Are Buddhists vegetarian ?
Learn what did BUDDHA say about eating meat.
Are Buddhists vegetarian ? Many modern Buddhists do not know the reason or rational behind this ‘rule’. The Theravada eat meat, the Vajrayana eat meat, The Mahayana in China are vegetarian, but the Mahayana in Korea & Japan eat meat. So, what did the Buddha say about eating meat.
MN 55-Jivaka Sutta: To Jivaka
MN 55-Jivaka Sutta: To Jivaka starts at min 53.44
Jivaka, those who speak thus, do not truthfully speak about what has been said or done by me, but misrepresent me with what is untrue and quite contrary to the actual facts…
- Jivaka, I say there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten; when it is seen, heard or suspected that the living being has been killed for sake of a bhikkhu. I say: Meat should not be eaten on these three instances.
- Jivaka, I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected, that the living being has been killed for sake of the bhikkhu, I say: Meat may be eaten on these three instances.
Please consider this Jivaka: Some bhikkhu lives in dependence upon a certain village or town. He dwells pervading one quarter with a mind permeated with infinite friendliness, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the 4th; so above, below, around and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he dwells pervading this all-encompassing universe with a mind saturated with infinite friendliness, intense, illuminating & immeasurable, without hostility & without any trace of ill will. Then a householder or a householder’s son comes to him and invites him for the next day’s meal. The bhikkhu accepts, if he likes. When the night is ended, in the morning he dresses, and taking his bowl and outer robe, goes to the house of that householder or householder’s son and sits down on a seat made ready. Then the householder or householder’s son serves him with good almsfood. He does not think: How good that this lay householder or householder’s son serves me with good almsfood! If only a householder or householder’s son might serve me with such good almsfood in the future too! He does not think like that.
He eats that almsfood without being attached to it, without longing or urging for it, and utterly disgusted with it, he sees the danger in it and understands the escape from it…!!!
What do you think, Jivaka? Would that bhikkhu on that occasion choose thus & aim thus for his own suffering, or for another’s suffering, or for the suffering of both ?
No, venerable sir.
If anyone slaughters a living being for sake of the Tathagata or any of his disciples, he thereby creates much demerit in these five instances:
When he says: Go and fetch that living sentient being this is the first instance in which he lays up much demerit.
When that living being experiences pain and fear on being led along by the neck, this is the second instance in which he lays up much demerit.
When he says: Go and slaughter that living sentient being this is the third instance in which he accumulates much demerit.
When that living being experiences pain and panic on being killed, this is the fourth instance in which he lays up much demerit.
When he provides the Tathagata or his disciples with such food that is not permitted, which is unsuitable & unacceptable, this is the fifth instance in which he collects much demerit.
Anyone who slaughters a living being for sake of the Tathagata or any of his disciples creates future disadvantage on these five occasions.
Point to note:
Devadatta, one of the Buddha’s disciples, suggested that the Buddha make vegetarianism compulsory, but the Buddha rejected the idea. Why ? Because the Buddha understood that not all landscape can support the growth of vegetables to support the population. When living in places such as mountains and deserts, one has no choice but to eat meat due to the scarcity of vegetables.
According to the Pali Tipitaka, the Buddha did not put a ban on the eating of meat. The Buddha and his Sangha ate meat when they went on pindacara fondly known as pindabat in SEA (alms). A monk is allowed to accept “any food that has been put into his pindabat bowl”.
In MAJJHIMA NIKAYA 55: Jivaka Sutta, monks are not allowed to eat meat if :
In three cases meat may not be eaten by a monk if he has :
(1) seen (2) heard, or (3) suspected that the meat has been especially acquired for him by killing an animal (i.e. the animal has been killed specifically for the monk).
However, the 10 type of meat forbidden to be eaten by the monks are:
Human, Elephant, Lion, Tiger, Leopard, Bear, Horse, Dog, Hyena and Snake.
(Vinaya, Mahavagga, Book 4)
The Theravada eat meat, the Vajrayana eat meat, the Mahayana in China are vegetarian, but the Mahayana in Korea & Japan eat meat. How did vegetarianism started off for Buddhism ? The tradition of being a vegetarian Buddhist started off in China. The practice of vegetarian started when Emperor Wudi in the Liang Dynasty, issued an edict that made vegetarianism compulsory for all Buddhists monks in China.