I have been speaking to some Buddhist monks who tell me that one
can still eat meat and be a Buddhist monk. Is this true?
Bhoomi, Bangkok, Thailand
Thank you very much for your letter!
Well if you look at Buddhism scripturally and historically you
will see that there is a lot of evidence to the contrary. I would
say that it is not at all appropriate to call yourself a Buddhist
while still eating meat (what to speak of calling yourself a Buddhist
Anyway, without indulging in criticism, allow me to share some information
with you, allowing the texts to speak for themselves.
Meat Eating & Buddhism
"For the sake of love of purity, let the Bodhisattva refrain
from eating flesh, which is born of semen, blood etc. To avoid causing
terror to living beings, let the disciple, who is disciplining himself
to attain compassion, refrain from eating meat... It is not true
that meat is proper food and permissible when the animal was not
killed by himself, when he did not order to kill it, when it was
not especially meant for him.
There may be some people in the future who, being under the influence
of taste for meat will string together in various ways sophistic
arguments to defend meat eating.
But meat-eating in any form, in any manner and in any place is
unconditionally and once and for all prohibited.
"Meat eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit
and will not permit..."
Lord Buddha, (Lanka vatara Sutra )
"The reason for practicing dhyana and seeking to attain
samadhi is to escape from the suffering of life, but in seeking
to escape from suffering ourselves why should we inflict it upon
others? Unless you can so control your minds that even the thought
of brutal unkindness and killing is abhorred, you will never be
able to escape from the bondage of the world's life...
After my paranirvana in the last kalpa different ghosts
will be encountered everywhere deceiving people and teaching them
that they can eat meat and still attain enlightenment.. How can
a bhikshu, who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself
be living on the flesh of other sentient beings?"
Lord Buddha, (Surangama Sutra)
"All tremble at violence; all fear death. Putting oneself in
the place of another, one should not kill nor cause another to kill."
Lord Buddha, Dhammapada, 129
"One who, while seeking happiness, oppresses with violence
other living beings who also desire happinesss, will not find happiness
Lord Buddha, Dhammapada, 131
"He who has renounced all violence towards all living beings,
weak or strong, who neither kills nor causes others to kill - him
I do call a holy man."
Lord Buddha, Dhammapada, 405
"Anyone familiar with the numerous accounts of the Buddha's
extraordinary compassion and reverence for living beings - for example
his insistence that his monks strain the water they drink lest they
inadvertently cause the death of any micro-organisms
() could never
believe that he would be indifferent to the sufferings of domestic
animals caused by their slaughter of food"
Roshi Philip Kapleau, in To Cherish All Life
"The inhabitants are numerous and happy... Throuhout the country
the people do not kill any living creature, nor drink intoxicating
liquor.. .they do not keep pigs and fowl, and do not sell live cattle;
in the markets there are no butcher shops and no dealers in intoxicating
drink... Only the chandalas (lowest cast) are fisherman and
hunters and sell flesh meat."
famous 4th century Chinese Buddhist traveller Fa-hsien
"I have enforced the laws against killing certain animals and
many others. But the greatest progress of Righteousness among men
comes from the exhortation in favour of non-injury to life and abstention
from killing living things."
Pillar Edict of King Ashoka (268-233 BC)
"The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion"
Mahaparinirvana (Mahayana Version)
The 13th Century Zen Master Doyen, while visiting China,
asked this question:
"What must the mental attitude and daily activities of a student
be when he is engaged in Buddhist Meditation and practice?"
Ju-Ching answered that one of the things he should avoid is eating
"The salvation of birds and beasts, oneself included - this
is the object of Shakyamuni's religious austerities."
Zen Master Ikkyu
"In China and Japan the eating of meat was looked upon as an
evil and was ostracised… The eating of meat gradually ceased
(around 517) and then tended to become general. It became a matter
of course not to use any kind of meat in the meals of temples and
Encyclopaedia of Buddhism
"There is just no reason why animals should be slaughtered
to serve as human diet when there are so many substitutes. Man can
live without meat."
The Dalai Lama
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