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Lions Roar : May 2006
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2006 35 RECENTLY I WAS INVITED to spend the weekend at a family dairy farm in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. My hosts greeted me with a banquet—prepackaged sweet n’ sour tofu with boiled carrots for me, burgers and steaks for them. Like many people, they assumed that since I am a student of Buddhism I must be a vegetarian, which I am for the most part. But I was tempted by those steaks, and the next morning when the house filled with the smell of bacon, much to their amusement, I found myself unable to resist. Pigs are gentle, smart, and proud, and they have an alarming similarity to humans when it comes to DNA. But I decided to eat that crispy piece of pig, thinking I was doing it as part of my Buddhist practice, not in spite of it. I’m doing my best to walk Siddhartha’s path with my vision firmly fixed on defeating dualistic thinking such as happy and sad, heaven and hell, us and them. Along the way, I’ve been told by some Buddhists that this philosophy extends to the food I consume as well. The rochig (Tib.), or “one taste” doctrine, one of the highest of teachings in the Vajrayana, holds the view that samsara (cyclic existence marked by suffering) and nirvana (lib- eration from cyclic existence) are ultimately one. According to my understanding of this doctrine, one could eat substances without discriminating between good and bad, delicious and disgusting, ethical or unethical—whether it be a plate of slugs slathered in barbecue sauce or a scoop of fresh guacamole. I have to admit that it’s going to take a lot more practice for me to perfect that kind of pure vision. In the meantime, though, I find myself picking and choosing from the various schools of Buddhist philosophy as they suit me—bacon tastes good so I use the “one taste” argument from the Vajrayana to justify eating it. But if I were asked to go out and kill the pig first, I would become an instant Mahayana or Theravada Buddhist, most of whom abstain from eating meat. It’s because of my shortcomings in the commitment depart- ment that I don’t feel comfortable walking around advertising my spiritual practice by proclaiming, “I am a Buddhist.” Simi- larly, I don’t say, “I am a vegetarian.” I have yet to find my inner fanatic on either front. Instead, I dabble. True vegetarians, like The Accidental Vegetarian NOA JONES goes back and forth on the question of whether or not to eat meat. It’s something she’s still chewing on. PAINTINGS BY SUE COE