Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian

The Buddha ate meat. This is a fairly well attested fact. The issue of vegetarianism is addressed a few times in the Suttas, notably the Jivaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. The Buddha consistently affirmed that monastics were permitted to eat meat, as long as it was not killed intentionally for them. 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.

For these reasons, the standard position in Theravada Buddhism is that there is no ethical problem with eating meat. If you want to be vegetarian, that is a purely optional choice. Most Theravadins, whether lay or monastic, eat meat, and claim to be acting within the ethical guidelines of the Buddha’s teachings.

This position sits squarely within a straightforward application of the law of kamma, understood as intention. Eating meat involves no intention to do harm. As there is no intention, there is no kamma. As there is no kamma, there is no ethical problem.

The situation in Mahayana is more complicated. Mahayanists, especially in East Asia, embrace vegetarianism, often as a temporary measure for religious events, although the monastics are typically vegetarian all the time. The motivation is, at least in part, an expression of the greater emphasis on compassion in Mahayana. 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. Tibetan monastics, on the other hand, usually eat meat.

Despite the apparently straightforward situation in Theravada, the problem does not go away. For obvious reasons: eating meat requires the killing of animals, and this directly violates the first precept. Eating meat is the direct cause of an immense quantity of suffering for sentient beings. Many people, myself included, struggle with the notion that a religion as categorically opposed to violence as Buddhism can so blithely wave away the suffering inherent in eating meat.

Let’s have a closer look and see if we can discern the roots of this problem. There are a few considerations that I would like to begin with. We live in a very different world today than the Buddha lived in, and Buddhist ethics, whatever else they may be, must always be a pragmatic response to real world conditions.

Animals suffer much more today than they did 2500 years ago. In the Buddha’s time, and indeed everywhere up until the invention of modern farming, animals had a much better life. Chickens would wander round the village, or were kept in a coop. Cows roamed the fields. The invention of the factory farm changed all this. Today, the life of most meat animals is unimaginable suffering. I won’t go into this in detail, but if you are not aware of the conditions in factory farms, you should be. Factory farms get away with it, not because they are actually humane, but because they are so mind-bendingly horrific that most people just don’t want to know. We turn away, and our inattention allows the horror to continue.

The other huge change since the Buddha’s time is the destruction of the environment. We are all aware of the damage caused by energy production and wasteful consumerism. But one of the largest, yet least known, contributors to global warming and environmental destruction generally is eating meat. The basic problem is that meat is higher on the food chain as compared with plants, so more resources are required to produce nutrition in the form of meat. In the past this was not an issue, as food animals typically ate things that were not food for humans, like grass. Today, however, most food animals live on grains and other resource-intensive products. This means that meat requires more energy, water, space, and all other resources. In addition to the general burden on the environment, this creates a range of localised problems, due to the use of fertilisers, the disposal of vast amounts of animal waste, and so on.

One entirely predictable outcome of factory farming is the emergence of virulent new diseases. We have all heard of ‘swine flu’ and ‘bird flu’; but the media rarely raises the question: why are these two new threats derived from the two types of animals that are most used in factory farming? The answer is obvious, and has been predicted by opponents of factory farming for decades. In order to force animals to live together in such overcrowded, unnatural conditions, they must be fed a regular diet of antibiotics, as any disease is immediately spread through the whole facility. The outcome of this, as inevitable as the immutable principles of natural selection, is the emergence of virulent new strains of antibiotic resistant diseases. In coming years, as the limited varieties of antibiotics gradually lose their efficacy, this threat will recur in more and more devastating forms.

So, as compared with the Buddha’s day, eating meat involves far more cruelty, it damages the environment, and it creates diseases. If we approach this question as one of weights and balance, then the scales have tipped drastically to the side of not eating meat.

Sometimes in Theravada vegetarianism is slighted, as it is traditionally associated with the ‘5 points’ of Devadatta. Devadatta wanted to prove he was better than the Buddha, so he asked the Buddha to enforce five ascetic practices, such as only accepting alms food, live all their lives in the forest, and so on. These practices are regarded as praiseworthy, and Devadatta’s fault was not in promoting these as such, but in seeking to make them compulsory. Stories of the Buddha’s childhood emphasize how compassionate he was compared to Devadatta’s cruelty to animals, perhaps because of Devadatta’s asscoiation with vegetarianism. So rather than deprecating the vegetarians as ‘followers of Devadatta’, one could infer from this passage that vegetarianism, like the other practices, was praiseworthy, but the Buddha did not wish to make it compulsory.

To argue in such a way, however, is clutching at straws. There is a wider problem, and I think the discussions of the issue among Buddhists generally avoid this. And the wider issue is this: meat eating is clearly harmful. That harm is a direct but unintended consequence of eating meat. Since there is no intention to cause harm, eating meat is not bad kamma. There are therefore two logical possibilities: eating meat is ethical; or kamma is not a complete account of ethics.

Let us look more closely at this second possibility. The notion that actions should not be done, even when they involve no harmful intention, is found constantly in the Vinaya. For example, a monk is criticised for baking bricks that have small creatures in them, even though he was unaware of them and did not intend any harm. The Buddha laid down a rule forbidding this.

In another case, the Buddha laid down a rule that a monastic must inquire about the source of meat before accepting it. The context of this rule was that someone had offered human flesh (their own – it’s a long story!) and this rule is usually said to only apply if one has doubts as to whether the food is human flesh. But that is not what the rule states – it simply says that one should inquire as the the source of the meat, and that it is an offence to eat meat without doing so. Needless to say, this rule is ignored throughout Theravada.

These are a couple of examples in the context of causing harm to beings. There are many others. Indeed, there are several Vinaya rules that were laid down in response to the actions of arahants. An arahant cannot act in an intentionally harmful manner, so these rules cannot be taken to imply that the motivation behind the acts was wrong. The acts have unintended harmful consequences, and this is why they are prohibited.

In this sense, if the Vinaya pertains to sila, or ethics, then the scope of sila is broader than the scope of kamma. This is, when you think about it, common sense. Kamma deals only with intention and the consequences of intentional action. This is critical because of its place in the path to liberation. We can change our intentions, and thereby purify our minds and eventually find release from rebirth. That is the significance of kamma to us as individuals.

But ethics is not just a matter of individual personal development. It is also a social question, or even wider, an environmental question in the broad sense. How do we relate to our human and natural context in the most positive and constructive way?

I am suggesting that, while kamma deals with the personal, ethics includes both the personal and the environmental.

As well as broadening ethics in this way, I would suggest we should deepen it. Ethics is not just what is allowable. Sure, you can argue that eating meat is allowable. You can get away with it. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing. What if we ask, not what can I get away with, but what can I aspire to?

When we recite the first precept, we say, ‘I undertake the training to refrain from killing living beings’. This is a challenge, and in itself is a powerful ethics. Yet it is merely a short summary of a principle. It was never meant to fully describe the virtue of harmlessness. When the Buddha spoke of this precept in more detail, this is what he had to say:

Having abandoned the taking of life, refraining from the taking of life, one dwells without violence, with the knife laid down, scrupulous, full of mercy, trembling with compassion for all sentient beings.

This is not just an ethic of allowability. It doesn’t merely set a minimum standard. It calls us out, asking us to aspire to a higher sense of compassion, an ethic that deeply feels for the welfare of all beings. More than just asking, ‘Does this act come from an intention to harm’, we ask ourselves, ‘Is this act the best I can possibly do to promote the welfare of all?’ Rather than simply escaping bad kamma, we create good kamma.

One obvious criticism of this approach is that being vegetarian does not mean you don’t cause harm. We hurt beings in many unintentional way, driving cars, buying products, almost everything we do. If we follow this principle to its logical conclusion, we end up with Jainism, and will have to walk everywhere with a cloth over our mouth to keep the flies from dying, and a soft broom to brush the creatures away. (Note, though, that even the Jains have a complex relationship with vegetarianism.) It is simply arbitrary to identify meat eating as the cause of harm. This is, after all, the point of the well-known (though apocryphal) story of Siddhattha as a young boy, seeing the plough turning up the soil, killing some worms, and leaving the others to be picked off by the crows. Even eating rice involves the unintentional destruction of life. The only solution is to get off the wheel.

The problem with this argument is that it confuses the existential with the ethical. On an existential level, quite right, any form of life, even the most scrupulous, will inevitably cause harm to some beings. This is one of the reasons why the only final solution is escape from rebirth altogether. Yet meanwhile, we are still here. Ethics is not concerned with the ultimate escape from all suffering, but with minimising the harm and maximising the benefit we can do right here. It is relative and contextual. Sure, being vegetarian or vegan we will still cause harm. And sure, there are boundary issues as to what is really vegetarian (Honey? Bees are killed. Sugar? Animal bones are used for the purification process… )

But the fact that we can’t do everything does not imply that we shouldn’t do this thing. The simple fact is that eating meat cause massive and direct harm to many creatures. That harm is, almost always, easily avoidable. Becoming vegetarian does not involve any huge sacrifices or moral courage. It just takes a little restraint and care. This is even more so today, when there is a wide range of delicious, cheap, nutritious vegetarian foods available. The choice of becoming vegetarian is, of all moral choices we can make, one of the most beneficial, at the smallest cost to ourselves.

To return to the basic problem. As Buddhists, we expect that the Buddha kept the highest possible ethical conduct. And for the most part, he did. So if the Buddha allowed something, we feel there can’t be anything wrong with it. There is nothing dogmatic or unreasonable about such an expectation. When we read the Suttas and the Vinaya, we find again and again that the Buddha’s conduct was, indeed, of the highest order.

How then, if meat eating is an inferior ethical standard, can it be that the Buddha did it? This is the crux of the matter. And I don’t have an easy answer.

Part of it is to do with the nature of the mendicant life. The Buddha and his disciples wandered from house to house, simply accepting whatever was offered. It’s hard to refuse offerings given in such a spirit. Yet this answer is incomplete, as there are many foods, including several types of meat, that are prohibited in the Vinaya. Clearly the monastics were expected to have some say over what went into their bowls.

There are other considerations I could raise. But I don’t want to press the textual argument too far. In the end, we have a partial, and partially understood record of the Buddha’s life and teachings. For those of us who have been blessed enough to have encountered the Dhamma, we have found it to be an uplifting and wise guide to life.

And yet: we cannot let our ethical choices be dictated by ancient texts. Right and wrong are too important. The scriptures do not contain everything, and do not answer every question. As Buddhists, we take the texts seriously, and do not lightly discard their lessons. Yet there is a difference between learning from scripture and submitting to it.

There are some things that the scriptures simply get wrong. The Suttas make no critique of slavery, for example, and yet for us this is one of the most heinous of all crimes.

Why are these things as they are? I don’t know. I have devoted a considerable portion of my life to studying and understanding the Buddhist scriptures, and in almost all things of importance I find them to be impeccable. But my study has also shown me the limits of study. We cannot access the truth through scripture. We can only access certain ideas. Our understanding and application of those ideas is of necessity imperfect. There is always something left over.

This being so, it is unethical to cite scripture as a justification for doing harm. If eating meat is harmful and unnecessary, it remains so whatever the texts say. Our sacred texts are sacred, not because they determine what is right and wrong, but because they inform our choices and help us to do better.

The principle of harmlessness underlies the very fabric of the Dhamma, and if its application in this context is problematic, the principle itself is not in question. It simply means our scriptures are imperfect, and the practice of ethics is complex and messy. But we knew that already. It is not out of disrespect that we make our choice, but out of respect for the deeper principles of compassion and harmlessness.

About these ads

240 thoughts on “Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian

  1. Bhante, you said “…and indeed everywhere up until the invention of modern farming, animals had a much better life”. It is not just modern farming methods but there are other wants (or needs?) of humans that directly cause cruelty to animals.

    This is quite graphically pointed out in the video clip ‘Earthlings’ (http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6361872964130308142) which I encourage alll your readers to watch.

    The other issue is that there is a significant rise in the number of non-Buddhists who are becoming vegetarians in the hope of reducing cruelty to animals. This certainly is going to be a thorny issue for Buddhists who prefer to ignore the issue and yet preach about compassion.

    • Thanks, Guptila. Yes, there are many forms of cruelty other than modern farming. But in sheer scale and intensity of suffering, I think the factory farm is unparalleled.

  2. For once I find myself in complete disagreement with you Bhante. It is a complex issue that I’ve spent a great deal of time looking into.

    I find it impossible to summarize all of the issues in a brief response to a blog post, but if you really look into the complex human relationship with food the root of the cruelty is not meat eating, it is agriculture, which is a quite recent phenomenon in the broader context of our history. I suggest taking a look at the wonderfully radical work of Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith’s “The Vegetarian Myth,” and a great article by Gary Snyder, now over two decades old, from his book “The Practice of the Wild,” which I provide an excerpt of in my blog post shared below.

    This link from the Weston Price Foundation gives a good overview of the fundamentals:

    http://www.westonaprice.org/about-the-foundation/vegetarian-tour

    If we care about compassion in our dietary choices, we need to be radical in the Buddhist sense of the word, and the root of the problem is not meat-eating, it is civilization. Lierre Keith suggest that one guideline to compassionate choices is to choose food whose existence does not deplete topsoil. What’s appropriate will vary depending on where one lives, but a traditional diet based on foods that are truly local to you, which excludes both factory-farmed animals and row crops, processed foods, soy product and most grains, is a good place to start.

    Keith and Jansen are two prominent names in the so called “anarcho primitive” movement that I’ve been introduced to in recent years by old Dharma friends. I find their core messages to be second only to the Buddha’s in their going-to-the-root radicalism. The Buddha turned his back on civilization (in the literal sense of “living in cities”) and in a very fundamental way our survival as a species – and our dietary choices and health – depend on doing the same.

    • Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for the feedback and the links. I have a general familiarity with the ideas you refer to, but will be interested to learn more.

      In brief: Perhaps the difference is that I am aiming lower here. I don’t have high expectations of samsara, and I am suspicious of any program to radically change society. I was never trying to say that vegetarianism will solve the problems of society or whatever. Which is not to say that I sympathize with our friend Obo’s dismissal of any broader ethical concerns. I just think it is better and more compassionate, given the actual choices that people face day to day, to choose vegetables than to choose meat. This is something that anyone can and I believe should do.

    • On the Weston A. Price Foundation taken from Wikipedia: “The foundation has been criticised by medical and health experts for “purveying misleading information” and “failing to update their recommendations in light of contradictory evidence.

      John Robbins MD has written a critique in which he reviews the history of the Weston Price Foundation and provides evidence that Weston Price had recommended a vegetarian and dairy diet to his own family members as the healthiest diet. The anti-vegetarian and anti-soy views of the foundation have also been criticized in several publications. Joel Fuhrman MD wrote a series of articles entitled “The truth about the Weston Price Foundation” in which he argues the Foundation is a purveyor of “nutritional myths”, largely because they have failed to update their recommendations in light of contradictory evidence.

      The Quackwatch website published an essay by Stephen Barrett MD that says the Weston A. Price Foundation promotes “questionable dietary strategies” and on grounds that the core assumptions of Weston Price’s original work are incorrect and contrary to contemporary medical understanding. The Foundation has written a rebuttal to Barret’s essay.

      If nutritional experts can find so many faults with the Weston Price Foundation recommendations I think we have to take them with a pinch of salt.

    • Hi Albert
      I am familiar with these authors you mentioned and have their books, Weston Price, Joel Furhman & John Robbins.
      Including Gabriel Cousens, Fred Bisci, Paul Nison etc
      Have you read Nutrition & Physical Degeneration? There are some scary pictures in there…but mainly if you eat white bread and white sugar, they call it “white man food”…which the natives traded in for their coconut, and what not….
      Would you have any details of civilization that has survived staying vegans in the history of mankind? Not vegetarians, but vegan….
      If yes, please flick us a link, I am super interested….as there are many who cannot tolerate dairy, goats milk, eggs etc which are sometimes permitted in the fashionable modern vegetarian diet…
      And also if a vegan can survive without B12 intake in a pill form?
      Thank you….

  3. Thanks Ajahn Sujato for the very interesting article. Are the monks and nuns in your Santi Monastery allowed to eat meat?

    Simon

    • Hi Simon,

      We generally have a policy of being vegetarian, but there is no prohibition. Occasionally – maybe once a year – someone brings meat or fish for dana, and if someone wants to eat it they can. To be honest, I don’t even know whether our website says that we are vegetarian. Let me check – no, I can’t see anything. We were established down the road from Sunnataram, which is a vegetarian Thai monastery. So most people typically just bring vegetarian anyway.

  4. “There are some things that the scriptures simply get wrong. The Suttas make no critique of slavery, for example, and yet for us this is one of the most heinous of all crimes.”

    I thought slavery was one of the 5 occupations which was forbidden by the Buddha? along with selling poison, weapons, drugs and i forget the last one.

    • Hi Lars,

      Yes, trading in humans is wrong livelihood; and trading in meat is too. But this applies to those making a living from it, rather than the consumer. I am not aware of anywhere that the Buddha is recorded as saying that it was wrong to have slaves, although he did say that one should treat them humanely. The monastics are routinely prohibited from having slaves, although there are one or two places in the Pali Vinaya, and many elsewhere, that suggest that monastics had slaves.

  5. Dearest Bhante,
    Coming from an Ayurvedic background, the teachings I learnt are that it is considered karmically wrong to eat meat unless the intake is to preserve one’s life….what are your thoughts on this? I read that was the case
    of the Dalai Lama….
    While not direct to vegetarianism, I am also concerned about all the plastic we used during fund raising food fairs which contribute towards detriment of environment…cos anything that affects the environment affects all beings in the end..
    How can we help? I am all for vegetarianism and minimal meat consumption…..

    • Hi jacquie,

      Well, clearly if there is a genuine medical need to eat meat, this changes the ethical balance. I am not really convinced that meat-eating is really necessary, but if it is, then it provides a much stronger argument for eating it. It would simply be a borderline case. I would hesitate to say it is okay, but I would equally hesitate to criticize anyone for doing it. In any case, if the only meat eaten was the meat that was necessary for living, then the problem would be far smaller than today.

      This relates to the fascinating question of the relation between hunter-gatherer people and meat. It was genuinely difficult to get sources of protein, and hunting was, in many places, necessary for survival. We all know that the hunters would often apologize to, prey for, or in some other way atone for killing the animal, which they considered to be a brother. It seems, indeed, that the very origins of ritual and sacrifice has deep roots in the need to manage the guilt of killing.

      At a conference in Perth in 1984, we had a panel on vegetariansim, which I presented with an Nyoongar elder, Ken Colbung. He was a vegetarian on ethical grounds, as he said that his traditional beliefs treasured all life, and they only killed because they had no other choice. He said that these days there is no need – just buy some veggies! He was critical of young aborigine youths, who believed that they had to kill snakes or other animals to prove how aboriginal they were. He said that such ideas go directly against the traditional ways.

    • Thank you, Bhante, for your thoughts. Even as vegetarian, sometimes moral issue arises. Have you heard much of monoculture? Few weeks ago, I sent a canadian site link to a canadian friend, it has many wonderful legume recipes which I just love, beans, beans, beans :) but my canadian friend whose partner is also vegan replied, great recipe but the promotors behind ‘eat more beans’ are avocating monoculture, which apparently is a deadly practise to many species, so i was informed….well, that kind of stop me going to my local continental shop where i get kilos of variety beans for under $5.00 per kg….i went to get organic beans but the price jumped up almost 3-5 times and suddenly a lot less variety & food on the dining table but once one has knowledge of what is not right, one has to do what is right….that is the bottom line of self awareness……

    • I’m not sure that beans are especially heinous as a monoculture crop; in organic farming beans are typically grown among or cycled with grains in order to replenish nitrogen. Also, beans are typically hardy, so require relatively little pesticides. But this is all 20+ year old knowledge, so please feel free to correct me…

    • Dearest Bhante, I didnt know either re beans and monoculture, hence I was shocked & dismayed…..i will investigate further, maybe there is more to going on than we know…i sure love my beans of all sort.

  6. Thank you Bhante for the interesting reflections.

    I would agree that the choice of vegetarianism is perhaps the most simple and practical expression of moral practice that a lay person can make.

    I adopted the practice very happily after doing a meditation course some 20 years ago. To live, consciously avoiding the taking of life, and doing nothing to encourage others to take life, is a wonderful thing.

    At the end of the day, arguments against vegetarianism tend to be based on an inability to recognize that animals dread suffering and death as much as we do, or out of a total disregard for the feelings of animals, under the influence of an overwhelming attachment to the flavor of meat. One infuriating expression of this insensitivity is when people defend the killing of animals with the argument that vegetarians murder vegetables. This line of reasoning seems to demonstrate a desperate guilt as well as a stunning disconnect from the evident reality of suffering as a fact of sentient life.

    Vegetarianism can be regarded as an advanced way of practicing the first precept. Not only do you not break the first precept yourself, but you also do all that you reasonably can to not assist or encourage others to break it, and you avoid even condoning the breaking of the precept by anyone else. This is what S.N. Goenka refers to as “three-dimensional sila.”

    More importantly, if one can appreciate the dire consequences to someone who breaks the first precept, then not eating meat is also an attempt to prevent this terrible suffering. That is, it is as much to prevent the suffering of the killer as that of the killed, which, after all, is more substantial in the grand scheme of things. I would say that this is the highest rationale for being a vegetarian, and this is the reason I give if someone asks why I am a vegetarian (maybe also because this answer offers more insight into the Buddha’s teachings).

    Buddha’s attitude to vegetarianism was eminently practical if one considers that at the time he lived vegetarianism was far less widespread and accepted than it was today. As far as I understand, it was in large part the influence of Buddha’s teachings through the centuries that accounts for the widespread diffusion of vegetarianism that we see in India today. That is, vegetarianism took root gradually from the understanding that any killing of animals is harmful to oneself, i.e., through the teaching of the first precept.

    The five precepts are not primarily about laying down an absolute moral code or promoting compassion, but rather to provide the human mind with a sufficiently solid foundation to achieve concentration, insight, and liberation.

    In his teachings Buddha was not speaking to the masses, as a social reformer, but rather to people as individuals, urging them to practice Dhamma, starting with the five precepts and leading progressively to greater purification of the mind.

    If Buddha did not deal much or directly with compassion and social justice it was because he knew these to be possible only through the purification and liberation of individual minds, or because he knew such ideals to be unattainable in view of the nature of the universe. The first precept is just a simple, basic principle essential to enabling the individual to embark on cultivating the mind.

    Buddha probably also reasoned that proscribing meat would have been unnecessarily restrictive and counterproductive. If most households cooked meat at the time, forbidding monks to eat meat would have prevented many householders from making merit and hearing the Dhamma, perhaps also unnecessarily alienating them from the teachings.

    I don’t think it is any blemish on the Buddha-Dhamma, the Buddha’s teaching, that it does not take a more comprehensive or aggressive position on vegetarianism. It is not the responsibility of the Dhamma to spell out how each and every person must conduct every aspect of their lives. Nonetheless, any reasonable person reflecting seriously on the implications of the first precept and the law of kamma ought to be inspired to live as a vegetarian. Similarly, one would conclude that any enlightened society ought to be largely vegetarian. In this sense, the fact that the two countries that arguably have the strongest claim to embracing the true teachings of the Buddha — Burma and Thailand — fall so short on this measure reflects very poorly on them, in my view.

    Very best to all,
    Gulab

    • Dear Gulab,

      Thanks for this thoughtful reflection. Just one point: you say that it was the Buddhist ethic that lead to the increase of vegetarianism in India. I agree, it certainly does seem to be so. The edicts of Ashoka are important in this regard, although he stops short of advocating full vegetarianism. I have never seen a careful study of this issue, and I suspect we may find that certain of the differences between the Mahayana and Theravada views on vegetarianism will make more sense when seen in the broader historical context.

    • Strict Brahmins and yogis are generally vegetarians…unless they diverted. Especially, if you go up north to the town of Rishikesh, back few years, you wont even see an egg on sale…
      Meat is considered tamasic and its consumption, said to reduce love & compassion. Said also, what we consume, we take on its consciousness..and that includes all impressions, what we see, we must digest…..

    • Sujato

      While I appreciate your efforts in supporting women the

      115 Bahudhatuka Sutta

      The many kinds of Elements

      15. clearly states:

      he understands: ‘It is impossible, it cannot happen that a woman could be an Accomplished One, aFully Enlightened One, there is not such possibiliy” etc etc

      it goes on to claim women cannot be monarchs etc and in a previous chapter that a man on seeing a women develops lust (therefore that is apparently her fault) and that women from then on are referred to as and should be referred to as “sharks”

      … so my question is what do Buddhist men want from women…why if they believe in the fact they are superior, that a women would have to be reborn as a man before becoming enlightened should women bother with Buddhism?

      What do Buddhist men want from women, there money, to use their bodies as tantic sex objects, servants?

      I don’t get it ….if the suttas state women cannot be enlightened and are inferior to men and even Nuns at Ajahn Brahms monestry think they are inferior to men then why encourage women and why do women bother?

      Do you men need female bodies as sex objects, money, servants and they consider that encourageing women around Buddhism even though they believe them inferior that it is good for women because they can create merit?

      Or.. is Bhikkhu Bodhi just and old fashioned sexist and interprets the suttas through he eyes of such a man?

      Wouldn’t women just be better having a bit of understanding of not having greed, hatred and delusion and getting on with having lives and then just being reborn as men in the next life and joining a monestry then.

      What do Buddhist men want from women exactly I mean why not just ban women from monestries completely and men can then get on with getting enlightened and if it is true at least they will be upholding their precepts of “not lieing (to women) if it seems this is what the Buddha taught?

      This is a serious quesiton and I would appreciate it if you could answer this post rather than deleting it?

    • And, mcd, i would appreciate it if you would write your comments without insulting or abusing anyone. All you had to ask was, what is the deal with this passage from the Bahudhatuka Sutta? And if you were to do so, I would say, Ven Analayo has shown that it is clearly a late, inauthentic addition. You can read his essay here.

    • Ahjan Sujato,

      Thank you for that. Possibly I will stop abusing and insulting when Buddhist stop writing texts that abuse and insult women….I think it is called kamma.

      Regards and best wishes

  7. Hello Bhante,

    This is simply Mara’s argument, and as agents of Mara go, with your manipulation of emotions through your cutzy cuddly animal images worthy of Madison avenue or Nazi propagandists, you are doing a splendid job here for the Evil One in directing people’s attention to worldly concerns, wrongfully creating guilty feelings, and disparaging the Dhamma as taught in the process.

    A Buddhist per the pursuit of the Buddha’s path is not someone out to change the world. The Buddha doesn’t mess with slavery, doesn’t mess with wars, unequal treatment based on race or gender and countless other matters except in-so-far as such issues arise as a matter of the conduct of the individual where the goal is concerned. It’s: “A man should not sell himself into slavery,” not “There should be no slavery.” The one is dealing with what one may deal with, the other what is out of one’s control. It’s “Women are as capable of understanding Dhamma as men,” not “Women should be treated as the equals of men.” It’s “There is no difference in the nature of men of differing birth or color or race,” not “All men should be treated in the same way regardless of birth or color or race.” Deal with what is possible because it is under your control, not what your assumption that you see it all and know what is best for all tells you is right. Beings have their kamma to live out. Sometimes that happens in front of our eyes. Pay heed, don’t get angry about it.

    What is not being seen here is that this effort to spare pain to one set of beings is causing by it’s poorly constructed methodology pain to another set. This is setting yourself on fire to stop war. Cutting off your nose to spite your face. An act of extreme anger. And it stirs up anger at a group with a different point of view. This is not the way. Mind your own business and teach Dhamma. Those capable of the practice who have eyes to see will follow. Those who are blind will not follow whatever you say and you will have wasted your efforts while causing unpleasantness.

    The futility trying to change the world is pointed out again and again in the suttas with similes such as the man who tries to stomp out a pile of shit; spitting on it, kicking it, sitting on it, pissing on it, only to end being covered in shit himself. Or with the simile of the man trying to empty the ocean with a sieve.

    The issue that makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is not what ‘everyone’ should do to make the world a better place, it is what the individual striving after the goal of the Buddhist system should do in order to attain it’s goals.

    This is the issue of ‘is the Arahant being selfish by attaining the goal rather than staying back and teaching.’ Absolutely wrongheaded. The best teaching is by example. The other way around is the man who smokes who tells everyone he can quit any time. Be a good example; let go trying to mind everyone else’s business.

    The bhikkhu should eat what is put in his bowl for two reasons: to curtail his own wanting and to benefit the giver. Exceptions are made with regard to certain things like meat known to have been killed specifically for a bhikkhu, or by a bhikkhu, or upon request by a bhikkhu because these conditions carry bad kamma with them and it is escape from kamma that is the goal.

