Against ‘Red Offerings’
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From the murals of Shechen Monastery. Used with permission of Rabjam Rinpoche.
A Plea to Those who Present 'Red Offerings' to Worldly Deities
by Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö
Are Śiva and Viṣṇu and the goddesses Kālikā and Caṇḍikā the deities that you worship or not? If they are, do they possess love and compassion for sentient beings? If they do not have love and compassion what possible benefit could there be in worshipping them? If they themselves are kind and compassionate why is it not necessary to be kind and compassionate toward the animals that are to be sacrificed? If it is beneficial to slaughter chickens and oxen, then why would it not be even more beneficial for you yourselves to be killed and offered to these gods? To value your own life while stealing others' lives is utterly misguided and indecent.
Are the gods Śiva and Viṣṇu benevolent? Or are they not? Are they deities of the higher realms? If they are truly gods of pure heavenly abodes it is improper to present them with offerings of flesh and blood. If they are not, they are no different from malicious demons and spirits. Yet, even we Buddhists do not claim that the likes of Īśvara are demonic spirits.
Therefore, since it is extremely incongruous to kill and offer up sentient beings to pure gods who are kind and caring, it is only right and proper that you renounce such practices and worship these deities with abundant clean offerings instead.
As the fully ripened result of acts of killing you will be reborn in the hells, the preta realm or as an animal. Once reborn in the Reviving Hell in particular, you will pay for each life that you have taken by undergoing death five hundred times. As the effect that resembles the cause, you will have a short life with persistent ill health, no matter where you are reborn. You will retain a fondness for killing and, as the conditioning effect, the land of your birth will be harsh and unpleasant. Thus, the faults are truly boundless. As the King of Samādhi says:
Actions, once performed, will not come to nothing.
Positive or negative, they will bear fruit accordingly.
And the Chapter of the Truthful One: states:
O king, do not commit the act of killing.
For all beings regard loss of life as grievous.
And, since they seek to preserve it enduringly,
Do not even so much as entertain the thought of taking life.
If you wish to live long in good health, therefore, you must give up killing. Even if you do not experience the result of a negative action immediately, it will not go to waste, and it is certain that you will experience it eventually. As a sūtra tells us:
Misdeeds do not strike suddenly
Like being cut with a sword.
But for those beings who commit misdeeds
All will become evident in due course.
The Sūtra on Obstacles to Ordination also tells how, as a result of killing, a bird who courses through fire and dwells on the tips of flame while remaining unburnt will crush the heads of hell beings who have taken life and drink their blood. Skull-entering birds, too, will penetrate these beings' brains and imbibe them; while birds called Tongue-Eaters tear out their tongues and consume them. You will have to endure being eaten by these in one region of the Avīci Hell named Terrors of the Winged Birds, three hundred thousand leagues in extent, as well as by the other birds of hell for several hundred or several thousand years. Once you escape from there, you will arrive, companionless and bound by the noose of karma, in a place called Sheer Drop Chasm, which is surrounded by eleven massive fires. Having fallen into a great abyss, every step you take will scorch your feet, and each time you lift them, they will be healed. Then you will be eaten by herons and other birds for several hundred or several thousand years. Thousands of fiery wheels will cut your body to pieces. Stakes will be driven through the soles of your feet, and tiny insects will burrow into your body and eat it inside and out. Sinking into scorching embers, you will try to run but the henchmen of Yama will hack and slice your body apart with weapons. These and other untold torments must be endured.
If your guides, such as Viṣṇu and Devī, are bodhisattvas with love for living beings, they will not consume flesh. As the Sūtra of the Descent to Laṅka says: "Just so, bodhisattvas who are embodiments of loving kindness, do not consume any form of meat." And:
Whoever transgresses the Sage's words
And, with an evil intention, eats flesh,
Such a perpetrator of wicked deeds
Will fall into the unbearable realms of hell.
Śākyamuni is said to be one of the ten avatars of Viṣṇu and is thus Viṣṇu's emanation. If so, Viṣṇu, who is the basis of emanation, must also be the noble Buddha. And, as the Blessed One himself taught:
The joy of beings brings delight to the Buddhas,
While any harm to them is a source of displeasure.
Pleasing them thus gratifies the Buddhas,
While doing them ill harms the Buddhas too.
As this indicates, harming sentient beings brings the severe negative karma of displeasing the Buddhas. That is why the 'red offering' of flesh and blood from slaughtered animals must be thoroughly repudiated.
This was written by one who guides well out of love, Mañju Dharmamati.
| Translated by Adam Pearcey 2019, with the generous support of the Khyentse Foundation and Terton Sogyal Trust.
’Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros. "'Jig rten pa'i lha dmar mchod byed pa rnams la springs pa" in ’Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros kyi gsung ’bum. 12 vols. Bir: Khyentse Labrang, 2012. W1KG12986. Vol. 8: 406–410
Barstow, Geoffrey (ed.). 2019. The Faults of Meat: Tibetan Buddhist Writings on Vegetarianism. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2019.
Ga Rabjampa. 2012. To Dispel the Misery of the World: Whispered Teachings of the Bodhisattvas. Trans. Rigpa Translations. Boston: Wisdom Publications.
Goodman, Charles. 2016. The Training Anthology of Śāntideva: A Translation of the Śikṣāsamuccaya. New York: Oxford University Press.
Shantideva. The Way of the Bodhisattva. Trans. Padmakara Translation Group. Boston: Shambhala Publications, 1997 (revised 2006)
Bden pa po'i le'u (Satyakaparivarta). This is an alternative title of the Sūtra Teaching the Miracles in the Domain of Skillful Means that the Bodhisattvas Have at their Disposition (Bodhisattvagocaropāyaviṣayavikurvitanirdeśasūtra, Toh 146) ↩
i.e., Pravrajyāntarāya-sūtra. The source of what follows seems to be the Sūtra of the Application of Mindfulness to the Sacred Dharma (Saddharmasmṛtyupasthāna Sūtra, Toh 287). It is likely that Jamyang Khyentse based his comments on Śāntideva's Śikṣāsamuccaya, which cites this section of the Saddharmasmṛtyupasthāna Sūtra immediately after a citation from the Pravrajyāntarāya-sūtra. See Goodman 2016: 73–75. ↩
Bodhicaryāvatāra VI: 122. ↩