Treating animals as sacred

Devotee: During the week I met several Tibetan Buddhists. I was in the seminaries and I appreciated their teachings very much but I was the only vegetarian there. I wondered how all these Lamas travelling around the world don’t tell people to be vegetarian?

What you said makes sense, that we need to prepare a healthy, pure body for God to enter but they continue to eat junk food in Zurich. There are some that I really appreciate, but they just eat meat and I couldn’t join them in what they eat. Does that meat not affect their mind? Or perhaps it doesn’t because they are very spiritual…?

Guru: Now, let me take you on a journey to Tibet – to the lifestyle in Tibet, and survival in Tibet under the most adverse conditions. There are no vegetables grown in Tibet. It’s brought into Tibet. In the winter it’s very difficult for them to survive because they have to live on animal produce.

The yak is, as you know, their staple diet. The yak milk and whatever else, once they’ve got used to it, it becomes a part of their lifestyle. I’m not here to condemn that lifestyle. I’m here to educate you sufficiently so that you can look at it and say, “I’ll take what is good from the Tibetan monastery and I’ll discard that which is gruesome and ugly from it.” 

Devotee: Well what I noticed, is that they always say a little prayer or blessing before eating. They say, “When I bless the meal, I don’t have to think about what is in it.” 

Swami: It’s a little bit like Eskimos I suppose. I mean, they don’t really have much choice. 

Guru: I’ll tell you that I always feel amused when I see Buddhists. They say, “Look, what has been offered to me I cannot refuse. I must take it.” I’m very mischievous when that is said to me. I want to be the person who offers the next meal for that person. My best meal would be to offer that individual a gin and tonic. I want to see him refuse that. 

Meat products fuel your lower nature

The Buddhist mantra, ‘Sura-meraya-majja-pamadatthana’, means, ‘I abstain from intoxicating liquor.’

The meat you eat is also intoxicating. It interferes with your equilibrium, your whole attitude to life, and your aggression. Do you know what the purpose of a monk’s life is? It is to master the lower nature, not fuel it. You fuel your lower nature by introducing meat products into your system, which is full of adrenaline and fear.

You try to imitate the Buddha in his lifestyle and say to yourself, “I want to emulate the Buddha and I want to do everything possible. But the most important thing I must do, I don’t do, because I like my chicken, I like my pork, I like my beef.” That is a very difficult compromise for me to accept because it is a devaluation of your spiritual values. You must be able to say “No, my monastery won’t have any meat products. If you want to eat it it’s your privilege.”  

We feed a lot of people, as some of you know. I’ve got some brothers in the community acting as sniffer dogs. As soon as produce is brought into the community my sniffer dogs get into action and they sniff and read the labels, even on the biscuits. If animal products have been used in that, it is never offered in the sanctuary. It is kept until we find carnivores who will eat it, including our dogs – they’re given that.  

We never allow any animal products to come into Skanda Vale. But please, please, I beg of you. I’m not writing the rules for other monasteries. What I’m doing is, I’m trying to educate you so that next time, when you go to the Tibetan monastery, have a quiet chat with the Lama. Wink at him, flirt with him but make him a vegetarian!

Devotee: And there’s another reason for not eating meat, ‘Thou shalt not kill’. 

Guru: Of course. I made a new rule in Skanda Vale. A lot of people want to come for devotions in Mother’s temple. I’ve made a rule that they have to abstain from meat for three days before they come to the temple because it takes that length of time for the putrefying material that is inside your stomach to be pushed out of the system.

The entire system has to be cleansed before the person comes into the temple for worship. I have made that rule and the brothers stand at the doorstep of the temple and say, “If you haven’t eaten meat and have abstained from it for three days, you may come for the devotion.” I feel rather terrible that I have to say that but that’s my way of saying, “Now come on, get your act together. If not, you don’t come in.” 

Devotee: I have a question. Do we have the right to kill an animal if it’s very sick? 

Guru speaks: Can you tell me something? Your mother is here, is she? 

Devotee: No, she is not. 

Guru: Thank goodness for that! What I’m going to say is, when your mother is ill and very sick, do you make up your mind that you’re going to bump her off?  

Devotee: No.

Guru: No, you don’t, do you?  

Devotee: No.

Animals are part of our family in Skanda Vale 

Guru speaks: Because you have such love for her. All our animals in Skanda Vale are my brothers and sisters, my family; and they have given me great joy. They’re the happiness that we grow up in. I have a doggy that is twelve years old now. He is my little son and he’s deaf. He’s totally gaga! Velu can’t hear where I’m coming from.

But the fact of the matter is, he lives in my aura and our aura and orbit and his breath is ripe! When he comes into where we sit in the night and have our meal the atmosphere is amazing and Swami says, “Can you wait for him to come until after we have eaten the meal?” I say, “Yes, okay”, but the fact of the matter is, he is my child. He belongs to my family, to the Divine.

I say to people, “Oh, what a long journey you have made to be what you are.” Give him a chance! Give him a chance and say, “Life, I come to your assistance in your path of evolution.” This is the partnership that we have to build between ourselves and life. 

What a joy it must be to you, to see an animal who needs help. Our vets have ultimately realised that we do not use this terminology, “Put to sleep an animal that is sick.” You don’t ‘put an animal to sleep.’ You kill it. We must use this terminology starkly. You are deliberately killing that animal. You have no right to do that.

We care for all the animals and what a privilege it is, I can tell you! Sometimes we have cows and bulls which have been operated on and have been cared for, for a long time. It is costly. Yes, we love to spend that money on those animals. Sometimes they have dislocated their bones and they can’t stand so we put a harness on them and three or four times a day turn the animal – big animals – and make sure that we lift the animal, feed it and care for it. That is a spiritual sadhana.  

Spiritual sadhana means caring for all life. Not only for animals but human beings as well. This is the way we pay our karmic debt. We have killed, caused injury, cheated, and robbed from one cycle of birth to another. Now we have the opportunity to pay our karmic debt. Grasp it!

When you have an animal or anything that is suffering say, “Come I will look after you.” Don’t put yourself before an animal or life that is sacred. All life is sacred. When you begin to think like that, then you open the window of your heart for the Lord to dwell in it.

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