Ahimsa and Food, Part 2: No birth, no death, and the extraordinary broccoli

Tonight, I returned home from the farmer’s market, having just signed up for the local CSA which has been a long-time dream of mine (which, for various circumstances and reasons, I was not able to realize until tonight). Happily chopping some fresh veggies from the market for dinner, I recalled my previous post on ahimsa (nonviolence), PeaceMeal With a Yogic Twist. I was chopping broccoli and pondered the death of the broccoli. Broccoli, thank you for giving your life to me! It will not be in vain, and I will chop you and eat you mindfully and with gratitude…

I continued chopping, and was reminded of my days at Deer Park Monastery, where I mindfully chopped fruits and veggies with my fellow Long-Eared Owls (our dharma circle name) every morning during our retreat. Just chopping vegetables. Nothing else. Giving my full attention to the broccoli.

And that’s when I realized – the broccoli didn’t die!

I recalled what Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen master and one of the greatest peacemakers in the world, in my humble opinion, would say. The broccoli doesn’t die, no more than a cloud dies, no more than anything dies. From the Buddhist perspective (which I tend to subscribe to), there is no birth and no death. Nothing dies. In the case of the broccoli,it becomes me (how wild is that to think about? And how we take it for granted? It reminds me of the line from the Mary Oliver poem: “how calmly,/ as thought it were an ordinary thing,/ we eat the blessed earth.”). It does not die, it continues on in another form, as I continue on and someday will continue on in another form. And we all return to the Earth.

Thich Nhat Hanh uses the metaphor of a cloud to explain the concept of interbeing and no birth, no death. A cloud doesn’t die, he says. It falls to the Earth, and if you look closely, you can see it in a cup of tea. If you truly look deeply into your cup of tea, you can see the cloud alive in it. You can see it in yourself, and know that clouds live on in you, your body, over 70% water. The cloud lives on.

So it got me thinking about ahimsa. And death. And the continuous cycle of this beautiful life. I don’t know that we can really say that eating vegetables is violent. Can we? In any case, it’s not really my point here. My point here is in honoring the life of that broccoli by paying my fullest attention and deepest gratitude to it, and acknowledging that that broccoli is now me. So ordinary and extraordinary at the same time. How calmly we eat the blessed earth, and how calmly it becomes us.

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4 thoughts on “Ahimsa and Food, Part 2: No birth, no death, and the extraordinary broccoli

  1. Pingback: No Birth, No Death, and Extraordinary Broccoli | The Peace Practice

  2. We must not forget that:

    “our land passes in and out of our bodies, just as our bodies pass in and out of our land; that as we and our land are a part of one another, so are all who are living as neighbors here, human, plant and animal, are a part of one another, so cannot possibly flourish alone”
    – Wendell Berry

  3. Pingback: PeaceMeal with a Yogic Twist, Part 2: Continuing with the Yamas and Niyamas | PeaceMeal Project

  4. Pingback: Community Peace and Food: CSAs and farmer’s markets | PeaceMeal Project

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