Meat

Some Guy, modified 10 Years ago at 4/1/12 8:52 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/1/12 8:52 PM

Meat

Posts: 343 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
Is there any evidence that a vegetarian diet aids meditation?

I tend to think such a tradition has a practical basis. But is it really about karma alone? The reason I ask is, I've been studying nutrition lately, and seeing a lot of reasons to eat more, not less meat. But I do have reservations.
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 10 Years ago at 4/1/12 9:47 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/1/12 9:47 PM

RE: Meat

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Here is access to insight's brief compilation on the matter of eating meat and accepting the generosity of alms food.

An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics (Harvey, Peter, Cambridge, 2000) gives a more comprehensive summary of meat-eating in Theravadan and Mahayana Buddhism from pages 157 to 166. A brief called the "Non-harming of animals precedes this section on pages 156-157.

The sixth precept to finish eating by noon (or midday, i.e., 1 p.m., during some regions' daylight savings maybe) has been very useful to my own meditation practice and health. It also directly supports discipline, effort and concentration.

[indent]MAJJHIMA NIKĀYA II
II. 2. 5. Bhaddālisuttaṃ
(65) Advice to Venerable Bhaddāli

I heard thus. At one time the Blessed One was living in the monastery offered by Anāthapiṇḍika in Jeta's grove in Sāvatthi. The Blessed One addressed from there. Bhikkhus, I partake a single meal for the day, and on accont of it experience few afflictions, few ailments, lightness, power, and a pleasant abiding. Come! bhikkhus, you too partake a single meal for the day, and on accont of it experience few afflictions, few ailments, lightness, power, and a pleasant abiding. When this was said venerable Bhaddali said thus to the Blessed One-Venerable sir, I would not venture to eat one meal for the day. Eating one meal a day, doubts and remorse arise to me. Then Bhaddali, when you are invited do you partake there, and carry away food to another region and partake it? Bhaddali are you supported that way too? Even then venerable sir, I would not venture to eat one meal for the day. Eating one meal a day, doubts and remorse arise to me. When the Blessed One, was laying down the rules and the Community of bhikkhus accepting to abide by the rules, venerable Bhaddali was not venturing to accept them. So Venerable Bhaddali did not come to the presence of the Blessed One during those three months as one incomplete in the training, in the dispensation. of the Teacher.[/indent]


This last effort can be a challenge to get into, however, when opportunity and the desire to try it arise, it's well-worth it!
Some Guy, modified 10 Years ago at 4/1/12 10:38 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/1/12 10:38 PM

RE: Meat

Posts: 343 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
Thank you, Katy. I was aware that most Buddhists are not vegetarian, but I didn't know the background for the confusion. It seems the Buddha considered strict vegetarianism excessively ascetic, although at the same time, the injunction to not kill, or order killing, must limit meat consumption overall.

If I may ask, about how many calories are you able to get before noon? My first concern with this practice would be difficulty sleeping. The second would be cravings. Then, of course, the possibility of fatigue, hypoglycemia, and nutrition deficiencies. What health benefits have you seen?

I appreciate your insights.
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Florian, modified 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 12:28 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 12:28 AM

RE: Meat

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J B:
Is there any evidence that a vegetarian diet aids meditation?


Depends on your criteria. You'll find lots of references in Hindu and some Christian and Buddhist traditions, and probably others as well.

Which aspect of meditation do you have in mind?

J B:
I tend to think such a tradition has a practical basis. But is it really about karma alone? The reason I ask is, I've been studying nutrition lately, and seeing a lot of reasons to eat more, not less meat. But I do have reservations.


Since you're enthusiastic about it, go try it out for some time, see what happens, evaluate the results, tweak, repeat (this approach is called the "iddhipada" in the Suttas). Then you'll know for yourself. In that way, you can integrate your interest in nutrition into your practice. Watching what you eat is a nice way to practice throughout the day - not a replacement for formal sits, but a way to use more time of the day and more activities for practice.

