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.

Atalanta’s Quest, Part One

For a timeless moment she stood there, swaying to and fro, dizzy, and disoriented. Her toes dug into warm sand and she could feel a gentle breeze upon her skin. Her eyes would not, or could not, open. Her breath caught within her lungs; burning for release. Slowly, she brought up her right hand, slid it up to her exposed stomach, moved over her breasts and felt for her face. Her cheeks were wet, tears or blood, she wondered.

“Why have you come?” The voice was so vast, so powerful, that it brought her down to her knees. The voice of a god, inside her head, no ears had heard that question.

Afraid for the first time that she could remember, she opened her eyes slowly, looking up into forever.

His skin was a moonless night, all stars and comets, suns and planets; moving over him, through him. His head was larger than she was in height, his eyes were unfathomable to her; they seemed to show her every outcome to every action she had ever taken. His body was that of a lion, but with a human head.

“I ask you child, why are you here? This is not your time, you are mortal yet,” he said again to her without moving his mouth.

She stood again, taking a moment to survey her surroundings. Her feet were resting firmly upon sand, but she could clearly see that the sands were falling away into the darkness that surrounded them both; her and this god. There was an illumination on them as well, but she could see no source of light. No candles, no torch, no lamps in her eyesight aglow. There was a soft darkness surrounding them, she could see all of the being before her, but beyond him there seemed to be movement in the black, like shadows of shadows.

“The sand is not there. Do you understand that child?” again his mouth had not moved.

She shook her head no.

“Why have you come here Atalanta? I did not bring you, you came of your own accord. What is it you seek?”

She closed her eyes, trying to gain some strength from her own heart, felt the dryness in her mouth and wished her waterskin was snug against her back.

“Water? Is that what you seek child? I thought you might have real questions for me. For yourself.” This time his voice echoed off of something real, something substantial.

Atalanta opened her eyes again. She stood upon alabaster marble. They were inside a temple somewhere, it looked like home, it even smelled like Greece. Beside Atalanta stood a waist high pillar with a clay pitcher and a small brass cup.

“Thank you. I am thirsty,” she said to the god.

“I did nothing child,” he said, again moving his mouth for her.

She stepped back, turned to take it all in again and saw that they were at the end of a very long row of pillars. The floor, walls and pillars were all made of the same alabaster marble. There were lamps hung from the ceiling and the flames danced with the light breeze that moved past her skin. She felt exposed suddenly, remembering her nudeness and wished for her bronze chest armor, or at least a leather shirt that could cover her.

“Do you not yet understand?” he asked, drawing her attention and eyes back to face him.

At his feet there lay a bronze chest piece, a soft leather undershirt, her longbow and quill.

“Who are you?” she asked of him. “Are you Ares?”

“Sometimes, yes.”

“Are you Zeus then, or maybe his father the Titan, come back to end us all?” she kept her eyes upon his while she bent low to pull back the shirt, armor and weapon.

“Yes, I am your Zeus, when need be.”

“Maybe you are the god of the eastern men, come to deceive me then? Did a Persian pray to you?”

“Yes, many Persians have knelt in prayer to me.”

Atalanta poured water into the brass cup and lifted it to her lips. The water was cool and clean, it tasted like spring water, drawn from the ground at great depth or maybe a fresh spring creek. She walked back away from this god, this god who sat there looking at her as if she was a newborn.

Once the armor and bow was hung on her body she turned to look at him again.

“Have I prayed too? Have I called out to you by another name?”

“Yes,” he seemed to smile down at her, happy in her little triumph.

He shimmered and was no more; now standing in front of Atalanta was a woman of raven hair and white dress, much like her own. She walked to the pitcher and poured wine from the clay container into the brass cup.

“You called to me before, and I answered you, but you did not always like the answers you were given.”

“Artemis?” Atalanta began to fall to her knees.

The god reached out a hand and stayed her from falling lower.

“Stand Atalanta, look me in my eyes and decide what you seek. You came to me, I had no hand in this.”

***

This story continues in Part two.

 

The Saffron Revolution Will Be Televised

There is much pain and suffering in the world on a daily and ongoing basis. I try not to dwell on the suffering, but there are things that we cannot ignore, cannot turn away from, but instead we must do something to right the situation. It is my hope that by presenting this information we can do something and hopefully bring some happiness to the world.

