Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Health, Fitness and Zen

Sorry I ain't been writing much. I've been working hard on finishing up a novel I wrote way back in 1998. It's called Gill Women of the Prehistoric Planet.

Back in those days I was trying hard to become a professional writer. I wrote dozens of short stories that I used to send to science fiction magazines and get rejection notices for. I managed to publish three of them, I think. All fairly bad. I was writing stuff for Ultraman, some of which was used uncredited. I also completed three novels; Death to All Monsters (aka Destroy All Spacemen), Akron Ohio: City in the Sky and Gill Women of the Prehistoric Planet.

Gill Women was the best of the bunch. It concerned the exploits of a hapless sf-movie nerd named Joe who lives in Akron and happens to have the last remaining copy of a film called Gill Women of the Prehistoric Planet. Joe believes that this moldering old movie kept in rusting film canisters in the basement of the punk rock house he shares with a band called the Zen Luv Assassins contains the key to thwarting an alien invasion he believes is being planned and organized at the local Johnny Teagle's HyperMart store.

It's a comedy that may or may not be science fiction. There's been some interest expressed lately in my novels, so I decided the time was right to fix one of them up and see if it goes anywhere. I'm actually enjoying the book a lot. About two years of hard labor went into creating it, and it's not bad at all.

ANYWAY I got an email today that said this:

Long time fan, first time caller! I'd appreciate a post or just your thoughts about the role of health and fitness in Zen. Most specifically what is your daily food routine like. Do you totally stay away from caffeine? Do you eat after noon? There's lots of Zen writing about mindful eating and such but I'd like to hear more of what your actual diet is like. Do you do wheat grass shots every morning? Do you choke down omega-3's every day? I remember a quote (from Sit Down I believe) where you mentioned our responsibility to feed ourselves healthy food and that you're a vegetarian. You've also talked about yoga and stuff. I know that my practice totally sucks when I've eaten too much or just generally treat my body like crap. And when I don't exercise I just feel way less "balanced" in general. Maybe I just need some encouraging words to get my ass to the gym!

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. My own diet is not really exemplary. I'm a vegetarian, but more for moral reasons than health. Which means that I consider Fritos as perfectly acceptable vegetarian cuisine. However, recently I've been trying to get a bit more serious about diet and exercise.

The crisis point came in my tour of Europe this Spring. I had very little control over what I got fed during my travels. Just trying to avoid big hunks of meat in everything I ate was hard enough. Plus I was spending a lot of time in planes, cars and trains, basically sitting for long, long periods. And not sitting zazen, either! Just sort of slumped in a chair somewhere.

When I lived in Santa Monica I had a regular exercise routine consisting mainly of yoga and bicycle riding. That was gone and I needed to do something. So I went on-line looking for fitness routines that could be done pretty much anywhere without any special equipment. I started doing a 25 minute workout I found on some website every day before breakfast, which I still do now that I'm back in the USA. It's got push-ups, crunches, squats and some other stuff.

I also spent some time in Japan with my friend Patrick Reynolds who runs a thing called the Peak Condition Project. My friend Ren did the program and it really made a big difference. I haven't done the program, but I did listen to Patrick lecture me about my lousy eating habits, and I've endeavored to change those -- fewer carbs, more vegetables (Fritos are not vegetables), less food at night, etc.

The ancient Buddhists were not allowed to eat after noon. Very few Buddhists follow that these days. In fact, in Zen retreats they have a cute way of cheating in which they refer to breakfast and lunch as meals and to dinner as "medicine." It's like supposedly observant Jews who hire gentiles to turn their lights on during the Sabbath. It pays lip service to the tradition but ignores the spirit behind it.

Nishijima, by the way, bucks this system. He calls dinner a meal during his retreats, and does the meal chant at night too (it's usually skipped at night at Zen retreats because you don't chant for "medicine"). I've kept Nishijima's tradition at my own retreats. I prefer the honesty of doing it that way.

In Buddhism we say that body and mind are the same. Unfortunately, too many in the Zen world see Zen as a purely mental exercise and ignore their bodies. I don't really trust fat Zen masters. I saw a video of one American master doing his prostrations and I really worried whether he was gonna have a heart attack with all the bulk he was carrying.

I'm not talking about middle-aged people who are carrying a bit of extra around. That's not such a big deal. But there are some truly obese Zen masters out there and I really wonder about that.

I once read a piece by some author talking about what it takes to be a professional writer. One of the points he stressed was physical fitness. Writing is a job where you sit around a lot. It's easy to get fat and soft. But, said the author, the condition of your body affects the condition of your mind. You can't be a good writer if you don't take care of your body.

I wish I could recall who wrote that, because I fully agree. I believe Zen practice absolutely requires you to take care of your physical condition. You need to exercise and take care of your nutrition. Body and mind are one. You can't expect to free your mind while abusing the rest of your body.

Nishijima Roshi chants the full Buddhist meal chant before every meal he eats, even when he's at home by himself. I haven't started this myself, although I have started doing the very short version of it at most meals. I read once that cultures with meal rituals have less obesity than those without. I can see why. Eating is important. It should not be taken lightly. Even vegetarians like me have to kill other forms of life in order to sustain ourselves. This is some heavy stuff.

