the great vegetarian debate

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Nilasarasvati » Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:25 am

Seeker:
I'm curious if he also mentioned the fact that modern day animal agriculture causes much more harm to living beings than modern day plant agriculture? Does he recognize that growing grains, feeding it to cows and eating the cows, kills many more beings than just eating the grain itself? I don't know how it is with Daido Loori but when people mention that no one could possibly be totally free from killing, much of the time it's just a red herring to direct attention away from the undeniable fact that more harm is caused by animal agriculture, which is the real issue. No one in their right mind believes that, vegan, vegetarian or not, a person can be be totally free from killing to begin with. It's a moot point! The issue is minimizing the harm caused, not completely eliminating harm caused because that is near impossible! When people speak of only of the latter, they often just ignore the real issue. Intentional or not, it's a red herring, by definition.


Yeah I totally agree...I mean, patrul Rinpoche exhausts the topic in the Bodhicitta chapter of WMPT---how every shovel going into the earth cuts up innumerable worms and insects. But I think any Buddhist in their right mind realizes---it's way heaver karma to slaughter a struggling, bleeding, screaming Pig than it is to accidentally crush a potato bug. I mean which would you rather do? I know right off the bat.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Monsoon » Sat Jun 22, 2013 5:04 am

True, but this touches on another thing with which I am uncomfortable. Karma is karma. It is non-judgmental, however, if we can avoid deliberate actions that lead to overt increase in suffering then we should do so. This leaves the problem of how do we know, with any certainty and beyond the immediate consequence, that an action is, in and of itself, going to create a ripple of suffering going into the future? If everything is interlinked then all actions have potential negative effects.

I was mulling over karma this morning... when I had a very minor insight into the nature of cause and effect: that is, that they are not different. Cause is effect, and effect is cause. While this may sound obvious to most of you here, it is only today that I have understood a tiny portion of the truth that is contained within this. Ultimately there is no first cause and there is no final effect.

Of course, next week someone might have shaken up my thinking a bit and I will form a different opinion. Such is life!


BTW, I would very much appreciate it if someone could point out the multitude of flaws in my thinking at any time. I would consider it a valuable lesson.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Nilasarasvati » Sat Jun 22, 2013 5:12 am

Monsoon wrote:True, but this touches on another thing with which I am uncomfortable. Karma is karma. It is non-judgmental, however, if we can avoid deliberate actions that lead to overt increase in suffering then we should do so. This leaves the problem of how do we know, with any certainty and beyond the immediate consequence, that an action is, in and of itself, going to create a ripple of suffering going into the future? If everything is interlinked then all actions have potential negative effects.

I was mulling over karma this morning... when I had a very minor insight into the nature of cause and effect: that is, that they are not different. Cause is effect, and effect is cause. While this may sound obvious to most of you here, it is only today that I have understood a tiny portion of the truth that is contained within this. Ultimately there is no first cause and there is no final effect.

Of course, next week someone might have shaken up my thinking a bit and I will form a different opinion. Such is life!


BTW, I would very much appreciate it if someone could point out the multitude of flaws in my thinking at any time. I would consider it a valuable lesson.


Hmm.... I agree with you--Karma is totally nonjudgemental. It has no preferences (Which I take to mean--a pig vs. a potato bug in my example will make no difference when it comes to Karma). And if you are trying to minimize the harm of killing a single insect--yes! You should think it is equivalent to a pig.

However, if you are killing a pig and thinking to yourself "it's just like killing a bug"...red flags. It's not. It's a kicking screaming breathing thing that is much, much closer to a human being on the relative scale than a potato bug. Which screws with your head, no doubt. It will, inevitably, cause you much more trauma and grief (AKA KARMA) than a potato bug. Even if you really have to do it to survive.

This is nothing Buddhist, it's just my personal opinion from being present during a pig slaughtering. :/


As for causes being effects, in what way do you mean? I mean, whatever you were contemplating isn't necessarily something we've all realized on here! It sounds interesting. If you mean all causes are actually the effects of past causes, and all effects are causes of future effects, then yes that seems clear...but I have the feeling you mean it more nondually.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Fa Dao » Sat Jun 22, 2013 6:19 am

come on..seriously?? there is a HUGE difference between accidentally killing a potato bug and intentionally cutting the throat of a pig that is screaming and kicking and is aware that it is going to die. Karma is created by the marriage of action AND intention.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Monsoon » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:36 am

Fa Dao, hi, nice to meet you electronically. :namaste:

there is a HUGE difference between accidentally killing a potato bug and intentionally cutting the throat of a pig that is screaming and kicking and is aware that it is going to die. Karma is created by the marriage of action AND intention.


