Teachings by Dharma Master Cheng Yen
Translated by Dharma as Water Development Department, Tzu Chi USA
For a long time, there has been an inextricable sadness in my heart. I am concerned about the illness of the world and I worry about the disharmony in people’s bodies and minds. Throughout 2019, the Amazon rainforest was continuously burning, and even worse, the Australian forest fires were also burning day and night. These disasters not only affected human settlements, but they also killed billions of animals. These endless forest fires were burning fiercely, and now they have been joined by a pandemic.
When discussing the international threat of the novel coronavirus, this serious issue posed to human lives is very worrisome. This virus is silent and invisible, and it can be spread via contact with contaminated people and objects. So far, there is no effective treatment; all we have are reminders for everyone to be alert and protect themselves. There are reminders to wear a face mask, to wash our hands frequently, to avoid touching our noses, mouths, and eyes, and to avoid crowded public places. However, these measures are not enough. The best measure we can take is to adopt a vegetarian diet.
Wild animals are the source of this virus. Living freely in the skies and on the earth, wild animals reproduce naturally. However, in order to satisfy their appetites, human beings captured such wild animals for consumption and devoured them, causing the virus to spread. In fact, all living beings hope to live happy and worry-free lives in their natural environments. It is just that human beings only care about their own interests and disregard these animals’ right to live. Day after day, they keep livestock animals in small spaces, force feeding them until they are ready for slaughter.
Because this disease was introduced from people’s mouths, upholding a vegetarian diet is the most basic way to prevent the disease. Grains and plants are the best natural foods in the world to nourish humanity. Therefore, adopting a vegetarian diet will bring better health and peace to our world.
With the memory of SARS from 2003 still with us, Tzu Chi volunteers have launched preventative relief measures. We have made medical protective clothing available to support medical personnel. We also have donated supplies for individuals quarantined at home. In addition to helping where needed and taking stringent preventive measures ourselves, our volunteers have also promoted vegetarianism on all fronts.
Earth-shattering disasters are upon us, but world-awakening realizations are nowhere to be found. As the novel coronavirus silently spreads, the number of confirmed cases increases every day. The outbreak in Hubei was the worst in mainland China, and bird flu has also been reported in neighboring Hunan. Suddenly tens of thousands of chickens and poultry had to be culled, further multiplying the karma of killing. Humanity needs to awaken and recognize the importance of adopting a vegetarian diet. When we all promote vegetarianism and refrain from killing, then we are upholding the precepts. By refraining from eating meat and taking lives, we form aspirations and make vows while also calling on all people to pray with utmost reverence.
At the Jing Si Abode, every day at noon since September 11, 2001, we can all hear a song of prayer in which we all sincerely vow to awaken ourselves and bring love and comfort to people around the world. Moved by virtuous thoughts of love, we all pray from our hearts; this eternal aspiration can reach the heavens and all Buddhas.
The disaster of the 1999 earthquake in central Taiwan was truly terrible, and I strongly felt the pain of everyone’s suffering. At that time I said, “This suffering is unspeakable.” Today, the suffering that we are seeing is also difficult to express with words; it might not be “unspeakable,” but there is no way for me to express what I might wish to say. And even if I were to say it, would everyone be able to heed my words? Although I feel hesitant to raise these issues, I have no choice.
In short, now that we are faced with this outbreak, we should all call upon people to uphold a vegetarian diet, be mindful, and give love to others. Every day, we must uphold the precepts and raise our awareness. When we are able to humble ourselves and respect life, this demonstrates our utmost reverence and the power of our love.
(Respectfully compiled from Master Cheng Yen’s Dharma Talks on January 29, February 3, and February 17, 2020)