the great vegetarian debate

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Mr. G » Sun May 13, 2012 5:25 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:In the Theravada Canon, which is generally considered to more conservative and more in favor of omnivore diets, there are references which suggest that meat eating is not acceptable for lay people. For example:

Monks, one possessed of three qualities is put into Purgatory according to his actions. What three? One is himself a taker of life, encourages another to do the same and approves thereof. Monks, one possessed of three qualities is put into heaven according to his actions. What three? He himself abstains from taking life, encourages another to so abstain, and approves of such abstention.” Anguttara Nikaya, 3.16

". . . he abstains from killing living beings, exhorts others to abstain from killing living beings, and speaks in praise of the abstention from killing living beings." Samyutta Nikaya 55.7

"He should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should he incite another to kill. Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world.” Dhammika Sutta, Sutta Nipata, Khuddaka Nikaya

"Monks, possessing forty qualities one is cast into purgatory . . . he takes life himself, encourages another to do so, approves of taking life, and speaks in praise of thereof . . ." Anguttara Nikaya 10. 213

The above quotes show that is not just okay to not do the killing yourself, it is also unacceptable to encourage another, approve of another's killing, or speak in praise of it.


I don't see how any of these quotes posits a stance against meat eating. Seems a bit of a stretch. These passages could also be applied to the death of insects and applied to farming.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby kirtu » Sun May 13, 2012 5:40 pm

mindyourmind wrote:I meant it is an obfuscation in a general sense, it is an excuse used often, not just by you.


What exactly is the "it"?

And yes, I believe that there is a great, real and rather obvious difference. For starters we can start with the amount of suffering involved. If someone is going to, with a straight face, try to convince me that the "suffering" undergone by a truckful of cabbage is anything approximating that undergone by say a truckload of pigs,


No one to my knowledge has claimed that cabbages undergo suffering or that the suffering of pigs living and then being slaughtered equates to the suffering of cabbages.

Not even Allan Ginsberg who merely said that he could hear the cows (or pigs).

This whole argument equating animal sentience with plant "sentience" is simply a last-ditch, desperate and rather unbecoming argument, designed to defend our choices as meat-eaters.


First the statement doesn't equate plant sentience with animal sentience second at least the Tendai and Zen view (I may have overreached on including Shingon) is meant as an expansive teaching on Buddha Nature and interdependence to include plants and rocks, to include all of the perceived world and to include that which we ordinarily view as the insentient world.

I accept without any reservation that a vegetarian meal involves death and suffering, but not more so, or even equal, than the death and suffering involved in eating meat.


In both cases millions of beings have had their mind and bodies separated in order for us to eat.

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun May 13, 2012 6:00 pm

mindyourmind wrote:I am aware of some of the tests and treatises that have seen the light recently, mostly as far as I can tell designed by theists to show that the problem of suffering can be discounted. There are none that convinced me that the patently obvious should be discarded. Raising, killing and eating an animal is just simply involving more suffering than even the worst case scenario of the amount of bugs we kill in producing a non-meat meal. Remember also that some of those same bugs are also killed in the process of slaughtering an animal.
Why is it that in these discussions people always forget that the majority of murdered animals are currently grain or feed (clover, hay, etc...) fed, that means you have the killing involved in the harvesting of the grain and feed PLUS the killing of the animal being slaughtered for its flesh.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby practitioner » Sun May 13, 2012 6:02 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
mindyourmind wrote:I am aware of some of the tests and treatises that have seen the light recently, mostly as far as I can tell designed by theists to show that the problem of suffering can be discounted. There are none that convinced me that the patently obvious should be discarded. Raising, killing and eating an animal is just simply involving more suffering than even the worst case scenario of the amount of bugs we kill in producing a non-meat meal. Remember also that some of those same bugs are also killed in the process of slaughtering an animal.
Why is it that in these discussions people always forget that the majority of murdered animals are currently grain or feed (clover, hay, etc...) fed, that means you have the killing involved in the harvesting of the grain and feed PLUS the killing of the animal being slaughtered for its flesh.
:namaste:


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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby gad rgyangs » Sun May 13, 2012 6:31 pm

i also see a perfunctory dismissal of the idea that it is possible to influence the existence and practices of the slaughterhouse industry by refusing to buy meat. There are actually many cases where boycotts and education were able to induce changes in various situations:

http://www.ethicalconsumer.org/boycotts/successfulboycotts.aspx
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Malcolm » Sun May 13, 2012 6:35 pm

mindyourmind wrote:
And yes, I believe that there is a great, real and rather obvious difference. For starters we can start with the amount of suffering involved. If someone is going to, with a straight face, try to convince me that the "suffering" undergone by a truckful of cabbage is anything approximating that undergone by say a truckload of pigs, well then I have very little else to say, and it would be best for at least the rules of this forum if we leave the debate just there.


