Recently, a well known Buddhist forum posted the question “Can you be a Buddhist and still eat meat”?
This is a serious topic for me because I’ve been a vegetarian for even longer than being Buddhist.
I’ve been shocked to see the amount of leniency many dhamma practitioners have in regards to meat eating actually.
The Buddha and also the Bible clearly state “thou shalt not kill”, and there are other passages scattered across these and other faiths scriptures condemning the killing of, and eating of any being that has blood running through their veins.
If the Buddha, or Moses meant don’t commit murder, then this would have been clearly stated. But they didn’t, they said “Thou shalt not kill”.
To me, that means don’t kill any living creature. If the precepts meant humans then I’m sure that would have been crystal clear from the outset..
However, monks may have to settle for whatever the laity put in their alms bowl but I’m not sure that clears them of the karma totally. Because someone killed the animal, then someone sold it, someone purchased it and then someone offered it to the monastics who then ate it.
From beginning to end there is a karmic chain , and it all has a common theme- that it’s ok to kill and eat animals.
The Buddha said that he only taught two things- that there is suffering and how to end it.
Are we to take it that animals do not suffer when they are slaughtered? Because I’m certain they do ( they scream ). A calf will howl for days once its mother is taken away to the slaughterhouse..
By purchasing, offering and eating meat , its all turning a blind eye to the suffering of an animal that had to be killed to suit our palates…a certain taste that humans can be attached too because flesh is even introduced in baby food these days..
This brings me to the myth that humans actually need meat to survive.
And it is a myth because the main substance that many people fail to
suitably replace when going vegetarian is protein, and this can be found in things such as soy products, beans, lentils and milk products.
People can choose a vegetarian diet and be healthy. Lay people can choose to not purchase meat and adapt to a more non violent diet and offer the same to the monks. It really stuns me how a lay person can actually feel good in conscience dropping flesh in an alms bowl..
Perhaps when The Buddha was alive, there was no tofu and likely the basic diet was rice, meat and a few home grown leafy vegetables. But nowadays there are so many varieties of food stuff that are imported from around the world that can suit even the most sceptical of vegetarians..
Some say that The Buddha himself ate meat and allowed the monks to accept it too. Ok! I’m fine with that, but the question must be raised as to why he laid down the first precept and wether the original documents that claimed The Buddha condoned meat eating are still accurate word for word. Evidence has it that many things were removed or adulterated in the Bible..
We are talking about scriptures and personalities that date back over two thousand years…a lot can change in that time. As can the original meanings and translations of these texts.
People are more able nowadays, humanity has learned many skills and does not live on instinct ( hunting) alone..so maybe The Buddha had to allow certain things because there was little else society knew how to do in those days.
I don’t think such excuses can be made anymore, and I’m not certain why Theravadin monks cannot grow vegetable patches, especially considering they are allowed to cut grass etc..
Statistics show ( google it) that more people are turning vegetarian, that there is scientific evidence that the human digestive tract cannot digest meat fully ( leading to many serious disorders in cases, and you can google that too ), and that the general treatment of animals bred for slaughter is actually abominable- google that as well..
I could go on, but won’t…it does say something that global leaders such as Thich Nhat Hanh, Jetsumna Tenzin Palmo and Pema Chodron are strict vegetarian. Actually Thay is vegan so I just learnt:)
I conclude my argument by saying that it is an individuals choice about what to eat and how they interpret the first precept.
Comments are welcome:)