certain conclusion of this and other difficult points. Since, if there is no real need for it, it is improper for someone who has received the three vows to eat meat -- even meat that is pure in the threefold way-it is hardly necessary to mention the consumption of the flesh of an animal that has been killed for that very purpose. If people whose wind energy is too strong need to eat meat and are unable to do without it, they should reflect on all the defects implicit in the eating of such food and work to rid themselves of all craving for it. If they do not see or hear or doubt that the animal has been killed for them by someone else, and if they buy the meat that is thus pure in the threefold way and if they eat a little of it, there is no fault.

But nowadays when lamas spend the summer and autumn traveling around the country on fund-raising missions, their sponsors and benefactors kill goats and sheep on a daily basis and offer the meat to them. The same is true for the monks when they perform ceremonies in the villages. The people slaughter lots of animals-goats, sheep, and yaks-so that they can offer the meat to the monks. Likewise, at the times of religious festivals, many animals are put to death. But if the monks and lamas eat this meat, not only are they consuming the flesh of animals that have been killed for their sake, but they are doing so in the name of the Dharma, and this is said to be much more serious than any other negative action. Such behavior should be abandoned as if it were poison!

But some people say that it is all right to eat meat and that among the lamas and teachers of today there are some who are the emanations of the Buddhas. They even say that there are butchers who are themselves emanations of the Buddhas. So what is wrong with eating meat?

Did you ever hear such laughable nonsense? The situation is like the story of the two statue makers who cheated and tricked each other so much that they were both ruined in this and future lives. Never believe such lies! Do not put your trust in such frauds and impostors, people who talk about lamas in the past who were supposed to kill animals and lead them to the higher realms, about butchers who led animals to the higher destinies or Dharma protectors who did the same. Better to believe the diamond words of the Buddha. Pay no attention to the persuasive, manipulative arguments of so-called practitioners who are ordinary people. We should look upon all beings as our kind parents, and in order to repay the goodness they have shown us, we must meditate daily on loving- kindness, compassion, and bodhichitta. Let us not be stained by this evil food, the flesh and blood of our very parents!

Such is my heart counsel to all who are devoted and compassionate, who have the character of Bodhisattvas. May they remember my words. May they keep them in their hearts.

This then is The Nectar if Immortality, an instruction that puts out the blazing fire of strong craving for the evil food that is the flesh and blood of our fathers and our mothers. It was composed by the yogi, white-footed Shabkar, who wrote it down with the good intention of benefiting the Doctrine and beings, in the pleasant solitude of the Yale of Drong, where the mind achieves its natural, limpid clarity.

Directly or indirectly, may this be of benefit to the Doctrine and beings!

May everything be auspicious-Sarva Mangalam!



1. The seven-point instruction in causal sequence is a practice closely associated with Atisha Dipamkara.

2. This is the decision to take responsibility for all beings and is the readiness to practice, all alone if need be, until all beings have been delivered from the round of suffering.

3. The practices of equalization and exchange are explained by Shantideva in the Bodhicharyavatara. See Shantideva, The Way of the Bodhisattva, 187.

4. phra men pha and phra men ma: monstrous creatures, both male and female, with human bodies and animal heads.

5. bcom ldan 'das rnam par snang mdzad mngon par byang chub pa'i rgyud.

6. This was presumably the case in Shabkar's day; in any case, the tea he was familiar with came from China.

7. dmigs gsal gyi gnang ba brgyaa dgos na stong yod.

8. "The Shravakas who eat meat are not my disciples and I am not their teacher. In decadent times to come, those possessed by demons will say that I, their teacher, have allowed the consumption of meat."

9. In other words, the teaching merely shows how the accumulated bad karma can be purified. It is not intended as a skillful means allowing one to continue to indulge in the same negativity.

10. gya za lar.

11. For the subsidy of religious ceremonies. See Melvyn C. Goldstein, A History of Modern Tibet, 1913-1951: The Decline of the Lamaist State (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989), 34.

12. The vision of infinite purity is one of the highest realizations of the tantras.

13. Most probably Atisha and Dromtonpa.
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