Home » Features » Is Ignorance Really Bliss?

Ignorance is only blissful…
till your negative karma ripens.

– Stonepeace

Recently, there is a video link (http://mercyforanimals.org/hatchery) in circulation, related to a news report (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zeph/message/1294) on how 200 million male chicks are yearly bred and killed at birth in the US alone – simply because they are seen as useless, since they will neither be profitably meaty fast enough, nor able to bear any eggs. That they are simply tossed alive into grinders is the usual practice of the cruel egg industry! All egg-bearing hens get killed for their meat when deemed unproductive too. Egg-eating is thus almost as morally culpable as chicken-eating – a matter of life and death. The point of the video is to highlight the seldom seen dark side behind animal produce. There is no happy ending for the helpless in the mechanised world of animal exploitation. But we can all lessen this madness by voting for kinder animal-free meals.

A friend wondered if there is any negative karma created by egg-eaters, who have no intentions to torture or kill any animal, who assume that eggs are just harmless by-products, when the truth is that many chick(en)s are sacrificed just for a few eggs. Since negative karma is created only via intentional action, those who ate eggs without knowledge of the harsh reality involved in their production should be free from the associated negative karma. Here is the pivoting point though – If you are an egg-eater, and now that you realise the bloodiness of the egg trade, then, from this very moment onwards, every egg purposely chosen for consumption does create some negative karma. Though it is not as intense as the karma from direct killing, it is karma from supporting killing by perpetuating demand. The greater the wilful neglect of these simple economics of greed, the greater the negative karma there is.

Does this mean that ignorance is bliss? It might be – but only for a short while. There are three kinds of ignorance – (1) circumstantial lack of knowledge (e.g. when a baby), (2) delusional interpretation of truth (e.g. when misled by others), and (3) intentional ignoring of truth, when it is stumbled upon, that others are harmed for one. While (1) and (2) are ‘pardonable’ when growing up, (3) surely creates negative karma. Note that even a baby ignorant about fire might be burnt when past karma ripens, as ignorance of truths (e.g. that fire hurts) and karma does not exempt one from natural karmic effects. One might think it is more compassionate to not share the truth about eggs, so as to prevent others from wilfully creating negative karma. However, to intentionally conceal the truth when the knowledge of it can save many lives creates negative karma too. If so, may all truths which spur the rise of compassion spread far and wide!

Whatever living beings there may be –
feeble or strong, long, stout, or of medium size, short, small, large…
may all beings be happy-minded…
Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life
even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings.

– The Buddha (Metta Sutta)

Related Articles:

~ Plight of Chickens from Birth to Death
~ 6 Reasons Why a Kinder Diet is Better
~ The Old & Young Monks Who Killed & Saved Ants

10 Responses to “Is Ignorance Really Bliss?”

  1. (N) it disturbs me quite a bit when on several occasions, while at the All-Natural vegetarian food outlet near KMSPKS, I witnessed mahayana monks consuming fried rice and roti prata with eggs – some even had a few eggs added to each plate of rice … haiz!

  2. Dharmafellow September 23, 2010

    What you can do is print the above article for them. Theyt are probably just ignorant of the plight of chickens. Let’s educate them! If they are from the nearby temple, you can email enquiry@bcs.edu.sg or enquiry@kmspks.org

    (E)

  3. How about organic eggs?

  4. Organic eggs come from hens that don’t eat ‘pesticided’ crops, but these hens still get slaughtered when deemed not productive enough… to become organic chicken meat. Amituofo

    :prud:

  5. Atomika May 8, 2012

    They died for us. We live for them or can we live without? Are animals made to serve man? If so they are made to serve and should be dying to serve us with their deaths directly or indirectly. Is this wat they deserve? The only way animals serve man is by death itself since we are always eating more than we are saving.

  6. They need not die for us. We can live without taking their lives. Animals are not for serving humans any more than blacks are not for serving whites. If they are for serving humans, they should die by themselves or be killed without struggling and shrieking. Humans can ‘serve’ animals by feeding themselves to carnivorous animals too. Animals can ‘serve’ humans by being good friends too.