On August 19, 2007 Burmese Buddhist monks began a series of peaceful protests against the government in Burma, now called Myanmar by the military junta in control of the nation. On September 26 the military took violent action against the protesters. The back story to this situation is terrible. For over four decades the military government has been systematically attacking, killing a looting villages in the eastern providences of Burma. At this point the military is shooting civilians on site according to many international reports.

I recently received two emails in my inbox that both contained a wonderful amount of information. Links to articles, online petitions and blog posts; all germane to the military crackdown on the Buddhist monks in Burma.

The first email came to me from Kris Ladusau. Kris is a Dharma Teacher at the Rissho Kosei Kai Dharma Center of Oklahoma.

Subject: Proposal for Burma Strategy Just some ideas for a Burma strategy. Cut and paste to your heart’s content. Demands could include:

1) Support UN, ASEAN and high level diplomatic efforts by immediately calling for the release of Aung San Suu Kyi and other political prisoners, as well as an urgent end to attacks against ethnic minority civilians, monks, and democracy protestors.
2) Compel the Burmese military regime towards an inclusive and representative national reconciliation process under the guidance of the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar Ibrahim Gambari.
3) Support UN Security Council resolutions on Burma.

On-line petitions:

Private letters and faxes (let’s start an avalanche):

The China Angle:Burma has been isolated economically by international sanctions, so the only country with real sway there is China, and China has its own concerns about pro-democracy movements, so the only way to sway China is to mention the up-coming Olympics of which the theme is “One World, One Dream.” Don’t omit to refer to them as “Your excellencies . . .”

Hon. Mr. Hu Jintao, President
Hon. Mr. Wen Jiabao, Prime Minister
Hon. Mr. Tan Jiaxuan, State Counselor
Hon. Mr. Yang Jiechi, Foreign Minister
Hon. Mr. Wang Guangya, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations,
Government of the People’s Republic of China
c/o Mission of China to UN
350 East 35th Street, New York, NY 10016
Tel: 212-655-6100, Fax: 212-634-7626
E-mail: chinamission_un@fmprc.gov.cn

Hon. Mr. Zhou Wenzhong, Ambassador to the U.S. of the People’s Republic of China
Hon. Mr. Jiang Yu, Foreign Ministry Spokesperson
c/o Chinese Embassy to the United States
2133 Wisconsin Ave NW
Washington, DC 20007
(202) 625-2030

The Myanmar Angle: There is doubt we’ll sway the leaders of Myanmar, but it might be of concern to them that we know their names. Be sure to refer to Burma as Myanmar and Rangoon as Yangon. It’s a pet peeve of theirs.

Hon. Mr. U Linn Myaing, Union of Myanmar Ambassador to the United States
c/o Embassy of the Union of Myanmar
2300 S Street NW, Washington D.C. – 20008
Tel: 202-332-3344, 202-332-4350, 202-332-4352
FAX : 202-332-4351
Email: info@mewashingtondc.com
E-mail: thuriya@aol.com

Chairman, Senior-General Than Shwe, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Vice-Chairman, Vice Senior
General Maung Aye, Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services, Commander-in-Chief (Army)
General Thura Shwe Mann, Joint Chief of Staff of the Army, Navy and Air Force General Soe Win, Prime Minister of the Union of Myanmar
Lieutenant-General Thein Sein, First Secretary of SPDC, Adjutant General
Lieutenant-General Thiha Thura Tin Aung Myint Oo, Quartermaster General
Lieutenant-General Kyaw Win, Chief of Bureau of Special Operation-2 (Shan, Kayah)
Lieutenant-General Tin Aye, Chief of Military Ordance
Lieutenant-General Ye Myint, Chief of Bureau of Special Operation – 1 (Kachin, Chin, Sagaing, Magawe, Mandalay)
Lieutenant-General Aung Htwe, Chief of Armed Forces Training
Lieutenant-General Khin Maung Than, Chief of Bureau of Special Operation – 3 (Pegu, Yangon, Irrawaddy, Arakan)
Lieutenant-General Maung Bo, Chief of Bureau of Special Operation – 4 (Karen, Mon, Tenasserim)
Maj-Gen Myint Swe, Commander of the Yangon Command, Peace and Development Council
Brig-Gen Thura Myint Maung, Minister for Religious Affairs
Brig-Gen. Thura Aung Ko, Deputy Minister for Religious Affairs
Government of The Union of Myanmar, and
Hon. Mr. Kyaw Tint Swe, Ambassador/ Permanent Representative of the Union of
Myanmar to the United Nations
c/o Permanent Mission of the Union of Myanmar to the United Nations
10 EAST 77TH St. N. Y 10021, New York .
Tel: 00-212-535-1310, 535-1311
Fax: 00-21-737-2421
E-mail: myanmar@un.int

