Buddhists Eat Meat

Eat Your Vegetables . . . or Meat . . . Your Choice
Talk given by Ven. Wayne Hughes (Ren Cheng)

The season of charcoal being fired up in the grill is nearly on us. Tasty burgers, tender zucchinis, rich steaks, sweet red peppers, plump hot dogs, crunchy asparagus, barbequed pork steaks, slices of juicy pineapple . . . just to mention some . . . will soon add their delicious aromas to the smoky air. What is a Buddhist to do?

“But the idea that Buddhists have always been, and always should be, vegetarians is pure myth.” Stephen Asma, Why I am a Buddhist: No Nonsense Buddhism with Red Meat and Whiskey

One of the most frequently asked questions about being a Buddhist is, “Do I have to be a vegetarian to be a Buddhist?” The answer is no. Though opinions and scholarship differ depending on Buddhist tradition or personal preference, in the end it doesn’t really matter whether, like some Mahayanists strongly believe the Buddha was a vegetarian or not. In the Mahaparnibbana Sutta the dish that the Buddha was served prior to his death was called sukara-maddava (soft pork) and there are differences of opinion whether it was actually pork or a dish of something associated with pigs, mushrooms being one translation put forth. Consider hot dogs. There is no dog in them. This may be the case with sukkara-muddava, no pork in it. Here again, does it really matter?

This inevitably brings up the next question, “What about the Three Pure Precepts: cease to do harm, do only good, do good for others?” While later Mahayanist texts like Lankavatara Sutra strongly favor a vegetarian diet it came about through cultural changes as Buddhist monks began to gather in fixed location monasteries and monks no longer performed alms rounds. Before that the Buddha instructed all monks to wander, to visit the towns and villages, to accept the alms they were given, to teach and to examples to others. Once the monastics spent the majority of their time in monasteries the local lay people began responsible for supporting them. This meant that any meats were most likely killed and butchered by the lay people specifically for the monastic community, one of the Five Instances to be avoided in the consumption of meat that the Buddha explains in the Jivaka Sutta. Zen Master D.T. Suzuki in his commentary on the Lankavatara Sutta states that the chapter dealing with eating meat was added in later versions of the sutta and was likely not the authentic words of the Buddha. There is ample evidence in the Pali Nikayas that show that this total rejection of meat as part of the diet was not part of early Buddhist philosophy.

In the Jivaka Sutta (Majjhima Nikaya, #55) the Awakened One answers Jivaka’s questions about the consumption of meat:

‘Thus I have heard:’

‘Jivaka, who ever destroys living things on account of the Awakened One or the disciples of the Awakened One, accumulate much demerit on five instances: If he said, go bring that living thing of such name. In this first instance he accumulates much demerit. If that living thing is pulled along, tied, with pain at the throat, feeling displeased and unpleasant . In this second instance he accumulates much demerit. If it was said, go kill that animal. In this third instance he accumulates much demerit. When killing if that animal feels displeased and unpleasant , in this fourth instance he accumulates, much demerit. When the Awakened One or a disciple tastes that unsuitable food . In this fifth instance he accumulates much demerit. Jivaka, if anyone destroys the life of a living thing on account of the Awakened One or a disciple of the Awakened One, he accumulates much demerit on these five instances.’

The five instances the Buddha speaks of are: 1) if a specific living thing is requested, 2) if the living thing is being mistreated or mishandled, 3) if the intent was the animal was killed directly for the consumption of the monk, 4) if the living thing is nervous or frightened, 5) if knowing any of these things have happened and the person eats the meat anyway. In any of these instances either the consumer, the provider, or both will accumulate demerits. Pragmatically speaking the word demerit is a placeholder for the concept of engendering negative karma. By participating in a negative act there will be negative consequences that we may, or may not realize ourselves. A simple example would be that because the abuse of one animal is accepted then the door is open for the same to happen to others.

This sutta offers that if one wants to make a case for their own choice of vegetarianism it should be from the platform of loving-kindness and equanimity, not from a misguided idea that the “Buddha said so.” Remember it is also about psychoemotional suffering or unsatisfactoriness that eating meat might cause you as well as the harm being done to other creatures.

