Buddha also tells us not to hurt others according to the first precept. According
to passage number 131 of Dhammapada, “He who, for the sake of happiness hurts
others who also want happiness, shall not hereafter find happiness”. Therefore
according to Buddhism not killing and not hurting living beings are very
Passage no. 225 of Dhammapada
says, “The wise who hurt no living beings and who keep their bodies under
self-control, may go to immortal “Nirvana” where once gone they sorrow no
Again Dhammapada passage no.
405 says, “A man is not a great man because he is a warrior and kills others,
but because he hurts not any living beings he in truth is called a great man”.
Dhammapada passages 129 and 130
say, “All beings fear before danger; life is dear to all. When a man considers
this, he does not kill or cause to kill”.
According to Buddhism all
animals such as fish, mammals and birds are sentient creatures and should not
be killed or hurt. According to Buddhism, Buddhists should not be hunters, fishermen,
trappers, slaughterhouse workers, vivisectors etc.
What about eating meat?
Some people argue that, as long
as people don’t kill animals themselves, it is all right to eat meat. But
passages nos. 129 and 130 of Dhammapada specify that we should not kill or
cause to kill. When somebody buys meat and meat products he or she must
necessarily cause someone to kill these animals.
By accepting meat served to us
by someone else, we are causing others to kill. Dhammapada passage no. 7 says,
“He who lives only for pleasures and whose soul is not in harmony, who
considers not the food he eats, is idle and has not the power of virtue, such a
man is moved by “Mara”, is moved by selfish temptation even as a weak tree is
shaken by the wind”.
The main reason is mercy. Mercy
is an important way of learning to be a better person. Being without mercy is
incompatible with being a Buddhist. Having a merciful and a compassionate heart
will show up in all aspects of one’s life.
Think of the intense pain you
would get when a bee or a wasp or a centipede attacks you. A person who has
ever seen how a crab is cooked in boiling water and its desperate and doomed
efforts to crawl and jump out betray the unbearable pain it experiences, will
never eat crabs. Finally the crab gives up the life in sorrow as it turns
bright red. What a painful end!
Why should buddhists be vegetarians ?
A person who has ever seen the
excruciating pain suffered by a cow when the slaughterer cuts a part of the
neck, bleeds the animal and skins the animal long before it dies will never
have the heart to eat beef. Not eating the flesh of these animals is an
expression of mercy.
For meat-eaters, every banquet,
every wedding and every birthday party and every wedding anniversary means
death of thousands of animals.
Preventing the suffering of
living creatures by not using their flesh to satisfy our taste buds and hunger
is the minimum expression of compassion we as Buddhists can offer.
To shoot, knife, strangle,
drown crush, poison, burn or electo. or otherwise intentionally to take life of
a living being, purposefully to cause pain on a human being or an animal is to
defile the first precept.
Another way to defile the first
precept is to cause another to kill, torture or harm any living creature. Therefore
to put flesh of an animal into one’s belly is another way to cause another to
If fowls, cows and fish are not
eaten, they would not be killed. Therefore meat eaters are responsible for the
violence and destruction of animals.
Buddhism also teaches us that
there is not a single being that has not been our father, our mother, husband,
wife, sister, brother, son or daughter, in the ladder of cause and effect
through countless rebirths. In other words the creature that is the cow today
might have been our mother during the last birth.
The chicken you are going to
eat for your dinner to-night might have been your brother or sister during your
last birth. Therefore rights of nonhumans should not be ignored or trampled
upon. How can a bhikkhu seeking liberation from suffering, persistently eat the
flesh of animals, knowing the excruciating pain and terror caused to them at
the time of their slaughter ?
Did the Buddha sanction meat eating ?
The laymen and Bhikkhus who eat
meat quote the Jeewaka sutra in which the Buddha is said to have been addressed
by one Jeewaka. Buddha is quoted as saying.
“I forbid the eating of meat in
3 cases. If there is evidence either of your eyes, or of your ears or if there
are grounds of suspicion. In three cases, I allow it, if there is no evidence
of your eyes or of your ears and if there is no ground of suspicion”.
Are not domestic animals such
as cows, goats, pigs and hens slaughtered for those who eat their flesh? If no
one eats their flesh, obviously they would not be killed.
Can anyone imagine a Bhikku
saying to his “dayakaya” who had offered him meat, “Sir, it is kind of you to
donate this meat to me. But as I have reason to believe that the animal from
which it came was killed just for me, I cannot accept it”?
