ASCETIC PRACTICES.Skt/Dutanga. "Twelve ascetic practices are known: (1) wearing patched robes, (2) wearing a robe made of three pieces (trichivara), (3) eating only begged food, (4) eating only one meal a day, (5) refraining from all further food, (6) taking only one portion, (7) living in a secluded, solitary place, (8) living on a charnel ground, (9) living under a tree, (10) living in the open, (11) living in whatever place presents itself, (12) sitting only, never lying down." (Sham: 56) "The twelve ascetic practices all involve clothing, food and lodging ... The point of these practices is to refrain from enjoying any of these three in excess." (Master Hui Seng)
BODHI MIND. Skt/Bodhicitta. The spirit of Enlightenment, the aspiration to achieve it, the Mind set on Enlightenment. It involves two parallel aspects; i) the determination to achieve Buddhahood and ii) the aspiration to rescue all beings. The goal of all Mahayana practice is to achieve Enlightenment and transcend the cycle of Birth and Death -- that is, to attain Buddhahood. In the Mahayana tradition, the precondition for Buddhahood is the Bodhi Mind (bodhicitta), the aspiration to achieve full and complete Enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings, oneself included."The Avatamsaka Sutra states: 'To neglect the Bodhi Mind when practicing good deeds is the action of demons.' This teaching is very true indeed. For example, if someone begins walking without knowing the destination or goal of his journey, isn't his trip bound to be circuitous, tiring and useless? It is the same for the cultivator. If he expends a great deal of effort but forgets the goal of attaining Buddhahood to benefit himself and others, all his efforts will merely bring merits in the human and celestial realms. In the end he will still be deluded and revolve in the cycle of Birth and Death, undergoing immense suffering. If this is not the action of demons, what, then, is it? For this reason, developing the supreme Bodhi Mind to benefit oneself and others should be recognized as a crucial step in all Mahayana schools" (BWF: 31).
BODHISATTVA. Those who aspire to Supreme Enlightenment and Buddhahood for themselves and all beings. The word Bodhisattva can therefore stand for realized beings such as Avalokitesvara or Samanthabhadra but also for anyone who has developed the Bodhi Mind -- the aspiration to save oneself and others.
BUDDHA NATURE (SELF-NATURE). "According to the Mahayana view, [Buddha-nature] is the true, immutable, and eternal nature of all beings. Since all beings possess Buddha-nature, it is possible for them to attain enlightenment and become a Buddha, regardless of what level of existence they occupy..." (Sham:31)
DHARMA OF STUDY AND NON-STUDY. See: Study and Non-Study
EIGHT ADVERSITIES. "These are special types of adversity that prevent the practice of the Dharma; they are rebirth in hell, rebirth in the brute-world, rebirth in the ghost-world, rebirth among the long-lived gods, rebirth in an uncivilized country, rebirth with deficient faculties, adherence to false views, and life in a realm wherein there is no Tathagata" (Thurman: 153).
EIGHT DIVISIONS (OF DIVINITIES). "The eight kinds of gods and demi-gods believed to be protectors of Buddhism: devas, dragons, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, and mahoragas" (Inagaki: 397).
EMPTINESS. Chin/ Kung; Jpn/ Ku; Vn/ Khong. "A fundamental Buddhist concept, variously translated as non-substantiality, emptiness, void, latency, relativity, etc. The concept that entities have no fixed or independent nature. This idea is closely linked to that of dependent origination (Skt./ pratitya-samutpada), which states that because phenomena arise and continue to exist only by virtue of their relationship with other phenomena, they have no fixed substance and have as their true nature emptiness. The concept thus teaches that nothing exists independently. Its practical implications lie in the rejection of attachments to transient phenomena and to the egocentricity of one who envisions himself as being absolute and independent of all other existences. It is an especially important concept in Mahayana Buddhism. On the basis of sutras known as the Wisdom sutras, the concept of emptiness was systematized by Nagarjuna, who explains it as the Middle Way, which here means neither existence nor non-existence."