    The rules reflect the kamma.

    Ethics and kamma are two different things. Ethics (and morality) are based on a point of view ‘ditthi’. Kamma is a law of physics. It works a certain way whatever you believe.

    Buddhist ethics are based on a goal proceeding from a ‘ditthi’ based kamma.

    The goal for the Buddhist is the escape from pain by individuals not the creation of a pain-free world.

    The escape from pain is seen in the ending of the source of pain which is in the kammic acts of an individual that follow on wanting. Pain is a thing I can stop in me, not in you.

    There is no kammic consequence from eating the meat of an already dead animal for sale in the supermarket, there is pain in causing people guilty feelings concerning what does not cause guilt and misguiding them on the intent of the Buddha’s Dhamma. Directing people’s attention to concern about market demand for meat is directing people’s attention to an issue that does not bring them closer to the goal. It’s wasting their time. Wasting people’s time is causing them pain.

    However even if one were to ignore the fact that this discussion directs the reader’s attention to an irrelevant worldly issue, the methodology is not optimal for the suggested goal.

    The argument is always made that it is the ‘demand’ that is causing the butcher to kill. The reality is that it is the butcher who kills and presents meat for sale that creates the demand. Time and again studies of inflation have shown that when the price of a cut of meat rises above a certain acceptable level, the people switch to a less expensive cut. The butcher then lowers the price to increase demand. The same principle holds for switching from meat to tofu and back.

    Which is greater? The number of people eating meat, or the number of people killing creatures to supply meat for people to eat?

    There would be a greater probability of success in the mission you profess if your effort were directed at the attempt to get those few who kill to abstain from killing than to get those many who simply purchase the meat of previously killed animals to stop what is for them a pleasurable, life-sustaining, and harmless activity.

    Teaching that it is killing that is the unskillful kammic act not eating meat would be teaching this lesson properly. And hey! Look! That’s what the Buddha teaches.

    • Hi Obo,

      Thanks for your contribution. You managed to break Godwin’s law in your very first sentence, so I think we can safely agree that there’s little that we will agree on.

    • Hello

      obo: “This is simply Mara’s argument, and as agents of Mara go, with your manipulation of emotions through your cutzy cuddly animal images worthy of Madison avenue or Nazi propagandists, you are doing a splendid job here for the Evil One in directing people’s attention to worldly concerns, wrongfully creating guilty feelings, and disparaging the Dhamma as taught in the process.”

      Actually worldly concers has always be the core and value of the dhamma. The suffering of existence is not a static first cause to promote dhamma it is the very heart of why the dhamma should exist in the first place. I must say you are a word juggling dellusionist. You are running ahead of something that should come first.

      obo:”A Buddhist per the pursuit of the Buddha’s path is not someone out to change the world. The Buddha doesn’t mess with slavery, doesn’t mess with wars, unequal treatment based on race or gender and countless other matters except in-so-far as such issues arise as a matter of the conduct of the individual where the goal is concerned. It’s: “A man should not sell himself into slavery,” not “There should be no slavery.” The one is dealing with what one may deal with, the other what is out of one’s control. It’s “Women are as capable of understanding Dhamma as men,” not
      “Women should be treated as the equals of men.” It’s “There is no difference in the nature of men of differing birth or color or race,” not “All men should be treated in the same way regardless of birth or color or race.” Deal with what is possible because it is under your control, not what your assumption that you see it all and know what is best for all tells you is right. Beings have their kamma to live out. Sometimes that happens in front of our eyes. Pay heed, don’t get angry about it.”

      Actually this has never been the dhamma. Again you do not understand that the dhamma is not some blunt object. It should puncture the vast layer of insanity that constitutes existence in order to be effective. thats why it’s so important to take refuge in the buddha, he becomes a symbol of plain human agony. A man stepping out of this crazy riddle with all his emotions and yes even disgust to search for an answer, a gate to sanity.

      obo:”What is not being seen here is that this effort to spare pain to one set of beings is causing by it’s poorly constructed methodology pain to another set. This is setting yourself on fire to stop war. Cutting off your nose to spite your face. An act of extreme anger. And it stirs up anger at a group with a different point of view. This is not the way. Mind your own business and teach Dhamma. Those capable of the practice who have eyes to see will follow. Those who are blind will not follow whatever you say and you will have wasted your efforts while causing unpleasantness.”

      Actually this is a Maran argument par excellence! Since you will not be aware of anyones blindness befor uttering the path that is good in the begining, in the middle and in the end there is no point to your malicious languistic construction. Essentially the Buddha should not have uttered a word in your view. uncovering unwholesome acts has nothing to do with anger or as you maran tongue expresses it EXTREME ANGER. It has to do with the nature of the Buddha wich is loving kindness. The Buddha in his great wisdom extends a hand.

      obo:”The futility trying to change the world is pointed out again and again in the suttas with similes such as the man who tries to stomp out a pile of shit; spitting on it, kicking it, sitting on it, pissing on it, only to end being covered in shit himself. Or with the simile of the man trying to empty the ocean with a sieve.”

      Actually your understanding is a mispresentation of the matter. This is talking about the mechanics of samsara not about activating wholesome components wich is the crux of the matter. your view is like the deluded monks meditating around the sick monk lying in his own filth while Ananda and the Buddha nursed him.

      obo:”The issue that makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is not what ‘everyone’ should do to make the world a better place, it is what the individual striving after the goal of the Buddhist system should do in order to attain it’s goals.”

      Actually it is a concern about existence. This is intrinsically intertwined with the goal of the individual wich can’t be divided. Don’t be deluded by self, The Buddha’s full enlightenement was actualized with the uttering of ” open is the gate to the deathless for everyone that has ears”

      obo:”This is the issue of ‘is the Arahant being selfish by attaining the goal rather than staying back and teaching.’ Absolutely wrongheaded. The best teaching is by example. The other way around is the man who smokes who tells everyone he can quit any time. Be a good example; let go trying to mind everyone else’s business.”

      The essence of the buddha is loving kindness, his walking the indian continent for decades is an outcome of his enlightenment. Never ever was his message to let everyone mind his own business. Teacher of humans and devas, with compassion for the world.

      obo:”The bhikkhu should eat what is put in his bowl for two reasons: to curtail his own wanting and to benefit the giver. Exceptions are made with regard to certain things like meat known to have been killed specifically for a bhikkhu, or by a bhikkhu, or upon request by a bhikkhu because these conditions carry bad kamma with them and it is escape from kamma that is the goal.

      The rules reflect the kamma.

      Ethics and kamma are two different things. Ethics (and morality) are based on a point of view ‘ditthi’. Kamma is a law of physics. It works a certain way whatever you believe.

      Buddhist ethics are based on a goal proceeding from a ‘ditthi’ based kamma.

      The goal for the Buddhist is the escape from pain by individuals not the creation of a pain-free world”

      Nurturing that very painful world would be the obstacle to that escape, the individual has never been apart from that world. Apathy towards this world means that one is deluded by a concept of self since ones escape is based on the very interaction with what makes the individual wich is that very same world.

      obo:”The escape from pain is seen in the ending of the source of pain which is in the kammic acts of an individual that follow on wanting. Pain is a thing I can stop in me, not in you.”

      O so you didn’t need The Buddha? Believe it or not you stopping that pain is dependent on the effective tools another human being provided, his name was Gotama Buddha. Sure you are the one that needs to use them on yourself but without the movement of gotama’s tongue you would play around in suffering “only to end being covered in shit”

      obo:”There is no kammic consequence from eating the meat of an already dead animal for sale in the supermarket, there is pain in causing people guilty feelings concerning what does not cause guilt and misguiding them on the intent of the Buddha’s Dhamma. Directing people’s attention to concern about market demand for meat is directing people’s attention to an issue that does not bring them closer to the goal. It’s wasting their time. Wasting people’s time is causing them pain.”

      You care about wasting their time but not about the the hellbound existence the butcher is going to undergo by killing the animals you pay for. Very logical. This is so deluded it is self apologeticism to the max.

      obo”However even if one were to ignore the fact that this discussion directs the reader’s attention to an irrelevant worldly issue, the methodology is not optimal for the suggested goal.”

      Irrevelant worldly issue, i suffer you suffer, i don’t know why The Buddha bothered about suffering! It’s all so irrelevant! Afterall suffering is very worldly.

      ”The argument is always made that it is the ‘demand’ that is causing the butcher to kill. The reality is that it is the butcher who kills and presents meat for sale that creates the demand. Time and again studies of inflation have shown that when the price of a cut of meat rises above a certain acceptable level, the people switch to a less expensive cut. The butcher then lowers the price to increase demand. The same principle holds for switching from meat to tofu and back.”

      What’s this even about? A butcher kills, an animal suffer. This should not be encouraged, these are unwholesome acts. As a buddhist one should not partake in this system.

      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…

      Buying; is saying go and fetch living beings to kill them for food. We have knowledge about the system. Having knowledge colors our intention. Spin words and uphold your static indifferent view. That is not the dhamma. It is a disgusting self apologetic system that caters to your senses and greed. It thickens your delusion. The buddha and the bhikkhus ate meat to sustain he dhamma. This means:

      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 occasions.

      Every kind of meat we as moder people buy has been seen to be killed, heard to be killed and verified to have been killed for our overfed guts.

      obo: “Which is greater? The number of people eating meat, or the number of people killing creatures to supply meat for people to eat?”

      inconsequentual question! Since this whole mass of suffering is creating bad kamma. The killers doing the killing, the buyers doing the buying by intentionally buying meat that has an clearly UNVEILED amount of suffering attached to it.

      obo:”There would be a greater probability of success in the mission you profess if your effort were directed at the attempt to get those few who kill to abstain from killing than to get those many who simply purchase the meat of previously killed animals to stop what is for them a pleasurable, life-sustaining, and harmless activity.”

      Pleasurable in pleasing the senses; discouraged by The Buddha.

      Life-sustaining; Are you kidding me?

      Harmless activity: like going to a prostitute brought here by mob bound human traficking (hey i didn’t brought here here i’m just having pleasure). Buying garbage toys made by child slave labor (hey i did not enslave them i’m just buying them for my pleasure).

      Hey why not go to a more extreme example firmly related to the issue in hand. If you liked the look of human skulls would you buy them if they were created by chopping of the heads of enslaved people? Well i don’t need to ask your argumentation already gives the answer.

      If the dhamma is or was ever like this it would be morally corrupt but lucky for us the dhamma was never like this.

      obo:”Teaching that it is killing that is the unskillful kammic act not eating meat would be teaching this lesson properly. And hey! Look! That’s what the Buddha teaches.”

      No the buddha thaught that the direct blank act of eating meat wasn’t unskillful, but not the intentional act of supporting a whole mass of suffering, like the bio- insustry.

      I wish to you a whole lot of wisdom, you clearly need it.

      .

    • Nothing to do with the meditation teacher!

      Godwin’s law states:

      “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.”

    • Hi Obo,

      Interesting comments…would have appreciated if the following points are clarified.

      >with your manipulation of emotions through your cutzy cuddly animal images worthy of Madison >avenue or Nazi propagandists,

      Did this article stirr up YOUR emotions? and if so, why?

      > The Buddha doesn’t mess with slavery, doesn’t mess with wars, unequal treatment based on >race or gender and countless other matters except in-so-far as such issues arise as a matter of >the conduct of the individual where the goal is concerned.

      If one relies on the scriptures, the Buddha in fact did mess with wars (between Sakyas and Koliyas), did try to stop animal sacrifices, did speak against discrimination on the basis of caste (check Dhammapada) and guess what, he was perhaps the first spiritual master to allow women (not just a single woman!) into his order. I find it hard to gloss over these facts.

      >Pay heed, don’t get angry about it.

      Absolutely right here. Pay heed to the fact that our culinery delights are causing tremendous suffering and do not get angy when this is pointed out.

      >What is not being seen here is that this effort to spare pain to one set of beings is causing by it’s >poorly constructed methodology pain to another set.

      This statement is a give away! Of course, it is a big sacrifice to let go of the taste of meat in what we consume and it does cause pain to let go of that craving. No one disagrees here. But the question we need to ask is can we just let go of this craving for the taste of meat so that some animals can be spared of slaughter?

      >The futility trying to change the world is pointed out again and again in the suttas with similes >such as the man who tries to stomp out a pile of shit; spitting on it, kicking it, sitting on it, pissing >on it, only to end being covered in shit himself.

      I am not sure who is ‘kicking the shit’ here!

      >Be a good example; let go trying to mind everyone else’s business.

      Well, you are not setting a great example here either :-)

      >The bhikkhu should eat what is put in his bowl for two reasons:

      I did not get the impression that Bhante Sujato was proposing a rewrite of vinaya rules…not sure how you caught up on this.

      >Kamma is a law of physics.

      You are on very shaky grounds here…If I were you I wouldn’t repeat this at a scientific forum although you are probably safe here!

      >The goal for the Buddhist is the escape from pain by individuals not the creation of a pain-free >world.

      Yeap…who cares about this world as long as my goal can be achieved? For some reason, I did not think that the Buddha taught us to consider us separate from this world – but hey, it is just me, and perhaps you may be right on this….

      > Pain is a thing I can stop in me, not in you.

      Quite right…but there are things that we can do to alleviate pain in others. Otherwise, why bother with healthcare which eats up a huge percentage of our GDP? Perhaps it is a good thing that our politicians are not Buddhist otherwise they will use this as an argument to eliminate the healthcare system!
      > there is pain in causing people guilty feelings

      Quite agree. There is no point in feeling guilty about eating meat. If this is causing guilt ‘feed the man meat’ is the right slogan for you. One should only give up eating meat when one feels that it is the right thing to do just like any other action like smoking or drinking.

      >However even if one were to ignore the fact that this discussion directs the reader’s attention to >an irrelevant worldly issue, the methodology is not optimal for the suggested goal.

      So, what is the optimal methodology?

      >The argument is always made that it is the ‘demand’ that is causing the butcher to kill. The >reality is that it is the butcher who kills and presents meat for sale that creates the demand.

      Now…even Adam Smith would have got very upset about this great revelation about economics! Unfortunately, this goes right against all your previous arguments…so, what is outside oneself is what creates the demand?

      >Which is greater? The number of people eating meat, or the number of people killing creatures >to supply meat for people to eat?

      Not sure but since you appear to be interested in statistics I can to tell you that in 2008, in the US alone, the number of cattle, pigs, chicken, turkey, lamb (excluding fish) slaughtered for local consumption was over 35 billion – an impressive figure, isn’t it?

      >There would be a greater probability of success in the mission you profess if your effort were >directed at the attempt to get those few who kill to abstain from killing than to get those many >who simply purchase the meat of previously killed animals to stop what is for them a >pleasurable, life-sustaining, and harmless activity.

      Yes…Bhante, go convert thos nasty butchers. They make us look pretty bad and they are the real badies, let us continue our harmless culinery delights!!

  8. Thank you for this article Bhante.
    It seems to me that the intention for causing no harm would also lead to not eating dairy products.

    It may be a little confronting, but anyone devoted to a more compassionate world can find it in their heart to consider the impact of their actions.

    I quote here from http://www.idausa.org/


    If you want to stop using the animal products which cause the most suffering, you might want to consider eliminating dairy and eggs first. The misery that female cows endure is arguably worse than that of their brothers slaughtered for beef. Dairy facilities are gigantic machine-filled building, more like a factory than a farm. During the milking process, if the machines are not properly maintained, they can send a painful electric shocks though the udder several times a day. These animals are treated harshly, with no room for sensitivity to their comfort or simple needs. All these Mom’s are either pregnant or lactating, yet their babies are nowhere to be seen.

    Like all mammals, female cows only lactate when pregnant. To maximize milk production, dairy cows are kept pregnant their entire short life. Each year, she will be artificially inseminated [while restrained on a rack] or with the farmer’s arm. A cow’s natural life span is about 20 years. In this highly intensive farming, however, the stress on her body will diminish her milk output after about 3 years. She is then what the industry terms “dried up.” It is more lucrative to send her to slaughter and replace her. Her body will be sold as ground beef.

    To insure the highest volume of milk, the calf is taken away from her immediately after birth. Even in seemingly “humane” dairy production, to maintain a profit, cows are sent to slaughter and the calves taken away. This is also to avoid the “mother/calf” bonding. Mother cows have been known to break down the stall in an attempt to find their offspring.

    Imagine for a moment being kept pregnant every year of your life, just to have every baby taken away from you and your milk pumped into machines. What happens to these millions of baby cows? A female calf will follow in her mother’s hoof-prints, yet she will never know her mother or suckle her milk, being raised on a bottle formula. But what of the males?

    A male calf born to a dairy cow is the wrong breed to profitably be raised for beef. His fate, unfortunately, is much worse. Veal is the soft, pale, anemic flesh of a calf. Veal calves are kept inside in a crate barely bigger than themselves. Chained at the neck, they can’t even turn around. They are fed a liquid diet deficient in iron, so their muscles don’t develop properly. These babies never see their 1st birthday. Many people recognize the cruelty in raising veal and will not eat it, yet are unaware of the intimate connection between the dairy and veal industries. Supporting one supports the other.

    Can I hear your thoughts Bhante?

    • Hi Frazer,

      I agree, the suffering involved in dairy and eggs is often hardly different from that in producing meat. The difference, of course, is that eggs and dairy do not necessarily involve killing the animal. One could argue whether traditional means of egg and dairy farming are cruel, although there is no doubt that most modern methods are.

      For these reasons I was a vegan for many years, and I think its a good practice.

      Ethically, there is the ‘slippery slope’ problem, which is discussed quite a lot within vegan circles. I think we have to draw a line somewhere, and the exact boundaries will always be to some extent arbitrary.

    • I drink and eat dairy and egg products that a produced as ethically as possible, organic milk, free range hormone free eggs. I was vegan for awhile but was unable to get sufficient protein or B-12 in my diet. My body ached because it was literally eating my muscle mass. There is also no natural vegan source of B-12.

      Im still vegetarian though.

    • We do what we can. Many people report similar effects, and it seems to vary a lot between individuals, maybe to do with how the nutrients are absorbed.

  9. Thank you Ajahn Sujato for the reply. I think you made some really good points why Buddhists should be vegetarian and I tend to agree with you. However, it seems to me that the main issue here is whether it should be made compulsory for lay Buddhists, monks and nuns.

    In making vegetarian compulsory, it seems that one is using ‘force’ and this perhaps was one of the reasons why Buddha did not want to make it compulsory?

    • As a general rule, I don’t think that something should be prohibited just because it is unethical. There are plenty of things that the Buddha encouraged, but didn’t make rules about.

      The wider issue is that in this case it is not simply a matter of personal ethics, like say drugs or sexual behavior, but the victims of the animal trade are voiceless and powerless. For this reason I do think that it would be better to make animal husbandry of all sorts illegal, excepting perhaps some marginal cases like when someone has a genuine health need. But this is just fantasy. As a matter of practical ethics, I think becoming vegetarian/vegan is one of the most effective things to do.

    • Isn’t the faith of these animals, a product of their karma? They were born into this situation as a product of their past life and the only way out into a better one is to follow the course of their current birth and be reborn again. Yes we have to have compassion for all beings but don’t we have to recognize and respect the nature of karma also? Can we control the course of other being’s karma? Our analysis of the situation is being clouded by ethics,imho. Vegetarianism is more like leaning to an extreme.There has to be a middle way.

    • Simon, I think the main reason why this issue polarizes people is because of the attempts to enforce a particular rule. This scares off many people which is unfortunate as most ordinary people will consider the facts and do what they can do to alleviate misery caused by them. In this regard, this is not dissimilar to the 5 precepts – there is no hard and fast rule but the realisation that if you break them you end up causing misery to yourself and perhaps others.

      I feel that Buddhists, especially the lay Buddhists, should take the lead and promote (but not enforce) vegetarianism to alleviate (it would be impossible to eliminate) suffering of animals. Essentially, the rule of non-violence (whether towards animals or opponents of vegetarianism) should always be maintained.

  10. Thanks Bhante, I really appreciate more discussion of this issue. I thought eating meat was wrong for years, but I kept doing it. Partly it was because of sort-of liking the taste of meat, but mostly just because of laziness and denial. I think the more that people get vegetarianism (gently) shoved in their faces, the harder it is to avoid. Raising the discussion again and again will help those people who, like me, wanted to be vegetarian but were too lazy to make the change. Thanks heaps.

  11. Thanks Bhante, I also appreciate this discussion.

    I’m not quite a certain as you are about this issue but I do agree that morality is wider than karma and that this must be kept in mind when trying to determine how we act. I may speak with no intent to harm, but if my speech is not skillful it may still cause harm and must be avoided.

    Modern factory (non-animal) farming is tremendously damaging to the environment, not just factory animal “husbandry”. Factory farmers intentionally kill billions of sentient beings (insects, snakes, birds, rodents, etc.) and millions more sentient beings are killed as side-effects (pollution in water, algae blooms killing fish, pesticides in the environment, etc.). Lets not even get into Chinese soy (plant protein) farming which includes purchasing millions of acres of farmland in South America and elsewhere and converting that land from small farms to huge factory farms. Thus displacing and disenfranchising people and creating immense destruction to the social and physical environments.

    It is an equally accurate statement to say that modern non-animal farming is much crueler to the world than the farming in the Buddha’s time.

    • While we are talking of industrial production of crops using large mechanised machines, mass application of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides are sprayed on crops and in so doing countless animals lower in the food chain are killed. Yet these crops such as corn, soy beans and other grains (mainly GM so that they can withstand high concentrations of herbicides and pesticides) are primarily used to feed factory farmed pigs, cows and chickens so that they can be killed for human consumption.

      Large tracts of the Amazon have been cleared to grow soy beans to feed cattle so as to meet the demand for hamburgers in developed countries. All this is done to meet the insatiable demand for meat and dairy products. 90% of the American corn crop ends up as animal feed.

      China is rapidly industrialising and demand for meat and dairy is rising exponentially. All its arable land is already utilised so to meet that demand virgin forest is destroyed in developing countries to grow crops to feed animals destined for the dinner plate.

      We can see how wasteful it is to get our protein from animals instead of plants as animals are one tenth as efficient as plants in producing protein. Meat production is highly energy, water and soil intensive and polluting from animal waste besides being cruel and inhumane to our fellow sentient beings suffering in factory farms.

      And yes I’m all for photos of insects, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, mammals (cute and ugly) as well as inside factory farms and slaughter houses to be posted here. That may open our eyes to what goes on behind closed doors to animals.

    • Hmmm, really, a majority of grains etc. go to feed animals…hmmm, worth some further research but hmmm.

      I don’t think us humans are quite so off the hook as assuming industrial farming is mainly used to feed animals which are then killed to feed those people who eat meat. I think a lot of it goes directly into our human food chain.

      Here is what I got from http://www.agron.iastate.edu/courses/agron212/Readings/Soy_history.htm


      The majority of the soybean crop is processed into oil and meal. Oil extracted from soybeans is made into shortening, margarine, cooking oil, and salad dressings. Soybeans account for 80 percent or more of the edible fats and oils consumed in the United States. Soy oil is also used in industrial paint, varnishes, caulking compounds, linoleum, printing inks, and other products. Development efforts in recent years have resulted in several soy oil-based lubricant and fuel products that replace non-renewable petroleum products.

      The high protein meal remaining after extraction can be processed into soybean flour for human food or incorporated into animal feed. Soybean protein helps balance the nutrient deficiencies of such grains as corn and wheat, which are low in the important amino acids, lysine and tryptophan.

    • “China is rapidly industrialising and demand for meat and dairy is rising exponentially. All its arable land is already utilised so to meet that demand virgin forest is destroyed in developing countries to grow crops to feed animals destined for the dinner plate”

      China is apparently buying up vast areas of farming land in Australia and probably other countries like America and in doing so apparently wages will decrease as they bring in their own poorly paid overwork people to do this work.

      Apparently Governments are just taking the money without any real concern over this and do not even know how much of this country they actually own.

      As far as I know China’s environmental concerns and their respect for animals is very low.

      Do they still have the practise of cutting off the tops of the heads of live monkeys in expensive restaurants and eating the brains? – great entertainment for diners..not.

    • Or a few thousand wriggling sardines in a net slowly suffocating (eventually to boiled down into fish oil capsules bound for vegan bathroom shelves)

      As well as two metre tall corn stalks, wildly sprouting carrot greens and cone laden pine trees. Non-inclusiveness, selective sentience, based on cuddlyness and anthropomorphic critera seems to be a flaw in the arument here?

  12. Thank you for a great article.

    My friend and I (we are both Buddhists) got into an argument over karma/moral aspects of eating meat the other day. My friend eats a little bit of meat every once in a while (fish etc. more often). Me, on the other-hand, eat quite a bit more meat (beef, bacon/pork, fish etc.) than him, and I don’t see myself stopping anytime soon.

    I however think that, if such a thing as good/bad karma exists, then each time a person eats meat they acquire more bad karma on to themselves. My friend disagreed and brought up points such as: “you never had the intention of killing the animal” or “you didn’t physically kill the animal yourself” or “that monks can eat meat as long as the animal was NOT specifically killed for them (for their dana)” etc. And therefore, you don’t get bad karma… i.e. your not going to hell for eating meat.

    My point was that, the butcher cannot be the only person with bad karma because, by me buying a pound/kg of beef, I am “telling” the butcher it’s OK to kill. I see it as a matter of supply and demand: Because of my demand/desire for meat I buy it at the grocery-store, the grocery-store in turn orders more meat from the butcher, and the butcher kills another animal (be it cow, pig, fish etc.).

    My friend’s argument seemed like a cop-out. I seems to me that the points he brought up are a way for people to ease their (guilty) conscious: i.e “I never killed the animal, therefore I don’t incur any bad karma.”
    If a person wants to be a vegetarian/vegan/carnivore, that’s up to them. However, people should recognize that by eating meat that they are contributing towards the death of an animal (and future animals through their demand).

    Please let me know if my argument is a legitimate one and if it’s valid or not.
    Thank you ahead of time.

    • Hi Oddjob,

      The debate with your friend echoes many discussions on this issue that have been held in the Buddhist tradition. As I explained in the article, I don’t think eating meat is ‘bad kamma’, but that it has unintentional harmful effects. The Buddhist tradition is a little uncomfortable with the question of ‘buying’, as selling meat is wrong livelihood, but buying in not against the precepts. In traditional societies to sell meat would have involved killing or ordering others to kill, whereas today it involves making orders with a wholesaler.

      The whole process has become more distant, more abstract, so that the ethical responsibility is harder to pin down. This is why some, most famously Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, take the opposite line, that it is only okay to eat animals you have killed yourself, as only then do you take full responsibility for what you have done. And while it does not justify the killing, there is something noble in that idea.

      But even when buying meat, although you are clearly creating indirect demand for the death of animals, I can’t see that it is bad kamma, as there is no intention to harm. Ask yourself: would I still buy this meat if it was grown in a petri dish? (Leaving aside concerns about genetic modification and frankenfoods). If the answer is yes, then the intention to harm doesn’t underlie the action.

      This is why I came to the conclusion that this is not bad kamma in the sense that it does not create any bad consequences for the one who does it. But it does create bad consequences for others, and that is good reason not to do it. Ethics, in this sense, is broader than kamma.

  13. Thank you Bhante for starting this discussion and also for entertaining the differing views on the matter.

    Mr Frazer Kirkman’s views that the dairy industry causes much more suffering to cows than the beef producing industries has also been my personal view since I became the follower of the Buddha-Dhamma for three years now (…sorry if I’m misquoting Mr Kirkman in any way). For this reason, the choice for me was to be a VEGAN or omnivore, but not a vegetarian – I didn’t see the point in being a vegetarian – consuming dairy products and eggs which cause more suffering than the meat products. This is just my opinion. Living in a large family with limited income, it was not practical to prepare separate VEGAN dishes. So, for now, I have meat and dairy in moderation, with more grains, legumes, and vegetables. I know VEGANISM is not a requirement in the Theravada tradition, but nevertheless agree that it could only enhance ones sense of compassion for living beings. Therefore, veganism is praiseworthy – but it should not be shoved into others faces – to the point of labelling them as “wrongdoers”. As people practice the Dhamma, and with the “gentle” guidance of the monastic order, laypeople will come to know for themselves what is wholesome and what is not.

    May all who visit this blog be well, happy, safe, and peacefull.