So no, I'm not doing wheat grass shots or abstaining from food after noon. But I do try to be careful of what I eat and I make a point of doing exercise every day, no matter how much I hate it -- and I assure you I do hate it. A lot. But it makes me feel good. So it must be good. I'm no body builder, but I'm not fat and I plan to keep it that way. I try to deal with physical fitness and nutrition in a balanced way. It's important not to take even being healthy too far.


Harry said...

I'll be back!

leoboiko said...

> I wish I could recall who wrote that, because I fully agree.

Haruki Murakami wrote a whole book about that. The English translation is called What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.

He compares fiction writing to “poison” – something that abuses the body – and affirms he would be physically unable to stand the stress of that “poison” if he didn’t run every day (he’s a marathonist).

Joel H said...

Without some running and stretching my practice would be bad, I know it. Also eating lots of raw food mostly in smoothie form and some so called super foods has made me a way happier person. I just love 'em!! There is no turning back! :)

Rehn said...

I've been a vegan now for 30 years--also for moral reasons. And I too consider "Fritos as perfectly acceptable vegetarian cuisine." I eat very healthy about 85% of the time, but even a vegan needs junk food.

Blake said...

I have actually given this quite a bit of thought and have considered writing something on this. Actually, it makes me wonder if a friend of mine, with whom I've discussed this, was the one who wrote you.

I believe that taking care of the body is a very important part of Zen. You see, I believe that a very important part of practice is making yourself useful not only to yourself but to all other beings. Not only must you have a clear mind but you must have a strong body.

As I once heard a Parkour ( trainer say, "We exercise to be useful." I cannot agree more.

Seagal Rinpoche said...

Without accepting the fact that everything changes, we cannot find perfect composure. But unfortunately, although it is true, it is difficult for us to accept it. Because we cannot accept the truth of transience, we suffer.

Harry said...

Good, quick all-body work out for lazy wimps... like me!

I like a bit of a walk every day. I do Aikido a couple of times a week too.

Be careful with running as it can sometimes cause the hamstrings to tighten if you don't stretch enough before and after. This won't help with sitting cross-legged at all. I always found running too hard on my wimpyboy, skinny legs.



Anonymous Bob said...

Wow.. That e-mail could have been written by me because I have been thinking about a lot of the same shit myself.

I am a pescetarian*...

I became a pescetarian about ten years into my vegetarianism because I started really craving fish. I don't know why I started really craving fish because I was never a big fish eater before but now I eat the little motherfuckers a couple of times a week.

At one time not so long ago I would have thought nothing of eating a bean burrito with hot sauce and polishing it off with a few 'Burning River Ales'** right before bed. But I am older now and have come to realize that I have to watch what I eat and when. I try to abstain from meals after 6pm because I get more rest and need less sleep that way. I have little doubt that if I could get used to eating my last meal at noon I would be better off for it but I don't think that is going to happen.

I exercise by walking rapidly for one hour every day unless I'm sick or it's pouring rain and sometimes even then. I also like to chase the wife around the house. That is about the extent of it. I know that's pretty lame for exercise but I like walking and I can only take so much boredom. Zazen takes care of the boredom.

* Don't freak out Mysterion.. A pescetarian is not a Calvinist but a vegetarian who also eats fish.

** An assertively hopped American pale ale with citrusy and piney Cascade hops.

CAPTCHA : synchup : I kid you not

john e mumbles said...

Whew, I was afraid a pescetarian followed Joe Pesce's diet or something.

Sounds like I also am a pesectarian, although I only eat fish about once or twice a month.

Anonymous said...

Am glad this topic is coming up
When I sit zazen the posture is good and body mind seems ok balanced state
Off cushion pain in the body at work (sitting computer/phones--call center) even with good ergonomics
Chair is right height forearms supported, etc seems I keep leaving off my body to enter into the business of doing the work and I 'return' to the body to find it hurting
How can I stay with body throughout the function/activity of work?
Maybe I don't know how to present this question, this situation clearly; I mean obviouslly I don't 'leave' my body
When I work, I'm in it with it am it damn it Janet, but
still the use of it while working gets lost, buried, in the doing of the work
Any suggestions?

Petteri Sulonen said...

I just pay attention to how different kinds of food make me feel. Put another way, I extend the experience of eating beyond the moment of actually consuming the food. The upshot is that I enjoy foods that make me feel good more than foods that make me feel not-so-good, and I end up eating pretty damn healthily, actually.

The same goes for physical exercise. I enjoy cycling and walking for their own sake, and stretching and weights for the way they make me feel. I rarely have to really force myself to do any of that nowadays; instead, if I neglect them, I feel like I WANT to hit the gym.

And yeah, I do think this has something to do with Zen practice.

Glen said...

The point about not taking physical fitness too far i a valid one. I often wonder when i look at the mens health magazines...sure they are packed full of stuff for physical health, but i wonder how it helps people mentally? It's like the girls with the gossip and glam magazines getting depressed because they dont match up with the air brushed chicks.

