On the Issue of Eating Meat
Meat eating is also a sensitive issue; but it is not killing. We have not required our practitioners to stop eating meat though you have been learning the Law for such a long time. Many qigong masters tell you to stop eating meat from now on as soon as you walk into their classes. You may think: I am not yet mentally prepared to stop eating meat all of a sudden. Maybe chicken is being cooked at home, fish are being braised. They smell delicious, but I am not allowed to eat them. The same is true of cultivation in religions, which forces the practitioners to stop eating meat. Qigong of the Buddha School in general and some Taoist qigong practise the prohibition against eating meat in the same way. Here, we do not require you to do so; but we also share the same position. What is our opinion, then? Since our cultivation way is that the Law refines the practitioner, which means some conditions will be manifested in cultivation energy and the Law. During the process of cultivation, different states occur at different levels. One day or perhaps after my lecture today some people may enter such a state: they can no longer eat meat, which may also smell stinky to them, and make them vomit after eating it. You are not forced, nor do you have to control yourself to give up eating meat. Instead, if you do not feel like eating meat yourself, what is reflected from cultivation energy is that you cannot eat meat, when you have arrived at this level. You will really vomit should you eat meat.
Practitioners from the previous sessions all know that such a state will occur in the cultivation of Falun Dafa, and different states will be manifested at different levels. Some practitioners have a relatively stronger desire for meat, obsessed with eating meat, and eat a lot of meat on a regular basis. When others feel allergic to meat, they still can eat it. What should be done in order to let go of this attachment? Such a person will have a stomachache if he eats meat. Otherwise, he will not. Such a state will occur, and it means that he should not eat meat any more. Does that mean that meat will be kept out of our school from today on? No, not so. How should we deal with this issue then? Being unable to eat meat comes from one's inner world. What is the purpose? The forceful prohibition against eating meat in the cultivation in the temple as well as this being unable to eat meat reflected in our school all aim at eliminating such a human desire and attachment.
Some people will not eat their meals without meat in their bowls. That is an ordinary person's attachment. One morning when I was passing by the rear entrance of the Park of Triumph in Changchun, three people came out of the gate in the rear, talking loudly. One of them said: What qigong practice forbids its practitioners to eat meat? I would rather give up ten years of my life than stop eating meat! What a strong desire! Let us think about it. Should such an attachment be discarded or not? Definitely yes. It is right for a practitioner to abandon his various desires and attachments in the process of cultivation. In plain words, not giving up the desire to eat meat means not abandoning an attachment. How can one reach consummation in cultivation then? Therefore, as long as it is an attachment, it has to be eliminated. Yet, it does not mean that one will forever stop eating meat form now on. To stop eating meat is not the purpose. The purpose is to discard this attachment of yours. You will find that you can eat meat again once you let go of such an attachment during this period of time when you do not eat meat. Perhaps, you will again be able to eat meat which does not smell or taste awful. By then it does not matter if you eat meat.
When you can eat meat again, both your attachment to and the desire for meat have gone. A great change may occur that meat will no longer taste inviting to you. There will be such a state: you will eat meat with your family if it is prepared at home, and will not miss eating it if it is not in the meal as it does not taste delicious. However, cultivation among ordinary people is rather complicated. If your family always cooks meat, you may, over some time, find meat very tasteful again. Such a relapse will occur later on, and it may be repeated many times during the process of one's cultivation. Suddenly, you may not be able to eat meat again, and do not eat it when you can not do so. You will vomit if you eat it. Wait until you can eat it and follow the natural course. Eating meat or not eating meat itself is not the purpose. The key point is letting go of that attachment.
This school of our Falun Dafa goes very fast. As long as you upgrade your Xinxing, you will break through every level very quickly. Some people by nature do not have a keen attachment to meat and do not care about eating meat or not. It will take these people a couple of weeks to get over this attachment. For some people, it will take one, two, three months, or perhaps six months, unless it is a special case and in no more than a year, they will be able to eat meat again. Because meat has become a kind of staple food for mankind. However, those professional practitioners in the temple cannot eat meat.
