Monday, August 23, 2010

More on the Great Matter...

Last night (Sunday) was sanzen, or "private interview with the teacher" night at my zendo.  This is a very important part of my practice.  I'd go so far as to say that it's the core of my zen practice currently.  I took the food/meat issue to my teacher.  In sanzen, I told him that I'd made this decision, and that it was helping me with the weight (something he'd already encouraged me to deal with).  I told him of how conflicted I felt.  Guilt.  Hypocrisy.  My teacher has been a vegetarian (not vegan; do not attempt to mess with sensei's cheese!) for decades.

Now understand something: I was not there for any kind of approval or permission.  I was there to ask him if he had any advice or tools to help me deal with this feeling of internal conflict.  He immediately started to relay the story of His Holiness--The Dalai Lama and his cows and chickens.  HH wanted to help as many animals as he could.  He had a farm within sight of where he lived, and wanted to ease suffering, so he bought all the cows and chickens in order to keep them from being eaten.  He very quickly realized that he had--through good motivation--made the situation much worse because now he had hundreds of animals to see tended to, and no one to do it.  If I remember rightly, many of the animals suffered and died due to unskilled care, and went to waste because of it, and some beings went hungry because of his "kind" act.

My sensei looked at me and said essentially this: The key is to take suffering and turn it into something positive.  No energy in the Universe is ever wasted.  It all moves forward.  That suffering--farmed animals--is undeniable.  But if you are skillful with that energy, you can transform that energy into something positive by way of your own health.  That way, you relieve suffering (your own), and you affect the karma of those animals in a positive way, too, because while their lives may have been forced into existence, their deaths would not have been completely in vain.  That is a noble practice.

That's still hard to swallow (pardon the expression) but I do see the point, and the validity of it.

So now I'm going to walk down to the store and get some hardwood charcoal, some more bacon and a roasting chicken to do Vietnamese-style on the smoker grill.  Looks like a dharma friend may be by for dinner tonight.  He's a line-cook at a local restaurant.  I checked if he was a vegetarian, and he said "No not strict.  Mainly due to work.  Gotta taste what I cook."

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