Also, one guy to check out for quick home workouts is Ross Enamait.

Ara Kooser said...

Just out of curiosity what is the short form of the meal chant?

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

I get sooo hungry for a bloody-rare steak sometimes that cows in a pasture make my mouth water.

The key is moderation.

Andre said...

I've been thinking about writing a book called "Zen and the Art of Bodybuilding"! I've been weight training for 16 years, and see weight lifting as a Western form of yoga. Instead of asanas, we have resistance movements. The benefits of weight training are too numerous to list here, but what interests me the most is how to integrate practice with exercise. Mindfulness in the gym. Drop the iPod, book, and magazine and concentrate on the exercise. I was even thinking about writing a weekly blog post about mindfulness and exercise. What do you think?


anon #108 said...

Hi Ara Kooser,

I'm not sure what Brad means by "the very short form of the meal chant", but it may be this:

(Montsui no ge - Verse upon Hearing the Meal Signal)

Bussho kapira jo do makada
Seppo harana nyu metsu kuchira

Buddha was born in Kapilavastu,
Enlightened in Magada,
Taught in Varanasi,
Entered nirvana in Kushinagara.

That's the very short chant chanted before meals at the one-day Dogen Sangha UK retreats.

At the three day retreats, we also chant (after the food’s been served, but before eating):

(Tenpatsu no ge – Verse for Setting Out Bowls)

Nyorai o ryo ki ga kon toku buten
Gan gu is sai shu to san rin ku ja ku

Now we set out Buddha's bowls;
May we, with all beings,
Realize the emptiness of the three wheels:
Giver, receiver and gift.

And then, after eating:

(Sessui no ge - Verse of the Rinse Water)

Ga shi sen pas sui nyo ten kan ro mi
Se yo kijin shu shi ryo toku bo man
Om makurasai so wa ka

This water we use to wash our bowls
Tastes like ambrosia.
We offer it to the many spirits to satisfy them.
Om, Mahakushalaya Svaha!

Lots of Formal Meal Verses here.

And Gudo chanting the Verse of Five Contemplations (gokan ge) HERE.

Lone Wolf said...

From time to time I run into skinny people that seem to hate or be disgusted or just plain against fat people. Like they have the thought, "What's wrong with you fat person? Why don't you just lose some weight." Maybe I should coin the term Fatophobia. I'm not sure if Brad is one of those people, but I hope he is not saying you can't teach Zen if your fat. I just think there is something ridiclous about that idea. I'm fat, but I've been sitting Zazen morning and night since the beginning of the year. I doubt that anybody that is fat enjoys being fat, but its not like you can become skinny overnight, just like doing Zazen won't make you "enlightened" overnight.

Some people can eat all the junkfood they want and say skinny. Some peole, like myself, can eat a moderate healthy meal and stil put on weight. I also can't help that my parents raised me on junk food. I've been fat all my life. This is not an excuse. I currently weight 300 pounds, which is pretty damn fat. However, I became vegan August 1st 2009. Guess how much I weighed then? 370. I've lost 70 pounds in a year. It has took a lot of work and discipline. It's not easy to maintain good eating habits and espicially a work out routine (not to mention daily zazen) admist all the other responsibilites I have each day. But I'm working at it, little by little, moment by moment.

I'm working with the situation I find myself in as best as I can. I just feel Brad can be a little bit critical when it comes to his criticism of fat people or fat Zen Masters. He may have a little fatophobia. So if I'm fat, does it mean I can't sit Zazen. Well I'm doing it. I might not be able to sit full lotus, but I'm aiming at the best Zazen posture I can in regards to Dogen's instruction.

I will contiue to work on my weight problem moment by moment and practice Buddhism moment by moment. I will not be skinny anytime soon, in regards to what societies standards of skinny is. I might never reach the level of a "skinny person." Even with the healthy vegan diet I'm on and the excersie I do, my weight goes through stagnation and ups and downs. I'm just doing my best without falling into the extreme of being some health fanatic that feels the need to take shots of wheat grass everyday along with a ton of other herbs and vitamins. I may very well die fat, even with all the work I've put into being more healthy. I'm not too worried about results. Just doing what I need to do now to be healthier.

PS: When I reached 370, I was diagnosed with Sleep Apnea. I now sleep with a CPAP machine, which has allowed me to have more energy to work on my health. Sleep Apnea was a major problem with my weight issue and my weight issue was a major problem with my sleep apnea. Of course I'm not Zen Master nor do I have the desire to be a Zen Master, but I was wondering if Brad thinks there is a problem if a Zen Master sleeps with a Darth Vadery CPAP machine?

Btw, It's not easy being vegan in SW Ohio, but I'm dong it.

This may come across angy, but I'm not. Just felt it needed to be said.

Blake said...

As for weights, I do the big four compounds: military press, deadlift, bench press and squat. I do each on a different day with smaller, body weight exercises like pull ups, push ups and jump squats. For cardio I just started riding my bike to work and I plan on starting high intensity interval training.

Diet-wise, I lean towards vegetarian but if my mother-in-law goes out of her way to fix us fried chicken, I'll have a piece. Otherwise it's as much local, in-season as possible, as whole as possible. I try to have my last meal 3 hours before bed (around 7:00 most nights).

anon #108 said...