Jeewaka sutra also implies that
the Buddha approved of butchering and the horrors of the slaughterhouse. Yet
slaughtering is one of the trades forbidden to the Buddhists and with good
To say that on the one hand
that the Buddha condemned the blood trades of slaughtering, hunting, fishing
and trapping and on the other hand allowed Buddhists and Bhikkhus to eat flesh
of slaughtered animals when the animals have not been killed specifically for
them is an absurd contradiction.
Whoelse but the meat eaters are
responsible for the blood trades of butchering, hunting and fishing? After all
the slaughterers and the meat packing houses that sustain them are only
responding to the demands of the flesh eaters.
“I am only doing your dirty
work” was the reply of a slaughterer to a gentleman who was objecting to the
brutality of slaughtering harmless dumb animals”.
Every individual who eats flesh
whether the animal is expressly killed for him or not, is supporting the trade
of slaughtering and contributing to the violent death of harmless dumb animals.
Was the Buddha so obtuse that,
He failed to understand this, He who has been described as the “Perfect One”,
in whom, all mental, spiritual and psychic faculties have come to perfection
and whose consciousness encompasses the infinity of the Universe?
Was the Buddha so imperceptive
as not to see that only by abstaining from flesh eating can one effectively end
both killing of defenceless and dumb animals and the infliction of terror and
suffering upon them.
The Buddha, we are told forbade
His monks to eat flesh of such animals as dogs, elephants, bears and lions. Why
should the Buddha sanction the eating of one kind of flesh and condemn another?
Does a pig or a cow whose meat is supposed to be approved for eating, suffer
any less pain, when it is slaughtered than a dog or a bear?
All Buddhists who are familiar
with numerous accounts of the Buddha’s extra-ordinary compassion and reverence
for living beings, for example, His insistence that, His bhikkhus carry filters
to strain water they drink, lest the death of micro organisms in the water
could occur, could never believe that He would be indifferent to the suffering
and death of domestic animals caused by their slaughter for food.
As all Buddhists are aware, bhikkus
have a separate code of conduct called the “Vinaya”. Surely the Buddha could
have demanded of His monks what He could not have demanded of His lay
Bhikkhus by virtue of their
training and their strength of character, are different from the lay people and
are better able to resist the pleasures of senses to which ordinary people
succumb. That is why, they renounce sexual pleasure and also not eat solids
beyond 12 noon. Why is taking solids after 12 noon a more serious offence than
eating animal flesh? Did the Buddha really say the things the compilers of the
Pali Sutras would have us believe, He said on the subject of meat eating?
Mahayana version of meat eating
Let us now consider the
Sanskrit version as regards meat eating. I quote from “Lankavatara” sutra which
devotes one whole chapter on the evils of meat eating.
“For the sake of love, of
purity, the Bodhisatva should refrain from eating flesh which is born of semen,
blood etc. For the fear of causing terror of living beings let the Bodhisatva
who is disciplining himself to attain compassion refrain from eating flesh”.
“It is not true that meat is
proper food and permissible when the animal was not killed by himself, when he
did not order others to kill, and when it is not specially meant for him”.
“Again there may be people in
the future who being under the influence of taste for meat, will string
together in various ways sophistic arguments to defend meat eating”.
But meat eating in any form, in
any manner, and in any place is unconditionally and once and for all, is
prohibited. I will not permit”.Surangama Sutra says “The reason for practising
“dhyana” and seeking to attain “Samadhi” is to escape from suffering of life.
But in seeking to escape from
suffering ourselves, why should we inflict it upon others. Unless you can
control your minds, that even the thought of brutal unkindness and killing is
abhorrent you will never be able to escape from bondage of world’s life”.
“After my parinirvana in the
last kalpa, different kinds of ghosts will be encountered everywhere, deceiving
people, and teaching that they can eat meat and still attain enlightenment. How
can a bhikku who hopes to become a deliverer of others himself, be living on
the flesh of other sentient beings”?
The “Mahaparinirvana” Sutra
(Sanskrit version) states: “The eating of meat extinguishes the seeds of
Even before the Buddha’s time
various religions in India
condemned flesh eating as not conducive to spiritual progress. If elder
bhikkhus of Mahayana were satisfied with Theravada version of flesh eating,
they would have remained silent. The fact that they spoke out so vehemently
against flesh eating, shows how deeply disturbed the elder bhikkhus who wrote
the Sanskrit version of Buddha’s teachings were.
The Encyclopedia of Buddhism
points out that, in China
flesh eating was looked upon as an evil and was ostracized and any kind of meat
was not used in temples and monasteries. Meat eating was taboo in Japan until the
middle of the 19th century.
People avoided giving alms to flesh eating bhikkhus.
