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Vegetarianism and Buddhism


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I'm curious to see what people say about the idea that that chicken in your pot never would have been alive if people didn't eat meat - it was raised specifically to be food, and never would have been born otherwise. The Burmese Jungle Fowl might have been ran extinct and the entire race of domesticated chickens never would have been.

IMHO, being a complete vegetarian is everybit as much of a hypocritical position as anything else - the absolutes just aren't absolute. Certainly, you don't want to cause suffering, but life is life. Eating plants to harming life as well - by eating any kind of nuts or fruit you are eating baby plants that will never grow. And plants have energy/life force as well.

Certianly, however, plants are less prone to suffering than animals, but that is another matter altogether, using a completely different line of reasoning.

I don't the the Buddha was hypocritical - after Jainism was around in his time and he didn't subscribe to it. Jainism is the logical extension of such logic, and clearly the buddha had other reasons.

Well put. When you follow the moral logic of most vegetarians it quickly begins to unravel.

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I must say that I was surprised to read replies indicating that monks and presumably devotees on the path to enlightenment are allowed to eat meat.

Having said, I'm learning that I'm intolerant to major food groups and would lose much weight and strength if I also gave up eating meat.

This leads to my catch 22 situation.

The reason I'm surprised is due to the violation of the precept not to kill.

Many thousands of people work in abattoirs worldwide slaughtering millions of animals on a daily basis for meat eaters. The khama these people might be accumulating is for others to comment, but by eating meat, we allow others to kill animals for us.

This makes us complicit to the violation of a major precept. This industry exists only because of our demand to eat meat.

The fact that I don't directly see or hear the animal being slaughtered doesn't take away my knowledge that animals are slaughtered for my behalf being one of many meat eaters in the market place.

Am I incorrect?

Edited by rockyysdt
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I must say that I was surprised to read replies indicating that monks and presumably devotees on the path to enlightenment are allowed to eat meat.

Having said, I'm learning that I'm intolerant to major food groups and would lose much weight and strength if I also gave up eating meat.

This leads to my catch 22 situation.

The reason I'm surprised is due to the violation of the precept not to kill.

Many thousands of people work in abattoirs worldwide slaughtering millions of animals on a daily basis for meat eaters. The khama these people might be accumulating is for others to comment, but by eating meat, we allow others to kill animals for us.

This makes us complicit to the violation of a major precept. This industry exists only because of our demand to eat meat.

The fact that I don't directly see or hear the animal being slaughtered doesn't take away my knowledge that animals are slaughtered for my behalf being one of many meat eaters in the market place.

Am I incorrect?

We all have views on many things....you clearly have views on how eating meat is connected with the killing of animals and you are sort of implying that by eating meat someone is acting equivalently to killing the animal...but you don't actually say it..you sort of dance around the edges of the issue.

I would like to point out that there is a Buddhist reference where the Buddha is listing types of things that should not be eaten and he specifically indicates in several instances that eating meat is not part of the stated restriction....I really wish I could find that reference but so far have not. If someone knows it please let us know.

Chownah

Edit: I found the reference but I have not found it on line...the reference is:

Sutta Nipāta, Hammalawa Saddhātissa

This is a strange Sutta in that it is a dialogue between a Buddha from before the time of Gotama Buddha and an ascetic. My description above is not quite accurate....a better characterisation would be that the ascetic claims that eating meat is stench and the Buddha Kassapa indicates that there are alot of things that he considers to be stench but that eating meat is not one of them. Evidentally there is a Commentary to the Āmagandha Sutta (which I couldn't find on line) which tells of Gotama Buddha recalling the Sutta Nipata.

Chownah

Edited by chownah
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Many thousands of people work in abattoirs worldwide slaughtering millions of animals on a daily basis for meat eaters. The khama these people might be accumulating is for others to comment, but by eating meat, we allow others to kill animals for us.
But those animals never would have existed in the first place, had it not been for the demand for meat. Of course, other animals may have.... But still, the end point of this logic is that by existing, you are causing other things to cese to exist. Period, no way around it. But, you don't see many people advocating "Kool Aid" for all...
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First resutls from google search brought up this intersting quote:

"The purchaser of flesh performs Hinsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does Hinsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing: he who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells or cooks flesh and eats it -- all of these are to be considered meat-eaters. Mahabharat Anu 115.40"

It's not a Buddhist text, though.

