All Buddhists Be Vegetarians?
If a person does not harm any living being
and does not kill or cause others to kill-
that person is a true spiritual practitioner.
Must all Buddhists be vegetarians?
Why the fuss then?
Though the Buddha never made it a compulsory rule that all His followers
have to be vegetarians, He strongly encouraged us to be. In the Bodhisattva
practice of minimising harm to all beings and benefiting them as
much as possible, the practice of vegetarianism as far as possible
plays an essential role.
The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great Compassion.
-The Mahaparinirvana Sutra
"...All monks who live purely and all Bodhisattvas always refrain
even from walking on grass; how can they agree to uproot it? How then can
those who practise great Compassion feed on the flesh and blood of living
-The Surangama Sutra
How can a monk, who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself be
living on the flesh of sentient beings?
-The Surangama Sutra
The Bodhisattva, whose nature is Compassion, is not to eat
For fear of causing terror to living beings
Bodhisattva who is disciplining himself to attain Compassion,
refrain from eating flesh.
-The Lankavatara Sutra
All true practitioners
of the Bodhisattva path eventually relinquish meat-eating. In His
previous lives, the Buddha as a Bodhisattva would rather cut His
own flesh to feed an eagle than let it eat a smaller bird. All advanced
practising Bodhisattvas are thus necessarily vegetarians, since
they cannot bear the pain of sentient beings.
While nothing we eat makes us impure, our choice of diet is an action
with implications. If our choice of diet arises from greed, sustaining
the greed obviously makes us impure.
If being vegetarian is so important on the Bodhisattva path,
why was the Buddha not one?
The Buddha and the Sangha in His time were not total vegetarians as
they consumed alms food offered by lay followers, whom they encountered
randomly from place to place. Though the Buddha never
requested specific food to be offered, He spoke against the intentional
acquiring of meat for Him and the Sangha. In this way, the Buddha neither
directly nor indirectly cause the death of any being for His food. On the
other hand, we have the freedom of the choice of our diet, since
we do not eat alms food. Why not make the kinder and wiser decision?
Cant I be a good Buddhist who is not vegetarian?
Of course we can. One who eats meat can cultivate a pure heart just
as one who is vegetarian might have an impure heart. But why not cultivate
a pure heart while making the extra effort to further the practice
of Compassion by being vegetarian?
But didnt the Buddha say there is pure meat?
The Buddha advised
that meat should only be accepted if one did not see, hear or suspect
that the animal had been killed for oneself. Only when all these
three conditions are fulfilled is it considered pure meat. Proper
alms food fit these conditions.
Isnt meat from the markets and restaurants considered pure
demand creates supply.
Once, a disciple
of the Buddha asked a man why he kept buying meat. The man replied
that he did so since the meat-seller kept selling meat. When the
meat-seller was asked why he kept selling meat, he replied that
he did so since the man kept buying from him. When the Buddha was
consulted as to who was the unskillful (in Compassion and Wisdom)
one, He replied that both were unskillful.
Supply and demand
is an obvious vicious cycle. The whole universe of meat eating and
animal slaughtering is an intricate web of interdependence, of related
cause and effect. When we buy meat, we play a part in the circle
of life and death of other beings.
What is real pure meat then?
Here are some forms of meat that can be considered pure meat.
1. Meat ordered or received by mistake.
2. Leftover or discarded meat.
3. Meat from animals that have died naturally or by
accident for at least 16 hours (The number of hours is to
ensure the consciousness has left the body).
4. Meat from alms rounds as practised in the
Isnt killing vegetables taking life too?
plant life is not sentient life- they are not beings with reason
Doesnt growing vegetables kill many insects too?
This is not true if we choose organic food, which are grown without
the use of pesticides (which can be harmful to humans too). In comparison
to eating non-organic vegetables, pesticides are used fifty times
more when we eat meat- to kill pests to produce animal feed. It
takes ten kilos of vegetable protein to produce only one kilo of
Much of our
daily products also involve animals- such as leather shoes, milk
from cows, honey from bees, soap from animal fat, drugs with animal
serum (that might be tested on animals)
However, there are
many new products today that are free from animal derivatives. Given
more choice, we are at liberty to make wiser decisions on how to
live life in a more harmless way. Consider becoming a vegan!
we can do, merely to live is to deprive other beings of their food,
habitat and/ or life to a certain extent. Therefore, Buddhists
practising the Bodhisattva path should do all they can in their
ability to avoid killing, and to protect life instead.
