Today marks the Bhutanese and Tibetan New Year known as Losar. It is celebrated all over Bhutan for a period of 2 to 3 days. People gather together to feast, visit temples to make offering for the benefit of all sentient beings and put up prayer flags and pray for a prosperous New Year. These celebrations (like many celebrations all around the world) however involve the consumption of a lot of meat and as Buddhists we try to refrain from harming our fellow sentient beings, which involves trying to reduce our consumption of meat. Therefore if we truly wish to make Losar a happy event for all our fellow sentient beings we should consider celebrating with a vegetarian feast rather than a feast with many meat dishes.
Why should we reduce our consumption of meat?
It is clear that all the animals seek happiness and try to avoid suffering. They too enjoy their time with their family and friends and want to live a long life just like us. If this is not the case why do cows cry when they are about to be slaughtered and why do fish trash about when they are trapped in a net? It is all because they want to avoid suffering.
We humans are like a fragile egg or a thin glass that can easily be broken by rumours against us or harsh words but we don’t care to slaughter and cause lots of suffering to animals so we can enjoy their meat. We care deeply about our family, friends and country but don’t care much about the life of other animals. Just think that when someone’s kidney fails they panic and try to seek out a kidney donation as quickly as possible to avoid death but we are happy to fry an animal’s kidneys and other organs.
By enjoying meat we are causing a lot of unnecessary suffering for animals. So if we think of this enormous suffering experienced by the animals it makes sense to reduce our consumption of meat.
Why we enjoy eating meat?
There are a few reasons why we enjoy eating meat. Firstly, we are attached to the taste of the meat. But when we logically analyze this attachment only one part of the tongue can taste the meat and this is only for a few seconds before it goes down our throat and into the stomach. If we think of eating meat like this then we can reduce our attachment easily.
Secondly, meat eating is a habit in many countries around the world and particularly during times of celebration. A habit is something that we get used to so it then follows that we can form a new habit of eating less meat and more vegetables.
Finally, we eat meat because of the lack of understanding. Whenever we eat meat we are taking pleasure in eating the meat rather than thinking that we have taken another’s life and caused great suffering. The less meat we eat the more animals we are saving. If we can think more about the animal’s suffering the greater our compassion. In fact when we closely look at the meat we eat in its raw state it is quite disgusting, it only looks delicious once it is cooked and nicely presented on a plate but we don’t understand this deeper level of awareness.
How we can reduce our attachment of meat?
• Think of meat just as a taste lasting only a few seconds on the tongue.
• Since meat eating is a habit try to cook more vegetarian dishes in order to chance the habit. Try to do this once a week then gradually increase the number of days you are vegetarian.
• Most importantly, try to feel sorry for the innocent animals on your plate when you eat them. If you could do this every time you eat meat it will develop your compassion for all sentient beings even in a few months. So try to practice this.
And for people, who have children, try to introduce vegetarian meals to your children at a young age so they create a habit of and enjoy eating vegetables rather than meat.
Happy Losar and may you be happy in all the days and months ahead as you are today.
By the Phajoding Monks