EXPEDIENT MEANS. a) "Temporary or provisional teachings as a means to lead sentient beings to the final doctrine. b) The seventh of the ten Paramitas" (Dait: 118). Refers to strategies, methods, devices targeted to the capacities, circumstances, likes and dislikes of each sentient being, so as to rescue him and lead him to Enlightenment. "All particular formulations of the Teaching are just provisional expedients to communicate the Truth (Dharma) in specific contexts" (J.C. Cleary). "The Buddha's words were medicines for a given sickness at a given time," always infinitely adaptable to the conditions of the audience.
EXTERNALIST. Lit. "non-Buddhists." This term is generally used by Buddhists with reference to followers of other religions. An externalist is someone who does not believe in or follow Buddhist teaching.
FIELD OF BLESSINGS. "A figurative term for someone who is worthy of offerings. Just as a field can yield crops, so people will obtain blessed karmic results if they make offerings to one who deserves them. There are many kinds of 'fields of blessings': monks, enlightened beings [such as the Buddhas], parents, the poor, etc..." (Chan: 475).
FIFTY-TWO (OR 53) LEVELS OF BODHISATTVA PRACTICE. "Progressive levels through which a practitioner is said to advance, from the time of his first resolve until he finally attains Buddhahood. They are enumerated inter alia in theAvatamsaka Sutra and consist of ten levels of Faith (Ten Faiths), ten levels of Dwellings (Abodes), ten levels of Practices (Conducts), ten levels of Dedication (transferences), ten Stages or Grounds (Bhumi), a level of 'Equal-Enlightenment', 'Wonderful Enlightenment', and 'Supreme Enlightenment (Buddhahood)'" (Sokk: 93).
FOUR RELIANCES. "To attain higher realizations and final Enlightenment, the Bodhisattva should rely on (1) the meaning (of the teaching) and not on the expression; on (2) the teaching and not on the person (who teaches it); on (3) gnosis (intuitive) wisdom and not on normal consciousness and on (4) discourses of definitive meaning and not on discourses of interpretable meaning" (Thur: 150).
KUMARAJIVA. "(344-413). Famous Indian translator of Indian Buddhist works into Chinese. During his thirteen-year stay in China, hundreds [some sources say thousands] of scholars worked under his direction to produce translations of some 35 [some sources say 50] works, including the Amitabha Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, the Maha Prajnaparamita Sutra and the Diamond Sutra. His outstanding genius as a linguist and scholar was largely responsible for the introduction of Buddhism into China" (Hump: 112). "He is the most distinguished translator before Hsuan-tsang, and is especially famous for the translation of the Lotus Sutra and theShorter Amitabha Sutra" (Dait: 207-208).
LOTUS TREASURY WORLD. "The universe as purified by the vows and deeds of Vairocana Buddha, the cosmic aspect of Buddha Sakyamuni. By extension, the Lotus Treasury World represents our True Mind, or Buddha Nature, which encompasses the whole world, yet, like the lotus flower, is untouched by mud or defilements ... The world in the Brahma Net Sutra is the thousand-petaled lotus. Each of the thousand petals is a world in itself, consisting of ten billion smaller worlds, each with a sun, a moon, a Mt. Sumeru and four continents. Vairochana Buddha sits in the center of the Lotus. On each of the thousand petals dwells a Shakyamuni Buddha, ... a transformation of Vairochana Buddha" (Sokk: 247-248).
MIND-GROUND. Another term for the mind. The mind is compared to the ground, which has two characteristics: all beings, animate or inanimate, are sustained by it; it does not discriminate-- accepting and absorbing everything equally -- pure and dirty water alike. Likewise, all precepts and virtues are sustained by the mind; the mind of the Bodhisattva does not discriminatebetween auspicious or untoward events, praise or ridicule.
[The mind] is the source from which all dharmas spring, and also the place to which all dharmas return. It is therefore called the Dharma Realm [or Mind-Ground]" (Master Hui Seng).
MONASTIC VEHICLE. See: Two Vehicles
PARAJIKA. The most serious type of offense in Buddhism. "An offense that merits casting out -- being cast out of the sea of the Buddhadharma ... The second meaning of Parajika [is] 'an offense that brings about a fall'. That is, if one commits a Parajika Offense, one falls into the Three Evil Destinies" (Master Hui Seng). A monk or nun who has committed a Parajika offense is subject to expulsion from the Order.
