Buddhist Vegetarianism: Do Plants Possess Life?

Dharma Master Ming Zheng
Dharma Master Ming Zheng

Original Chinese Language Source Text: By Dharma Master Ming Zheng

(Translated by Adrian Chan-Wyles PhD)

Dharma Master Ming Zheng’s Dharma Words: All sentient beings are constantly experiencing the transmigration process of samsara, and as such, all beings have been one another’s loved ones and relatives throughout time and in various rebirths. This is why it is illogical from a Buddhist perspective to participation in eating the flesh of our relatives and loved just because they now occupy an animal body. This is a simple statement of Dharmic truth – it is the Buddha’s position – and there is an extensive discussion – regarding the benefits of not eating meat, and disadvantages of eating meat – contained within the various versions of the Lankavatara Sutra (which we can reference later). An interesting question concerns plants and whether they possess life? The is ‘yes’ – plants do possess life – but they do not possess conscious awareness like an animal or human, simply because they do not possess the same physical sense organs that the Buddha taught facilitates conscious awareness. For instance, there is no conscious awareness associated with the eye organ, the ear organ, and the nose organ, etc., and as such does not possess the eight consciousnesses.

A plant, although ‘alive’ does not feel emotion, cannot ‘love’ other beings, and does not possess the type of consciousness that defines ‘sentient’ life. Another important difference is that when plants and vegetables (that are growing naturally) are cut, they can recover and grow again. Even a tree can grow again if it is cut in a certain manner, but if a human is cut in half, there is no regrowing of the body, and only physical death is observed. The sentient life of a human is different to the non-sentient life of a plant. Plants do not experience pain, and do not generate hatred, even though some people think otherwise.

Others have stated that if a tree is cut, revenge is aimed (by the tree) at the individual doing the cutting. It is not the tree as such that is seeking revenge, but is rather a spirit living in the tree. If a spirit lives in the tree, then the spirit takes the tree as its body, and assumes that it is its body that has been attacked – hence the possibility of retaliation. In reality, however, a tree or plant does not feel emotion and cannot ‘think’ in the conventional sense, therefore it does not possess the ability to be angry or to retaliate. Negative reactions may result from overly aggressive or violent behaviour toward trees if a spirit lives in the tree and is disrupted through actions associated with human ignorance.

©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.

Original Chinese Language Source Text:






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