The first Pure Precept directs us to “cease to do harm”, to refrain from unintentional acts of killing whenever possible. Eating meat is not considered an instance of killing as long as two basic rules are followed: the animal is not tortured or made to suffer, and the meat was not specifically butchered for the monk with their knowledge. So, the issue is causing unneeded pain to animals. It is important to keep in mind that this admonition was for monastics though it can be viewed as a guide to the devout lay person also.

Isn’t the meat we get at the grocery store or local Farmer’s Market killed for us “by proxy”? There is little we consume that hasn’t entailed “killing by proxy” from the electricity we use, the houses we live in, and the clothes we wear. Buddhist scriptures and books are written on paper whose manufacture resulted in the destruction of animal habitat. There are insects, rodents and other critters killed to produce even a vegetarian diet. It is impossible for us to separate ourselves from the reality of the Universe we live in. What we can do is be mindful of where our sustenance comes from and let that guide our intent and limit our consumption.

To better understand this “Middle Path” to the eating of meat we have to look to history as well as intent. In Siddhartha’s time and culture there were no ‘Buddhists’ but there were holy men, seers and mendicants of all types, including followers of the Awakened One who subsisted off the generosity of the people. Lay people offered food out of respect without considering the strictures of the receiver. When meat was offered the monk accepted it graciously and ate it. To reject such an offer would have caused suffering in the person offering it and deprive the lay person of performing a selfless act, one that would gain them merit in this life.

Buddhists all over the world eat meat. In some parts of the world it is common for meals to be cooked in a broth made from meat or fish. As it is unseemly for a Buddhist monk to make special food requests they would have to make a simple choice: eat or starve.

You may have seen or heard the stories of Tibetan monks sifting through dirt to save worms and bugs from being harmed during the building of a temple. Some of those same monks regularly have meat as part of their diet. This may seem contradictory but what it is is situational. There is a need for the human body to have protein, there is a need for the lay person to garner merit in the Tibetan culture, but there isn’t a need to cause unnecessary suffering to living beings. The monks and lay people certainly don’t save every worm and bug but they do what they can, their intention is good and the effort is one that builds merit in their Buddhist culture.

In our own time and culture there are Buddhists, and those of other worldviews who are smug vegetarians likely to judge others for eating meat. In contemporary Theravadan view a monk or lay person who claims spiritual superiority because they are a vegetarian is considered to have an immature practice, one where the ego is still prevalent.

In the Frequently Asked Questions section of the Accesstoinsight website in answer to the question: “Do Buddhists have to be vegetarian?”, they answer that the choice of whether or not to eat meat is a personal choice in Theravadan Buddhism. Though many who choose to follow the Middle Path may eventually decline to eat meat out of compassion for animals, vegetarianism is a choice not a commandment.

This is a complicated issue whether one is a Buddhist or not. Buddhist philosophy doesn’t demand that one be a vegetarian but it does offer us ways to make that decision on our own.

Whichever we choose, herbivore or carnivore or omnivore we must remain mindful of our interconnection with everything around us. As part of our daily practice we must develop an awareness of those connections and what we eat can be an opportunity to practice. Before each meal take a moment to respect the journey what you are about to eat took to get to you.

“Let us be mindful of the journey this food took to reach us. May the energy we derive from consuming it be used to promote human flourishing.”

39 thoughts on “Buddhists Eat Meat

  1. Thanks for the thorough post on this very interesting and important topic for all those practicing Buddhism and those who may be contemplating it. What ever I eat I say the meal gatha and hope that all creatures large and small and sentient know that I am blessed by their labors and sacrifices.

  2. This is absurd rationalization. Thie mahaparinirvana sutra goes in depth that Sangaha should NOT eat meat and that previous teachings were expedients. It also succinctly states that eating meat kills the great seed of compassion. Tour a factory farm and tell me.

    • Hello Roy,

      Your comment is appreciated, as are all Buddhist views here. Your passion for vegetarianism is evident, and your anger also.