Just remembered - we chant gokan ge at the three day retreats too.

proulx michel said...

Besides having been as a youth rather lean (at 19 I weighed 115 pounds, or 58 kg for 5'11 or 1m81), I practiced track and field in college and karate later. Although I haven't done sport for the last 30 years, a correct alimentary diet and the habit of abdominal breathing have kept me relatively fit. Now at 62 I probably have shrunk some in height and increased a bit in girth for I'm probably more around the 80-85 kg. But I am in a reasonable physical condition.

I think I have the chance of living in Southern France where good and tasty vegetable is plenty (albeit not really cheap). I'm not reaaly a veggie, but I quite like to fare without any meat, and have thus developed more skills just for that mere fact. And I find the idea of never leaving table with a full stomach (the vernacular saying in Southern France is "avoir les dents du fond qui baignent", that is to have the back teeth soaking...) is rather efficient for feeling well.

But here, contrarily to more northerly countries, eating is part of the fun of life: not in quantities but essentially in quality.

Sumguyonablog said...

Body and mind are not the same.
If you say they are the same, I'll hit you with a stick 30 times.
If you say they are different, I'll still hit you 30 times. Why?

Not one and not two, straight ahead runs the way.

Lone Wolf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lone Wolf said...

Would you consider Joshu Sasaki Roshi as fat? If so, maybe someone should tell Leonard Cohen that his teacher is not to be trusted.

lol I'm in a silly sarcastic mood.

I love that Sasaki Roshi is 103 and still teaching.

anon #108 said...

...and if you're about to tuck into that large doner kebab with extra chilli sauce but badly need to chant gokan ge beforehand, you can find it on the Formal Meal Verses page I linked at 1.27pm.

Hokai said...

Harry, seem to me that you ARE back!

I've had aches and pains before I started with Zazen in my back, I've had aches and pains in the beginning of practice and now I've pain sometimes during and short after sitting Zazen. But the posture helped me to get a solid position with no pain in my back at all. My minds get relaxed too. Ahh.. Sometimes.
I'm a so called vegetarian, no meet, no fish. Last year I quit eating fish after I saw a film about catching sharks. Man, they catch 'em only for the fin. 780.00 tons every year. For the most part
they import it to Japan for Sushi.
I like Sushi, but only the boring vegetarian pieces :-)

Before beginning to eat me and my family bow in Gassho.
Imo that's the shortest way to chant.
Dig in,

Anonymous said...

Hey Brad, there's actually some interesting studies about the health of families who eat together in America (not a prayer, just a "dinner time is at 6" kinda thing) vs. those who just get it on the run. The "ritual" eaters are far healthier.

The way we eat has as much to do with health as what we eat :)


Anonymous said...

so thats why my zen center has a no fat chicks sign in front of it

anon #108 said...

It's annoying me that I forgot gokan ge in the list of Dogen Sangha UK chants that I'm familiar with. So for completeness, because I like what it says, and because Gudo nails it on youtube (link at 1.27pm), here it is – the Verse of Five Contemplations:


Hitotsu ni wa ko no tasho o hakari ka no raishi o hakaru Futatsu ni wa onorega toku gyo no zen ket to hakat te kuni o zu
Mitsu ni wa shin no fusegi toga o hana ru ru koto wa ton to o shu to su
Yotsu ni wa masa ni ryo yaku o koto to suru wa gyo ko o ryo zen ga tamenari
Itsutsu ni wa jo do no tame no yue ni ima kono jiki o uku

We reflect on the effort that brought us this food and consider how it comes to us.
We reflect on our virtue and practice, and whether we are worthy of this offering.
We regard greed as the obstacle to freedom of mind.
We regard this meal as medicine to sustain our life.
For the sake of enlightenment we now receive this food.

Okay. I'm done with the chant thing now. Thank you.

Cyril Coombs said...

I do P90 X. I just lost like 25 lbs doing and I typically eat very well but I'm no vegetarian. I definitely feel better being in shape and eating healthfully.

Malcolm said...

Before you go, anon #108 - what does Om Mahakushalaya Svaha in the Verse of Rinse Water mean?

anon #108 said...

I’m glad you asked, Malcolm.

People have said all sorts about OM - this is (some of) what the Monier-Williams Sanskrit Dictionary says: “a word of solemn affirmation and respectful assent, sometimes translated by ‘yes, verily, so be it’… a sacred exclamation…also regarded as a particle of auspicious salutation…appears first in the Upanishads as a mystic monosyllable, and is there set forth as the object of profound religious meditation, the highest spiritual efficacy being attributed not only to the whole word but also to the three sounds a, ,u, m of which it consists.”

Mahakushalaaya(dative) means: for (the) great welfare, well-being, health, prosperous condition, happiness.

And Svaahaa is usually translated as “Hail”. MW says, “hail! hail to! may a blessing rest on! (with dative [as in this chant]; an exclamation used in making oblations to the gods).”

So – something like:

“Right on! Here’s to great health/well-being/happiness.”

george said...