PRATIMOKSA. Skt, for "precepts". "It translates as 'growing and increasing', and 'purifying and eradicating'. Pratimoksa further has two meanings. The first is 'guaranteed liberation', the second is 'special liberation'. Guaranteed liberation means if one holds these Bodhisattva precepts, it's guaranteed that one can go from the level of an ordinary person to the level of a Sage. Special liberation means that for every precept you hold, you obtain that particular liberation" (Master Hui Seng).
PRATYEKA-BUDDHAS. "These Buddhas become fully enlightened ... by meditating on the principle of causality. Unlike the Perfect Buddhas, however, they do not exert themselves to teach others (A. Buzo and T. Prince).'"
Note: The vehicles of the Sravakas and Pratyeka-Buddhas are known as the Two Vehicles (known today as Theravada, Southern Vehicle or Monastic Buddhism).
PRECEPTS. "Vows of moral conduct taken by lay and ordained Buddhists. There are five vows for lay Buddhists, 250 for fully ordained monks and 58 for Bodhisattvas, lay or ordained" (Garma C. Chang). "Precepts are for guarding against transgressions and stopping evil. Transgressions stem from the three karmas of body, speech and mind" (Master Hui Seng). "The precepts are divided into four aspects: 1) exceptions; 2) restraint; 3) maintenance; 4) violations. Sometimes 'exceptions' are made, so that you are not considered to have violated the precept even if you have acted against it. 'Restraints' refer to prohibitions. They are honored because to violate them would contribute to further violations, as in refraining from taking intoxicants one avoids breaking other precepts as well. 'Maintenance' means upholding the precepts and cultivating in accord with them. 'Violation' refers to breaking a precept" (Master Hui Seng).
PRIMARY MEANING. Definitive meaning, ultimate truth, True Mark, True Emptiness. "This refers to those teachings of the Buddha that are in terms of ultimate reality; it is opposed to those teachings given in terms of relative reality, termed 'interpretable meaning', because they require further interpretation before being relied on to indicate the ultimate. Hence [the term] relates to voidness, etc., and no statement concerning the relative world, even by the Buddha, can be taken as definitive " (Thurman: 159).
PURE LAND BUDDHISM. "[Pure Land comprises the schools] of East Asia which emphasize aspects of Mahayana Buddhism stressing faith in Amida, meditation on and recitation of his name, and the religious goal of being reborn in his 'Pure Land,' or 'Western Paradise.'" (K. Crim, Perennial Dictionary of World Religions.) "The goal of those devoted to Amitabha and the Pure Land is to be reborn there, and attain enlightenment (Buddhahood)" (Larousse: 419). "Pure Land Buddhism chiefly consists in hearing and reciting Amitabha Buddha's name with a faithful mind, but it does not exclude meditation (dhyana) and insight (vipasyana) through which one can visualise the Buddha. Obviously, meditation and insight are mainly practiced by monks, particularly by gifted persons, while hearing and reciting the name with faith are easily practiced even by laymen. Exposition of the higher practices of Amitabha worship first appeared in the Pratyutpanna SamadhiSutra. Later, Vasubandhu propounded the contemplation of Amitabha by samatha (concentration) practices. This, however, does not involve the concept of Amitabha as a meditation Buddha." (Encyclopedia of Buddhism, v. I: p.452). "Given its popular appeal, [Pure Land] quickly became the object of the most dominant form of Buddhist devotion in East Asia" (M. Eliade, ed.,Encyclopedia of Religions, Vol. 12)." "The Pure Land school is presently the school of Buddhism in China and Japan that has the most followers" (Shambhala Dictionary).
