"When Heaven creates calamity,
There is still hope to be forgiven;
But if you yourself create calamity,
There is no hope of escape."
The Year of the Pig has arrived once again. This year belong to the heavenly stem & earthly branch of Ding Hai. Contrary to popular belief, this year is not the Golden Pig, but belongs to the Fire Pig, because the heavenly stem of Ding in under the element of Fire. According to the Tongsheng (Traditional Chinese Almanac) forecast, this year will be one of abundance in crop harvest. The Earth Mother Scripture says:
"Sowing in Summer one encounters thirst in Autumn,
The harvest in Autumn comes to 80 percent;
Plagues will be rampant among the people,
And the livestock will face great difficulty;
The joy of the silk women would be in vain,
For although the silkworms are many,
Yet they do not form cocoons."
So although agricultural nations can expect a good harvest, they will encounter drought in autumn. And for silk farmers, they will not be able to get much silk this year since the silkworms will be many yet unproductive.
One important thing to note is the mention of plagues among men & animals. Coincidentally, the annual Flying Stars movement chart also foretell of such problems. This year the 2 Black Star have taken central placing, whereas the 5 Yellow Star have shifted to the Northeast. These are the unlucky stars that bring trouble for Man. 2 Black is the Star of Pestilence & 5 Yellow is the Star of Plague or Calamity. Thus we might expect a virus outbreak in the central & northeast regions of the world. The "world" can mean China, Asia, or perhaps even the globe. Bird Flu is a likely candidate since it continues to plague many regions in Asia, but new viruses mutations are also possible. We should also not forget the year 2003, where the 5 Yellow Star was in the Southeast, corresponding to the SARS outbreak in Southeast China (Guangdong province) & Southeast Asia (Singapore). Will history repeat itself this year? The wise knows that precautions need to be taken no matter how things turn out.
Whenever plagues bring calamity to Man, the root cause can always be traced back to his negative karma of killing. In the case of SARS, it was the indiscriminate killing of civet cats & other wild animals in Guangdong that led to the birth of that terrible virus. In the case of Bird Flu, it was the inhumane killing of fowl that caused it to spread to human beings. Once every few years, the collective karma of all these killing will reach a boiling point, erupting into a new virus outbreak against Man. In reality the stars do not give us disaster, but we give ourselves disaster. The unlucky stars are merely a reflection of the bad karma we create by not observing the 5 percepts of refraining from killing, theft, sexual misconduct, false speech & intoxicants. But history reveals that often it is the sin of killing that bears negative fruits in the swiftest time.
Therefore if we really want to avoid suffering, we must stop taking lives & cultivate compassion towards all sentient beings. Although vegetarianism is optional in Buddhism, even though we need not give up eating meat in our Dhamma practice, we must always observe the 4 rules of pure consumption, namely:
1. Not to eat if one sees the animal being killed.
2. Not to eat if one hears the animal being killed.
3. Not to eat if the animal is killed specially for you.
4. Not to eat if the animal is reared by yourself.
If we can observe these 4 rules, then we would not create negative karma in our daily dietary needs. If we can be vegetarian, that is even better; but depending on physical conditions, not everyone can adjust to a completely vegetarian diet. That is why the Buddha recommended flexiblity on this point. The most important teaching to remember is to have compassion for animals in the same way as humans. Do not do unto them what we would not do unto ourselves. To refrain from killing as well as to observe the rest of the 5 percepts is the true path to happiness. If we observe the percepts as though our lives depended on them, then no plagues or calamities can ever befall us, sadhu.