Author Topic: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today  (Read 14032 times)

bambi

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Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« on: February 12, 2013, 08:37:46 AM »
Found this interesting post about vegetarianism. I have heard that in Thailand, if lay people offer the monks meat, they have to consume it. Not because they are attached to it but because it is an offering. It is funny though coz 1 of my friend have been practicing for many years yet he still eat meat and he kept saying that Buddha did not forbid practitioners eating meat. How can that be? What is the correct motivation? As for me, I try not to eat meat because of loving kindness for the animals.

"All Buddhists are vegetarians, right? Well, no. Some Buddhists are vegetarians, but some are not. Attitudes about vegetarianism vary from sect to sect as well as from individual to individual. If you are wondering whether you must commit to being a vegetarian to become a Buddhist, the answer is, maybe, but possibly not.

It is unlikely the historical Buddha was a vegetarian. In the earliest recording of his teachings, the Tripitaka, the Buddha did not categorically forbid his disciples to eat meat. In fact, if meat were put into a monk's alms bowl, the monk was supposed to eat it. Monks were to gratefully receive and consume all food they were given, including meat.

Exceptions

There was an exception to the meat for alms rule, however. If monks knew or suspected that an animal had been slaughtered specifically to feed monks, they were to refuse to take the meat. On the other hand, leftover meat from an animal slaughtered to feed a lay family was acceptable.

The Buddha also listed certain types of meat that were not to be eaten. These included horse, elephant, dog, snake, tiger, leopard and bear. Because only some meat was specifically forbidden, we can infer that eating other meat was permissible.

Vegetarianism and the First Precept

The First Precept of Buddhism is do not kill. The Buddha told his followers not to kill, participate in killing or cause to have any living thing killed. To eat meat, some argue, is taking part in killing by proxy.

In response, it is argued that if an animal were already dead and not slaughtered specifically to feed oneself, then it is not quite the same thing as killing the animal oneself. This seems to be how the historical Buddha understood eating meat.

However, the historical Buddha and the monks and nuns who followed him were homeless wanderers who lived on the alms they received. Buddhists did not begin to build monasteries and other permanent communities until some time after the Buddha died. Monastic Buddhists do not live on alms alone but also on food grown by, donated to or purchased by monks. It is hard to argue that meat provided to an entire monastic community did not come from an animal specifically slaughtered on behalf of that community.

Thus, many sects of Mahayana Buddhism in particular began to emphasize vegetarianism. Some of the Mahayana Sutras, such as the Lankavatara, provide decidedly vegetarian teachings.

Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today

Today, attitudes toward vegetarianism vary from sect to sect and even within sects. On the whole, Theravada Buddhists do not kill animals themselves but consider vegetarianism to be a personal choice. The Vajrayana schools, which include Tibetan and Japanese Shingon Buddhism, encourage vegetarianism but do not consider it to be absolutely necessary to Buddhist practice.

Mahayana schools are more often vegetarian, but even within many Mahayana sects there is diversity of practice. In keeping with the original rules, some Buddhists might not purchase meat for themselves, or choose a live lobster out of the tank and have it boiled, but might eat a meat dish offered them at a friend's dinner party.

The Middle Way

Buddhism discourages fanatical perfectionism. The Buddha taught his followers to find a middle way between extreme practices and opinions. For this reason, Buddhists who do practice vegetarianism are discouraged from becoming fanatically attached to it.

A Buddhist practices metta, which is loving kindness to all beings without selfish attachment. Buddhist refrain from eating meat out of loving kindness for living animals, not because there is something unwholesome or corrupt about an animal's body. In other words, the meat itself is not the point, and under some circumstances compassion might cause a Buddhist to break the rules.


WisdomBeing

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #1 on: February 12, 2013, 08:56:31 AM »
I think we can always find something from a scripture somewhere to justify our own attachments. People have been doing that ever since religion began - to justify wars, prejudice, discrimination, murder. In Buddhism, we always say we are the middle way, so why be so fanatical about vegetarianism. The funny thing is that i don't think vegetarianism should be considered extreme! What is so extreme over NOT eating a dead carcass?

If we are Buddhist, and we think that all sentient beings have been our mothers, why would we want to eat an animal? For those who do not know or believe this, then okay, how about seeing how animals suffer in abattoirs and farms? What gives a human being the right to kill another animal just to eat them when there are so many alternatives around?