The Buddhist Angle: Officially called the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee (SSMNC) , these are a group of aging monks who have supported the junta by enforcing Order No. 15, since 2001 banning monks who have ever been arrested from donning robes again once they are released. This is to intimidate monks who make up 3% of the population from taking part in the democracy movement. They administer the infamous “Monk Identity Card” system which identifies “good establishment monks” from “pro-democracy monks.” Many monks have boycotted the identity card system even though they miss out on government subsidies that way. The State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee is opposed by the Young Monks Association, which has continued to support the 1990 “patam nikkujjana kamma” agreement, in protest of the mass killings of 1988, by which they refuse to accept dana from government officials thus isolating them from absolution of their karma. This statement comes from section 262 of the Vinaya. How the State Sangha Maha Nayaka Committee can give lip service to the three-fold Saddhamma of scriptural study (pariyatti), Buddhist practice (patipatti), and realization of the Dhamma (patipvedha), and continue to support the murder of their fellow monastics is beyond me. They stay safe and well fed in their universities, claiming the most supreme of these sasanas is pariyatti. Anyone who can answer that from the Vinaya is welcome. There may be some point to American Buddhists influencing these senior monks to finally support the rest of the monks.

These are the establishment monks (apparently the longer the karma, the longer the name):

1. Agga Maha Saddhama Jotika Dhaja Sayadaw Bhaddanta Panna Dipa, Dean of the
Faculty of Patipatti at the International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University (ITBMU).
2. Sayadaw Abhidhaja Maha Rattha Guru Abhidhaja Agga Maha Saddhammajotika Bhaddanta Paññinda Bhivamsa, Vice-Chairman of the SSMNC and head of Aungmyebonsan Monastery
3. Magway Sayadaw Abhidhaja Maha Rattha Guru Abhidhaja Agga Maha Saddhammajotika Bhaddanta Kumara, General Secretary of SSMNC and Secretary Vice-Chancellor of the State Pariyatti Sasana Universities
4. Nyaungdon Sayadaw Abhidhaja Maha Rattha Guru Bhaddanta Osadha Bhivamsa, Vice president of SSMNC and Joint Secretary and Sayadaw Chairman of the State Pariyatti Sasana Universities Administration Board
5. Bhaddanta Thuriya Bhivamsa, Vice President of SSMNC
6. Bhaddanta Sandima, Secretary of SSMNC
7. Bhaddanta Agghiya, President of Shwekyin Nikaya SSMNC
8. Bhaddanta Sumangala Lankara, Tipitakadhara Tipitaka Kovida Dhammabhandagarika, Ph.D
9. Dr Ashin Sila Nanda Bhivamsa, Rector Sayadaw, ITBMU
10. Dr Canda Vara Bhivamsa of the ITBMU, Buddhist Education Department
11. Dr Punnobhasa of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy of Myanmar

They most likely can be reached at the:
International Theravada Buddhist Missionary University
Dhammapala Hill,
Mayangone P.O. Yangon,
UNION OF MYANMAR.
Fax: 095-1-650700
Phone: 095-1-650702

Except for:
Thegon Sayadaw Agga Maha Pandita Agga Maha Saddhamma Jotikadhaja Maha Dhamma Kathika Bahujanahitadhara Dr Ashin Yanissara, Chancellor of Sitagu International Buddhist Academy Ovadacariya of the ITBMU and Honorary Professor, who can be reached at:
Sitagu Vihara
Sagaing Hills
Sagaing City
UNION OF MYANMAR
Phone – 095-072-21270
or c/o Sitagu Ayudna Hospital
Phone – 095-072-21310
Fax – 095-072-21587

These are the pro-democracy monks. I don’t know where they can be reached at the present moment:

U Pandavamsa, Secretary General the Young Monks Union
U Tilawkar Biwuntha, head of Insein Ywama monastery
U Thumingalar Linkara, head of Mahar Ghandaryone monastery
U Nyarna Wuntha, head of Maydini monastery
U Panditha Biwuntha, head of Maharbawdi monastery
U Tanza Wunda, head of Ma Soe Yein Nu monastery
Ashin Aingitha, head of Parli Karyi monastery
U Wantha Wanpandi, head of Maggin monastery
U Waryamandar Biwuntha, head of Shwe Phone Pwint monastery
U Byanma Thini, senior monk of Shwe Phone Pwint monastery
U Kaw Thanla, senior monk of Shwe Phone Pwint monastery

