Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

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TheSynergist
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Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby TheSynergist » Mon Mar 16, 2015 8:50 pm

I recently stumbled across Master Hsuan's commentary on the Shurangama Sutra, which contained this gem:

People who eat pungent plants and also cultivate samadhi will not be protected by the Bodhisattvas, gods, immortals, or good spirits of the ten directions. Who is referred to here? Whoever eats the five pungent plants. If you eat them, it's referring to you. If I eat them, it's referring to me. The text leaves the matter open. Why don't dharma protectors and good spirits guard such people? Because they smell too bad.


He goes on...

When their lives end, these people will join the retinue of demon kings. This refers to people who eat the five pungent plants. Because they eat such things, the gods, immortals, Bodhisattvas, and good spirits do not protect them. Therefore, the demon kings who possess great power can have their way with them. The demon king appears as a Buddha and speaks demonic dharma to them, praising sexual desire, anger, and stupidity. Having been confused by the demons, these people lose their proper knowledge and proper views and any real wisdom. Instead, they harbor deviant knowledge and deviant views.


And also...

Ananda, have you been listening? Those who cultivate for Bodhi, anybody on the path to Bodhi, should never eat the five pungent plants. You definitely must stop eating onions, garlic, leeks, scallions, and chives. If you eat these things, you can end up in the company of the demon kings. If you don't eat these things, you can join the Buddha's retinue. This is the first of the gradual stages of cultivation. This is the first step of progress for a cultivator of the Way.

In cultivation, one must get rid of the causes which aid in the creation of bad karma. The five pungent plants are one cause which aids the demon kings. You should not regard them as unimportant. The five pungent plants make you turbid and confused. They make you impure, and your impurity puts you together with the retinue of demon kings, for the more impure one is, the better they like it.


This is all from:http://www.cttbusa.org/shurangama7/shurangama7.asp

Now I respect the good work that the Master has done to teach/popularize Buddhism in the USA and the world. I just cannot help but find these statement in the commentary about the 5 pungent plants so preposterous that they're hard to take seriously. I also realize that Master Hsuan Hua has also made some controversial statements about homosexuality, divorce, and Tibetans that have been discussed elsewhere on this forum. All things considered, I cannot help but think that Master Hsuan Hua was excessively preoccupied with literalism and traditionalism, although he probably was motivated by genuine compassion and meant well.

Two questions:
1) Do you think it's a good idea to abstain from the five pungent plants?
2) To what extent do you find it possible to respect a Master while still strongly disagreeing with him on some points?

Peace,
The Synergist

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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Malcolm » Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:21 pm

TheSynergist wrote:I recently stumbled across Master Hsuan's commentary on the Shurangama Sutra, which contained this gem:

1) Do you think it's a good idea to abstain from the five pungent plants?



In the Lankāvatāra is recommended that one desist from eating garlic, and also in the lower tantras. Also Mulasarvastivadin bhikṣus and bhikṣunīs were supposed to avoid eating it, apart from as medicine for various complaints.

It probably has to do with the prohibition of garlic among Brahmans.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:29 pm

Heh, Bodhisattvas never abandon sentient beings..unless of course, they stink..in which case, all bets are off.

I know I have seen initiations where you are not supposed to consume these a certain amount of time before hand, some that specify "no meat garilc onion" etc..I always assumed it was a winds and channels thing in the Vajrayana perspective.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby TheSynergist » Mon Mar 16, 2015 9:37 pm

Malcolm wrote:
TheSynergist wrote:I recently stumbled across Master Hsuan's commentary on the Shurangama Sutra, which contained this gem:

1) Do you think it's a good idea to abstain from the five pungent plants?



In the Lankāvatāra is recommended that one desist from eating garlic, and also in the lower tantras. Also Mulasarvastivadin bhikṣus and bhikṣunīs were supposed to avoid eating it, apart from as medicine for various complaints.

It probably has to do with the prohibition of garlic among Brahmans.


The Vinaya does prohibit monastics from eating garlic, apparently because some monk who did eat it had such bad breath he had to sit separately from everyone else.

However, the idea that these "5 pungent plants" can result in bad rebirths and ghost attacks is quite a development. I'm inclined to agree that Brahmanism may have played a role in the stigma (which I suppose would support the contention that the Shurangama Sutra was at least partly composed in India rather than merely being a Chinese forgery as is frequently alleged, but that's another story).

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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Astus » Mon Mar 16, 2015 11:57 pm

I don't think it's a question of respect. People can say all sorts of things, some clever and some quite stupid. Take what you find sensible and leave the rest. Buddhist tradition has for this practice the terms neyartha and nitartha.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"

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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Malcolm » Tue Mar 17, 2015 12:19 am

TheSynergist wrote:
However, the idea that these "5 pungent plants" can result in bad rebirths and ghost attacks is quite a development.


Actually, garlic is a main ingredient in herbal formulas for repelling attacks by bhūtas, nāgas and so on.

