Monday, April 6, 2009

Spirituality - Will The Real Buddhist Diet Stand Up?

I've came across many people who shun beef or some food (e.g lotus seed) in the name of Buddhism, for fear of incurring the wrath of Buddha.  As a practising Buddhist, I feel I should help clear the air on such taboo.

There has not been a scripture from Gautama Buddha that singles out the need to abstain from any food.  In fact, his very words to his disciples then was to accept any food alm others were to give, and that included meat. 

His very purpose is to make sure that the disciples will not fall into the trap of "holding on", hence go back on the very teaching to "be in the flow of Life".  Or in Mandarin - 随缘. 

The legend on beef went very far back to the times where labour was scarce and the bull/cow were the only strength man can employ for the fields without monetary compensation.  So to honor this great beast, some decided not to eat their flesh and this story spreads and morphed into a story of religious color.

On this plane, no Buddhist text explicitly mention that Buddhists should be vegetarian.  It does mention on "not taking lives", however, this only highlighted the point that human should not take lives at will.  No war should be waged by fancy, and no animal should be killed because of gluttony. 

Because the average intelligence of the human race then were largely unevolved and formal education were exclusive to the rich and noble births, the only next convenient education tool were the religion scriptures.  No other text had so much words back then. 

So educating the poor masses on conducting oneself morally and ethically was by the way of the religious texts, that there lies the Heavenly Punishments if one is to be wrong.  Human race in those times were constantly swinging between war and short intervals of peace.  Many religious texts were then served as a hindrance from more unnecessary wars from the Emperors to the civilians, though we now know how weak the texts were.

With our current intelligence level, we need to reinterpret the religious teachings carefully to truly understand the original context, not following blindly. 

Every commercial agriculture on Earth is there for a reason, it's because of their nutritional and/or medicinal value that the human race continue the cultivation.  While it's true that nothing is indispensable on this Earth, I would think it's reprehensible if one is to forgo a convenient source for a more expensive or extraordinary one.  I've seen many vegetarians in very poor health because their body lack the vital nutrition only animal protein can provide.  I'm not encouraging carnivorism, and neither am I up for the opposite field.  What matters most is the optimal health condition of an individual to live normally.

Without human, no religion can be practised.  Similarly, if it's not due to any medical condition, no one should abstain from getting a good bit of nutrition from any food.  Wild game are excluded in this context as our gut cannot break down the unusual protein and bacteria contracted from the wild, hence more likely to give us health problems eventually.  Our current gut system and DNA are conditioned to recognise, break down and absorb commercial cultivated produce.

Religion is here to shine the light on how we should love ourselves, our family, the society and the Mother Earth.  And not confining our intelligence within a line to be blind from the bigger picture.  And the bigger good.