The Economic Angle:

U.S. companies doing business in Burma these days:

DHL
223, Sule Pagoda Road
7 (A ), Kaba Aye Pagoda Rd., Mayangon Tsp.
Tel 251752, 664434, 664423, Fax 664430

United Parcel Service
337 Boaungkyaw Street, Kyauktada Tsp
Tel: 245481 Fax 242734

Donations:

The previous massacre in 1988 was blacked out of the news, but this time private video and cell phones are making a difference. For video equipment for Burma, make out checks to “Stone Circles” and put “Burma Equipment” in the “for” line and mail to The Stone House, Attn: Burma Equipment, 6602 Nick’s Rd., Mebane, N.C., 27302.

Please add to this list if you can. The more we write and fax, I believe maybe this time, we can break through.

May benefit arise from this.

“The more one unites with that which is, the more one becomes absolute
compassion.”

This email came to me from a friend involved with the Karma Thegsum Choling in Dallas, Texas.

Burma – a collection of posts and petitions.Perspective – NY Times
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/world/AP-Myanmar-What-Next.html
Excerpt: Yet the monks are deeply revered in this mostly Buddhist nation, and imprisoning them upsets the faithful, no matter what their occupation or political bent.
”The crackdown by the military against the monks may be a major element in the destruction of the very military unity they seek. Many may be profoundly disturbed by the actions of their colleagues,” says David Steinberg of Georgetown University, an author of several books on Myanmar.Exploiting the Dalai Lama to Spread Malware By John P. Mello Jr. TechNewsWorld 10/03/07 4:00 AM PT

http://www.technewsworld.com/story/59617.html
Hackers have taken advantage of the worldwide attention centered on the violent protests in Myanmar to further the spread of malware, according to security firm Sophos. A new scam sends its victims e-mail with an attached Microsoft Word document purportedly written by the Dalai Lama supporting the pro-democracy demonstrations in the country. The file, once viewed, opens the PC to malware.Petition sent in by Catharine Heller
Avaaz.org and MoveOn.org have launched a petition demanding Burmese
generals negotiate rather than crush the demonstrators. They’re focused on getting United Nations Security Council members–particularly China’s Hu Jintao–to intervene.
http://pol.moveon.org/burma/?r_by=&rc=mailto

Petition sent in from Jan Puckett
An appeal to the UN Security Council to Protect the People of Burma (UK Daily Mail)
http://new.petitiononline.com/9848/petition-sign.html

Petition sent in from Jo Wharton
http://www.avaaz.org/en/stand_with_burma/t.php

Shambhala News Service: Letter to the U.N. regarding Burma From Columbus E-list
Excerpt:
“The Sakyong would like members of the Shambhala community know that in his view it would be appropriate for prayers and practices to be offered in a spirit of encouraging a peaceful resolution to the crisis in Burma (Myanmar). It would also be appropriate for individuals to join in vigils, meditations, petitions or other non-violent manifestations aimed at generating international protection for the sangha in Burma (Myanmar).”
Letter from Pema Chodron:
Dear Ones:
I feel that this is of such importance that I want you all to be informed and to hold aspirations for a peaceful outcome to result. With much love, Ani Pema Chödrön
From Isabel Umana / Excerpt Letter from Lama Shenphen Hookam:
“It is important that we as Buddhists do not think that ignoring what is going on is somehow an expression of our commitment to peace. If an active response is called for, then we as Buddhists need to be ready to respond with courage and determination. Non-effort doesn’t mean inaction and passivity, apathy or indifference. It means responding from our hearts without ego-involvement.” By Lama Shenpen Hookham


Both emails are worthy of merit. Both were compiled by compassionate individuals for our benefit and the benefit of countless other sentient beings. I myself have signed a few of the online petitions and I plan to make updates to this blog as new developments occur. I am one person, but by adding these thoughts to my practices and to my offerings, my voice can be added to the countless others seeking the peaceful resolution to this conflict.

Please, if you have comments or ideas, post them below and I will get them to people more appropriate than me.

In Dharma,

Matt