    • Not all dairy products and eggs are from ill treated animals, there are products produced from biodynamic farming, which many health conscious consumers buy, even if they do not believe in karma etc. I am not speaking for myself as i am allergic to both. And yes, many vegans struggle. Vegans are those that consume 0 animal products, not even honey. And they do need to take b12…
      I read that no civilization has yet to survive being vegans in history….
      Meat is a matter of acquired taste, some are born naturally adverse to it…

    • It is extremely difficult to find dairy and egg products that are from ethically treated animals. Often “free-range” just means chickens are out of cages. They’re still trapped in warehouses by the thousands in unhealthy environments, being fed antibiotics. Male chicks are ground up alive as they are considered by-products and useless. And regardless of the treatment of a milk cow, her baby is still taken away from her. In order for us to have milk, a calf must be denied it. Humans are biologically most similar to herbivores, anyway. This article, among many, gives a great example of that. http://bodyscience.org/are-humans-carnivores-or-herbivores/
      The point is, just because a creature isn’t murdered for the sake of a meal, doesn’t mean allowing them to live lives purely in service to our dietary “needs” is ethical. There are no examples of vegan civilizations recorded, no. But plenty of individual vegans live healthy lives WITHOUT a B12 shot. I’ve even asked about it, and my doctor says it’s unnecessary for me. I take no supplements, and my blood work always comes out fine–better, in fact, than my meat-eating and vegetarian peers.

    • Madeline, good for you. It is nice to see somebody who is a consistent Buddhist, if you are Buddhist. I have seen so many in here trying to rationalize meat eating. From a health perspective, plant based is far superior. Even Bill Clinton and Mike Tyson have seen this.Meat is unnecessary, and certainly we do not need the milk of another animal! I have had no meat for 40 plus years, no animal products whatsoever for about 9 or 10 years. I am 65, take no meds except something for restless leg, and no supplements. I am strong, and exercise at least an hour every day, and have plenty of energy, as does a rhino or elephant.My doctor ways she wishes all of her patients were as health conscious and healthy as I am. Whether or not the historical Buddha ate meat is a moot point. This is today. In this culture, we do not need it. It is an addiction, especially dairy products. It is time to evolve. We have seen that a vegan diet uses a fraction of the resources that are used by an omnivore. We see that every modern disease is partially caused by animal foods and processed sugary foods. May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

  14. There is no option to reply at the level required. This is a response to the response to me under your response to my post. If that is supposed to be the end of the discussion, so be it.

    Maybe this goes nowhere. I am, as an exercise, even if just for myself, going to deal with this confused man’s response to my post.

    quoting obo’s original post: “This is simply Mara’s argument, and as agents of Mara go, with your manipulation of emotions through your cutzy cuddly animal images worthy of Madison avenue or Nazi propagandists, you are doing a splendid job here for the Evil One in directing people’s attention to worldly concerns, wrongfully creating guilty feelings, and disparaging the Dhamma as taught in the process.”

    G: Actually worldly concers has always be the core and value of the dhamma. The suffering of existence is not a static first cause to promote dhamma it is the very heart of why the dhamma should exist in the first place. I must say you are a word juggling dellusionist. You are running ahead of something that should come first.

    Obo: Actually worldly concerns were not and are not either the core or the value of the Dhamma and the suffering inherent in existence is one of the three basic characteristics of existence giving rise to the Dhamma. You are perhaps confusing the idea that existence is painful with the idea that this pain is a worldly matter. The distinction is that in noting the pain inherent in existence one is not attempting to change anything in that. Worldly matters on the other hand are attempts to change things in the world.

    Your second sentence is self-contradictory. It is saying that the suffering of existence is not the first cause giving rise to the Dhamma it is the first cause giving rise to the Dhamma.

    I prefer to see me as a word-juggling disillusionist.

    I believe you have in your last fallen into the wrong speech and debating error usually phrased: “You have put last what should have been first, put first what should have been put last.” You can say that but you have not shown the truth of that statement.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “A Buddhist per the pursuit of the Buddha’s path is not someone out to change the world. The Buddha doesn’t mess with slavery, doesn’t mess with wars, unequal treatment based on race or gender and countless other matters except in-so-far as such issues arise as a matter of the conduct of the individual where the goal is concerned. It’s: “A man should not sell himself into slavery,” not “There should be no slavery.” The one is dealing with what one may deal with, the other what is out of one’s control. It’s “Women are as capable of understanding Dhamma as men,” not “Women should be treated as the equals of men.” It’s “There is no difference in the nature of men of differing birth or color or race,” not “All men should be treated in the same way regardless of birth or color or race.” Deal with what is possible because it is under your control, not what your assumption that you see it all and know what is best for all tells you is right. Beings have their kamma to live out. Sometimes that happens in front of our eyes. Pay heed, don’t get angry about it.”

    G: Actually this has never been the dhamma. Again you do not understand that the dhamma is not some blunt object. It should puncture the vast layer of insanity that constitutes existence in order to be effective. thats why it’s so important to take refuge in the buddha, he becomes a symbol of plain human agony. A man stepping out of this crazy riddle with all his emotions and yes even disgust to search for an answer, a gate to sanity.

    obo: Actually this has been and is the Dhamma. I am not some person who has given the Dhamma some quick once-over reading. I have studied the Pali and the translations for some 50 years now and my practice is well rounded, not confined to book knowledge, and I am both familiar with what is said and have the resources to double-check. I do not see where I have understood that the Dhamma is some blunt object previously let alone here. Furthermore I am maintaining that it is far deeper and subtler than you are able to see given your performance with this post.

    If you are saying that the Dhamma should paint a picture of the vast layer of insanity that constitutes existence in order to be effective, I couldn’t agree more. From the opening of the Digha Nikaya where the Bhikkhus marvel at the way Gotama has dealt with the diversity of man the reading of the Suttas is the reading of the story of the way a Great mind deals with every sort of madman conceivable. I do not see where anything I have said goes against this in any way.

    I also have no argument with your depiction of Gotama departing worldly life to seek an answer.

    Nothing of what you have said amounts to an argument rebutting anything I have said in this paragraph.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “What is not being seen here is that this effort to spare pain to one set of beings is causing by it’s poorly constructed methodology pain to another set. This is setting yourself on fire to stop war. Cutting off your nose to spite your face. An act of extreme anger. And it stirs up anger at a group with a different point of view. This is not the way. Mind your own business and teach Dhamma. Those capable of the practice who have eyes to see will follow. Those who are blind will not follow whatever you say and you will have wasted your efforts while causing unpleasantness.”

    G: Actually this is a Maran argument par excellence! Since you will not be aware of anyones blindness befor uttering the path that is good in the begining, in the middle and in the end there is no point to your malicious languistic construction. Essentially the Buddha should not have uttered a word in your view. uncovering unwholesome acts has nothing to do with anger or as you maran tongue expresses it EXTREME ANGER. It has to do with the nature of the Buddha wich is loving kindness. The Buddha in his great wisdom extends a hand.

    obo: Actually what I say here has nothing to do with what one knows and sees (and, as an aside, what I would hope you would see here is that I am making an extreme effort to understand your garbled speech and respond to the intent. You have with this post let your anger control your mind and the words are tumbling out of that cracked pot willy-nilly.) Take a look: what I said was that it was the ‘poorly constructed methodology’ of Bhk. Sujato’s effort that was the problem. Not that the issue is not to be spoken of. The point is that in dealing with a perceived problem the solution should be such as does not create even greater problems. And that is not the case in this case and I am showing how it is not the case.

    Revealing unwholesome acts is not what I am suggesting is an act of extreme anger. Setting one’s self on fire to protest war is an act of extreme anger. Using a method to eliminate the pain of one group by inflicting pain on another group is clear evidence of anger. The anger has blinded one to adherence to one way of looking at a thing to the disadvantage of another.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “The futility trying to change the world is pointed out again and again in the suttas with similes such as the man who tries to stomp out a pile of shit; spitting on it, kicking it, sitting on it, pissing on it, only to end being covered in shit himself. Or with the simile of the man trying to empty the ocean with a sieve.”

    G: Actually your understanding is a mispresentation of the matter. This is talking about the mechanics of samsara not about activating wholesome components wich is the crux of the matter. your view is like the deluded monks meditating around the sick monk lying in his own filth while Ananda and the Buddha nursed him.

    obo: Actually my understanding is one thing and my representation of the matter is another. You do not have access to my understanding. And ACTUALLY I am not misrepresenting the matter at all. These similes are talking about what you call ‘the mechanics of samsara’. Whether or not what Bhk. Sujato proposes is ‘activating wholesome components’ is exactly the matter under discussion. I am saying that his proposal is flawed in multiple ways that anyone with eyes that can see can see the result in being dependent on the muddleheaded, involved in the futile and will end in being covered in shit.

    There are these two fools: One who does not take up a burden that befalls him and one who takes up a burden that does not befall him. We are speaking of methodology. There is no issue being taken here with people who wish to become vegetarian. The issue is suggesting that the Dhamma is somehow wrong in not making it a rule. The issue is telling other people what to do which is a presumption that one knows everything about everything. A sick person in one’s family or residence or close proximity is a burden that has befallen one. A sick person one has never heard of or seen is a burden that has not befallen one.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “The issue that makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is not what ‘everyone’ should do to make the world a better place, it is what the individual striving after the goal of the Buddhist system should do in order to attain it’s goals.”

    G: Actually it is a concern about existence. This is intrinsically intertwined with the goal of the individual wich can’t be divided. Don’t be deluded by self, The Buddha’s full enlightenement was actualized with the uttering of ” open is the gate to the deathless for everyone that has ears”

    obo: Actually I am very glad to see, looking down, that this is the last time you will be using this word to begin your jumble of words. It was getting almost as tiresome to see as a reference to Nazism in a blog post!

    To say that the issue that makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is a concern about existence is to make one of the most fundamental errors being made about what the Buddha taught. Over and over again the point is being made that this Dhamma is not about an argument about existence or non-existence. The Dhamma always and only ever deals with the issue of pain.

    To say that making the world a better place is intrinsically intertwined with the goal of the individual and can’t be divided is partly correct, partly not. The very first step taken by the very beginning practitioner, the practice of kindness, generosity, the development of ethical thinking and self control and the setting up of the mind all instantly result in the world becoming a better place. Who is going to argue with that? The issue is setting out to mess with the parts of the world that are not under your control. That can be divided off and should be divided off.

    The goal is the escape from kamma. Not the escape from the results of deeds, but from the entire process. Anything one does with intent except in the case of intentionally not-doing, is kamma-making and carries with it an identified-with result. The conclusion is that any kamma that is not the intentional not-doing of things is going to result in being bound up in kamma. In other words, not the way. Nothing that requires that something be ‘done’ other than that which directly results in un-doing is true Dhamma.

    “In the same way as the sea always and forever tastes of salt,
    This Dhamma always and forever tastes of freedom.

    Anything requiring ‘do’ does not taste of freedom.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “This is the issue of ‘is the Arahant being selfish by attaining the goal rather than staying back and teaching.’ Absolutely wrongheaded. The best teaching is by example. The other way around is the man who smokes who tells everyone he can quit any time. Be a good example; let go trying to mind everyone else’s business.”

    G: The essence of the buddha is loving kindness, his walking the indian continent for decades is an outcome of his enlightenment. Never ever was his message to let everyone mind his own business. Teacher of humans and devas, with compassion for the world.

    obo: The essence of The Buddha is Awakening. That is what the word means. Having loving-kindness is not being awake. There is muddleheaded loving kindness. Loving-kindness is a means. It is a calm happy platform from which Freedom is easily accessed. Being Awake is the seeing in freedom that freedom is being free. That is the essence. Your statement that ‘never ever was his message to let everyone mind his own business,’ is correct, but what you have said is not what you mean. How do I know?

    Because you are supposedly responding to me and what I said was not ‘let everyone mind his own business’ it was ‘let go trying to mind everyone else’s business.’ There is a difference there which some reflection before posting might have come to mind.

    What you intended is simply wrong. “Be a a light (some say island) unto yourselves, be a refuge unto yourselves, let Dhamma be your light, let Dhamma be your refuge.’ The whole of the Magga is about paying attention to your own business, not that of others. There is no instruction there saying: stop other people from telling lies, engaging in harmful behavior, etc.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “The bhikkhu should eat what is put in his bowl for two reasons: to curtail his own wanting and to benefit the giver. Exceptions are made with regard to certain things like meat known to have been killed specifically for a bhikkhu, or by a bhikkhu, or upon request by a bhikkhu because these conditions carry bad kamma with them and it is escape from kamma that is the goal.

    The rules reflect the kamma.

    Ethics and kamma are two different things. Ethics (and morality) are based on a point of view ‘ditthi’. Kamma is a law of physics. It works a certain way whatever you believe.

    Buddhist ethics are based on a goal proceeding from a ‘ditthi’ based kamma.

    The goal for the Buddhist is the escape from pain by individuals not the creation of a pain-free world”

    G: Nurturing that very painful world would be the obstacle to that escape, the individual has never been apart from that world. Apathy towards this world means that one is deluded by a concept of self since ones escape is based on the very interaction with what makes the individual wich is that very same world.

    obo: When you say: ‘nurturing that very painful world would be the obstacle to that escape’ you make my point.

    That the individual has never been apart from that world is also something with which I have no argument although never goes too far as there is the phenomena of temporary freedom.

    Apathy towards this world does not mean that one is deluded by a concept of self.

    This is one way of stating Arahantship:

    “There is nothing there in anything anywhere for me.”

    Samma Sati, the seventh dimension of the Magga, the result of having practiced the setting up of the Mind, (not as Bhk. Sujato would have it, the setting up of the Mind) is the state of being above it all, without carelessness, not bound up in anything at all in the world. Note that ‘without carelessness’ appamada. You could use some of that.

    Escape is not brought about by an interaction. It is the consequence of the ending of the interaction of consciousness with nama and rupa. That one, beginning under the shitpile needs to deal with the shit is a matter of expediency. The desire needed to end desire. The stepping stone across the stream. To use it for more than it’s utility is to be picking up the raft and carrying it around on dry ground because at one time it was useful.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “The escape from pain is seen in the ending of the source of pain which is in the kammic acts of an individual that follow on wanting. Pain is a thing I can stop in me, not in you.”

    G: O so you didn’t need The Buddha? Believe it or not you stopping that pain is dependent on the effective tools another human being provided, his name was Gotama Buddha. Sure you are the one that needs to use them on yourself but without the movement of gotama’s tongue you would play around in suffering “only to end being covered in shit”

    obo: I do not see where I say or imply there or anywhere the fact that I do not need The Buddha. However you are incorrect in your basic thinking. There are so-called ‘Silent Buddhas’. People who have managed the escape without the aid of a SammasamBuddha. There are two ways one manages the escape: through careful examination of the etiology of things and through the word of another.

    As for ending covered in shit we will see, but at this time what I can say is that I am certainly in danger dealing with it as I am here with you.

    As for what I said, I said I cannot stop your pain. I did not say I cannot provide the tools for you to stop your own pain. You have shown a confusion there between providing the tools and the creation of the end result which shows your own belief in your omnipotency. (That’s another word for you clinging to the idea of a ‘yourself’.)

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “There is no kammic consequence from eating the meat of an already dead animal for sale in the supermarket, there is pain in causing people guilty feelings concerning what does not cause guilt and misguiding them on the intent of the Buddha’s Dhamma. Directing people’s attention to concern about market demand for meat is directing people’s attention to an issue that does not bring them closer to the goal. It’s wasting their time. Wasting people’s time is causing them pain.”

    G: You care about wasting their time but not about the the hellbound existence the butcher is going to undergo by killing the animals you pay for. Very logical. This is so deluded it is self apologeticism to the max.

    obo: If you read before you responded you would see that the approach I suggest to this problem is to deal with the killing done buy the butcher. Dealing with that, from the first step, would be progress towards his escape from Hell. Seems to me there is more compassion for the fate of the butcher warning him directly than in giving him hints by the possible, not guaranteed likely unnoticed reduction of his customer base.

    My concern about time wasting was with regard to the effort to convince people that their purchasing of meat from the market constitutes ‘demand’ which if eliminated will in some way reduce the number of creatures being slaughtered which will in it’s turn in some way bring them closer to their own best interest in escape. It won’t. To claim that it will is to mislead.

    Since what I have said is not what you represent me as having said I dismiss your conclusion that it has anything to do with me being deluded or is any sort of self apologeticism [not a word]. Let alone to the max, jack.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “However even if one were to ignore the fact that this discussion directs the reader’s attention to an irrelevant worldly issue, the methodology is not optimal for the suggested goal.”

    G: Irrevelant worldly issue, i suffer you suffer, i don’t know why The Buddha bothered about suffering! It’s all so irrelevant! Afterall suffering is very worldly.

    obo: The irrelevant issue is not the knowledge of the existence of the horrendous conditions under discussion, the irrelevant issue is the methodology being suggested to deal with it.

    Sarcasm is a very dangerous tool to use in debate. It is next door to lying.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “The argument is always made that it is the ‘demand’ that is causing the butcher to kill. The reality is that it is the butcher who kills and presents meat for sale that creates the demand. Time and again studies of inflation have shown that when the price of a cut of meat rises above a certain acceptable level, the people switch to a less expensive cut. The butcher then lowers the price to increase demand. The same principle holds for switching from meat to tofu and back.”

    G: What’s this even about? A butcher kills, an animal suffer. This should not be encouraged, these are unwholesome acts. As a buddhist one should not partake in this system.

    obo: I think you would have been well-off to have let it be at ‘What’s this even about?’ Admitting your confusion is a good way to begin to understand.

    ‘A butcher kills, an animal suffers. This should not be encouraged.’ Again, let it go at that I’m with you 100%. I am in no way encouraging anybody to kill or cause suffering. As a Buddhist one should not do these things. As a human being one is partaking of this system from the first breath. Extracting one’s self from that system should be accomplished in a way that takes into consideration all sides of an issue: compassion for the slaughtered animal, compassion for the butcher, compassion for the person not yet ready to attempt the escape who wants to enjoy a taste without needless baseless guilt.

    G: 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…

    obo: And your point is? Do I say that the Butcher is doing a good thing? No. I will say that the Butcher is doing a bad thing. Creating much demerit. No problem.

    G: Buying; is saying go and fetch living beings to kill them for food.

    obo: No it is not. It can be, but it usually is a matter of going into the marketplace and picking up a package of material. If one goes to a restaurant and orders lobster, that is another matter. If one orders the Thanksgiving Turkey ahead of the slaughter that is another matter.

    G: We have knowledge about the system. Having knowledge colors our intention. Spin words and uphold your static indifferent view. That is not the dhamma. It is a disgusting self apologetic system that caters to your senses and greed. It thickens your delusion.

    obo: I do not dispute the fact that we have knowledge about the system. I do not dispute that this knowledge colors our intentions. I assert we also have a lot of things in our understanding that are just assumptions, garbage, so called facts that have been invented based on faulty assumptions, this to a degree where virtually all knowledge today is faulty. So the individual concerned with awakening does not rely on hearsay, authority and the rest, but bases his understanding and behavior on what he has seen and known with his own eyes.

    G: The buddha and the bhikkhus ate meat to sustain he dhamma. This means:

    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 occasions.

    Every kind of meat we as moder people buy has been seen to be killed, heard to be killed and verified to have been killed for our overfed guts.

    obo: Absolutely incorrect. Assumptions all along the line. I have seen chickens killed. My family, like most here for a time during WW II raised chickens and they were killed sometimes in front of my eyes and for my consumption. So I know what it means when someone says: “seen to be killed”. Today I do not ever see an animal killed for meat. Today the butcher never tells me that he will kill a chicken for me. And today, (and I have asked) if I asked the butcher: ‘was this chicken killed for me?’ the answer would be ‘no’. And that would be an honest answer. Today even the butcher in the supermarket does not kill. Even the wholesaler from whom the butcher in the meat market buys his stock in trade does not kill. It is someone sitting in some office somewhere that is giving the order to the slaughterhouse to kill. That is the person to deal with.

    quoting obo’s original post: “Which is greater? The number of people eating meat, or the number of people killing creatures to supply meat for people to eat?”

    G: inconsequentual question! Since this whole mass of suffering is creating bad kamma. The killers doing the killing, the buyers doing the buying by intentionally buying meat that has an clearly UNVEILED amount of suffering attached to it.

    obo: It was a rhetorical question; an important component of the point that followed. If you want to debate complex issues you should try to develop the ability to hold more than one idea at a time in your mind. Read ahead a little. Some of us do not just plod through life.

    And ACTUALLY the suffering attached to meat is very skillfully veiled.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “There would be a greater probability of success in the mission you profess if your effort were directed at the attempt to get those few who kill to abstain from killing than to get those many who simply purchase the meat of previously killed animals to stop what is for them a pleasurable, life-sustaining, and harmless activity.”

    G: Pleasurable in pleasing the senses; discouraged by The Buddha.

    obo: No argument. Or are you talking about outlawing pleasure for everyone. Or is our situation here that some people have seen the danger of pleasures and are making the effort to escape while letting everyone else live their lives as they see fit.

    G: Life-sustaining; Are you kidding me?

    obo: Are you going to tell me that eating is not life-sustaining? Two sides please.

    G: Harmless activity: like going to a prostitute brought here by mob bound human traficking (hey i didn’t brought here here i’m just having pleasure). Buying garbage toys made by child slave labor (hey i did not enslave them i’m just buying them for my pleasure).

    obo: Exactly the same with differences. It’s up to you. I’m not telling you what to do. I could sacrifice my desire to get laid and play with toys to an uncertain knowledge of their baggage because these are not activities that are essential to my liberation from this world. If I were to start a campaign to abolish these things based on this same uncertain knowledge I would be going off track. Might as well get laid and play with toys, zwat I’d be doing anyway. Playing around rather than getting down to the real business of letting go of this world.

    G: Hey why not go to a more extreme example firmly related to the issue in hand. If you liked the look of human skulls would you buy them if they were created by chopping of the heads of enslaved people? Well i don’t need to ask your argumentation already gives the answer.

    obo: This is another sort of argument one should avoid in a debate. Sort of like mentioning the Nazi’s. Inflammatory. Well ok. If you want to see if I can handle the issues you raise overcoming my reaction to an inflammatory statement, I think you have the story right here. If you see me unable to respond to the issues cooly and reasonably, responding in stead with an analogy which I carelessly turn upside down so as to make it say exactly the opposite of my intent, then you know something there too. Otherwise you shouldn’t play with fire. As for me, my nature is fire. I thrive on dry broken sticks.

    If I liked the look of human skulls, I would not necessarily buy them period.

    I buy a minimum of meat in a diet I have found supports my study of the Dhamma and which is being continuously modified in the direction of the minimum. One meal a day. Meat once or twice in a week. I do not know the reality, but it seems like the body, so long accustomed to meat, does not function well without it at this point where I am already an old man near death and unwell. Seeing no harm in it, I do the minimum. I do not ‘know’ how that meat is killed. I have a lot of information that I understand is a good description of what goes on, but I do not know. Knowing that information, knowing that I did not request the killing, knowing that I did not kill, knowing that the animal was not killed specifically for me, I buy meat for the body out of compassion for the body.

    I see no use to the practice in skulls. I see use to readers in the use of an inflammatory statement that reveals in one’s opponent the inability to cope with arrogance and overcome pride and the gains, favors and flattery of a following.

    — § —

    G: If the dhamma is or was ever like this it would be morally corrupt but lucky for us the dhamma was never like this.

    obo: You fail to make clear what it is you refer to by ‘this’. I do not see where it relates to the last thing quoted from my original post.

    If you are speaking generally, I assure you the Dhamma is as I have been presenting it. What is not Dhamma is what is being presented on this board as the morally or ethically correct thing to do.

    — § —

    quoting obo’s original post: “Teaching that it is killing that is the unskillful kammic act not eating meat would be teaching this lesson properly. And hey! Look! That’s what the Buddha teaches.”

    G: No the buddha thaught that the direct blank act of eating meat wasn’t unskillful, but not the intentional act of supporting a whole mass of suffering, like the bio- insustry.

    obo: Yes the Buddha taught that the direct act of eating meat was not unskillful and that the intentional act of supporting a whole mass of suffering would also be unskillful.

    But that is not the issue being debated here. So called debate.

    — § —

    G: I wish to you a whole lot of wisdom, you clearly need it.

    obo: I thank you for your good wish, as for your commentary: Shame on you. In fact, shame on you for this whole carelessly executed post. But I have tried here to respond to you cooly and reasonably, maybe there are others here that can learn.

  15. Bhante,
    thank you for much needed article supportive of the Buddhist Declaration on Climate Change and its call call for help: ” “We have a brief window of opportunity to take action, to preserve humanity from imminent disaster and to assist the survival of the many diverse and beautiful forms of life on Earth. Future generations, and the other species that share the biosphere with us, have no voice to ask for our compassion, wisdom, and leadership. We must listen to their silence. We must be their voice, too, and act on their behalf.”

    http://www.ecobuddhism.org

    This declaration transcendental message and call arises out of the right view and open and compassionate heart.

    We are blessed with great choice (unlike many people during the Buddha’s days) wrt what to eat. When we see the environmental degardation and suffering caused by modern meat industries and individuals self-indulgences,we don’t need more to make the right choice that is supportive of the humanity’s evolutionary pathway upstream – our of suffering – good for us and others as well – in hramony with the Buddha’s advice to Rahula regarding right actions.

    Dana

  16. obo:There is no option to reply at the level required. This is a response to the response to me under your response to my post. If that is supposed to be the end of the discussion, so be it.

    It’s not.

    obo:Maybe this goes nowhere. I am, as an exercise, even if just for myself, going to deal with this confused man’s response to my post.

    Whatever get’s you ego going, I am debating with a heart full of compassion for my fellow beings.

    Obo: Actually worldly concerns were not and are not either the core or the value of the Dhamma and the suffering inherent in existence is one of the three basic characteristics of existence giving rise to the Dhamma. You are perhaps confusing the idea that existence is painful with the idea that this pain is a worldly matter. The distinction is that in noting the pain inherent in existence one is not attempting to change anything in that. Worldly matters on the other hand are attempts to change things in the world.

    A clear addict to terminology. The dhamma is a raft that get’s us trough those worldly concerns (suffering). The dhamma is the very bright shining light that is at the center (the core) of existence for a being aiming to get rid of it. It illuminates the dark and thus shows it’s workable edges. Drawing lines does not make them real or functional.

    Obo:Your second sentence is self-contradictory. It is saying that the suffering of existence is not the first cause giving rise to the Dhamma it is the first cause giving rise to the Dhamma.

    No i said that the first cause was a living breathing suffering thing. Not a thing that stands below a holy instrument that is actually only here to serve this very first cause. A surgical knife is only functional because it can cut not because it has a shiny bright silvery atmosphere.

    Obo:I believe you have in your last fallen into the wrong speech and debating error usually phrased: “You have put last what should have been first, put first what should have been put last.” You can say that but you have not shown the truth of that statement.

    Actually you are very right here, i apologize for any harsh words. This was clearly wrong.

    obo: Actually this has been and is the Dhamma. I am not some person who has given the Dhamma some quick once-over reading. I have studied the Pali and the translations for some 50 years now and my practice is well rounded, not confined to book knowledge, and I am both familiar with what is said and have the resources to double-check. I do not see where I have understood that the Dhamma is some blunt object previously let alone here. Furthermore I am maintaining that it is far deeper and subtler than you are able to see given your performance with this post.

    If you need to double check you are confined to book knowledge. A man tasting a piece of fruit does not need to read back on how it tasted. Not to mention that it is impossible to do so anyway because it only descibes on how to pick it. On your 50 years, that does not necessarily impress me. I have been studying the dhamma for about half my life now and i didn’t feel the need to have brought that up in here. I can’t comment on your insight on the debt of the dhamma since i can’t verify it. Your comments seem to be rather smug and dogmatic to say the least in my experience.

    Furthermore age has nothing to do with it: Dahara Sutta.

    obo: Actually what I say here has nothing to do with what one knows and sees (and, as an aside, what I would hope you would see here is that I am making an extreme effort to understand your garbled speech and respond to the intent.

    You will never understand by reading it, even if you count words you whole life. A tongue made of stone will never make an appropiate sound.

    You have with this post let your anger control your mind and the words are tumbling out of that cracked pot willy-nilly.)

    I bet mister Rogers is mighty proud of you!

    obo:Take a look: what I said was that it was the ‘poorly constructed methodology’ of Bhk. Sujato’s effort that was the problem. Not that the issue is not to be spoken of. The point is that in dealing with a perceived problem the solution should be such as does not create even greater problems. And that is not the case in this case and I am showing how it is not the case.