  7. Vincent Ng October 21, 2015

    Whether or not one eats chicken or eggs, there will still be dying chicks. Ignorance and not knowing the commercial productions is still considered bliss. How then can there be karma from seeing and knowing of such activity? Better than not to share this knowingly and publicly to cause others to have karma, but instead hold your own karma. ???

  8. To clarify Vincent Ng’s misconceptions:

    [1] If one eats chickens or eggs, there will be more chickens and chicks reared to die for this specific purpose. This is simple cause and effect of supply and demand. To say that there will ‘still be dying chicks’ whether there is demand or not does not make sense at all. It reeks of utter coldness and apathy.

    [2] Ignorance of the chicken meat and egg industry is NOT bliss. How can it be bliss – to the chicks and chickens? It is sheer lack of compassion to ignore the suffering of billions of sentient beings.

    [3] If one thinks consuming animals and their produce without knowing the suffering involved is bliss to the consumer, it is still not bliss. Thinking it is blissful is true ignorance. It is like saying, for example, that the current terrible haze from Indonesia that consumers help create with their purchases ignorantly is blissful.

    [4] There are direct and indirect effects for ignorance, whether wilful or not. Even human babies have died from the haze from sheer wilful ignorance of the harms of haze pollution. Likewise, it is better to know the suffering behind what one consumes, so as to not create direct and indirect effects for the suffering of others and eventually oneself when karma rebounds.

    [5] Ignorance has always been the root of the three poisons (greed, hatred and delusion), that cause all suffering -– of oneself and others. This is why it has to be uprooted. Present ignorance is due to wilful ignorance from the past or past lives, that seeped over to the present. Negative karma can be effected through such present ignorance overflowed from past wilful ignorance too. This is why there must be diligence is uprooting ignorance by learning to be wise. If ignorance is not an issue at all, why learn anything or Buddhism at all?

    [6] It is true that if there is no intention to harm, there is no karma of harming created. However, to stick only to this wilfully while ignoring the possible suffering of others through one’s choices means many others will suffer on for oneself. The moment ignorance becomes consciously wilful, there is negative karma created – continually.

    [7] It is thus better to share the information in the article to create awareness, just as the Buddha did openly share on the possible causes of the good and ill effects that sentient lives experience – so that they can wake up and lessen suffering for themselves and others.

    [8] Sharing such information does NOT create negative karma. It creates positive karma if done out of compassion for many. To claim that sharing such truths creates negative karma is as if saying the Buddha should have the worst karma, for sharing all crucial truths about morality. Of course, this is not the case, as he has pure karma, pure meritorious virtues from his great good done.

    May Vincent Ng be mindful of what he posts in websites and facebook, as they tend to contain misconceptions, that if not clarified by others in time, means such misconceptions stay online indefinitely, which is not good for his karma and many readers’ right understanding. Moderators, please help let him know. Thank you. Amituofo
    ___

    MODERATORS: We agree with the above comments, and hereby hope Vincent Ng will be mindful, and think twice before posting any further comments. If uncertain, he can post his comments privately through the contact page.

  9. Victor Loh October 21, 2015

    During Buddha times he only preach consumption of 5 pure meat. The deviation to buddhist becoming vegan started in china. Tang dynasty when Emperor liang Wudi decreed that monks should become vegeterian.
    Degeneration of dharma comes about when people start to misinterpret Buddha teachings with their mundane understanding.
    Although comsumption of meat has karma but that does not equate to karma of killing. If so Buddha would have forbidden consumption of meat including the Sangha community.

  10. PleaseReadEntirely October 21, 2015

    Victor/Vincent,

    [A] The Buddha gradually taught up to veganism and in terms of the fivefold pure meat, as recorded in the Surangama Sutra –

    ‘Ananda, I permit the bhikṣus to eat only the five kinds of pure flesh which are the product of my transcendental power of transformation and not of animal slaughter. You, Brahman, live in a country where vegetables do not grow because it is too damp and hot and because of all the gravel and rock. I use my spiritual power of compassion to provide you with illusory meat to satisfy your appetite. How then, after my nirvāna, can you eat the flesh of living beings and so pretend to be my disciple?’

