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Date: Sun, 24 Jun 2001 21:59:12 +0800

Hi Piya,

Attended your talk this morning and really enjoyed it. Appreciate it if you could keep me posted on your future talks.

I have a number of doubts and wonder if you could cast some light to it.


This morning I ask for your view on vegetarianism. I have been thinking about it a couple of nights ago. The 1st precept states that we should abstain from killing. Although we don't directly kill, by demanding for fish, pork etc we are actually instigating others to kill. How are we able to practise the 1st precept if we continue to eat meat?

You mentioned this morning that the high cost of vegetable or due to the scarcity of vegetable in places like Tibet it may not be practical to go on a vegetarian diet. How do this people then practise the 1st precept? When we go on a complete vegetarian diet are we really abstaining from killing? Plants grow and I presume there is life in them. For a human who is completely paralysed and is not able to response, can we say that he feels no pain when we put a needle into him? Will he not die if stabbed? Just because we do not understand the nature of plants we assume that it's ok to eat them.

Vegetables bought from the market comes with their roots i.e. the entire plant is uprooted, is that considered killing? It seems interesting though that plants are created in such a way that they rejuvenate i.e. when we prune them they tend to grow new braches and leaves and in fact look better. I believe here is a reason for every creation. Does it mean that we should only eat their fruits and parts that we have pruned off?

Pertaining to one of the questions asked this morning about locust in China. It was on the news last night that the Chinese are releasing ducklings to areas infested by locust as the ducklings love eating locust. If that's the case what happened to all the wild ducks and birds (they should be there when there's food)? What happened to the balance of ecology? The Chinese have a tradition of making medicine as well as delicacy out of all creatures.....sounds like a cause and effect matter here?

ANSWER by Piyasilo

Precepts are "training rules" (sikkha) by way of Right Effort:
(1) avoiding unwholesome deeds not yet done;
(2) reducing unwholesome deeds one is committing;
(3) cultivating new wholesome action;
(4) promoting wholesome actions one is doing.

The Precept against killing is broken when these four conditions are fulfilled:
(1) it is a living being.
(2) you are aware that it is a living being.
(3) you make the effort to kill.
(4) the being dies as a result.

A “being” is defined as a mind-matter form that consciously breathes. Plants do not have mind. It certainly has no will. It is a combination of chemical reactions.

The suffering of the world is immense, even unimaginable. If one does not have the Buddha mind and compassion it is difficult, even impossible to take it all in. It will only cause helpless sadness to one.

The important thing is to understand that suffering is everywhere no matter what we do. But the little that we can do to alleviate suffering nearest us goes a long way than worrying about sufferings far away which we can do little or nothing about.

For this reason that the suffering of the world is so vast there are those who strive for Buddhahood.



In one of the chapters in the middle length discourses, I read that the Buddha was very reluctant in ordaining women. He consistently rejected them. Ananda subsequently managed to request the Buddha to accept them. The Buddha said that by accepting women into Buddhism would mean shortening the Dhamma period by 500 years as it's like going into battle with the inconvenience of having women around. Why is that so? Aren't women also human and entitled to enlightenment?

ANSWER by Piyasilo:

The position of women, especially as viewed by the Theravada, is problematic especially for unenlightened people like us. One thing is certain, when men and women are in the same place for long enough, a lot of problems will arise. From the history of Buddhism, we can surmise that the initial aim of the Sangha seemed to be that of admitting only men. Or at least, giving the men an alternative lifestyle, a spiritual one, that is, away from family life and the cares of the world. The singular aim of joining the Sangha is to totally dedicate oneself to the attainment of enlightenment.

The Buddha could have remained adamant in his refusal to admit women, but showed his compassion when nanda interceded. Based on a close reading of the early (Pali) texts, it is my understanding that the core tradition of the Buddha’s teaching has ended as predicted by the Buddha. (Any other interpretation is likely to go against the Sutra tradition.)

It is definitely more difficult to practise Buddhism the way they did in the past. For example, to find truly practising Sangha members today are an exception rather than the rule. In fact, the Sangha today has radically changed in character from the early Sangha. Sangha members today, as a rule, for example, own property and live better lives than most lay people. This is of course due to the faith of the laity.

But this does not mean that we are totally cut off from the Buddha’s Teachings. As long as the Eightfold Path if known, the Buddha’s Teaching exists and we can benefit from it. In fact, we generally find many lay people who are serious in their Dharma practice. Of a serious lay Dharma practitioner, the Buddha declares:

Even though well-dressed, if he should live in peace,
At peace, controlled, restrained, living the holy life,
Not harming any being --
He is indeed a priest, an ascetic, a monk.
(Dhammapada 142)

Women, as we know from texts such as the Samyutta Nikaya and Therigatha, are just as capable of Enlightenment as men. Even without being ordained as nuns, they can become enlightened. (In fact, the early monks, especially during the first 10 years of the Buddha’s Dispensation, got levels of enlightenment first. Only then they were ordained.)


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