What the Buddha taught about eating meat

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“Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you.”

-Gotama Buddha

There are many other quotes that would show a stronger stance, and the Buddha did go into great detail of the “countless offences” of eating meat versus the many benefits of not eating meat. But what it came down to, concerning food, is that one should accept what is offered, without aversion.

It was directed specifically to his disciples, and though it is still mostly relevant to contemporary monastics (depending on what region they are in), it’s not an excuse for eating meat.

I’d prefer to keep it simple, for now, and end with this quote I found at the end of an article, Buddhism and Eating Meat, written by Ajahn Brahm, an Australian monk who spent time in North Eastern Thailand;

“Monks may not exercise choice when it comes to food and that is much harder than being a vegetarian. Nonetheless, we may encourage vegetarianism and if our lay supporters brought only vegetarian food and no meat, well… monks may not complain either!”

for more on the topic, I found these informative:

Buddhism and Eating Meat

Buddhism and Vegetarianism

Lankavatara Sutra – Chapter 16: Do not eat meat

13 responses »

      • Would slavery have ended if abolitionists had instead accepted things just as they came to them?

        I would argue that their abhorrence to the institution of slavery acted as motivator, which in turn instigated change in a positive direction. Unlike most Buddhists, I see the value in at least some forms of suffering. Without suffering we would never strive for something better.

        • I think this is being taken a bit out of contexts…
          What Barry was referring to was accepting offerings or gifts as they came to us, as opposed to chasing after our cravings.

          One could say that the abolitionists accepted their responsibility to abolish slavery as it came to them. ^_^
          Thanks for your comment~

  1. Modern vegetarianism is about compassion. The veal and chicken breast in the supermarket were not killed specifically for me, but a calf was tortured to produce that tender meat, and a chicken lived its life in a cage too small for her to turn around in, stacked on top of other cages, more cages stacked above, her beak cut off with a searing blade, her life discounted about as much as life can be, to provide that juicy breast.

  2. The words of the Buddha:

    In the future there will be ignorant people who say:
    “Meat is pure, eating it is sinless, and is allowed by the Buddha”.

    But in fact what I always say is,
    Eating meat is like eating the flesh of one’s 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 wishes to keep a peaceful and merciful heart,
    he should keep away from eating meat.

    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;
    Likewise, eating meat 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 seed and many practice-Ways;
    Wisdom, richness and nobleness,
    all come from not eating meat.

    – The words of the Buddha in the Lankavatara Sutra

    • Actually, the main reason I didn’t quote it here is that I wasn’t sure of the authenticity (but I suppose that goes for most of the teachings…). One of my questions about it is that it’s set in Sri Lanka, in Ravana’s fortress.
      That said, I certainly can’t question the wisdom, which, really, is the important thing!

      • Yes, who really knows what the historical Buddha actually said? His words wern’t written down until hundreds of years after his entrance into Nirvana. However, certainly the spirit of his teachings are all there in the Suttas and Sutras – including this emphasis on not eating meat.

        It’s also found in the Pali teaxts of course. In the famous Metta Sutta for example, where the Buddha teaches his followers to hold all living beings, not just humans but “whatever living beings there may be”, in the same loving regard as a mother holds her only child.

        Thank you Joseph for these posts, thank you for every time you have chosen not to eat the bodies of other sentient beings, and thank you for encouraging others to also eat with kindness. Thank you.

  3. Pingback: What the Buddha taught about not eating meat « Somewhere In Dhamma…

  4. I’ve heard that quote also, about guidlines for not eating meat for the ordained people, and I’ve heard it being suggested as a good guidline for for lay people as well.

    I personally don’t eat meat because I’ve accumulated very few virtues over countless lifetimes, I need to accumulate whatever good deeds I can lol

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