Cheers,
Florian
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 9:01 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 8:51 AM

RE: Meat

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Hello J B,

It seems the Buddha considered strict vegetarianism excessively ascetic, although at the same time, the injunction to not kill, or order killing, must limit meat consumption overall.
I do not find in the linked passages I provided above Master Gotama commenting on a "strict vegetarianism excessively aesthetic". What I understand is that even in his account of living as a crane he would eat only the fish that were already dead (right action (not killing)), and that he accepted food dana without choosiness (right action (still not killing); the Indo root word bhikkh means "to beg" as will be seen in immediately below link) while making it clear that life should not be killed on his behalf nor at his request (right action (not killing)):

[indent]"And the eating of flesh that is pure in three respects, that is to say, that the eater has not seen, heard, or suspected that it has been killed (specially for bhikkhus) is allowable." (Flesh and fish allowable must, however, be cooked as bhikkhus cannot eat any kind raw or uncooked.) There is also the Discourse to Jivaka on the same subject and the oft-quoted Amagandha Discourse, in which the evils of ill-conduct in so many ways are pointed out as much more harmful than the eating of meat.[/indent]

The Amagandha Sutta makes it clear, by referring to Buddha Kassapa, that impurity ("stench") is not related to eating meat and purity is not related to not eating meat. In the list of stenches below (#1-3 are left out only to use less space and start at the point), there are stenches of ill-conduct therein that could arise from rejecting meat-based alms foods.

[indent]The Buddha Kassapa (to the aesthetic Tissa):
4. Taking life, beating, wounding, binding, stealing, lying, deceiving, worthless knowledge, adultery; this is stench. Not the eating of meat.

5. In this world those individuals who are unrestrained in sensual pleasures, who are greedy for sweet things, who are associated with impure actions, who are of nihilistic views, [which are] crooked and difficult to follow, this is stench. Not the eating of meat.

6. In this world those who are rude, arrogant, backbiting, treacherous, unkind, excessively egoistic, miserly, and do not give anything to anybody; this is stench. Not the eating of meat.
7. Anger, pride, obstinacy, antagonism, deceit, envy, boasting, excessive egoism, association with the immoral; this is stench. Not the eating of meat.

8. Those who are of bad morals, refuse to pay their debts, slanderous, deceitful in their dealings, pretentious, those who in this world, being the vilest of men, commit such wrong things; this is stench. Not the eating of meat.

9. Those person who, in this world, are uncontrolled towards living beings, who are bent on injuring others, having taken their belongings; immoral, cruel, harsh, disrespectful; this is stench. Not the eating of meat.

10. Those who attack these living beings either out of greed or of hostility and are always bent upon evil, go to darkness after death, and fall headlong into woeful states; this is stench. Not the eating of meat.

11. Abstaining from fish and meat, nakedness, shaving of the head, matted hair, smearing with ashes, wearing rough deerskins, attending the sacrificial fire; none of the various penances in the world performed for unhealthy ends, neither incantations, oblations, sacrifices nor seasonal observances, purify a person who has not overcome his doubts.

12. He who lives with his senses guarded and conquered and is established in the Dhamma, delights in uprightness and gentleness; who has gone beyond attachments and has overcome all sorrows; that wise man does not cling to what is seen and heard.

13. Thus the Buddha Kassapa preached this again and again. That ascetic who was well-versed in the [Vedic] hymns understood it. The sage who is free from defilements, non-attached and difficult to follow, uttered this [discourse] in beautiful stanzas.

