Consumer demand for fresh meat is also rising as the global population approaches 8 billion, including many who are increasingly adopting diets rich in meat.
Other than the usual safety and ‘sanity’ measures we already know, how should we respond to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as Buddhists? By now, many of us must have already heard of the ‘classic’ advice shared many times over — to stay mindfully calm, treat stay-home periods as retreats, embrace the truth of impermanence, have supportive compassion for fellow humans who are suffering directly and indirectly, dedicate merits to all, etc… But what about true solutions for addressing the root of the problem, to overcome it once and for all?
All domesticated farm animals (and some unregulated wildlife) will continue to be bred, abused and killed worldwide despite the pandemic due to demand for their flesh. Not yet counting sea animals, about 72 billion land animals and increasing are killed yearly. This ‘endless’ vicious cycle of killing will eventually, logically and karmically, lead to the rise and spread of mutated and/or new zoonotic viruses that kill more humans and animals.
According to Śākyamuni Buddha’s warning in the ‘Sūtra In Which The Buddha Speaks Of The Dharma’s Complete End’《法灭尽经》, in time to come in this Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期), ‘Pandemics [or epidemics] by air will spread, with those dying many.’「疫气流行死亡者众。」COVID-19 is not that deadly — at least for now. Thus, the worst pandemic is yet to come. As the experts keep reminding, ‘It is not about “if”, but “when”. Even if not so soon, there will likely be ever-worsening pandemics in between.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ‘3 out of every 4 new or emerging infectious diseases in people come from animals’. What we can do is to encourage more to go (increasingly) vegan using sound health guidelines and Dharma principles — to reduce overall demand for meat, which comes from inevitable abuse and killing. If enough people do this consistently, the repercussions of animal-related pandemics can hopefully be mitigated significantly.
We should also encourage more to learn and practise sincere mindfulness of Amitābha Buddha (阿弥陀佛: Āmítuófó) to be reborn in his Pure Land, which is always free from all diseases and suffering. As Śākyamuni Buddha clearly taught in the ‘Immeasurable Life Sūtra’《无量寿经》, in this Dharma-Ending Age, especially so in its last days, the Pure Land path will be the one way, through which all can still attain liberation —
‘In the world of the future, when [other] sūtras’ paths are destroyed and ended, I, with loving-kindness, compassion and sympathy, will specially retain this [most detailed Pure Land] sūtra, to abide and dwell for one hundred years longer. If there are sentient beings, who encounter this sūtra, accordingly as wished, with that aspired, all can attain deliverance.’ 「当来之世，经道灭尽，我以慈悲哀愍，特留此经，止住百岁。其有众生，值斯经者，随意所愿，皆可得度。」Without this precious path, very unfortunately, many will remain trapped in rebirth for indefinite time, to suffer from ever-worsening disasters.
Mindfulness of Buddha is not just about departure for a Buddha’s pure world at the end of life for the swiftest progress towards Buddhahood. It is also about meritorious spiritual connection to the source of the greatest blessings possible (i.e. a Buddha who represents all Buddhas), for peace and protection in everyday life, including against pandemics, as attested by the Pure Land Tradition’s 13th Patriarch Great Master Yìnguāng (净土宗十三祖印光大师). Thus, perhaps Buddhists should also respond to pandemics… by sharing such reflections.
The growth of the live animal export trade will make the spread of diseases more likely, experts have warned.
As Already Warned By A Great Master
(Staying Safe In Current Times)
How The Buddha Relieved A Triple Disaster
How To Not Encounter Epidemics And Pandemics
How Did The Buddha Urge Veg(etari)anism?
‘Live Animals Are The Largest Source Of Infection’: Dangers Of The Export Trade
Can Being Veg(etari)an And Practising Mindfulness Of Buddha Avert Pandemics?