Care of Life and Vegetarian Diet
The most precious thing in the world is life. If we don’t have a healthy body and long life, gold and precious metals are meaningless. Conversely, if we can restore our health and lengthen our lives, it is worthwhile for us to pay large amounts of gold and precious metals. The most precious thing in the world is life!
The most miserable thing in the world is killing. We recite Amitabha’s Name to keep ourselves safe from disasters, enrich our blessings, and extend our longevity. Moreover, we should not kill and protect the lives of sentient beings.
The Sutra of the Contemplation of Mind says, “All Sentient beings reincarnate within the Five Realms. During their many lives, they are each other’s parents. This means that all men are our kind fathers, and all women are our kind mothers.
It also says, “Sentient beings of various kinds reincarnate within the Six Realms, like a wheel turning unceasingly”. They are the parents and siblings of each other, and they share grace with each other life after life.
If we eat meat, we may be eating the meat of our benefactors! Isn’t it immoral to be so ungrateful?
We should work towards being a vegetarian if we really want to care for and protect sentient beings. Those who are learning Buddhism in this era and choose not to eat vegetarian, even when it is readily available, must be lacking compassion, or do not believe in cause and effect in the three periods of time. All the meat we eat is actually made from our parents from the past. Are you sure you want to eat that way? If you do, you are not a true Buddhist. The law of cause and effect is fundamental in learning Buddhism. It is the backbone connecting all Buddhist teachings. All Buddhists should deeply believe in cause and effect first, and avoid committing any evil karma. If we eat meat every day, we accumulate evil karma without even realizing it.
There is a saying, “When we fast for a day, we abstain from killing.” When we serve our guests a vegetarian meal, none of us will eat fish or meat. In so doing, none of us accumulates negative karma due to direct or indirect killing. By making this choice we accumulate merit and virtues.
The most precious thing in our life is life. If the safety of our body is threatened, we will feel panic, pain and agony. It is the same for the people on the other side. So, being a vegetarian is a direct and indirect way of not taking other lives, and even protecting those lives. It also allows us to accumulate great merit and virtues.
So, being a vegetarian is a way of living virtuously. Opening a veggie restaurant is also a way of practicing compassion and generosity. We need not worry whether it makes a profit or loses money. The important thing is that it facilitates more people to eat a vegetarian diet.
A Buddhist, especially an Amitabha-reciter, should recite Amitabha’s Name as a vegetarian; while thinking of Amitabha Buddha who set forth great vows to deliver sentient beings of the ten directions, particularly those who suffer most and are urgently in need. So, if we think of Amitabha’s compassion, we should understand that the meat that we eat today is probably a sentient being who Amitabha Buddha wishes to deliver.
Simply speaking, learning to become a Buddha is learning the Buddha’s compassion. We should also realize Amitabha’s great compassion when we recite his Name. We should also realize that the animals we eat today may have been our parents in past lives. Knowing that, why would we choose to eat them?
Eating meat or not eating meat are not conditions for rebirth. Sentient beings of the ten directions are different in their circumstances and aptitudes. If you are able to abstain from eating meat, you should do it; but, if you must eat meat, go ahead.
However, when you eat meat, you shouldn’t say, “Oh, it doesn’t matter, Amitabha will still deliver me.” It is better if we feel regretful.
The piece of meat on the table is a part of one of the sentient beings of the ten directions to be delivered by Amitabha Buddha, isn’t it? It is! However, if we must kill it and eat it, we should feel ashamed.
If it is inevitable for us to eat it, we should recite Amitabha’s Name – to sincerely and joyfully entrust ourselves to Amitabha’s deliverance, and aspire to be reborn in Amitabha’s Pure Land. We should then continue reciting Amitabha’s Name for the rest of our lives.
If we cannot avoid killing, or see others kill, we should recite Amitabha’s Name and dedicate the merit or just recite with no merit-dedication.
Reciting Amitabha’s Name and protecting life are one entity. Why do we recite Amitabha’s Name? It is because we accept Amitabha’s deliverance. Amitabha Buddha delivers us from endless reincarnation and accomplishes our ultimate wisdom through joining our Buddha-nature with his Dharma body.
So, on one hand, we recite Amitabha’s Name to be delivered by him; and, on the other, we should protect the lives of others and even dedicate the merit of our Amitabha-recitation to all sentient beings. Thus we say, “May the merit of this practice be distributed to all beings without discrimination, that they may be reborn in the Land of Peace and Joy.”
Faith in, and acceptance of, Amitabha’s deliverance
Single-minded recitation of Amitabha’s name
Aspiration to rebirth in Amitabha’s Pure Land
Comprehensive deliverance of all sentient beings