Why Buddhists Should Be Vegetarian?
There is an interesting pro-vegetarian article (28.01.12) titled ‘Why Buddhists Should Be Vegetarian’ at http://sujato.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/why-buddhists-should-be-vegetarian-with-extra-cute It comes from a Theravada monk, as a pleasant surprise. This particular set of comments interest me:
Bud: (22.02.12) Hi Bhante, On this – ‘There are numerous passages in the Vinaya that refer to the Buddha or the monastics eating meat, and meat is regularly mentioned as one of the standard foods’ – Is it possible to share a few references, in particular to the Buddha himself eating meat? Thank you with Metta.
Bhante: (22.02.12) Ohh, I don’t have time to check the references right now. Is anyone able to supply this? If not, try reminding me in a week or so if I haven’t got round to it by then…The obvious case of the Buddha eating meat is the time when Uppalavanna brought meat to him. I can’t remember the reference, but I think it’s under parajika 2. Then there is the Buddha’s last meal, but of course the interpretation of that is uncertain. [Bud: It could just be truffles.]
Bud: (29.02.12) Hi Bhante, as you suggested, here is a gentle request reminder (1 week later) for the references needed. Thank you for your time. With Metta.
Bud: (20.03.12) Hi Bhante, do take your time. Would require your kind help as I can’t locate the references you mentioned. Thank you with Metta.
Bud: (21.05.12) Hi Bhante, as gleaned from a vegetarian Theravada Buddhist professor who has written a few books, it seems that there is actually no sutta whereby it is clearly stated that the Buddha ate meat. Thought this should be of interest. Er… this would mean the opening line is erroneous – ‘The Buddha ate meat. This is a fairly well attested fact.’ There is a difference between allowing meat and eating meat. With Metta.
Bud: (22.05.12) This was mentioned in your article – ‘In practice, however, Mahayanists often adopt vegetarianism (as do Hindus) as a rite of purification. This is despite such texts as the Amagandha Sutta of the Sutta Nipata, where the Buddha insists that eating meat is not a source of spiritual impurity.’
Here is a view to share from http://moonpointer.com/new/2012/05/no-laughing-matter-for-animals: ‘There was no mention that vegans are more virtuous or pure on the whole, but in terms of conscious choice of diet out of compassion and wisdom, they are more virtuous in that sense; and not necessarily in all other aspects of life. The Amagandha Sutta reminds us that it is not meat-eating that makes one spiritually unpure, but greed, hatred and delusion (the three poisons). It is not what one eats that makes one pure or not, but in the context of eating, if one consumes with greed, hatred and delusion, that person is feeding the poisons that much more.
This means it is possible for a meat-eater to consume with less of the three poisons than a vegan. However, if both parties are offered choices of diet, with knowledge that of the above moral issues [at the same link], the one who chooses the kinder and wiser diet is in that aspect of life, kinder and wiser. This is not a self-righteous idea. As mentioned, a person might be a good vegan but a person poor in character in all other aspects of life. But this good vegan can practise to become better in the other aspects of life too. Likewise, meat-eaters who are already wonderful in other aspects of life can be more wonderful if they reduce meat consumption.’
Bhante: (30.05.12) Thanks for that, Bud… Fair enough, good distinction. There is one passage where the bhikkhuni Uppalavanna took some meat specifically to offer it to the Buddha – but whether he ate it is another question…
[Bud: (30.05.12) There is thus, as mentioned, no record of the Buddha having eaten meat in the Pali Canon.]
If you have further relevant comments on the above, do share it at the most appropriate place – by joining the comments thread in the opening link. On the title of that blog’s article, it is without a question mark. If it is with one, I would answer in this way – ‘Buddhists should work towards the perfection of compassion and wisdom in all aspects of life. How much one decides to advance in each aspect of life is of course a personal choice.’
Relevant points to note… The monastic rules in terms of diet are for random alms-seeking monastics, not laypeople, who have the power of choice of food. In the Mahayana canon, the Buddha speaks at length against meat-eating, especially for Bodhisattvas in training. It is also a viable theory that the Buddha progressively spoke more against meat-eating when his audience became more ready. Such is the power of greed for meat. Even today, many Buddhist resist pro-vegetarian teachings. And in case you imagine the Mahayana sutras are not by the Buddha, it means you have missed this important piece of 1994 news, that is a clear sign that the Pali canon alone does not constitute the earliest found written teachings: http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-buddhism-truest