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A Son’s Flesh

January 28, 2011

I recently listened to a talk by Tara Brach, a Buddhist teacher.  She was speaking on humanity’s relationship to the environment, and brought up a story found in Thich Nhat Hanh’s new book, The World We Have.  A part of the talk  resonated with me.

Here’s that part:

“This is a famous in the Buddhist scriptures, it’s called the sutra on son’s flesh.  There’s a couple and their young son crossing this vast desert, and the couple hadn’t planned well, so they ran out of food, and they decided to kill and eat their child. And of course after they did, they beat their chests with grief and tore their hair out, and were wretched.

And so the Buddha is in this discourse with monks and he tells this story, this god awful story.  And he and the monks agree that there was no pleasure in it for the parents, that it was just pure suffering. And then he says to them that we have to eat and consume with mindfulness, and he means consume in all ways, or we will be eating the flesh of our own children.

By consuming unmindfully, whether it is oil or the earth’s resources or meats, by overproducing, overconsuming, we are destroying life for generations…So it’s a horrific metaphor, this sutra “On Son’s Flesh”. But there is something about having a horrific metaphor to help wake us up, because there is a horrific sleep going on.  That we’re living.  This planet, that is what we are, that there is the destruction of it in this way.”


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