      To rely on only one sutra, commentary or legacy teaching when defending a point of philosophy or practice does not do justice to the whole of the Buddhist Canon. I offer these other sources as a beginning to a more comprehensive understanding of the subject of eating meat and the Noble Path. On the Access to Insight website: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/bmc1/bmc1.ch08-4.html —- On the Urban Dharma website: http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma3/vegi.html —- the article (In Emptiness There is Law) written by Master Sokei-An in the November 1940 issue of the Cat’s Yawn newsletter —- and research the Five Instances. These writings come from a wide range of Buddhist traditions.

      Research into the eating habits of Buddhists, laypeople and monastics alike, in Buddhist-centric countries is also needed to gain an encompassing and appropriate view of this.

      Eating meat or eating plants, or eating both is a matter of choice and HOW you honor that which gives you strength for good works is part of a compassionate character. To eat only plants because they are “lower forms of life” is missing the point that they are still living things and as deserving of our compassion as all other living things. Choosing to not eat meat is a personal choice whether it is for religious or health reasons. Compassion arises not in the act of “not eating” but in the act of honoring whatever living things that provide you sustenance.

      May you be as passionate about all other aspects of Buddhist practice as you are about eating habits.

      I bow with respect,
      Wayne Ren-Cheng

  3. if you are buddhist you can’t eat meat think about that animal how did someone kill the animal also like to live think about yonisomanasikarya before doing if you don’t know about the buddhist you can say what ever you want

    • Hello mahinda,

      You have the view of some Buddhists across the world, but not all. And for you and them it is a valid choice, but not the only choice.

      I engaged in yonisomanasikarya (wise reflection) as I came to this worldview. Reflections on the words of the Awakened One and of many Buddhist legacy teachers, and a deep look at history, philosophy and practice brought me to a more appropriate view of the Buddha’s intent.

      I bow with respect,
      Wayne Ren-Cheng

  4. Thank you so much for this.

    I was raised as a Roman Catholic, and over the past few years, I have realized my beliefs and moral code just doesn’t fit with the religion in which I was raised. I started a journey of looking at other religions to see if my beliefs aligned with any or if I would be alone in my journey.

    I came across Buddhism and it just made sense to me and it fit so well. I wish to proudly call myself a Buddhist one day, but this is a subject that has caused me much struggle and battle with myself. I get it, but eating meat is something that would be hard for me to stop doing. Alcohol is another thing that I would struggle with, not because I like to get intoxicated, but I enjoy craft beers and it is more about the taste than the intoxication. My goal is to never have more than one at a time. My consciousness would remain intact and I still get the taste.

    My fiance’ doesn’t share my beliefs for one. Cooking together would get very difficult and I don’t want her to not eat what she wants because of me. Wouldn’t that be causing her suffering?

    Although not a solution, but something alternative to do that I have read is to stop and think before eating, think of the suffering and appreciate the food that is in front of me. Reciting a mantra a few times and blowing on the meat can actual help in that animal’s karma. This way, the animal’s suffering wasn’t for nothing.

    This is a lot and I apologize, but this is definitely a subject that I will battle with for a long time. I think that at least it is better than nothing and that either way I’m becoming a better person, isn’t that the goal?

    Thanks.

    • Greetings,

      That is exactly the point . . . to become a better human being then you were in the previous moment. It should never be about becoming a better human being then anyone else.

      I bow with respect,
      Wayne Ren-Cheng

      • Blowing on the meat???? I don’t think it’s the animal’s Karma you should be worried about! If you give so little care to an animal’s suffering that you think BLOWING ON THE MEAT is going to appease your participation in his murder by eating his corpse, then you’re completely and ridiculously in denial. Why not try bowing to the animals “with respect” for a change? Seriously. 1,000 excuses to continue eating flesh but not 1 reason to honor life.

