A few questions about this practice

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  • Snowe
    Member
    • May 2013
    • 14

    A few questions about this practice

    Hi everyone, I'm new here, and have a few questions that I'd like to hear your opinion if you want to give it! Thanks for reading this even if you don't have a reply!

    Firstly, I've always been a sort of...rigid person with my morals, even before I was reading about Buddhism off and on for about 6 years. I'm a vegetarian (Vegan for about 6 months last year, but there was nothing to eat!) and I've always had WAY more compassion for animals than for humans. Mostly because, well, humans cause their own suffering. I realized that even when I was a teenager. Of course, bad things happen to good people, but a lot of the times, bad things happen to people because of their actions or the type of crowd they are surrounding themselves with. But animals...have done nothing. They just live, which is much like Buddhism, I think. They just live in the moment, day to day, I don't think they worry about the future too much. And yet we factory farm them, give them horrid conditions, over breed our pet animals until they are suffering on the streets, torture them for amusement and medicines, test them for beauty products...etc....I've always had sort of a bleeding heart for animals, because they don't know why anything is happening to them like that. I'm wondering if this practice will give me more compassion for people (Of course, I feel the same way about say, starving kids in africa as I do about animals, both just had the misfortune of being born where they were) or is it okay to be sort of...distant from them? I feel that I'll always feel more about animals than people, but I'm not sure if that's good, or okay, even here in Buddhism?

    The second question is kind of silly, probably a personal preference for everyone. I drink coffee every morning. I've read some Buddhists don't drink caffeine because it's seen as altering the state of mind, so I'm wondering what you guys think about this? I've limited myself to 1 cup (most days) and am thinking about quitting, but it's something I enjoy, it doesn't wake me up really. I can drink it and go right back to bed, but I like the smell and taste, it is the part of day I look forward to most, do I really have to give it up?

    Thanks for reading this,

    Gassho

    Sarah
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39459

    #2
    Hi Sarah,

    We will begin looking and reflecting on the Precepts in the Fall for our Jukai, but you are welcome to start reading about them and learning even now.



    You will find them to be something like arrows pointing us toward ways of living which are as gentle and harmless as possible, a freeing from greed, anger, jealousy and the like. They are not rigid rules, so much as a a guide to a good direction to walk.

    It is fine to be a vegetarian as a Buddhist. Most Chinese Buddhists are strict vegetarians. However, Japanese and Tibetans tend not to be (it is an individual choice). The historical Buddha, you may be surprised to hear, was not a strict vegetarian. He accepted whatever was placed in his bowl, even meat, although with certain restrictions (such that the animal was not known to have been specially killed just for him). But even if eating meat, that too ... as all things ... should be in moderation.



    Many related questions on, for example, animal testing. No clear answers perhaps, but certainly testing with rats and rabbits for a new cosmetic is not the same as testing to develop a new cancer drug that may save thousands of human beings. Keeping food animals in terrible conditions, and treating them inhumanely, is to be avoided. These are the kinds of questions we reflect on when examining, for example, the Precept on Avoiding the Taking of Life.



    I would say that, in our Bodhisattva Vows, we are concerned about all Sentient Beings. In a very real way (even if one does not believe in literal rebirth), people and animals (especially more self aware animals) are all cousins and intimately linked, and should be treated with respect and caring. Even if an animal is taken for food, they should be treated with care and gratitude. What is more, we tend to see ALL people as victims of violence, ignorance and the like ... even the people who commit the violent and harmful acts. For example, even the fellows who commit horrible school shootings are themselves doing so because of some anger, some excess desire, some ignorance (separating "me" from "you"), some dark hole within them which led them to act so. It is the greed, anger and ignorance that is the real "wrong doer" in our book.

    (That does not mean that we do not put the shooter in jail, or take other police action ... even violent action if needed ... to stop them. We should in order to preserve the life of others. It is simply that we see the real culprit as something deeper within them).

    For that reason, in our Metta Practice, we even wish the following toward people who may do ugly or violent things in the world. Why? Because if they truly knew Peace and Contentment, they would likely not do the ugly violence.

    1. May he(she) be free of suffering; may he(she) feel safe and still.

    2. May he(she) be free of enmity; may he(she) be loving, grateful and kind.

    3. May he(she) be healthy and at ease in all his(her) ills.

    4. May he(she) be at peace, embracing all conditions of life
    Hi, Our core practice is always Zazen ... "Just Sitting" Shikantaza Zazen. But I wish to introduce a touch of "Metta (Loving Kindness) Practice" as well (many Zen teachers have done so), and I recommend it once a day at least. It can also be done at any time when, for example, some feelings of anger,


    So, I would say that you do not need to shrink your heart toward animals, but please try to widen it boundlessly to include all Sentient Beings. We recite this Vow ...