    Actually venerable bhikkhu Sujato’s post showed a deep committment to loving kindness and compassion. Yours showed the same old dogmatic out of touch dusty gibberish this world has bled enough from.

    obo: Revealing unwholesome acts is not what I am suggesting is an act of extreme anger. Setting one’s self on fire to protest war is an act of extreme anger. Using a method to eliminate the pain of one group by inflicting pain on another group is clear evidence of anger. The anger has blinded one to adherence to one way of looking at a thing to the disadvantage of another.

    Actually self-sacrifice (has nothing to do with inflicting pain on another groep) can be an act of extreme compassion as is atested by plenty of Jatakas stories.

    obo: Actually my understanding is one thing and my representation of the matter is another. You do not have access to my understanding. And ACTUALLY I am not misrepresenting the matter at all. These similes are talking about what you call ‘the mechanics of samsara’. Whether or not what Bhk. Sujato proposes is ‘activating wholesome components’ is exactly the matter under discussion. I am saying that his proposal is flawed in multiple ways that anyone with eyes that can see can see the result in being dependent on the muddleheaded, involved in the futile and will end in being covered in shit.

    Actually he just said to have a bit more compassion for beings emerged in terror and perform a simple act to slighty eliviate that same terror. You however seem to be so far up your own ass in your wordplay that your eyes are possibly devastatingly blinded by that very same shit your talking about.

    obo:There are these two fools: One who does not take up a burden that befalls him and one who takes up a burden that does not befall him. We are speaking of methodology. There is no issue being taken here with people who wish to become vegetarian. The issue is suggesting that the Dhamma is somehow wrong in not making it a rule.

    O it is a rule, it is a rule that is written by no hand, spoken by no man. It is a rule that formulates itself by seeing a MODERN form of horror one does not wish to partake in.

    obo:The issue is telling other people what to do which is a presumption that one knows everything about everything.

    Let murderers be murderers, rapists be rapists, why did the buddha speak about right conduct anyway?

    obo:A sick person in one’s family or residence or close proximity is a burden that has befallen one. A sick person one has never heard of or seen is a burden that has not befallen one.

    It is my burden. All these beings screaming, crying, suffering, they are all my burden. Suffering is my burden. Gotama did not move his feet just for Gotama.

    obo: Actually I am very glad to see, looking down, that this is the last time you will be using this word to begin your jumble of words. It was getting almost as tiresome to see as a reference to Nazism in a blog post!

    Smug, go to a toilet and jam out a second one, sniff it. It might help.

    obo:To say that the issue that makes a Buddhist a Buddhist is a concern about existence is to make one of the most fundamental errors being made about what the Buddha taught. Over and over again the point is being made that this Dhamma is not about an argument about existence or non-existence. The Dhamma always and only ever deals with the issue of pain.

    pain of life is our existence= life is suffering Rings a bell?

    obo: To say that making the world a better place is intrinsically intertwined with the goal of the individual and can’t be divided is partly correct, partly not. The very first step taken by the very beginning practitioner, the practice of kindness, generosity, the development of ethical thinking and self control and the setting up of the mind all instantly result in the world becoming a better place. Who is going to argue with that? The issue is setting out to mess with the parts of the world that are not under your control. That can be divided off and should be divided off.

    There is a bit more that we should be than what you are presenting.

    obo:The goal is the escape from kamma. Not the escape from the results of deeds, but from the entire process. Anything one does with intent except in the case of intentionally not-doing, is kamma-making and carries with it an identified-with result. The conclusion is that any kamma that is not the intentional not-doing of things is going to result in being bound up in kamma. In other words, not the way. Nothing that requires that something be ‘done’ other than that which directly results in un-doing is true Dhamma.

    “In the same way as the sea always and forever tastes of salt,
    This Dhamma always and forever tastes of freedom.

    Anything requiring ‘do’ does not taste of freedom.

    A follower does not have “to do” compassion it is his bright and shining center. Pouring out in every movement.

    obo:The essence of The Buddha is Awakening. That is what the word means. Having loving-kindness is not being awake. There is muddleheaded loving kindness. Loving-kindness is a means. It is a calm happy platform from which Freedom is easily accessed. Being Awake is the seeing in freedom that freedom is being free. That is the essence. Your statement that ‘never ever was his message to let everyone mind his own business,’ is correct, but what you have said is not what you mean. How do I know?

    Loving kindness can be an instrument to destroy hatred but for The Buddha it was part of his very nature, an effect of awakening.

    obo:Because you are supposedly responding to me and what I said was not ‘let everyone mind his own business’ it was ‘let go trying to mind everyone else’s business.’ There is a difference there which some reflection before posting might have come to mind.

    Actually the distinction there is not even worth mentioning. The first is a more honest presentation of the second’s hidden snake within it called apathy.

    obo:What you intended is simply wrong. “Be a a light (some say island) unto yourselves, be a refuge unto yourselves, let Dhamma be your light, let Dhamma be your refuge.’ The whole of the Magga is about paying attention to your own business, not that of others. There is no instruction there saying: stop other people from telling lies, engaging in harmful behavior, etc.

    No instruction needed it just comes natural, compassion works that way. You do know these words came from The Buddha right? A man that walked troughout the continent of India for more than 40 years to advise others on not telling lies, harmful behaviour.

    obo: When you say: ‘nurturing that very painful world would be the obstacle to that escape’ you make my point.

    Nurturing that very world is not caring since this is the core of cruelty, worse than hatred.

    obo:That the individual has never been apart from that world is also something with which I have no argument although never goes too far as there is the phenomena of temporary freedom.

    obo:Apathy towards this world does not mean that one is deluded by a concept of self.

    If one takes the time to feed oneself it is clearly just that.

    This is one way of stating Arahantship:

    “There is nothing there in anything anywhere for me.”

    True, but you forgot the part that there is something needed for them. A finger pointing the way.

    Samma Sati, the seventh dimension of the Magga, the result of having practiced the setting up of the Mind, (not as Bhk. Sujato would have it, the setting up of the Mind) is the state of being above it all, without carelessness, not bound up in anything at all in the world. Note that ‘without carelessness’ appamada. You could use some of that.

    Above? The Buddha never claimed to be above, equal or below.

    END. MORE WILL FOLLOW AT A LATER DATE.

  17. Dear Obo

    Reading over my recent post again, i think the tone on my part is not proper, arrogant and very impolite (although i wish you could be a bit friendlier yourself). I sincerely wish to apologize and after all that i have said i consider you to be a friend in the dhamma.

    with metta and best wishes,

    Gotamist

  18. Perhaps the title should have been ‘Why Buddhists Should Consider Becoming Vegetarians’? This would have avoided ‘touching raw nerves’ of some of the contributors here!

    • I appreciate the sentiment, but I prefer not to wrap words around with pudding. What I am arguing is that it is morally preferable to refrain from eating meat, not that it is morally preferable to think about refraining from eating meat. ‘Should’ is not a dirty word; and it doesn’t mean ‘must’.

    • Bante, an even more appropriate title is “Why Buddhists Should be Vegans”. Dairy cattle suffer much more than beef cattle, first being milked and, when they run dry, then killed. Supporting the dairy industry is really no different from supporting the meat industry. The animals in both cases end up dead! All this is just my opinion and I could be deluded enough not to see the truth – that I admit.

      Life feeds on life… it’s the nature of this world. Sometimes, in the feeding chain, animals feed on animals that feed on other animals, and so on. Plenty of sentient beings are harmed and killed in both the cultivation of fields or the meat/dairy industry. Out of compassion, we should try to contribute as little as possible to all this suffering. I don’t think any person, Buddhist or otherwise, will disagree with this. I think, the first step is moderation in eating – we eat too much. This should be followed up by skillfull choice of foods that contribute to lesser suffering, according to the dictates of our own conscience. This is where veganism or vegetarianism comes in.

      One thing for sure, we cannot avoid all suffering – no matter what we eat. The Buddha did not advocate veganism or vegetarianism… If he did, then it’s like him saying it’s ok to harm sentient beings in the fields but it’s not ok to kill animals raised for food. Or, it’s ok to steal milk from cows – that which is not freely given is stealing. The Buddha was a wise and comassionate being and he taught the excellent Dhamma, a way to free ourselves from dukkha. He did want to advocate vetetarianism even when this was suggested to him (as per Pali cannon).

      Thanks again, Bante, for affording me the opportunity to engage in this discussion and ask your forgiveness if I have erred one way or other.

      With metta to all.

    • EDIT:

      “He did NOT want to advocate vetetarianism even when this was suggested to him (as per Pali cannon). “

  19. I have no doubt many Buddhist and infact, most human being with some exceptions, are indeed naturally kind and compassionate.
    But trying to change one’s diet is hard, else we would not be suffering from over consumption…..and we are….
    The heart says one thing, but the mouth craves sensual satisfaction….
    Even among the sincere yogis, the most important thing is that we learn to master our senses, yet there are few who are that strong in spirit to weather through decade after decade….
    I know of a young man who geniunely loves animals to bits, cried all the way home when he was young when he went fishing with his Dad who killed a catch infront of him, and yet could not last a week without meat on his plate….it was not lack of love or compassion, but mastery over his senses…

    • I guess the difference is that this young man saw the terrible agony when the fish was being killed whereas he had no clue about the suffering of the cow who provided the piece of meat on his plate.

      This is why I think that watching a video like Earthlings, http://www.earthlings.com will make a difference to most people – once people hear the agony and see the suffering of these innocent creatures it is not too hard to give the craving for the taste of meat.

      And, no, I do not have any interests, commercial or otherwise, in the organization that produced this video :-)

    • Thank you, i know of earthlings, recommended to me by a guy who used to stay at Bodhiyana. I will suggest the link…..

    • Dont think John Robbins is an MD, i got his book infront of me, still healthy at 100…
      Nourishing Tradition by Sally Fallon, though claimed to be of Weston Price Tradition, has fabulous recipe on cooking whole grains and legumes, based on long process of fermentation, which neutralizes natural toxins and make available more usable protein and minerals. For all those sincere vegans, please ensure you prepare proper meal combination to have enough nutrients. My husband worked at the Hippocrates Health Institute for 5 yrs, where he saw quite a few vegetarians with cancer, not because they were vegetarians, but he noted their diet has large amount of processed grains like white rice, pasta, baked products and plenty of sugar due to lack of nutrients….and also fruitarians with very bad teeth. May all beings be happy and well, may we all embrace Ahimsa….beginning with ourselves…
      Dearest Bhante, thank you for provoking our intelligence to think twice……

    • Thanks, Adrian, shes part of animal rights activist, my niece (vegan of course) is one of those, they are very radical, even if their cause meant well. I would not take her words as bible. But then again, no health books by anyone should be taken as bible.
      However, i will use her answers to start as research ground. She refers to The China Study which I have read twice, and will read again…
      Thanks for the link. I really appreciate it. I care about all living & non living beings, i also care deeply that we stay well & use no
      /minimal drugs etc that involves animal testing. And use minimal resources, lighten our footprints in every possible ways. May all beings be happy & well. And may all have enough to eat in this world…

    • People make the choice to be vegan because they can see many good reasons not to consume animal products but cannot find a single good reason to do so. And vegans are logical too. Congratulations to your niece.

  20. When I was still a layman living in the world, I was a vegan for a couple of years before I left to live in the monasteries.

    Actually I was a non-strict vegan. I would only buy, cook and prepare vegan food with some very limited exceptions (gelatin, and chocolate bars when I was on the road). However when I was invited to someone else’s house for a meal I would basically eat whatever they were eating. I would inform them that I was usually vegan, but that they didn’t have to prepare anything special for me. Actually most people would be good about it, for example by compromising and cooking vegetarian.

    There were a few reasons why I took this approach. The first being that I was simply trying to do my part to reduce suffering in the world, for me it wasn’t “the principle of the matter”, but rather the effect I was having on others, I didn’t feel like a hypocrite for eating cheese or meat at someone’s else place, since it wasn’t going against my values. I chose to only buy and prepare vegan food at home, and I chose to eat what other people were eating at their home, I was simply exercising my personal choice in the way I thought was most contextually appropriate.
    The second consideration was a purely practical one. I was living in the deep south of New Zealand, which is heartland “meat and three vegetables” territory. The option of cloistering myself with vegan friends was non-existent. If I wanted to have friends, then there needed to be compromise.
    The third consideration was a strategic one. Being a zealout can be tremendously off-putting for all but other zealouts. I would talk about being vegan a fair bit, it’s not like I pretended I wasn’t to fit in, I utterly enjoyed being openly different. Rather, I wanted to demonstrate that someone could exercise responsible choices and reduce their impact on the world without being a fanatic about it. The most basic way to put this, is before you can really influence other people, you need to connect with them, if your opposed to them then no influence is really possible. For human beings eating meals together (sharing food) is a major bonding activity, so my approach was to develop good will and respect first by making such interactions possible though compromise, and then influence them from that basis of goodwill and respect. In short, it was a strategic decision because I figured I’d be more effective at promoting plant-eating over meat-eating, by being compromising about it – because it shows that compromise is possible, it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing thing where you become a fanatical vegan, you can just start eating plants more often, and meat less often. If you are 95% vegan, that is 95% as good as being fully vegan in terms of reducing impact, but I think that 5% of compromise can be a great lubricant for social interaction.

    I think that’s actually the heart of it when it comes to the Buddha’s rules for monks. Monks should be compromising so they can enable the valuable social interaction of sharing food – including with people who haven’t been exposed to the ideas of harmlessness yet. But they should also try to exert influence by disallowing people to kill animals specifically for them, in other words, they should make a stand for the lives of other beings, but they shouldn’t do so to the point of being alienating. Of course the major influence, in the long run, should be exposure to the general ideas of kindness, gentleness, harmlessness and simplicity of life. I think that turning away from more harmful activities follows on naturally from adopting these qualities.

    And finally on a related topic, I’m also of the opinion that the diary industry is more awful and in-dignifying than the beef industry. It’s also quite possibly worse for people’s health. I spent only a very brief time as a vegetarian before converting to full vegan, and was immensely glad I did.

    Nandiya.

    • Such wonderful thoughts, Bhante. I really like this approach. Also, thank you to you and everyone else who has commented on the cruelty of the dairy industry. I can’t see myself going vegan yet, but as a result of what I’ve learned from this discussion I’m now going to swap my bowl of cereal in the morning for something non-milk. Cheers y’all! :D

    • Dear Beatrice, you can make almond milk, if you cannot take soy milk, 2 cups almond soaked overnight, rinse out, blend with 1.5 litres water, pour into cheese cloth over large bowl, squeeze out all milk, will last 3-4 days in fridge, can add cinnamon, cardamon etc

    • Some people are allergic to soy…
      Nut milk maybe an alternative if not allergic to nuts
      Also, especially women who has breast cancer or history of breast cancer in the family, soy consumption should be limited due to its high estrogenic effect. The Okinawans renowned for their longevity are the highest soy consumption, mainly on miso, tofu and tempeh. And estimate only 85g a day….. Note that their soy are largely fermented, not made from soy powder which a lot of soymilk are made from…..but here in australia, we can get good cheap organic one from macro or pure harvest brand….

    • soy makes me ill. In fact, vegetables make me ill- i literally cannot digest them and went to hospital a few times when i was vegeterian. Gave up on that. We evolved as hunter-gatherers anyways so meat is better for me.

      What i find is bad kamma, is when people prepare food for someone: whether it be pizza, chicken or anything that has meat- and the person refuses saying “i am vegeterian”- that really saddens me. It’s bad kamma to be mean to a person and throwing the food away. People have to pay more attention to what comes out of their mouth in speech and action than what goes in their mouth.

      I even came across a few people throwing a whole dish away because it had some clam sauce.. i mean, that is insanity. Food is food, just eat it. Also you won’t change the whole world or industry by being vegeterian, so it’s still fine buying meat. Kamma is intention.

  21. Hi,

    I am from indonesia and I really want to learn more about Theravada Buddhism in Australia later(maybe around 2-3 years later). After I read Ajahn Brahm’s book, I really found a monk who truly live the teachings of Theravada. I think maybe there are many good monks in australia like Ajahn Brahm. ;)

    So i think it would be better if I study the dhamma in there and also make excursions to the various temples in there.

    Is it would be difficult for me to find any temple in australia (specially ajahn brham’s monastery) if i am traveling alone? because i had never been to Australia before. What route should I take?

  22. Wow – thanks Bhante. This is indeed a powerful argument for vegetarianism today. I was vegetarian for about a decade and wrote about it a few times on my blog. I’ve lapsed in the last year or so for a variety of reasons – first health, literally being prescribed meat while living in India, then family, living with meat eaters and seeking to allow greater harmony at mealtime, and lately just a bit of willful ignorance, simply thinking that perhaps since I’m in England the meat is more ‘ethical’ than it would be in the US.

    Time to reconsider and rethink that vow toward cultivating the training in not harming living beings.

  23. Ajahn Sujato,
    I do enjoy reading your blog, I find it informative and eloquent, even if I don’t agree with this arguement. I myself tried to become vegan but unfortunately this lead to quite serious ill health so I have returned to eating meat, not everyone can be vegetarian. I choose a free range, organic, macrobiotic form of meat and I believe that I am doing the most I can to minimize the suffering this animal endures before becoming my meal. I agree that the practices of the meat industry inflicts needless suffering ; torture, confinement and slaughter. But I have resigned that by making an informed decision about my meat that I am extending as much compassion to this animal as I can. I feel that this animal has, itself, made the greatest sacrifice to nourish me and I include it in my merit dedication when I in turn sacrifice for others. I have found that an informed decision about all the products I buy has a good effect for the world at large. I buy free range eggs, recycleable packaging, organic vegetables, biodegradable detergents and cleaning products. I recycle,compost, use solar power and leave as small a carbon footprint as I can. Being vegetarian is not the answer, not for me anyway, I believe it is about choosing and encouraging the least damaging option for you as an individual, your community and the world.
    I would just like to know how those who swear a life of poverty and accepting alms, given by the Buddhist community, can be fussy about what they accept? Is it the right of the Sangha to question where offerings come from? What about communities that have a season of only eating meat because the ground freezes and they are unable to grow vegetables? In my limited experience it takes a lot of planning and substitution of foods to maintain a vegetarian diet, how do you condone putting these kinds of limitations on alms givers? And will this selective alms acceptance slowly spread to not accepting plastics, non- biodegradable soaps, products tested on animals because of the suffering they cause or the effects they can have? I am not ordained nor am I a scholar of the Buddhist teachings , but I do know what it feels like to be hungry and maybe the Buddha knew too, that people who have nothing and rely on the generosity of others can not afford to be fussy.

    • Hi Tina,

      You raise a lot of interesting details. I agree totally, actually implementing things is a lot more complex than simply working out an abstract moral code. And if we haven’t been in that situation we should be cautious before passing judgement.

      As far as the Sangha goes, yes, we just accept what is offered, and it is difficult to change things. Here at Santi everyone seems to have just naturally brought us vegetarian, so there’s no difficulty here.

      There is a difference, however, between making a moral case for something, and telling people what to offer you. By arguing for a certain ethical position, you are encouraging people to reflect. Whether this needs to be enforced as a regulation is another matter entirely.

      I would say the same thing applies in the other cases you mention. If we have the understanding of the ethical consequences of eating meat, then we have a general framework that can help us to guide our choices. In different contexts, however, those same ethical principles will work themselves out in different ways. The first thing to do is to say, well, okay, what do we do if there is no objection? If we assume that stopping from eating meat is reasonably possible, then what should we do? Even if only those people who can easily stop eating meat do so, the amount of suffering that is inflicted on animals will drop massively.

    • Great Blogsite,

      Does anyone have ideas of vegetarian for babies, kids and teenagers?

      Or know of any great recipes?

  24. Sadhu Bhante!

    This is a very concise, pertinent and important message!

    I have freely translated it into Brazilian Portuguese and made it freely available on the website: http://dhammarakkhita.blogspot.com/2012/01/porque-os-buddhistas-deveriam-ser.html

    Although I have not read all the comments and conversations through the page I noticed no one did reference for a very interesting website on the issue: http://www.shabkar.org/about/thesite/index.htm

    There you will be able to find a very interesting paper from James J. Stewart named “The Question of Vegetarianism and Diet in Pāli Buddhism” (see link: http://www.shabkar.org/download/pdf/The_Question_of_Vegetarianism_and_Diet_in_Pali_Buddhism.pdf )

    Another interesting point is that if one looks at the english translation of the texts of Ashoka Edicts will find a very interesting fragment that suggests that in the Early Buddhist Kindgom of Ashoka Maharaja the avoidance of the extraction, trading and consumption of animals was supported by the Buddhists (and even imposed to non-buddhists?!):

    “Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, speaks thus: Twenty-six years after my coronation various animals were declared to be protected — parrots, mainas, aruna, ruddy geese, wild ducks, nandimukhas, gelatas, bats, queen ants, terrapins, boneless fish, vedareyaka, gangapuputaka, sankiya fish, tortoises, porcupines, squirrels, deer, bulls, okapinda, wild asses, wild pigeons, domestic pigeons and all four-footed creatures that are neither useful nor edible.

    Those nanny goats, ewes and sows which are with young or giving milk to their young are protected, and so are young ones less than six months old. Cocks are not to be caponized, husks hiding living beings are not to be burnt and forests are not to be burnt either without reason or to kill creatures.

    *One animal is not to be fed to another.*

    On the three Caturmasis, the three days of Tisa and during the fourteenth and fifteenth of the Uposatha, fish are protected and not to be sold.

    *During these days animals are not to be killed in the elephant reserves or the fish reserves either.*

    On the eighth of every fortnight, on the fourteenth and fifteenth, on Tisa, Punarvasu, the three Caturmasis and other auspicious days, bulls are not to be castrated, billy goats, rams, boars and other animals that are usually castrated are not to be.

    On Tisa, Punarvasu, Caturmasis and the fortnight of Caturmasis, horses and bullocks are not be branded.”

    Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/dhammika/wheel386.html

    Hope this helps!

    Let there be happiness!

  25. Dear Bhante Sujato,

    many thanks for your great article about this very important topic. It is sad that a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle is not much discussed in buddhist circles.

    Concerning practical advice how to stay healthy on a vegan diet I would recommend going to: http://www.veganhealth.org.

    • Thanks, Stefan.

      Vegetarianism is a major part of East Asian Buddhism, but not mentioned much elsewhere. The incomparable bhikkhuni Ven Chao Huei is one of the leading animal rights activists in Taiwan.

  26. Published on Wednesday, February 15, 2012 by Common Dreams

    Report: One in Four Children Afflicted With Malnutrition

    “Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition.”

    – Common Dreams staff

    A report out today shows the toll of malnutrition on the world’s youngest, with half a billion children at risk of permanent damage due to malnutrition in the next 15 years.

    The report from Save the Children, “A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition,” details the widespread problem of chronic malnutrition which leaves children susceptible to childhood diseases and at further risk when acute malnutrition hits.

    photo: Anne-Sofie Helms/Save the Children

    “Malnutrition is a largely hidden crisis, but it afflicts one in four children around the world,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO of Save the Children. “It wreaks lifelong damage and is a major killer of children. Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition.”

    “It’s time for a paradigm shift. The world can no longer afford to wait until visibly emaciated children grab headlines to inspire the action these children need and deserve. Unfortunately for millions of the world’s chronically malnourished children, permanent damage to their physical and intellectual development is not as obvious, and so it’s too often overlooked,” said Miles.

    “Investment in agriculture is clearly important to making sure production keeps up with a growing population,” said Miles. “But let’s not forget, right now the world produces enough food to feed everybody, and yet one third of children in developing countries are malnourished. Clearly, just growing more food is not the answer.”

    Assumpta Ndumi, anutrition expert who runs programs in East Africa with Save the Children, writes today on Al Jazeera:

    The solutions are clear, proven and cheap. Making sure babies are breastfed properly and ensuring that children’s foods are fortified with basic vitamins and minerals can have an instant and dramatic impact on their health. Targeting the poorest with special help and ensuring they have access to health-care has equally dramatic positive results.

    But none of this will happen on its own. Without the political will to stamp out chronic malnutrition, such knowledge will not benefit those who need it most and the world’s poorest will once again be left behind.

    We know what we can do if the momentum is there. The four million children a year whose lives have already been saved by international efforts to stamp out child mortality are living, breathing testament to what can be achieved if the issue is confronted head-on.

    But to date, malnutrition has not yet had the same benefit of high-profile campaigning and investment as the other major drivers of child mortality, like HIV/AIDS, lack of access to vaccines and malaria. We cannot allow this imbalance to continue. The time for action has come.

    The report outlines six measures to combat the problem including harnessing agriculture to help tackle malnutrition with governments supporting small-scale farmers and female farmers, and filling the health worker gap to supporing health workers and deploying them where they are most needed.

  27. Writing from rural Kolkata, having just finished a pilgrimage to the holy sites. Here we stay surrounded by poverty, malnutrition, and suffering, which make your description of the evils of factory-farming seems somewhat unreal and irrelevant. Here people live with their few cows, buffaloes, and goats and caring for them is full time.

    Obvious question, if factory-farming is bad, why not work to get it reformed through tough legislation?

    Having been a vegetarian for more than 30 years, I certainly feel it is a good way of life, although not always easy. We have some good stories of trying to be vegetarian in Japan, where some amazing things can get slipped into a salad.

    What you don’t seem to appreciate or value nearly enough is the Buddha’s momumental accomplishment in establishing his Dispensation and instituting his Sangha so wisely that it has lasted for 2600 years. Despite the hostility and depredations of Brahmanism and the violence of the Mogul invaders, Buddhism has survived and spread, flourishing for the welfare of the world, us included.

    Had the Buddha made vegetarianism the norm, the Sasana would not have lasted. It was noticable that the only Jain temple in Savathi is locked up most of the time – there just aren’t that many Jains around. Ah, but you know best, right?

    Quite honestly, for you, Ven. Sujato, as a Buddhist monk, to utter words critical of the Buddha’s wisdom, judgment and morality seems to me to be a great fault. To create doubt in lay people about the Triple Gem is, to my mind, a sin.

    When you wrote: “Buddhists Should be Vegetarian” followed by your first paragraph: “The Buddha ate meat. This is a fairly well attested fact. The issue of vegetarianism is addressed a few times in the Suttas, notably the Jivaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. The Buddha consistently affirmed that monastics were permitted to eat meat, as long as it was not killed intentionally for them. 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.” Here, aren’t you accusing the Buddha of making a mistake, being less ethical than he should have been? Less ethical than you? If I’m misunderstanding you, please excuse me.

    You could also say that Buddhists should all be pacifists, good people, honest in every way, kindly, charitable, just, fair, etc. We should all be enlightened too, but most of us are far from it. Practice makes perfect but not on demand, not just with wishing it to be so.

    Later you add: “To return to the basic problem. As Buddhists, we expect that the Buddha kept the highest possible ethical conduct. And for the most part, he did. So if the Buddha allowed something, we feel there can’t be anything wrong with it. There is nothing dogmatic or unreasonable about such an expectation. When we read the Suttas and the Vinaya, we find again and again that the Buddha’s conduct was, indeed, of the highest order.” I have to wonder how you dare question the Buddha’s ethical conduct?

    The reasons the Buddha gives in the Suttavibbhanga for proclaiming vinaya rules for restraint (when he declared the first parajika), go like this: “On account of this, monks, I will make known the course of training for monks, founded on ten reasons: (1) for the excellence of the Order, (2) for the comfort of the Order, (3) for the restraint of evil-minded men, (4) for the ease of well-behaved monks, (5) for the restraint of cankers belonging to the here and now, (6) for the combating of the cankers belonging to other worlds, (7) for the benefit of non-believers, (8) for the increase in the number of believers, (9) for establishing dhamma indeed, (10) for following the rules of restraint.”(SV1:37)

    These rules of restraint are intended for you, as a monk. You ought to consider carefully before you write criticism of the Teacher and ask yourself whether you are not overestimating yourself and your experience, setting yourself up as wiser than the fully-enlightened Buddha and furthermore, whether what you say will enhance the faith of those already believing? Will it encourage faith in those not yet believing?

    You say: “For those of us who have been blessed enough to have encountered the Dhamma, we have found it to be an uplifting and wise guide to life.” Words which are entirely inadequate to describe what some of us feel we have found in the Dhamma, in which we take our refuge! Such paltry praise might better suit a book review on Amazon of some popular self-help book.

    Even that lukewarm praise is further weakened when you continue: “And yet: we cannot let our ethical choices be dictated by ancient texts. Right and wrong are too important. The scriptures do not contain everything, and do not answer every question. As Buddhists, we take the texts seriously, and do not lightly discard their lessons. Yet there is a difference between learning from scripture and submitting to it.”

