Monday, August 11, 2008

Food for Thoughts

Susan arranged for a nice family dinner yesterday. The restaurant is call Xian Tien and it's run by her spiritual movement society Bai Tian Gong. I recalled one of the better known dish there is fried frog legs. Now I know some of you are squirmy about eating 4-legged amphibians but let me tell you that frogs are quite a delicacy in Asian and Chinese cuisine.

It struck upon me that the frogs in that restaurant are normally kept alive before being cooked. Now I'm in a dilemma, I would not like to eat meat knowing it's specifically killed for me. This is in line with the Buddha's teachings. But I wouldn't want to disappoint Susan and her family who love this dish. So I tried not to eat any, actually I don't enjoy frog meat anyway.

This whole episode lead me to learn more about the Buddha's teachings on eating meat:

"Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you." - Jivaka Sutta, MN 55.

My understanding is this is more than a dietary rule. It covers consideration for other living beings and to discourage killing a living being to specifically feed another. Another way to practice compassion and selflessness while cultivating right thought and right action.

As I read more for this entry, I discovered that there are 10 types of meat (humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears and hyenas) which are prohibited by Buddhism. I'm glad I'm more wary of the Buddha's teachings from this episode. More details here.

As for eating beef, my understanding is that this is not a prohibited meat according to the Buddha's teachings. It's more a Hindu and Chinese belief (esp. those who pay homage to Guan Yin) that one should not eat beef. I do however, agreed with the saying that one should be grateful to those who have provided for us. So it's certainly not grateful to eat the cows and bulls who plow our paddy fields and work so hard for us. Although we use mostly rice tractors today, it's the thought that counts.