14. Thus having listened to the well-spoken words of the Buddha who is free from defilements, which end all misery, he worshipped the Tathægata with humble mind and␣ requested to be admitted into the Order at that very place.
(Sutta Nipæta, Hammalawa Saddhætissa, Curzon Press)[/indent]



otherwise written by John T. Bullitt, AccessToInsight founder, in his article "Are Buddhists Vegetarian?":
[indent]To summarize what the suttas tell us: it appears that one may, with a clear conscience, receive, cook, and eat meat that either was freely offered by someone else, or that came from an animal who died of natural causes. [/indent]



If I may ask, about how many calories are you able to get before noon? My first concern with this practice would be difficulty sleeping. The second would be cravings. Then, of course, the possibility of fatigue, hypoglycemia, and nutrition deficiencies. What health benefits have you seen?
I am fortunate to eat as many calories as I want before noon, so I do. If I work physically hard in the evening and unexpectedly or if friends invite me to join a meal, then I may eat again. This practice of eating before noon or once per day was not comfortably available to me at the outset. Only recently, have a started taking up this method and it facilitates jhana as well as practical clear-headedness, being less distracted, waking earlier, sleeping well.

edit: hyperlink correction and addition
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 1:12 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 12:59 PM

RE: Meat

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Here is Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi speaking of eating once a day and the Kitagiri Sutta. He and audience crack up in laughter after around 8:30 and 10 minutes...about getting used to eating once a day and how he once served a venerable a ramen noodle soup. Edit: Where possible and provided a hearty meal is taken. Around 14:28m bhante discusses a middle way between aestheticism and moderation. The rest of the talk deals with monks who eat throughout the day, wonder why they should abandon three meals, and Gotama's response (page 578) and the "nature of feeling".

In the biography of Ajahn Mun begins on page 196 the chapter "Tigers in Disguise" there are his actual pragmatic expressions of non-attached to food (and basic comfort), while not being deliberately aesthetic.

So, there are many points about moderate daily eating (once daily/before midday). It has benefitted me, and I am extremely fortunate to have this observance as a choice, not an external force of deprivation. To your original point: I have never personally experienced a benefit to meditation from eating meat (I have experienced mental agitation from eating animals or food intended for their offspring) nor have I read this in the suttas. I have, by personally testing the suttas on eating, experienced benefit by practicing what is described in suttas.
Some Guy, modified 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 3:07 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 3:07 PM

RE: Meat

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Katy,

Thanks again for all this information, and for the time you've put into your responses. I really appreciate it.

To your original point: I have never personally experienced a benefit to meditation from eating meat


I didn't mean there might be a benefit for meditation from eating meat, but that there clearly is a benefit for health. I'm just wondering if there is a downside.

I do not find in the linked passages I provided above Master Gotama commenting on a "strict vegetarianism excessively aesthetic".


This is in an Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, where the author tells the story of Devadatta trying to usurp the Buddha by promoting 'purity through food." He explains that the Buddha had followed vegetarianism during his time as an ascetic and found it made him weak. Of course, the Buddha's allowance for meat consumption is still very limited although open to interpretation for laymen, as I read this passage.

Which aspect of meditation do you have in mind?


None specifically. But as I'm cooking up my cattle flesh, I have a glimmer of guilt, or doubt about the ramifications. Ethically, as far as I can figure, by supporting humane animal farming I have a better chance of reducing suffering than through simply abstaining from meat altogether.

What I have done is eliminate sugar and most grains, and I have to say I have much more energy and a better mood. These are things I once sought from meditation, but have learned not to expect. It is possible, but difficult, to eat this way as a lacto-ovo veggie, so I think I will aim in that direction, even if I never quite get there.

As for not eating after noon, I will keep it in mind. When it seems attainable without falling into the trap of 'negative attachment,' I will try it.
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 5:43 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 5:43 PM

RE: Meat

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What I have done is eliminate sugar and most grains, and I have to say I have much more energy and a better mood. These are things I once sought from meditation, but have learned not to expect. It is possible, but difficult, to eat this way as a lacto-ovo veggie, so I think I will aim in that direction, even if I never quite get there.
I understand this. I was sick for a few consecutive years and consuming greens, fats (oils) and protein (egg, tofu, meat) gave me health and energy again. Following the Buddha's invitation to eliminate a meal is the other way I've learned to be healthy and eat grains. Good luck! It was helpful to me that you raised the thread.
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Dauphin Supple Chirp, modified 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 7:11 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 7:11 PM

RE: Meat

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The only anecdotal evidence that I can contribute is that, as a relatively long term vegan, I made pretty good and quick progress to SE doing Mahasi noting just about an hour a day, no retreats.

