Different people explain the same Buddhadharma in many different ways. Accordingly, the methods of cultivation are also different. Each person has his own interpretation. Therefore, there are many different viewpoints.
For instance, true cultivators of Buddhadharma should not smoke, drink, or eat meat. But some Buddhists say, “The Buddha’s precepts prohibit people from killing, stealing, indulging in sexual misconduct, lying, or drinking. However, there’s no mention of smoking. Therefore, smoking is not included in the precepts.” This is a self-justification. Smoking is covered in the precept against drinking. They want to act as their own defense attorneys so they say smoking is not a violation of the precepts.
A person with true wisdom will not do anything improper. He will refrain from doing all manner of bad things, not just those mentioned in the precepts. We should change all our bad habits.
Not killing includes not eating meat and not eating meat also includes not killing. That is because if we don’t kill, there will be no meat to eat. Some Buddhists say, “The Buddha prohibited people from killing, but not from eating meat. The Buddha allowed people to eat the meat that is pure in three ways: 1) One does not see the creature killed; 2) one does not hear the creature being killed; 3) the creature was not killed especially for oneself. Eating meat that is pure in these ways is permitted.” That is also a self-justification because the person basically cannot renounce meat.
I met a professor before who could not get by for one day without eating meat. He said, “Even the smell of meat would relieve my craving for it if I couldn’t get to taste it.” So you see, each person has his own ideas and views and they are all different.
In learning Buddhadharma, we must learn precepts, concentration, and wisdom.
Precepts help us to “refrain from all evil and do all good.” We refrain from doing whatever is bad, but we do all good things.
Concentration is the vigorous study of Chan meditation. Wisdom is the result of concentration, and concentration comes from upholding precepts. This is called the three non-outflow studies.
We must put an end to greed, hatred and delusion. Being free from greed, we will not fight. When we do not fight with others, we seek nothing. When we do not seek, we will be selfless. When we are selfless, we will not pursue personal advantage. All these are related. Studying Buddhadharma means following the teaching in a precise and honest manner. Don’t take chances and shortcuts, just cultivate honestly.