Blogger Seagal Rinpoche said...
Without accepting the fact that everything changes..."

the peanuts that I'm eating will turn into shit. The corn I am eating will remain corn. You can pick the corn out of my shit.

john e mumbles said...

Ramana Maharshi on OM:

"The fourth state in meditation as one's true State has within itself A, U, M, and the half beat (which arises before the next repetition of OM when chanting it -jem) and is so called the state in which all sound forms have subsided; it is also called silent incantation and non-dual incantation, which is the essence of all incantations."

john e mumbles said...

(According to a random, but reliable Hindu source:)

The three portions of AUM relate to the states of waking, dream and deep sleep and the three gunas (rajas, satva, tamas)

The three letters also indicates three planes of existence, heaven (swarga), earth (martya) and netherworld (patala)

All the words produced by the human vocal organ can be represented by AUM. A is produced by the throat, U & M by the lips

In the Vedas, AUM is the sound of the Sun, the sound of Light. It is the sound of assent (affirmation) and ascent (it has an upwards movement and uplifts the soul, as the sound of the divine eagle or falcon.

...(And) Chanting OM is also really good for your sinuses. I do it every morning after yoga, sit ups and push ups prior to just sitting. The vibration it causes can clear your head and settle you down. Try it.

Rick said...

How did that writing thing work out for you?

Lesbianmama said...

"so thats why my zen center has a no fat chicks sign in front of it"

You jest, but I remember just after my first sesshin I was sitting beside this guy who remarked; "Do you ever notice how most of the chicks who attended the sesshin and practice zen generally are really ugly?" Most of the other guys laughed. I was puzzled. I was told that man had been practicing zazen for many years and went to sesshin several times per year.

Later I asked some of the those present about the remark. I said it seemed the man was standing apart and judging women pretty harshly. I wondered why so much zazen didn't make him see how shallow and mean his remark was. (I was a zen newbie and had only sat about 2 years) Several of the men defended the man and his remark and said I was the one judging him. No one said anything critical about him or his statement. They had lots of harsh criticism for my mentioning it though. In short, I was attacked for bringing it up. Sort of like people get attacked here for pointing out when Brad is being mean or divisive. He is never wrong, only his critics.

onaplain said...


Definitely like the idea of a book on weight training and Zen. After exercise is when I feel most balanced, connected, and just plain good in a really real way.

Anonymous said...

That's a shameful story, Lesbianmama. Goes to show...something. But this: "Sort of like people get attacked here for pointing out when Brad is being mean or divisive. He is never wrong, only his critics." ? I've been reading this blog for a long time and I don't think that's a fair description of what goes on. Brad gets pulled up by regulars, passers-by and trolls alike. When the "pointing out" is done by trolls who can't be bothered to string an argument together it's not surprising they get attacked. But serious criticism is quite often seriously debated.

Anonymous said...

I eat anything. My body is not a temple I worship at. I don't waft my own farts, all the time that is.

How does one judge the moral value of the life of a turnip compared to a shrimp and then turn around and claim they themselves are moral.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jamal said...

A turnip or a shrimp.. that's a bitch.

But what about a turnip or a dog?

And for that matter, why should white people have to work when there are niggers everywhere?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but you can't save the turnips, shrimp or dogs.

However, don't turn around and tell me dogs > shrimp > turnips. That isn't a moral argument if you accept all life as equal.

Rehn said...

Lesbianmama: I'm going to get attacked for this, but in general many men do not see a problem in sexist attitudes or bullying. Because they never take the time to put themselves in the place of the women or the bullied. I would expect more from Zen students in the 21st century, but I simply need to drop expectations. And not be surprised.

As for the turnip comment, this is an argument that people who eat meat always use to justify their habit. However, it is really not an argument. Even you can see the difference between a turnip and a cow. A cow has friends and family like you do. Do what you want, I really don't judge you. You create your own karma. I will accept the karma associated with eating plants.

jamal said...

Ain't what I'm saying Hoss.. Nothing gets out of here alive but with a little mercy some lives will be a little less horrific.

Anonymous said...

Deciding to kill something is the same decision if you accept all life as equal. Of course it appears you don't because you're making the case that "shrimp" are more anthropomorphic than "turnips" therefore we must obviously kill the "turnips". I really wonder what your chart of which being is worth more than others looks like. To me it sounds like you're engaging in dangerous moralizing.

If you want to relinquish your claim to the moral high-ground and instead simply claim it is your preference to eat "turnips" then I have no beef with you, but you'll have to stop claiming you're vegan based on moral reasons - since morals are something we all share - to imply anybody else who eats what a vegan doesn't eat is immoral and will suffer under horrible karma...

Well, that is quite a baseless and pretentious claim coming from somebody who ranks lifeforms in order of their likeness to man.

Rehn said...