    Note by Chan Master Han Shan (1545-1623)] – The five kinds of pure flesh [or rather, flesh that abides by the five conditions] which may be eaten by a beginner [as advanced practitioners should avoid meat] who does not [1] see, [2] hear of, or [3] doubt about the animal having been killed purposely for him to eat, but is certain that it [4] either died naturally [5] or that its flesh had been abandoned by birds of prey.

    [B] Veganism (not eating meat and eating/using animal by-products, such as dairy, eggs, silk, leather, gelatine, honey…) is mentioned by the Buddha in spirit in this way in the same sutra –

    ‘All bhiksus who live purely and all Bodhisattvas always refrain even from walking on the grass; how can they agree to uproot it? How then can those who practise great compassion feed on the flesh and blood of living beings? If bhiksus do not wear garments made of silk, boots of local leather and furs, and refrain from consuming milk, cream and butter, they will really be liberated from the worldly; after paying their former debts, they will not transmigrate in the three realms of existence. Why? Because by using animal products, one creates causes (which are always followed by effects), just like a man who eats cereals grown in the soil and whose feet cannot leave the ground. If a man can (control) his body and mind and thereby refrains from eating animal flesh and wearing animal products, I say he will really be liberated. This teaching of mine is that of the Buddha whereas any other is that of evil demons.’

    [C] The Buddha finally taught on the ninefold pure meat in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, where he finally says clearly that meat-eating should be refrained from:

    [1] … I do not permit my sravakas [disciples] to eat meat. If I have said that [one should view] the country’s alms-food as the flesh of one’s son, how could I permit the eating of meat? I teach that the eating of meat cuts off Great Loving-kindness…

    [2] … I stipulated these three types of blameless as a provisional basis of training; I now discard them…

    [3] … Because those pronouncements [talking of the ninefold great benefit and the abandoning of the ten types of meat] were stipulated to restrict the eating of meat; they are also withdrawn…

    [4] … I did not say that meat and fish are wholesome foodstuffs, but I have said that sugar-cane, winter-rice, ordinary rice, wheat, barley, green lentils, black lentils, molasses, sugar, honey, ghee, milk and sesame oil are wholesome foodstuffs.

    [5] Maha-Kasyapaika-gotra Bodhisattva: ‘… does it not follow that the five milk products, sesame, sesame oil, sugar-cane sap, conch-shell, silk and so forth also violate the precepts?’ The Buddha: ‘Don’t cleave to the views of the Nirgranthas [Jains]! I have imposed the bases of training upon you with a different intention:

    [6] … I stipulate that you should not even eat meat blameless in the three respects. Even those meats other than the ten [previously forbidden] kinds should be abandoned. The meat of corpses should also be abandoned. All creatures sense the odour and are frightened by meat-eaters, no matter if they are moving around or resting. If a person eats asafoetida or garlic, everybody else feels uncomfortable and alienated – whether in a crowd of many people or in the midst of many creatures, they all know that that person has eaten them. Similarly, all creatures can recognise a person who eats meat and, when they catch the odour, they are frightened by the terror of death. Wherever that person roams, the beings in the waters, on dry land or in the sky are frightened. Thinking that they will be killed by that person, they even swoon [faint] or die. For these reasons, Bodhisattva-mahasattvas do not eat meat. Even though they may appear to eat meat on account of those to be converted, since they do not actually eat ordinary food, then how much less so meat!…

    [7] … when many hundreds of years have elapsed after I have gone, there will be no stream-enterers, once-returners, non-returners or arhats. In the age of the Dharma’s decline, there will be monks who preserve the vinaya and abhidharma and who have a multitude of rituals, but who also look after their physical well-being, who highly esteem various kinds of meat, whose humours are disturbed, who are troubled by hunger and thirst, whose clothing looks a fright, who have robes with splashes of colour like a cowherd or a fowler, who behave like cats, who assert that they are arhats, who are pained by many hurts, whose bodies will be soiled with their own faeces and urine, who dress themselves well as though they were sages [munis], who dress themselves as sramanas [ascetic wanderers], though they are not, and who hold spurious writings to be the authentic Dharma. These people destroy what I have devised – the vinaya, rites, comportment and the authentic utterances that free and liberate one from attachment to what is improper, selecting and reciting passages from each of the sutras according to their inclinations. Thus there will appear [bogus] sramanas, sons of Shakyamuni [the Buddha], who will claim that, “According to our vinaya, the Blessed One has said that alms of meat-stuffs are acceptable” and who will concoct their own [scriptures] and contradict each other.

