No good ever comes from taking life.
From the Dzogchen eGroup, March 25, 2001
T. wrote: And in that time, mass food production couldn't've even been dreamed of on any scale like today. The attendant horrors that co-arise with slaughterhouses, industrial farming with chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the treatment of livestock as "product" to the extent we see today... None of this was in the equation 2500 years ago.
Greetings T.: This is very true. Things have changed quite a bit since the Buddha's day.
T. wrote: A monk can consume as much meat as he's given, as long as it wasn't killed directly for him, without fear of losing his vow.
Also, most of us no longer live in villages where animals are killed expressly for individual consumers. When was the last time anybody on this list had any food killed specifically for them? It may happen but nowadays, this would be considered a rare exception to the norm. The fact is, that if you buy meat in North America, it HAS been killed specifically for you, the consumer. There is really no way around this. Meat produced through the Factory Farm and Feedlot has been slaughtered precisely for those who buy and eat it. For educated, thinking beings there is an incredible amount of rationalization that goes on around this issue.
"In Buddhism, once we have taken refuge in the Dharma we have to give up harming others. To have an animal killed everywhere we go, and to enjoy its flesh and blood, is surely against the precepts of taking refuge, is it not?" -Patrul Rinpoche, Kunzang lama'i zhelung. p. 207
There are a few folks who may have medical conditions where they believe they must eat meat for health reasons, but this justification does not apply to most practitioners. Therefore, to consume meat as a regular part of one's diet is very directly -- 'To have an animal killed everywhere you go...."
or so it seemeth from here,
X: Another way what Taylor said is expressed at least in Tibetan Buddhism is that you can eat meat as long as it has passed through three hands before reaching you - i.e., you are not the slaughterer, you do not know the slaughterer, and you do not even know someone who knows him or her.
If this is the criteria, then paradoxically, those who consume the bulk of the meat in Europe and North America in no way in violate the precept against killing. All forms of meat eating are permissible as long as one is not directly associated with the 'killers;' or their friends. Perhaps this was a relevant admonition for practitioners who happened to live above 12, 000 feet in a pre-industrial society. But here/now? So many gyrations to philosophically accomodate simple carnivorous preferences; the clarity and intention of the original precept is easily worked around, as if it were derived from some archaic legalism rather than the radical compassion which is the heart of Buddha's teaching.
X: What this is getting at is that you had no *practical* way to prevent this animal from being slaughtered. Shiloh says that "if you buy meat in North America, it HAS been killed specifically for you, the consumer",but this is abstract, and correct only in the aggregate - not as relates to the individual.
If only the individuals directly involved with the killing reap this karma, the mass of meat-eating consumers are morally blameless. As the killing was not done for any one of them specifically, but rather for a general 'aggregate' of consumers, there is no question of involvement. But then try and locate this non-existent aggregate outside the individual consumer.
"Some people may imagine that only the person who physically carries out the killing is creating a negative karmic effect, and that the person who just gave the orders is not - or, if he is, then only a little. But you should know that the karmic result comes to everyone involved, including anyone who just felt pleased about it - and therefore how much more so the person who actually ordered that the killing be carried out. Each person gets the whole karmic result of killing one animal. It is not as if one act of killing could be divided up among many people." -Patrul Rinpoche, Kunzang lama'i zhelung p. 104
As far as I understand it, this means that if you choose to satisfy your hunger with hamburger after having understood what is involved, you are violating the precept against killing. The four aspects of a negative action all come into play here. The living animal is the basis*, the desire for a burger is the intention*, our willingness to pay money for the execution* of the act sustains a vast industry, and the negative action is completed* in the feeling of satisfaction associated with eating it. The possibility of enjoying this experience depends directly on the murder of a particular type of sentient being. In finding a source of sensual pleasure and bodily satisfaction in repeatedly consuming this fare, one is essentially pleased with the fruit of the act of killing and, according to the above definition, karmically responsible for the killing, just as if you had directly ordered it.
