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A friend shared her thoughts on vegetarianism. She commented that plants are living beings too, it’s just that when we eat them, they can’t shout to tell us their pain. What’s most important is our state of mind when we eat, do we eat just to assuage our hunger, or to satisfy our greed? And if it was to satisfy our bottomless greed, whether we go all the way to hurt animals and waste resources?
Despite having clear answers deep within, when it comes to sorting out and sharing my thoughts, it sure isn’t an easy task. What a tough job as a vege ambassador!
Do vegetarians cause no harm at all to other beings?
Yes we do. When farmers plough the field, there are bound to be insects and worms that are killed in the process. If only we could live on without having to consume anything. Perhaps this is the goal we should strive to attain? But even if we could live without food and drink, we can’t avoid unknowingly stepping on ants while walking. I was a little sentimental during my college days, and avoided walking on grass, because I thought they would feel pain and wouldn’t like to be treaded on.
So, are plants living beings? Definitely, a tiny seed grows up to become a giant tree because it’s alive. Plants react to the environment, they grow towards the sun, if they are deprived of sunlight and water, they lose the conditions to grow. We also hear of many stories like flowers withering when bombarded with loud noises, and trees growing luxuriantly when nourished with Buddhist mantras. Even water has life energy, Masaru Emoto’s book “The Hidden Messages in Water” has shown us this.
Plants, however, do not have a central nervous system like animals, so they don’t register pain like animals do. Generally in Buddhism we do not classify plants as sentient beings either, they do not take rebirths like animals do, carrying with them the fear and hatred they felt when they were killed. The life of plants is akin to that of our hair and nails, when they grow long, we cut them, they don’t seem to care so much about being cut or chopped, and they grow back pretty fast, like grass.
Nevertheless, with regards to whether or not to take the vegetarian path, I do not think this is a point we need to ponder so much upon. We cannot avoid causing hurt in one way or another to other beings, for we are all far from being perfect.
The crux of the matter is to minimize the harm that we cause.
To me, this is the fundamental reason for choosing vegetarianism/ veganism.
Minimizing the extent of harm that we cause others.
We cannot be perfect, but we can always try our best.
What do the animals that we have for food eat? They eat plants. Perhaps one day, we might realize that plants indeed feel pain, and they do take rebirths. But does this mean that we should then first feed them to animals for them to first feel the pain and fear, and then we in turn feed on the animals, for the animals to feel again the same pain and fear? This would be in discordance with the vegetarianism cause. If we were to consume plants directly, then it would only be the plants suffering, the animals would be spared of the same fate. It wouldn’t be logical to say that since we’re killing anyway, let’s kill more!
Undoubtedly, whether we take a meal with gratitude or with gross desire, would make a huge difference.
Let’s say I have learnt to be grateful for all my meals. I eat not because of indulgence, I eat simply because I need to alleviate my hunger, simply because I need to live on. And in front of me, I have two meals, one vegetarian and one meat. Which one would I choose? The vege one, for sure. There’s simply no reason for me to choose the other. The vege meal fills my stomach, and it also minimizes the harm I cause.
Making a choice is exactly what most of us need to do everyday.
Many people face obstacles when they think of going vege. All sorts of obstacles. But if we really put our minds to it, I believe these can be overcome. This path of vegetarianism isn’t really that difficult to take, neither is it anything bizarre.
This is the inevitable path to true happiness and freedom.