Do I believe that there is a difference between a turnip and a cow? Yes, I do. (Even a child can tell you the difference between her/his pet dog and a carrot.) I say this for two reasons. First, plants are not one of the six realms into which sentient being can be reborn. Within those six realms, I see no difference between beings. For example, I see no difference between the killing of a person and the killing a trout. I see both actions as wrong. The second reason that I see a difference between a turnip and a cow is because traditional sutras that describe the karmic results for specific actions do not include any negative karma attached to eating plants. Do I feel superior to someone who does eat animals? No, I’m not saying I’m superior. You are. I don’t compare myself with others. My best friend eats meat. Do I believe the killing of animals is wrong? Yes. But this is based on my morals. And not everyone has the same moral. Mine are based on Buddhist teachings. The first precept is not to kill. So I try not to be involved with killing. Do I kill insects while driving? Yes. And I believe that every action gains karma (positive, neutral, or negative). And I must live with that negative karma—I simply hope I create more positive karma than negative karma. What I’m saying is everyone has to live with the karma they create. And it is all personal.

proulx michel said...

I mentioned earlier that I'm not a true veggie although I avoid as much as possible to eat meat (or fish).

But to me, there is a patent problem with being a veggie in very cold northern climates as that of Quebec or Ohio. Eating only vegetables in winter means eating petrol, because you have to get them from Florida or California. And that isn't very sensible. In the past century, it would have been worse. In Tibet, you couldn't dream of surviving without it.

This leads me to think that we ought to be careful about that issue.

In France (I don't know how it is elsewhere) you now get in the Supermarkets meat packed in opaque packaging with a superb photograph of the most beautiful piece of meat you may dream of. To me, this is much more of an insult to life, because it means that meat is just another industrial produce. If you go to your butcher and ask for a piece of meat and see him cutting it out of a side, a lunge or a leg, you very well know that it comes out of a once living animal, and you can at least apologise for it. But you don't apologise to an industrial produce.

captcha: murality...!

Mysterion said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

This posting too will not disappear in 24 hours.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

First, plants are not one of the six realms into which sentient being can be reborn.

WTF you been smokin' and where can I get some? At Lolly Dollas house?

example: "Eat dem peas ORAVIXE you sum mutton!!!"

Mysterion said...

"In Buddhism, it is taught that there are various realms, spheres or dimensions of existence. There are thirty-one planes of existence listed, but for our purposes, we are going to utilize a simpler scheme which enumerates six realms of existence. In general, the six realms may be divided into two groups, one of which is relatively fortunate and the other relatively miserable. The first group includes three of the six realms and they are the realm of the gods, the realm of the demigods and the realm of human beings. Rebirth in these fortunate realms is the result of wholesome karma. The second group includes the three realms that are considered relatively miserable. They are sometimes called the realms of woe, and they are the realm of animals, the realm of hungry ghosts and the realm of hell beings. Rebirth in these states of woe is the result of unwholesome karma." source

Anonymous said...

Again killing is killing, ain't it. You go ahead and justify it according to some list you read in a book. I won't be playing a game to figure out whether eating the seal, trout or the crab is going to send me into a karmic black hole. Hogwash. I eat it all with respect, that is the most important thing, not eating a being with more or less reverence because the list says it's a lesser life-form.

Further, I'm not trying to take a righteous moral position... I eat what shows up, certainly that makes me a plebeian according to your revered list. Though you don't want to admit it because you're so polite. Whatever, to me, it comes down to a bunch of snobbery. Don't pretend it's your own set of morals you're following, if that is so then it's not a moral. It makes zero sense for you to come here and tell people they're immoral according to your chosen "morals".

Sometimes I wish vegans could sit-down, eat their vegetables and shut-up. They never do though, they must always first point out they are vegan for moral or ethical reasons... whatever, that is your problem.

Mysterion said...

The Thirty-One Planes of Existence are enumerated HERE

Most Theravada Buddhism is a nine-year sequence of studies. Nine (9) being a full cycle. Following the nine (9) years of study, one enters twelve (12) years of practice (application of the knowledge gained in the studies). Following the nine (9) plus (+) twelve (12) years, there is an entire year spent in silence. In some sects, there is a year of silence (reflection) following the nine years of study before the practice begins. So a short course is twenty-two (22) or twenty three (23) years depending on who is scooping the ice cream.

Or, (Mahayana) following twelve (12) years of study, one enters nine (9) years of practice. That's somewhat easier because the study material is throttled back.

In other sects (the Evelyn Wood school of Buddhism) you become a full-fledged Buddhist immediately after you start reading a book by Alan Watts or viewing a DVD.

Word Verification = deters

Rehn said...

I'm not telling anyone that they are immoral. (Morals aren't universal.) I'm just explaining how I view the killing animals. The first Buddhist precept is do not kill. You can interpret that anyway you want. However, justifying the killing of animals for food by saying that it is the same as eating vegetables is common argument among meat eaters but it is not a real argument. It is simply silly. And I explained using a Buddhist understanding of the world why it doesn't work. If you want to eat meat, eat meat. But do so, with the knowledge that you are contributing to the suffering of other creatures like yourself. Doesn't seem very Buddhist to me. But there are many understandings of Buddhism.

That is all I'll say on the subject. We will never agree.

Anonymous said...

anonymous @ 1.55pm and before that and before that...said "whatever, that is your problem."

Sounds like you have a small issue with it all too, anon.