    • Hello Monika, To you, what is an act of compassion? What is compassion? If you are a vegetarian or vegan do you honor the lives of all the living things that sustain you? Your declarative statement isn’t enough for others to understand your position. I bow, Wayne Ren-Cheng

  5. I follow some of Thich Naht hanh’s teachings and I always wondered why he was so strict on not eating meat at his Plum Village monastery. I myself have hypoglycemia and I have to eat high protein meals all throughout the day or I will get headaches and dizziness. I live in New Orleans Louisiana and there is a monastery near me in Misssissippi called Magnolia Grove which is 1 out of 3 of Thich’s monasteries.I had wanted to go for 1 weekend but I didnt think I could make it because of their being vegetarian. Also, beans upset my stomach.
    In New Orleans, there are a lot more people who are vegetarian than there are who are following (or interested in) Buddhism. My guess is it is more related to following Yogic principles because a lot of people practice yoga at yoga studios here. It’s sort of the stylish thing to do here. Also I believe vegetarianism in New Orleans is wrapped up in the ‘whole foods’ idea of trying to save the earth by what you eat or at least not allow yourself to be contaminated by chemicals. And not eating meat is an extension of that, rather than of any interest in Buddhism. 2 weeks ago we had a 2 day “Veggie Fest”- vegetarian festival/fundraiser ‘to spread the word about humane diets’ and in order to encourage people to donate to the La. Humane Society. This included ‘a cruelty-free fashion show’. This is how popular vegetarianism is here. But Buddhism isnt popular here- and that contradiction bothers me.

  6. I have to eat meat and fats — it’s just how my body works, I eat these things and I become slender. If I stay away from doughs, tortillas, flours etc (carbs) I am skinny. Quite frankly Buddhism is so wonderful despite eating meat (or killing being a precept) I’ll figure out my own form of worship. I have to eat the way I need to (seriously vegan/veggie makes me 80 pounds heavier). I have to eat meat.

  7. I plan on raising rabbits for meat. Neither my wife nor I are vegetarian although we don’t eat much red meat and would eat only fish if we could afford it (or catch it). I work hard as a carpenter but also after hours on a woodpile, garden, numerous projects. I simply need the protein that meat provides. I believe also that our growing daughter would benefit from the protein that rabbit meat provides. I recently visited another family which raises rabbits for meat and since they have four kids to feed and are rather poor, rabbits make sense-and it is clear that they are, beyond question, humane in their approach to raising animals for meat. It can be done.

    I also have recently begun a Zen practice, though I have considered my philosophy to be Buddhist for most of my adult life. I see no reason why I should continue to eat mass-produced chicken or pork when I can control every aspect of the animals’ lives and then humanely (quickly) dispatch them. In fact, it is thoughtless to continue buying from the local supermarket; I would gladly buy organic chicken for instance but it is about $18 a bird in my neighborhood. If I want meat at a reasonable price and responsibly raised, I really have only one choice.

  8. isnt it true that the vast majority of practices (meditations, retreats, ceremonies etc) in Buddhism require abstinence of meat? you believe there will be enlightenment for you down the road while you knowingly consume the products of suffering and murder? if that were the case, you could awaken with a belly full of meat, but the ancient gurus advised against that for a reason. The cultural excuse could work maybe for people without any other options, tibetans for eg. but for the vast majority of the people eating meat is nothing more than habit

  9. A fellow Sangha member casually stated that he had no qualms about meat eating because the agricultural process kills as well. Yet another rationalization to deflect having to make a change, a sacrifice. The diet of animals that are routinely slaughtered in the factory farm process consists largely of corn and soy (which is quite unnatural for most animals, but much cheaper). Animals to be slaughtered are fattened up as quickly as possible through the use of hormones and confined feeding facilities. In their short miserable lives before slaughter, the animals that die to support a typical meat-eater’s diet will consume more agricultural products (and antibiotics) than the meat-eating human can consume in many lifetimes. It’s unbelievably inefficient, an incredible waste. And the extremely harmful effect that factory farming has on the environment is yet another fact that is conveniently ignored.

    Refraining from eating meat reduces the pain and suffering we inflict on animals, it reduces the death we impose through the agriculture process and it would reduce the adverse effect on the environment (methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). Slaughter is slaughter is slaughter. And it’s unnecessary. Which is the compassionate choice, to eat meat or refrain? For 99+% of Buddhists that can choose alternatives, the answer is obvious. It’s sad that many Buddhists will avoid that simple question and instead come up with rationalizations in order to indulge their conditioned craving. Before you disagree or point out how other Buddhists eat meat, as if others’ behavior should make a difference to a thinking person, please answer the simple question I posed.