But generally, one is to avoid eating it and onions because they grew from the drops of blood of Rahu mixed with amrita which fell to the earth when Rahu was decapitated. But because Rahu's blood was mixed with amrita, these plants are also medicinal.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby yan kong » Tue Mar 17, 2015 1:24 am

I recall living at the city of ten thousand Buddha's for a few months. We listened to a talk by Master Hua every lunch. He had a very fire and brimstone style about him, going on about the consequences of various offenses. It's certainly not a style that works for everyone, and it didn't always work for me. But I appreciate his frank speech and I think we could use a few more blunt teachers like him in the west. That's not to say I agreed with all his views.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby TheSynergist » Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:20 am

Malcolm wrote:
TheSynergist wrote:
However, the idea that these "5 pungent plants" can result in bad rebirths and ghost attacks is quite a development.


Actually, garlic is a main ingredient in herbal formulas for repelling attacks by bhūtas, nāgas and so on.

But generally, one is to avoid eating it and onions because they grew from the drops of blood of Rahu mixed with amrita which fell to the earth when Rahu was decapitated. But because Rahu's blood was mixed with amrita, these plants are also medicinal.


Interesting. That's quite a different assessment than that postulated in the Shurangama Sutra and endorsed in Master Hsuan Hua's commentary.

yan kong wrote:I recall living at the city of ten thousand Buddha's for a few months. We listened to a talk by Master Hua every lunch. He had a very fire and brimstone style about him, going on about the consequences of various offenses. It's certainly not a style that works for everyone, and it didn't always work for me. But I appreciate his frank speech and I think we could use a few more blunt teachers like him in the west. That's not to say I agreed with all his views.


Thanks for sharing your experience. I do think frank speech can be an improvement to overly feel-good, fluffy discourse if it challenges ppl in their wisdom and practice. That said, many of Master Hsuan Hua's statements seem to be based on prejudice and superstition rather than authentic Dharma, and that concerns me. Avoiding Western-style political correctness doesn't mean we should resort to excessive fire and brimstone to get our point across.

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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Sherab » Tue Mar 17, 2015 2:38 am

TheSynergist wrote:1) Do you think it's a good idea to abstain from the five pungent plants?
2) To what extent do you find it possible to respect a Master while still strongly disagreeing with him on some points?

There are things that I read in sutras that I could not quite bring myself to truly believe. One of these is the prohibition on the consumption of the five pungent roots in the Surangama and elsewhere. It is hard for me to conceive the compassion of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as being so frail as to be turned off by smell from the consumption of the roots. As Jains and Brahmins abstain from these as well, I think it is possible that these prohibitions could have been added into the sutras to make them more acceptable to those who were used to such prohibitions. Besides, modern science seems to indicate that there are medicinal values in such plants. Bottom line is that though I follow Mahayana vegetarianism, I am not averse to taking those plants when they are used in vegetarian food.

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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby LastLegend » Tue Mar 17, 2015 3:26 am

There are reasons why monastics are not allowed to eat certain foods. Garlics, for example, is an aphrodisiac if eaten raw in a correct dosage. The fact of the matter is certain foods increase or decrease the sex drive. Mushroom and bamboo shoots are known to decrease sex drive according to Zen Macrobiotics' Yin Yang principle. Yes, libido can be complete extinguished with certain foods use and Dharma practice. The application of foods and and their reaction in the body need to be understood. I can make an aphrodisiac from preparing a tea from red Adzuki bean, and it works really well if one does not consume meats.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Mar 17, 2015 3:49 am

LastLegend wrote:There are reasons why monastics are not allowed to eat certain foods. Garlics, for example, is an aphrodisiac if eaten raw in a correct dosage. The fact of the matter is certain foods increase or decrease the sex drive. Mushroom and bamboo shoots are known to decrease sex drive according to Zen Macrobiotics' Yin Yang principle. Yes, libido can be complete extinguished with certain foods use and Dharma practice. The application of foods and and their reaction in the body need to be understood. I can make an aphrodisiac from preparing a tea from red Adzuki bean, and it works really well if one does not consume meats.



ThI accept such explanations as readily as I would a detailed Tibetan medicine one..however, that seems quite different from saying that enlightened beings will shun you because you stink of garlic.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Fortyeightvows » Tue Mar 17, 2015 4:52 am

I'm no expert, so I default to the Venerable Master, but if I may speculate:
what buddhas would shun anyone? what buddha is outside the channel?

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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby yan kong » Tue Mar 17, 2015 4:59 am

TheSynergist wrote:Thanks for sharing your experience. I do think frank speech can be an improvement to overly feel-good, fluffy discourse if it challenges ppl in their wisdom and practice. That said, many of Master Hsuan Hua's statements seem to be based on prejudice and superstition rather than authentic Dharma, and that concerns me. Avoiding Western-style political correctness doesn't mean we should resort to excessive fire and brimstone to get our point across.


At the end of the day Master Hua was still a very conservative/traditional Chinese man as well as being a Buddhist monk. Some of his words don't sit well with the modern Western world's idea of what is moral or immoral. I'm not condoning or agreeing with everything he says, but I don't think the fire and brimstone was just for show. I think he really believed in what he said.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Loren » Tue Mar 17, 2015 5:12 am

yan kong wrote:
TheSynergist wrote:Thanks for sharing your experience. I do think frank speech can be an improvement to overly feel-good, fluffy discourse if it challenges ppl in their wisdom and practice. That said, many of Master Hsuan Hua's statements seem to be based on prejudice and superstition rather than authentic Dharma, and that concerns me. Avoiding Western-style political correctness doesn't mean we should resort to excessive fire and brimstone to get our point across.


