Eighty-three days ago I decided to follow Supreme Master Ching Hai’s five guidelines for immediate enlightenment.  The guidelines are: 1) don’t hurt any living being,  2) don’t speak what isn’t true, 3) don’t take what isn’t yours, 4) avoid sexual misconduct, and 5) don’t use intoxicants such as alcohol or tobacco. She also recommends daily meditations on light and sound. 

Before I go on, let me get you straight on something: I don’t know Supreme Master Ching Hai from Adam.  The woman’s pamphlet randomly found me when I was on a weird trip in a weird town. I had an abundance of free time that day so I sat eating discounted breadsticks in a treehouse jacuzzi and read it cover to cover. While her guidelines seemed pretty generic, I found her arguments for vegetarianism compelling.  I decided shortly after that trip to follow her guidelines and see what came of it.   

My plan to follow Supreme Master Ching Hai’s guidelines has been wildly unsuccessful in some respects and life-changing in others.  Today is my tenth consecutive day with no meat, fish, or eggs. The most I’ve managed thus far is 13 and this time around I’m determined to hit the 2 week mark.  My sustenance has relied on less than 10 kills in 83 days, so this is progress as far as I’m concerned.  I broke guideline #5 and drank two glasses of wine this past Saturday at my friend’s birthday party, but I did managed to abstain from eating the dead things on the buffet table.  For that, I’m glad.

How has my life changed? One superficial change: I’ve dropped some weight. Perhaps that is not as superficial as it seems. This practice has made me far more mindful of my food choices than I was before I committed to the change. Daily I measure the weight of another’s life against my own needs.  This is a practice that can be applied to consumption at large – not just to what one eats.  Meat is convenient, if not pervasive.  When I do consume a life I have a greater awareness of the sacrifice, cost, and karma than I did prior to this experience and more appreciation.  Beyond physical hunger, I’ve spent some time sitting with other voids. I’m coming to acknowledge these voids in myself and how I’m in the habit of filling them.  I’m learning to weigh the pleasure of filling the voids against the cost. Is that enlightenment? I don’t know, but it’s definitely a paradigm shift. It will do.

…and so the practice continues…