Can you further convince me to be a vegetarian?
Here are some
good reasons to be a vegetarian.
1. Personal well-being-
No disease can come from a balanced vegetarian diet.
Medical proof states that all kinds of diseases can spring from
meat-eating, while having a vegetarian diet can not only prevent,
but help cure many diseases. Our body constitution is also not designed
for meat digestion. For example, our teeth and intestine structure
are virtually identical to that of herbivorous, not carnivorous
animals. Eating animals which die in great fear and hatred, we devour
along their toxins of fear and hatred, which affects both our spiritual
and physical health.
2. Well-being of animals-
Animals live imprisoned and tortured lives before the
final horror of being slaughtered. While alive, they suffer from
overcrowding, castration and countless other cruelties.
3. Well-being of the environment-
Animal-rearing depletes the Earths resources
of energy, land, crops and water. It also creates large amounts
of harmful animal sewage and greenhouse gases..
4. Well-being of fellow humans-
More than two-thirds of the Earths cropland
is used for cultivating animal feed for animals to be slaughtered
as meat. No human starvation would exist if animal rearing for the
rich meat-consumers was lessened, converting the crops as food for
citizens of the Third World Countries.
5. Peace on Earth-
Wars, racial riots and other forms of related human unrest
are collective karmic results of generated hatred when group-slaughtered
animals, which die in great fear and hatred, are reborn as humans.
For hundreds of thousands of years the stew in the pot
has brewed hatred and resentment that is difficult to stop.
If you wish to know why there are disasters of armies and weapons
in the world, listen to the piteous cries from the slaughterhouse at
-Ancient Chinese Verse translated by Gold Mountain Monastery Staff
6. All beings have at one point or another been reborn as our kin.
The practice of vegetarianism is thus the practice of filial piety.
It is the practice of the Loving-kindness, Compassion and Equanimity
to all beings, recognising that they have Buddha Nature (the potential
to become Buddhas) like us.
What if vegetarian food is hard to find?
Another reason why the Buddha never made vegetarianism a compulsory
rule is His understanding that the living and karmic conditions of
different people are different. For example, it would be downright
impossible for all Tibetan Buddhists to have vegetarian diets when
Tibet can hardly grow vegetables. However, major Tibetan monasteries
are going vegetarian today with the aid of imported food.
What happens if you cannot find vegetarian food readily? Does it mean
you have no choice but to eat meat? Think again carefully...
the path of Compassion is not always easy to tread. It involves making
many sacrifices. Being a committed vegetarian might mean having to go
the extra mile to get vegetarian food.
Did you know the Buddha is a vegetarian at heart?
The Buddha remarked that the meat He consumed in His entire life
was manifested by His great compassion and psychic powers. That
is to say, not only does the meat in theory already exist as pure
meat, it isnt even real meat! In other words, the Buddha was
a full vegetarian at heart!
It is worth
mentioning that the Buddha did not die from eating meat (poisoned
or putrid pork), as it is so often mistaken. His last meal consisted
of "sukara-maddava"- which is correctly translated to be :-
(1) a pig's soft food, ie. food eaten by pigs,
(2) "pig's delight," ie. a favourite food of pigs,
(3) "pig-pounded," ie., food trampled by pigs.
It was actually a kind of mushroom called truffles.
Im still unsure whether to be a vegetarian
Buddha left it to you to choose!
Remember- Buddhism is a free religion. Though there are always kinder
and wiser choices you can make, you are also free to choose otherwise.
why are you putting off vegetarianism when it so obviously has all
the plus points? Is it due to plain greed for the taste of meat?
If you want to be sure you are not vegetarian not because of greed,
the best solution is to be vegetarian and prove it to yourself.
This is not my challenge for you- this is your personal spiritual
challenge. We have to be totally honest with ourselves. Remember
this- your decision to be vegetarian or not will affect thousands
of sentient lives in your lifetime.
all beings be free from fear, harm and danger.
May all beings be well and happy.
your Comments & Queries to
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