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Monday, 08 June 2015 14:06

Respecting all Lives through Vegetarianism

Written by  Sia Ah Tong, KL & Selangor / Translated by Tan Heang Shin

As a sign language coach, Sia Ah Tong has to comprehend the sutra verses besides practising the sign language diligently. [Photograph by Tia Yee Ling]

Growing up in a fishing village, it was only sensible to treat marine lives as cuisine. Without realizing that I had already established negative affinity with the beings, I deemed it necessary to use pest control. Fortunately, I was blessed to encounter Buddha’s teaching. I repented for my past killings and became mindful of my food cravings. I have adopted vegetarianism and cultivated respect for all lives.


 
I repent for using knives, sticks, guns and rocks to kill
On my cruel rampage, living beings met with harm
I repent for killing other creatures indiscriminately, accidentally or for sport
With utter disregard, I cared not that all beings are born equal
 
Every time I sing these verses, I have deep regrets in my heart. In my 40-plus years of life, I have done so many evil deeds unconsciously.
 
I grew up in a fishing village and since young, had been playing with sea creatures like prawns, fishes, crabs and shells, which I considered my “toys”. When it was low tide, different kinds of colourful crabs would come out from the mud and the scene was spectacular.
 
We would use a stick tied with a thread to hook the crabs by their pincers. Once caught, we would break their pincers to avoid getting hurt when “playing” with the crabs in our palms. When we got tired with them, we would crush them to death. This is the life of the children in fishing villagers and I was too young then to understand that I had killed so many lives.
 
Marine life likened to food
 
As the sea water was warm at high tide, my sister and I would go to the beach to dig for shellfish, we called them “lala”. Lala’s meat is sweet and it was one of my favourite seafood. The lala would hide in groups in the sand, so once we found one, the entire group would be exposed. We would always go home with lots of lala and our mother would use them to prepare nice dishes for dinner.
 
After digging the lala, I loved to jump into the sea and soaked myself in the warm sea water. There were many baby prawns in the sea and I would catch them with a net and eat them raw as they were fresh and sweet. I could easily eat more than ten live baby prawns.
 
When it was high tide, a kind of sea snails would climb up to the tree trunks or the poles of the houses, and then cover themselves in membrane. But this had allowed me to pick them up easily, put them into a basket and bring them home for dinner.
 
Fishermen in the village have treated marine lives as food; and youngsters like me had been killing them to satisfy our craving.
 
Lives killed on cruel rampage
 
As if killing sea creatures was not enough, I had even set up traps to catch rats that invaded our family’s sundry shop. There were several ways of killing the trapped rats and burning them alive was one method. But to avoid causing a fire, we would normally drown the trapped rats in the river. For more fun, I would sometimes set up string traps to catch the trapped rats and strangle them to death. The scene of the rats struggling and wailing still haunted my mind till this day.
 
I also hated ants as their bites were painful. When I saw the ants in large numbers around the house, I would immediately spray insecticide or kill them with fire. I did the same for cockroaches which I would then feed to my pet, an arowana fish.
 
When I was young, I did not understand the meaning of respecting lives. Later, when I left the fishing village to live in town, my “killing spree” was reduced substantially. But, whenever I returned to the fishing village, I would still do it once in a while, particularly with the crabs I brought home. I would be tasked to kill the crabs for dishes, and would feel particularly happy coming across crab eggs in the crabs. Just imagine, those were thousands of innocent lives! And I was feeling happy about it!
 
Buddhadharma is the light of deliverance
 
Knowing Tzu Chi is the best thing that happened in my life. I started to help the needy and by doing that, compassion and loving-kindness have developed in me. I began to have empathy when dealing with people and worldly affairs.
 
After attending the daily morning Dharma talk on Lotus Sutra by the Master, I finally understood the Karmic Law of Cause and Effect, as well as, the suffering of rebirth in the six realms. I also realized that every single creature has the Buddha-nature in them, so I should not have deprived them of their chance to live.
 
After joining Tzu Chi, I became a vegetarian and vowed not to take any meat in all my lifetimes to come. I want to have a good affinity with all beings and treat them with compassion.
 
These days, I would communicate with the ants at home, asking them to live by the side of the house so that we would not step on them accidentally. When bitten by mosquitoes, I would request them not to transmit any infectious diseases. I would ask the cockroach to leave or set it free when caught; and I would also save any insect or creature that fell into the water and place them onto safe ground.
 
Nowadays, I would refrain from killing if possible. I would walk mindfully so that I do not step on any living creature; and I would prolong the “lifespan” of things by being frugal. When there is compassion in our heart, it will not give rise to unwholesome thoughts. I am extremely pleased that I even dreamt that I am a vegetarian.
 
We should treat all beings as if they were our loved ones. Thus, I repent for all the killings I have committed in the past. I know I would need to face the consequences, but I would embrace them graciously.
 
A simple and blissful life is a life that is always filled with gratitude.
 
 

 
Growing up in a fishing village, Sia Ah Tong would often catch baby crabs. To avoid being hurt, he would break their pincers and “play” with them in his palms. When tired of them, he would crush them to death. He was too young then to understand that he had killed many lives. [Photograph provided by Sia Ah Tong]   Sia Ah Tong shared his past wrongdoings at a study group, repenting for his ignorance. He felt blessed to have encountered Tzu Chi, heard the Dharma and developed his wisdom. He vowed to be a vegetarian for the lifetimes to come. [Photograph by Boon Wui Kong]

Growing up in a fishing village, Sia Ah Tong would often catch baby crabs. To avoid being hurt, he would break their pincers and “play” with them in his palms. When tired of them, he would crush them to death. He was too young then to understand that he had killed many lives. [Photograph provided by Sia Ah Tong]
 
Sia Ah Tong shared his past wrongdoings at a study group, repenting for his ignorance. He felt blessed to have encountered Tzu Chi, heard the Dharma and developed his wisdom. He vowed to be a vegetarian for the lifetimes to come. [Photograph by Boon Wui Kong]
 
Through home visits, Sia Ah Tong not only helped the needy personally, but also cultivated a heart of compassion and loving-kindness. [Photograph by Boon Wui Kong]    

Through home visits, Sia Ah Tong not only helped the needy personally, but also cultivated a heart of compassion and loving-kindness. [Photograph by Boon Wui Kong]