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Venerable Master Hua’s Talks on Dharma Volume Nine

化老和尚开示 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.

“众人来贺喜”,大家都以为这是喜庆之日,但志公和尚只叹息:“我说真是苦!”其实是人以苦为乐呀!   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!
大家听了这段公案后,应该知道杀生食肉的可怕。我们又研究这个“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).
“肉字里边两个人,里边罩着外边人,众生还吃众生肉,仔细思量人吃人。”   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,能够茹素是最好。但吃斋时,不要再起什么斋鸡、斋鸭、斋鲍鱼等名字。既然吃斋了,为什么还放不下?单是起这些荤的名字,里头就含有污染的种子。所以以后不要再用荤名去讲斋菜。   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.
这次有些人到万佛圣城之后,发愿回去要吃长素。这很好,与六道轮回断绝往来,你不吃他,他不吃你;你不杀他,他不杀你,这样便把循环业报清净了。   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.
又有人问:吃斋有什么好处?   "What benefits are there in being vegetarian?" someone asked.
我说:“没有什么好处,是活着上当。”什么意思呢?因为斋菜没有肉类那么好味道,所以说活着上当。可是,假设你不吃斋,便是死了上当。就像一个秤,那一边重,那一边轻,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.
为什么说吃肉是死了上当?无论你吃什么东西,便有那种成分在你身上。你吃菜,便有一股菜味;吃葱,便有一股葱味;吃牛奶,便有一股牛奶味;吃吉士,身上便有一股吉士味;吃大蒜,呼吸气都有大蒜味。因为你所吃的东西,要与你合股,合而为一,变成你身上的一部份。你吃什么吃多了,身体就会变成和它一样。因此,吃猪肉多了,便会变猪;吃牛肉多了,便会变牛,这是合乎科学和逻辑学的。你的身体和肉类变为合伙公司;死了之后,也会变成那样东西。比如,死后要是周身一股猪味,阎罗王嘟嘟鼻子,便说:“你这样臭,还是去做猪好了。”羊牛鸡犬,也都是同一个道理,所以说是死后上当。   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.
你仔细研究,杀猪的人,他的眼睛像猪。为什么?他曾经被人杀了好多次,现在他回来报仇了,但眼睛还是猪眼睛;宰牛的人,眼睛像牛眼睛。其实因果是丝毫不爽的,所以说:   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:
“千百年来碗里羹,怨深似海恨难平,欲知世上刀兵劫,细听屠门夜半声。”   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.
一碗肉汤里边含藏的怨恨,像海那样深,说不尽的。要知道世上为何有战争、杀戮,譬如两国彼此战斗,死伤连城,这就是众生的恶业共聚,同时受报。假设你能细听夜半屠房里凄厉的叫声,你便应该明白杀杀不已的恐怖。   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.
目前科学已经研究出来,人多吃肉,很容易生癌症。这是因为动物体上的怨,在你身上积聚多了,久而久之便变成害人的毒素。因此我们应该与众生断绝因果,不要与牛羊鸡犬互造罪孽,便能慢慢地把世界上的恶气转过来。   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.
在万佛圣城,我一边行持正法,一边要把世上的杀劫转变过来,无形无相地把它慢慢消灭了。所以我主张人不杀生、不偷盗、不邪淫、不妄语、不喝酒、不吃麻醉药。最低限度要守五戒,而且还要守得清净。你们既已到了宝山,不要空手而归!   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开示   A talk given on November 20, 1979

法界佛教总会 . DRBA / BTTS / DRBU