Using Buddhism to Connect with our Food

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By Gina Merlino

Food and the environment are closely related. Pigs, cows, and chickens are put in crowded, unsanitary conditions and pumped with hormones and antibiotics. Companies work to change the genetic makeup of our crops, to make them big, strong, and arguably worse. It is a depressing contradiction that the richest country in the world has a food system this unhealthy. Our relationship to the food we ingest has gotten off kilter. We need to rediscover our connections to it on a deeper level.

One of the reasons we have gotten off kilter lies in the archaic belief that humans ultimately have control over nature. In fact, there is naturally a balance between plants and animals in the environment. Use of pesticides and poor livestock conditions reflects a disregard for the environment. It is possible to feed people while producing more sustainable food. One way to begin is to learn from spiritual beliefs that regard food in a more sacred manner.

Buddhism has respect for nature. One of the principles of Buddhism is that all living beings are to be treated with dignity and kindness. Contrary to a belief that humans are privileged in nature, Buddhists believe that all things are created equal. The planet was not designed for the sole pleasure of humans. All creatures can achieve enlightenment.

Many Buddhists are vegetarian.  This comes from the belief that when you eat meat, that being had to be killed. Suffering was inflicted, and human ego overtook respect and kindness. It is fine for Buddhists to continue to eat meat though and many do.

The principle that unites both vegetarians and omnivores is a desire to treat animals destined for human consumption with compassion. Eat with a clear conscious, respect food and where it came from, be good to the earth. There are methods of producing food that are healthy, sustainable, and done without genetically modified methods, pesticides, or ecologically damaging practices.

Many people around the country grow food organically and local farmer’s markets are rapidly increasing. There is support of more ethical practices of cultivating food. With heightened consciousness, compassion, and collaboration, we can honor the planet and produce food that both keeps us healthy and honors our connection to Mother Nature.

Gina Merlino has a degree in philosophy and a Master’s in Engaged Humanities. She does freelance writing enjoys creating pieces about environmental issues.