(I) How Pure Land works. The goal espoused by all Buddhist schools is for the practitioner to achieve Buddhahood, i.e., to become an 'Enlightened Being.' Thus, to practice Buddhism is to cultivate enlightenment, to attain Wisdom. Although there are many paths to reach this goal, they all involve severing greed, anger and delusion, thus perfecting the qualities of the Mind (paramitas). Traditionally, Buddhist sutras enumerate six or ten paramitas, but they may be subsumed under three key paramitas:Discipline, Concentration and Wisdom (the second, fifth and sixth paramitas, respectively). Pure Land , symbolized by the Buddha Recitation method, is a Mahayana approach that employs, inter alia, the techniques of meditation-visualization (of the Pure Land, Amitabha Buddha) and of oral recitation of the Buddha's name, to realize these paramitas. That is, when a practitioner is busy visualizing the Buddha or reciting the Buddha's name, he cannot commit transgressions or violate Buddhist precepts. Therefore, he has effectively fulfilled the paramita of Discipline. Likewise, reciting the Buddha's name with a completely focussed Mind is nothing less than fulfilling the paramita of Concentration. Once Concentration is achieved, the practitioner's Mind becomes empty and still, leading to the emergence of his innate wisdom -- the Wisdom of the Buddhas. Thus, a sincere Buddha Recitation practitioner, by dint of his own effort, effectively attains Buddhahood. According to Pure Land doctrine, however, most practitioners in this Degenerate Age find the "self-power," self-help approach too difficult and arduous; therefore, in their Pure Land teachings, the Buddhas and Sages compassionately emphasized the additional element of "other-power." This involves reliance on Amitabha Buddha's Vows, made countless eons ago, to welcome and escort all sentient beings to his Land of Ultimate Bliss -- an ideal training ground, an ideal environment. To benefit from these Vows, the cultivator still needs to do his part -- and the easiest practice is Buddha Recitation. "Ultimately, when the practitioner recites to the point of pure, unmixed power, the totality of Mind is Buddha, the totality of Buddha is Mind, Mind and Buddha are as one. I am afraid that this principle and practice are not understood by everyone. It has always been my desire to proclaim them and to disseminate the Original Vows of Amitabha Buddha to rescue all sentient beings" (Patriarch Yin Kuang, 19th c.).
"Some of our readers may be led to think that the sole object of Pure Land devotees is to be born in Amida's Land of Bliss and Purity ... But the fact is that the birth itself ... is not the object, but to attain enlightenment in the country of Amida where conditions are such as to ensure a ready realization of the true Buddhist life ... If we can say so, to be born in the Pure Land is the means to the end; for Buddhism in whatever form is a religion of enlightenment and emancipation." (D.T. Suzuki in The Eastern Buddhist, v. 3, no. 4).
(II) Why Pure Land? "The champions of Pure Land Buddhism have always made the case that Pure Land methods are especially valuable because they are particularly effective in meeting the needs of the greatest number of people. When we face facts, most of us have to admit that we see little realistic prospect of achieving salvation through the eons of gradual practice spoken of in the Buddhist scriptures, or the heroic efforts of the Zen masters, or the years of esoteric dedication demanded by the Esoteric Schools. Pure Land practice, on the other hand, is explicitly designed as an easy way, open to all" (J.C.Cleary).
Traditionally, in Mahayana, it is necessary to go through "fifty-two levels of Bodhisattva practice" (q.v.) to attain Buddhahood. Even in the Sudden School, it is understood that the practitioner has already cultivated in many past lifetimes and reached one of the last levels when he achieves instant Enlightenment. In Pure Land, however, the practitioner seeks rebirth in the Land of Ultimate Bliss, an ideal environment for cultivation, where these levels of attainment are compressed. Instead of a laborious "vertical" struggle, he achieves a direct "horizontal" escape from the Saha World. ("Horizontal" and "Vertical" are figures of speech, which can readily be understood through the example of a worm born inside a stalk of a bamboo. To escape, it can take the hard way and crawl "vertically" all the way to the top of the stalk. Alternatively, it can poke a hole near its current location and escape "horizontally" into the big, wide world.)
NOTE: "The principal and essential goal of Pure Land practice is to achieve rebirth in the Pure Land within one lifetime so as to reach the stage of Non-Retrogression. This is what sets Pure Land apart from other schools and gives it its name." (T.T.Tam). To insure success, however, the cultivator needs to fulfill two crucial conditions: develop the Bodhi Mind (q.v.) and practice Buddha Recitation to the level of one-pointedness of mind. Seeking auspicious signs of future rebirth is also recommended.
