A Major Cause of the Dramatic Increase of Human Suffering

By the late Zen Master Seung Sahn (Excerpt from Introduction of "The Compass of Zen"), Published on teh Buddhist Channel, Jan 20, 2005

Seoul, South Korea -- If we want to understand ourselves and help all beings get out suffering, we must first understand where this world's suffering comes from. Everything arises from our minds. Buddhist teaching shows that everything comees from primary causes, condition, and result. This means that some primary cause, when it appears under a certain condition, will always produce a certain result. So what is the reason for so many human beings appearing in this world, and what is the result of it? Why is there so much suffering, and why does it seem to increase every day?

<< The late Ven. Seung Sahn

Perhaps the most important reason for such a dramatic increase in the amount of suffering in this world is the increase in the amount of meat-eating that humans do. Before World War II, human beings did not eat so much meat. in Asia, people have always generally eaten meat only on special occasions, perhaps only twice a year, on one of the major holidays.

Nowadays Asians eat meat sometimes several times a day. The same has been true in the West for generations. This century has seen a very big increase in the amount of meat-eating on the planet. But how is this connected to the dramatic increase in suffering all over the world?

For centuries, if a man wanted to eat meat, he went into the forest and shot maybe one or two animals with bow and arrow?piitchhuu! Then he went home and ate it with his family. This animal died. But there was some kind of relationship between the animal and the person who killed and ate it. Their karma was somewhat clear. When the animal died, it could perhaps understand a little of what was happening. "Oh, this man will eat me! Maybe next life I will get him!" So the karma was very simple: it was only between this one man and this animal. It could be resolved between them and eventually brought back to a balance through the simple operation of cause and effect.

In the 20th century, however, human technology has grown up too quickly. Many special guns and techniques have been created to kill a greater and greater number of animals. Every single day, millions and millions of animals are routinely and mechanically slaughtered all over the world just to satisy human beings' desire-minds. Now one machine can kill many, many thousands of animals very quickly. Only one man pushes a button in a factory, maybe far away from the animals. When these animals die, many consciousnesses are suddenly and violently released from their dying bodies. These animals' consciousness then wander around and around and around, looking for new body. Where they go, they don't understand.

The Buddha taught us that everything comes from primary cause, condition, and result. When so many millions of animals are killed this way every year, some of their consciousnesses are inevitably reborn as humans. Perhaps only 0.00001 percent become human beings, but that is still a lot of humans that have some kind of animal consciousness operating inside them. If you look at humans in this world nowadays, you see that while they may all have human faces and human bodies, their consciousnesses are not completely human.

Some people have dog consciousness, some have cat consciousness. Others have rabbit consciousness or snake consciousness. Cow minds, pig minds, chicken minds, lion minds, tiger minds, and snake minds are all mixed together. Most people live with perhaps five or ten percent of our original human consciousness functioning inside them, and rest is some animal consciousness controlling their mind. Instead of having the original human capacity for love, cooperation, and compassion, people nowadays only fight with each other and with this world. They cannot do correct together-action with other human beings.

This is not to say there is something wrong with animals. But when you look at this world you see that animals tend to act together only with their own species, and don't like other animals. Dog-minds like dog-minds; they do not act with cat-minds. Snakes and lions and rabbits do not get along with each other. A snake-consciousness only follows other snake-minds, and has no compassionate action that can connect it with the suffering that someone else is experiencing. Birds also don't like other species of birds, so they make groups of their own species and fly around together in these groups. If someone attacks one of them, often the whole group will attack back. That is the nature of this animal-mind.

The political situation in the world today is the same. We now live in a world filled with many smaller countries and political and ethnic groups - many with private militias - all fighting each other. Children become involved with guns and other forms of violence at earlier and earlier ages, doing things to other human beings which were unheard of just ten or twenty years ago.

This all comes from having too much animal consciousness dominating our minds. Nowadays, many, many human beings are like this. They have some kind of animal consciousness inside, so there is a great deal more suffering because they cannot connect their consciousness to human life in a crowded world. Many people only look after their own interests. There is a greater tendency for some fighting-mind to appear. They only follow their own particular ideas and opinions, no matter what is going on around them. Something is out of balance, so naturally suffering appears. ...

Human beings also kill animals not just for food. They take the animals' skin to make shoes and hats and clothes. And even that is not enough. They take these animals' bones to make necklaces or buttons or earrings. In short, they kill many, many animals in order to sell the animal parts for money. Because of these desires and this strong animal consciousness, human beings fight with each other, and destroy nature. They do not value life.

So now this whole world has many problems" problems with the water, problems with the air, problems with the earth and food. Many new problems appear every day. These problems do not happen by accident. Human beings make each and every one of these problems. Dogs, cats, or lions, or snakes - no animal makes as many problems for this world as human beings do. Humans do not understand their true nature, so they use their thinking and desire to create so much suffering for this world. That is why some people say that human beings are the number one bad animal in this world. ...

So human beings must soon wake up and find their original seeds, their original nature.