    • Good morning Dennis,

      Your comment to this posting is greatly appreciated.

      A fellow Sangha member casually stated that he had no qualms about meat eating because the agricultural process kills as well. Yet another rationalization to deflect having to make a change, a sacrifice. The diet of animals that are routinely slaughtered in the factory farm process consists largely of corn and soy (which is quite unnatural for most animals, but much cheaper). Animals to be slaughtered are fattened up as quickly as possible through the use of hormones and confined feeding facilities. In their short miserable lives before slaughter, the animals that die to support a typical meat-eater’s diet will consume more agricultural products (and antibiotics) than the meat-eating human can consume in many lifetimes. It’s unbelievably inefficient, an incredible waste. And the extremely harmful effect that factory farming has on the environment is yet another fact that is conveniently ignored.

      I don’t mean to belittle your view but I can’t help but think of the wide variety of living beings (bugs and such, including the rabbits) that are “slaughtered” during the process of harvesting the plants. Your sangha member isn’t imagining this. And, as you state: Slaughter is slaughter is slaughter.

      Certainly that sangha member was making a rationalization. You view it as a deflection while they likely view the same as an explanation. Take a look at your own opinion. It too is a rationalization of your view . . . or is it an explanation?

      Refraining from eating meat reduces the pain and suffering we inflict on animals, it reduces the death we impose through the agriculture process and it would reduce the adverse effect on the environment (methane is a much more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide). Slaughter is slaughter is slaughter. And it’s unnecessary. Which is the compassionate choice, to eat meat or refrain? For 99+% of Buddhists that can choose alternatives, the answer is obvious. It’s sad that many Buddhists will avoid that simple question and instead come up with rationalizations in order to indulge their conditioned craving. Before you disagree or point out how other Buddhists eat meat, as if others’ behavior should make a difference to a thinking person, please answer the simple question I posed.

      Dennis, it is not for me to judge your view, disagree or agree. There is, however a paradox in your final statement. You say that before I disagree or present a different view your opinion is: as if others’ behavior should make a difference to a thinking person. A thinking person should look to the behavior of others, just as you hope your behavior will make a difference.

      You did not ask a simple question. You asked a very complex one. There is no dogmatic answer. The choice is dependent on the causal conditioning encountered in each unique situation. To further this discussion I ask you:

      What is your intent in not eating meat?
      In your view does your choice make you a better Buddhist?
      In your view does another’s choice to eat meat make them less compassionate?
      Is your choice a conditioned craving?

  10. Of course there is no dogmatic answer. A Christian by birth, I’m no fan of dogma. To answer your questions – my intent in not consuming meat is simply to reduce (quite significantly) the suffering that I inflict, by my very presence, on other sentient beings. Completely eliminating it is not possible (bugs and such, as you say), but reducing it is very possible. A vegan approach most definitely reduces the suffering we inflict. This is a very important point. By dismissing it and rationalizing it away, as my sangha brother does, the point is missed. If we throw in the towel because things aren’t perfect, then what’s the point of even trying? Do I expect everybody to be vegan? Of course not. I’m a realist. Does it make me a better Buddhist? No. That’s just a label. More compassionate action is my goal, not whether I fit into this or that label. Are others “less compassionate”? Again, that’s not my point at all nor is my judgment relevant whatsoever. I can’t get into other peoples heads to make such a judgement, nor do I want to. I’m simply expressing a view which, I hope, will result in less suffering (not complete elimination, which I know is not possible). I know full well that the vast majority will not accept such a view. Is my choice a conditioned craving? Wow, not at all! It took great effort to escape what was for me (for many decades) a very conditioned craving. I think I’ve answered, quite directly, the questions you posed to me. Now, can you answer the question I posed? And my motivation is not to judge, it’s not to win a debate, it’s not to get into somebody’s head (as I said above), it’s not something to feed my own ego. I am simply trying to better understand why the vast majority of people (Buddhists and non-Buddhists, as if that matters), are indifferent to this issue. The rationalizations (dogmatic and otherwise) that I’ve heard never actually answer the question I pose.