REPENTANCE. There are three methods of repentance, depending on the severity of the offense. 1) Face-to-face repentance. The offender confesses before a group of monks/nuns, consisting of one, three, four or twenty clerics. This method is for minor transgressions. 2) Auspicious sign repentance. The offender repents before images of Buddhas/Bodhisattvas until he witnesses an auspicious sign (lights, halos, flowers, the Buddhas rubbing his crown, etc.). This method can expiate all offenses except the Five Cardinal Sins. 3) No-birth repentance. The offender meditates on the truth of True Mark seeking the state of no-birth ("the nature of all offenses is basically emptiness"). This method covers all transgressions, including the Five Cardinal Sins.
SEVEN (PRECIOUS) JEWELS. Traditionally listed as: gold, silver, lapis lazuli, crystal, agate, red pearl and carnelian. They represent the seven powers of faith, perseverance, sense of shame, avoidance of wrongdoing, mindfulness, concentration and wisdom.
SRAVAKA(S). "Those who follow [Theravada Buddhism] and eventually become Arhats as a result of listening to the Buddhas and following their teachings" (T. Prince). "In Mahayana Buddhism [the term Sravaka] refers to a person in the Theravada school who exerts himself to attain the stage of Arhat by observing 250 precepts in the case of monks and 348 [or 375 in some texts] in the case of nuns. This is a lower stage than that of Bodhisattva" (Yoko: 289).
SRAVAKA PRECEPTS. Usually refers to the Bhiksu/Bhiksuni precepts. However, by extension, the Sravaka precepts also include the five lay precepts and the ten precepts of novice monks/nuns, as these latter are considered preparation for the Bhiksu/Bhiksuni precepts.
STUDY AND NON-STUDY. There are four stages of Enlightenment on the Theravada path: the stages of stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner and Arhat. The first three stages are stages of study because they require further study to reach Arhatship. The last stage is called "non-study" because Arhats are beyond study.
"The Sudden teaching expounds the abrupt realization of the ultimate truth without relying upon verbal explanations or progression through various stages of practice" (Sokk: 110). Note: "In his commentary on the Pure Land sutras, [Patriarch] Chu-hung classifies Pure Land as a sudden (abrupt) teaching that also shares some aspects of the final teaching of the Lotus Sutra and the perfect (round) doctrine of the Avatamsaka Sutra. It belongs to the sudden doctrine, he says, because the Pure Land devotee 'attains rebirth in the Western Paradise as soon as he relies on the Buddha's name.' Chu-hung explains that the mind of the devotee of Buddha-recitation, when this is properly done, is a mind without any disturbance and is equivalent to the mind of no-thought spoken of in the Zen school. Like Han-shan, Chu-hung interprets Pure Land teaching in the Zen spirit, but at the same time advocates the more traditional and devotional aspects of the Pure Land faith. For both men, the other-power religion that teaches salvation by faith and Amitabha's grace is wedded to the self-power religion that teaches salvation by self-realization" (Hsu: 150).
THREE EVIL REALMS (PATHS). The paths of hells, hungry ghosts, animality. These paths can be taken as states of mind; i.e., when someone has a vicious thought of maiming or killing another, he is effectively reborn, for that moment, in the hells.
THREE POISONS. "Greed, anger, delusion. Sometimes translated as avarice, anger and ignorance. The fundamental evils inherent in life which give rise to human suffering. The three poisons are regarded as the source of all illusions and earthly desires. The three poisons are so called because they pollute people's lives" (Sokk: 464).
THREE ROOT PRECEPTS. In Mahayana, three groups of precepts which form the basis of all Bodhisattva practice: (1) Do not what is evil, (2) Do what is good and (3) Be of benefit to all sentient beings. All Bodhisattva precepts and vows, or for that matter, all precepts derive ultimately from these root precepts, also called the Three Bodies of Pure Precepts. These precepts may in principle be administered to Buddhists in lieu of the full set of Bodhisattva precepts described in the Brahma Net Sutra.
TRIPLE JEWEL/THREE TREASURES. "1. The Buddha--the supremely enlightened being. 2. The Dharma--the teaching imparted by Buddha. 3. The Sangha--the congregation of monks and nuns, or of genuine Dharma followers" (Chan: 488).