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It is bad to kill...but not to eat

the percentage of people who are actually concerned about the suffering of animals enough to want to become vegatarians is really small....so there will always be plenty of people willing to buy meat and to make a profit by raising and killing animals to provide for them......

do not think that you are supporting the whole industry by yourself...

beware also, if you are a vegetarian, of commiting 'white sin'...which is feeling superior to those who are not vegetarian..... telling people they are wrong to eat meat.....

it is not WHAT you eat...but HOW you eat that is important....... at the meditation temple we are taught to consider our food before consuming it....thank all those involved in providing it.......donors, cooks, farmers, and also any animals which have provided their flesh........and make a vow to try and use the food to give us health to practise the dhamma.....not to allow us to accumulate defilements

and they tell a story of a couple crossing the desert with a child, and for lack of food and water the child dies..... and they are forced to consume the flesh of the child to sustain life........ would they eat it with relish and comment about how tasty it is...or would they feel disgust and eat giving thanks....THAT is how we should eat meat and the flesh of animals and fish etc.

Edited by fabianfred
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It wouldn't be required to support the whole industry by one's self. How many chickens would 1 person eat in a lifetime? How many chickens, total, will all the Thai monks eat in the coming year? That is a drop in the bucket in relation to the overall market, but thats still a lot of karmic chicken heads laying around.

it is not WHAT you eat...but HOW you eat that is important

I am 100% there with you on that.

. would they eat it with relish and comment about how tasty it is...or would they feel disgust and eat giving thanks..

I can't follow you quote that far, though. I do't see whats wrong with enjoying food, per se. And I really don't follow making myself disgusted with it. As in the killing insects thread, I don't think death is all its cracked up to be. I don't thionk we should kill unless we can possibly avoid it, and I am totally there with you about being aware and respectful of the things around us - food certianly included (you are what you eat, afterall) but I can't fathom getting disgusted by eating.

And here is a story with ym point in it. A guy is bouldering in the Canyonlands in Utah, USA by himself - there are 50 meter tall rocks and he is on a long trip by himself, climbing wherever he wants to. Anyway, he is climbing over the side of a large boulder when it rolls over, pinning his arm against a clif. He tries everything for 3 days to get his arm out, yells until his lungs bleed, but no good. Then, he comes to the realization that he has a pocketknife, and all he has to do is to cut his arm off. Only, he doesn't see it like that... He's thinking to himself, "All I have to do be free is to get this thing off of me." it is no longer his own arm, it is the thing that is trapping him. Strangely, he describes cutting his arm off to be the happiest moment of his life. Its really not what you'd expect, but things are not what they seem. What is and isn't part of you changes with the wind.

Also, in regards to the killing insects thread, I feel that animals aren't particularly special. If one ought to feel disgust when eating animals, then one ought to feel disgust at eating anything at all. Disgust that you must destroy other things so that you may live. It is utterly unavoidable. Even in the act of killing yourself, you take untold numbers of other beings with you - from your children that never were to the bacteria in your gut to the symbiotic mitochondria.

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it is not WHAT you eat...but HOW you eat that is important....... at the meditation temple we are taught to consider our food before consuming it....thank all those involved in providing it.......donors, cooks, farmers, and also any animals which have provided their flesh........and make a vow to try and use the food to give us health to practise the dhamma.....not to allow us to accumulate defilements

This is exactly what I'm very suspicious of. Anybody can claim that he possesses this skill but how many monks actually have it developed?

Another quote:

"Strictly speaking, no activity and no industry is possible without a certain amount of violence, no matter how little. Even the very process of living is impossible without a certain amount of violence. What we have to do is to minimize it to the greatest extent possible."

Mahatma Gandhi

We make daily compromises between our desires and what we perceive as the "right thing to do", or "wholesome thing to do". This is the basis. Trying to eat stuff with the right attitude helps, but it doesn't change the basic fact - we eat animals for pleasure, and with pleasure, most of the time, and we do acquire bad karma as a result. Live with it.

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I guess this is one aspect I am still struggling with. "Minimizing it to the greatest extent possible" means Jainism. I can see not being attatched to this food or taste, etc etc, but that is fundamentally not the same thing. it is from that aspect that I see the wisdom in the buddha's precepts regarding eating. Minimizing destruction seems to be a fools errand in many respects. An eenlightened, more accurate, less attatched world view would minimize destruction in and of itself - just a side effect of the truth. it is important to minimize desctruction, and to 'be nice' in general, but I sorta see that as the effects of a larger process. Granted, it can theoretically speed the process by mimicing the results. What am I missing?

