My Dear Sister
By Dharma Master Heng Yuen
I wish you, John and the kids a happy new year, and that 1994 will bring meaningful changes to your life. But I want to make this not just an empty greeting. I want to give you and your loved ones something which all the wealth in the world cannot buy, something that will ensure that you live long, healthy and happy. More than that, a gift that sustains past this present life. A gift that ensures that you will be reborn no less than a wise human being with all full healthy faculties, and not fall into the three realms of woe.
Previously, I encouraged you to stop eating meat. But your reaction was that your children were growing up and that you needed time to learn to cook non-meat meals. If you think over it, those are just excuses, not to me, but to yourself. Deep in your heart, you know it is wrong to eat the flesh of those poor living creatures, but habits are hard to stop. Deep inside is your compassion which tells you eating meat is wrong. That compassion comes from your Buddha-nature, which is inherent in every living being. The Dharma has enriched you in many ways. I will try to fill in one more part. I will try to help you understand the ramifications of eating meat. There are at least five reasons why a wise person should not eat meat, namely:
1. The Protein Myth.
2. Good health and long life are the result of your karma.
3. Compassion can never be considered a waste on any living being.
4. You become what you eat.
5. Livestock are loaded with chemicals.
Meat consumption has been most conspicuous in western countries especially since the 1930’s when new methods of husbandry were researched and used widespread. The animal farmers, in an effort to boost sales, build up the “Protein Myth”, i.e. “protein is essential for your body and that meat is the only good source of protein." Your western education has brain-washed you with the myth.
The protein myth was the result of researches based on rats in the 1930’s. What they did not know then was that rats have a body metabolism six times faster than that of human beings. Rats’ requirement for protein is much higher than the equivalent for humans.
When humans consume protein excessively (especially animal protein), they end up with more illnesses than being short of proteins. Today, an alarming number of women in western countries who are now past middle age are suffering from osteoporosis. It is a disease caused by a number of things, the most important of which is excess dietary protein. The protein they eat attack on the calcium substance in their bones. The more protein is consumed, the more calcium is lost. Consequently, such women have brittle bones which break at the slightest impact, such as bumping against a car door. Osteoporosis is caused also by excessive milk consumption. In Asian countries, like China, where meat was consumed in tiny quantities, osteoporosis does not exist. Excessive animal protein also cause kidney stones. American Inst. for Cancer Research: "...a strong correlation between dietary protein intake and cancer of the breast, prostate, pancreas, and colon."
The best protein sources are from vegetables and fruits. Besides, they don’t have side effects, such as cholesterol. In a non-meat diet, without even trying to select the vegetables for any meal, any random combination of vegetables would guarantee the required protein for the human body. You can check all the facts in the book: Diet for a New America by John Robbins. It also contains lots of reliable reports and references.
In the US, two thirds of the deaths are caused by these three diseases: heart diseases, cancer and stroke. Excessive meat consumption is the main cause of these three major killers. In most Asian countries where meat is mostly consumed in tiny quantities, if any at all, people don’t suffer from lack of proteins nor those disease just mentioned.
Good health or long life are not the result of eating meat. If that’s the case, then rich people who can afford meat would be the only ones to live healthy and long lives. Western people who could afford it, and in fact do eat more meat than others, are now predominantly the ones suffering from those dreadful diseases I mentioned. On the other hand, you see many people who don’t eat meat, or couldn’t afford much meat enjoy good health and live long. The diseases in the poorer countries usually stem from unhygienic and unsanitary conditions. Eating meat does not guarantee good health and long life. Visit any hospital and you will see that people with cancer and diseases in the heart, liver, kidney, etc. are those who eat meat.
Good health and long life come from good karma. Good karma comes from not killing, whether directly or indirectly. Good karma comes from practicing compassion, not only to human beings, but to all living beings. If one could feel sorry for a wounded canary or a limping horse, why couldn’t one have mercy for the millions of helpless animals that are slaughtered everyday for people to gobble up? The number of animals killed every single day for food around the world is more than the total number of people killed in all wars.
If one adopts the attitude that "Oh, those animals are meant to be killed for our human consumption", then you are also saying that for your own "selfish precious life", many other living beings should be killed for your food for your entire life span. Your body then becomes the cemetery for those animals. Is it necessary for other beings to die in order for us to have our daily meals? Is the killing absolutely essential?