I think you are missing the point here. There is a direct link between intention and action, but not always between intention and effect. For instance, if I decide to kill the pig the intention leads directly to the death of the pig. If I decide to walk down the path, and I accidentally and unknowingly crush a potato bug, my intention is indirectly linked to the death of the bug. Karma applies to all actions irrespective of intention. The nature of karma may be different in either case, but it still applies. Furthermore, as another example, if the wind blows a tree over and it falls on and kills a rabbit, that is still karma, but there is no discernible intention (as far as I know). Nobody's going to point the finger at the tree and say 'bad tree!'. It's non-judgmental.

Like I say, I am happy to proven to have mistaken thoughts, but it will require more than 'You're wrong' to convince me. :smile:
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Monsoon » Sat Jun 22, 2013 7:50 am

Hi Nil,

As for causes being effects, in what way do you mean? I mean, whatever you were contemplating isn't necessarily something we've all realized on here! It sounds interesting. If you mean all causes are actually the effects of past causes, and all effects are causes of future effects, then yes that seems clear...but I have the feeling you mean it more nondually.


I'm not sure I have the words to explain what I felt about this.There cannot be a cause without an effect, nor an effect without a cause. There is no separation between cause and effect and thus they are both aspects of (I suppose) the same simple truth - sorry, really struggling to find words here. And this thing which is both cause and effect is not time dependent.

EDIT: if a cause gives rise to an effect, which in turn becomes a cause giving rise to another effect and so on, then all causes and all effects must be the same... I think. :thinking:

Also I feel this touches on the concept of free will.

Sorry, totally floundering. I will have to give this some serious thought before attempting to add more words. :juggling:
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby mandala » Sat Jun 22, 2013 11:34 am

Monsoon wrote:Fa Dao, hi, nice to meet you electronically. :namaste:

there is a HUGE difference between accidentally killing a potato bug and intentionally cutting the throat of a pig that is screaming and kicking and is aware that it is going to die. Karma is created by the marriage of action AND intention.


I think you are missing the point here. There is a direct link between intention and action, but not always between intention and effect. For instance, if I decide to kill the pig the intention leads directly to the death of the pig. If I decide to walk down the path, and I accidentally and unknowingly crush a potato bug, my intention is indirectly linked to the death of the bug. Karma applies to all actions irrespective of intention. The nature of karma may be different in either case, but it still applies.


Actually, I think Fa Dao is right on point.
Unknowingly stepping on bugs, while it's not great for the bugs, is minimal effect for the stepper. It's an "incomplete" action in regards to karma, as it's lacking in the 4 factors - ie: object, intention, action, completion. Deliberately and knowingly killing is indeed a different kettle of fish, in terms of our own karmic consequence.

Furthermore, as another example, if the wind blows a tree over and it falls on and kills a rabbit, that is still karma, but there is no discernible intention (as far as I know). Nobody's going to point the finger at the tree and say 'bad tree!'. It's non-judgmental.

Like I say, I am happy to proven to have mistaken thoughts, but it will require more than 'You're wrong' to convince me. :smile:


Sorry but that's crazy talk. Trees are not sentient beings, so they do not accrue karma. Neither is the wind liable. Poor rabbit, but the wind/tree were simply the objects bringing about the injury, not the 'cause'.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Monsoon » Sat Jun 22, 2013 11:56 am

Then perhaps this is an aspect that escapes my understanding. If I follow your thinking on this then karma only applies (for want of verb) to the instigator of an action and not to those that are affected by the action.

Maybe it's a misinterpretation on my part then. Perhaps I need a proper definition of karma.

Would you, Mandala, like to provide one, please?

Unknowingly stepping on bugs, while it's not great for the bugs, is minimal effect for the stepper. It's an "incomplete" action in regards to karma, as it's lacking in the 4 factors - ie: object, intention, action, completion. Deliberately and knowingly killing is indeed a different kettle of fish, in terms of our own karmic consequence.