  11. You say that “The choice is dependent on the causal conditioning encountered in each unique situation.” I couldn’t agree more. What attracted me to Buddhism is how clearly it explains the nature of conditioning and craving. And it prescribes a process for breaking free of such conditioning when it would be beneficial and compassionate. Not for everybody I’m sure, but that’s my take on it.

  12. To respond to another question you ask – “Take a look at your own opinion. It too is a rationalization of your view . . . or is it an explanation?” The basis of my own particular choice is fact. Refrain, less suffering inflicted. That’s a slam dunk and I’ve done the research. Prior to my transition, I absolutely loved the taste of meat, I was a BBQ’er par excellence. If I could have objectively concluded otherwise, that is, that consuming meat was the compassionate choice, I would have been quite happy with that. But the facts proved otherwise, quite convincingly. Not even close. So I guess it’s an explanation! Why on earth would I seek to rationalize a choice that required giving up something that I had been conditioned for decades to enjoy?

  13. To the argument that a vegetarian causes just as much harm in eating vegetables, be it by killing plants or by killing insects that are on plants… are animals who are bred to be slaughtered not also eating vegetables (and likely in much larger quantities than any vegetarian)? In other words, by eating an animal, you are not sparing plants and insects. Either you’re eating plants directly, or the animal is. The difference is that a vegetarian is not adding additional suffering by also including that animal in the equation.

    In reading the arguments and responses, I will admit that I too am often struck by the sense that eating meat is being rationalized more than it is being justified. In other writings and on other websites, there are similar discussions along the lines of “a vegetarian uses soap and wears leather and does just as much harm.” It would seem that modern vegan lifestyles seek to limit even that suffering as much as possible, and appeals to me for that reason. I understand that none of us can be perfect, and it is impossible to eliminate all the suffering caused by our existence. But if there is more I could be doing to lessen that suffering, it sure seems like as a Buddhist, I should try. Liking the taste of meat and/or attachment to the habit of craving it falls flat when compared with the suffering it causes. It strikes me as something to work on rather than something to rationalize.

    Thank you for reading.

  14. Benjamin, you nailed it. The argument that a vegetarian causes just as much harm in eating vegetables is totally bogus, but it’s the standard response. I’ve kept trying to ask the basic question – If refraining from meat reduces the suffering of other sentient beings, shouldn’t we refrain? All I ever get in response is weak rationalization. Even the leadership of Shambhala (meat eaters of course) don’t have the guts to address the issue. Sad for sure. But we all travel our own path.

  15. All of this arguments and opinion are based whether eating meat or not. But if you research Buddhism in dept or practice it eating meat or not, compassion, kindness, all of them are only a small part in Buddhism to obtain enlightment. The most important way in Buddhism is middle path which refrain from being extremist and attached to one end also letting go of ego which means not attaching on one self. As original author wrote it is on your choice. If you said Buddhist eating meat is less compassionate I would say let’s be it. Compassionate only is not true Buddhist believer.

    We are all human and as being human we have flaws. Buddhist ( who believed in Buddhism) has flaws. Being buddihist does not mean he or she will not make mistake or sins. If someone who is enlightened in Buddhist would never participate or argue in whether eating meat or not. I came from Burma which believes buddihist in majority. But being under oppressive military regimes for decades they become less compassion as they are poorer or more difficult to survive.

    The most important things in buddihist is that you observe your self how to live your life, How to free yourself from attachments, how to let it go, and how much effort you can make for enlightment. So eating meat or not is not a big or important part of buddihist as its owned choice.

    As a second language speaker I do apologies for my incompatant Englisg.