We are going to say something about the Buddhist view on eating meat. The earliest primitive Buddhism did not prohibit eating meat. When Sakyamuni led his disciples cultivating painstakingly in the forest, there was not such a rule of prohibition against eating meat. Why not? Because human society was very backward when Sakyamuni was preaching the Dharma some 2500 years ago. Some regions had agriculture while others did not. The cultivated farmland was very limited with forests everywhere. Grain was in short supply and was extremely rare. Human beings who had just emerged from primitive societies lived mainly on hunting, and in many regions they ate principally meat. In order to abandon their attachments to a maximum, Sakyamuni did not allow his disciples to have access to any wealth and material possessions, and took them with him begging for food, alms. They would eat whatever was given to them. As practitioners, they could not choose the food given to them which might include meat.
There was a way of saying the prohibition against Hun (food that a practitioner should not eat) in the primitive Buddhism. This prohibition comes from the primitive Buddhism and now refers to the prohibition against eating meat. In fact, the prohibition at that time did not refer to meat, but to vegetables such as onions, ginger, garlic, etc.. Why should these be prohibited? Many monks today can not even explain it clearly, for many of them do not go into true cultivation, and there are many things they do not understand. What Sakyamuni preached is called "Precept (morality), Samadhi (meditation) and Wisdom". Precept refers to abandoning all ordinary people's desires. Samadhi means that a practitioner cultivates himself entirely in the state of deep meditation, sitting cross-legged in contemplation. Anything that interferes with one's deep meditation and cultivation was regarded as a serious obstruction. Whoever ate onions, ginger or garlic would generate a strong odour. The monks at that time usually sat cross-legged in a circle of seven or eight in the forest or a cave. If a person ate such things he would produce a very strong irritating odour, which affected others in meditation, and severely interfered with their cultivation. Hence, there was a prohibition against eating such food, and it was regarded as Hun. Many living entities the human body has developed in cultivation are all sick of such strong odours. Onions, ginger and garlic can also stimulate human desires, and eating too much will form a habit. Thus, they were considered Hun.
Many monks in the past after reaching the high level cultivation, in full or half enlightenment state, also came to realize that those restrictions during the cultivation process did not actually matter. If the attachment can be abandoned, that matter itself will not be able to function anymore. What really bothers a practitioner is his heart. As a result, the accomplished monks in the past also understood that the issue of eating meat was not crucial to a practitioner. The key point is whether the attachment can be discarded. Without attachment it is all right to eat anything to fill the stomach. Since monks in the temple have cultivated themselves in this way, many of them have become accustomed to such a way. In addition, the prohibition against eating meat has become a standing rule and regulation of the temple instead of an issue of mere prohibition. Eating meat is not allowed definitely, and accordingly they are used to this way of cultivation. Let us look at Monk Jigong who is made to stand out in literary works. Monks are not supposed to eat meat. But he ate meat, and was thus made an outstanding figure. In fact, since he was expelled from Ling Yin Temple, obtaining food naturally became his primary concern, and therefore his life was in crisis. In order to feed his stomach, he ate whatever he could grab. As long as it could satisfy his hunger, he did not have an attachment for any particular food nor did he care about what he ate. On that level of cultivation, he came to understand this truth. As a matter of fact, Ji Gong only had meat on one or two occasions. Writers tend to become excited when talking about a monk who ate meat. The more surprising the subject is, the more interested readers will become. Life is the source of literary works, which are higher than life, and in this way he has been made popular by the writers. In fact, if that attachment is removed, it does not matter what one eats.
In Southeast Asia and Southern China including Guangdong and Guangxi provinces, some lay Buddhists do not say that they cultivate the Buddha as if this term would sound old-fashioned. They would say that they eat Buddhist meals or they are vegetarians, which suggests that vegetarians are Buddhists. They take the cultivation of the Buddha as something so simple. Could being vegetarians cultivate the Buddha? It is known that eating meat is a human attachment, a desire, but only one attachment to let go of. Only by giving up all the attachments, all kinds of desires, such as jealousy, competition, complacency, showing off, and so many other attachments, can one reach consummation. Could only giving up the attachment to the meat diet cultivate the Buddha? Such a statement is not right.
