Home » Features » Did Jigong Urge Meat-Eating & Wine-Drinking?

酒肉穿肠过,
佛祖心中留,
世人若学我,
如同进魔道。

– 道济禅师 (济公)

Wine and meat through the intestines passes,
[while] Lord Buddha within my heart remains,
[but] common people, if they imitate me,
is similar to entering the path of demons.

– Chan Master Daoji (Jigong)

If the second half of the verse is surprising, it means we have yet to fully learn about Jigong’s ‘semi-famous’ verse, while probably using only its first half – to assume the ‘pointlessness’ of going veg(etari)an, or even to encourage the eating of more meat. The truth is, this verse has always been urging a more kind (and sober) diet. Jigong never exemplified meat-eating (and wine-drinking) to ask us to do the same, or to hint that we can do so without any (in)direct harm of sentient beings. ‘Wine and meat passes through the intestines, [while] Lord Buddha within my heart remains.’ It is little known that the first use of only these two lines was during a heroic incident…

In the Ming Dynasty’s warring years, Chan Master Poshan (破山禅师: 1597-1666) was at Li Liyang’s (李立阳) camp, when he requested the latter not to do any more killing of the masses. Seeing the Master’s strict discipline in upholding the monastic and Bodhisattva precepts, which include not drinking wine and eating meat, he counter suggested that if the Master ‘breaks’ these two precepts, which he probably thought he would not, he would in turn give up killing. The Master immediately agreed. Doing as promised thus led to many lives saved. Legend says he uttered the two lines as he drank and ate, for his intention was pure, and what he did truly lived up to the spirit of the precepts as taught by the Buddha.

The whole verse was first pronounced in its complete form by Jigong (1130-1209), who is well known for his seemingly crazy yet witty and wise skilful means to shock the ‘nobles’ and commoners into realising the Buddha’s teachings. He used the verse to show how, despite his apparent meat-eating and wine-drinking, they were never really at the expense of any sentient life from (in)direct demand for killing, just as he was never really intoxicated, which would lead to breaking of other precepts due to loss of mindfulness. He was actually compassionately readying those he met for his teachings, by loosening their rigid expectations of him, so as to better illuminate them.

The 13th Patriarch of the Pure Land Tradition Great Master Yinguang (印光大师: 1862-1940) taught that, ‘Chan Master Daoji [Jigong] was a sage with great supernormal powers, who wished to cause all people to give rise to right faith [in the Dharma], which is why he often displayed inconceivable deeds. His wine-drinking and meat-eating was to conceal his sagely virtues, with which he wished to cause foolish people to see his inverted craziness as “not” in accordance to the Dharma, and thus not have much faith [that he was an enlightened being, though he was believed by many later to be a manifestation of the Dragon Taming Arhat (降龙罗汉) or a Bodhisattva]. Otherwise, he would be unable to abide in this world. All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who manifest forms, if revealing [themselves as] similar to ordinary beings, can only, with their virtues transform people, and absolutely not by displaying supernormal powers.

If they displayed supernormal powers, they would be unable to abide in this world. [The Buddha instructed that only virtues of the Dharma should be used to attract followers, lest supernormal powers, whether true or false, distract them from the pure Dharma. Upon display of their supernormal powers, or disclosure as manifestations of the enlightened, they thus have to swiftly depart. As such, the open display of supernormal powers by the enlightened, although possible, is done very mindfully and rarely, and only with very good reasons, as shown by the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Arhats. Therefore, we should steer clear of all who brag about their “special statuses and powers”, they being the false “teachers” the Buddha warned about, who are out to profit and confuse. Anyway, such fakes cannot display real powers, such as those of Jigong, as mentioned below.]

Only [for] those who manifest as the invertedly crazy, [their] displays are thus of no harm [and are able to abide in this world, while it is] not to say that [Dharma] practitioners should all drink wine and eat meat. The good people in this world, will not drink wine and eat meat. Moreover, as disciples of the Buddha, [how could we] want to teach and transform sentient beings, while personally not yet practising according to his teachings? Thus, not only unable to cause others to give rise to faith [in the Dharma], instead causing others to backslide and lose their faith, this is why wine-drinking and meat-eating must not be imitated.

He [Jigong], having eaten the dead, could spit out the living. [As] you, having eaten the dead, are yet unable to spit out the original appearance of meat, how can you imitate his meat-eating? He [Jigong], having drank wine, was able to gild Buddha statues with [spat] gold. [He was] able to move countless big pieces of wood, up from within a well. [As] you, having drank wine, [when] handling well water, cannot even move it out, how can you imitate him [by drinking wine]?’ Thus should we share this admonition with other ‘practitioners’ and even ‘teachers’, who claim that meat-eating and wine-drinking are totally physically and spiritually ‘harmless’ to one and all… unless they can do what Jigong did! Behind his apparent ‘meat-eating’ is universal compassion, and behind his apparent ‘wine-drinking’ is great clarity of mind; while this cannot be the case for ordinary beings!

Here is what happened, according to ‘The Complete Biography Of Great Master Jidian’s [Jigong] Drunk Awakening’ (济颠大师醉菩提全传). One day, Landlord Shen sent a family servant to deliver two cooked pigeons and a flask of wine to Jigong. On the way, he secretly ate one of the wings and took a few sips of the wine, thinking even the gods would not know. However, Jigong pointed it out after eating and drinking. As the servant would not admit so, he spat out two living pigeons, with one missing a wing!

On another occasion, Jingci Monastery (净慈寺) was destroyed by fire and needed big pieces of wood for reconstruction. Unavailable in Zhejiang, Jigong agreed to go Szechuan to seek donations for them. However, he laid drunk for three days, while moving wood by the sea to the Qiantang River and up from the monastery’s well. After drinking more, he entered a hall and vomited gold that gilded its statues. As there was one less flask of wine bought by the monastery’s supervising monk, an arm of a Buddha statue about a foot long was not gilded. Although the Abbot instructed the monk to buy gold leaf for patching, it could never blend with Jigong’s gold naturally!

道济禅师,乃大神通圣人,欲令一切人生正信心,故常显不思议事。其饮酒食肉者,乃遮掩其圣人之德,欲令愚人见其颠狂不法,因之不甚相信。否则彼便不能在世间住矣。凡佛菩萨现身,若示同凡夫,唯以道德教化人,绝不显神通。若显神通,便不能在世间住。唯现作颠狂者,显则无妨,非曰修行人皆宜饮酒食肉也。世间善人,尚不饮酒食肉,况为佛弟子,要教化众生,而自己尚不依教奉行。则不但不能令人生信,反令人退失信心,故饮酒食肉不可学。彼吃了死的,会吐出活的。你吃了死的,尚不能吐出原样的肉,何可学彼吃肉。彼喝了酒,能替佛装金。能将无数大木,从井里运来。汝喝了酒,把井水也运不出来,何可学他。

– 印光大师 《新编全本印光法师文钞》 (卷二第357页: 复庞契贞书)

Related Articles:

Why Veganism Is Not An Extreme Way Of Life
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2010/01/why-veganism-is-not-an-extreme-way-of-life
Should You Avoid Intoxicants Or Intoxication?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/09/should-you-avoid-intoxicants-or-intoxication
Are There Manifestations & Mediums Of Bodhisattvas & Mediums Around?
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2014/02/are-there-mediums-manifestations-of-buddhas-bodhisattvas-around

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One Response to “Did Jigong Urge Meat-Eating & Wine-Drinking?”

  1. Jacqueline Chua December 24, 2014

    Good article! Amituofo!

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