I know that in Tibet, the monks do eat meat because of the scarcity of vegetables, so it is an environmental issue rather than attachment. Also the Theravadan monks who receive dana will just eat whatever they are given (and perhaps the buddhists who give the dana should also think what are they offering? Perhaps they can offer vegetarian food instead).

Most of us have the luxury of choosing what we wish to eat on a daily basis. If we have that luxury, let us give our animal friends the luxury of living also, and not ending up on our dinner plates just to satisfy our craving for taste. The funny thing is - if you just take the meat and do not add seasoning and just cook it, it actually tastes pretty awful. It's only the addition of seasoning and sauces that makes the dish more palatable - so try making delicious vegetarian food instead. That would be living with compassion.
Kate Walker - a wannabe wisdom Being

Q

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #2 on: February 13, 2013, 06:29:49 PM »
I think it is very wise to open this 'rule' of being vegetarian in Buddhism because there is just very different lifestyles in countries all around the world.

Take for example in Tibet, although it is a country that is rich in Buddhism, you do not see vegetarians flourishing because of the terrain which is not suitable to grow vegetables for consumption.

Of course where possible, Buddhist should make vegetarianism a priority because, after all, the Buddha did preach to 'Not kill' and not cause harm to any living being. Although some people may argue that buying meat in the market is not a direct cause of causing harm to the animal that was slaughtered, however if we look at the bigger picture of commerce, you will find that it from the demand that supply come... therefore the efforts of people encouraging vegetarianism is actually to cut this demand to discourage more meat factories and farms from flourishing. It is a long process to stop animal cruelty and suffering, but starting now is better than not starting at all.

In the Buddhist context on the other hand, I believe it is also to develop a sense of non attachment. Some people when they adopt a vegetarian lifestyle, they tend to get too righteous and start to 'look down' on others that do not. This is probably one of the reasons why Theravadan monks are allowed to eat meat besides not choosing the offerings that they receive from the public. It is something to kill the ego.

Take another example, the Dalai Lama. HHDL encourages vegetarianism very much... infact, his whole Ladrang is vegetarian and HHDL is vegetarian himself. However, when HHDL dines with others that are not vegetarian, He would eat non-vegetarian food as a sign that he does not choose and also perhaps so that the people he dine with feel more comfortable eating meat. In fact, there was once while HHDL was dining with the President of US and declined a specially cooked vegetarian meal for HH, stating that 'I'm a monk, not a vegetarian'... I think that is a very clever remark hehe...

buddhalovely

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2013, 03:41:05 AM »
There are differences of opinion between Buddhists on this issue so we will attempt to present the arguments of those who believe that vegetarianism is necessary for Buddhists and those who do not.

Vegetarianism was not a part of the early Buddhist tradition and the Buddha himself was not a vegetarian. The Buddha got his food either by going on alms rounds or by being invited to the houses of his supporters and in both cases he ate what he was given. Before his enlightenment he had experimented with various diets including a meatless diet, but he eventually abandoned them believing that they did not contribute to spiritual development.

RedLantern

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2013, 05:16:04 AM »
The first Precept of Buddhism is do not kill.The Buddha told his followers not to kill,participate in killing or cause to have any living beings killed.
In response,if an animal were already dead and not slaughtered specifically to feed oneself,then it is not quite the same thing as killing the animal oneself.This seems to be how the historical Buddha understood eating meat.
A Buddhist practice loving kindness to all beings without selfish attachments and refrain from eating meat out of loving kindness for living animals,not because there is something unwholesome or corrupt about an animals body.As Buddhist, we should consider if produce we purchase were made from suffering.If our "vegan" faux leather shoes were made by exploited laborers working under inhumane conditions ,you might as well have bought leather.Our role is not to mindlessly follow rules written in books,but to be mindful of the harm we do and do it as little as possible.

kris

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2013, 05:04:38 PM »
Thank you Bambi for sharing this great article!

dondrup

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #6 on: February 16, 2013, 11:12:06 AM »
The most important aspect about vegetarianism is the motivation behind it.  It is not necessary to practise vegetarianism to become Buddhist. However we are encouraged to become vegetarians if we are Buddhists. We practise vegetarianism mainly to cultivate the mind of non-killing. 

Farmers could have accidentally killed many small and tiny sentient beings in the soil at the farm to provide us the vegetables.  Farmers could have used insecticides to kill insects that feed on the crops.  If we bought and consume these vegetables, we are indirectly contributing to killing.  We can minimize killing if we could grow our crops using the hydroponics method.

