Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What the Buddha taught about not eating meat

Yesterday's post, What the Buddha taught about eating meat, was a teaching directed to his disciples, and there was much more to the Buddha's reasoning than simply eating meat or not eating meat.

As you can imagine, most other teachings point towards not eating meat. As lay-practitioners, not dependent upon alms, we have the option of choosing our meals. Anyone with even a bit of wisdom and compassion can understand the option of not eating meat, whether they choose to or not.

Here is the last section of a very detailed discussion between the Buddha and his disciple, Mahāmati, taken from the Lankavatara Sutra. I'm not sure of the authenticity of it being directly from the mouth of Gotama Buddha, but even if it's not, it was certainly from the mind of a compassionate and wise being...

Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and voice-hearers also criticize meat-eating.
The one who eats meat without feeling shame,
will always be mad in his every lifetime.
The conditions mentioned above: did not see the killing, did not hear the killing, and do not suspect that they were killed,
have already excluded all kinds of meat,
but those with mistaken thoughts do not understand that,
so they still think that some meat are edible.
Just like the offences produced by greed can obstruct the holy liberation,
alcohol, meat, shallots, leeks, garlic and scallions,
all are obstructions to the holy Way.
In future there will be ignorant people who say:
'Meats are pure, eating them is sinless, and is allowed by the Buddha.'
But in fact what I always say is,
Eating meat is like eating the flesh of ones' own son.

My disciples are content with very little,
they dislike the suffering in the world,
seek for liberation,
and practice mendicancy.
I always say that,
If anyone wish to keep his peaceful and merciful heart,
he should keep away from meat-eating.
For example,
People do not dare to walk and live together with lions, jackals, tigers and wolves,
Because those are meat eaters, they make everyone who sees them frightened;
Meat eating frightens many living beings, how could we do that?
Thus, Practitioners should be merciful and should not eat meat.
Meat eating destroys the merciful heart,
obstructs Nirvana and liberation,
and violates the teachings of sages,
thus I do not allow eating meat.
Not eating meat cultivates the pure-heavenly(Brahma) seed and many practice-Ways;
Wisdom, richness and nobleness,
all come from not eating meat.


  1. The Khandha Paritta Sutta

    O, let us recite this protective Sutta
    which, like a medicine or divine mantra,
    destroys the terrible venom of all poisonous creatures,
    and thoroughly destroys all other dangers to all beings,
    in all places, at all times, within the sphere of the Paritta.

    May there be love between me and the four tribes of snakes;
    Viripakkhas, Erapathas, Chabyaputtas and Kanhagotamakas.

    May there be love between me and creatures without feet.
    May there be love between me and creatures with two feet.
    May there be love between me and creatures with four feet.
    May there be love between me and creatures with many feet.

    May creatures without feet not harm me.
    May creatures with two feet not harm me.
    May creatures with four feet not harm me.
    May creatures with many feet not harm me.

    All creatures, all beings that breathe,
    and all beings that have been born,
    may they all, without exception,
    understand what is good.
    May no suffering come to any being.

    To immeasurable Buddha,
    the immeasurable Dhamma,
    the immeasurable Sangha,
    give sympathy to creeping and crawling things;
    snakes, scorpions, centipedes, spiders, lizards, mice.

    A protection has been made by me,
    a safeguard has been made by me.
    Let all creatures withdraw.

    I pay homage to the Buddha.
    I pay homage to the seven Fully Enlightened Ones.

  2. Stop eating.
    Eventually, you will transcend the desire to eat.
    But you will not stop eating. You are far too selfish to even consider it.
    A crazy rabbi offered this wisdom a couple thousand years ago: it is not what a man puts into his mouth, but what comes out of his mouth, that defiles him.

  3. And that crazy rabbi had a very good point, nothing to argue with there. And I'm sure that he'd agree that ideally the point of eating is not selfishness, but that we eat in order to serve others - at least that's our aspiration!

    And, as part of that aspiration and practice, even choosing what to eat can be an occasion for compassion. The point isn't to stop eating, it's to eat with awareness and kindness. Take, eat, do it with care and gratitude, for what you eat is the very body of the ultimate.