Is it? Is killing something in and of itself a bad thing? I realise that this may sound like a very naive question but I was led to believe that actions are not inherently good or bad.

Edit: also...

Sorry but that's crazy talk. Trees are not sentient beings, so they do not accrue karma. Neither is the wind liable. Poor rabbit, but the wind/tree were simply the objects bringing about the injury, not the 'cause'.


Then what is the cause of the effect that is seen here, namely the death of the rabbit? Please tell me before my head explodes!

Anyway, I'm just a total noob so please at least try to be gentle in your education. :smile:
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Nilasarasvati » Sun Jun 23, 2013 1:45 am

Monsoon wrote:
Unknowingly stepping on bugs, while it's not great for the bugs, is minimal effect for the stepper. It's an "incomplete" action in regards to karma, as it's lacking in the 4 factors - ie: object, intention, action, completion. Deliberately and knowingly killing is indeed a different kettle of fish, in terms of our own karmic consequence.


Is it? Is killing something in and of itself a bad thing? I realise that this may sound like a very naive question but I was led to believe that actions are not inherently good or bad.



You're right, monsoon--nothing is "inherently" anything except emptiness. Which is beyond the four extremes of being, nonbeing, both, and neither.
However the four factors cited describe how Karma comes into full magnitude for us agents of choice: Object (potato bug) the intention (to kill it, or just to walk down the sidewalk) action (squashing it) completion (the thing is dead. Most lists I've heard of also include a fifth factor: satisfaction at the completion (looking down at the potato bug and thinking 'muwahh! filthy insect! I am satisfied by your death!)

If any one of these factors is missing, it's not a full breakage of a vinaya vow against killing! Weird, huh?
If one of these factors is present, however, it still amounts to "bad" karma. Even the intention without ever acting on it of (god this mosquito is obnoxious I want it to die!)

Anyway. I'm not sure if that cleared anything up.

Edit: also...

Sorry but that's crazy talk. Trees are not sentient beings, so they do not accrue karma. Neither is the wind liable. Poor rabbit, but the wind/tree were simply the objects bringing about the injury, not the 'cause'.


Then what is the cause of the effect that is seen here, namely the death of the rabbit? Please tell me before my head explodes!
[/quote]

I think your example of the rabbit getting crushed split the conversation. While the rabbit's death from that IS the effect of the rabbit's karma (from who knows what actions in past/present lifetime) the branch falling on it is not a karmic subject. Not an agent of choice. It's just an inanimate vehicle by which karma got carried out.

The difference is, our previous examples all had sentient beings killing something--not an inanimate object.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Monsoon » Sun Jun 23, 2013 2:46 am

Thanks Nil, I was probably confusing myself over definitions and so on! :thinking:

Mind you...

If one of these factors is present, however, it still amounts to "bad" karma. Even the intention without ever acting on it of (god this mosquito is obnoxious I want it to die!)


... if this is the case then life is one endless stream of bad karma. That is, bad karma is unavoidable because absolutely every action leads to death at one scale or another. Therefore karma must be viewed on a sliding scale of acceptability? As even good deeds have negative outcomes.

<brain's leaking out of ears now> :?
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Nilasarasvati » Sun Jun 23, 2013 3:09 am

Monsoon wrote:... if this is the case then life is one endless stream of bad karma. That is, bad karma is unavoidable because absolutely every action leads to death at one scale or another. Therefore karma must be viewed on a sliding scale of acceptability? As even good deeds have negative outcomes.

<brain's leaking out of ears now> :?


Essentially, yes, Monsoon. Don't freak out. It's the reality of living in Samsara. It's a vicious constant interconnected web of all-pervasive suffering. Every mouthful of food that sustains you came from an inconcievably long chain of suffering, oppression, death, life, happiness, all mixed together.

The point of practice isn't to completely rid oneself of all bad karma or harmful actions (some might say Jainism exemplifies this extreme) because that would be impossible.

The point is--knowing we have this debt of harm and suffering/that we are sustained by this, what is the most radical thing we can do to answer that debt? Or if you don't like the idea of debt--that responsibility, that cruelty that keeps us alive?