Well, it seems that your criteria of suffering is a little limited and only adresses the suffering of suffering.

Raising, killing and eating an animal is just simply involving more suffering than even the worst case scenario of the amount of bugs we kill in producing a non-meat meal.


I don't think the suffering of a mammal is qualitatively or quantitatively greater than the suffering of an insect -- I know that some Buddhists make this (false) disctinction, but the monastic penalty for killing an insect is no less than that of killing a cow -- it merely requires confession. What this says to me is that Buddha valued the life of all creatures equally regardless of phyla. Destroying vegetation, especially seeds, is also included in this class of vows, as is digging in the ground.

Remember also that some of those same bugs are also killed in the process of slaughtering an animal.


Of course.

Part of that precise answer would, in addition to suffering, most definitely deal with the presence or absence of a central nervous system, although if you will that could be a duplication of the suffering argument.


This is a value judgment you are making that does not have an objective base.

It is a certainly the case that in Early Buddhism the issue was not so clear cut among Buddhists. Coming from a common Vedic Heritage where plants are considered fully qualified animate beings, early Buddhists also held this view. Only later, under the influence of scholastic dogmatism, did Buddhist philosophers begin to argue plants were non-sentient. The Buddhist arguments against plant life being sentient are quite late, motivated it seems mainly to defend Buddhist from criticisms from Jains and Hindus. Lambert Schmithausen wrote a long and interesting article about this and concludes (http://www.scribd.com/doc/78950014/The- ... t-Buddhism):

But as stated above (§ 5.2 and n. 204) a few sources suggest yet another
motivation, viz. that plants should not be injured or destroyed because they are the
abode or habitat of animal s (cp. also the analogous motivation not to
pollute water in § 11.1). This ecological argument is fully valid today also,
indeed more than ever before, and for both monks and lay people.

39.2 However, I for one should find it reasonable to combine this latter
argument with a different view of the nature of plants - one that is perhaps not too
far from what I hope I have been able to show to have been, with some probability,
that of earliest Buddhism: the view that plants themselves, too, are living
beings, in the sense of a border-line case. But contrary to the situation
in earliest Buddhism where the border-line status of plants served to reduce
inhibitions against injuring them, it should now be used to re-establish them.
In this sense, we should rather stress the other aspect of the border-line status: Plants
are, to be sure, not living beings like animals, and not at all living beings like men,
with some secret anthropomorphic features and faculties, and hence perhaps not
sentient beings in the usual sense of the word; but not entirely insentient either, not
altogether insusceptible of being injured; living beings of a peculiar kind,
which we can somehow explore from outside, but which we will probably never be
able to "understand" from within; familiar beings, but at the same time utterly strange,
and precisely for that reason to be treated with respect: because we simply do
not know, and perhaps cannot even imagine, what it means for a plant itself to
be injured. To be sure, unless we are ready to starve, we cannot avoid using plants,
and this often means: injuring or even killing them. But we should do this as
little as possible, carefully and with a sense of regret, not with
the unnecessary brutality and relentlessness which has become habitual, and at the root
of which is mostly not need but greed.


This whole argument equating animal sentience with plant "sentience" is simply a last-ditch, desperate and rather unbecoming argument, designed to defend our choices as meat-eaters.


I did not equate the two. I merely pointed out that I no longer believe that anything imbued with prāṇa can possibly be non-sentient. Plants possess prāṇa, therefore, they are alive, therefore, after some fashion, I must accept that they too are sentient. Not only to plants possess prāṇa, but they also possess ojas, mdangs, they also possess the seven phase digestive process that we humans and all animals do. They take food, they break it down, is it conducted by fluid within plant membranes where it builds their flesh, their soft tissue, hard tissues and finally in the end they produce sap, flowers, seeds, etc.

I will state that, based on my understanding of Dzogchen teachings, those Buddhist scholastics who argued that plants were not alive, equivalent with rocks and crystals, were wrong in their understanding.

I accept without any reservation that a vegetarian meal involves death and suffering, but not more so, or even equal, than the death and suffering involved in eating meat.

Again, I respect everyone's choice in what they eat and do not eat, and what you eat or not will not liberate you, but let's not make stuff up to make us feel better.