    • Soe. I appreciate your input and I believe I understand where you are coming from. One of the most compelling aspects of Buddhism for me was its common sense logic, the middle way. Where I disagree with you (and apparently the majority of Buddhists) is that they view the vegan or vegetarian choice as extreme. If and when we logically and objectively consider the nearly incomprehensible level of pain and suffering that we routinely inflict on other sentient beings (we’re talking about many billions annually in horrific ways), we would see that the path of restraint is not extreme, but instead, consistent with the teachings. Collectively, we are so very conditioned to eating meat that sadly, we simply dismiss it as an unimportant choice.

      You yourself say that an important thing in Buddhism is to “free yourself from attachments.” I couldn’t agree more! But then, in the very next sentence, you dismiss the decision of eating meat as “not a big or important part of Buddhism” because it’s an “owned choice.” Freeing yourself from attachments is a challenge. And eating meat is a big one! So the usual Buddhist response when faced with this reality is to rationalize it away.

      • Hello Dennis I really respect your point of view on my attachment on eating meat. But at the same time in Buddhist teaching especially for monks when you eat you are not eating for taste. You just eat to survive. So before a monk eats he especially chants a Buddhist verse to remind himself that he is eating not for attachment for taste but for serving for his body. And also Gawdama ( Buddhist) told to receive alms from common people for two meal before noon. In that case they go each house for alm with their bowl. Whatever people donate in their bowl no matter meat or vegetable they have to eat they can’t refuse it. If they refuse to eat meat as their will they break one of the rules form 227 rules Buddhist monk has to follow.

        That’s is the teaching of Theravada buddihist. Which was inherited from Sri Lanka and followed by countries like Burma, Thailand, Combodia, and Lao. So in here my suggestion in due respect is that before we debate whether Buddhist should eat meat we should have a deep knowledge of Buddihism. And I am totally agree your point of view that eating meat is in conflict of sympathy and kindness to other living beings. But the true Buddhist teaching is that to be enlightened one must find in himself not outside world with middle path as not attaching anything. We wear the clothes not for bragging how Rich we are or fashions just for cover up your body and protect from weather, we eat food to survive, and we stay in a house or under cover from weather. That’s is true Buddhist teaching.

        And also there are rules that what kind of meat Buddhist should not eat particularly. It would be very Long post in here. So the best way is try to understand and become knowledgable about Buddihism before pointing out your view of wrong doing in Buddihism. I am not perfect buddihist follower but I believe in karma and cause and effects according to Buddihist teachings.
        If you choose without eating meat I would say good for you. But Buddihism never prohibited from eating meat. And in your opinion it is wrong I respect your view and there is nothing to against for it. In the end ones intention is more important. If you see this as Buddihism is hypocrisy then I have nothing to argue because every one has their own belief and point of views. Thank you.

    • Greetings Soe, Thank you for the addition of your unique and aware view of this difficult subject. Buddhists are not perfect . . . Buddhists are always on the path of refinement. I bow, Wayne Shi

  16. Devadatta wanted to reform and instate vegetarianism. Shakyamuni refused—that says it all. Reasons are countless on both sides of the argument. For me, the Buddha’s stance on this is in line with the middle way and mindfulness. (I hope you don’t consider this “rationalizing it away”)

    • Actually, I do. In the Buddha’s time, twenty-five centuries ago, there were no such things as factory farms and confined animal feeding operations. Further, it wasn’t particularly easy at that time to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. Today, it is. Shakyamuni indeed recognized that practice can change. You might recall that early on, female sangha members weren’t permitted, but Shakyamuni was convinced by Ananda to change this. If your interpretation of practice in the 21st century is simply to accept or reject lifestyle (and practice) choices simply based on what Shamyamuni did 2,500 years ago, then I wish you luck as you wear the robes and beg alms each day. I believe that the beauty of the Shakyamuni’s approach was that he wasn’t dogmatic. Quite the opposite. He was pragmatic. His teachings clearly took into account the time, the place, and the culture, all of which are subject to change. I think it’s a mistake to assume otherwise. (Such thinking is what is causing Christianity to lose relevance in a changing world.) My guess is that if the Shakyamuni was here today and witnessed that barbarity of factory farms and confined animal feeding operations, he would be very supportive of the vegetarian approach, as some modern Buddhist leaders (e.g., the Karmapa) are. But that’s just a guess. What’s NOT a guess is that a transition to vegetarianism is easier today and represents a major shift to compassion for other sentient beings.