    “There are some things that the scriptures simply get wrong. The Suttas make no critique of slavery, for example, and yet for us this is one of the most heinous of all crimes.”

    Stuff and nonsense!! Mara offered the Buddha the opportunity to give up his quest and rule the world. He wasn’t tempted. Why? Because he understood suffering and aimed for the ending of suffering. Had he become a monarch he might have temporarily ended slavery but that would have been a minor, temporary accomplishment. A Buddha is and does so much more.

    What is there about rich, privileged white men who know everything better than anybody else? Consider how much recent history involves rich white men ostensibly helping poor women of color by waging wars and killing their men! That’s the line of BS that we keep hearing about why we have to destroy Afghanistan ….

    Some days it seems that we are surrounded by arrogant, privileged white males preaching that women, slaves and animals and the whole world need saving and this (or that) is the only way to do it.

    You wrote: “We live in a very different world today than the Buddha lived in, and Buddhist ethics, whatever else they may be, must always be a pragmatic response to real world conditions.” And thus aren’t you revealing your limited world view?

    Too bad that the Buddha just didn’t have your experience or your knowledge or your wisdom. Never mind that the Dhamma is universal and that the Buddha, through his innumerable lives became knower of worlds, still, you seem to be saying, he didn’t really know as much as you.

    “Animals suffer much more today than they did 2500 years ago. In the Buddha’s time, and indeed everywhere up until the invention of modern farming, animals had a much better life. Chickens would wander round the village, or were kept in a coop. Cows roamed the fields. The invention of the factory farm changed all this. Today, the life of most meat animals is unimaginable suffering. I won’t go into this in detail, but if you are not aware of the conditions in factory farms, you should be. Factory farms get away with it, not because they are actually humane, but because they are so mind-bendingly horrific that most people just don’t want to know. We turn away, and our inattention allows the horror to continue.”

    “So, as compared with the Buddha’s day, eating meat involves far more cruelty, it damages the environment, and it creates diseases. If we approach this question as one of weights and balance, then the scales have tipped drastically to the side of not eating meat.”

    Arrogant, privileged white men have given us industrialization, capitalism, communism, wars conventional, wars nuclear, plastic, the internal combustion engine, nuclear power, mountain-top removal, advertising, chemical warfare, napalm, depleted uranium, colonialism, wars of liberation, wars on drugs, genetically modified crops, bee colony collapse, global warming, SUVs, species extinction, industrialized agriculture, strip mining, clear cutting, fracking, corporate personhood, over-fishing, air pollution, noise pollution, human trafficking, culture wars, attention deficit disorder, erectile dysfunction, holes in the ozone, and so much more. You seem to want to claim that becoming vegan is a silver bullet solution to all problems. Sheer delusion.

    Even throwing in giving up cars for bikes, sails for airplanes, open windows for air conditioning and warmer clothes for heat, this world’s problems are not going to go away easily. If all the rich white folks took up simpler lives, then maybe the poor brown and black people of the world might deign to listen to you talking about vegetarianism.

    For privileged white men of the upper middle class it may be true that “Becoming vegetarian does not involve any huge sacrifices or moral courage. It just takes a little restraint and care. This is even more so today, when there is a wide range of delicious, cheap, nutritious vegetarian foods available. The choice of becoming vegetarian is, of all moral choices we can make, one of the most beneficial, at the smallest cost to ourselves.”

    Becoming a vegetarian is certainly a good choice for lots of people (unless they become proud and obnoxious about it!) Here in India, huge numbers of people are malnourished and sometimes animals are more comfortable/better off than people.

    Perhaps we all need to meditate more on what suffering, as the Buddha used the term, means. The animal realm is a woeful state; it is not a happy place. Happy little chicks running after their mother, still have to scratch to survive and they are unable to make many moral choices or improve their lot. Rats and cockroaches may be doing very nicely, thank you. Please think a little more about who you mean as “we.” As a monk, please accept what you are given, reflect on it and use it to sustain life while practicing diligently

    PS Delighted that you used our photo of pindapata in Flint — we explained to our neighbors that the monks would receive any prepared food they wished to offer and many were happy to have their first opportunity to offer to monks on almsrounds.

    PA

    • I am sure if the person who wrote this comment re-reads the article, letting go of some of the bias he/she apparently has towards Bhante Sujato, will understand his point, his suggestion for wise reflection.

      There is no sin in trying to thinking beyond the texts, wisely reflection is a very important part of a true buddhist’s practical cultivation.

      It saddens me to see this kind of comment in such a nice post as this, specially if it comes from a lay person (which I prefer to assume as a true bhikkhu would refrain from publicly pointing fingers and exposing his bias towards another bhikkhu to the whole world).

      May there be understanding and wisdom, for it comes together with true morality and ethics!

      GNL

  28. Visakha wrote: “What is there about rich, privileged white men who know everything better than anybody else? Consider how much recent history involves rich white men ostensibly helping poor women of color by waging wars and killing their men! That’s the line of BS that we keep hearing about why we have to destroy Afghanistan ….Some days it seems that we are surrounded by arrogant, privileged white males preaching that women, slaves and animals and the whole world need saving and this (or that) is the only way to do it. Arrogant, privileged white men have given us industrialization……”

    What has gender, race and colour of skin got to do with this post? Bringing them in is irrelevant. I do not see Bhante Sujato approaching this issue from a white male supremacist viewpoint. He may have white skin but the issue of vegetarianism transcends race, gender, culture, national borders and religion. He discussed the issue from many angles because he is kind and compassionate not just in theory but in practice.

    The Buddha wasn’t a racist and Bhante isn’t one either. In fact from his postings he has been fair to all. There isn’t any need for any blogger here to resort to racial remarks like these.

  29. “Had the Buddha made vegetarianism the norm, the Sasana would not have lasted” possibly that is the whole point and i think Bhante Sujato is just saying that by stating Buddhist should be vego – but obviously it would not be realistic to expect this considering that lay people may not have had teh means to give only vegetarian food.

    I don’t think it is white men who are the ones that are trying desperately to keep women out of the Dharma, can there be a bigger sin than that?

    I am surprised that where you are you as a women are allowed to have a thought or an opinion anyway ….at least you can on this blogsite. Would you not be jailed abused and/or hung in the public square if you expressed your views on your travels with the “men” in those countries. Try doing that in Afganistan.

    Possibly you would be one of those uneducated villages, tied to a life of looking after kids you can’t afford and milking cows all day while at night looking after his family and doing what his mother tells you to do.

  30. I am unsubscribing from this site, too many names calling….I will stick to my yoga practise and continue on with my regular dana & meditation retreats instead…. :(
    My utmost respect still to Bhante Sujato & Ajahm Brahm….i

    • I’m sorry to hear that, Jacqui. It is always difficult to construct a useful dialogue on the internet, and I feel very sad that many people seem to respond to what I say by name-calling and irrelevant slurs. I try to promote a healthy dialogue by encouraging and supporting the useful comments, and not engaging with the silliness. Drawing the line between justifiable criticism and abuse is not an easy one.

    • I think you should change your title then. Don’t say ” Why Buddhist should be vegeterian” -> that implies you want to change Buddhism. Buddhism is NOT vegeterian and food has very little to do with the path to Nibbana. Discuss Dhamma yes, not rituals, preferences, views and food.
      If you want a healthier dialogue- then please change the title to something more gentle. How about “food discussion” or something like that . Not “..Buddhism should be vegeterian”. Because nothing in Buddhism is vegeterian nor should it be. Being vegeterian won’t get you out of samsara, so please keep these opinions to yourself. Just stick to teaching the Dhamma please. I enjoy your blogs but really don’t think you should talk about politics nor diet. These issue are not part of the path and are issues that are very gentle. No politics and food on Buddhist blogs please.

    • Jacquie,

      That is a pity, I have found some of you posts really informative and useful and actually made your almond milk.

      mcd

  31. That should say, “if you were a women over there instead of travelling around and doing the obviously good and couragious work you are doing you would instead be spending your days tied to a life of looking after kids you can’t really afford, and milking cows all day, washing in a suer, while at night looking after your husbands family and doing what his mother tells you to do in the evenings..

    (Or conversely studying for you third or fouth masters degree… which seem to be the disparity, like why do women over there either seem really poor and down trodden or the total opposite, Dr lawyers, phd’s, CEO’s etc) …

  32. Hi everyone,

    I’m stunned at how defensive people are getting about this – it made me think that attitudes to vegetarianism might be a really interesting area for psychological study. So I did some rough searching of the literature and it turns out psychologisists have given it a little bit of attention (but not much). I came across an interesting study that had a media article about the research, so have a look if it interests you:

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100715091654.htm

    • Thanks for the link. Extremely interesting indeed. We’ve been a vegetarian for 30 years but try hard to be quiet about it — people who eat meat are sometimes very sensative (ie guilty) about it. We do find that if our dishes come first, friends have no qualms about enjoying them, meaning that we sometimes have to reorder to get anything we can eat ;-)

  33. Bhante- Please don’t try to control others. Devadatta tried to make a rule to make monks be vegeterian and the Buddha did not allow this.

    It’s better to put energy and focus into abandoning the hindrances, getting people to practice the Eightfold path & abandon greed and hatred. I met many nasty and angry vegeterians that arrogantly think that they are somehow superior by being vegeterian. This is like a rite or ritual.

    Better to teach people the Eightfold path and Dhamma, rather than try to make people conform to your views. Please stop.

    • Every day, food is an integral part of our lives. We celebrate with it, socialize around it, and shove it down when we don’t have time to think about it. With the Earth’s population topping 7 billion, our food choices are having a profound impact on our planet, and not only for the future. There are detrimental effects present now. Our food also affects billions of animals caught in an ever increasingly industrial system of farming.

      What goes into our mouths is volitional. At times we may not be able to control what comes out of them but we can certainly control what goes in at all times. In our ignorance and delusion we fail to think that there are few consequences resulting from what we put into our mouths.

      Consider the many, varied and intimately interlinked consequences including the lives of many sentient beings, human and especially animal, our health, environmental and kammic. I won’t elaborate because this has already been previously covered and discussed but do we really want to support the wrong livelihoods of slaughter persons, butchers and animal traders? Think about the the horrendous kammic consequences that will befall them.

      Right livelihood is a factor in the Noble Eightfold Path. Surely if we are practising that Path we should do all we can to live a rightly and not contribute even indirectly to supporting those who have wrong livelihoods.

  34. The Buddha recommended this way to look at food.

    Puttamansa Sutta – A Son’s Flesh

    Thus have I heard. Once Buddha was staying at Savatthi…
    “There are these four nutriments for the maintenance of beings who have come into being or for the support of those in search of a place to be born. Which four? Physical food, gross or refined; contact as the second, intellectual intention the third, and consciousness the fourth. These are the four nutriments for the maintenance of beings who have come into being or for the support of those in search of a place to be born.
    “And how is physical food to be regarded? Suppose a couple, husband and wife, taking meager provisions, were to travel through a desert. With them would be their only baby son, dear and appealing. Then the meager provisions of the couple going through the desert would be used up and depleted while there was still a stretch of the desert yet to be crossed. The thought would occur to them, ‘Our meager provisions are used up and depleted while there is still a stretch of this desert yet to be crossed. What if we were to kill this only baby son of ours, dear and appealing, and make dried meat and jerky. That way — chewing on the flesh of our son — at least the two of us would make it through this desert. Otherwise, all three of us would perish.’ So they would kill their only baby son, loved and endearing, and make dried meat and jerky. Chewing on the flesh of their son, they would make it through the desert. While eating the flesh of their only son, they would beat their breasts, [crying,] ‘Where have you gone, our only baby son? Where have you gone, our only baby son?’ Now what do you think, monks: Would that couple eat that food playfully or for intoxication, or for putting on bulk, or for beautification?”
    “No, lord.”
    “Wouldn’t they eat that food simply for the sake of making it through that desert?”
    “Yes, lord.”
    “In the same way, I tell you, is the nutriment of physical food to be regarded. When physical food is comprehended, passion for the five strings of sensuality is comprehended. When passion for the five strings of sensuality is comprehended, there is no fetter bound by which a disciple of the noble ones would come back again to this world.
    “And how is the nutriment of contact to be regarded? Suppose a flayed cow were to stand leaning against a wall. The creatures living in the wall would chew on it. If it were to stand leaning against a tree, the creatures living in the tree would chew on it. If it were to stand exposed to water, the creatures living in the water would chew on it. If it were to stand exposed to the air, the creatures living in the air would chew on it. For wherever the flayed cow were to stand exposed, the creatures living there would chew on it. In the same say, I tell you, is the nutriment of contact to be regarded. When the nutriment of contact is comprehended, the three feelings [pleasure, pain, neither pleasure nor pain] are comprehended. When the three feelings are comprehended, I tell you, there is nothing further for a disciple of the noble ones to do.
    “And how is the nutriment of intellectual intention to be regarded? Suppose there were a pit of glowing embers, deeper than a man’s height, full of embers that were neither flaming nor smoking, and a man were to come along — loving life, hating death, loving pleasure, abhorring pain — and two strong men, having grabbed him by the arms, were to drag him to the pit of embers. To get far away would be that man’s intention, far away would be his wish, far away would be his aspiration. Why is that? Because he would realize, ‘If I fall into this pit of glowing embers, I will meet with death from that cause, or with death-like pain.’ In the same say, I tell you, is the nutriment of intellectual intention to be regarded. When the nutriment of intellectual intention is comprehended, the three forms of craving [for sensuality, for becoming, and for non-becoming] are comprehended. When the three forms of craving are comprehended, I tell you, there is nothing further for a disciple of the noble ones to do.
    “And how is the nutriment of consciousness to be regarded? Suppose that, having arrested a thief, a criminal, they were to show him to the king: ‘This is a thief, a criminal for you, your majesty. Impose on him whatever punishment you like.’ So the king would say, ‘Go, men, and shoot him in the morning with a hundred spears. So they would shoot him in the morning with a hundred spears. Then the king would say at noon, ‘Men, how is that man?’ ‘Still alive, your majesty.’ So the king would say, ‘Go, men, and shoot him at noon with a hundred spears. So they would shoot him at noon with a hundred spears. Then the king would say in the evening, ‘Men, how is that man?’ ‘Still alive, your majesty.’ So the king would say, ‘Go, men, and shoot him in the evening with a hundred spears. So they would shoot him in the evening with a hundred spears. Now what do you think, monks: Would that man, being shot with three hundred spears a day, experience pain and distress from that cause?”
    “Even if he were to be shot with only one spear, lord, he would experience pain and distress from that cause, to say nothing of three hundred spears.”
    “In the same say, I tell you, monks, is the nutriment of consciousness to be regarded. When the nutriment of consciousness is comprehended, name and form are comprehended. When name and form are comprehended, I tell you, there is nothing further for a disciple of the noble ones to do.”
    – Samyutta Nikaya XII

    • Dear Bhante
      It’s Joanne here (Moon’s wife). May I please email you something? It’s quite long and not suitable for posting but it relates to this blog and partly to the talk you gave on Friday too.
      Thank you :)

  35. 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.

    • Hi Bhante, do take your time. Would require your kind help as I can’t locate the references you mentioned. Thank you :-] With Metta.

    • 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 :-]

    • 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…

    • 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: ‘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.’

  36. Greetings Bhante,

    I’m coming a bit late to the party here, but I wanted to pass along this link that you may be interested in: http://www.shabkar.org (“Shabkar.org is a non-sectarian website dedicated to vegetarianism as a way of life for Buddhists of all schools.The site takes its name from Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdrol (1781-1851), the great Tibetan yogi who espoused the ideals of vegetarianism.”) Shabkar was a amazing master if you choose to read more about him.

    You will find some nice resources within the site here: http://www.shabkar.org/vegetarianism/index.htm

    Kind regards…

  37. Thank you very much Ajahn Sujato for posting this article, what you wrote I found really inspiring and think it makes sense.

    I’ve been trying to incorporate virtue and also some of the Bhuddist teachings into my life in the recent years. So in 2011 I became a vegetarian.
    However, living in a non-vegetarian family (and thus feeling somewhat recalcitrant as a vegetarian) and having come accross the Bhuddist attitude toward vegetarianism I sometimes felt quite dispirited and sometimes was even close to giving vegetarianism up again.

    I remained vegetarian, and interestingly I did so for almost exactly the same reasons that you present in this article. So I am really happy to have found at least one Bhuddist monk sharing my opinions about vegetarianism. :)

  38. Wow this is one of the most inspiring articles I have read.I am a vegetarian and have been since a young age, Because I felt compassion for Animals and could not eat them. I have always had a dilemma with Buddhist , because they eat meat, but preach Compassion, it Always seems contradicting. I was attracted to Buddhism , but did not follow it up because of this dilemma, so I became a Vaishnava instead. Because they follow the main aspects of Buddhist principles and are strict vegetarians . I think you are one of the only Forest Buddhist that advocates vegetarianism. I would really like to meet you. I have lately been attracted to The Forest tradition . And Feel more comfortable Eating a bowl of food with no meat in it. Thank you ..

  39. Maybe useful:

    On an internet forum of a German monastery there was a question about food and Buddhism:

    „Buddhism and diet: Do Buddhist have the right to take something from animals?”

    It’s maybe a little generalize and there are also Buddhists who nourish in a vegan way. For example: why do we take milk form cows, which is in its proposition not for us, but for their calves. Meanwhile they are lesser and lesser treated to the milk of their mother, but cuddled up with other fluids, fatted and murdered. Of cause not from Buddhists, but in feeding on milk and the products out of it, we also accept the killing of calves or the sweating of the cows! For sure, in the times of Buddha it wasn’t that extreme, but today it is!

    It’s the same with eggs from chicken and other bird, which should result as their offspring. While we eat them, we accept the killing of male chicks. If we eat for example one egg a day, there would except 70 chicken being abused and killed and male chicks of the same amount after hatching been pureed or gassed.
    Even if monks have to eat all which was offered to them, it would be easy for lay people to bring it home and change it! Of cause Buddha refused to let his monks become Vegetarians, but in those days there was no factory farming and also laypeople would not had eat meat every day or given to monks. It is something that quarrels inside of myself since a longer time; how to handle this: As the Buddha had given the precepts to everyone, I guess it is necessary to think about it nowadays.

    What is your view?

    That’s of cause a topic, which leads the whole Buddhist community permanently to an issue of discussion and to speculate.
    Even if it may sound strange, but it is exact the anchor-less situation which leads where it should lead to. We can also say, that it’s the force to constantly change ones livelihood and eventually bring it to an optimum, whereupon the optimum is not found in nostrums, nostrums which regard less or even no mindfulness.

    Basically we have to discern between eating meat and crave for meat and thereby keep or eyes on compassion (virtue). This compassion can be of much value to help ourselves to get engage with our actual problem and this is actually our hunger or thirst (i.e. greed, craving).

    If there is no craving, there is no suffering, neither for us nor for ourselves. If there is no craving for meat, there is no share on the death of a being.

    Now we could come to the conclusion – and there are enough who think in this way – that the solution could be found in a vegetarian or vegan craving. To abstain from the pleasure of meat is for sure a well first training, if somebody is strongly consumed to the pleasure out of it. But as it is the case, greed and the suffering that is conditioned by it, appears as a utterly law of nature, which will become clear if we spend some honest thoughts on: how many living beings need to be systematical destroyed – not to thing on their habitats, which we take from other being (animals) – to come to vegetarian food? Although there are no clear references in the scripts, that plants themselves are no living beings and not part of Saṃsāra (to uphold an opposite look for example “Vāsettha Sutta” MN 98, where plants are mentioned in the devolution of becoming).
    There are even remarks, whereupon plant are classified on a very holly level, if one likes to start with a discrimination of life forms in Saṃsāra (some scientific studies can be found in Plants in Early Buddhism – the Far Eastern Idea of the Buddha Nature of Grasses and Trees) . There are many who construct diverse ideas about sensitivity, no sensitive or sentiment beings, and believe that there is no problem in hurting a living being which is not able to feel. But also in the famous Ahi – Sutta (AN 4.67), which Buddha provided his disciples to protect them against harm – after a monk died, caused by a snack bite – does not allow any discrimination between different kinds of live:

    May all creatures (sata),
    all breathing things (pāṇā),
    all beings (bhūtā)
    — each & every one —
    meet with good fortune.
    May none of them come to any evil.

    This wish, this kind of unlimited goodwill naturally can only be developed in a livelihood which makes it possible to adopt a way of acting which is in accordance with this thought. Otherwise it would be just an hypocritical attitude, which would cause you stresses and strains sooner or later and would not protect at all. Anyway, it is important to keep the measure in regard to ones honest conscious about what is spotted as a being, without letting this measurement being a comfortable excuse.

    The more circumspectly the consciousness in regard of the plurality of fellow living beings grows, the more pure it matures that it is not really the kind of food that actually matters, but more over a matter of how one comes to his food. It is always intention that leads to an act and that is also the place where we should or need to work.

    So moderation and reduction of sense desires has priority in the Buddhist practice, adverse models or ideas which would enable us to rest and give real virtue a lesser rank. “Live feeds on live.” That is a truth, which the Buddha-to-become – according a story – realized with horror as a he was a child, taking part on a harvest festival with his king father. He could not share the joy of the people while he observed the oxen struggle in the field and while the plough demolished everything running into it. Sitting aside and watching the nature he observed: The insect feeds on the flower, the frog feeds on the insect, the snake catches the frog, the eagle assails down on the snake, the hunter shoots the eagle and the remains of the hunter will feed the flower in the future.

    With this determination, the whole mass of suffering in the world becomes clear and broad and with it inevitably emerges the aspiration which lies behind the Noble Eightfold Path: The escape from the wheel of rebirth and death, the sealing of anadipsia for identification, the ending of craving, possible even in this very existence.

    To concern oneself intensively and honest with the food chain, seeing oneself being a part of it and facing the suffering, is equal in meeting the heavenly messenger. Whoever meets the three heavenly messengers (aging, sickness and death) face to face and has the fortune to come in contact which the teachings of the Buddha (which would be the fourth messenger), will in all probability start to develop right view, which is the entrance of the eightfold path.

    “And what is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: This is called right view.”

    — DN 22

    Here the „Knowledge with regard to stress“ is the unavoidable ascertainment that all compounded things, all which has come to birth is subject to aging, sickness and death and it’s also clear that all this things are subject to suffering. The food chain underlies the chain of codependent arising – “the origination of stress” – and the fact, that there is also a changeable cause in depending arising mentioned the “cessation of stress” as a possible solution and turns out to the “the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress”.

    Right view is the forerunner on the Eightfold Path and is responsible if the practice is effective and successful or not. As long as we seek for an way around it and run after it, we secretly keep the view that there is an worthy alternative to the Eightfold path. The believed alternatives divert us constantly from the path and lead us often to seeking refuge in philosophical bears to justify or intentions.

    Right view lead without fail to right intention (resolve):
    “And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill-will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.”

    — SN 45.8

    Here we find already the first appendages to improve the situation in regard of nourishment, which is the forerunner of compassion but also of wisdom: “The resolve on on renunciation and the resolve on harmlessness”

    Right intention is the origin of right speech, right action and consequently lead to right livelihood. All these path factors are turning around on right effort to bring them into a perfection in which a kind of virtue is developed that makes our mind easier and protects us form additional defilement (mostly very subtle and unconscious) out of the everyday life, as well as it takes more and more regard on other beings.

    One might think that right speech does not act a part in regard of food, but we will see, that right speech in terms of questions like “how should I feed?” may have a lot of influence, for example if there are given recommendations.

    “And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.”

    — SN 45.8

    In right speech are the two elements, intention to renunciation and the intention to harmlessness included. As it seems, our society has naturally developed a kind of intention to abstain form harming and hatred as well as harmfully ways are broadly considered as something negatively and sorrow inductively among the most people. That is why we do not find any alive animals on our meat markets today, as it is still usual in the most countries of Southeast Asia. On one hand it’s a nice situation but on the other, it’s a very trappy jugglery, which leads us easy into illusion, if we would not be heedful investigate beyond the suggestion around us. There has been developed a broadly demand on “clean” food, but it is the nature of market to feed on craving and this greed seeks for its ways anyway, as well as craving seeks for ways to increase market to escape from obvious critics. However, the decision is due to whom who leads an action, where ever he might be in this moment.

    Through nice packing and through manufacturing till reaching unrecognizable conditions, the complexity of this lie easily suggest many, that we live in a very cure world but the suffering behind is just banished and hidden behind the walls of our palaces. For a virtues Person, it would be easier possible to come to food in a wholesome way anywhere in an “undeveloped” Country, as he would and could take care of the whole process till he gains food by himself, if he is mindful. If he feels the need for a coconut, he is able to climb carefully up the palm and is able to gain some food without hurting countless beings or even kill them. As for the “modern” Human, who has become the victim of his own snugness over the centuries, it has grown much more difficult, even if the most people from poor countries would regard their way of live much lesser sorrowful. How comport is able to “avenge” we are able to face this nowadays easily, thinking on lifestyle-related illnesses and diseases and we will also be able to draw the line to the appearance of a multiplicity of psychological diseases.
    Now there are numerous lies or excuses we favor and adopt, which displace the wise way of renunciation and modesty iteratively. One of those would be “If you are compassionate, do not eat meat”, which leads till vegan diet and all its health and providing stresses, as well as to countless new discoveries, rejections and with it to a mass of time waste. At least it runs out into some ascetic self harming perversions. Next to the running refrigerator, special manufacturing and the business boom of diet for those who like to be the good, it’s easy to lose sight of the burning rainforests in our world, which are at least the places where all saints of the three times have been (and maybe will) developed and gained their wisdom, and now are systematically cleared and disappear step by step as well as their inhabitants, not less for the sake – many might call – “the good”.

    Now there are also constantly growing ideas of gently killing and “species-appropriate” husbandry and rearing of “food”, which is of cause attached to feelings of pity and guilty but for sure not with thoughts of compassionate origin. Therefore it is very important issue to explain the aim, the underlying intention and kind of acting of a disciple of the Buddha very exactly and haunting, not display a lie which causes much more misery, more as if one would to abstain from giving any advice.

    That across-the-board ideas are leading also to enmity is also easy to seen, if we look to the ongoing discussions of the different schools about “what a Layman and a Monks should eat”. And here we find the third aspect of the right intention “freedom from ill-will (free from enmity)”. A struggle of “who is the more compassionate” and forgetting just to focus on one’s own virtue (which is more secure that ideas of compassion) as well as unexplained criticism on the livelihood of others, can (and do) lead to long-lasting antagonism. We are all not perfect yet and only less of us are living according to the highest virtue aside of the ordinary live.

    Therefore is very good to remember the own right intention and to internalize it entire, as it operates on both sides of the coin – aversion and passion – and this provides the mean that leads to success, aside of extremes, on the middle path and is pulling on the real cause, by coeval letting go of hypocritical thesis and putting things into action. Sometimes it’s even necessary to stay silent about nourishment, if someone’s capability of comprehension is lacking.

    If we continue form speech to action, it’s clear that not-harming not-killing is the highest precept in our training. But it is also nessesary to keep in mind “We are not perfect yet, but we are earnestly willing to sharpen our ways” Here it is important to see the intention in relation to the present understanding – the awareness – to find the right solution. And we do best if there are fewer speculations.

    “And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity. This is called right action.”
    — SN 45.8

    If we are in the situation of a laity live, we will try our best to abstain from taking life. Now there could be the case that someone is building the bridge, that he is not killing if he is buys meat form the butcher or from the supermarket. This bridge after it is erected, breaks down, when we consider if the butcher would slaughter pigs if there is nobody who appetite for its meat.

    The intention and it’s caused desire do have – even it looks indirectly – direct impacts. It may look different if somebody offers meat out of a non-commercial intention (e.g. emergency slaughter or death of a animal). There is also no real reason to reject an offer of meat if it is given without intention of gaining a return and if it does not draw a disconcerted picture to others. If friends or benefactor just hold the believe, that one would like to eat meat but is just not allowed to kill, it could be easy that this offer has an unwholesome intention behind. So there is no way to go around the necessity to declare ones attitude towards life exactly, if one does not like seeing others be forced to unwholesome deeds as well. This will also close the backside door of dispending responsibilities and keep us working on our desires and the roots of it. If we know that somebody is killing or orders to kill for our own sake, we would not only except, but also nourish it and gain our sure share of it. So a meat faddist is not able to rest behind a well expressed and maintained excuse without burden his conscience knowingly or unaware. The same way would work for the vegetarian faddist, if he would refuse offered, and reject whatever is near.