When growing plants in the large quantities made necessary buy the increasing population of the our planet is made possible only through the use of animal-based fertilizers that come from the death of animals in the billions, such as in organic agriculture, or the petrochemical fertilizers/pesticides/herbicides that contaminate the environement and poisoin billions of birds and insects, such as in conventional cultivation, there is no solid argument than can be made that a vegetarian diet, even a so called organic veb is less harmful to animals than a non-vegetarian diet. It simple does not add up.

So let us not pretend that being a vegetarian is intrinsically more moral or better than being an omnivore. Vegetarians who argue in that way are simply being false brahmins.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun May 13, 2012 6:41 pm

Mr. G wrote:I don't see how any of these quotes posits a stance against meat eating. Seems a bit of a stretch. These passages could also be applied to the death of insects and applied to farming.
C'mon Mr. G, don't be silly, extraordinarily few of the animal carcasses sold for consumption die by natural means. That means somebody has to be encouraged (normally via financial incentives) to kill them. Through the purchasing of the flesh, a portion of the money of which is paid for the flesh goes to the slaughterer, thus the slaughterer receives approval for their task. But I am sure you are well aware of this.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby mindyourmind » Sun May 13, 2012 6:43 pm

We must disagree on that then.

I am not in any manner trying to take any moral high ground here. I try to be vegetarian but at times I eat meat, and for different reasons.

When I do so however, I know what I am doing, I know the price that is being paid. I face what I am doing, and I do not accept all sorts of moral contortions to try and feel better.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun May 13, 2012 6:50 pm

namdrol wrote:I did not equate the two. I merely pointed out that I no longer believe that anything imbued with prāṇa can possibly be non-sentient. Plants possess prāṇa, therefore, they are alive, therefore, after some fashion, I must accept that they too are sentient. Not only to plants possess prāṇa, but they also possess ojas, mdangs, they also possess the seven phase digestive process that we humans and all animals do. They take food, they break it down, is it conducted by fluid within plant membranes where it builds their flesh, their soft tissue, hard tissues and finally in the end they produce sap, flowers, seeds, etc.
Where do plants fit into the schema of the realms of samsaric existence? What is the mental poison that causes one to reborn as a plant? Why are there no references to birth as a plant in any of the Sutta and Sutra (and even the exceedingly few Tantra I have read) given that plants are also sentient? etc... According to that logic we should all be breatharians if we wish to be compassionate at a relative level. Seems to be a form of Jainism to the nth degree, only you do a clever intellectual backflip and use it to justify eating meat rather than avoiding eating all sentient (into which class you include plants) beings.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Bhusuku » Sun May 13, 2012 7:56 pm

Namdrol wrote:I will state that, based on my understanding of Dzogchen teachings, those Buddhist scholastics who argued that plants were not alive, equivalent with rocks and crystals, were wrong in their understanding.

"Buddhist scholastics"? Didn't the Buddha himself taught this? And if Dzogchen contradicts the sutra/tantra teachings even on such basic buddhist doctrines, what is actually the use of studying sutra teachings at all for someone who's mainly interested in Dzogchen? I mean, isn't it actually a waste of time studying Abhidharma, if later on you realize that the Dzogchen teachings have a complete different POV on many Abhidharma subjects? The same applies for studying Madhyamaka: why waste many years to gain an in depth understanding of the two truths if later on you realize that there's only one truth in Dzogchen?
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Mr. G » Sun May 13, 2012 7:57 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Mr. G wrote:I don't see how any of these quotes posits a stance against meat eating. Seems a bit of a stretch. These passages could also be applied to the death of insects and applied to farming.
C'mon Mr. G, don't be silly, extraordinarily few of the animal carcasses sold for consumption die by natural means. That means somebody has to be encouraged (normally via financial incentives) to kill them. Through the purchasing of the flesh, a portion of the money of which is paid for the flesh goes to the slaughterer, thus the slaughterer receives approval for their task. But I am sure you are well aware of this.
:namaste:


I do not encourage anyone to participate in animal or insect slaughter, nor am I a butcher or do farming on a mass scale. The killing of animals and of insects via farming for food is reality. In Dzogchen, we work with these conditions.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Malcolm » Sun May 13, 2012 8:04 pm

Bhusuku wrote:
Namdrol wrote:I will state that, based on my understanding of Dzogchen teachings, those Buddhist scholastics who argued that plants were not alive, equivalent with rocks and crystals, were wrong in their understanding.


"Buddhist scholastics"? Didn't the Buddha himself taught this?