On the issue of food, in addition to eating meat, one should not have an attachment to any food. This is also true of other things. A person may say that he just likes to eat this. This is also an attachment. Having reached a certain level of cultivation, a practitioner will not have such an attachment. Obviously, the Law we are expounding is quite high, and we are doing this on the basis of the combination of different dimensions. It is impossible to reach this point all at once. You say you do feel like eating something, but you simply cannot eat it when it is high time that you removed your attachment in true cultivation. If you eat it, it will not be tasteful or may taste different. When I went to work for a work unit, the canteen always ran out of money and went bankrupt later on. Then everyone brought his lunch to work. It was troublesome and needed a lot of hustle to cook food in the morning. Sometimes, I would buy two steamed buns and a piece of beancurd dipped in soy sauce for a meal. That was quite simple as a matter of fact. Yet, eating that all the time was not all right, and this attachment also needed to be eliminated. As soon as I saw beancurd again, I felt sick in my mouth. I could not eat it again. Such a thing happened in order to prevent me from developing the attachment. Of course, this situation occurs when one has reached a certain level in his cultivation. A beginner in cultivation does not feel this way.
The Buddha School does not allow their cultivators to drink alcohol. Have you ever seen a Buddha carrying a wine container? No. When I say you cannot eat meat, what I mean is that it does not matter for you to eat meat again in the future after you have given up your attachment through cultivation among ordinary people. However, after you have stopped drinking alcohol, you cannot drink it again. Does a practitioner have cultivation energy in his body? He has different forms of cultivation energy in him. Some supernormal capabilities appear on the surface of his body and they are all pure. As soon as he drinks alcohol, all of them will instantly leave his body because they fear that odour. It will be annoying if you have formed this habit as drinking does harm to your nature. Why do some Great Law cultivation ways encourage drinking? Because they do not cultivate their Chief Spirit () and drinking serves to make the Chief Spirit lose consciousness.
Some people love drinking as much as their lives; some have a desire for drinking; and others have become so addicted to it that they have got poisoned by alcohol. They can not even hold up their rice bowls without drinking, and they have to drink. As practitioners we should not conduct ourselves this way. Drinking alcohol is definitely addictive. It is a desire and it stimulates the human addictive nerves. The more one drinks, the more addicted he will become. Let us think about it. Should we not give up such an attachment as practitioners? This attachment must be discarded. One may think like this: I can not work and do my business well without drinking as I am specially responsible for receiving clients and I am often on business trips. It will be difficult to make deals without drinking alcohol. I do not think so. In an ordinary business talk, especially doing business or having dealings with foreigners, you may choose a soft drink, he may ask for mineral water while the other would like a beer. Nobody will force you to drink alcohol. You may choose what you like and drink as much as you like. Especially among intellectuals, it is often true that there does not occur such a thing as being forced to drink.
Smoking is also an attachment. Some people claim that smoking freshens them up. I call that self-cheating. Some people may feel tired from work or writing an article, and they take a break to smoke a cigarette. They feel that they are refreshed after smoking. In fact it is because they have taken a break. The human mind may create an illusion as well as a delusion, which will really become a belief later, a delusion, that one feels as if smoking does give oneself a lift. It can not do so, and it will not play such a role, either. Smoking does not do any good to the human body. If one has smoked for a long period of time, the doctor will discover that upon dissection his bronchi and lungs have become black.
Don't we practitioners want our bodies purified? We shall constantly purify our bodies so as to progress towards higher levels of cultivation. Why then do you do the opposite by contaminating the body? In addition, smoking is also a strong desire. Some people can not give it up though they know it is harmful. As a matter of fact, let me tell you, it is not easy for one to give it up without the guidance of right thoughts. Being a practitioner, from this day on you take it as an attachment to quit, and see if you can make it. I advise everyone: those who want to cultivate genuinely should quit smoking from this day on, and therefore you are guaranteed to make it. No one thinks of smoking at this place during the lecturing sessions. If you want to quit smoking, you are guaranteed to make it, and you will feel sick if you try it again. It will be equally effective if you read this chapter of the book. Of course, we will not bother with it if you do not want to cultivate. I think that you should give it up as a practitioner. I once used such an example: Has anyone ever seen a Buddha or a Taoist sitting there with a cigarette in his mouth? How could that be possible? What is your objective as a practitioner? Should you not give up smoking? So I say that if you want to cultivate, you should give it up. Smoking harms your body and is a desire as well. It is just the opposite of what our practitioners want.