    [8] … there will also be those who accept raw cereals, meat and fish, do their own cooking and [stock-pile] pots of sesame oil; who frequent leather-makers, parasol-makers and royalty… The person I call a monk is one who abandons those things…

    [9] … I have taught that it does not contradict the Vinaya in any way if they wash it [i.e. the non-meat alms food mixed with meat] with water and then eat it. If it appears that the food in such places contains a lot of prepared meat, it should be rejected. There is no fault if one vessel touches another but the food is not actually mixed together. I say that even meat, fish, game, dried hooves and scraps of meat left over by others constitute an infraction…

    [10] … Previously, I taught this in cases arising from the needs of the situation. Now, on this occasion, I teach the harm arising from meat-eating. Being the time when I shall pass into Parinirvana, this is a comprehensive declaration.

    [D] The Buddha finally says this on the issue in the same sutra – ‘In short, all such provisions I made [in the past, for threefold, fivefold pure meat…] for one purpose: that the consumption of meat be brought to an end.”

    [E] Thus, there is no deviation at all, when Buddhists advocate vegetarianism and veganism.
    Liang Wudi was simply facilitating Buddhists to live up to the Buddha’s teachings more fully. As above, the Buddha did eventually forbid meat consumption in the Sangha, but it is not taken up by those who do not emphasise on growth of compassion, and those who still have to live by random alms food. There is no misinterpretation of the Buddha’s final teachings on veganism at all. Misinterpretation would be to think the Buddha’s perfect compassion would not include the lives of many continually exploited and killed sentient beings with uncompassionate understanding.

    [F] No one claimed that meat consumption creates karma that is exactly the same as that from killing, but there is definitely indirect negative karma created by being constant demanders for constant supply by active buying. It is simple economics. That said, the Buddha never demanded all Buddhists to be veg*n. For example, the first precept in the context of the Five Precepts do not demand vegetarianism, while the Bodhisattva precepts for those who wish to advance their compassion do.

    (Victor/Vincent, please be wary again, of your words, that can cost the physical lives of many animals and the spiritual lives of human readers here. Moderators, Victor and Vincent are the same person, who is unrepentant of your warning above.)

    ______________________________________________________________

    The below was posted on 22 Oct 2015 at 3.07pm, with snippets from Vincent/Victor’s comments on the above, and replies to them. All deleted parts were off-topic.

    Re [Vincent/Victor]: Even Buddha had reprimanded devatta his cousin who spread deviant views of emphazing on becoming vegan to his disciples?

    Reply: Devadatta suggested vegetarianism, not veganism. Do understand the big differences already stated above clearly. The Buddha did NOT reprimand him; he only said it was optional for the monastics to go fully vege, meaning it was still encourageable. Why did he not make it a must for the monastics? Because some still have to go for random alms food that they can’t choose. Many monastics today can choose their food. This is how they can opt out of the supply-demand cycle, by choosing kinder foods. As lay consumers, alms food do not apply to us. We have even greater power of choice.

    Re: On lanka sutra, it is understood that eating meat is alike eating parents flesh but in vajrayana meat is transform into 5 buddhas and 5 nectar and hence turning from karma to merits.

    Reply: It’s the Lankavatara Sutra. Higher practitioners who eat small tokens of meat in Vajrayana teachings are supposed to ALSO eat small tokens of faeces, to cultivate non-attachment and non-aversion. Few eat both, and if not eating both, they are hypocritical practitioners addicted to meat, trying to pretend their meat-eating is holy, when it comes from constant demand for animals’ deaths.

    Re: In certain sutra, there are those who burn their fingers to offer to buddhas. But practising buddhism has wiser ways and it is not not neccassary to burn fingers to do offering or jump into fire pits?