    To save all sentient beings, though beings numberless

    To transform all delusions, though delusions inexhaustible

    To perceive Reality, though Reality is boundless

    To attain the Enlightened Way, a Way non-attainable
    Gassho, Jundo
    Last edited by Jundo; 06-07-2013, 03:32 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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    • Snowe
      Member
      • May 2013
      • 14

      #3
      Thank you for that, Jundo. Actually, I do feel sorry for most people, even ones that kill and are filled with hate, because I know there is an underlying cause, that they are suffering even as they cause suffering. But we are not supposed to feel sorry for them, right? I am still trying to grasp the subtle differences between pity and compassion. I guess, since people seem to hurt each other all the time, and most days I think they are all just horrible dark demons wrapped up in a human body, that I try to protect myself from them by not feeling anything towards them. But, it is time, I suppose, to let go of my judgements, and to let it be what it will be. That is why I've started down this path again! I will try to open myself towards all sentient beings and get rid of "this one deserves more compassion than this one", which is what I tend to do.

      I also came to the conclusion a long time ago, that if I were somewhere where it would be offensive to turn down what was offered or something like that, well, I'd have to eat meat then wouldn't I? Better to eat it than let a precious life go to waste. But actually, I became a vegetarian long before I started reading books about Buddhism, just because...I don't like to eat my friends, haha.

      Thanks for replying!

      Comment

      • Joe
        Member
        • Jun 2013
        • 52

        #4
        Sarah,

        I have always seen a link between empathy and compassion. I am compassionate to a friend who is angry because I know anger, I am compassionate to the lonely, bullied shooter because (to a lesser degree) I know loneliness and being bullied. I think (and I could be very wrong here) that the difference between feeling pity and compassion is the difference between feeling sorry FOR a person and feeling sorry WITH the person. We are all interconnected so even if you have never been starving you know hunger and can feel that with another person.

        Compassion, I think, realizes that you and that person (or animal) are the same. You join them in their experience and share that sameness with them.

        Gassho,
        Joe

        Comment

        • shikantazen
          Member
          • Feb 2013
          • 361

          #5
          May be cutting down on coffee is a good idea. The caffeine can affect our meditation. I'll let some senior people confirm though

          Comment

          • Jundo
            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
            • Apr 2006
            • 39459

            #6
            Oh, I forgot about the coffee! (Probably because I need a cup of coffee! )

            In reality, Zen folks have a long and deep connection with caffeine. Bodhidharma is said to have brought tea to China (probably a myth), and Zen folks tea from China to Japan (likely a true story). I have never been to a Zen monastery in Japan where the green tea is not flowing freely, especially during Sesshin and such.

            So, I see nothing wrong with coffee, before or after Zazen (not during!). Drinking tea or coffee before Zazen is not frowned upon ... although, be careful of the resulting "bathroom need" that may result in the middle of sitting! Of course, every body is different, and some people more sensitive than others. If it makes someone too "edgy" during Zazen, best not to drink so close to the time or at all.

            Legend says that tea leaves are just Bodhidharma's eyelids ...



            I think that whoever cooked up that story was suffering from too much caffeine!

            In all cases ... everything in moderation.

            Gassho, Jundo

            PS - I feel "sorry" for folks and animals who are suffering, even the folks who do terrible violence. That is an aspect of Compassion.
            Last edited by Jundo; 06-07-2013, 04:51 AM.
            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

            Comment

            • Taikyo
              Friend of Treeleaf
              • Nov 2012
              • 363

              #7
              Hi Sarah,

              I guess I have always been kind of hung up on vegetarianism, having been one now for 40yrs. This was also around the time I got interested in Buddhism. I remember going to stay in a Therevada monastery in the 80’s and being appalled that the monks were eating meat!!! They, of course were just, as Jundo, says following the Buddha and eating what was given to them in alms. Of course the monastery being in the UK and in a very conservative English county they didn’t get much from the alms around but lay people, & at that time most came from the Thai community in the UK would give the alms a lot of which was meat. This kind of put me of Theravada Buddhism and I took an interest in Zen! I then thought all Zennists were vegetarian, as all the people that I knew that were into Zen were vegetarian. This was reinforced I guess by spending time on retreats and at a Zen monastery where all the food was vegetarian. But then I came across this story about a Japanese Zen teacher in America called Suzuki Roshi:

              Suzuki Roshi and a student, who kept a strict vegetarian diet, were driving along when they both got hungry. Suzuki wanted to stop right away but the student wanted to look for a place where he could get a strict vegetarian meal. This took some time as all they passed were places selling hot-dogs and hamburger Finally Suzuki told the student to just stop at the next hamburger stand. Once there Suzuki Roshi ordered a cheeseburger the student ordered a cheese sandwich.. When the food came they both started to eat their meals. But then Suzuki Roshi made a face and said, I don't like this and he handed the cheeseburger to the student saying “you eat it” and took the cheese sandwich for himself.
              This story sort of confirmed for me that there are koans too in Soto Zen as this seemed to be my koan don’t get hung up on concepts of how things ‘ought’ or ‘have’ to be or make judgements on others. Have no expectations of how Buddhists or Buddhism should be but just practice. I thought for a very long time that I had learned this this and not just intellectualized it, but I did not finally lay this ghost particular until last year. I had organized a visit from a Zen teacher and a Dharma heir, to give a talk at the university at which I teach and he was staying with me. It was late when the talk finished so I offered to buy him a chinese meal to take home with us. I asked him what he would like, expecting of course that he would order something vegetarian. He ordered Chicken!!! Immediately the prejudices I thought I had dealt with came up again. But also it enabled me and taught me much about how feeling and thoughts in dealing with the world never cease arising but also that practice allows the watching of these arising and to let them go. These feeling and thoughts and concepts are, as many Zen teachers say, like clouds that float across a clear sky, sometimes the are white and fluffy and we can dream with them, sometimes grey threating and have faces, forms or shapes. But the more you practice, I find anyway, the more I can, but not always by any means, just let them go on their way without too much turbulence!
              Gassho

              David
              Last edited by Taikyo; 06-07-2013, 09:40 AM.

              Comment

              • Daijo
                Member
                • Feb 2012
                • 530

                #8
                I understand your compassion for animals being stronger. I sometimes feel the same way. What I try to do (to the dismay of many conservative Buddhists I am sure) is to stop separating humans from the animal world. We aren't other. Which is yet another case against eating "them".

                Of course that's just my personal way of tackling the problem.

                Comment

                • Snowe
                  Member
                  • May 2013
                  • 14

                  #9
                  Thanks for the replies guys! All very helpful and interesting reading!
                  I probably should stop coffee, or meditate further away from morning, because my mind is always going going going. Of course, that might just be my mind! I find I'll be meditating and I will finally have NOTHING on my mind, then I'll think "Ah, there it is" and realize I just thought of how good I was doing, and a bunch of blurry images just passed through, time to start all over and let go haha.

                  I actually don't see humans and non-human animals as separate. I see humans as animals who forgot how to be animals, which makes me dislike them more. But, it's something I must work on. Time to just, SIT!

                  Comment

                  • Kyonin
                    Treeleaf Priest / Engineer
                    • Oct 2010
                    • 6742

                    #10
                    Originally posted by Snowe
                    I do feel sorry for most people, even ones that kill and are filled with hate, because I know there is an underlying cause, that they are suffering even as they cause suffering. But we are not supposed to feel sorry for them, right?
                    Hi Sarah.

                    And what about people who suffer from natural disasters, victims of war and violence? What about insects? What about the very plants, nuts and seeds you eat? They have as much right to not being eaten as you.

                    What about the bacteria and germs you kill every time you wash your hands? Why don't you feel bad for them? Is it because they don't scream or you don't watch them trying to save their lives from water and soap? It's not their fault they are bad for us, they just happen to be borned germs.

                    We feel compassion for ALL beings. We understand all beings suffer one way or another. We get involved in helping them all as much as we can. But at the same time we keep a realistic perspective on our place in the universe.

                    We need to eat and be healthy. But at the same time we help and care for all beings.

                    If you haven't developed compassion for people, take some time and go to a hospital. Tons of people suffering illness they didn't bring to themselves. Go to an elders' home and see how we have forgotten them and left them to die. Take a look to international news and see how people in South America or Africa suffer from just being born there.

                    To only feel sorry is to be part of the problems of the world.

                    Compassion is to have an open heart.

                    Compassion is to take action and help, weather by donation, work, time, education, community service or just being nice to everyone.