PhilBob-SquareHead said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Ara Kooser said...

Hey anon#108

Thanks for the short form. I've done the long form at the sesshins here just never seen the short form. Thanks again!



ZenLex said...

Just to weigh in on the interesting Turnip conversation. I do not wish to take sides nor do I believe it is in any way my place to tell someone else what to or not to eat or to judge them for that choice. So take this with a grain of salt. Here's how I have decided that I personally approach the moral issues associated with eating in a buddhist way. I was a huge carnivore - every meal for the most part involved meat of all kinds, for a long time. I began to flirt with the vegetarian diet more for variety than anything else as I like to cook and so I wanted some new culinary skills, and I have vegetarian friends. Since I have embarked upon my journey down this path, I have gone mostly vegetarian, but more for what I view as Malthian ecological and ethical reasons than for deciding that a cow is more valuable than a turnip. The reality in america is this - there are more people eating meat than the planet can reasonably, ethically, and naturally sustain. Hence the disgusting nature of the commercial meat industries and the pollution the spew into the environment not to mention the inhumane treatment of the animals. Where I view the difference with most plants is that you don't always have to kill a plant to eat it. I can pick a tomato and the plant will continue to produce food and live out its natural life cycle. Even most root vegetables like carrots and turnips are actually still technically alive after they are picked and hanging out in your house. They don't scream when I cut into them. Most people I know would not be willing to eat steak if it required walking up to a live cow and hacking into it with a knife. I do still on rare and special occasions eat meat, but I will only purchase or prepare meat/fish if I can personally talk to the farmer/fisher that produced it and know the story of the animal I am about to consume in reverence. I will also eat meat if it is offered as a gift and has been treated with reverence and from local, organic, sustainable source. I view this as pragmatism. I do not believe that the entire world will stop eating animals anytime soon, nor should they have to. I want to see the money go to support farming practices that are respectful, humane, and ecologically ethical. I might eat meat once every couple of months in this manner.

My $.02

PhilBob-SquareHead said...

I have never called myself a buddhist in public. I do not belong to groups. I sit zazen. I eat meat. I butchered in grocery stores when I was younger. I like the taste of animal blood cooked on my palate.

Where is this I?

captcha: hoaked
example: I "hoaked" me a feesh tooday!!!!!

Anastasia said...

I am fat. I am a fat chick. I am a fat Zennie Type II diabetic chick with fibromyalgia who is slowly beginning to take better care of herself so she doesn't drop dead right away.

I have lost some weight through eating better and exercising. More weight will come off over time. It is easier to sit now and it is also easier to breathe. Just a few changes have greatly improved my health, and I am glad of it.

Facing facts about my fatness (say that ten times fast, yo) made it easier for me to better care for myself. I got myself fat, and I have no one/nothing else to blame. Why point fingers? I knew damn well what I was doing as I ate entire Entenmann's chocolate cakes, and I didn't give a rat's ass that I was doing it. What *was* important was that I finally realized that since I did it, I could also undo it.

Mysterion said...

Blogger Rehn said...
"I'm not telling anyone that they are immoral."

I am.

Well, Jim Tucker is...

and I refer people to his book.

Screw up the planet all you want - you WILL be back to sleep in the bed you are now making.

Anonymous said...

Rehn, I don't agree with moral relativity, which you are putting forward. To say that "it's relative" makes your whole statement worthless to me.

The "it's a common argument amongst meat eaters" routine doesn't prove anything either. You haven't really given a good reason not to eat trout other than they're from the 1st sphere or something that makes them closer to a human and thus forbidden by something. Maybe we just shouldn't eat cute things that act like people do, then pat ourselves on the back for eating in an enlightened manner.

While i agree, that it is a moral point that killing is wrong, i'm not sure you've a leg to stand on when it comes to claiming vegan-ism as moral. Even in your own set of morals. Since nobody i know can eat without killing, we are all immoral, so don't go off thinking you're the moral person around here making the moral choice because you eat whatever a vegan eats. Sorry to be a crab in a bucket, but thems the breaks.

To the other poster who says not everybody can eat vegetables all year, you're right. I guess that means everybody in the northern hemisphere is tainted with excessively bad karma - though i'm not sure, because you have to eat many turnips to gain the same nutritional value of a shrimp or trout... how many turnips are worth a trout anyway?

Anonymous said...

The human game was up a long time ago............

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Uku said...

Now that you have had your classic cow vs. carrott- discussion, maybe you should go next to the rebirth- issue? *making popcorns*

Anonymous said...

Yes, of course rebirth - I forgot. That must be why people in the miserable northern areas of the world would end up eating a lot of meat - they were reborn there from the temperate areas because they ate and killed 1st sphere animals in a previous life. It is making sense now, why it's just their karma to eat meat... but the joke is on them! soon they will be vegetables and i will eat them! ha ha ha!


Rehn said...

Of course morals are relative. Have you studied other cultures. Each group creates there own understanding of morals. I have two degrees in Religious Studies, and I taught at one of the largest Universities in the country. I know. As for eating animals. Do what you want? That's what I've been saying all the time. But do you need to cut down Buddhist principles--which inform my morality. This is a Buddhist site. If you care nothing about Buddhism, why are you here.