I would like to make an extremely useful comment, though. The evidence you might be considering (if it is like most scientific research these days) is basically sponsored by the meat/dairy industry. If you eat right, you will generally feel better and perform better without animal products in your diet. Eating right means (regardless of vegetarianism) a good balance of fresh fruits and vegetables for vitamins, some seeds for minerals, as well as sufficient calories from carbohydrates rather than fat or protein. If in doubt, ask extreme athletes. They know. Don't put too much faith in studies that single out one specific nutrient and one specific aspect of bodily function and then try to put together a chain of insinuations to support their (direct or indirect) sponsors' financial health. Ask yourself the tough questions: For example, if DHA is a major constituent of your brain and DHA is not found in plant foods, but only in animal foods, does that mean you should eat animal foods, like some studies will insinuate (not openly state, if they are actual scientific publications)? No! Because nobody has proven that the DHA in your brain comes from DHA in your food. "Well, but it's pretty reasonable to assume this without proof," you might say. To this I would respond, take a look at this: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11518755

Do your research. Think for yourself. Conduct your own experiments. They might not be scientific, but with something as important and intimate as food, you will eventually easily know for yourself, from direct experience, what makes you feel good in the long run and what might produce a temporary high, but is really more like an addictive drug rather than truly optimal nutrition, and then you will find it unnecessary to read what scientists have to say on the few little aspects of nutrition they have started to partially understand.

I have been vegan since 2009, but cut down my meat consumption to a few pounds a year in 2004. The first few months were tough, as body and mind went through withdrawals. Eventually I reached a level of health and balance I had never known before. Now when I eat right, I still feel better than at any point before the change. When I eat "crap" for a few days, like just bread, fries, chocolate, fake meat, that kind of stuff, instead of fresh fruits and vegetables, then yes, I do start feeling irritated, sick and tired, but a couple of days of eating right will easily cure that.
Some Guy, modified 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 10:04 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 10:04 PM

RE: Meat

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Hi Dauphin,

Thanks for chirping in. I'm a little amused that this is the second time you have shown concern that I might be under the sway of corporate propoganda (see our recent thread on file sharing). And for good reason: Who isn't?

Nutrition is the arena where science and ideology most like to chase each other's tales. I've spent many hours comparing counterarguments. The only constant truth I see is that sugar and refined carbs are bad. I believe this is the common source of well-being people attest to from following seemingly divergent diets. The rest will likely be fodder for endless arguments on the internet for at least another generation, if not forever.

FWIW, I don't really like eating a lot of protein.

From an Introduction to Buddhist Ethics (mentioned above): "To believe that being a vegetarian is itself spiritually purifying would seem to be an example of the fetter of 'attachment to virtues and vows.'" This seems like a fairly direct answer to my original question.
Some Guy, modified 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 10:09 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/2/12 10:09 PM

RE: Meat

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Good luck! It was helpful to me that you raised the thread.


I'm glad it was helpful. I'm still following up on your links and research. Thanks!
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Daniel M Ingram, modified 10 Years ago at 4/3/12 12:23 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/3/12 12:23 AM

RE: Meat

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If you are looking for reasons not to eat meat, consider reading Eat to Live and The China Study.
Some Guy, modified 10 Years ago at 4/3/12 7:29 AM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/3/12 7:29 AM

RE: Meat

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Hi Daniel,

I'm afraid the China Study (referring to the book and its interpretations of the actual study) has been pretty thoroughly debunked. I think this blogger has a handle on the science: http://rawfoodsos.com/2010/07/07/the-china-study-fact-or-fallac/

I did want to avoid a contest between veggies and meat eaters, but maybe that was naive. My current point of view is that the urge to portray vegetarianism as a healthful diet is analogous to claiming that Kosher laws are God's way of telling us to be healthy. (Which, as far as I know, is not a traditional belief in Judaism.) You can look at it that way, but not rigorously. That's why I was curious about other practical reasons for vegetarianism.

