Master Jingzong; English translation by Foyuan, edited by Jingxin
Mahatma Gandhi of India once said, “The most terrible weapons are the knives and forks on one’s dining table.” Hundreds of millions of lives are snuffed out by these weapons every day. Yet, most people are unaware of the scale of the daily slaughter for food; in fact, many ignorantly relish seeing, savoring and speaking about the results.
Each time someone becomes vegetarian, there is one fewer animal murderer. Even a single vegetarian meal eaten by one person means that more sentient beings can escape the frightful fate of being butchered. Therefore, Buddhism advocates that one should not kill but instead protect all forms of life. Being an Amitabha-reciter and a vegetarian is the ultimate way to achieve this goal.
There are two types of vegetarians: the direct vegetarians and the indirect vegetarians. Direct vegetarians give up eating meat of their own volition and are determined to stay that way. These people are, however, a minority group. Indirect vegetarians offer discounted or even free but tasty meatless meals to the needy. These kind acts are normally low key and not widely known, yet they are most admirable and much more virtuous than many of the highly elaborate and flaunted charitable acts.
Liberating animals that are destined for slaughter is one of the most important traditions of Buddhism. Many novice Buddhist practitioners are very interested in it. Amitabha-recitation, by contrast, is normally practised by veteran Buddhists. Ceremonies to set animals free often draw far more participants than Amitabha-recitation sessions. We Buddhists can use these ceremonies as an expedient way to attract more novice practitioners to become vegetarians so as to cultivate their virtuous roots; and to guide them onto the ultimate path: reciting Amitabha Buddha’s name.
When performing a ceremony to release animals, keep a low profile and avoid too large a scale. Learn from the relevant teachings of Master Yinguang and the guidelines offered by the Chinese Buddhist Association to enhance the understanding of these ceremonies by Buddhist practitioners and fellow Amitabha-reciters.
The money raised for the occasion may be allocated in two ways — the first for freeing animals from the market, and the second for promoting vegetarianism. Advise interested parties about the merits and virtue of both aspects of liberating animals and allow people to determine the percentage of donations for each aspect, such as 30/70, 40/60, or 50/50.
Approaching the matter in this manner will enable Buddhist novices to have a greater sense of participation. This is saving lives with wisdom, subtlety, and efficacy. It is an important way to help cultivate the compassion of the public.