For the past year, I’ve been attending a Chinese Buddhist temple in Flushing, Queens. (Please note there are Malaysian Chinese, American Chinese, etc. Not just Chinese from the mainland). This past week I had the honor of helping them prepare for Chinese New Year. Central to the festivities was preparing a vegetarian feast for the general public to experience the “deliciousness” of vegetarian food. Primarily, food is usually offered by disciples to the temple, an act which is suppose to bring numerous blessing and longevity. The feast was breathtaking. I had never seen so many creative and simply flavorful dishes together. I almost cried out of joy to think that I could eat ANYTHING that was on the table.
Chinese Buddhist have one of the oldest vegetarian cuisines in the world. A trip to a local Chinese supermarket that offers vegetarian products puts the best health food store to shame. Besides having a variety of vegetarian-friendly ingredients, they are both delectable and extremely affordable. This is because eating vegetarian is not a fad – its a way a life that is seen as spiritually beneficial.
When I first started going to temple, I had the occasional slip from time to time – besides giving in to my craving, being the only vegetarian in a group, and living in a city that is not necessarily the most vegetarian friendly can be frustrating, and plain sucks. However, after a year of understanding “why” eating meat is detrimental to both my health and my spiritual well being, I doubt that I will ever eat a morsel of meat in my mouth again.
When you eat meat, you are essentially bringing suffering into the world. This is because you are creating opportunities for animals to suffer and be killed, and their lives to be shorten just to fulfill your desires. When you think about it this way, it seems a bit selfish.
Of course, Buddhist that believe in the concept of “cause and effect,” and eating meat results in bad karma for the person consuming the dead animal. From what I understand so far, cause and effect essentially translates roughly to the Western notion of “for every actions there is a an equal reaction or consequence.” By no means am I enlightened enough to explain this in depth, but what I do understand is if I am causing suffering, I should not be surprised if suffering falls upon me.
I’ve also come to view viewing meat consumption as negative energy consumption.
In today’s “mass produced” food chain, most animals are killed in quite horrific manners. Most animals are literally in a state of anxiety and terror when they are killed, which results in the release of all sorts of hormones and intense, negative emotions. If this the last thing they experience, why shouldn’t I suspect that those things are stored in the meat I see at the local supermarket.
Buddhist, of course, are not the only non-meat eaters. Plenty of other groups have a long history of vegetarianism. The reason I mention this is because in the West we forget this, and some times view vegetarianism as an invention of the last century, giving it almost a “fad” status.
I’m still in the learning process, but found the following links that explain buddhist vegetarianism more in depth. Lastly, Happy Chinese New Year and AMTF, may you have a long and prosperous life filled with amazing vegetarian food!!
Buddhist Cuisine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_cuisine
History of Vegetarianism in China: http://www.ivu.org/history/east/china.html
Vegan East Asian Recipes: http://www.ivu.org/recipes/eastasia/
This post was written by Sandra Ordonez, Web Astronaut and owner of CollaborativeNation.com
Photo has a Creative Commons license. Owner/creator PhotoPhiend