Bodhicitta! Bodhicitta! Bodhicitta! Resolving you will liberate all sentient beings past, present, and future into perfect Buddhahood is the only way to make meaningful the horrors of our samsaric existence.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Adamantine » Sun Jun 23, 2013 3:57 am

The cyclical nature of this extensive thread seems to be mirroring the cyclical nature of samsara. New people show up, don't read all 100+ pages, and end up rehashing the same points and dialogue that's been replicated again and again in this very thread. It's interesting to me that it has continued this long. I just want to orient you towards some pertinent points that Malcolm made which directly relate to some of those recently put forth, from a while back in this same thread --newcomers please read his posts here and venture a reply: http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=213&start=1700
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Monsoon » Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:20 am

Is it realistic to expect a newcomer to a web forum thread to wade through 100+ pages before asking a question? :smile:

Edit: actually I just clicked on the link and am avidly reading the posts in question. Now I feel like an imbecile :oops:

/leaving the forum in embarrassment/
Last edited by Monsoon on Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:42 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Adamantine » Sun Jun 23, 2013 4:33 am

Monsoon wrote:Is it realistic to expect a newcomer to a web forum thread to wade through 100+ pages before asking a question? :smile:


Well// maybe not before asking a heartfelt question.. but hopefully before offering a head-filled opinion!
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Monsoon » Sun Jun 23, 2013 5:33 am

I will consider that my wrist has been soundly slapped. :thanks:
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby mandala » Sun Jun 23, 2013 12:32 pm

Monsoon wrote:Then perhaps this is an aspect that escapes my understanding. If I follow your thinking on this then karma only applies (for want of verb) to the instigator of an action and not to those that are affected by the action.

Maybe it's a misinterpretation on my part then. Perhaps I need a proper definition of karma.

Would you, Mandala, like to provide one, please?


Ok, so for example let's say.... you punch me in the face. :P There are 2 separate things going on in that event.
One is my karma (from harmful actions i have done in the past) that is ripening in my experience of being harmed by you.
The other is your karma of planting a seed of being harmed in the future (by your current harmful action & intent).
There's also another scenerio - if i angrily retaliate and punch you back, then not only will i have experienced a ripening of karma but (like you) also planted the seed to continue the cycle of being harmed.

So, karma is action and it's also cause. But don't forget, karma isn't just the unpleasant stuff. It's also why you get money, praise and things you enjoy.


Unknowingly stepping on bugs, while it's not great for the bugs, is minimal effect for the stepper. It's an "incomplete" action in regards to karma, as it's lacking in the 4 factors - ie: object, intention, action, completion. Deliberately and knowingly killing is indeed a different kettle of fish, in terms of our own karmic consequence.

Is it? Is killing something in and of itself a bad thing? I realise that this may sound like a very naive question but I was led to believe that actions are not inherently good or bad.


I never said anything was inherently 'good' or 'bad'. It's all subjective.
And yes, deliberately killing is indeed a different kettle of fish in terms of karmic consequence (to us), due to the factors i mentioned earlier that determine the heaviness of the action. If you want to kill something, motivated by anger, you kill it and are happy about it - that's a very heavy karma.


Sorry but that's crazy talk. Trees are not sentient beings, so they do not accrue karma. Neither is the wind liable. Poor rabbit, but the wind/tree were simply the objects bringing about the injury, not the 'cause'.

Then what is the cause of the effect that is seen here, namely the death of the rabbit? Please tell me before my head explodes!


How the rabbit dies is due to the rabbit's karma, accrued from bunny's actions of the past. That karma ripened when conditions (the wind, breaking tree) and causes (karmic seed) came together.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby seeker242 » Sun Jun 23, 2013 12:44 pm

Adamantine wrote:The cyclical nature of this extensive thread seems to be mirroring the cyclical nature of samsara. New people show up, don't read all 100+ pages, and end up rehashing the same points and dialogue that's been replicated again and again in this very thread. It's interesting to me that it has continued this long. I just want to orient you towards some pertinent points that Malcolm made which directly relate to some of those recently put forth, from a while back in this same thread --newcomers please read his posts here and venture a reply: http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=213&start=1700


IMO, the thread continues because people believe they have addressed the point sufficiently, while other people completely disagree! For example, Malcome says many things that are true AND many things that are false in many people eyes! He is using the same red herring and ignoring the fact that there are varying degrees of harm caused and one can choose to participate in more harm or less harm. He says

"Many vegetarians argue the deaths caused by agriculature is unavoidable. And I agree with them. But they never accept responsibility for the deaths of creatures caused by agriculture, and do their best to pretend they have no karmic responsibility for them."