    Hence it grows clearly, that one automatically will eat relatively less meat, even one does not abstain form eating meat, but by “only” abstaining form taking live.

    Regarding the vegetarian nutriment, it’s maybe good to keep „abstaining from stealing” a little in mind. The closer food might be, the lesser one would take something which is owned by others respectively causes others heavy burdens. The regional seasonal vegetable might be a little beside of one’s amenity, but do not carry that much unwholesome side effects, as it would, if we demand on exotic fruits from oversea. From our neighbor (that might be our farmers and farm shops) we know more exactly how they come to be able to sell their grown food. We might be not shocked – as we might have experienced already well – that on most places, where food is produced low priced, there are less till no thoughts on sustainability and ethics.

    But it would be naturally also another “lie into the pack”, if we would drive with our car to the 20 km remote bio farmer with the intention to reduce suffering, if we consider how many beings let live on the surface of the streets and on our windshield, not even thought of gasoline. Even so the safekeeping and preparation of our food has much adverse impacts on our environment as well as on other beings. Simply and nearby food, as well as lesser thinking ahead – in matters of fear: “Would I have to less tomorrow” – how one could gain his food is mostly much more wholesome as to develop complicated systems of supply.

    Hereunto a little anecdote of Ajahn Fuang would explain the buddhist attidute very accurately:

    Once a woman who had been studying with him for only a short while decided to prepare some food to donate to him. Wanting to make sure it would be something he liked, she asked him straight out, “What kind of food do you like, Than Phaw?”

    His answer: “Food that’s within reach.”

    If one spends his live in the country, it’s probably easier to choose the ways of coming to food in accordance to his virtuous development. Living here on the countryside maintaining oneself more from fruits and unfertilized eggs and shared milk could be a possibility to relay on actions in matters of food, which are not that strain. Ultimately, things are more enjoyable if one has taken care of them by oneself and with conscientiously. It also develops appreciation and gratitude naturally.

    And the third aspect of right action does not simply carry a message regarding sexually overindulge, but is again a hint to reduce sensual desire. We can keep on recalling to mind this aspect of right action in matters of food. And this is of cause the most important approach in matters of Dharma and food. Health and moderate form in a way a circle. Modesty secures health not only physical but mental as well. At least the reduce of unnecessary ingestion and abstaining from untimely food intake is a well known ancient practice, which does not only lead to one’s own welfare but reduces the sorrow of many other beings as well:

    “Bhikkhus. Ariyan disciples in this Religion reflect thus:
    “‘All arahants, for as long as life lasts, eat at one time only and do not partake of food in the evening. They abstain from food at the ‘wrong time’.”[6]
    “All of you eat at one time only and do not partake of food in the evening. You abstain from food at the ‘wrong time.’ For all of this day and night, in this manner, you will be known as having followed the arahants, and the Uposatha will have been observed by you. This is the sixth factor of the Uposatha.
    – [url=http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an08/an08.041.vaka.html ]AN 8.41 (Uposatha Observance, 8 sila)

    as an natural extension of the basic gifts out of virtue:

    “There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, abandoning the taking of life, abstains from taking life [equal for the other 4 basic presepts]. In doing so, he gives freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings. In giving freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, freedom from oppression to limitless numbers of beings, he gains a share in limitless freedom from danger, freedom from animosity, and freedom from oppression. This is the first gift, the first great gift — original, long-standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated, unadulterated from the beginning — that is not open to suspicion, will never be open to suspicion, and is unfaulted by knowledgeable contemplatives & brahmans…
    – AN 8.39

    To frame his meals on fixed times or even reduce it generally does not only have good impacts on our virtue and mindfulness. There is much truth behind the assertion that mindfulness and virtue is the greatest protector of other beings.
    But it is also necessary to remark, that such things should not lead to feeling of helplessness, which happens only if our thoughts are too much attached to the past or the future. We can quite trust our natural gratitude, if we have to make a decision without ponder constantly all causes and effects outside, but concentrate on our intentions right here and now.
    Over all we can withdraw, that if a person honestly deal with a subject of the Eightfold Noble Path, it is necessary to accommodate his livelihood that his conscience meet the requirements according to his perception and consciousness. A challenge which should be done sober-minded and step by step but not missed.

    Although there are often other conventions and habits which are much more harmful for other beings as our diet and we should not lose sight of them as well. To lead a spontaneous livelihood in regard of food, but acting excessive in matters of all other sensual pleasures, we do neither improve our nor the situation of other beings.

    With increasing modesty the necessary amass oodles of wealth allays and the everyday live grows more consciously and will lesser be parted to something we tend to separate in labor and leisure, a synthetic border between “that’s me” and “that’s my duty”. The “I” and the “must” are growing together and approach each other, and as will and self-identification are deeply connected with our suffering we lift the problem on both sides and bring them to a better, which is more according to reality and insight. The livelihood will naturally lesser be separated into live enforcement and live enjoyment, the daily live grows simpler and happiness grows naturally with its honesty.

    “And what is right livelihood? There is the case where a disciple of the noble ones, having abandoned dishonest livelihood, keeps his life going with right livelihood: This is called right livelihood.”
    —SN 45.8

    Regarding the maintenance and the daily business, Buddha advised his lay disciples in matters which kind of livelihood would lead to trouble and should therefore be not followed by earnest followers:

    “A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.”
    — AN 5.177

    Here we can see that the Buddha did not take stock in to trading of living beings and obviously he didn’t want that such business is a matter of enrichment for his disciples, but he also mentioned to abstain, even form being ensnared with them. Even here one might come to the conclusion that vegetarianism might be the solution for this problems, but it could be that one loses track of “being not engage in business with poison” as without this big business we would rarely have food on our hypermarkets in our industrial days. Also the business with weapons might be also not considered well, if we look on the giant machines which clear and process our fields.

    All that leads us on some demands to a very important aspect of right livelihood: honesty “having abandoned dishonest livelihood”

    So the Buddha points out “the benefits to be obtained” in the Adiya Sutta (AN 5.41, that welfare can only be really enjoyed if one has “earned through his efforts & enterprise, amassed through the strength of his arm, and piled up through the sweat of his brow, righteous wealth righteously gained” and “provides himself with pleasure & satisfaction, and maintains that pleasure rightly” for himself as well as with those one should share.

    No matter how great or small the possession and wealth might be, it’s amass through own effort and own power leads to a well-being, that does not burden the conscience, makes the mind more at ease and does – even if the wealth might decay one day – not lead to sorrow and pain.

    It is obvious that the Eightfold Path invites to an ongoing process of advancement to gain the corresponding fruits. We are also able to see that the subjective situation of any person is different and underlies a constant changing and therefore it does not make sense to give any patent medicine to laypeople aside of the simply remarks which naturally foster into the right direction. We need to put effort to change our personal frame and necessarily need concern and to learn in letting go, to be able to render our livelihood accordingly.

    Also it becomes clearer why monastic people are living like they live and why there are so many rules to be observed in matters of food if one joins the path of highest virtue and secure. This livelihood enables ahead (if one is already able to let go of all mundane things and the worldly way of live) to be not directly involved in problems of ordinary life, which does not necessary means that it is always done correctly. Also her we find imaginative bypasses around the highest livelihood: to nourish exclusively on what is freely given. Therefore it’s difficult for a monk if he does not spend his days in going for alms by himself, and do will burden his conscience. In our present society, where there is less understanding for “abstaining to be involved” – which is in fact directly operating – dominates and “engagement” is a leading word, it’s probably not always possible to follow the highest virtue, but also here intention and snugness are playing as a ruling matter to handle the key to a live with clear conscience. Also here it depends on the individual person, even it has more impact on others and therefore much more responsibility.

    With right view at the back of one’s mind and the suffering which is caused by taking what is not given, we now easier understand why those on “leftover” nourishing monastic and ascetics are traditional called “Prah karuna” (lord of compassion).

    But also his ordinate disciples, who maintain their body on what is already taken to much but shared at least, who nourish on leftovers, the Buddha didn’t unfasten the cord and advised how one should consider food, even it is given without strings. Its best described in the Puttamaṃsūpama-Sutta (SN 12.63):

    A Son’s Flesh

    At Savatthi.

    “There are, O monks, four nutriments[1] for the sustenance of beings born, and for the support of beings seeking birth.[2] What are the four?

    “Edible food, coarse and fine;[3] secondly, sense-impression;[4] thirdly, volitional thought;[5] fourthly, consciousness.[6]
    “How, O monks, should the nutriment edible food be considered? Suppose a couple, husband and wife, have set out on a journey through the desert, carrying only limited provisions. They have with them their only son, dearly beloved by them. Now, while these two traveled through the desert, their limited stock of provisions ran out and came to an end, but there was still a stretch of desert not yet crossed. Then the two thought: ‘Our small stock of provisions has run out, it has come to an end; and there is still a stretch of desert that is not yet crossed. Should we not kill our only son, so dearly beloved, prepare dried and roasted meat, and eating our son’s flesh, we may cross in that way the remaining part of the desert, lest all three of us perish?’

    “And these two, husband and wife, killed their only son, so dearly beloved by them, prepared dried and roasted meat, and, eating their son’s flesh, crossed in that way the remaining part of the desert. And while eating their son’s flesh, they were beating their breast and crying: ‘Where are you, our only and beloved son? Where are you, our only and beloved son?’
    “What do you think, O monks? Will they eat the food for the pleasure of it, for enjoyment, for comeliness’ sake, for (the body’s) embellishment?”[7]

    “Certainly not, O Lord.”

    “Will they not rather eat the food merely for the sake of crossing the desert?”

    “So it is, O Lord.”

    “In the same manner, I say, O monks, should edible food be considered. If, O monks, the nutriment edible food is comprehended, the lust for the five sense-objects is (thereby) comprehended. And if lust for the five sense-objects is comprehended, there is no fetter enchained by which a noble disciple might come to this world again.[8]
    “And how, O monks, should the nutriment sense-impression be considered? Suppose, O monks, there is a skinned cow that stands close to a wall, then the creatures living in the wall will nibble at the cow; and if the skinned cow stands near a tree, then the creatures living in the tree will nibble at it; if it stands in the water, the creatures living in the water will nibble at it; if it stands in the open air, the creatures living in the air will nibble at it. Wherever that skinned cow stands, the creatures living there will nibble at it.

    “In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment sense-impression be considered. If the nutriment sense-impression is comprehended, the three kinds of feeling[9] are thereby comprehended. And if the three kinds of feeling are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple.[10]

    “And how, O monks, should the nutriment volitional thought be considered? Suppose, O monks, there is a pit of glowing embers, filled to cover a man’s height, with embers glowing without flames and smoke. Now a man comes that way, who loves life and does not wish to die, who wishes for happiness and detests suffering. Then two strong men would seize both his arms and drag him to the pit of glowing embers. Then, O monks, far away from it would recoil that man’s will, far away from it his longing, far away his inclination. And why? Because the man knows: ‘If I fall into that pit of glowing embers, I shall meet death or deadly pain.’

    “In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment volitional thought be considered. If the nutriment volitional thought is comprehended, the three kinds of craving[11] are thereby comprehended. And if the three kinds of craving are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple.

    “And how, O monks, should the nutriment consciousness be considered? Suppose, O monks, people have seized a criminal, a robber, and brought him before the king saying: ‘This is a criminal, a robber, O Majesty! Mete out to him the punishment you think fit!’ Then the king would tell them: ‘Go, and in the morning strike this man with a hundred spears!’ And they strike him in the morning with a hundred spears. At noon the king would ask his men: ‘How is that man?’ — ‘He is still alive, Your Majesty.’ — ‘Then go and strike him again at noontime with a hundred spears!’ So they did, and in the evening the king asks them again: ‘How is that man?’ — ‘He is still alive.’ — ‘Then go and in the evening strike him again with a hundred spears!’ And so they did.

    “What do you think, O monks? Will that man, struck with three hundred spears during a day, suffer pain and torment owing to that?”

    “Even if he were to be struck only by a single spear, he would suffer pain and torment owing to that. How much more if he is being struck by three hundred spears!”

    “In that manner, I say, O monks, should the nutriment consciousness be considered. If the nutriment consciousness is comprehended, mind-and-matter are thereby comprehended. And if mind and body are comprehended, there is, I say, no further work left to do for the noble disciple.”

    – SN 12.62

    Considering on food leads right form the beginning through the four noble truth till the highest aim and release.
    For the Buddha it was important that one observes his intentions constantly, as they are leading to actions which in result will form our consciousness equal as our world. The more solid the virtue division of the Eightfold Path grows, the better we are handling virtue in our daily live, the better will be our success in manners of meditation and the resulting insight. This will in return give rise to a naturally virtue as a matter of course. And who knows, maybe one day, as we might have pattern our ways with generosity toward to those who lead out of compassion the virtuous way of life, provided by the Buddha in his advised whole, we have gained the merits to be able to walk the holly way by ourselves. With patient we work step by step on our happiness, as well as for the happiness of all other beings.

    Better than to relay on any thought construction is to be always honest to oneself, to one’s intentions as well as to his present situation and to improve all step by step with the right effort:

    “One tries to abandon wrong view & to enter into right view: This is one’s right effort…
    “One tries to abandon wrong resolve & to enter into right resolve: This is one’s right effort…
    “One tries to abandon wrong speech & to enter into right speech: This is one’s right effort…
    “One tries to abandon wrong action & to enter into right action: This is one’s right effort…
    “One tries to abandon wrong livelihood & to enter into right livelihood: This is one’s right effort.”
    — MN 117

    Or the whole teachings of the Buddha compressed in one sentence:
    The non-doing of any evil, the performance of what’s skillful, the cleansing of one’s own mind: this is the teaching of the Awakened.
    Dhp 183

    If one would be confronted with reproaches in matters of his diet – something which is brought to an absolute level in regards of what food (even through Buddhist teachers those days do so) and less according to what the Buddha wisely had taught – it’s from my point of view, never wrong to display the aims of the Buddhist practice thoughtful and with patient. One does not only support the prosperity and surviving of this ancient tradition, rather than to sharpen the borderlines between giver and receiver. In that way the whole solidarity inspires to grow into a better livelihood, with it’s deeds for everybody taking part on it. Thereby it’s also not that difficult to confess if one is not prepared for one or the other renounciation yet while still pulling on both strings of the roots of ill at the same time: On greed – by practicing modesty – and on hatred – by practicing in abstaining form taking live. The successful practitioner is marked by what is going on in his mind and not by what is resting on his plate.

    „You are what you eat. And if it does not harm, you conscience does not head.”

    Even vultures are broadly mentioned as cruel beings in our culture; a certain mindset to act a little similar to a vulture might be not the most worse advice for a layperson. There are quite less beings who personalize a picture of compassion like those animals.

    Next before the end here maybe a saying of Ajahn Fuang would fit:

    “We human beings have long tongues, you know. You sit around and suddenly your tongue flicks out to sea: You want to eat seafood. Then it flicks around the world: You want to eat foreign cuisine. You have to train your tongue and shrink it down to size.”

    The original question is in a sense also directed on monastic people as well and can maybe be answered if we say in this way: The more people are understanding the way of the Buddha, the more it will be possible for monastic people to keep the rules while staying on one place which are not really made to stay (climate). Laypeople and monks as well as nons have direct influence on each other. If the generally understanding of compassion (which is at the beginning of cause leaded by expectation and attachments) grows mature with wisdom, monastic people would also find an easier way out of the antagonism of “wanting to help by not violating the precepts”, gaining the freedom which is necessary to work for the welfare of all beings and continuing this tradition for a long time. So it will be possible for them to practice without strings, not being involved and dependent on any deals and therefore able to teach the plain and straight Dhamma in the right way without restraint out of demand and freely.
    The question „Do Buddhist have the right to take something from animals?” can be answered definitely with “No” and that is not limited to those who like to call them Buddhists. There is also never a reason to break one’s conduct of virtue for the sake of any task. Neither direct nor indirect does any being have the right to take something from another being. But we all have the duty to do our best in repaying our dept out of generosity of others and gratitude and work on reducing our desires, sharing what we already possess and make our step by step journey out of the circle of greed. All which is physical necessary for our quest to our own welfare and the welfare of all other beings, we should consider like the flesh of our only son and this should be shared with those walking the same way, may they walk ahead or behind of us. Merits are only increase-able if we abstain from unwholesome deeds at the same time, according to our natural possibilities. To take for the sake of giving does rarely carry any merit, in fact only relinquishing does lead out of the wheel and it’s the nature of the dynamic of the eightfold path, that in the case one does not have anything to share, it inevitably would lead him to strive for perfection to be able to stark to give for the first time in live. This happens if right view matures to a strong conviction out of understanding. Till this time, if one is not ready yet and not able to abstain form all the sensual pleasures of ordinary live, one would need to take care that taking and giving might find a balance and share surplus gaining where ever fructuous soil is be found.

    May this simply word (and poor English) even be for some benefit for your personal way and the welfare of all beings.

  40. “I have lately been attracted to The Forest tradition. And Feel more comfortable Eating a bowl of food with no meat in it. Thank you ..” (realselfobserver)
    I think exactly the same. Two years ago the issue of meat in a bowl was a really worry for me, but one monk calmed down me and said ‘If you are on tudong, you can say kindly to your food givers that you are vegetarian’. Since a year I think about becoming an anagarika in Amaravati and I can’t stop this thought. When I was in 2010 in Cittaviveka (Chithurst) I was witness of disrobing by Sister Thithameda and this was shock for me. What’s happened? (knock, knock in my mind) why did she talk about injustice for bhikkhunis? I couldn’t understand most of her talk (olso because I’m not very good at English) Now I know, the reason is the five points for U.K siladhara. Ajahn Sujato you support nuns and vegetarianism I really enjoyed on your last Dhamma talk “Bhikkuni Ordination” and this post about vegetarianism. Thank you!

    metta
    Marcin

  41. I believe it is relevant to point ou that some of the most emminent Buddhist scholars of the twentieth century don’t agree that the Theravada (Pali) texts are neccessarily more accurate than the Mahayana (Sanskrit) texts in reporting the Buddha’s words. Professors Edward Conzi, Ernst Waldscmidt and Marcel Hoffinger all agreed that the (Mayahayana) Mahaparnirvana sutra was more reliable than the Pali version. “To eat meat destroys the seed of the great compassion.” The same feeling is conveyed in the Lankatavara sutra and the Brahmajala sutra. It is hard for me to believe The Compassionate One would have wanted us to cause the slaughter of animals to suit our palates.

    Best wishes, Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      Sorry to disappoint, but your comment is inaccurate. All Buddhist scholars agree that the early Buddhist texts, including the Pali, are on the whole much earlier and authentic than the Mahayana texts. Which is not to say, of course, that on some points here and there the Mahayana texts might retain some early features. I have discussed this in my A History Of Mindfulness.

      But the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra is not such a case. This is, in fact, a late Mahayana sutra, with no claim to historical authenticity. Likewise, the Brahmajala Sutra, to which you refer, is a late text with no relation to the early Buddhist Brahmajala Sutta, found in many variants.

      Conze is an apologist for the Mahayana, and he may well have made claims for the earliness of some Mahayana texts, but these have no influence in early Buddhist studies.

      Waldschmidt, on the other hand, was the editor of the Sarvastivadin Mahaparinirvana Sutra, and one of the true greats of Buddhist studies. But this text is completely different than the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra. It is, in fact, a version of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra passed down by an early school, historically parallel with the Pali version in the Digha Nikaya. The two versions have much in common, and many interesting differences. As it happens, I have both the Sanskrit text, and an unpublished translation by Mark Allon from Sydney Uni, which marks every point of similarity and difference. As one would expect with such a complex text, the Pali, Sanskrit and other versions have a complex relationship, and in different places one or other might seem to be earlier or later. I would agree, however, that on the whole the Sanskrit text, in this case, seems to be a little less developed than the Pali.

      As for Hoffinger, I would need a reference before I could comment.

      I share your feelings about vegetarianism, and wish the early Buddhist texts took a stronger stance. But arguing that Mahayana texts are authentic in the sense of being historical Buddhavacana is not true and doesn’t help.

    • Well, yes I am disappointed but only at your ad hominem attack on Dr. Conze to begin with. Having studied with him I never found him to be anything but highly objective. Apparently ALL Buddhist scholars do not agree since the three most emminent of the last century said exactly what I stated. It was in fact Waldschmidt who said he deemed the Mahayana Parinirvana Sutra the more authentic version, not Hoffinger if that matters. In any event we both know that the Buddha did not speak Pali to begin with so the efforts of the “Pali scholars” seem misplaced.

      Todays question should be what do the following have in common? Venerable Saddhatissa Mahathera, Venerable Nyanatiloka Mahathera, Venerable Lokanatha, Venerable Narada Mahathera, Venerable Mahaweera Mahathera, Bhante Gunaratana,and the Venerable Okkata Mahathera? Fred

    • Hi Fred,

      I’m sorry you feel that way. I was not meaning to question Conze’s integrity or contribution – I have studied and relied on his still unparalleled work on the Prajnaparamita, for example, in A History of Mindfulness. Nevertheless, when it comes to his opinions of early Buddhism, he is, I maintain, polemical and unreliable. My understanding is that he was working in a time and a milieu when “Pali Buddhism” had been rather dogmatically regarded as authentic and “Mahayana” was dismissed as nothing more than a decadent corruption. And in countering that simplistic viewpoint, and demonstrating the genuine philosophical depth of the Mahayana, he has taught us much.

      One example of this bias that I remember offhand is concerning the Buddha’s last words. In the Pali text, the Buddha is recorded as saying, “Conditions decay, strive on with diligence”. In the Skt Mahaparinirvana Sutra (the early Sarvastivada one, of course, not the late Mahayana text of the same name) the Buddha is recorded as simply saying, “conditions decay” – vyayadharmāḥ sarvasaṃskārāḥ. Conze interpreted this difference ideologically, arguing that the Pali text had corrupted the Buddha’s original statement, a profound insight into the nature of reality, into a didactic injunction. Leaving aside the problems with this interpretation, it was long ago pointed out by Maurice Walshe that various Chinese versions of the text do in fact include the full statement. Conze’s argument is more revealing of his own opposition to the perceived moralistic “Protestant Buddhism” as reconstructed by English Indologists than it is of what the texts actually said.

      This problem of obfuscating the genuine historical situation is, I’m afraid to say, continued in your comment. Nobody familiar with the texts would argue that the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra has any kind of historical authenticity, and the issue has only arisen because of the confusion of two completely different texts.

      I’m sorry if I seem argumentative here, please don’t take this personally. I just think this is an important issue. It is so hard to understand what it is that the Buddha really said, and I feel it is a great shame when hard-won truths are lost because of a simple confusion.

  42. I’m very used to the vegi-mafia telling me that they know more about Buddhism than I do but this is, perhaps, the very first article I’ve read where one of them claims to know more about Buddhism than the Buddha.

    I am not going to tell you how you should walk your walk, but I am going to advise that you should spend less of your time worrying about how the rest of us go about ours. As for the concept of suffering, I do wonder how you would view the wholesale genocide of all the meatbearing domesticated animals that would take place should your views ever prevail.

    • How you walk your walk is certainly your affair, my concern is those whom you step on. Whole sale genocide is in fact what is occurring every day and continues because of man’s efforts to increase breeding of more animals, for profit of course. Apparently by your reasoning this continuing on is the preferable course. As for the Buddha, well anyone who believes HE would absolve meat-eaters of any responsibility by the simple expedient of having someone else do their killing for them definitely has a different understanding than I do.

  43. I am always amazed at how vehement the meat eaters are in defending their bad habits. They aren’t monks out filling their begging bowls so they have a choice as to what they eat and they choose to eat meat. One might wonder what strength of character a person has who can’t even stop this. But for the record, Alexandra David-Neel, Ajahn Mun (1911) and Ajahn Thate (1933) all encountered the Shan people of northern Burma- vegan Theravadin Buddhists.

    And anyone who fears vitamin B-12 deficiency can simply eat some Red Star Nutritional Yeast (NOT brewer’s yeast). It is packed with B-12, has a delicious cheesy taste and is 50% protein. Sprinkle on popcorn or whatever. Peace Fred

    • Sadly not unless someone can read Thai. I was once intensely interested in Theravada Buddhism and felt I should respond to a monk who put forth that there were no records of any indigenous vegetarian Buddhist peoples. It was not my intention to place Alexandra David-Neel on the same level as Ajahn Mun, tho that’s how it was written.

    • Dear Bhante and Fred,

      I can read Thai. :)

      So, could you please send me info on the vegan Theravadins of the Shan people? I’ll be happy to translate it for you.
      :-)

    • Does B-12 exist naturally in nutritional yeast? or is it enriched somehow? artificial vitamins are no where near as beneficial to the body as those occurring naturally in food.

    • Why should I care about having my body 100% healthy if I my aim is to give up rebirth by the fruition of the sila-samadhi-panna Path?

      I really dont care if my body will be healthy to live 40-6 or 80 years and thus I consider pretty much in line with the Dhamma of the Buddha to be ready to give up some “essential vitamins” here and there if that will allow me to have peace of mind with my own practice of sila-samadhi-panna.

      And in the end, to be very clear, I see as much more valid to have fully lived a short life in Dhamma and for Dhamma than lived a long life in Adhamma and for Adhamma.

      All that said, if nowadays we have alternatives that offer us a balanced path between making right effort to perfect our sila at the same time keeping our body somehow healthy, that is indeed a sign that in lucky times we live in!

  44. Hi Bhante!

    Sorry if I do some mistakes but english is not my native lenguaje.

    I have been vegan for more than a year. My history with buddhism began firstly with an “existencial problem” at the age of 17. Since that year I lost weight,I became vegan and then I began to practice Buddhism.I must to say: “Now I´m very happy”.That change was so interesting and the only thing that I can say is “Thank you Internet”!.

    I usually speak about veganism with the people,but always becomes like a fight of who have the reason. For a buddhist is difficult speak about this topic because is so controvertial…the habit of eat meat is so deep in the people and the slaughterhouses are so far.

    I know in the mahaya is most popular the vegetarianism,in the vajrayana tradition was so difficult…the weather conditions don´t let gain a lot of food then “meat” is the answer. Theravada always won my attention, the answers about this topic I can understand with the monks and nuns,but with the lay people I think is different.

    The practice of “dana” is important and the relation between monks and lay people too.I mean, the monks can speak about the things that you point in your post and encourage the consume of other product,so the result will be that lay people will do “dana” with food without suffering. This in the case of monks who recive food only of the lay .Other monks who prepares his own food should be vegetarian.

    I think buy meat is different to receive with all that entails.I know that I wrong but when I see a monk buy and eat a complete turkey the confidence in this monks is lost…(link) http://a3.sphotos.ak.fbcdn.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/164391_177074258984008_2124418_n.jpg

    Is really so difficult leave the meat and the animal products?I think today NO,the are a lot of products with the same nutricional values and even the same taste.The only reason to eat meet I think is selfishness and self attachment.
    Bhante you are so valiant,I hope you will be health and happy!Metta!

  45. Hello Bhikkhu Sujato,

    Thank so much you for writing about this crucial, but rarely mentioned subject. I am very fortunate to have found my teacher, Bhikkhu Aticca, at the Original Buddhism Society who is vegetarian! Very rare Chinese Theravada (minus the Abhidhamma) vegetarian Sangha!

    By consuming animal flesh we create a market, which would otherwise not exist. We freely and knowingly choose to create (or at the very minimum support) conditions that include oppression, suffering, and killing. It clearly follows we are just as responsible as individuals performing the acts. Perhaps more, since we (as opposed to the butcher) realize the ethical implications. I don’t see how such a key role in the creation of suffering could ever be considered epiphenomenal with respect to kamma.

    Thank you,

    Kamil
    ntbass

  46. If I may comment, as I’ve given a great deal of thought to this also, it seems to me that in a market economy, if I go to, say, the supermarket or butcher, the animal/s were for all intents and purposes killed for me as a consumer in just as real a way as if I were invited to someone’s house and the owner slaughtered an animal for my consumption. In fact, even more so, as the animals are bred solely for the purpose of sale and consumption for me, the consumer (well, when I wasn’t a vegetarian), and so surely that goes straight back to the prohibition given by the Buddha. I guess with fish it may, arguably be a little different – at least in terms of treatment of animals – in that if they’re not fish farmed they’re not brought to life with the sole purpose of being a source of food. But the ‘was it killed for me for all intents and purposes?’ question would still apply? Anyways …

  47. Hello,

    I was wondering if anyone has any information on the belief that if you are going to eat meat it is better kamma to kill the animals yourself?

    Personally I would rather just go or stay vegetarian and could not do that, but does anyone know whether this is right or whether Buddhist agree with this or not?