TWELVE DIVISIONS OF THE DHARMA. "The 12 kinds of Buddhist scriptures distinguished according to different styles of exposition: (1) the Buddha's exposition of the Dharma in prose (sutra), (2) verses which repeat the ideas already expressed in prose (geya), (3) verses containing ideas not expressed in prose (gatha), (4) narratives of the past which explain a person's present state (nidana), (5) narratives of past lives of the Buddha's disciples (itivrittaka), (6) narratives of past lives of the Buddha (jataka), (7) accounts of miracles performed by the Buddha or a deva (abdhuta-dharma), (8) an exposition of the Dharma through allegories (avadana), (9) discussions of doctrine (upadesa), (10) an exposition of the Dharma by the Buddha without awaiting questions or requests from his disciples (udana), (11) an extensive exposition of principles of truth (vaipulya), and (12) prophecies by the Buddha regarding his disciples' attainment of Buddhahood (vyakarana)" (Inagaki).
TWO VEHICLES. The Two Vehicles are those of the Sravakas (q.v.) and Pratyeka-Buddhas (q.v.). Together they constitute what is called Theravada, Southern or Monastic Buddhism. The Bodhisattva vehicle which leads to Buddhahood is called Mahayana Buddhism.
UPOSATTHA / UPAVASATHA. "Originally a form of meeting. According to the Vinaya, the assembly of monks meets on a full moon and then on a new moon to celebrate the ceremony of reciting the precepts (formerly ordination was also held on this occasion). The ceremony begins with a public confession. The chairman then advises the audience: 'During the past half-month, he who has violated the precepts is invited to confess them and make repentance before the assembly'. This announcement is repeated three times. If there is no answer, he proclaims: 'The precepts have been cleanly observed by everybody.' Thereupon, follows the ceremony of reciting precepts" (Ngo Van Hoa).
VAIROCANA BUDDHA. Jpn/Dainichi. "The Dharmakaya of Sakyamuni Buddha, his Sambhogakaya being called Locana and Nirmanakaya, Sakyamuni" (C.Luk). "The 'first Buddha' in the far, far past at the beginning of the present cosmic eon; used to symbolize the buddha-mind beyond space and time, reality prior to anything within our experience" (Clea: 175).
VAJRA. The thunderbolt symbol used in Buddhist art and ritual. "Literally 'a diamond.' Usually a symbol of the indestructible nature of Buddha's wisdom. A weapon to conquer demons and protect Buddhism" (Chan: 485).
Vajra Spirit: a spirit protector of Buddhism, usually represented as holding a Vajra.
VEGETARIANISM. "Buddhists hold life to be one and therefore sacred. They do not, therefore, kill for sport. For the Mahayana viewpoint, see Suzuki, Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra, pp. 368-371" (Hump: 126). "Killing sentient beings, including slaughtering animals for food, is among the heaviest transgressions in Buddhism. This is not only because such acts create untold pain and suffering but also because they cut short the lives of future Buddhas (as all sentient beings have a common Buddha-nature). The injunction against all forms of killing (including suicide), covering all sentient beings, is unique to Buddhism. Jainism, for example, approves of the penance of death by self-starvation (suicide), while Hindu ceremonies such as the Srauta rites 'center on offering into the altar fires, oblations of milk, butter, honey ... domestic animals (sacrifice) ...'" (K. Crim, Dictionary of Religions, p.369 and 790, respectively.) "Animals have just as much right to life as we on this earth that we share in common, and therefore we have no right to destroy them at our whim. Moreover, since in our ascent and descent on the ladder of innumerable lives (according to causes and conditions) our Buddha-nature assumes many forms -- all of which are aspects of oneself -- to destroy any life form is to destroy a part of oneself" (Kapl/1980: 258).Question/Answer: "Student: The Lankavatara and Surangama Sutras -- both Mahayana scriptures -- are quite eloquent in their condemnation of meat-eating... What reasons do they give?Master: That there is not one being which in its karmic evolution and devolution through countless rebirths, has not been our mother, our father, husband or wife, sister, brother, son, or daughter -- not one being whose kinship with us, even while living in the animal state, has not continued. How then can any spiritual person who approaches all living things as if they were himself eat the flesh of something that is of the same nature as himself? Seen this way, isn't all flesh-eating a form of cannibalism? How can anyone who seeks liberation from suffering inflict pain directly or indirectly on another creature? Those who eat the flesh of an