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Venerable Master Hua’s Talks on Dharma Volume Nine

化老和尚開示 Lectures by the Venerable Master Hsuan Hua



The Horror of Taking Lives and Eating Meat

The mere use of such names as "vegetarian chicken" and "vegetarian duck" plants seeds of defilement.



During the reign of Emperor Wu of the Liang dynasty, when Buddhism flourished in China, people would always invite monks to recite Sutras at weddings and funerals. Times have changed, and now monks are invited to recite Sutras only at funerals. No one asks them to recite Sutras at weddings or baby showers. Actually, this is wrong. Whether it is an occasion for rejoicing or mourning, left-home people should be asked to recite Sutras and transfer the merit, on the one hand to save the deceased, and on the other to increase the blessings of the living.


During Emperor Wu's time, there was a high monk called the Venerable Zhi. Having attained the Five Eyes and the Six Spiritual Penetrations, he could clearly discern causes and effects. One time, a rich man asked him to recite Sutras at a wedding. Upon entering the house, he sighed and said:


How strange! How very strange indeed! The grandson marries the grandmother. The daughter is eating her mother's flesh, And the son is beating on a drum      stretched with his father's skin. Pigs and sheep are sitting on the couch, And the six kinds of relatives are cooking in the pots. People have come to offer congratulations, But I see that it is truly suffering!


What does this mean? The grandson marries the grandmother. Would you say this is strange or not? Right before she died, the grandmother of the family had held her grandson's hand, not being able to part with him. She said, "You all have your own families, but this little grandson of mine has no one to take care of him. Ah! What is there to be done?" Then she died.


When she arrived at King Yama's court, King Yama gave her the following verdict, "Since you love your grandson so much, you might as well go back to be his wife and take care of him." And so the grandmother was reborn as her grandson's future wife. The workings of the law of cause and effect in this world can be quite frightening.


The daughter is eating her mother's flesh. Outside the house, a girl was eating a pig's foot with great relish, not realizing that the pig had been her mother in its previous life. And the son is beating on a drum stretched with his father's skin. Venerable Zhi then took a look at the musicians who were beating drums and blowing on their trumpets and flutes. What excitement! One man was banging away vigorously on a drum stretched with mulehide, not knowing that the mule had been his father in a previous life.


Venerable Zhi looked at the people sitting on the couch and said: Pigs and sheep are sitting on the couch. Then he looked in the pots and said: And the six kinds of relatives are cooking in the pots. All the former pigs and sheep that had been slaughtered before were now getting even and eating the people who had eaten them before! The six kinds of relatives who had eaten those pigs and sheep were now being chopped up and cooked in the pots to pay off their debts.