We should adopt the Middle Way and skillful means when we practise vegetarianism. It is not about eating meat, it is about the attitude and motivation behind us eating the meat. Sometimes to not offend and reject the kindness of someone who has unknowingly served us non-vegetarian food, we consume the food.  For example if the non-vegetarian food served to us is a mixture of vegetables and meat, we take the vegetables portion only.  Wherever possible we should avoid meat. 

Jessie Fong

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #7 on: February 16, 2013, 12:35:21 PM »
I understand that vegetables are very scarce in Tibet and thus vegetarianism is very rare there.
In Buddhism, the views on vegetarianism vary from school to school.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism can be adopted for several reasons. Many object to eating meat out of respect for sentient life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs, along with the concept of animal rights. Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic or economic. There are varieties of the diet as well: an ovo-vegetarian diet includes eggs but not dairy products, a lacto-vegetarian diet includes dairy products but not eggs, and an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet includes both eggs and dairy products. A vegan, or strict vegetarian, diet excludes all animal products, including eggs, dairy, beeswax and honey. Vegans also avoid animal products such as leather for footballs and goose-fat for shoe polish.

Tenzin K

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2013, 02:20:16 PM »
The Nipata Sutta underlines this point when it says that it is immorality that makes one impure (morally and spiritually), not the eating of meat. The Buddha is often described as eating meat, he recommended meat broth as a cure for certain types of illness and advised monks for practical reasons, to avoid certain types of meat, implying that other types were quite acceptable.

However, Buddhists gradually came to feel uncomfortable about meat eating. In 257 BC King Asoka said that in contrast to before, only two peacocks and a deer were killed to provide food in the royal kitchens and that in time even this would be stopped. By the beginning of the Christian era meat eating had become unacceptable, particularly amongst the followers of the Mahayana although the polemics against it in works like the Lankavatara Sutra indicates that it was still widespread or a least a point of controversy (see footnote in the previous section). Tantric text dating from the 7th and 8th centuries onward, frequently recommend both drinking alcohol and eating meat and both are considered fit to offer to gods. This was probably as much an expression of the freedom from convention which Tantra taught as it was a protest against Mahayanists to whom practices like abstaining from drink and meat had become a substitute for genuine spiritual change.

Today it is often said that Mahayanists are vegetarian and Theravadins are not. However the situation is a little more complex than that. Generally Theravadins have no dietary restrictions although it is not uncommon to find monks and lay people in Sri Lanka who are strict vegetarians. Others abstain from meat while eating fish. Chinese and Vietnamese monks and nuns are strictly vegetarian and the lay community try to follow their example although many do not. Amongst Tibetans and Japanese Buddhists, vegetarianism is rare.

Buddhists who insist on vegetarianism have a simple and compelling argument to support their case. Eating meat encourages an industry that causes cruelty and death to millions of animals and a truly compassionate person would wish to mitigate all this suffering. By refusing to eat meat one can do just that.

Midakpa

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2013, 02:43:43 PM »
If we aspire to be bodhisattvas, it is advisable not to eat meat. According to Shabkar in "Food of Bodhisattvas", eating meat is an obstacle to liberation. If one eats meat, one will never develop compassion. He gives the following effects of eating meat:

"For those who feed on meat, already in this present life, their breath is foul and rank; they sleep with little ease, and they awake in pain. Dreadful visions haunt their dreams enough to make their hair stand up. Alone in solitude or else in empty houses, they fall victim to spirits that come and prey on their vital strength. They easily succumb to fits of rage and the sudden onset of intense anxiety and dread. They lose mastery of the way they eat and gorge themselves excessively. Food and drink and every vital nourishment they cannot properly digest. Worms infest their bowels, and they fall victim to contagious ailments, leprosy, and other ills. Yet, thus beset, they never think that eating meat might be the cause." (p. 51)

Midakpa

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2013, 03:41:41 PM »
Shabkar in his work, "Food of Bodhisattvas" explains how the Buddha, with compassion and skillful means, made the rules regarding the eating of meat formulated in the Pratimoksha context. The first rule applies to Shravakas who have taken the Pratimoksha vows. It is specified that they can eat the meat of cloven-hoofed animals like yaks, cows and sheep but not the meat of one-hoofed animals like horses, donkeys, etc. The second rule is that all meat is forbidden except for meat that is pure in three ways, i.e. the flesh of animals that one has not killed, that one has not ordered to be killed, and that one has not seen to be killed. In connection with the bodhicitta vow, since all sentient beings have been our mothers, the Buddha forbade the eating of any kind of meat.