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This is exactly what I'm very suspicious of. Anybody can claim that he possesses this skill but how many monks actually have it developed?

not many......just because a guy becomes a monk doesn't suddenly make him a saint....monks are still men some better than others.....and there are probably less than five percent who are actually trying their best to get to nirvana....and at least fifty percent just out for an easy life....

perhaps 'disgust' was a bit strong a word to use .....I did not mean we should be disgusted when eating all food either....but with meat we should not be exclaiming .....'this chicken is really tasty'...."I love my pork done like this...."...etc. I know it is something which is almost impossible to achieve...especially nowadays with all the advertising we have to contend with....

the main thing is to eat mindfully

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I guess this is one aspect I am still struggling with. "Minimizing it to the greatest extent possible" means Jainism. I can see not being attatched to this food or taste, etc etc, but that is fundamentally not the same thing. it is from that aspect that I see the wisdom in the buddha's precepts regarding eating. Minimizing destruction seems to be a fools errand in many respects.

Didn't they invent "middle path" to address exactly this kind of issues - to reconcile ideals and reality.

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I must say that I was surprised to read replies indicating that monks and presumably devotees on the path to enlightenment are allowed to eat meat.

The bottom line is the Buddha specifically rejected making vegetarianism mandatory for monks (it was proposed by Devadatta), probably for practical reasons. He wanted monks to be totally dependent on the laity and not to have preferences about anything. So there was no way the monks could insist that poor villagers only offer them vegetables and fruit. He probably saw vegetarianism as an extreme position rather than the Middle Way.

So IMO veganism/vegetarianism becomes an intellectual argument that misses the point. The point is to cultivate one's mind. Killing a being bothers me, and that's the kamma of the action. Eating an animal that looks like an animal also bothers me. But eating a piece of steak or wearing leather shoes doesn't bother me at all. It may not be entirely logical, but it doesn't affect my mental cultivation. So I've developed a compromise. I eat meat if someone else has ordered it (very common when eating with colleagues in Thailand). I don't buy meat to eat at home. I don't eat baby animals - no veal, lamb or moo han. This is what works for me.

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It seems the answer is not in whitewashing meat eating as innocent (it happens quite often), it's in doing the best you can in your situation.

The answer is to understand what the Buddha taught. He did not teach anyone to stop eating meat or fish. The only Buddhists in the Tipitaka who were vegetarian were Devadata and his followers.

And now only nutty Buddhist cults like Bodhilak and his followers are vegetarian. Perhaps we coudl say unless one has some strong medical reason - like a rare disease- being vege is almost a sign of mental disorder.

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It seems the answer is not in whitewashing meat eating as innocent (it happens quite often), it's in doing the best you can in your situation.

The answer is to understand what the Buddha taught. He did not teach anyone to stop eating meat or fish. The only Buddhists in the Tipitaka who were vegetarian were Devadata and his followers.

And now only nutty Buddhist cults like Bodhilak and his followers are vegetarian. Perhaps we coudl say unless one has some strong medical reason - like a rare disease- being vege is almost a sign of mental disorder.

Actually there are alot of Buddhists who are vegetarian. I was vegetarian for many years and found it to be a perfectly good way to be....If my wife was vegetarian I probalby would be too since she insists on doing the cooking.

chownah

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Perhaps we could say unless one has some strong medical reason - like a rare disease- being vege is almost a sign of mental disorder.

On the contrary, I believe that being a vegetarian can be a sign of clarity. An argument nobody has brought up is that raising animals is FAR less efficient than raising crops. In an increasingly crowded and polluted world, being a vegetarian is something that one can do to minimize one's negative effect on the environment.

Incidentally, nwe research is showing that the most efficient use of land to feed people means eating a little bit of meat - 63 grams / day. This is assuming animals are graze-fed and raised locally. Transporting meat long distances, and corn-fed diets totally throw off the numbers. ( So being a vegetarian is still extremely reasonable -if you choose the right reasons, IMHO!)

http://www.newscientist.com/blog/shortshar...-brain-and.html

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I guess this is one aspect I am still struggling with. "Minimizing it to the greatest extent possible" means Jainism. I can see not being attatched to this food or taste, etc etc, but that is fundamentally not the same thing. it is from that aspect that I see the wisdom in the buddha's precepts regarding eating. Minimizing destruction seems to be a fools errand in many respects.

Didn't they invent "middle path" to address exactly this kind of issues - to reconcile ideals and reality.