At the end of the day Master Hua was still a very conservative/traditional Chinese man as well as being a Buddhist monk. Some of his words don't sit well with the modern Western world's idea of what is moral or immoral. I'm not condoning or agreeing with everything he says, but I don't think the fire and brimstone was just for show. I think he really believed in what he said.


I don't know a lot about him but from what I've read seems like good man. What expected from a "traditional" teacher. 84,000 teachings for all inclinations.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby BrianG » Tue Mar 17, 2015 6:32 am

The Surangama Sutra might actually post date Anuttarayoga Tantra.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Mkoll » Tue Mar 17, 2015 8:01 am

Sherab wrote:As Jains and Brahmins abstain from these as well, I think it is possible that these prohibitions could have been added into the sutras to make them more acceptable to those who were used to such prohibitions.

That's interesting...could there be a connection here to Indian Ayurvedic medicine? Does anyone have some knowledge about these plants in that system?
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby plwk » Tue Mar 17, 2015 8:03 am

1) Do you think it's a good idea to abstain from the five pungent plants?
Frankly, from reams of doctrinal debates I have seen on this topic, I doubt there's any single and authoritative opinion on it and personally am still testing this idea after many years with varying results, giving thought also to what medical science and traditional medicine have in mind. As a 'middle road' concession, I observe it during my Tradition's monthly Upavasatha & liturgical days, dining in the Viharas or with the monastics.
2) To what extent do you find it possible to respect a Master while still strongly disagreeing with him on some points?
Some of what I would use...
The Mahaparinibbana Sutta's Four Great References
Then the Blessed One said:
"In this fashion, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might speak:
'Face to face with the Blessed One, brethren, I have heard and learned thus:
This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a community with elders and a chief.
Face to face with that community, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or:

'In an abode of such and such a name live several bhikkhus who are elders, who are learned, who have accomplished their course, who are preservers of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with those elders, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or:

'In an abode of such and such a name lives a single bhikkhu who is an elder, who is learned, who has accomplished his course, who is a preserver of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with that elder, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation.'

"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn.
Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline.

If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus:
'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it.

But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve."


The Four Reliances
“catvāri pratiśaraṇāni| tadyathā-arthapratiśaraṇatā na vyañjanapratiśaraṇatā| jñānapratiśaraṇatā na vijñānapratiśaraṇatā| nītārthapratiśaraṇatā na neyārthapratiśaraṇatā| dharmapratiśaraṇatā na pudgalapratiśaraṇatā ceti||”

“Four reliances: that is,
reliance on the Dhamma not (merely) reliance on the person;
reliance on the meaning not (merely) reliance on the phrasing;
reliance on the suttas whose meaning is already drawn out not (merely) reliance on those suttas whose meaning is to be drawn out (interpreted);
reliance on extraordinary-knowledge* not (merely) reliance on (intellectual) discrimination.”


Another sample on this topic: here

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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Ayu » Tue Mar 17, 2015 8:25 am

TheSynergist wrote:1) Do you think it's a good idea to abstain from the five pungent plants?

I abstained from these kind of foods for 13 years when I was kind of Hindu. This diet supports the subtlety of the nervous system and the perception. But in my case this was too much. I lost my contact to the solid ground and to the "normal" friends around me.
And it also had a bad social effect, because I couldn't eat anything that my friends cooked and couldn't go to a normal restaurant. As time went by this was a seperating effect for my social life. I could only eat alone or with followers of this sect. This became an important bad fact that convinced me to leave this cult.


2) To what extent do you find it possible to respect a Master while still strongly disagreeing with him on some points?

For me it would be the question: Is he my teacher? Or is he just a respected teacher?
If my teacher suggests something that I don't agree with, I ask him why he suggests this. If I'm not convinced, I give a chance to the thought: "Maybe he is right." And then I try it out. Like this I find a better base to understand his point.

If any other master claimes something that doesn't fit into my life, I just observe it, (consider it, ponder about it,) but I don't follow, because I have to find my own way and cannot follow everything that anybody states.
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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby Simon E. » Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:36 am

Hsuan Hua also assured his followers that same sex practices lead to hell states...Rather more questionable than his views on asafoetida* I would have thought.





* Which is not like the others an alium. Its a tree resin that smells a bit like onion until its cooked. And paradoxically is allowed by the Brahmins.
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my heart is not here.
My heart's in the Highlands
chasing the deer."

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Re: Master Hsuan Hua on garlic, onions, etc.

Postby BrianG » Tue Mar 17, 2015 10:38 am

Maybe the prohibition against pungent plants is just for monks. Or laypeople who want to kiss their wife/girlfriend/boyfriend/husband/cons-

I think garlic is really good for you. However, it does make your breath stink. Do I think the Arya-sangha would give up on someone just because they ate it?

Of course not.
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