Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Zen of Steak?


As a newbie to this Buddhism thing, I have a question: can a Buddhist also be a carnivore?

I understand the precept of not trying to harm any living thing. It sounds really good--for many critters and in many circumstances.

But here's the problem, Buddhist-wise: I love meat, particularly red meat.

I know that it takes a lot of resources to create that meat, animals are killed, and working in a packing plant ain't a day in the park, unless your park consists of squealing animals, blood, knives, and stench. It's not a process for the faint of heart.

So, I know all these bad things about meat.

But have you ever had a steak at the Cattlemen's Club in Pierre or the Texas Roadhouse in Sioux Falls? Their steaks are delicious. I can't tell you how much I enjoy them. I've had many a good time with good friends and family while eating steaks or grilling steaks. Hamburgers too. Oh, and bison jerky. And pork loin. There's nothing like a sandwich at the State Fair piled high with pork loin covered in BBQ sauce. Now that's good eatin'!

I also live in the heart of beef country. Cattle raising is not only an important industry in South Dakota, it is also an honorable way of life. Most ranchers I know are not just laid back, they are also good stewards of the land. If I had to say I had a favorite group of South Dakotans, it would be ranchers and cowboys. They live life in relative freedom and have lots of time to contemplate their existence and place in it. They are good men and women whose word is their bond.

I really don't want to put them out of business.

Tofu ain't my gig. But I am conflicted. What to do on the culinary path of enlightenment? I can give up many things during this journey but giving up meat could be a deal breaker. Any thoughts?

4 comments:

Will said...

Lettuce is just as much alive as a cow is.

Unless you're a plant, you need to consume other living matter to survive.

There is an argument to be made about the fact that a cow is a bit more sophisticated than a head of lettuce, but I'm not going to start ranking my food choices by level of sophistication.

In other words, pass the A-1.

(BTW, you're SO right about the Cattlemen's Club. Holy crap, what a steak! I'm also fond of the Minerva's in SF.)

Anna said...

Not only are plants alive, but they respond to our emotions. I did an experiment to prove it in college. I took two plant cuttings from the same parent, gave them equal amounts of light and food, but one plant I told, "I love you!" every day and the other plant I told, "I hate you!" every day. And guess what? The plant I hated died and the plant I loved grew huge and beautiful.
My Lenape grandfather probably came closest to solving the riddle of eating. Suffering and sacrifice is part of all living plants and animals, so we must be thankful for each sacrifice, be mindful of its suffering, and not waste what is given us--that is the way of the spiritual human being.

Stephen said...

Plants are the earth's gift, we are not separate from this planet we live on and they are part of it's natural bounty and abundance. Sentient beings (all animals) are in effect the universe made concious, all have their own nature and path. From a Buddhist perspective all sentient beings are one, only our confusion separates us, therefore to objectify a living being and become part of a karmic chain which involves a concious act of killing is ultimately not helpful in attaining the way.

Helder Matos said...

"Buddhism, perhaps more than any other religion, requires that we be honest and unsparing in recognizing and acknowledging, at least to ourselves, the true motives behind our behavior. Clever rationalizations for bad behavior are the polar opposite of the blunt, straightforward self-examination that is the foundation of effective Buddhist practice.




The Buddha’s ethical teachings are very precise and very extensive, and nowhere do they include the notion that we are free to cause suffering and death to sentient beings because they are empty of inherent existence. The Buddha’s foundational ethical teaching is that we must be strict practitioners of ahimsa whose treatment of other living beings is guided entirely by compassion. By contrast, the teaching on emptiness is not an ethical teaching at all. It is intended to help us overcome our clinging. When we use it as an alibi for continuing to indulge our clinging, we are actually turning the teaching against itself."
Norm Phelps

And btw, vegetables are not sentient beings like Anna wrongly said. There is no scientific proof of that.