解惑篇──生活漫談 ／雲老禪師主答 英譯．陳曌
Q: If I get involved with some ‘save a life’ activities but caused the animal(s) to die due to my lack of understanding, have I committed evil deeds?
A: If you are the organizer of the activity, the onus is on you. There is no excuse to say that you didn’t know better. As the organizer, it is your duty to make sure that you know exactly what you are doing.
Q: Why do business people pray to the gods every month?
A: Business people make offerings in front of their shops every month for two purposes: First, they pray to the Earth Deity, a common practice in Taiwan, as well as places along the coastal areas in southern China. These people generally live off the land and rely on land. The land is their support. Offerings are made on the second and sixteenth day, or the first and fifteenth day of each month. The second target for the offering is the Heavenly God of Wealth. Heaven is regarded as most blessed. It is hoped that with the offering, Heaven can bring them good luck. Among the Heavenly deities, the God of Wealth is most popular. This is part of the tradition. To many, the real reason why they it remains obscured. Many do it simply because others are doing it.
For Buddhists, such practice caries little insignificant. When people asked me this question, I usually tell them: If you have a choice and if family elders have no objection, one may do away with it. But if one is worried about what neighbours might say or fear any possible repercussions, they may carry on with the practice. However, they can also change the offerings to coincide on the first and fifteenth day of each month and do it at the family shrine or ancestral altar. This way, prayers can also be offered to one’s forebears. Of course, all these depends on one’s family circumstance. If a change in practice is going to upset family elders, it is best to continue the old ways. As a Buddhist, one must not go against the wishes of other family members. The only thing to bear in mind is that food offerings must not contain any meat. Vegetarian dishes are more appropriate. One positive trend in Taiwan these days is that vegetarianism is becoming more widespread and popular, making the change much easier.