by Shenpen Dawa Rinpoche
(Dudjom Rinpoche's son)
Many, if not most of us, eat meat. I’m going to share some important
understandings regarding the eating of meat. Essentially we are eating one of our parent sentient beings. An animal has lost its life to feed your life. You need to remember this. Before you eat, be grateful that the animal has given its life for you. Renew your determination that by eating this meat you will practice well and dedicate all the merit to the animals. It is customary to first offer the meat — even the whole meal — to all the buddhas. Don’t just start eating. What you are eating becomes blessed when you offer it. Then think about all the positive things you will do, all the strength you will have by being nourished with this meat, this food. Dedicate the merit from this positive activity to them.
Eating meat has different meanings depending on your level of development.
For ordinary practitioners, giving gratitude and merit to the animals is the only thing they can do. Advanced practitioners bless the meat and it immediately turns into nectar. Even more advanced practitioners see that meat they are eating as part of their yidam. In that process, the animal receives total liberation. Literally, eating the meat is a blessing. When a great sage or extremely realized practitioner eats meat, it is not meat. It is liberation because this person has the power to liberate. To our eyes, it looks like he is doing something negative, but, in fact, what appears as negative is actually extremely positive.
When eating animals, be satisfied by consuming larger ones. That way, one life feeds many people. Why would you want to eat small animals, like small shrimp, twenty, thirty or forty of them at a time? A lot of lives are sacrificed in one shrimp cocktail. Believe me, all these animals living in the world, in our universe, are here to balance our ecosystem, not just to feed you. The animals are not in the world so you can eat them. We eat them out of necessity. If those animals disappear, it will unbalance the ecosystem. On the other hand, you need not worry about overpopulation of animals: nature will always rebalance the ecosystem through a cycle of balance and change.
Some of you are vegetarians or vegan for your health. Not everyone can be
vegan or vegetarian. It depends on what four generations of your ancestors have been eating. Only then can you change the habit to be a vegetarian. Until then, it is not in your blood system to become vegetarian. In an earlier time, we were all vegetarians.
That changed once we tasted the blood of animals. Our habitual system changed. If your ancestors were meat eaters and all of a sudden you change to being a vegetarian, you are diminishing your health. At the beginning, you will feel light, light headed, and weightlessness. Later, this will become total weightlessness. Eventually a sickness displays the imbalances in one’s air or lung. Yes, from the point of view of not taking life, it is good not to eat meat, but from the point of view of health, it may be essential to eat meat. (source)
Then particularly as practitioners when you are eating meat, have respect for the animal that has died and laid down its body for you. Dedicate the merit. As you see the meat, dedicate it. There are different ways of eating meat depending on the level of your practice. The first basic level is to feel sorry for that animal that has laid down its life for you and that you are now partaking. Say, “whatever karma I get by taking this meat, may the strength I get from this being’s life be put into practice so that I can dedicate it for the benefit of others. Thank you for your gift. It is a gift that allows me to survive. I will put it into practice and I will dedicate the merit for all parent sentient beings. Thank-you for giving me that potential strength.” This is the least you can say when you eat the meat. If your meditation is a little bit higher than this then you transform the meat by the syllables Om Ah Hung. Purify by the three syllables and see the meat as nectar. Don’t see it as meat. Have respect for flesh and blood. It you want to go one step higher, as your Yidam, (main practice deity) you consume that meat as a means of liberation. You see it as a wrathful Buddha’s display that is now in front of you. For this the three satisfactions must be present; first, the satisfaction of the being you are consuming; second, the satisfaction of the Mandala; and third, the satisfaction of yourself as Yidam. Apply these satisfactions at this moment. Then, as Yidam, a wrathful Buddha, consume and liberate that being. Make sure you are able to liberate the being that embodied the piece of meat you eat. So then, to be clear here for this, the Mandala is satisfied, you are satisfied and the animal that has been killed is satisfied. Three satisfactions must come together. This will only be possible once you have accomplished your Yidam practice to a certain extent. (source)