Yong feels lighter and healthier after becoming a vegetarian. (Photo provided by Yong Puay Woon)
"Where there is good food, that’s where we will be!” shared Yong Puay Woon. Like most people, Yong likes to hang out with her friends to search for good food. She would dine out with her friends two to three times a week to enjoy good food and have a good chat with each other.
Yong is a preschool teacher and a member of Tzu Chi Teachers Association. In 2018, Yong became acquainted with Tzu Chi after attending Tzu Chi’s Buddha Bathing ceremony. As a Buddhist, she used to worship the Buddha and recite sutra at the temple. After joining Tzu Chi, she supports Tzu Chi’s ideology that emphasizes taking practical actions to help those in need. However, when it comes to vegetarianism, her approach was to go easy.
Yong had attempted to go meatless when her father was suffering from physical illness back in 2000. Yong who was close to her father since childhood could not bear to see her father suffer. Hence, she pledged to go vegetarian for two years to pray for the speedy recovery of her father. Unfortunately, due to irregular mealtime and lack of nutritional knowledge for a balanced vegetarian diet, she frequently suffered from gastritis which put a stop to her vegetarian diet.
Converting to vegetarian diet after repenting
The global outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 has forced many countries into border closure and national lockdown. To contain the disease in Singapore, the circuit-breaker measure that prohibited dine out and gathering was implemented on 7 April. As a result, Yong couldn't meet up with her friends as usual and started to cook at home more frequently.
During the circuit breaker period, Yong has been listening to the Wisdom at Dawn regularly and often heard Master Cheng Yen appealing to all to adopt a vegetarian diet. Master Cheng Yen has also repeatedly explained that the fastest way to ward off the pandemic is to get everyone going meatless together.
Despite listening to Master Cheng Yen’s teaching regularly, Yong did not change her diet until one day, she accidentally cut her finger while cooking at home. The cut made her very painful at that instant. When she looked at the wound on her hand, images of animals being slaughtered started appearing in her head. That made her ponder, “Such a small wound has already ached me so badly, what more the fear and suffering of the animals being slaughtered?"
At that moment, a feeling of empathy arose within Yong. She repented and decided to go meatless to stop forging bad karmic affinity with animals.
"When I started going vegetarian, my friends were my biggest obstacle!" said Yong with a wry smile. As the pandemic situation improves, the circuit breaker measures are gradually relaxed, and conditional dine in is now allowed. And so, her friends started inviting her out for meals again.
When her friends found out that she has become a vegetarian, they all expressed their incomprehension. Her friends have some flawed perceptions about vegetarianism and even found it inconvenient to eat with her. During a dinner gathering, a friend asked her tentatively, "Can you eat vegetables that are cooked together with meat?" She pretended not to understand what her friend meant and insisted on ordering two vegetarian dishes. After seeing Yong’s reaction, her friend then stopped asking her to eat vegetable dishes with meat.
Yong also shared another incident when she stood firm to her vow. Yong and her friends would celebrate each other’s birthday before the circuit breaker was implemented. Recently, a friend in the group was going to celebrate her birthday. This time, she proposed to celebrate the birthday at a restaurant that serves vegetarian food, however, she did not receive any positive response from them. She was trapped in a difficult situation at that moment but soon changed her mindset. She felt that if her friends find it inconvenient dining with her, she would rather not attend the dining gathering and stick to her vegetarian pledge.
However, there was a sudden twist in the incident. The day before the friend’s birthday, Yong ‘s friend rang her up and said that they were going to a vegetarian restaurant for the birthday celebration. She was so overjoyed and attended the celebration delightfully. The gathering was filled with harmony and happiness, and at that moment, she knew that her friends had accepted the fact that she is a vegetarian.
In the face of social considerations, different eating habits often make it difficult for many to speak out and stick to their diet choice. For Yong who cherishes friendship, the two do not conflict. When she made up her mind to become a vegetarian, she chose to stick to it without compromise in the face of temptations and misunderstandings. After becoming a vegetarian, she feels lighter and healthier. The most important thing in adopting a vegetarian diet is to understand that it is a good deed that protects the wellbeing of all sentient beings.