Thursday, September 16, 2010

Within a Pot of Steamboat

Let me warn my readers first. By the time, you finish reading this blog-post, you will probably have a different view the next time you are invited to a steamboat dinner (pictured here) or other food that you normally enjoy eating. So, be warned beforehand. If you do not want to be affected, please stop reading this blog-post. But if you do not have any bodhicitta, it will probably not affect you at all. Read this at your own risk! Don't say I did not warn you!

In Tibetan Buddhist teachings, we are often taught that different types of sentient beings see phenomena different due to their unique karma. For example, humans see a river as a river with H2O, i.e normal water. However, gods see it as a river flowing with nectar and hell-beings see it as a river flowing with burning hot lava. Similarly, bugs and cockroaches see their food as delicious ice-cream whereas we humans see their food as disgusting dung. What we humans do not realise is that on the same principle, the gods see some (to put it mildly) of the food that we eat as disgusting. An example is the bird's nest, which is popular among the chinese. It's actually bird's saliva but humans treated it as soemthing so precious like gold. A small piece of dried saliva costs thousands of local currency, depending on the grade. By nature saliva is actually a disgusting thing but business-minded people promoted it based on it's supposed nutritious value. I don't know it's nutritional value but I am looking at it from the angle of different perception of different types of sentient beings. Hence, I am not asking you not to eat bird nest, but merely to reflect on what the Buddha taught on the phenomena of perception. I will eloborate with another example below.

A food that is popular among the chinese is steamboat. It is normally eaten in a group. The chinese people like to hold their chinese new year family reunion to eat steamboat. They prepare all kinds of meat and vegetables for the steamboat. Sausages, all sorts of meatballs, fish meat, chicken meat, crab meat, etc. You put these into a bowl of boiling soup and wait for it to cook, and there you are - it's ready to be taken out to be eaten. Do you guys realised what's really happening at that time? We see these meat as meat from animals that had been dead. But actually, from the side of these animals, they see themselves as hell-beings... and even though physically their animal bodies are dead, their consciousness may still be there...and depending on their karma, they are not yet dead! They are reborn as hell-beings and they experience their suffering right there in the steamboat pot. When you put them into the hot water to be boiled, that's the hell-beings being boiled alive in the hot lava or hot oil. They experience the suffering of hell at that time. From our side, it may just be 5 or 10 minutes before you take it out to eat. But on their side, they experience it like for endless aeons (kalpas) and repeated over and over. And on their side, they never die until their causal karma is exhausted. So, this blog-post should also answer the intriquing question of where hell is. Is it a location somewhere else, thousands of miles deep below or is it here somewhere in Sudan, remote parts of India, etc? It is right here, where we are!

On the side of human beings, we just eat and eat and eat... oblivious to the other dimensions of phenomena that's occurring. All the sufferings and torture that's going on in our steamboat or our pot of soup - we are blissfully unaware and keep on enjoying our food while these beings suffer in pain. That's what happen when people do not or have not developed their bodhicitta enough. It is said that (and I learn this from others too) that when we have realised bota, we can hear and feel sentient beings pain and suffering every moment, everywhere and whatever we are doing. After learning this dharma lesson, I have since then cut down on meat. And I don't really like steamboat anyway. So, the next time, you see a pot of delicious tomyam steamboat or for that matter, any food, object or phenomena, think about what's happening to other beings on their side, i.e. the dimensions that we do not see with our human eyes. Normally, people think what they see before their eyes must really be the complete truth and hence, real. But in this case, what we see may not necessarily be the complete truth! Within a pot of steamboat, there's so much going on. It's just that we don't realised it. Reflect on this!

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