                    And about coffee... drink it! Just be sure to not harm anyone, including yourself. This is from me, a heavy coffee drinker Like Jundo says, all things in moderation.

                    Gassho,

                    Kyonin
                    Last edited by Kyonin; 06-07-2013, 05:15 PM.
                    Hondō Kyōnin
                    奔道 協忍

                    Comment

                    • Snowe
                      Member
                      • May 2013
                      • 14

                      #11
                      Good points, Kyonin. I know I've had all those thoughts before, but ignored them, because if I thought about them and still held to my morals I was afraid of being seen as a hypocrite! I'm trying to work on that too, what others see me as isn't necessarily what I am. And actually, the mail man that comes to my work always uses that argument on me "if you eat plants you're killing a living being too" and all I can say is "well...yes....but I still don't want to eat animals." I definitely used to be a black and white, I don't eat meat I'm good, you eat meat you're bad, type of person. But as I got older, I learned to just let everyone do what they will, it is none of my business! And my family all eat meat, my fiance, everyone, so I can't say "you eat meat you're bad" because I wouldn't include them!

                      About all those people, that is very true! I tend not to think about all those types of suffering, maybe I will get too depressed if I do. But you are right, they don't deserve what happens to them, they do deserve our compassion. Thank you for phrasing it that way!

                      Comment

                      • Rich
                        Member
                        • Apr 2009
                        • 2602

                        #12
                        I have some new espresso roast coffee beans that smell and taste delicious. REmember the darker the roast the less caffeine. The first thing I do every day is make a cup and go outside. After I really wake up then I'll go and sit.

                        The Buddha went off by himself and sat for a long time because he wanted to understand how to live this life without suffering when the conditions of life itself - birth, sickness, old age and death - is suffering.
                        _/_
                        Rich
                        MUHYO
                        無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                        https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                        Comment

                        • Joyo

                          #13
                          Hi, well we have much in common. I am new here also. And I feel the same connection to animals that you have. I grew up on a dairy farm/ranch and many a time I cried, as a child, when I saw such horrific things such as brandings and other abuse. I became a vegetarian when I was 18, which was a long time ago I have a deep bond with animals, all of them. Other people in my life think i am crazy for not eating meat, I've even lost a few friends over it (crazy, I know!!) Anyway, since studying Buddhism and evolution, I can now say I don't see a line between humans and animals. We are all connected.

                          As for being so upset with animal abuse, this has also caused me a great deal of suffering. The only thing that has helped ease my anxiety and stress over this is meditation and Buddhism. I can't change the world, I just do the best I can to make this world a happy place for as many people and animals as i can.

                          with metta,
                          Treena

                          Comment

                          • Jishin
                            Member
                            • Oct 2012
                            • 4820

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Snowe
                            The second question is kind of silly, probably a personal preference for everyone. I drink coffee every morning. I've read some Buddhists don't drink caffeine because it's seen as altering the state of mind, so I'm wondering what you guys think about this? I've limited myself to 1 cup (most days) and am thinking about quitting, but it's something I enjoy, it doesn't wake me up really. I can drink it and go right back to bed, but I like the smell and taste, it is the part of day I look forward to most, do I really have to give it up?

                            Sarah
                            Zhaozhou, Great Master Zhenji, asked a newly arrived monk, “Have you been here before?” The monk said, “Yes, I have been here.” Zhaozhou said, “Have some tea.” Later, he asked another monk, “Have you been here before?” The monk said, “No, I have not been here.” Zhaozhou said, “Have some tea.” The temple director then asked Zhaozhou, “Why do you say, ‘Have some tea’ to someone who has been here, and ‘Have some tea’ to someone who has not?” Zhaozhou said, “Director.” “Yes.” Zhaozhou said, “Have some tea.” - Dogen, Shobo Genzo, Everyday Activity

                            As Jundo says, a little tea or coffe with some toast in moderation sounds good to me.

                            Have some tea!

                            Gassho, John

                            Comment

                            • Mp

                              #15
                              Originally posted by Snowe
                              I've always had sort of a bleeding heart for animals, because they don't know why anything is happening to them like that.
                              Thank you Sarah for this thread ... I too love and have a strong advocacy towards animals as well. Just as you said above ... not all humans know the cause of their own suffering, so they go round and round with their destructive actions to themselves and others (animals included) ... so knowing this, it helps me have compassion for the humans causing these sufferings.

                              As for coffee ... me and coffee and great friends.

                              Gassho
                              Shingen

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