I was expecting the discussion topic for this week to be something interesting. When I heard it was on five precepts, I went “well, it’s gonna be a boring one” because I had learnt them from school when I was in primary 2. But, I was wrong! I learnt a lot today and I thought the sharing session was really enjoyable and interesting.
The sharing session was conducted by Carmen and with the presence of Venerable Bodhi. Due to time constraint, we only talked about the very first precept, Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi OR I undertake the training rule to abstain from taking life.
Before we started, we were told what the word ‘precept’ meant. Precept means (from Google) a general rule intended to regulate behaviour or thought. 5 precepts are 5 IMPORTANT things that we, as Buddhists, ought to follow but they are not commandments, which must be followed or you will be punished. They are meant to be followed so as to live a happy life. They are meant to protect ourselves and others.
“Am I wrong if I have killed a living being?” Venerable Bodhi asked. She, then, came out with 3 things to look at:
And the most important point is your intention. If you unintentionally kill someone, you are not breaking the precept. However, if your bad intention is there, you have broken the precept.
After discussing it in general, Carmen used Vegetarianism to discuss about it in details. I thought it was a really good topic to be used to discuss about the first precept as many people tend to think ‘a Buddhist must be a vegetarian.’ So, “Must a Buddhist be vegetarian?” “Must a Buddhist stay away from meat?” From the discussion, we concluded that as an upāsaka/upāsikā (layperson), it is not wrong to consume meat but why not we try to cut down the consumption of meat? We can see the supply of meats around us is more than enough but we often don’t think that all these meats are there because we, directly or indirectly, demand for them. If every one of us cut down the consumption of meat, lesser animals will be slaughtered. Isn’t that sounds slightly better?
While discussing about consumption of meat, Venerable Bodhi came out with a question, “what do you think about milk? Is it okay to drink milk? Cows are not killed for the milk.” The first thing came to my mind was, “it is perfectly okay to drink milk!” I guessed most of us would think the same thing too, right? But that is actually not the case. Venerable Bodhi shared with us about a video she watched on how milk was collected. Yes, cows are not killed for the milk but they are suffering because of this. Due to the advance technology we have and the high demand for milk, they are subjected to high power suction machines to pump out their milk, few times a day, in order to fulfill the demand. The suction machine is so powerful that some of the cows can’t even stand while being pumped for their milk. Oh, did I mention that the newborn cattle are separated from the cows? So now, are we still confident enough to say “drinking milk is perfectly okay”?
The session ended with a question, “are jobs like butchers and fishmongers wrong?” Due to time constraint, we didn’t discuss on this but Venerable Bodhi closed the session with, “they are jobs we are encouraged to avoid. But we must not look down on them!”
In conclusion, Five-precept is a guide to lead us to live a happy life. It is not there to restrict us but to protect ourselves and also others. It is just a training guide but it is very important and we ought to follow to make us a better person.