「眾人來賀喜」,大家都以為這是喜慶之日,但誌公和尚只歎息:「我說真是苦!」其實是人以苦為樂呀!   People have come to offer congratulations, / But I see that it is truly suffering! Everyone thought it was a happy occasion, but the Venerable Zhi only sighed and said, "This is really suffering!" People take suffering to be joy!
大家聽了這段公案後,應該知道殺生食肉的可怕。我們又研究這個「肉」字:   After hearing this story you should understand the horror of killing and eating meat. Let us look at the Chinese character for meat (肉).
「肉字媄鋮潃茪H,媄銝n著外邊人,眾生還吃眾生肉,仔細思量人吃人。」   Two people (人) are inside the character for meat (肉). The person inside is linked to the one outside. Living beings eat the flesh of living beings. If you really think about it, it is people eating people.
所以,能夠茹素是最好。但吃齋時,不要再起什麼齋雞、齋鴨、齋鮑魚等名字。既然吃齋了,為什麼還放不下?單是起這些葷的名字,媕Y就含有污染的種子。所以以後不要再用葷名去講齋菜。   Thus it is best to be vegetarian. However, we shouldn't use names such as "vegetarian chicken," "vegetarian duck," and "vegetarian abalone" for vegetarian dishes. If we are vegetarians, why can't we forget about meat? The mere use of such names plants seeds of defilement. Vegetarian dishes shouldn't be called by non-vegetarian names.
這次有些人到萬佛聖城之後,發願回去要吃長素。這很好,與六道輪迴斷絕往來,你不吃他,他不吃你;你不殺他,他不殺你,這樣便把循環業報清淨了。   Some people who came to the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas this time have vowed to become lifelong vegetarians. This is a very good thing, because this way one severs unwholesome affinities with living beings in the six paths. If you don't eat them, they won't eat you; if you don't kill them, they won't kill you. The cycle of karmic retribution will thus be purified.
又有人問:吃齋有什麼好處?   "What benefits are there in being vegetarian?" someone asked.
我說:「沒有什麼好處,是活著上當。」什麼意思呢?因為齋菜沒有肉類那麼好味道,所以說活著上當。可是,假設你不吃齋,便是死了上當。就像一個秤,那一邊重,那一邊輕,你自己去研究研究。   I said, "There aren't any. You're taking a loss while you're alive." Because vegetarian food isn't as tasty as meat, you take a loss by being vegetarian during your life. However, if you don't keep a vegetarian diet, then you will take a loss after death. It's like a scale. You have to figure out for yourself which side is heavier and which is lighter.
為什麼說吃肉是死了上當?無論你吃什麼東西,便有那種成分在你身上。你吃菜,便有一股菜味;吃蔥,便有一股蔥味;吃牛奶,便有一股牛奶味;吃起士,身上便有一股起士味;吃大蒜,呼吸氣都有大蒜味。因為你所吃的東西,要與你合股,合而為一,變成你身上的一部份。你吃什麼吃多了,身體就會變成和它一樣。因此,吃豬肉多了,便會變豬;吃牛肉多了,便會變牛,這是合乎科學和邏輯學的。你的身體和肉類變為合夥公司;死了之後,也會變成那樣東西。比如,死後要是周身一股豬味,閻羅王嘟嘟鼻子,便說:「你這樣臭,還是去做豬好了。」羊牛雞犬,也都是同一個道理,所以說是死後上當。   Why will you take a loss after death if you eat meat? Well, your body is composed of the foods you eat. If you eat vegetables, you will smell like vegetables; if you eat onions, you'll smell like onions; drink milk, and you'll smell like milk; eat cheese, and you'll smell like cheese. If you eat some garlic, your breath will smell of garlic. The things you eat become part of your body. If you eat a lot of a certain thing, your body will become very similar to it. Therefore, if you eat a lot of pork, you will become a pig. Eat a lot of beef, and you will become a cow. This accords with science and logic. The meat you eat incorporates with your body, and after you die you turn into that kind of animal. If you smell like a pig, for instance, after you die King Yama takes a sniff and says, "You smelly thing, you should be reborn as a pig." The same goes for sheep, cows, chicken, and dogs. That's what I mean by being cheated after death.
你仔細研究,殺豬的人,他的眼睛像豬。為什麼?他曾經被人殺了好多次,現在他回來報仇了,但眼睛還是豬眼睛;宰牛的人,眼睛像牛眼睛。其實因果是絲毫不爽的,所以說:   You can investigate this carefully. Why does a butcher of pigs have eyes resembling those of a pig? It's because he had been slaughtered as a pig many times in the past, and now he has come to seek revenge. Although he is human, his eyes are those of a pig. Cattle butchers have the eyes of a cow. The law of cause and effect is never off. There is a verse:
「千百年來碗媄慼A怨深似海恨難平,欲知世上刀兵劫,細聽屠門夜半聲。」   For hundreds of thousands of years, The stew in the pot has boiled up A resentment very hard to level. If you want to know why There are wars in the world, Just listen to the haunting cries that come From a slaughterhouse at midnight.
一碗肉湯媄銣t藏的怨恨,像海那樣深,說不盡的。要知道世上為何有戰爭、殺戮,譬如兩國彼此戰鬥,死傷連城,這就是眾生的惡業共聚,同時受報。假設你能細聽夜半屠房堭~厲的叫聲,你便應該明白殺殺不已的恐怖。   The grief and hatred brewed up in a pot of meat stew is as deep as the ocean. It could never be fully described. The wars and massacres in the world are brought about by the convergence of the evil karma of living beings, causing beings to undergo retribution at the same time. If you listen carefully to the cries of misery coming from a slaughterhouse in the middle of the night, you will realize the horror of the ceaseless killing that goes on in there.
目前科學已經研究出來,人多吃肉,很容易生癌症。這是因為動物體上的怨,在你身上積聚多了,久而久之便變成害人的毒素。因此我們應該與眾生斷絕因果,不要與牛羊雞犬互造罪孽,便能慢慢地把世界上的惡氣轉過來。   Scientists have discovered that people who eat a great deal of meat tend to get cancer. This is because the resentful energy in the bodies of slaughtered animals accumulates in the bodies of those who eat meat and eventually turns into a harmful toxin. We should cut off this relationship of causes and effects with animals and stop the vicious cycle of creating offenses against cows, sheep, chickens, and other animals. Then we will gradually be able to lessen the inauspicious energy in the world.
在萬佛聖城,我一邊行持正法,一邊要把世上的殺劫轉變過來,無形無相地把它慢慢消滅了。所以我主張人不殺生、不偷盜、不邪淫、不妄語、不喝酒、不吃麻醉藥。最低限度要守五戒,而且還要守得清淨。你們既已到了寶山,不要空手而歸!   At the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, we want to uphold the Proper Dharma and avert the crisis of killing in the world. We want to slowly and imperceptibly avert this disaster. Therefore we advocate: not killing, not stealing, not engaging in sexual misconduct, not lying, not drinking, and not taking drugs. At the very least, we should observe the Five Precepts and maintain our purity in that regard. Since you have come to this treasure mountain, don't leave empty-handed!
一九七九年十一月二十日開示   A talk given on November 20, 1979

法界佛教總會 • DRBA / BTTS / DRBU