|Meditation 1. Refrain from taking the life of sentient beings|
The precept of non-violence is a reminder for us to always try to avoid harming other living beings’ lives as much as we possibly can; so that we don’t intentionally harm them or have the intention of violence in our hearts.
Wanting to kill and accidentally killing are two different things. Killing and “killing” are different: It’s not the killing that’s bad; it’s our conscience wanting to kill that’s bad. It’s bad for us, not for the killed. So keeping the non-violence precept is good for you, not for any other being. Because if we lose a physical body, we can get it back again; so those who kill are the ones who become damaged, not those who are killed.
Thus the precept of non-violence is actually meant to remind us to keep a very compassionate, loving heart. We don’t want to harm things intentionally because our intention is what kills. It kills those things and also kills us, which is very bad.
“The Essence of Non-Violence”
Q: My question is about the purity of vegetarian food. I am concerned about people who need medicine and they might take something that contains animal products; like some things that are made from shellfish are very good for people who are sick in a certain way. I’m thinking of things where such a small amount of animal material is involved. Do You know, why is it so detrimental?
M: No, it’s your mind that’s important. If we tend to take anything just for the body at the cost of our spiritual, moral understanding, then of course we pay for it. If there’s another substitute, then we can take the substitute, if absolutely not, then we just take that. Then it’s alright. It’s the mind that’s important; it’s our determination to do anything at all to keep our purity and to avoid the violence. That’s it. It’s not that you take a little animal and you go to hell or anything like that. It’s just that you lack determination, you hinder yourself, you weaken your willpower. (Applause)
Willpower is very important in going ahead in any field, and if you belittle yourself by giving in to anything, by giving up your high standards in exchange for some physical comfort when you could do otherwise, then you just harm yourself; that’s what I call detrimental. It’s not that God punishes you or the devil comes and takes you to hell or anything. You have to keep your standards; that’s what it is.
Q: So many medicines come in little capsules and they’ve made of animal products, gelatin. If you don’t know, then it’s okay?
M: Yes, if you don’t know. If you know then don’t take them for your own sake. That’s all. The animal is already dead. You take it. and he won’t die anymore, but it’s just that if we want to keep ourselves absolutely in control, like you control your situation. You control what you eat, you eat what you want and not what’s forced upon you by any circumstances, then you keep your own power. Nothing can shake you then because you do what you want in any circumstance. That’s what it is.
But suppose if nothing else can be substituted for that medicine and you need it to sustain the physical body while you continue to realize God, then take it. Don’t be a fanatic. It’s just for your willpower, that you should fight, to keep it. (Applause) The thing we should keep is our level of consciousness, our standards; otherwise, you can do anything you want. The precepts and the rules are not for you to keep; actually they’re for you to realize whether you’re up to that standard or not. If you give up and you sink down, that’s already detrimental, because you’ve lowered your standards already. Anyone at the college level has to pass certain tests, has to understand certain subjects. If you lower yourself then you’ll become high school level again; no need to ask. If you slacken your effort in maintaining your college level and slacken your effort in progressing then you just go backwards or stay there. You’re just being harmful to yourself.
From “Determination Is Better Than Anything”
News 92, Selected Questions & Answers
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai
International Four-day Retreat, Sydney, Australia • May 9, 1997
(Originally in English)
Q: Master, I was thinking. Because how you said don’t kill sentient beings, does that include pests, bugs, termites and mosquitoes?
M: Well, we have to do what we need for the environmental care. But then, we have to pay for that. But they are small bugs. They are not so big, bigger of life, then we meditate for them, and they will be all right. The important thing is not the act of killing. The most important thing is that the violence in your heart that must be terminated, you know what I mean? Some people, they don’t kill actually with their hands but they kill with their thoughts. That is more important than even the act of killing. So what we try to minimize is the violence in our heart, the tendency to want to destroy other beings. But if we have to do it for environmental hygiene, we must do it. And pray for these in our meditation. But it is best when we avoid it. Like we keep our place very clean, so that the ants and other insects won’t come around. And if you spray around so that they will leave, they will not die. There are some ways to avoid not to kill. You have to take care of that. The less killing, the better, even the small insects! But sometimes they are too harmful for the children and babies, then the mother has to do it. Because after all, human beings... human life is more precious. We don’t do it because we are bad or we are malicious. It’s just the situation.
