Spoken by Supreme Master Ching Hai
Sydney, Australia, May 9, 1997
(Originally in English)
Q: My question is about the purity of vegetarian food. I am concerned about people who need medicine and they might take something that contains animal products, like some things that are made from shellfish are very good for people who are sick in a certain way. I'm thinking of things where such a small amount of animal material is involved. Do You know why is it so detrimental?
M: It's your mind that is important. If we tend to take anything just for the body at the cost of our spiritual, moral understanding, then of course, we will pay for it. If there's another substitute, then we can take the substitute, if absolutely not, then we just take that. Then it's all right. It's the mind that's important; it's our determination to do anything at all to keep our purity and to avoid the violence. That's it. It's not that you take a little animal and you go to hell or anything like that. It's just that you lack determination, and you will hinder yourself and weaken your willpower.
Willpower is very important for going ahead in any field, and if you belittle yourself by giving in to anything, by giving up your high standards in exchange for some physical comfort when you could do otherwise, then you just harm yourself; that's what I call detrimental. It's not that God punishes you or the devil comes and takes you to hell or anything. You have to keep your standards; that's what it is.
Q: So many medicines come in little capsules and they've made of animal products, gelatin. If you don't know, then is it okay?
M: If you know, then don't take them for your own sake. That's all. The animal is already dead. You take it and he won't die anymore, but it's just that if we want to keep ourselves absolutely in control, like you control your situation; you control what you eat, you eat what you want and not what's forced upon you by any circumstances, then you keep your own power. Nothing can shake you then because you do what you want in any circumstance. That's what it is.
But suppose if nothing else can be substituted for that medicine and you need it to sustain the physical body while you continue to realize God, then take it. Don't be a fanatic. It's just for your willpower that you should fight to keep it. [Applause] The thing we should keep is our level of consciousness, our standards; otherwise, you can do anything you want.
The Precepts and the rules are not for you to keep; actually they're for you to realize whether you're up to that standard or not. If you give up and sink down, that's already detrimental because you've lowered your standards already. Anyone at the college level has to pass certain tests, has to understand certain subjects. If you lower yourself, then you will become high school level again, no need to ask. If you slacken your effort in maintaining your college level and slacken your effort in progressing, then you just go backwards or stay there. You are just being harmful to yourself.