Even if you don’t care for the pain and suffering of those animals, eating their flesh causes harm to only yourself and no one else. Your health does not benefit, nor would you live any longer. In fact the opposite happens; your health will suffer. In contrast, protein from vegetables do not kill humans.
A good deed brings good results. A good thought brings good results. Constant compassion for those chickens, pigs, cows, fish, and animals ensures that you will not be reborn as one of them.
You might remember the incident when the Buddha picked a handful of earth and explained that the number of beings born as humans is like the earth in his hand, whereas the amount of earth in the world is like the number of beings born in lower realms, such as animals, ghosts and in the hells. Humans commit many evil deeds which cause their rebirth in these lower miserable realms. Even the average citizen who, on the surface, appears to live without evil, is actually accumulating killing karma so long as he continues eating meat, and causing many innocent animals to die. With the number of animals a person eats, is it any mystery then, why he is reborn countless times as animals before he finally gets reborn as a human again? The trouble is that, once given the break as a human, he eats animals and again gets reborn countless times as those animals. Do you now understand why humans are so woefully few compared to those reborn in the suffering states?
The average person believes that eating meat gives him the energy and nutrition for his life force. In fact, anything you eat fills up your entire body system, whether vitamins or poison. But people forget that in eating animals, the entire animal life force also fills up your life force. The fear, anger, agony and vengeance that fill up every cell of the animal at the moment of death will also fill up every cell of the person who eats the animal. If you consider the sum total animal flesh eaten by the average person, do you know if there is any part of his blood supply, body cells or psyche which is not contaminated by those toxic animal energy? Think about this.
At the rate people are gobbling up meat, retribution couldn’t wait until the next life; retribution manifests in the very present life. The escalating diseases that I just mentioned suffered by meat eaters result from just their individual karma. Their collective killing karma is manifested in the alarming number of murders, wars, calamities such as earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, accidents, fires, etc. People are thinking and acting like animals, killing each other for no reason, in increasing numbers. Even kids kill their parents nowadays. People in greater numbers are growing up with a death wish, partly fed daily by the unnecessary abhorrent violence shown on TV and movies. The world is obsessed with killing.
You and I are related as brother and sister in this present human life. This is nothing new. We have been related as humans countless times before. But we have been related as animals many more times than as humans. If you continue eating meat, even if you do other good karma, it is unsure how many lives you would be reborn as animals or in other painful realms before we can be reborn in the same human family again. The chances of my explaining this to you again in a future human life is like looking for a needle in the entire Ganges River. The reason I have written this long letter is because I cannot bear to have you, my loving sister, reborn countless times as chickens or cows only to be slaughtered over and over again.
With each passing day, as you continue eating meat, you sink deeper into samsara with that many more lives to go through as those pitiful animals. Being an animal is no fun! Believe me! Who do you think are those getting reborn as chickens and cows everyday? And being killed everyday? They are the previous humans who ate animals without compassion. As humans they had no concern whatsoever for the fear, pain or agony of those poor animals. So the humans eventually end up being reborn as those animals only to be eaten by others. So the vicious cycle repeats itself ad infinitum.
The meat eater incurs more killing karma than the butcher, because you paid him to kill. It is like paying an assassin. So, don’t be naive in thinking you are absolved from the killing karma.
Be realistic. It is not eating meat that makes you or your children healthy and live long. It is doing good deeds, being compassionate and liberating life that guarantee you good health, and a long and happy life.
When it comes to changing our bad habits, we should not wait. The best time to do good and avoid evil is NOW! If you would only make the resolve to stop eating meat this very instant, you would know how to cook non-meat meals. You are only putting unnecessary hurdles in front of yourself by fussing over the difficulty of cooking. Besides, there are many good cook books available on non-meat cooking. You teach your children to be filial by being filial yourself. You also teach them to be compassionate and respect life by not eating meat or feeding them the flesh of living beings.
This letter has taken a long time to write. But I write it with the sincerest intention. It is an unsurpassed gift a brother could give a sister, or to anyone. It is worth your reading it over many times. Today is the day to sincerely make the resolve: "I vow that from today on, and in all future lives, I will not knowingly eat the flesh of living beings or cause their death, directly or indirectly." Amitabha.
With Metta and wishes beyond words,
“Sabbadanam dhammadanam jinati”
The gift of Truth excels all other gifts.