X: The real issue is, could I have simply spoken to someone and said, "No - if that is for me, then please don't kill it," - no. Do you think that if I lived where a slaughter house is located, and went there and spoke to the plant manager and requested him to kill a few less animals, or even one less, because I would not be eating them that in fact it would make any difference at all? No. This is because the animals are not being slaughtered *for me* -
The animals are being slaughtered for no single person, but rather for their monetary value. Offer to ransom the animals at the right price and surely they will sell them to you. On the other hand, to regularly buy the packaged products after the beasts have been killed is direct collusion in a non-virtuous activity which further enriches the market that revolves around it and inexorably becomes a contributory cause encouraging further slaughter. The individual choice to support the karma involved in butchering animals for meat is rooted in plain old desire marinated in dualistic habit energy. We can continue to support this murder with our money and dietary preferences or we can do something else.
T.wrote; Yes, Shiloh, I think you have been representing basically the party line here in the West. I think there is a lot of sense in this line of reasoning, and for the most part I followed a variation of this thought even before I "became" buddhist. A couple of things make up the original thrust of my message: 1) If the rule came from Buddha, and He didn't proscribe the eating of "fourth party" meat back then, what was His intention? Don't the same rules of logic you've demonstrated apply equally > then as now? Has the industrialization change the basic facts of butchering?
Greetings T. and all, Yes, industrialization has changed things quite a bit. Not the basics of butchering, but in how we obtain such fare, the modern abstraction which conditions how we relate to such cruel activity. That was very much the point of my earlier post. Whatever Buddha indicated, he was talking to monks who begged for their food. Beggars can't be choosers. Most of us no longer beg. We can choose. In defense of entrenched habits, it seems otherwise intelligent people get very conceptual about interpreting a teaching which was very directly based in compassion for our animal friends. To keep it simple, just what was the point in Buddha even bothering to suggest ANY distance from meat and butchery? And why does there seem to be so much controversy around interpreting this? The three poisons...
T. wrote; 2) Regardless, can we put animals in the exclusive class of that > which shouldn't die for our consumption? Just how "sentient" do you have to be for protection under this karmic legislation? [Again, I am in agreement with the author of "The Secret Life of Plants," here, who suggests that plants are perfectly capable of low- level awareness of surroundings and defensive acts, i.e., sentience. This view is certainly debatable, even dubious in some eyes.]
According to both my teachers and my own understanding, plants are not sentient beings, so this provides a very clear line.
T. wrote; 3) Even if we eat vegetarian, again we have the issue of killing insects for the production of vegetables. This includes organic buying, which in my view goes light years further in alleviating suffering and taking responsiblity than does simply refraining from eating meat.
Although there is definitely the karma of killing living beings when harvesting a field of wheat, these beings are killed incidentally in the process and are not specifically raised for slaughter and consumption. As you point out, their deaths could be minimized through organic techniques. We cannot escape killing altogether; but we are obligated to discriminate so as to minimize suffering to the best of our ability.
T.wrote; 3) If we say all connections with food entail a direct culpability of substatial suffering to life, and that perhaps we cannot get far enough away from it to escape negativity, perhaps we must confront it more directly, through tantric view.
I am not quite sure of what you mean here by confronting it through tantric view, as if that was an alternative perspective. To realize the great equality or purity of all phenomena does not imply action in any one direction more than any another. Or is that just what you mean? Ultimately, yes it is all pure. Relatively, there is karma and suffering so that even in the context of pure view, we must move with discriminating wisdom and genuine compassion to realize/actualize the essential purity.
"Even those five acceptable kinds of meat may only be used if you have the power to transform the food you eat into ambrosia and if you are in the process of practicing to attain particular accomplishments in a solitary place. To eat them casually in the village, just because you like the taste, is what is meant by "heedless consumption contrary to the samayas of accepting," and is also a transgression. "Pure meat," therefore does not mean the meat of an animal slaughtered for food, but "the meat of an animal that died because of its own past actions," meaning meat from an animal that died of old age, sickness, or other natural causes that were the effects of its own past actions alone."
-Dza Patrul Rinpoche, kunzang lama'i zhelung, p. 208
Of course if your personal lama has actually DEMANDED that you eat meat and if s/he is truly your tsa'wai lama, then yes, this consideration about killing IS a waste of time for you. Without such a condition, in the spirit of honoring the first precept, others here might still have to think about what it might mean. My own teachers (among the greatest/most realized lamas alive today -- no doubt!) eat meat but encourage their students not to.