No, he did not teach this. Read the Schmithausen monograph.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun May 13, 2012 8:06 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
namdrol wrote:I did not equate the two. I merely pointed out that I no longer believe that anything imbued with prāṇa can possibly be non-sentient. Plants possess prāṇa, therefore, they are alive, therefore, after some fashion, I must accept that they too are sentient. Not only to plants possess prāṇa, but they also possess ojas, mdangs, they also possess the seven phase digestive process that we humans and all animals do. They take food, they break it down, is it conducted by fluid within plant membranes where it builds their flesh, their soft tissue, hard tissues and finally in the end they produce sap, flowers, seeds, etc.
Where do plants fit into the schema of the realms of samsaric existence? What is the mental poison that causes one to reborn as a plant? Why are there no references to birth as a plant in any of the Sutta and Sutra (and even the exceedingly few Tantra I have read) given that plants are also sentient? etc... According to that logic we should all be breatharians if we wish to be compassionate at a relative level. Seems to be a form of Jainism to the nth degree, only you do a clever intellectual backflip and use it to justify eating meat rather than avoiding eating all sentient (into which class you include plants) beings.
:namaste:


The mistake being made here is assuming that either plants or animals 'possess' sentience. Animals & humans, or rather, the accumulation of parts that we call animals and humans, constitute an 'environment' where mind can become 'attached' so to speak. Plants simply do not share that aspect. It is believed by many cultures , including in Thailand, that beings can be deluded, thinking that a tree is their body, just as you or I think of our bodies are "me".

So, if you are arguing "can plants be sentient beings the way that people and animals are?" you'd better determine first, by what means are people and animals actually sentient beings, since upon examination, no 'self" can be shown to reside in the body to begin with.

Be careful not to argue wrong assumptions!

Interestingly, while taking a break from this discussion, I sliced into my finger with a knife while trying to open a package of frozen chicken, and had to get some medical attention. The finger is fine. The chicken was a bit dry. talk about karma!!!
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Thrasymachus » Sun May 13, 2012 8:39 pm

@Namdrol:
Why would you bring up Namkhai Norbu as an example? No offense, but the guy is at least 40 pounds overweight. Thus I don't see how he is or can be an example or authority on dietary advice or ethics. Alot of people believe when you are old like him you naturally gain weight, but I have photos of my elderly great-grandparents from the late 1950's who ate a majority plant based traditional Greek(Mediterranean) diet, they were all svelte. Infact my grandparents, the first to be able to afford to eat a majority of animal based calories are the first to have spare tires on their waists in old age. Probably gregkavarnos can attest to how the Greek people have transformed in one or two short generations from one of the most slim and healthy European populations whose diet was studied and promoted globally by people like Ancel Keyes, to the fattest. See: Guardian: Greece tops fat league as diet of the Med decays I don't see why I should adopt dietary counsels that will lead to a worse longevity and lifestyle outcome from certain diaspora Tibetan lamas who cling to their traditional animal based diet which will give me more trouble than my ancestor's traditional diet.

Dzogchen is very Tibetan based. Looking at older posts in this thread, I found this great article Tashi Nyima posted earlier:
kunchen dolpopa chenno wrote:On Vegetarianism

In 1314, when he was twenty-two years old, the Omniscient Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen received full monastic ordination from the famous abbot of Cholung Monastery, Sonam Trakpa (1273–1352), and made a vow at the time to never eat meat.

Although rice and vegetables can be found in many parts of Tibet today, this was not the case in the Omniscient Dolpopa’s day. It is true that in the low-lying regions to the south and east, enough grains and vegetables were grown for most of the population to supplement their essentially meat based diet. But the cultivation of vegetables on a scale sufficient to provide what would now be regarded as an adequate vegetarian diet was impossible.

No crops can grow at altitudes of over twelve thousand feet, and much of Tibet is covered by immense grasslands suitable only for the raising of livestock: yaks, goats, and sheep. To give up eating meat was therefore a truly laudable act, accomplished by very few. It meant being satisfied with a diet consisting of little more than butter, curd, and tsampa, the traditional Tibetan flour made of roasted barley, usually eaten as lumps of dough mixed with butter and tea.


It is understandable that such a diet was beyond the capacity of the majority. Even in a country where the principles of the Mahayana were omnipresent, where no one was ignorant of the Buddha’s teachings on compassion, it was simply impossible for most people to live out such teachings on the level of their eating habits. In the case of the large monasteries, the provision for the monks of adequate supplies of vegetable food, even if they had been inclined to a meatless diet, was completely out of the question. To be a vegetarian in Tibet required powers of endurance and a determination that could only come from the deepest possible conviction.