    Reply: There are no sutras telling anyone to jump into pits. No one said it is a must to burn fingers in any sutra too, though some great masters did so to mark their determination in Dharma practice, expressing dedication of body and mind to the Dharma.

    Re: we see avalokiteshvara and maitreya changes in form in china, they did not stick to the sambokaya form, which is the real actual form of these maha bodhisattvas.

    Reply: Those who understand the Bodhisattvas well in the sutras should know that they can and do manifest various forms as skilful means to guide various beings. Nirmanakyas (manifestation bodies) are just as important, if not more practical for us here, as Sambhogakayas. The teachings linked to the Bodhisattvas mentioned would not have spread far and wide without various manifestations.

    Re: There are a lot of wide spread of vegan views trying to make it as if meat consumption is evil and tried to defend and aligin the views to their interests.

    Reply: What real good is there from meat-eating, that cannot be found in a vegan diet? None. There are only harms. It is the leading global cause of destruction of sentient lives and the environment – http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/study-claims-meat-creates-half-of-all-greenhouse-gases-1812909.html As above, the Buddha unequivocally advocated veganism in the Surangama Sutra. He also taught on the vege cause in the Brahma Net Sutra and many other teachings – http://www.shabkar.org/vegetarianism/index.htm

    Re: It is good for health to be a vegan with adaqute protein and easier to develope compassion.

    Reply: It is a running joke in the vegan world that many meat addicts keep thinking vegans are ever short of protein and compassion. There is more readily found protein in a vegan diet than a meat diet: http://tinyurl.com/oykgg5n

    Re: Buddha had preach consumption of 5 pure meat in generally and mantra to bless meat or food.

    Reply: You are not reading properly – yet again. The Buddha eventually spoke against all meat-eating. Only those who have to consume random alms food have any excuse. Check out secondary Bodhisattva precept number three spoken by the Buddha: ‘Buddha-Sons, one should not eat any sentient being’s flesh. To eat flesh is to commit an immeasurable sin. If one eats flesh, one destroys the seed of one’s Buddha nature, and great lovingkindness and compassion…’ True Bodhisattvas do not eat any beings, as they strive to save all beings instead. Again, the Buddha never said all have to be Bodhisattvas who become Buddhas. If one is not ready to go vege, one can at least reduce meat-consumption. The Buddha also never taught that mantras can bless meat, to make it okay for eating. If it is possible, why not eat all your loved ones now?

    Re: But to the point of this post, in Buddhism, do you eat meat or not? Any than for what reasons?

    Reply: Refrain out of compassion and wisdom.

    Re: not to mix non buddhism teachings, 3 body of buddhas etc.

    Reply: The Trikaya teachings are very crucial in the Mahayana teachings, helping to explain many concepts.

    Re: Mahayana from chinese side tend to paint meat eating is deviant, but the fact in history and sutra, buddha taught to public it is okay to consume 5 pure meat.

    Reply: As above, the Buddha eventually taught the ninefold pure meat, and finally encouraged refrain from meat-eating. He taught so in a graduated phase because he knew that meat-eating is a strong attachment of many. Indeed, many still defend it blindly these days, choosing to ‘extinguish the seed of compassion’ through meat, as he mentioned in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra. Animals die for humans who demand their flesh and produce. No one can deny that.

    Re: Which is why Buddha had accepted flesh milk

    Reply: Again, you are not reading properly. The Buddha revealed in the Surangama Sutra that he never ate any real meat, as in the above comment.

    Re: He [The Buddha] forewarn us on karma?

    Reply: Yes, on spreading, promoting and endorsing greed, hatred and delusion. Suggesting meat-eating is totally harmless to all has this effect.

    [Vincent/Victor, there is no need to pretend to be 2 people posting multiple comments to reply yourself. Please meet your meat at http://www.meat.org to decide you should speak even a word more against the protection of sentient lives. The negative karma is tremendous.]

    Moderators: For not reading comments on his comments mindfully, and rehashing same points against veganism with many new misconceptions, V’s future comments will all be pending. This is to prevent him from creating more negative karma too, by suggesting meat-eating does not harm physical and spiritual lives of sentient beings at all.

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