Namo amitabha Buddhaya, y'all.
This here's a religious establishment. Act respectable.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

And Now For Something Completely Different

Playing in the background: The soothing soporific hum of the dryer (which also helps heat the house in the winter)
Meters swum today: None. I've been sick.

So I'm reading a book called "Money, Sex, War, Karma: Notes for a Buddhist Revolution" by one David Loy while I mope around the house having fun with antibiotic side effects and catching frequent naps. It's not really a book of answers so much as it is a book of questions. Buddhism is an old religion, predating Christ and His fan club by about 400 years. Many of the "rules" that came out of Buddhism were a product of their time, like many of the Commandments of the ancient Hebrews, so how can we know which should still be followed and which can be discarded as incompatible with the modern world? And, again, it's a book of questions, not answers. However, one very interesting tidbit has crawled out of it and fallen into my lap:

The Dalai Lama eats meat.

Yep. Kundun himself. The unofficial Buddhist ambassador to the western world. The frick'n Dalai frick'n Lama. Not all the time, but occasionally he has to, for "health reasons," according to Mr. Loy. Now, it doesn't help that I'm running an on-again off-again fever and seeing scorpions in the bathtub (actually a wadded up piece of thread) and stuff like that, but this has totally shaken up my world view. I'm not sure where to go with it, apart from heaving a great big sigh of relief.

See, I eat meat. I don't like it that I eat meat, but I do. I have a pair of entangled medical issues, either one of which would make surviving on a vegetarian diet dicey at best. Combined, there's no frick'n way. When I first got interested in Buddhism I decided I'd become a vegetarian if it killed me, and it damn near did; I landed in the hospital twice that year and avoided a transfusion by about ten points on some scale or other. My doc told me I was crazy not to eat meat and I'd better rethink this, pronto. I got huffy at first and did a lot of grumbling about how I was going to die someday anyway and how would it help me or the world to stuff dead animals in my mouth so I could gain a few more years. Then I met Joan, and decided I had something to hang around for after all, and we adopted some cats, and--well, things got complicated.

So I eat meat. We both do. I've been trying to buy kosher meat and eggs from free-range chickens whenever possible (you wouldn't believe what they do to chickens; if you knew, you'd always buy free-range eggs). There's a guy married to a lady at my office who buys entire cows (and pigs and chickens) from certain select farms where they pasture their animals and let them roam around and don't sell them for slaughter until they've had a chance to live, breed and, you know, hang out a little. I can't afford his meat very often yet but I am working on it. I'd much rather the animal I eat have a decent life before I eat him. Or her. Or--whatever. But that didn't seem enough. I'm sure if you asked the animals in question, they really wouldn't care to die so that I could have dinner (unlike, say, the cow at the Restauarant at the End of the Universe that messed with Arthur Dent's head by walking up to him and saying, "What piece of me would you care to dine upon tonight, sir?")

But the Dalai Lama, Himself, eats meat. He's plainly wrestled with this same question and decided that, while it will never be "fine" for him to eat meat, once in a while he will do so because he must. And hey, I can do that too.

I feel so much better. Now about this stupid fever...


David Isaak said...

Some of the Buddhists in Southeast Asia eat meat only when it comes from an animal that has passed away from natural causes. (In the case of fish, they often expire because the people in question have "helped them" out of the water and on to the land. The darned things don't seem to adapt to their improved circumstances.)

Obviously when one's survival is at stake, one does what is needed. And I'd certainly eat meat if my health or survival depended on it.

I don't have moral objections to other people eating meat. I do wish, though, that more people did it with some degree of consciousness (which you obviously have) of the "delivery system" behind their steaks, etc. It isn't the killing I object to; it's the cruelty.

On the bright side, although California voters passed the loathesome Prop 8 last election, they also overwhelmingly approved Prop 2, which improves conditions for farm animals. It doesn't go far enough, but it's a start.

Joan said...

@David: just you wait. Those California animals get better treatment, pretty soon they'll be demanding the right to marry just like those dang ol' gays did.

Moses said...

My understanding was that a vegan diet is sufficient for optimal health if engineered correctly. May I ask what nutrient you weren't getting and what your illness is/was? Thanks.

David Isaak said...

Joan, you raise difficult questions. Obviously the voters didn't think this through.

Jen Ster said...

I'm not so sure about that interspecies intercourse thing. I still maintain that once you have cats and dogs living together, you have complete pandemonium.

Since you asked, though, I will tell you. Medical Condition No. 1 is hypoglycemia, which is kind of like diabetes only you don't get cool monitors and test strips and nifty pills with long names. You get the low blood sugar thing without the high blood sugar thing, which, though it beats the tar out of blindness, amputation and kidney failure, still carries with it the unfortunate consequences of, uh, falling down, passing out at embarrassing moments, etc. You can develop diabetes from this, or it can be caused by something else, or it can be genetic. In my case it's genetic; my uncle and grandmother both had it and I think my dad also has it, though he's sneaky about telling people.

Condition No. 2 is pernicious anemia, also genetic. My body doesn't make enough red blood cells without suitable encouragement. Not enough red blood cells equals not enough oxygen getting around and, uh, falling down and passing out and so on. Iron supplements help (i'fact they are mandatory) but they don't do the job by themselves. Spinach and green leafy veggies also help. The best thing in the world for it, though, is a piece of good old red meat once a week. Which isn't so bad, I guess. I just wonder what happens to the rest of the cow.

I've had em both forever and aside from the occasional shakes and greying-out (not while driving, fortunately) my biggest complaint is that I can't give blood anymore. Well, I can try, but they always kick me out. There's something rather personal about having one's blood rejected. Repeatedly. Geez, you'd think I'd had sex with a sub-Saharan African male who'd had sex with another sub-Saharan African male who lived in Britain in 1983 and was fond of bopis or something.