...

Like I pointed out in my first post to this thread, Tibet was and is a marginally inhabitable land. Most of us don't have the same traditional diet or the same locality constraints as they did to necessitate us making their same dietary choices. However, it seems laudably alot of exile Tibetan lamas have been strongly advocating a vegetarian diet now that they are removed from those obstacles. This trend will probably only accelerate as their traditional diet will have less cultural power over the coming decades.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby mindyourmind » Sun May 13, 2012 8:48 pm

Namdrol wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:...

If you don't realize your own true mind, it doesn't matter what goes into your belly or where it came from. You may save a herd of cattle in this lifetime, and that will be a very good thing, but that will be all you save.



:thumbsup:


What if you can do both - realize your own true mind and save a herd of cattle? Why the false dichotomy?
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Malcolm » Sun May 13, 2012 9:10 pm

mindyourmind wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:...

If you don't realize your own true mind, it doesn't matter what goes into your belly or where it came from. You may save a herd of cattle in this lifetime, and that will be a very good thing, but that will be all you save.



:thumbsup:


What if you can do both - realize your own true mind and save a herd of cattle? Why the false dichotomy?


If you can do both, great. But when you prevent the slaughter of 10 steers, you hasten the slaughter of ten more. So what to do? And the central question really is -- how do you benefit some steer that has already been slaughtered? Praying?

N
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby mindyourmind » Sun May 13, 2012 9:15 pm

Namdrol wrote:


If you can do both, great. But when you prevent the slaughter of 10 steers, you hasten the slaughter of ten more. So what to do?

N[/quote]

Change the world ...one practitioner at a time, one steer at a time :smile:

It is also part of the maths that if you eat one steer you hasten the slaughter of one more.
Not eating meat need not be the Plan That Saves The World, but it can help your practice in many ways.
We argue like that when we say that we will help all sentient beings, we do not give up on them because there are so many and we cannot hope to save them all.

We try, one at a time, one day at a time.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Malcolm » Sun May 13, 2012 9:18 pm

mindyourmind wrote:Change the world ...one practitioner at a time, one steer at a time :smile:


And the central question really is -- how do you benefit some steer that has already been slaughtered? Praying?
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby mindyourmind » Sun May 13, 2012 9:32 pm

Namdrol wrote:
mindyourmind wrote:Change the world ...one practitioner at a time, one steer at a time :smile:


And the central question really is -- how do you benefit some steer that has already been slaughtered? Praying?


We've done this before, in the 80-odd pages.

The "central question" remains a personal one, how a practitioner approaches the eating of meat, and how that impacts on practice. It is, in my view, defeatist to accept that an animal is already dead therefore I might as well eat it. My acceptance of that fact ties in to the meat supply and demand chain, whether we like to accept it or not.

You mentioned intent earlier on, and you asked me to be precise. Most modern legal systems accept the so-called dolus eventualis as a form of intent, in other words where I accept that a given result may be accomplished and I simply accept that possibility. That is a form of intent. Meekly accepting that an animal is dead, that the shelf is full of meat so I may as well eat it is hardly a helpful approach. Withdrawing from that process, whether it helps the big picture in an infinitesimal degree or whether it actually makes a difference to that big picture, makes a difference to that practitioner, or at least it should.

Again, we may by analogy then also argue that people are suffering, that people cause their own trouble, that suffering is endemic and pervasive so we may as well leave them to it, give up and go home.

Also, if "benefiting" that steer only comes in when the steer is dead, then why can that "benefit" not have been transferred while it was alive? What magic does the fact that an advanced practitioner is actually eating that animal now bring that another practice could not? Can we argue that way with killing people?

To me it sounds like a self-serving argument.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Malcolm » Sun May 13, 2012 9:38 pm

mindyourmind wrote:Meekly accepting that an animal is dead, that the shelf is full of meat so I may as well eat it is hardly a helpful approach.


Nothing meek about me. I deliberately eat meat, when I eat meat, in order to create a positive cause for that animal's eventual liberation. When all is said and done that is my motive.

I also sponsor freeing of animals, and so on.

There is no way to lessen the suffering of samsara for others, however, by such means as freeing animals and so on. The best you can do is conquer your own samsara. However, through using a method coming from one of the six liberations (sight, sound, smell, taste, hearing, touch etc.) you can benefit other sentient beings so that they too one day may receive teachings and achieve liberation. That is where I am coming from.

N
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
Malcolm
 
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