Dr. Kosheliya Wali in her book,
“Conception of Ahimsa In Indian Thought” says, “meat can never be obtained
without injuring creatures and injury to sentient beings and is detrimental to
heavenly bliss and therefore one should shun meat eating”.
“One should consider the
disgusting origin of flesh and the cruelty of slaughtering sentient beings and
entirely abstain from flesh eating”.”He who permits the slaughter of animals,
he who cuts up, kills, buys, sells, serves it up and eats, every one is a
slayer of animals”.
“He who seeks to increase his
own flesh with the flesh of others and worshipping the gods is the greatest of
“Meat cannot be obtained from
straw or stone. It can be obtained only by slaughtering creatures. Hence meat
is not to be taken”.
A Chinese monk once said “You
form a company with whatever type of meat you eat. You form a corporation with
whatever type of animals you eat. For example if you eat a lot of pork you will
become tied up into a company of pigs, same applies to cows, chicken, sheep,
fish and so forth”.
A British vegetarian named Dr.
Walch once said “To prevent human, bloodshed one must start at the dinner
table”. If a person wants to take joy in Buddhism and enter into mercy and
knowledge of the Buddha he must begin at the dinner table.
In Sri Lanka, a wedding party takes
hundreds if not thousands of animal lives. A birthday party or a wedding
anniversary takes hundreds of animal lives. Before the death, living creatures
experience, not joy, but anger and hatred and resentment. It is just by not
killing with body that you observe the first precept. If in your thinking you
allow the killing to go or, you also break the first precept. We must be
determined not to condone killing even in our minds. According to Buddism mind
is the base of all actions.
Did Buddha die from eating meat?
Buddhist monks who eat meat
under certain circumstances, justify their flesh eating, saying that, Buddha
himself ate a piece, of pork at one of his followers houses rather than hurt
the feelings of his “dayakaya”. Some Bhikkhus who eat flesh, say that, they eat
whatever is put before them without any aversion.
But most of the Buddhist
scholars contend that it was not a piece of meat that caused the Buddha’s death
and all Mahayana scriptures unequivocally condone meat eating as mentioned
According to Mrs. Rhys David
what Chunda offered to the Buddha is some mushrooms. Rhys David says that the
term “sukara maddara” has at least 4 meanings.
(a) Food eaten by pigs.
(b) “Pigs delight”
(c) Soft parts of the pig and
(d) Food trampled by the pigs.
Chunda being a follower of the
Buddha, surely, he would not have offered a piece of pork, well knowing that
flesh was not a part of the Buddha’s diet. Very likely Chunda did not eat meat
himself as many Indians did not eat meat during the Buddha’s time.
Why then would he have offered
meat to the “World Honoured One”, a person so sensitive to suffering of all
living beings, that he would not drink milk from a cow during the first 10 days
after its calf is born.
Any Bhikkhu who has been
offered meals at the home of a Buddhist knows that, the “dayakaya” usually asks
the Bhikkhu or his attendant or other “dayakayas” known to the monk, what kind
of food, the Bhikkhus normally eats, so that the “dayakaya” can avoid serving
food that does not agree with him physically or spiritually. During the
Buddha’s days the would be donors of meals to the Buddha often consulted Ven.
Ananda, the Buddha’s attendant.
Bhikkhus who do not like any
item of diet offered to them have a pleasant way of rejecting such food,
without uttering a single word.
As far as I know the majority
of bhikkus in Sri Lanka
eat meat and meat products. Some bhikkhus sometimes mention to the dayakaya,
items of diet such as chicken which they eat when the dayakaya meets them to
book a date for “dana”. Quite a number of Buddhist monks especially those
living in temples such as “Sasuna” and hermitages do not consume any form of
meat, fish or eggs, because that kind of food rouses passion and is not
conducive to their spritiual uplift.
It is noteworthy that more and
more dayakayas give vegetarian diet for almsgivings and the number of
vegetarian bhikkhus has been increasing during the past few years.
Bhikkhus can play a great role
in reducing the slaughter of animals and the terror and suffering associated
with slaughter by requesting their followers not to serve flesh when they meet
the Bhikkhus to invite them for an almsgiving as there are lots of Buddhists
who follow the good examples set by Bhikkus.
The majority of Buddhists have
a higher respect for vegetarian Bhikkhus than for monks who eat flesh. Bhukkhus
who preach “Dhamma” can in no way accept flesh for food without getting into a
conflict with “Ahimsa”.
Buddhism is a religion to be
practised. If the body of Bhikkus makes a proper drive for vegetarianism it
would save a lot of animals from slaughter and cruelty and terror that
The body of Bhikkhus should
lead the way and lay Buddhists, at least a good proportion of them would