I don't think so. I think the Middle path accurately refelcts reality. Its not a compromise, it is logic. When you take the argument that you should do everything in your powr to not affect anything else, you come to a totally untenable scenario. Additionally, you lose sight of the relatedness of everything. The Middle Path is factually more accurate.

So IMO veganism/vegetarianism becomes an intellectual argument that misses the point. The point is to cultivate one's mind.
I would completely agree with this. I would add that one should,. of course, be mindful of ones acions, so that the answer is not quite so 'neat'. but i don't think that there is anything fundamentally wrong with eating animals. Although there are certainly strong arguments to be made against it. I think it has mostly to do with where each person is, physically and spiritually. Hence the idea that precepts are the way to go (again, what a smart guy, huh?)
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Didn't they invent "middle path" to address exactly this kind of issues - to reconcile ideals and reality.

I don't think so. I think the Middle path accurately refelcts reality. Its not a compromise, it is logic.

I think Middla Path IS a compromise. It certainly looks so from this Wikipedia definition.

In Theravada Buddhism's Pali Canon, the phrase "middle way" is ascribed to the Buddha himself in his description of the Noble Eightfold Path as a path between the extremes of austerities and sensual indulgence.

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Except that indulging your whims doesn't get you anywhere.  And idealism is not factually correct. It sounds good as long as you only listen to the arguments you want to.  The Middle Path may be between both of those extremes,  but that doesn't mean it is a compromise ...  

At least not 'compromise' in the sense that you have 2 opposing parties negotiating... ( I'll eat meat if you meditate on it....  )   Meditation works,   thats why it is in the Path, not because it was something people could 'live with'.  People do take out what they can at any particular moment, but thats not 'compromise',  thats realism.  

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The bottom line is the Buddha specifically rejected making vegetarianism mandatory for monks (it was proposed by Devadatta), probably for practical reasons. He wanted monks to be totally dependent on the laity and not to have preferences about anything. So there was no way the monks could insist that poor villagers only offer them vegetables and fruit. He probably saw vegetarianism as an extreme position rather than the Middle Way.

So IMO veganism/vegetarianism becomes an intellectual argument that misses the point. The point is to cultivate one's mind. Killing a being bothers me, and that's the kamma of the action. Eating an animal that looks like an animal also bothers me. But eating a piece of steak or wearing leather shoes doesn't bother me at all. It may not be entirely logical, but it doesn't affect my mental cultivation. So I've developed a compromise. I eat meat if someone else has ordered it (very common when eating with colleagues in Thailand). I don't buy meat to eat at home. I don't eat baby animals - no veal, lamb or moo han. This is what works for me.

Judging by the many conflicting posts this subject is not clear and there appears to be no definitive answer.

I'm still surprised as I've carried the belief for many years that those on the path to enlightenment need to become vegetarian.

Whilst with a group of Buddhists headed by a Japanese master, I enquired about vegetarianism. The reply from one of their devotees was that as her practice developed she naturally turned towards vegetarianism through her insights.

I used to share your view about a steak not reminding me of the original animal until I viewed a documentary on pig abbatoirs in Britain. The footage was quite shocking and performed on behalf of all meat eaters. The slaughtermen at these places eventually become descensitised to the act of killing in a gruesome manner.

Todays modern food industry has come a long way since my childhood when people would have to kill and pluck their own chicken for the family meal. Using a third party to perform this act, I can only come to the conclusion that eating meat is complicit with the slaughter of animals.

If many monks currently eat meat, I don't think this condones the practice and maybe the result of rules which are open to intellectual interpretation.

My feeling is that the real answer will come to each of us as our practice towards enlightenment deepens.

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not forgetting that a monk should eat whatever is offered to him and placed in his alms bowl...... as long as he has not seen....(it being killed for him)...not heard.... and is not averse to it

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Judging by the many conflicting posts this subject is not clear and there appears to be no definitive answer.

I'm still surprised as I've carried the belief for many years that those on the path to enlightenment need to become vegetarian.answer will come to each of us as our practice towards enlightenment deepens.

I think this is best understood that while not eating meat is a good thing, for a mendicant monk the practice of non-preference when accepting the generosity of others trumps it.

For my part if I'm offering food to monks I don't offer meat.

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Except that indulging your whims doesn't get you anywhere.  And idealism is not factually correct. It sounds good as long as you only listen to the arguments you want to.  The Middle Path may be between both of those extremes,  but that doesn't mean it is a compromise ...  