I was reading recently about the Jains who, unlike traditional Buddhists, are strictly vegetarian. They don't seem to claim it is more healthful. On the contrary, they believe they are naturally omniverous but sacrifice for the sake of karma. (If I'm being honest, I do fear karma, without necessarily believing in or understanding it.)

I was the world's worst vegetarian for two years, and felt like crap. I was convinced to give it up not by the meat industry, but by East Asian medicine practitioners. I also see a lot of vegetarians in my work, and they tend to exhibit a lot of the same problems, which I won't delineate for the sake of avoiding controversy. I think it's due to their reliance on starch more than the avoidance of meat.
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Dauphin Supple Chirp, modified 10 Years ago at 4/3/12 4:50 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/3/12 4:50 PM

RE: Meat

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J B:
I also see a lot of vegetarians in my work, and they tend to exhibit a lot of the same problems, which I won't delineate for the sake of avoiding controversy. I think it's due to their reliance on starch more than the avoidance of meat.


I agree with this point, to an extent. If you take the average American diet and try to turn it into a vegetarian diet by substituting cheese or fake meats in place of animal meat, you're looking at a recipe for disaster. Fake meats are supposed to imitate the taste and texture of meat, not make you feel good or healthy. Refined sugars and flour are bad, no matter how you slice it. Simple, whole foods are what you should eat regardless of your ethical views, just to become happier and healthier. Some people will thrive on bananas, oranges, pineapple, blueberries, sesame seeds, cucumbers, and figs; others will eat brown rice with carrots and raisins a lot. It takes some experimentation to find something that truly optimizes your health while being simple and affordable. Don't expect to thrive on staples that contain refined flour, white rice, "sugar" (in the list of ingredients), high fructose corn syrup, or large amounts of fat/oil. Unfortunately this is what most of the vegetarians I have known have tried, and it is why they have failed. The standard propaganda is half-correct: We do need iron, calcium, various vitamins, and we really should avoid refined carbohydrates. The incorrect half is that any of the good nutrients are only or "best" found in meat or dairy and that all carbohydrates are unhealthy.

Regardless of the argument of optimal vs. slightly less than optimal nutrition, there are some examples of very successful long-term vegans, such as durianrider on youtube or a lot of the old-timers on rawfoodsupport.com; and plenty of examples of vegetarians and vegans—like myself—who may not be high performance athletes, but live happily without problems like weakness, tiredness, heartburn, headaches, nausea, shortness of breath, the need for happy pills, and all the other seemingly ubiquitous problems among people who eat junk, be it vegetarian or full of animal products. Personally, in the last three years, I had about three minor headaches, no major ones; I was sick to my stomach once; had a mild cold or flu (tiredness and/or runny nose and/or sore throat) maybe 5 times; and I had heartburn once or twice. No other major health problems that I can remember off the top of my head. I think that's pretty average or even better than average. That's because my intake of junk food is average or below average, but not nil. I make no secret of that.

Avoiding animal products to me is like avoiding the killing of insects: I don't need to kill insects, and I don't need to eat animal products, so I don't do either.

Back to a more literal dharma context: If you follow the 5 precepts (and sometimes the 8 precepts) and practice meditation, you should be fine. The person who taught me the most in the area of meditation eats meat to this day, and I have no reason to doubt that he is safe from a rebirth in the lower realms. Karma is about intentional action. If you intend to provide your body with the best possible nourishment, that is a wholesome intention. You're not eating meat because you think the animals deserve to die or you want them to suffer or die. I'm assuming you don't kill them yourself and you don't waste food, so ethically you are about on the same level as someone who eats no animal products, but drives a car, which crushes little animals, poisons the environment, etc. I don't have a huge monster truck, and I don't drive around just for the sake of creating noise and pollution, so I'm not overly worried about it. I think the same principle applies to anyone who eats a reasonable amount of meat out of conviction that it is necessary or beneficial for one's health.
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katy steger,thru11615 with thanks, modified 10 Years ago at 4/3/12 5:02 PM
Created 10 Years ago at 4/3/12 5:01 PM

RE: Meat

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dolphin supple chirp,

I appreciate your points here. I was very much a grilled-cheese/pasta/snickers vegetarian when I got sick. Now I am more of a kale-collards-brussel-sprouts one.