    Felicity

  48. The Buddha emphasized kindness and compassion in his teachings so when the Pali Canon says that the Buddha allowed monks to eat meat I find it goes against the entire tone of his teachings. Did the redactors of the Canon change the Buddha’s words?

    Isn’t meat eating in contradiction to the practice of loving kindness and compassion towards all beings? How is it possible to have universal love towards all life if one is savouring a piece of meat that was once a living being with thoughts, feelings and consciousness? You cannot have your cake and eat it too.

    A Buddhist buying and eating meat is supporting and even encouraging firstly, wrong livelihood and secondly, the breaking of the first precept. It cannot be karmically neutral because he is paying someone to kill the animal for him in order to eat its flesh even though that flesh was purchased at a store. He might as well kill the animal himself.

    “You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

  49. The Buddha did not emphasize vegetarianism (Theravada) ? Albert why is that?

    I think it would have been very difficult for the “redactors” to hide something which would be so fundamental to the lifestyle of the Buddha’s followers if the Buddha had emphasized it.

    Vegetarianism is a social issue and an issue that is separate and is not a pre-requisite for the practice of Buddhism and/or compassion. It is not as measuring rod of the heart.

  50. Peter, if the Buddha had said that his followers can kill animals for food and that trading in living beings and flesh are allowed (right livelihood) then vegetarianism is not a Buddhist issue but an ethical and moral one. Fortunately we have the first precept against harming and killing and right livelihood that regards trading in flesh and living beings as a wrong means to make a living.

    While Mahayana monastics are vegetarians, quite a few Theravadin ones have adopted the practice and written about it. Here’s a hard hitting article by an English monk Venerable Abhinyana http://www.shabkar.org/download/pdf/Taking_a_stand.pdf. In his words “To use scripture to justify the disgusting and cruel habit of eating meat is both dishonest and unworthy. I’ve never been able to reconcile the preaching of Metta-Karuna (Loving-Kindness & Compassion) with the practice of meat-eating; they contradict each other.”

    Another English monk Venerable Anandajoti has posted articles, ebooks and videos on his website http://records.photodharma.net/tag/animals. One of the videos Earthlings and Speciesism shows the sickening cruelty routinely occurring behind closed doors in factory farms and slaughterhouses.

    And redaction of the Pali Canon cannot be excluded. In this lengthy article by James Stewart, University of Tasmania in the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume 17, 2010 http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/files/2010/07/Stewart.pdf titled “The Question of Vegetarianism and Diet in Pali Buddhism” the author puts forward a prima facie case for vegetarianism that relies upon textual citation in which the Buddha stipulates that a good Buddhist must encourage others not to kill.

    Stewart concludes that “If we regard the Devadatta-Buddha conflict as an invention, we might agree with Kapleau that the permissibility clause was a later inclusion stemming from a clash of values between the Mahāsāṃghikas and the Sthavira traditionalists. Or we might accept the traditional account of the Pāli Vinaya, in spite of its apparent ahistoricity, that the Buddha rejected vegetarianism only for prudential reasons. In either case, it appears that the permissibility thesis may have been formed for political reasons.
    Therefore, it appears that it is possible to make a prima facie ethical case for vegetarianism in Buddhism. This argument can easily withstand minor objections that come in the form of dietary concerns pertaining to desire and moderation. It can also potentially survive stronger legal objections in the form of the permissibility clause once it is established that the Buddha may have endorsed such allowances only for prudential reasons. In this way, the natural tension between the legal and ethical content pertaining to the practice of vegetarianism can be at once recognized and diminished.”

    • Hi Albert and all,

      Thanks for the links, and the reminder that positions in modern Buddhism are not as cut-and-dried as is often stated.

      I have probably mentioned this before, but I would like to comment on the “Devadatta is invented” trope that you refer to (and, by the way, thanks for the link to the Journal of Buddhist Ethics, one of the few peer reviewed online source of academic articles.)

      The idea that the conflict between Devadatta and the Buddha is a later invention has become, unfortunately, a well-worn trope of modern Buddhist studies. Like many sexy revisionist theories, it is based on very thin evidence. The main evidence is that in the Mahasanghika Vinaya, Devadatta is presented very differently. Since the Mahasanghikas were one of the two groups that split at the first schism, it is assumed that their version contains a more authentic source, and the Thera group of schools (which includes all other extant accounts of Devadatta) introduced Devadatta as part of a sectarian conflict – perhaps to slight the very idea of vegetarianism.

      The problem with this argument is that the Mahasanghika Vinaya differs from all other Vinayas in one essential aspect: it omits most lengthy narrative material. Where the other Vinayas include background stories, and sometime elaborate these with extended narratives, the Mahasanghika Vinaya almost always omits these. I use the word “omit” deliberately, as the text often shows that the stories existsed in an earlier version, but were left out as part of the redaction process. (Presumably the stories in this particular school were collected in another text.)

      Thus the background story for the Second Council is much shorter, as is the ordination request of Mahapajapti. In both of these cases the same basic argument has been used: that the Mahasanghika Vinaya records and earlier perspective. However, it can usually be shown that the text has abbreviated a longer passage.

      For example, the ordination story of Mahapajapati is barely alluded to in the Mahasanghika Vinaya, but is spelt out in detail in the closely related Lokuttaravada Vinaya. A story of past lives of nuns known as the “Seven Women Avadana” is, similarly, told in detail in the Lokuttaravada Vinaya, while the Mahasanghika text merely says, “All should be told in detail as in the “Seven Women Sutta”. Likewise, while several Vinayas include an extended version of the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Mahasanghika merely says, “At one time King Ajatasattu conceived a hatred against the Vajjians… and so on up to… The Buddha lay down between the twin sal trees.”

      The Devadatta story is no different to any of these examples. The Mahasanghika Vinaya has simply left out most of the details of this famous story. It was no doubt told in other texts of the school; for example, in the Mahavastu, where Devadatta plays his familar role. Moreover, despite claims on Wikipedia that there is “no overlap in the characterizations of Devadatta between the Mahāsāṃghika Vinaya and the other five extant vinayas which all come from the Sthavira branch”, Devadatta does, in fact, appear in the Mahasanghika Vinaya as a schismatic, in very much the same way as the other Vinayas. The passage linked to here shows a more evolved form of Devadatta’s schismatic efforts. Whereas the Pali (and other?) Vinayas attribute his schismatic efforts to the 5 points of asceticism, the Mahasanghika Vinaya presents him as systematically corrupting the entire textual corpus. The increase in scope, and the shift from asceticism to textual revision, clearly speak to the lateness of this version of events. In this point, as in so many, the Mahasanghika Vinaya is obviously later than the Pali (and probably some of the other Vinayas). Again, contra the scholars quoted on Wikipedia, the Mahasanghika Vinaya is not early, but is in fact a later redacted version of a Vinaya, as I have shown elsewhere. (This, however, does not take into consideration Shayne Clarke’s excellent work, which perhaps suggests some early features of the Mahasangika.)

      This is not to say, of course, that the Devadatta story is in every respect historical. Obviously, like every other aspect of the Buddha’s life, his story has been told from a highly didactic point of view. Critical study can, perhaps, reveal something more of the man underlying the “monster”, and, more importantly, help understand why the Buddhists needed an enemy. In this respect, I think that a mythic analysis of Devadatta as compared to, say, Judas or Set, offers fascinating insights. To simply dismiss the conventional story on the basis of such flimsy text-critical arguments, however, merely muddies the waters.

    • Thank you Bhante for your erudite and comprehensive comments.

      I would also like to bring attention to readers of this blog and to you (if you are not aware of it already) of a new Buddhist organization called Dharma Voices for Animals set up with the specific purpose raising awareness of the suffering of animals in the Dharma Community.

      Its principal objective is to “bring awareness to the suffering of animals caused and supported by our Community and Dharma Centers, provide reasonable alternatives to the actions that cause and support the suffering, and advocate on behalf of the animals for changes that will significantly reduce that suffering.”

      The site is: http://dharmavoicesforanimals.org/about-dva/

    • Albert, the Buddha was very open, clear, and explicit with his teaching. He did not teach vegetarianism. That is the simple reality of the situation.

      If we wish to choose to be vegetarian let our own moral fortitude be our reason. No need for an external endorsement

      My opinion as to why the Buddha did not teach vegetarianism is that it often leads to exclusivism, It is not a pre-requirement for wisdom or even compassion.

      Sorry but I can not find any reference but I remember hearing that Ajahn Buddhadhassa was happy to teach the first precept “As not to kill people” as that was an appropriate level to teach the first precept to a particular audience.

    • Peter Durham: Sorry but I can not find any reference but I remember hearing that Ajahn Buddhadhassa was happy to teach the first precept “As not to kill people” as that was an appropriate level to teach the first precept to a particular audience.

      Gotamist: If that’s true i must conclude that what he thaught was completely evil! People should stop reading and listening to all these idiotic second rate sources. Read the suttas!

    • No, leaving out other living beings when talking about killing and still pretending to be buddhist is evil. The Buddha thaught us not to intentionally kill ANY living breathing being wether it is a human or even a tiny insect.

    • The point being that if you are living within a fishing community that has relied on fishing for their sustenance and livelihood for many generations and within that community there is also a high murder rate to encourage that community to stop killing each other is a good starting point. It is pragmatic.

      Within the monastic discipline killing a human is an offense wich entails expulsion killing an animal is a lesser offense (still to be avoided though). Why is that?

      The first precept is not to kill any living creatures and as Buddhist that is how we try and conduct ourselves but it is only part of the story.

    • Peter Durham: Within the monastic discipline killing a human is an offense wich entails expulsion killing an animal is a lesser offense (still to be avoided though). Why is that?

      Gotamist: Because the sangha would not allow illegal activities. A murderer (of humans) would be judged according to the legal system of that time and place. In this way the sangha is not endangered. The no debt rule is in the same vain as this.

      Peter Durham: The point being that if you are living within a fishing community that has relied on fishing for their sustenance and livelihood for many generations and within that community there is also a high murder rate to encourage that community to stop killing each other is a good starting point. It is pragmatic.

      Gotamist: I remember an Ajahn Chah story concerning a local villager that caught frogs for a living. If i remember this correctly Ajahn Chah told him that it was unwholesome and repeated it everytime the villager came to see him. Later the villager started to feel sorry for the frogs and gave it up. He took up another profession. I think this story was in everything arises everything falls. It is unrealistic to think that people relying on fishing can directly give it up but not mentioning that killing is a no no in buddhism is mistaken. It is better for people to decide for themselves what to do with that information. Half-assed teachings are not the way.

    • Gotamist, Do you know the story about Ajahn Chah allowing the army to spray insecticide in Wat Ba Pong to get rid of the Red Ants?

    • Hi Peter,

      No i don’t, could you please inform on the story and the source. If the story is true i will throw Food for the heart in the garbage!

      I am aware of a weird story in the book Venerable Father. The author claims Ajahn Chah kept a squirrel in a cage. Besides the fact that a cage is a torture device for a squirrel, why would a monk have a pet anyway? This is clearly an attachment and shows that we are definately not dealing with an arahant.

      with metta,

      Gotamist

    • Hi Peter,

      I find this thoroughly problematic. So many mistakes are revealed in this story. Firstly Ajahn Chah says that he will take full responsibility. This is not even possible, transference of karma is a mistaken mahayana concept, not even close to a gotamistic concept. He selfishly let’s the army do it. They (the army) will create allot of negative karmic seeds that way. If he really took the responsibility he would have done it himself. This shows he did not take the nikaya doctrine of kamma to seriously (maybe influenced by buddhadasa bhikkhu who did not take it serious either). Secondly the attachment to a monastic settlement. If the ants bothered the monks so much they should have moved, or just accept it as a consequence of samsara. This is simply not the dhamma! The Buddha did not teach attachments to settlements or eradicatements of living beings for a more comfortable practice. Don’t you think the monks in the time of the Buddha had allot of trouble with insects disturbing meditation sessions etc… What ajahn chah did is a perversion of the dhamma. Again this is a clear warning sign that one interested in the dhamma should uphold the suttas and not idiotic second rate sources. I’m also bothered by the fact that Ajahn Chah seemed to be influenced to much (probably adopted from western disciples by nihilistic zen teachings.

      metta,

      Gotamist

    • “Firstly Ajahn Chah says that he will take full responsibility. This is not even possible, transference of karma is a mistaken mahayana concept, not even close to a gotamistic concept” In my opinion this is an over intellectualisation of a simple incident which happened in a remote forest monastery, in North East Thailand many moons ago. We all create our own Ajahn Chah.

  51. I’ve seldom commented on these discussions. I do, however, thoroughly enjoy following the relative toing and froing that plays out as a Buddhist Melodrama.

    Aside from Bhante Sujato’s posts’, which are full of integrity and instill a spirit of knowledge that’s been earned from years of research and introspection, I find many (and certainly not all) of the subsequent comments to be little more than opinionated tripe.

    WIth the infinite debate, discussion and dispute (forgive my alliteration), I can only conclude that certainty and idealism is a potent fuel for people to tie in ”Buddhism” with self-justification. Why people need the Buddha for reassurance when considering moral conviction is beyond me. It doesn’t require an in depth to examination to consider why eating meat is ethically wrong on many levels. If it pushes your buttons, then don’t do it. End of story.

    Peter Durham stated, in relation to this discussion ”Vegetarianism is a social issue and an issue that is separate and is not a pre-requisite for the practice of Buddhism and/or compassion. It is not as measuring rod of the heart.”. I couldn’t agree more.

    If one wishes to view monastics such as Ajahn Chah as the pinnacle of human perfection,they’re in for a rude shock – realising our relative humanity, full of grit, failures and imperfections is what constitutes being alive. Back in 2010, Sujato wrote ”“Ideas” are idealized. They are perfect Platonic forms, all shiny. When we implement them, we strive to create a little bit of the world that mirrors that perfection” and further, ”imperfections are character”. Perhaps it is, therefore, time to stop putting
    ”Buddhism” in a box and searching for some type of manifest perfection that will never exist. Buddhist traditions are, and will always be, a reflection or symbol that depicts perfection yet far divorced from the actuality of it.

    • Haha :D This thing needs a “like” button! Of course, I’d probably only use it a very small percentage of the time…

    • Sam I wonder why you did not contribute to the discussions much earlier on and only now pass judgment. While the comments are denigrated as opinionated tripe to you, have you considered that many users come to this blog to find out more about Buddhist issues, contemporary or otherwise, most of which never get discussed or mentioned within organized Buddhism?

    • Hi,

      I would just like to say that I agree with Albert, while there may be negativety etc and I have thrown my share of it around, I do believe I have learnt alot about Buddhism and worked through alot of issues and problems with regards to understanding and making peace with different Buddhist beliefs that I was getting really confused about not to mention quite resentful about because nothing seemed to be working.

      So there is a good side too and I would like to thank Bhikkhu Brahmali and Sujatos for having the guts to go on the internet and for all the positive things that have come out it… but now that I am enlightened I will just wish you all the best and bugger off into blissful nirvana…

      well maybe enlightenment is a way off yet but still one must keep hopeful

    • …mostly though after years of going at Buddhism probably from every wrong angle and source I think finally I am starting to get it a teeny, tiny bit – mainly from listening to talks and doing meditation by Ajahn Brahm I have to say –

      I wish I had listened to him from the start and never verged off…never been taken in by the mahayana idea that there is a hiniyana or lesser vehicle and that this was in some way related to theravarden buddhism…I can see their point but of all the teachings telling people that is I believe essentially harmful and wrong – there is my whinge for day..

      Anyway I am off to a (self) retreat, just me and Ajahn Brahm …well me and Ajahn Brahm on the net…

      Yeah peace … a teeny bit of light at the end the samsara tunnel

  52. Sam,
    G’day – hope the kids are treating you OK (the real fun begins when you have your own – if that has happened …..)

    You say (I should learn how to do that box thing):

    “Perhaps it is, therefore, time to stop putting”Buddhism” in a box and searching for some type of manifest perfection that will never exist. Buddhist traditions are, and will always be, a reflection or symbol that depicts perfection yet far divorced from the actuality of it.”

    Sounds like you’ve been spending too much time on the SBA blog because that’s not Bhante’s Buddhism. He’s settling for nothing less than the ending of rebirth. If that isn’t perfection, I don’t know what is.

    You had some kind words to say about Bhante but I would be impressed if he ‘fessed upped to his leap in faith. Like his old Catholic priest did that….

    Thanks for listening to my opinionated tripe. (Great old fashion word that – I wonder how many on this blog know what it means? My mum used to talk about buying some for us kids but never did – must try it….)

    Cheers

    Geoff

  53. PS Sam,

    I don’t know about a Buddhist Melodrama – I would describe it more as a Comedy.

    I think we are long overdue for a Buddhist Life of Brian…..

    cheers

  54. I Am constantly amazed at all of the excuses Buddhists create to eat meat. today, we know through many scientific studies, that meat and dairy products are not necessary for human health, and in fact are harmful in many ways. It appears ridiculous to even argue this today, seeing what has become of the meat and dairy industry. It is nothing BUT suffering, disrespect, etc. etc. It is incompatible with Buddhist practice today. The absurdity of a Buddhist eating a dead animal killed by another and thinking he has no part in the suffering of that animal is very shallow thinking. It makes no sense now, and made no sense thousands of years ago. Having somebody else do our dirty work is cowardice. I would think personally killing the animal would show more honesty. The other is a lie, which is another Buddhist precept as I recall. This issue has kept me out of most Buddhist groups, although I practice on my own. May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

    • Well the facts are there were quite a few prominent Theravadin Buddhists, some monks, who were vegetarian- even vegan. I’m speaking of the twentieth century here as I have not stayed current. What drove me away from SE Asian Buddhism was the very hypocrisy you note. Let a layman do the killing even though the concept of right livelihood precludes the taking of life by same. Or in some instances find a Christian or Muslim to do the dirty work. Very regrettable.

      Required reading: Buddhist Ethics by the late Venerable H. Saddhatissa, PhD, Mahathera. Professor of Pali, Benares University, Board of Directors, Pali Text Society. Fred

  55. While it might be hypocrisy in todays world and to be a vegan vegatarian might be the most idealistic goal, surely the Buddha only left that sort of loophole (that monastics can eat meat) because he would have been concerned that they might starve or just get feed on rice and not be given protein?

    • We are not beggars. If we are, we can be freegans. If not, Vegans. The first precept is not to kill. This covers much, not just food, but not eating animals and their secretions(which involve killing baby cows and eventually slaughtering the milk cows) Is easily done. May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

  56. I agree and have been vegetarian since about 15 – but I wouldn’t let someone starve in preference for the life of an animal, especially (I suppose) a monastic – but I agree I even feel bad eating vegetables and can’t even kill a fish let alone kill it and then enjoy eating it – grrross!

  57. Our food choices reflect our degree of commitment to non-harming, the First Precept.

    The American Dietetic Association states that “appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes”. Note the words “nutritionally adequate” which mean that we do not need to consume any animal product i.e. meat, diary and eggs.

    Knowing this meat eating becomes a frivolous pleasure to satisfy the palate and craving.

    Anyone buying meat not just simply buys the flesh of the intentionally killed animal but also pays for the killing as the cost in inbuilt in the purchase. How can that be karmically neutral? I have yet to see a convincing argument that it is so. Stock standard answers that the Buddha permitted the eating of meat don’t address the fact that the purchaser paid for the animal to be killed as otherwise he would have to do the killing himself.

    • These are excellent points. I know vegan Brenda Davis, a registered dietitian, a very distinguished one. She was involved in an experiment on the Marshall Islands, where the diet is mostly processed foods and animal foods. She improved or reversed diabetes in the vast majority of people. The American Dietetic Association has finally come around. Latest research shows the useless and dangers of meat and dairy consumption. Buddhists todeay who eat meat are doing it out of either ignorance, or just a desire for meat,. In poorer countries, this information and availability of good produce is lacking, but here in America, where many Buddhists are converts and highly educated, it is a no brainer. Unfortunately, most of my vegan friends are not Buddhists, yet Buddhism lends itself so well to Vegan practice.

  58. I agree wholeheartedly but also the problem is in the conversion too. Possibly there needs to be more information in how to convert to being a vegetarian. Personally I have suffered anaemia, weight gain (too many carbs) and tiredness due to lack of protein; still I have never reverted back to eating meat because of that although at times I have been tempted and have met people who ahve.

    For women especially although it may be far healthier if done right, possibly like my self alot of people just replace meat with rice or pasta etc and didn’t do it right and got put off.

    Also I know of women especially who will eat only meat because they loose weight this way – it America/Hollywood this is epidemic isn’t it? Isn’t that how all those Hollywood women get so thin!
    ….and there is alot of pressure on women to be thin – but show me a vegetarian/veegan cookbook that isn’t full of fat and carbs – I have never seen one, the latest one I saw was again full of pasta and sauces etc.

    So it would be good if there was more readily available free info around about how to change over to being vegan/b\vego without stuffing it up half way through and getting put off.

    • TIy ay think you needed protein, but it was probably something else. YOu have Carbophobia. The Thinnest people on the planet eta about 80 percent carbs. You do not see many fat Asians until they come here and start eating more meat, dairy, fat…and of course sugary stuff. Please read Dr. McDoughall’s”The Starch Solution”. Unrefined carbs are your friend. I know a woman who was shot many ears ago, and has health issues. For this reason, she eats about 80 percent raw veggies, mostly greens, a little bit of beans, nuts, seeds and fruit. When her protein levels were checked, the doctors found them to be excellent. There is a word for protein deficiency. Nobody knows it because nobody gets it except mal-nurished people.How many fat vegans do you know? I know many vegans, have been to conferences all over the country. I would say maybe 10 percent of vegans are slightly over normal weight, none are obese, most are lean.

  59. I am not saying it is a deficiency but there is something about eating protein that stops hunger or craving, whereas you can eat carbs all day but still be constanting wanting to eat.

    Try eating a packet of nuts in the morning and see how you feel as compared to just a bowl of rice or porridge – most gym junkies/models etc will you this is how they survive – eating meat because it stops the hunger
    (maybe if it is not a vitamin deficiency it is just a prehistoric carnivourous urge – yuk)

    “For this reason, she eats about 80 percent raw veggies, mostly greens, a little bit of beans, nuts, seeds and fruit”.

    I can understand why she is not fat – (but asians also eat alot of meat and every part of every animal imaginable) – and this seems like a good diet – however alot of vegetarians will eat lots of pasta, rice those prepackaged vegetarian foods, muesli or cereals – I am no diet guru but the carbs you are talking about are low level ones – unrefined as your say – are raw vegetables even carbs? I don’t know.

    One guy I met use to eat copious amounts of potatoes and pasta he was huge. Or some people go the other way and get really thin and malnourished.

    My point is though I guess just that alot of people who attempt being vegetarians seem to give up because they don’t do it correctly and their health/weight suffers – not because being vegetarian is unhealthy in itself, but because they do in incorrectly and it all gets too hard.

    With Metta

    • Asians are thinner. They do not eat large amounts of meat compared to Americans. Recently, China’s meat consumption has increased, but is still much lower than America, where meat consumption is luckily going down. Read McDoughal’s work, which demonstrates high carb low fat traditional diets keep people lean. Americans are the fattest on the planet. Read “The China Study”. Look at guys like Drs, Barnard, Campbell, Esselstyn, Ornish, etc…all on low fat high starch diets…all lean, healthy, strong. Ask the rhino where it gets its protein.

    • Hi

      I will try to read those books, thanks.

      In Australia the low complex carbohydrate thing is big – but I think it depends on how much energy you use for example an athlete would need lots of carbs if they are training and traditional societies that huntered and gathered ? would need carbs for energy because of all the physical activity- but as we lead a more sedentary life style the carbs just turn to fat, but it depends on the carbohydrates I think and to be honest I don’t know much about it.

      I didn’t realise Americans were the fattest in the world – but from all the takeaway and processed food and the size of their meals I can believe it – whereas Asian don’t eat processed food.

      Any way keep up the good work!

      Much Metta

    • The person you said got fat on potatoes and rice was probably eating some fried foods as well! In China, those eating little or no meat (The China Study by Dr. T Colin Campbell) had the fewest health issues. China’s meat consumption has gone up, while ours has gone down, yet we still eat much much more meat, dairy, processed foods than the Chinese. Notice that they are getting fatter, as are the Japanese. I believe less oil, fat foods, and especially processed carbs will give you more energy. Protein is in almost everything. Look at the Rhino, a feard beast, or an elephant. Where do they get their protein? I would not bother to ask them!

  60. Also my point is if vegetarianism was proven as healthy and not causing too much weight gain/loss then I think lots more people would do it – but I am not sure as yet people are convinced it is healthy .

  61. I think we are misunderstanding how karma works in this situation. The negative karma lies more on killing the animal and less in eating its meat. At the end of the day, eating meat will not prevent us from attaining Nirvana. The perception of if meat eating is good or bad is within the realm of the attatched mind. Are’nt we supposed to free our mind from attatchments?

    • If the perception of meat eating being bad or good lies within the realm of the attached mind then so too is the attachment and craving for eating meat.because it’s a frivolous pleasure.(see my previous comment).

      Eating meat will not prevent anyone from attaining Nirvana. It’s like saying the end justifies the means and as long as the final goal is met then nothing else matters; not ethics, nor consideration for others.

    • Thanks, Albert. What many Buddhists are saying is that as long as they do not slit the throat, they can eat it. According to this way of thinking, Buddhists think it is ok to put the responsibility for killing on another rather than themselves, I have more respect for one who kills what they eat than one who puts it on another,m which is cowardly. A hunter is being more honest than one who buys meat at the supermarket.

    • Unless we already had attained Buddhahood or Arhatship, all our actions creates some degree of negative karma, even the act of being vegetarian or vegan. Our actions are always attached to the “self” unless we are already liberated. Also meat eating is not done for pleasure that goes beyond the pleasure of satisfying one’s hunger. Meat eating is done for the same purpose as to why a vegan/vegetarian eats.

    • Yes, to some degree. Meat eating not only kills an animal, but it takes up to 16 pounds of vegetable protein to make one pound of beef….all animal products require plants because animals eat them. A vegan takes about a third acre a year, a meat eater 4 acres.I think the karma for meat is much higher!

  62. Let us look at the big picture here. The goal is not to end suffering in this world. The goal is to be liberated from the suffering. There is no way to remove suffering in this world. Stopping meat eating will not solve the issue of suffering. It is the pig’s karma to be born as food and it is a meat eater’s karma to eat meat. We cannot change karma, we can only escape it. While our minds are still “attached”, our actions are always with negative karma. We can only strive to have more positive than negative karmic seeds. There is no use in being vegan/vegetarian (in accord to your views of it) if we are accumulating more negative karma in other aspects of our lives. Regarding meat eating, it is not bad, karma-wise, if we’re accumulating more positive karmic seeds in other ways. While “attached”, it is impossible to have actions that will only result in positive karma. We must remember, it is called the middle path :)

    • martian,

      I follow your thoughts throughout a major part of what you wrote but I feel in obligation to point in the end of your considerations the use of a very serious misunderstanding of why and how the Dhamma-Vinaya laid down by Lord Buddha was called by himself a middle path or middle way (majjhimā paṭipadā).

      Let’s see what we find in the Dhammacakkapavatana Sutta:

      “And what is that Middle Path realized by the Tathagata…? It is the Noble Eightfold path, and nothing else, namely: right understanding, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness and right concentration.”
      link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.than.html

      From the above, the middle path or middle way is the Noble Eightfold Path (NEP) itself. Agreed?

      Now, let’s pick two items from the NEP:

      Right Action in brief as seen in the Magga-vibhanga Sutta:

      “And what is right action? Abstaining from taking life, abstaining from stealing, abstaining from unchastity. This is called right action.”
      link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn45/sn45.008.than.html

      &

      Right Livelihood for lay disciples in brief as seen in the Vanijja Sutta:

      “A lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.”
      link: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.177.than.html

      From these two aspects of the NEP we must admit that a buddhist commited to the middle way i) abstains from taking life as part of the development of the Right Action element of the NEP itself and ii) refrains from engaging in business with meat as part of the development of the Right Livelihood element of the NEP. As a reminder, as seen above, the middle way or middle path is the NEP itself, namely.

      Apart from that when we approach the NEP from its practical approach we learn it is a task that must be done with a very clear first step, which is the aspect of Right View.

      Right View in brief as seen in the Mahasatipattana Sutta

      “And what is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: This is called right view.”