At least not 'compromise' in the sense that you have 2 opposing parties negotiating... ( I'll eat meat if you meditate on it....  )   Meditation works,   thats why it is in the Path, not because it was something people could 'live with'.  People do take out what they can at any particular moment, but thats not 'compromise',  thats realism.  

Looks like a wordplay to me, and I didn't even use the word compromise in my original post. The austerity has its merits, sense indulgement is unavoidable, too.

I don't particulary care what you call the solution as long as it's not used as an excuse for gluttony.

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Except that indulging your whims doesn't get you anywhere.  And idealism is not factually correct. It sounds good as long as you only listen to the arguments you want to.  The Middle Path may be between both of those extremes,  but that doesn't mean it is a compromise ...  

At least not 'compromise' in the sense that you have 2 opposing parties negotiating... ( I'll eat meat if you meditate on it....  )   Meditation works,   thats why it is in the Path, not because it was something people could 'live with'.  People do take out what they can at any particular moment, but thats not 'compromise',  thats realism.  

Looks like a wordplay to me, and I didn't even use the word compromise in my original post. The austerity has its merits, sense indulgement is unavoidable, too.

I don't particulary care what you call the solution as long as it's not used as an excuse for gluttony.

Gluttony is really not a problem for monks usually if they follow the vinaya rules because the rules prohibit eating anything substantial after noon.

Chownah

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Well, I once heard that they can't START eating after 12. They have no problems starting at 11 and going on until 1.

I suggest looking on the internet for some information about the rules that monks are supposed to follow..a good place to start is Access to Insight. There's lots of information on the internet about the monks rules and I'm sure you'll have no problem finding them.

Chownah

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Except that indulging your whims doesn't get you anywhere.  And idealism is not factually correct. It sounds good as long as you only listen to the arguments you want to.  The Middle Path may be between both of those extremes,  but that doesn't mean it is a compromise ...  

At least not 'compromise' in the sense that you have 2 opposing parties negotiating... ( I'll eat meat if you meditate on it....  )   Meditation works,   thats why it is in the Path, not because it was something people could 'live with'.  People do take out what they can at any particular moment, but thats not 'compromise',  thats realism.  

Looks like a wordplay to me, and I didn't even use the word compromise in my original post. The austerity has its merits, sense indulgement is unavoidable, too.

I don't particulary care what you call the solution as long as it's not used as an excuse for gluttony.

Indeed,  you said "to reconcile ideals and reality."  This is not necesarily 'compromise',  as I had read it.  You are quite right and I stand corrented.  I have a tendency to move to fast sometimes :o    If you mean "The Middle Path was that to reconcile ideals,  so that they reflect reality",  then I quite agree with you.  

If by that you mean "reconcile ideals with the practical situation faced by unique individuals - that what is right for one person at any given time will not be right for another person,  no matter what is theoretically (ideally) the most correct course of action"  then I also quite agree.  

However,  I don't think that the Middle Path was a way by which to get people to conform to ideals,  in baby steps.  I don't mean to pick nits,  but I do think the point is an important one.  

I sincerely don't mean to justify gluttony.  I only think that certain, often-used arguments to support vegetarianism are logically moribund.  It is a symptom,  not a cause.  

I also feel that many of those self-same arguments are just an extension of anthropomorphism.  Vegetarianism vs eating animals breaks down into a matter of degree - how "far down the chain" is ok to eat?  I don't really see the chain as such.  Along the same lines,  I think that the understanding of the physics underlying such arguments is on the verge of changing significantly.  The physic

s will undoubtedly show a 

degree of relatedness inconcievable to the present zeitgeist.  

This is not to make light of many effective arguments.  Vegetarianism ban be an important part of eating thoughtfully, healthily, and sustainably.  Gluttony fails these tests regardless of vegetarianism.  

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"reconcile ideals with the practical situation faced by unique individuals - that what is right for one person at any given time will not be right for another person, no matter what is theoretically (ideally) the most correct course of action" - that's a simple answer to "can I eat chicken" question.

>>>

I bet there are gluttons among the vegetarians, too.

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I also feel that many of those self-same arguments are just an extension of anthropomorphism. Vegetarianism vs eating animals breaks down into a matter ofdegree - how "far down the chain" is ok to eat? I don't really see the chain as such.

Your line of reasoning suggests to me that if one chooses to eat meat, then any kind of meat is acceptable, even human meat.

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