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… Stop harming others, as you would want others to stop harming you… You can benefit others right away by not harming numberless sentient beings, by not eating them… With so many sentient beings, this frees them from being killed… They don’t like to suffer… They want happiness just like you. They don’t want to be killed. Just like you, you don’t want to be eaten by others…’

– Lama Zopa Rinpoche (paraphrased)

One day, the Buddha’s heart disciple Shariputra, who was excellent in wisdom, passed the house of some villagers on his alms round. He looked in and saw a man eating his lunch, with his son on his knee and his dog, which he was hitting as it chewed bones at his feet. Shariputra thought to himself:

He eats his father’s flesh and beats his mother.
The enemy he killed sits on his knee.
A wife gnaws her husband’s bones.
What a farce Samsara is!

Because of his clairvoyance, Shariputra could see that the man’s father, who had died, would always eat fish from a pond behind the house, so was reborn as a fish there. The mother had been very attached to the house, so after she died, she was reborn as the man’s dog. The man himself had killed an enemy for raping his wife, and because the enemy was so attached to her, he was reborn as her son. In other words, while the son eats his father’s flesh, his mother, the dog, eats the bones of her husband, the fish, and is being beaten by her son. His enemy, his own child, is sitting on his knee.

Notes: The wise realise how all sentient beings are interconnected in the many rounds of rebirth. In fact, the ones close to us, be they family members, pets and even those eaten, could well be our past interchanging enemies and loved ones. Our intertwined karma thus bind us together, as we repay karmic debts and receive karmic payback. However, most of us are too ignorant to realise this clearly. While our changing and reversing roles seem existentially absurd, this reminds us of the need to transcend the rounds of rebirth, that otherwise trap us indefinitely. It also reminds us to practise greater equanimous compassion to one another, despite the nature of our current relationships, for we are all family. One such change would be the renunciation of meat-eating.

How To Enjoy Death
Lama Zopa Rinpoche

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