It is said that the first two rules were made for practitioners who had an intense craving for meat. The Buddha knew that if meat was prohibited from the start, such people would be unable to practise the Dharma. But once they have entered the Dharma, and as they become more advanced in their practice, and generated bodhicitta, the Buddha recommended strict abstinence from meat-eating. And of course, for those who have taken the Bodhicitta vow, it is required that they abstain from consuming meat.

It can be seen how compassionate the Buddha was with regard to the consumption of meat. Even at the Pratimoksha level, it is prohibited except for meat that is pure in the three ways. It is permissible only if there is a good reason for it and the action  benefits oneself and others and the meat is regarded as an ornament of ultimate reality. (p. 113)

pgdharma

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #11 on: February 21, 2013, 03:15:30 PM »
In Buddhism, the views on vegetarianism vary from school to school. In the schools of the Theravada and Vajrayana, the act of eating meat is not always prohibited; the Mahayana school generally recommends a vegetarian diet.

Mahayana Buddhism argues that if one pursues the path of the Bodhisattva for enlightenment, one should avoid meat eating to cultivate compassion for all living beings. This is a prerequisite for pursuing the path of the Bodhisattva.

In Theravada Buddhism, avoiding meat eating for the purpose of cultivation of metta (loving kindness) is also seen to be in accord with Buddhist dharma. In most Buddhist branches, one may adopt vegetarianism if one so wishes, but it is not considered inappropriate to eat meat.

Creating good or bad karma also depends on how much you care about the life of others, and therefore eating the flesh of animals who are already dead does not necessarily cause bad karma. Generally, to be vegetarian is a good thing and could be seen as a way to avoid creating negative karma, whereas eating meat can be a cause for creating heavy negative karma. However, Buddha’s scriptures stated three pure conditions under which meat could be eaten:

The meat was not killed specifically for you to eat
You had no knowledge that the meat was killed for you
You had no suspicion that the meat was killed for you.

So there are differences of opinion between Buddhists on this issue. Whether you eat meat or not is not the essential issue.  Rather, the important point is whether you eat meat to benefit yourself and others instead of choosing only to care for yourself.  If your intention is pure and unselfish then eating meat could actually be beneficial for the animal that has been killed.  This is because if you dedicate your merits and prayers to the being whose flesh you have eaten, it is more powerful that just a simple prayer because of the physical connection you have made.

hope rainbow

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #12 on: February 23, 2013, 12:27:11 PM »
Let's forget, for a moment, buddhism, let's forget the scriptures, rebirth, karma, hell or heaven, let's forget spirituality, let's forget all of this for a moment.

Now, is it acceptable to abuse and kill for the pleasure of the taste of a steak or a chicken leg?
If we'd have this life only, this body only?
To me, it even makes it less acceptable, because we are taking the ONLY life a living being has and instead of working for the welfare of our fellow living-bodies-beings, we make them go through separation, thorough privation, through illness, and through slaughter...
We smash the weak under our boot, just because we can, just because we are stronger, just because it tastes good?

I mean, seriously!

diablo1974

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2013, 03:24:20 AM »
There are still some buddhist tradition which doesnt forbid meat eating for some reason or due to. "society norms and culture/tradition". Its way too far to argue bring us back to 2500 years ago if Buddha advocates vegetarianism since there are different views in this. Before i become a non meat eater, the same reason or 'excuse' was given that Buddha eat whatever was given in His alms bowl. We have nothing to compare with the Buddha, we are stilll struggling in samsara...Back to logic thinking, its also logical not to eat meat if we are talking about compassion and doing our 'compassionate' prayers everyday.

Ensapa

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Re: Buddhism and Vegetarianism Today
« Reply #14 on: February 27, 2013, 08:21:22 AM »
If you want to debate whether or not Buddhists should eat meat, one should see the context. When the Buddha was around and he and his disciples begged for food from the locals to give them a chance to generate merit, how could they refuse what was offered to them? they cannot decline whatever that is being offered. And you cannot expect the locals to be vegetarians everyday just to feed the monks. The whole exercise was also to train the monks to not have any attachment to taste. It is said that Maha Kassapa, the disciple of the Buddha who was foremost in moral discipline or vinaya, when he was offered stale rice gruel, he ate it without any hesitation, showing that he truly is not attached to taste.

for us, if we are mayahana buddhists, we should avoid eating the flesh of others because if it woud not be logical for us to eat the flesh of the very sentient beings that we vow to save? That would be the antithesis of our Buddhist practice.