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Buddhism and Vegetarianism

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1. From John Kahila (talk.religion.buddhism newsgroup):

Are all Buddhists vegetarians?

No. The First Precept admonishes us to refrain from killing, but meat eating is not regarded as an instance of killing, and it is not forbidden in the scriptures. (We are speaking here mainly of the Pali scriptures. Some of the Mahayana scriptures, notably the Lankavatara Sutra, take a strong position in favor of vegetarianism. Also see Note below)

As recorded in the Pali scriptures, the Buddha did not prohibit consumption of meat, even by monks. In fact, he explicitly rejected a suggestion from Devadatta to do so. In modern Theravada societies, a bhikkhu who adheres to vegetarianism to impress others with his superior spirituality may be committing an infringement of the monastic rules.

On the other hand, the Buddha categorically prohibited consumption of the flesh of any animal that was "seen, heard or suspected" to have been killed specifically for the benefit of monks (Jivaka Sutta, Majjhima Nikaya 55). This rule technically applies only to monastics, but it can be used as a reasonable guide by devout lay people.

To understand this "middle path" approach to meat-eating, we have to remember that there were no "Buddhists" in Shakyamuni's time. There were only mendicants of various kinds (including the Buddha's disciples), plus lay people who gave them alms out of respect without necessarily worrying about the brand name of the teachings.

 

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