Anonymous said...


Moral relativity leads to strange arguments, to come here and question your assertion of my and others immorality and negative karma is the best thing.

Judging people by your own cultural standards is what leads to huge mistakes. You are doing that by coming here and working off normative beliefs like "it is immoral to eat a trout" when people have eaten anything for years. Not all of us are subscribers to the x spheres theory of judging life-forms. To assert that we aren't Buddhist because we eat shrimp and shrimp is forbidden and that you follow the Buddhist principle of various spheres and that you are a Buddhist because you follow the rules in a text is rejected by me.
Just because I eat a piece of meat doesn't mean I'm not a Buddhist.

Rehn said...

I don't question you being a Buddhist because you eat meat; I questioned it because you were making fun of Buddhist beliefs. Even if you don't follow the precept to the letter--and I don't--you must acknowledge that they exist. And honor that they exist. I stopped eating meat many years before I even knew what Buddhism was because--and you can't refute this--the eating of meat causes pain and suffering to other beings. I don't want pain and suffering for myself, so why inflict it on someone or something else. You may not care, but you must admit that animals feel. I'm not judging you. I'm trying to make you think about your actions, and what results from your actions. Being a Bodhisattva means that you want to end the suffering of all being. The "I want this" and "I want that" should morph into what is best for others. That is Buddhism. So, eat meat, but realize what you are doing. Don't dismiss what I'm saying just because you don't want to think about it. We need to think about all of our actions, and how they affect the world around us.

And again, I called no one immoral. It is not my place to judge. So, if morals aren't relative, then who's morals are the right ones. Of course, it is always yours. Historically, that understanding has caused a lot death and destruction.

Anonymous said...

Well said, I don't deny animals can feel pain and suffer. Though i'm not quite on the same page as you with the differences of eating certain things I won't deny to kill anything contributes to the suffering in this world. I am always thinking about how I act in this world as best I can that is and with the point to obviously reduce the collateral damage. Having said all that sometimes it isn't possible to live strictly as a vegan and from what I know Buddhist doctrine may promote vegetarian diets and expect you todo the best but, the strictness and adherence to that varies.

I certainly am just poking fun and some of the strange conclusions one can draw from the various Buddhist texts, there is very worthwhile information inside many of them, though not obvious at first glance is how to interpret them, which can lead to some of flat-out anachronistic ideas which need to keep being tested.

If you aren't calling anybody immoral, for eating meat, that is consistent and less radical than I figured. I think whether or how moral a diet is varies by situation and degree of thoughtfulness in that situation. The people who eat meat, through aware choice or of necessity, should be aware also that it also carries a certain attitude about the world forward that they should keep an eye on.

Nice talking, Gassho.

Rehn said...

Thank you! It was a good conversation.


Mysterion said...

It is pointless to debate whether these realms are real or whether they are merely fanciful metaphors...

these are merely postulates, considerations, or philosophical theories from which a further ideas are developed...

Mysterion said...

My opinion alone:

I consider the meal chant a wee bit on the auto-hypnotic side of things. If you are in a monastic setting - go for it!

"ita daki mas" meaning "about to receive" is sufficient.
(Ee Tah Dah Key Mass)

A bit of a fanciful flight:

We all may say "Ita Daki Mas"

A Japanese phrase whose meaning can
be interpreted: to Know that we Are
Blessed by the Origin and Manifestation of all that is available to us for our Health
and Well Being, AND, all people,
minerals, plants and animals who have a role in bringing Good Things to us.

We Are Blessed. We hold All of this in reverent Gratitude.

I was on a flight to Chicago (c. 1986?) seated next to Mark DeHaan. He asked me to say grace and "Ita Daki Mas" is what I said.

Then we had a three hour discussion about the nature of god(s). He was not converted - I told him Buddhist neither convert nor do the 'take' converts. Nor do we do door-to-door missionary work. There is a point where you just say "I am going to accept this and get on with a more harmonious life. (Hint: every salient being is born Buddhist, it's merely a question of realization and there is no hurry about that!)

o.k. for this posting alone, I am the uninvited guest teacher.

Is that acceptable, Brad? said...

man how about nicotine

Buddharocket said...

Vegetarian? Do I have to turn into one of those "Stuff White People Like" guys?

Mysterion said...

In the California sun, you don't.

Ross said...

Brad, what's the routine you use in the morning? I've been composing one but looking at an example would be great.

Jean said...


I've been a fan of yours for about five years now. Thankyou for being truthful.
I do agree with this article on Health, and I really wish more people would realize just WHAT poisons we are putting in our system.
Not just as a Buddhist, but as a fellow Punk rocker.
Questioning Authority: Something which should be encouraged more. These owners of junk food companies also run phamaceutical companies, which provide us with the medicine our fat asses need so we can consume more of their crap! It also doesnt help that our schools are sponsored by sugary cola companies, which in return place vending machines in every school hallway.
Zen or no Zen, people in general need to step up to the plate, take responsibility, learn to cook/eat properly, and to have respect for their bodies.

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