It’s Simple Really, Animals Are Not Food

On January 3, 2007, the leader of the Karma Kagyu tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, His Holiness the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, made a strong statement against eating meat within his monasteries and centers around the world. These rules went into immediate effect that date:

  1. No meat is to be prepared in the kitchen of any Kagyu Monastery or Center.
  2. No one is to be involved in the business of buying and selling meat — for all of his students this practice must stop.
  3. There is to be no killing of animals on Kagyu premises.
  4. Karmapa is aware of monks in robes going to buy meat and does not want to see this ever again.

Below is a very well done video of the above rules that the Karmapa has laid out. Note: This video is important, but not for the feint of heart, nor for children.

I started thinking about vegetarianism a few years ago, but I was misinformed by the American medical and food industries. One book I read brought me a long way on the road to a meat free diet though, Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, I highly recommend it. I have educated myself, and with the help of some good friends, I am getting better and better at eating a solely vegetarian diet. This is not an easy task in America. This is the land of the fast food burger, pepperoni pizzas and even our American past time, baseball, demands you enjoy a hot dog or two.

December 28th, 2007, that was the date that I said, I can do this, to eating vegetarian. Yes, I have cheated a few times since then, but in large part I have been meat free. Beans have become my friends, though those around me may counter that comment. Salads are now a mainstay of my lunch and dinner. They have even become a breakfast option for me, and I like it too. Fruits and veggies were always high on my list, now they are simply the largest part of that list, along with grains, rice and other staples. Have I mentioned how much I love fresh tofu yet? Not the stuff you get in Wal-Mart or the local grocer either. Nope, I love the stuff you get in your city’s Asian district. Hey, I live in Oklahoma City, if I can find fresh tofu surely you can too.

Let me speak for a moment about vegetarianism from the Buddhist standpoint. The Buddha said, among other things, that we should give up evil actions. I view the killing of animals as an act of aggression against a sentient being. Every action produces karma, good or bad, without consideration as to our intentions or the outcome. Eating the meat is no different from being the person who slaughtered the animal for you to eat that flesh. To think otherwise is an illusion. Being a person on the path to Enlightenment, foloowing the Dharma, means I listen and try fervently to follow the Buddha and those in his lineage, such as H.H. 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Orgyen Trinle Dorje.

I feel better physically when I am meat and dairy free too. I used to eat lunch or dinner and feel bloated and lethargic, not anymore. Here are some links you might find helpful.

  • Vegetarian books I can personally recommend are found here
  • Vegetarian cook books in general can be found here
  • Shabkar.org is an excellent site devoted to vegetarianism for Buddhists

I know this is a big step for anyone, let alone an American, so just think about it. Be mindful of your actions, show compassion and educate yourself.

Dreaming Dreams

Sometimes I am mindful of falling asleep, aware of the various stages as I slip into the other realms of consciousness. A few nights ago I was lying in bed, I had a large pillow beneath my knees and my hands were laid to my side. I was breathing deeply, thoughtfully. Breathe out to the count of four, breathe in to the count of four, out to the count of four, in to the count of four; over and over again until I stopped counting and let that happen as it would.

I was having a conversation with some one about something and I suddenly realized it was not real, it was something that could not be happening as I was laying in bed beside my wife as she slept quietly. So I slid back up the consciousness scale to remember I am there, lying in bed with my knees on a pillow to support my legs and the small of my back. The conversation was lost to me, only knowing that I had been speaking to someone and that it was a dream was left now.

My eyes fluttered open for a moment and then they closed themselves again, down the rabbit hole.

I stand on the wooden deck of a great old ship; the kind that pirates sail into the rough seas looking for adventure and freedom. It’s dark, middle of the night dark, with low clouds on the waters as we list and roll over the waves.Ropes hang from the mast and the sails, rigging to and fro in every direction it seems as I walk down the middle of the bough. I am alone on the deck, and that is odd to me even here, in my dream. Everything is either wet or has the feel of moisture through and through. In the dimness of the cloud covered night the only light above deck comes from a few hanging lanterns as they flicker, their wicks trimmed to conserve oil in the heart of the night.

Something catches my eye, in the rigging above the sterncastle there is movement. I make my way up the ladder to find out what or who is moving from rope to rope, hoping to find nothing.

Nothing finds me first though, and in this case, Nothing is something horrible.

She stands taller than I can grasp at first. Her chest is covered with colorless feathers while the skin on her arms and face are darkly tanned and cracked.

“No fear,” she sings out effortlessly and with love. She beckons to me, asking for me to come closer, to her protection, to her warmth and love.

My feet guide me and I am happy to be near her, in her aura of protection.

Her left wing opens to reveal her breast; shapely and supple. Strange feelings stir in my gut: desire, hunger and motherly tenderness all at once.

I find myself against her, suckling at her. Warmth and light flow in to my body; I am free, I am secure and home and in love and lost and found, all at once. In an instant I am these things.

She bends my body backwards, supporting my weight on her arms, it is nothing for her. I can feel the strength in her grip and I am happy for it. Safe, secure.

My body starts to transform, I am becoming like her. Wings are growing from my back, a new found strength is coursing in my veins. My muscles becoming like stone and iron with each drink I pull in to my mouth.

And then her look changes, something in her eyes shows me sorrow and pain. She is torn, upset that she is about to ruin my world. Her face distorts and hardens, she is no longer the beautiful woman-bird, but now, suddenly a wrathful demon of red eyes and sharp beak.

She bites in to my stomach, eating my insides as I try to drink in the last drops from her chest. Her eating my flesh is not to bother me, but losing the nectar, that is catastrophe.

And then I am awake. Lying in bed beside my wife, wondering at my dream.

Basketball with the Buddha

I took my son to his basketball practice last night. Ran a bit listening to my music, some Tool and some AC/DC to keep my feet moving. When I became bored with running around the parking lot I went back in to the gym to watch practice and wait.

I made some light conversation with a few of the mom’s and then left them alone so they could read more of the romance novels that they all bring to the gym. After a few minutes I found myself sitting crossed-legged on the concrete floor, dribbling my son’s basketball about three inches off the floor.

I was surprised how relaxing it was to focus on the ball under my fingertips. Slowly the coach and kids on the court dissolved, they seemed to fade in to the darkness. I was left alone there with my basketball and the ground.

Music was still in my ears though, the Pulse CD by Pink Floyd was playing now. Soft and quiet, the Pulse version of Shine of you Crazy Diamond was lulling me deeper into the basketball and the concrete floor beneath me.

I thought of mindfulness and about ‘being here now’ so I paid more attention to the ball. I closed my eyes and suddenly it all felt so very different and new. The ball was touching my fingertips differently now. It was so much easier to concentrate on the ball and therefore not concentrate on the ball at all. Does that make any sense at all?

I don’t know how long I sat there, motionless except for my right hand lightly dribbling the ball off the floor – it was just so relaxing. When I finally did open my eyes I was refreshed and rejuvenated, and the only thing that I had done was to pay attention. Instead of blankly dribbling the ball and eavesdropping on other conversations or yelling at my son on the court I had paid attention to the ball, to my breathing and to me.

I had noticed my hand on the basketball, how it felt on my fingers and on my palm. I felt my wrist and my arm, my shoulders. I consciously relaxed my shoulders and my neck, my legs and my back. Felt the breath enter my lungs and then move around my body; like light moving in a dark room.

And then it was over. The coach had yelled my name, asking me to help with something and my moment was over. Just like that.

But I was mindful of that moment and where I was. I liked it.

If you meet the Buddha in the lane, feed him the ball. – Phil Jackson