animal obviously enjoy it, so in effect they are deriving pleasure from the death of another living being" ... "To intentionally deprive any living being, but especially a human being, of life will produce painful karma. Slaughterers as well as hunters and fishermen -- especially those motivated by sport alone -- inevitably incur a heavy karma. Those who do experimental research on animals, often depriving them of their lives, also risk painful karma. The destruction of animals in such experimentation is justified on the ground that it is the only way by which to gain information vital to the health and welfare of human beings. Unfortunately, much animal experimentation today is undertaken without consideration of alternative, more humane methods. Such an unfeeling attitude may arise from the belief that animals, being less developed than man, suffer less. But who would deny that animals, too, suffer pain acutely and try to avoid it as much as humans? And precisely because their minds are less complex than man's and they are more intuitive, animals are more sensitive to impending violence and pain, which generates in them fear that prolongs their suffering. Porphyry, a Greek philosopher of the fourth century, wrote that anyone who had heard the scream of an animal being slaughtered could never again eat animal flesh." (Kapleau). "For inhabitants of polar regions, vegetarianism would indeed be attachment -- and one that would cost them their lives... But those of us living in modern, industrialized countries in North America, Europe, and Asia are blessed with a vast array of food choices. Most of us are able to obtain an abundance of non-flesh foods that can keep us robustly healthy our whole lives. With such a variety of non-animal foods available, who would choose to support the slaughter mills and foster the misery involved in factory farming, by continuing to eat flesh? There are those who fear that without meat or fish their health would suffer (the irony!), others who may be unaware of how enormously the meat industry contributes to the misuse and waste of global resources ... Can we maintain a non-meat diet for reasons of compassion and still be free of attachment to it? In the Platform Sutra, the Chinese patriarch Hui Neng relates that after inheriting the Dharma from the Fifth Patriarch, he spent years in seclusion with a group of hunters. 'At mealtimes,' he tells us, 'they cooked meat in the same pot with the vegetables. If I was asked to share, I replied, "I will just pick the vegetables out of the meat."' Was he, then, attached to vegetarianism? And if refraining from eating flesh foods is itself an 'attachment,' does it follow that refusing to give up flesh foods shows non-attachment? It is sad to see how many American Buddhists are managing to find a self-satisfying accommodation to eating meat. Some airily cite the doctrine of Emptiness, insisting that ultimately there is no killing and no sentient beings being killed. Others find cover behind the excuse that taking life is the natural order of things and, after all, 'the life of a carrot and that of a cow are equal.' The truth is, though, that as humans we are endowed with discriminating minds that we can use to educate ourselves to the implications of our volitional acts and to choose those foods that minimize suffering to living beings. Our aspiration in Mahayana Buddhism, inasmuch as we can speak of an aspiration, is to liberate our innate compassion and fulfill the Bodhisattva Vows. In the first of those vows, 'All beings, without number, I vow to liberate,' we commit our compassion to all beings, not just humans. Eschewing meat is one way to express that commitment to the welfare of other creatures. Once we leave habitual preferences behind and forgo nimble rationalizations, the issue of vegetarianism comes down to a question of need. If you need to eat flesh foods to sustain your life or, in extreme cases, your health, do so, and do so with awareness and gratitude. But if you don't, why contribute to unnecessary suffering?" (Kjolh: Tric/Winter/94). The Vegetarian Times commissioned a survey in 1992 which showed that 12.4 million persons in the United States and Canada considered themselves vegetarian. There were some 114 local vegetarian associations in the US and Canada, nearly double the number five years earlier. The largest groups are the Toronto Vegetarian Association and the Vegetarian Society of Colorado). (Vegetarian Times, May 1993.)
WHEEL-TURNING KING. "An ideal ruler in Indian mythology. In Buddhism the wheel-turning kings are kings who rule by justice rather than force. They possess the thirty-two features [of greatness] and rule the four continents surrounding Mt. Sumeru" (B. Watson: 342).