      Interestingly the ‘knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress’ stated above is the knowledge of the NEP itself! The circular reference is intentional and is the key to the feedback mechanism between the cultivation of the NEP and the fruition of the NEP’s objective, which is the cessation of stress for oneself.

      Another key element is the Right Resolve aspect of the NEP which follows in the causal line the Right View aspect:

      Right Resolve in brief as seen in the Magga-vibhanga Sutta

      “And what is right resolve? Being resolved on renunciation, on freedom from ill-will, on harmlessness: This is called right resolve.”

      The Buddha is calling its disciples’ attention to three pillars of the NEP which leads to the end of one’s own suffering: renunciation, letting go from ill-will and non-violence or harmlessness

      Well, from the fragments above one must admit that in the context of the NEP itself, by not giving consideration to the harmful aspect of getting involved with the killing for meat (and trading of it), a lay disciple is not even taking the very first steps in the cultivation of the NEP. Consequently, he could just considered a buddhist from the most external aspect, one whose chances of being currently effectively walking the NEP are indeed dismal.

      Of course, after reading and considering this, one might ask: what about monks?

      My personal understanding and answer to in this question is a very simple one:

      In order to allow missionary works to take place the Buddha never imposed his monastic disciples the rule of not eating meat. However, in the course of the practice and sharing of his Dhamma-vinaya, his monastics should make clear to the lay disciples that the first two steps to the Buddha’s proposal for the end of one’s own suffering, the NEP, demands anyone seriously committed to developing it the cultivation of the very first two steps stated above: the Right View and the Right Resolve.

      One should therefore be very true to oneself and try to always be aware of his/her current situation versus the Dhamma-vinaya he/she, as a Buddhist, supposedly worships or considers to be the highest life standard to be lived by a human. My answer to myself is that I am still some miles distant from even taking a first step in the Path. Logically, I should not be surprised if my suffering continues going on and on…

    • Right action for a lay Buddhist means… not to take human life. For a monastic, it extends to not taking the life of all sentient beings. Both are allowed to eat meat. It is in the act of killing that the majority of the negative karmic seeds arise. Judging from the suttas, the killing of animals become unfavorable if it is done not to put the meat on one’s table for food. This explains the “business of meat” as an unfavorable livelihood. In a meat business you do the killing of animals for monetary gain, not to put the meat on your table for food. Meat eating does not prevent one from attaining Nirvana. That is a fact. Attachments of the mind does.

    • “There is no way to remove suffering in this world. Stopping meat eating will not solve the issue of suffering.”
      There are many ways to reduce suffering. That’s why we have hospitals, nursing homes, hospices, doctors, nurses, support workers, veterinarians etc. None of us on this blog have argued that stopping meat eating will solve the issue of animal suffering but we have argued that eating meat means harming and killing are involved. A vegan or vegetarian believes in “Live and Let Live” and “Live with Minimal Harm to Others”. They are realistic enough to know that in living their lives, other beings may be harmed or killed and aim to reduce that to a minimum. In other words, their ethics dictate a minimal environmental footprint.

      “It is the pig’s karma to be born as food and it is a meat eater’s karma to eat meat.”
      So is it a rapist’s karma to rape or a murderer’s karma to murder? Having being born according to our karma we have the choice to create good or bad karma, or to eat meat or not. We must take responsibility for our actions and not blame it on karma.

      “We must remember, it is called the middle path.”
      The middle path is not a path of mediocrity with no concern for the life and welfare of other beings.

    • I am sorry if my words were confusing. When I said, remove suffering, I did not meant “reduce suffering”. I agree though that suffering can be reduced. Anyways, I think we are confusing karma with ethics. They are not the same. Ethics is bound by our sense of self. Karma exist even without us. Meat eating is almost nothing karma-wise, when we start to look at the karmic results of our every action. Furthermore, being a meat eater is not the same as being a rapist/murderer. Please dont associate meat eaters with such vile acts. What I meant in my previous post was, it is our karma to be omnivores. We are are just born to eat animals and plants. It is like being born a lion, a carnivore, a meat eater. If meat eating in the context of karma is such as to produce a major amount of negative karmic seeds then a lion has no chance to be reborn into a human where it is possible to attain liberation. Also, the middle path means not falling to the extremes of duality, that’s what I meant. Focus on the big picture. Let go of duality. Karma is not ethics.

    • Martian wrote “I think we are confusing karma with ethics.”
      There’s no confusion here. You choose the life you want to lead, so too you choose whether to be ethical or unethical.

      Martian wrote ” Furthermore, being a meat eater is not the same as being a rapist/murderer. Please dont associate meat eaters with such vile acts.”
      If you carefully read what I wrote I did not make such an association. What I was pointing out was the fallacy of your logic that it is a meat eater’s karma to eat meat.

      Martian wrote “We are are just born to eat animals and plants.”
      We are born to eat plants but not animals. We don’t have sharp fangs to rip open tough skin and tear out chunks of raw flesh. Neither do we have sharp claws to grip onto quick prey. Our gut is long to digest grains, fruit and vegetables compared to a carnivore with a short gut.I can go on with other anatomical features but this will be enough.

    • My point is, it is best to view all actions in the context of karma. All acts from an attached mind will create both good and bad karmic seeds. This is true of both meat eating and veganism/vegetarianism.
      Albert, it seems there is a great divide between our understandings of karma. It doesn’t matter though. The goal is Nirvana. If your understanding of karma brings you to that goal then good. Attainment of liberation is always a cause for celebration.
      Peace!

  63. What about the suffering of the animal – isn’t this really what it is all about, causing suffering for animals – obviously it has now been proven that it is healthy (ier?) to eat meat but what is the best thing for the animals.

    Having said that I remember someone saying that if they are reborn a cockroach they would prefer to be stamped on – I get that.

    I have never wanted to address this issue as I don’t want to support or even sound like I support killing or harming animals in anyway… but I have always sort of wondered what would happen to all the animals if no one ate meat, like where would they be reborn?

    Would they due to kindness of not be used for food go to a higher realm? Although I am a committed vegan/vego what would happen to all the animals if they weren’t born or given a life even if it is for food.

    • I think it is sad that there is even a discussion about eating animals on a Buddhist forum. Just eat plants. It is not rocket science. IN this country, it is very doable, healthy, and makes sense. Drinking another animal’s milk and depriving that animal of its babies is just plain ridiculous, and eating carcasses when there is plenty of plat food available is unethical and gross. end of story. May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

  64. “Vegetarianism
    One should not judge the purity or impurity of man simply by observing what he eats.
    In the Amagandha Sutta, the Buddha said:
    ‘Neither meat, nor fasting, nor nakedness, Nor shaven heads, nor matted hair, nor dirt, Nor rough skins, nor fire-worshipping, Nor all the penances here in this world, Nor hymns, nor oblation, nor sacrifice, Nor feasts of the season, Will purify a man overcome with doubt.’

    Taking fish and meat by itself does not make a man become impure. A man makes himself impure by bigotry, deceit, envy, self-exaltation, disparagement and other evil intentions. Through his own evil thoughts and actions, man makes himself impure. There is no strict rule in Buddhism that the followers of the Buddha should not take fish and meat. The only advice given by the Buddha is that they should not be involved in killing intentionally or they should not ask others to kill any living being for them. However, those who take vegetable food and abstain from animal flesh are praiseworthy. Though the Buddha did not advocate vegetarianism for the monks, He did advise the monks to avoid taking ten kinds of meat for their self respect and protection. They are: humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears hyenas. Some animals attack people when they smell the flesh of their own kind. (Vinaya Pitaka) When the Buddha was asked to introduce vegetarianism amongst His disciples, the Buddha refused to do so. As Buddhism is a free religion, His advice was to leave the decision regarding vegetarianism to the individual disciple. It clearly shows that the Buddha had not considered this as a very important religious observance. The Buddha did not mention anything about vegetarianism for the lay Buddhists in His Teaching. Jivaka Komarabhacca, the doctor, discussed this controversial issue with the Buddha: ‘Lord, I have heard that animals are slaughtered on purpose for the recluse Gotama, and that the recluse Gotama knowingly eats the meat killed on purpose for him. Lord, do those who say animals are slaughtered on purpose for the recluse Gotama, and the recluse Gotama knowingly eats the meat killed on purpose for. Do they falsely accuse the Buddha? Or do they speak the truth? Are your declaration and supplementary declarations not thus subject to be ridiculed by others in any manner?’

    ‘Jivaka, those who say: ‘Animals are slaughtered on purpose for the recluse Gotama, and the recluse Gotama knowingly eats the meat killed on purpose for him’, do not say according to what I have declared, and they falsely accuse me. Jivaka, I have declared that one should not make use of meat it is seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. I allow the monks meat that is quite pure in three respects: if it is not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk.’ (Jivaka Sutta) In certain countries, the followers of the Mahayana school of Buddhism are strict vegetarians. While appreciating their observance in the name of religion, we should like to point out that they should not condemn those who are not vegetarians. They must remember that there is no precept in the original Teachings of the Buddha that requires all Buddhists to be vegetarians. We must realize that Buddhism is known as the Middle Path. It is a liberal religion and the Buddha’s advice was that it is not necessary to go to extremes to practise His Teachings. Vegetarianism alone does not help a man to cultivate his humane qualities. There are kind, humble, polite and religious people amongst non-vegetarians. Therefore, one should not condone the statement that a pure, religious man must practise vegetarianism.

    On the other hand, if anybody thinks that people cannot have a healthy life without taking fish and meat, it does not necessarily follow that they are correct since there are millions of pure vegetarians all over the world who are stronger and healthier than the meat-eaters. People who criticize Buddhists who eat meat do not understand the Buddhist attitude towards food. A living being needs nourishment. We eat to live. As such a human being should supply his body with the food it needs to keep him healthy and to give him energy to work. However, as a result of increasing wealth, more and more people, especially in developed countries, eat simply to satisfy their palates. If one craves after any kind of food, or kills to satisfy his greed for meat, this is wrong. But if one eats without greed and without directly being involved in the act of killing but merely to sustain the physical body, he is practicing self restraint.” -Dr._K._Sri_Dhammananda

    • Thanks a million, Martian, for citing good sources of clarifications on vegetarianism and meat-eating. Not that I’m thanking you for giving me a perfect excuse to continue eating meat, but thank you for helping me see things from a slightly different angle.

      _/\_

      Much metta,

      dheerayupa

    • Bottom line: eating meat today, at least in this country, is incompatible with Buddhist practice, as is drinking the milk of another species, stealing from its young. that breaks 2 precepts. It is time to stop the excuses and get on with it. This is 2013. things are different than they were a couple thousand years ago. Evolve.

    • Once again; please refer to all of the studies showing meat and dairy to be unnecessary, unecological, horribly brutal and unhealthy.I am amazed at how Buddhists rationalize eating meat. I know more Christian and Atheist vegans than Buddhists. There are polite people among non vegetarians, and they may be kind until they have to slit the throat of a sentient being….of course most take the cowardly way out and pay somebody else to do it, which is worse. We can contribute to the end of suffering by eating lightly and vegan. May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

    • This blog post started by Bhante Sujato a while ago is not just about the Buddhist dogma of meat eating but more importantly brings into discussion ethics and with it current factory farming practices. As he so rightly pointed out the animal farming situation we have now is vastly different from the time of the Buddha and animals lead miserable lives while being intensively confined in these industrial sheds.

      Let’s go back to what he wrote “In this sense, if the Vinaya pertains to sila, or ethics, then the scope of sila is broader than the scope of kamma. This is, when you think about it, common sense. Kamma deals only with intention and the consequences of intentional action. This is critical because of its place in the path to liberation. We can change our intentions, and thereby purify our minds and eventually find release from rebirth. That is the significance of kamma to us as individuals.

      But ethics is not just a matter of individual personal development. It is also a social question, or even wider, an environmental question in the broad sense. How do we relate to our human and natural context in the most positive and constructive way?

      I am suggesting that, while kamma deals with the personal, ethics includes both the personal and the environmental.

      As well as broadening ethics in this way, I would suggest we should deepen it. Ethics is not just what is allowable. Sure, you can argue that eating meat is allowable. You can get away with it. That doesn’t mean that it’s a good thing. What if we ask, not what can I get away with, but what can I aspire to?

      When we recite the first precept, we say, ‘I undertake the training to refrain from killing living beings’. This is a challenge, and in itself is a powerful ethics. Yet it is merely a short summary of a principle. It was never meant to fully describe the virtue of harmlessness. When the Buddha spoke of this precept in more detail, this is what he had to say:

      Having abandoned the taking of life, refraining from the taking of life, one dwells without violence, with the knife laid down, scrupulous, full of mercy, trembling with compassion for all sentient beings.

      This is not just an ethic of allowability. It doesn’t merely set a minimum standard. It calls us out, asking us to aspire to a higher sense of compassion, an ethic that deeply feels for the welfare of all beings. More than just asking, ‘Does this act come from an intention to harm’, we ask ourselves, ‘Is this act the best I can possibly do to promote the welfare of all?’ Rather than simply escaping bad kamma, we create good kamma.”

      Further into the post Bhante wrote “And yet: we cannot let our ethical choices be dictated by ancient texts. Right and wrong are too important. The scriptures do not contain everything, and do not answer every question. As Buddhists, we take the texts seriously, and do not lightly discard their lessons. Yet there is a difference between learning from scripture and submitting to it.”

      And in a further paragraph he wrote “This being so, it is unethical to cite scripture as a justification for doing harm. If eating meat is harmful and unnecessary, it remains so whatever the texts say. Our sacred texts are sacred, not because they determine what is right and wrong, but because they inform our choices and help us to do better.”

      He concludes “The principle of harmlessness underlies the very fabric of the Dhamma, and if its application in this context is problematic, the principle itself is not in question. It simply means our scriptures are imperfect, and the practice of ethics is complex and messy. But we knew that already. It is not out of disrespect that we make our choice, but out of respect for the deeper principles of compassion and harmlessness.”

      I find his post to be more comprehensive and informative than a narrow focused stock standard justification for meat eating without consideration of contemporary social developments and settings. After all, all religions are human constructs and originated within specific social, cultural and geographical systems in the past. They did not magically come out of a vacuum.

      I also believe it’s important to carefully read and contemplate what Bhante has written and if we disagree be specific as to what the disagreements are.

      Let our consciences be our guide to right intention, speech and action.

    • We should clamor for a more humane treatment and preparation of live stock. It is in the treatment and preparation of livestock where the negative karma majorly arise not in the meat eating.

    • The supply and demand for meat and other animal products are intimately related and driven by the demand side. Bhante is telling us to consider the ethics of meat eating (sila) also and not just kamma.

    • We are Buddhist so karma is more important. Sila is subjective, karma is universal. It is karma that traps us in the cycle of rebirth. We strive to be liberated from karma by destroying the attachments of the mind.

    • On the contrary it’s our actions guided or misguided by our sila that determine the karma we generate. It is the driver of karma. There is no way to be liberated without the practice of sila.

    • All that we are is the result of what we have thought: it is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. – Lord Buddha
      The mind is the driver not actions not sila. How the mind factors in to the workings of karma that is the focus not sila or ethics. The creation and interpretation of sila is subjective and prone to the trappings of the “self”. Sila is connected to the “self” so if you think about it, it is but a delusion of the mind. Take for example the issue of sexual misconduct. Sila alone is insufficient in describing what is and what is not misconduct. It is the mind and law of karma the will though.

  65. “Sila is connected to the “self” so if you think about it, it is but a delusion of the mind.”
    Really? Are you serious? Sila being a delusion of the mind?

    We’re getting off the track here. Perhaps Bhante can post a new topic.

  66. It is difficult to add to this topic what had not been already said. Several members have made strong arguments for the correlation of Sila, ethics, and Kamma. I do not see how what applies to monastics should not apply to laity, and seen perhaps as advanced practice. Likewise, oppression and taking of life (regardless of species) is nowhere justified in the Buddha’s teaching.

    Anyway, my intended comment has to do with prior posts describing Kamma in terms of ‘seeds’. To the best of my recollection, the ‘Seeds of Kamma’ (including its containers and ‘Base Consciousness’) is taken from the Abhidhamma, and a much later concept not found in the early Suttas. Bhikkhu Sujato, please correct me here if I’m wrong. I wonder whether this definition of Kamma has something to do with the most recent debate.

    Just my three cents…

    Kamil

    • Yes, I think this description of karma is later; the image of a seed occurs in the suttas, but in relation to consciousness, not karma.

  67. Read “The Vegetarian Myth” by Lierre Keith. Vegetarianism is NOT more ethical, it’s just a shallow, surface reaction to the suffering of animals and doesn’t address the systemic problems of how we get our sustenance.

  68. Bhante,

    A wonderful and thought provoking article as always. Your writings have helped me enormously. I have struggled with this issue myself:

    May I ask you, as one who accepts the Buddha’s teaching on rebirth—What about the argument that these animals would not be born as animals at all without meat production? (If you’ll forgive me for putting the horror of the actual production aside for just a moment).

    Could meat production be giving the gift of high level animal birth to a being that would not have had the chance of being born in the animal realm? Certainly all those animals would never have been born in the first place without meat production? Couldn’t my chicken for dinner have been stuck in a lower insect/rodent/hungry ghost ect. realm/ but there was luckily an available opening as a chicken due to my consumer demand?

    We are already stuck with their being a lot of humans and lot less animals around (i.e. civilization). More mammals the merrier for beings in our corner of Samsara?

    The author Lierre Keith, cited by another commenter, and others convinced me that a modern vegetarian diet is not indeed more harmful from an environmental perspective than a meat diet contrary to popular opinion. (Their arguments beyond the scope of this post of course).

    Even if my theory is correct perhaps this benefit is negated by negative kamma caused from tacitly supporting a form of violence regardless of any other issue. Or perhaps, this is one of the reasons the Buddha was somewhat ambiguous on this topic.

    On a personal level I experimented with slaughtering my own animals instead of buying them, to be as humane as possible and to have a more first hand account of the suffering my actions were causing–even in ideal circumstances. However, it quickly proved impractical. I am cautiously hopeful that as societies become more wealthy they are willing to spend some of that surplus on treating animals a bit better (i.e. many more affluent folks paying more for free range animals, ect.)

    Any help is greatly appreciated. Thank you again. I hope the above doesn’t sound too nutty.

    –Luke

    • Hi Luke,

      Thanks for the thoughtful response.

      I think the question of where the animals would have been reborn is really one that is outside our ken, so shouldn’t be a part of an ethical consideration. What we can see is the suffering that is in front of us, and it is on that basis that we should respond. Ethics should always be reasonable and empirical.

      If you look at how the Buddha handled ethical questions, even assuming that the kammic consequences in future lives was an issue that he could speak with authority on, he rarely if ever hung his ethical positions off that peg. On the contrary: he normally argued that the consequences of acts that are visible in this life will be similar to the consequences hidden in the future.

      So do what is right here and now, and let kamma take care of itself.

  69. Dear Sujato and other bloggers,
    For my Study of Religion class I am required to conduct and Ethnographic Investigation based on the influence of sacred texts in our society. The religion I have chosen to study is Buddhism, and the area being examined is the influence of Buddhist Sacred Texts on the human perception of other sentient beings. I am required to provide evidence for how this has contributed to the commonly adopted vegetarian lifestyle and number of animal rights activists in today’s society on both a local and international basis. Part of my task is to conduct interviews and correspond with people who made be of assistance. If any of you have time to spare, it would be greatly appreciated if you contacted me at lterry@gccinnisfail.qld.edu.au, to share your personal experiences with the influence of Buddhist teachings in your lives and how this affects the choices you make in regards to other living beings etc (whether or not you are an adherent of the religion). All opinions are welcome.

    -Many Thanks!! L.

    • Very negative, very negative, Lydia! Just look on how many wood’s are left and the relation of spreading the “Dhamma” to those how dont have a capacity to understand and through people how missuse it for wordily proposes. But it’s lesser a matter of the sacred text and the Dhamma but more a totally misunderstanding of its actual propose and I doubt if any study would even make it better. I guess it will just increase the misinterpretations and the struggle on this wired grown planet.

      For sure you will get a lot of support from people attached to the world and they will nourish and feed on it like the normal turns.

      If you like to do something good for the the people, simply start to investigate the Dhamma for your self and live according to it. Opinions and politics of any kind have always nourished the death at least.

      _()_

  70. Maybe useful on this topic, even it is maybe not the best translation into English:

    Do Buddhist have the right to take something from animals?
    It might be for some a useful approach to understand the issue food incl. discussions and hypocrisy on its behave in relation of the eightfold path end finally use this insecurity as a driving force to the very aim.

    Take your time when reading it and sorry for my bad English. If you are in a hurry or can not tolerate its “unprofessional” approach, better leave it as it is. It will just make you useless trouble rather than useful trouble.

    _()_

  71. Dear Bante,

    this OP and approach in neither useful nor proper but of course beloved and useful to increase and nourish on the current popularity.
    I guess you know the related word in regard of additions on what should not be further explained and it would be really good if such simple hints are respected if the whole is not really understood.

    It would be really great if some would develop some samvega rather to turn on blindly and make another virtue out of an incapacity.

    The Dhamma does not have the purpose to give people another reason to nourish on what is causing dukkha for others and them selves at least.

    Get that stuff out of the way!

    _()_
    Johann

  72. Thank you for this posting. If you consider the precept ‘taking what is not freely given’, then by stealing eggs & milk from (battery hens) & cows that are kept lactating with their male offspring becoming veal or killed at birth??

    • Well it’s always difficult to justify one seek for pleasure and there is no way out as to simply uproot the cause. Or do you like to tell us that your vegan, vegetarian of what ever “remorse placebo” is given, not to speak that the idea, that plants are no beings and not part of the wheel on rebirth is a simply justification for this idiotic Bodisattva/Robinhood-path?
      I would really wonder if anybody here ever hand seen what is needed to get food, not to speak that every kind of being nurished on the suffering of other living creatures. Do you like to be a good and honored being?

    • Johann (Hanzze),

      Perhaps you should reflect on the need of some beings to go out of their way to be judgmental and constantly display it.

      Could it be the ego’s incessant need to assert itself?

    • What do you think would Bhante answer… Against Bhantes believes and conceptions? I don’t think so.
      Furthermore, you would never realize a Buddha even he would tell you face to face. You may read a little about Devadatta and his followers. Even it is long time a go, beings not freed and enlightened will come again and again, trying to win over the Buddhas teachings.

      Still trying to be the leader of the Sangha, Devadatta tried yet another plan — a deceitful one. With the help of five hundred misled monks, he planned to split the Sangha community.

      He requested the Buddha to make it compulsory for monks to follow five extra rules:

      (i) Dwell all their lives in the forest
      (ii) Live only on alms obtained by begging
      (iii) Wear robes made from rags collected from the dust heaps and cemeteries
      (iv) Live at the foot of trees
      (v) Refrain from eating fish or meat throughout their lives.

    • Devadatta made this request, knowing full well that the Buddha would refuse it. Devadatta was happy that the Buddha did not approve of the five rules, and he used these issues to gain supporters and followers. Newly ordained monks who did not know the Dharma well left the Buddha and accepted Devadatta as their leader.

      ;-)

  73. Bhante,
    What a an honest and perhaps brilliant piece. And I see the apologists for slaughter and butchering are after your hide as well. Yes it hurts to have one’s image of oneself shattered by the truth of factory farms and slaughter houses if one is addicted to eating flesh. Very brave of you.

  74. Hello Bhante . I belong to the tibetan Vajrayan tradition, most of the tibetan has very strong habit o eating meat, because of his past (the exiles), but I became dairi – vegetarian a year a go.

    Regarding the argument about Devadatta, please conside this. The five rules proposed by Devadatta (1. that monks live only in the forest; 2. that they depend exclusively on begging; 3. that robes be made from discarded rags; 4. that they dwell under trees; and 5. that they abstain from eating flesh) were meant to convey the appearance that he was more saintly, and therefore the ideal leader for the Sangha.

    There are three reasons why they were rejected:

    1. Devadatta’s intention was to split the Sangha and advance his craving for power and fame. His concerns were not ethical, but rather political.

    2. The rules of the Vinaya were developed progressively, and always in response to specific doubts or conflicts. They were never issued ‘a priori’.

    3. The rule concerning the consumption of flesh was redundant, as it was already covered in the 4 Parajikas (major offenses requiring disrobing). The fourth of these is “Do Not Kill”.

  75. There are countless instances throughout the sutras of the Buddha’s clear intent regarding our relationship with all sentient beings:

    ‘As I am, so are these.

    As these are, so am I.’

    Drawing the parallel to yourself,

    neither kill nor get others to kill.

    All tremble at violence; all fear death.

    Putting oneself in the place of another,

    one should not kill nor cause another to kill.

    Having abandoned the taking of life,

    refraining from the taking of life,

    one dwells without violence,

    with the knife laid down, scrupulous, full of mercy,

    trembling with compassion for all sentient beings.

    Although a man may wear fine clothing, if he lives peacefully,

    and is good, self-possessed, has faith, and is pure;

    and if he does not hurt any living being, he is a holy Brahmin,

    a hermit of seclusion, a monk called a Bhikkhu.

    The wise who hurt no living being,

    and who keep their body under self-control,

    they go to the immortal nirvana,

    where once gone they sorrow no more.

    And how does a Bhikkhu abide

    with his mind imbued with friendliness extending everywhere?

    Just as he would feel friendliness on seeing a dearly favorite person,

    exactly so does he extend this same loving-kindness

    to all beings in all eight directions,

    one by one, and as above so also below.

    He who for the sake of happiness

    hurts others who also want happiness,

    shall not hereafter find happiness.

    Those who live only for pleasures,

    and whose minds are not in harmony,

    who consider not the food they eat,

    are idle, and have not the power of virtue,

    such are moved by mara,

    are moved by selfish temptations,

    even as a weak tree is shaken by the wind.

    Bhikkhus, whatever kinds of worldly merit there are,

    all are not worth one sixteenth part of the release of mind by universal friendliness;

    in shining, glowing and beaming radiance, in invisible yet shielding protection,

    such release of mind by universal friendliness far excels and surpasses them all.

    The intent of the Buddha is clear: respecting ALL life is a necessary condition for the practice of the Dharma. One dubious statement (requiring an unwarranted interpolation for a specious interpretation that runs counter to the overarching teachings on compassion) cannot negate the injunction to practice universal friendliness.

  76. And also de Jivakka Sutta is a coorupted text. The tree puritys are later addition to original pali text.

  77. In the Mahayana Sutras Buddha says that he dont eat meat, and also forbides it: NIrvana Sutra, Angulimalya Sutra, Brahamanjali, Lankavatara, Karma, Shurangama, Mahamega, and others. So…what do we do? I follow my own counscious and compassive heart. Thanks Bhikku

  78. “…it simply says that one should inquire as the the source of the meat…”
    I think you meant to type “it simply says that one should inquire as to the source of the meat.”

  79. What about cultured meat, grown in a laboratory? No animal was harmed in its creation. No damage was done to the environment. Yes, it has just become available (in fact since this article was written), but if it goes the way of so many of these technologies it will within the space of a few decades be available at cost to anyone at the supermarket.

  80. Thank you Bhante. You have managed to articulate my thought better than I could have done. May all beings be happy and well.

    • I Am amazed at how people try to rationalize meat eating in this modern society, where an educated person need not eat any animal products. We now know the immense health benefits, and we now know that it is not sustainable, and much cruelty is involved. This nonsense about it not being specifically killed for you is unbelievable. Everything is connected. If we eat animals, we are eating the flesh of our own children. It is time to evolve.

  81. Bo- no vegan would ever buy or use fish oil.

    Amy Vegan

    “Bo says:
    February 12, 2012 at 11:49 am
    Or a few thousand wriggling sardines in a net slowly suffocating (eventually to boiled down into fish oil capsules bound for vegan bathroom shelves)”

  82. Buddhist Captive Animal Release: When da Numbers Just Don’t Add Up

    ON RELEASING SARDINES

    OR

    A TWENTY-FIVE-YEAR REIGN of CRUSTACEAN-EATING TERROR:

    Sardinops Caeruleus

    “Coastal,pelagic, in large (or in the past very large) schools (up to 10 million individuals estimated in times of abundance);migratory, with a definite northward movement between California and British Columbia waters in summer and return (autumn, winter).Feeds on zooplankton (chiefly small crustaceans), also phytoplankton, mainly by filter-feeding; also by pecking at individual animals.
    Breeds mainly off the southern California coast about 80 km offshore between Point Conception and San Diego; January to June, but a peak in April to May (at night); eggs pelagic; some individuals spawn in their first year, but most in their second; scale studies suggest that some fishes live 20 to 25 years.” *

    I care for the crustaceans too. -mh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s