Here is Brendan Brazier's (high performance vegan fellow) short article on high perf vegan eating.
Some Guy, modified 9 Years ago at 8/23/12 11:28 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 8/23/12 11:28 AM

RE: Meat

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Have you seen 'Ask a Monk' on Youtube? Yuttadhammo addresses the question of meet very nicely I think, advocating 'passive vegetarianism.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zisXgVnv-cI
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The Xzanth, modified 9 Years ago at 1/5/13 5:37 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 1/5/13 5:37 PM

RE: Meat

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The Dharma is supposed to be universal right? So an Inuit in the far North should be able to practice. Most Inuit I know (and I know quite a few) dont do very well unless they eat lots-o-meat.

I suspect that the call for vegetarianism stems from practical concerns (health) and deeper psychological concerns (guilt). A person from a different culture might do better with different rules of morality.
Rod C, modified 9 Years ago at 1/6/13 8:42 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 1/6/13 8:42 PM

RE: Meat

Posts: 88 Join Date: 11/19/12 Recent Posts
In my view - from an urban perspective, if its on special in the supermarket and is verifiably of ok quality I will buy and eat it. Protein is essential and often plant protein is so mixed up with Carbs (which are gut filler and we eat too much of and become obese from because they are cheap), lean red meat is a good source of protein.
From a practice point of view a recent experience to relate - I ate some beef sausages last night for dinner after not eating red meat for a couple of weeks. I found it really hard to meditate. The night before I put in a 2.5 hr session of Jhanas and then noting. Last night the vibrations/agitation were really high and I could not settle down and ended up not meditating. All other things being the same as the night before, I would have to put it down to the meat. Caveats on this are - how much I ate, duration between eating and meditating, and long period since I had previously eaten red meat as I presume this effect would be lessened with being used to regular meat consumption. I am normally an average red meat consumer in terms of frequency and volume - just lately I have not really gone out of my way to buy it and just happened to have eaten fish and chicken more. So just an observation that would need greater verification than just one incident of course.
Some Guy, modified 9 Years ago at 1/6/13 9:31 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 1/6/13 9:31 PM

RE: Meat

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Interesting to see this thread pop up again. I still feel like I need a certain amount of meat for health. But I hold Yuttadhammo's suggestion of passive vegetarianism in mind as an ideal to aim for. Basically, I think it just takes a LOT more organization and care to be healthy as a veg - at least it does for me.

My sense of the precepts has started to change too. The meaning of sila is not a question of right and wrong, but of karma - not in the sense of cosmic retribution but cause and effect. When the impulse or craving or attachment arises, allowing that to direct my actions uncritically or unmindfully keeps me asleep. Directing my attention to the subtle sensations leading to my choice of diet, I see a lot of metta involved in wanting to take care of myself and be healthy. I also see a bit of fear involved, and some aversion to the idea of meat. There's my dukkha. I do have concern for the suffering of animals, and the general misery of the whole meat industry. I still see buying from smaller farms with ethical practices the best way of influencing that situation. To paraphrase Yuttadhammo, I can't stem the tide of death. But I can vote with my dollars. That is the standard for right action I aspire to for the moment, and I'm not always successful (like when I need something quick), but I'm better than before. Craving in general is less than it was.

Without trucks and planes and trains, in my region, I'd have only deer and squirrel to eat right now. If I decide to eat fresh veggies throughout the winter, I'd be even more entangled with petroleum. The fact that I can't escape causing harm aroused fatalism in me in the past. Now, it makes me curious about the teachings in regard to sila, and the role of action in breaking the links of becoming.