Like I said before, no one in their right mind believes this! This is a strawman! He says
"Therefore we must respect all life, not just the life that is convientient for us to respect".


Agree! However, his whole post completely dodges the main issue. With the main issue being that some types of food are more harmful and other types are less harmful! Whenever someone speaks and says "Well, vegetarian diet causes harm too", they are not even addressing the issue and the thread continues! Whenever someone ignores the varying degrees of harm that is caused, they are dodging the issue! Perhaps because they can't speak of it and deny it at the same time, because this fact is undeniable. It seems the best way to deny an undeniable fact is to ignore it and pretend to address it, without actually addressing it!

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby mandala » Sun Jun 23, 2013 12:55 pm

Monsoon wrote:
... if this is the case then life is one endless stream of bad karma. That is, bad karma is unavoidable because absolutely every action leads to death at one scale or another. Therefore karma must be viewed on a sliding scale of acceptability?


That's a bit extreme, and also untrue (that all actions lead to killing).
Yes, most of us are constantly doing harmful acts of body, speech or mind.. but that's what the precepts and 8-fold path (and purification practices) are for.

As even good deeds have negative outcomes.


Not true either. There are 4 'laws of karma' - one of them is the certainty of results, that is - if you're experiencing something pleasant, it has to be the result of your beneficial behaviour. In the same way, unpleasant stuff must be a result of destructive behaviour.

And even "good deeds" is subjective... if you gave money to charity to get praise at work and to boast about it.. then (while the money is good for the charity) the karma is likely to be negative for you because of the intent.

:smile:
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Adamantine » Sun Jun 23, 2013 2:43 pm

seeker242 wrote:
Adamantine wrote:The cyclical nature of this extensive thread seems to be mirroring the cyclical nature of samsara. New people show up, don't read all 100+ pages, and end up rehashing the same points and dialogue that's been replicated again and again in this very thread. It's interesting to me that it has continued this long. I just want to orient you towards some pertinent points that Malcolm made which directly relate to some of those recently put forth, from a while back in this same thread --newcomers please read his posts here and venture a reply: http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=213&start=1700


IMO, the thread continues because people believe they have addressed the point sufficiently, while other people completely disagree! For example, Malcome says many things that are true AND many things that are false in many people eyes! He is using the same red herring and ignoring the fact that there are varying degrees of harm caused and one can choose to participate in more harm or less harm. He says

"Many vegetarians argue the deaths caused by agriculature is unavoidable. And I agree with them. But they never accept responsibility for the deaths of creatures caused by agriculture, and do their best to pretend they have no karmic responsibility for them."


Like I said before, no one in their right mind believes this! This is a strawman! He says
"Therefore we must respect all life, not just the life that is convientient for us to respect".


Agree! However, his whole post completely dodges the main issue. With the main issue being that some types of food are more harmful and other types are less harmful! Whenever someone speaks and says "Well, vegetarian diet causes harm too", they are not even addressing the issue and the thread continues! Whenever someone ignores the varying degrees of harm that is caused, they are dodging the issue! Perhaps because they can't speak of it and deny it at the same time, because this fact is undeniable. It seems the best way to deny an undeniable fact is to ignore it and pretend to address it, without actually addressing it!

:namaste:


Actually he brings up Organic farming techniques that involve bone meal, blood, feathers products, manure etc for fertilizer. This in addition to the targeted killing of pests ( I don't see how these are "accidental" deaths.)

If one industry causes more harm than the other, a reasonable question, and it's possible, yes .. But they are completely
intertwined-- in essence becoming one industry : agriculture. Since you are generalizing anyway.

His main point is that if the animal is already dead...you have not caused harm by paying the restaurant for a sliver of it
which may have been thrown away if you hadn't come around. (Yes, huge portions of meat are thrown away daily accross the globe). If you have the tools to be of some benefit to that animal through mantra and compassion, then it's more harmful to ignore and abstain, no?

I am a vegetarian, but I understand this argument, and Malcolm is practically a vegetarian as well.

If you ignore these points, it's not because they are not valid- I'd venture it may have more to
do with emotion and political ideology. I stopped eating factory farmed animals
due to political/environmental and empathetic reasons. I stopped eating seafood for Dharma reasons.
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