  17. Greeting to all who have added such insightful comments in response to this posting. I say “insightful” because each of your responses arise from your experiences and perceptions. In Buddhism, like any spiritual or religious belief system that turns to texts (rather than first hand experience) in order to understand the intent of any teaching the opposite points of most controversies can be found. One sutra says this . . . one says that. Decisions have to made dependent on a wide variety of factors. Do you choose to abide in what are considered to the the words of Siddhartha (Buddha, Tathagata, Shakyamuni), or to the words in sutras or commentaries written long after his death. This is just one of the choices a Buddhist must make.

    Numerical wrote: “Devadatta wanted to reform and instate vegetarianism. Shakyamuni refused—that says it all. Reasons are countless on both sides of the argument. For me, the Buddha’s stance on this is in line with the middle way and mindfulness. (I hope you don’t consider this “rationalizing it away”)”. To which Dennis replied, “I do . . .”

    Dennis went on to say, “My guess is that if the Shakyamuni was here today and witnessed that barbarity of factory farms and confined animal feeding operations, he would be very supportive of the vegetarian approach, as some modern Buddhist leaders (e.g., the Karmapa) are.” I agree that the Buddha would be supportive of vegetarians. An educated “guess” leads me to firmly believe that he would be as supportive of those who weren’t. It is one aspect that makes the Middle Path a difficult path.

    Herbivore or omnivore each person makes a choice.

    Soe wrote: “All of this arguments and opinion are based whether eating meat or not. But if you research Buddhism in dept or practice it eating meat or not, compassion, kindness, all of them are only a small part in Buddhism to obtain enlightment. The most important way in Buddhism is middle path which refrain from being extremist and attached to one end also letting go of ego which means not attaching on one self.”

    Well put 🙂

  18. Nice try at justification. No creature willingly gives up its life so we can have a few minutes of pleasure for our tastebuds. They die in fear, in absolute terror, and struggle for life up until the very end….not to mention the horrific lives they live up until slaughter, being pumped full of drugs and hormones and denied a natural life. Taking these obvious things into consideration, I don’t see how compassion and a do no harm kind of spirituality can include killing animals for food.

    • Hi Jennifer. I agree. To be honest, this whole discussion can be very simple. It needn’t be about religious dogma, or a meaningless comparison of ancient times with the present, or what this or that teacher did, does or said. Today, we have the ability to choose a path that would significantly and undeniably reduce the horrific suffering and death we inflict upon billions of other sentient beings. Should we do so? Which is the compassionate choice? Why is that so hard for people to come to grips with? Is a simple “yes” or “no” answer impossible? Would a discussion of slavery, sexual abuse, or murder prompt such disagreement? I doubt it. A compassionate choice is never extremist. It’s most often obvious. But because of our conditioning and craving, it is often a challenge to actually carry out.

  19. Hi Jennifer if you have spears time please read my reply to Dennis. May be that will be another justification for eating meat in your point of view. But in reality I eat meat when there is meat I eat vegetable where there is vegetable as to survive. Also there are lots of people who do not eat meat and pure vegetarian but very easy to get angry ready to hurt others physically and emotionally. To exploit others to get rich. One thing for sure is that religious is very delicate matter to discuss, reasons , or argue with. And this will be my last post and discussion in this and I totally respect and have nothing against to your comments. Because every one sees in different point of views.

    Soe

  20. I would like to say that as a woman who has been vegetarian for most of my life, for compassion reasons, my diet led me to a lot of health problems because I was lacking the iron and B12 I needed. I tried supplementing these but the effects were minimal and so as a necessity, I now occasionally eat meat. I think that for those of us who menstruate it is imperative that we can replenish our nutrients and vitamins which we lose in the process of menstruation. I can certainly see how easy it is for monks to remain vegetarian and feel well because they do not have this issue. I am a compassionate person, a health professional who devotes her time to making people well. I feel bad about eating animals but I do not believe vegetarianism is good for women’s health.

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