From News 50, Selected Questions And Answers
Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai
Group Meditation in Hawaii, USA • September 4, 1994
(Originally in English)
Q: Master, when I am the host and I have to take some friends out for lunch or dinner and they are not vegetarians, should I order all vegetarian dishes to eat as I am the only vegetarian?
M: No, no, you order what the guests want to eat. We don’t impose our life style on other people and impede their freedom. It’s their choice. Okay? If you ask them if they want to try vegetarian, also fine, if they agree, if they are happy with it. Just tell them once in a while you try it to see if you like it. If they don’t, then you don’t do it.
“Enlightenment Awakens The
I didn’t say, “No milk,” just no meat, no eggs and no anything of killing animals. But with milk and dairy products, you don’t have to kill to get them. It’s just that I myself don’t often use them. So when people ask me should they use them because they don’t feel comfortable, then I say, “It’s up to you.” I myself don’t like milk so much because of the way it is taken. But in some places like India, they take milk from the cow in a very humane and very normal way.
Also, if you don’t drink the cows’ milk, sometimes too much milk makes them suffer; it’s painful. But the way people do it with machines, and they feed them and then confine them: that I don’t like. In most industrial countries, they confine the cow and they force her to take a lot of chemical substances to produce more milk. Or they force them and put some medicine to push them to make more milk. And then the consequence is that their bones are rotten and they can hardly support their bodies. Many of the cows in the U.S., their intestines fall down, their stomachs fall down, and they can hardly walk because their bones are so weak from producing too much milk. And that’s what I hate about it. I don’t think we should survive at the cost of anyone else’s suffering, even suffering of the cow.
I don’t like the inhumane way that people treat cows. Also, they put too many chemicals into the body of the cow to make it grow bigger than it’s supposed to. The weight is very heavy for the cow, and it can fall and get sick. And if its organs come out of its body, they don’t even give anesthesia or anything when they want to stitch it back up. They just do the cheap job; any cowboy or anyone can come and just stitch it up like it’s something normal. I don’t like all these inhumane and uncivilized ways of treating an animal, an animal who is beneficial to humankind, who is so kind and so gentle.
That’s why when I think of taking milk, I don’t want it. I don’t like to be reminded of the cruelty of us, of humankind. It’s not that I am fanatic, because people still need milk to survive. The children who sometimes the mother can’t feed, they need milk. The sick people who sometimes can’t drink or eat anything else, they need milk. I’m not advocating fanaticism; it’s just that I hate to see any suffering. But milk is OK.
“Is It OK to Consume
In the Bible, God said, “I made animals just to help you, be your friends.” They are really helping us. The cows help to fertilize the land, and to give milk to some children who don’t have mother’s milk, or give milk to any beings, to all the animals as well, and they give their cheese from milk. They don’t mind doing that, but in a natural way, not like now with a machine, so painful and all that. So, I rarely eat dairy products. Not that I’m fanatic, but I don’t like them since long before I even practiced the Quan Yin Method. I rarely take milk, or any dairy product. And actually, they are the second mother to many babies for many of us. Nowadays, most of us grow up with cow’s milk, so how can you slaughter your mother?
In China and in Aulac before, in Asia, we had a second mother like that. Like the mother who is a wealthy lady and doesn’t want to feed the baby because it’s too inconvenient, then she always hired another mother who had a baby herself but had plenty of milk, so they both could drink from that milk. We call that a wet nurse. How can you slaughter a wet nurse like that? We even call that like a second mother, or nourishing mother. So how can you do that? In our country we were very grateful to these kinds of mothers as well. We called it, not wet nurse, wet mother, but maybe Godmother, or adopted mother, or nourishing mother. And we have respect for these mothers, too, second to our mother. So, it’s the same if we do that to the cows, as if you slaughter a mother who gives you milk. So, it’s incredible how people can do that. Really, sometimes I’m very startled at our ignorance of the nature of creation.
“The Cow, Our Second