Nowadays many are talking about being vegetarian. Some of them say it is a must to become a vegetarian. Some says we are killers if eat meat. Some says there is no problem eating meat… some says those who eat meat turn their stomach into a cemetery. Some says people kill animal because we eat them. As one friend of mine came up with the question “are we break the first precept by eating meat or is it prohibited to eat meat in Buddhism?” I felt it’s time to write down a article on this topic so all of you can make your decision wisely with understanding.
Did Samma Sambuddha ask to become a vegetarian to attain nirvana?
No!! He didn’t ask to become a vegetarian to attain nirvana. Coz attains nirvana is nothing to do with food we eat. If a vegetarian eat his foods with the attachment to the tastes and if he / she can’t get rid of the attachment to that food then of course it is becoming a barrier to attain nirvana… it is equally matters all the food we eat and drink if we taste them with an attachment. Let’s discuss about these attachments later on with another article… now what we have to clarify is what the difference between eating meat and killing animal is.
What is the first precept in 5 precepts & what is the first defilement in 10 defilements?
“Killing” is the first in both sections.
We use our body to harm another being to take his / her / it life away from him… when we discipline our body this is the first defilement which we should get rid of with the understanding.
There are 3 ways which killing can become defilement for us. 1) Killing 2) Helping for killing 3) Praising killing or a killer is the 3 ways which one can involve with killing.
Let’s try to understand these 3 steps clearly…
Killing - this is so easy to understand. When you use your body with the thought of taking life of another being and you fulfilled your activity and that cause to death of another being. Simply you killed another being. And your intention also was to kill a being.
Supporting for killing – when you want to kill another being you don’t like to do it by yourself. What you do is giving the order to someone else by asking kill the relevant being for you. It can be a human or animal. But your intention is to kill that being and all you do is use another person as a weapon to fulfill your intention. And another way you can also say let’s kill this being but you should kill when I give the sign at correct time. Let’s say you are telling “ok, I’ll blink my eye when it’s ready as soon as I blink my eye you should kill” and the process complete and you support killing with a another way with the intention to kill the being.
Praising Killing – this is mostly we can see with the hunters… when a hunter kill a bird or another being those who like his shot is praising him “wow, you did it… etc… etc.” and this is in a way an encouragement to the hunter to kill more beings.
Likewise killing is always complete with the intention to kill a being.
What is the difference between killing and eating meat?
Now as you can understand the steps of killing you can easily understand are we responsible for what eat as meat or not. Eating meat can be a killing if you complete this sort of process.
Imagine that you are killing an animal for your dish let’s say fishing… or hunting… you kill fish or an animal with the thought of having it as your meat dish… now you complete the levels of killing and fulfilled the first defilement there… and also break the first precept.
Imagine that you are not going to kill any animal by yourself but you want to have meat for your dish… then you order someone to kill for yourself and bring the meat for you. Then again you support to the killing even though you didn’t involve killing directly. Then again you break the first precept and did the first defilement. Coz you killed an animal directly for you only.
Imagine that you are praising the person who killed the animal for you to have as meat. When meat is so tasty you feel like praising the person who killed that animal for you to have that taste. If you meet that person you praise him and encourage him to do more killing for you to have such tasty meat. Then you again break the first precept and did the first defilement as you praised a person who kill for you and encourage him for more killing.
So now think are you going through such steps when you eat meat?
Do you praise the butcher or the person who kill animal for you to have them as meat? Do you directly involve with the killing process? Did those people killed the animal only for you and did it reserve for you to use it?
Let me give you some examples to understand the process of killing and how it can become defilement or breaking the first precept…
Once a monk got some food stuck in his throat and another monk hit him by thinking to release him and save… the food stuck in the throat came out but the monk died… then the other monk who hit was feel bad and went to Samma Sambuddha and ask whether he is guilty or not guilty. Then Samma Sambuddha asked what was the “Thought” you had on the time you hit him? Then the monk said “I just wanted to save him, didn’t want to see him die”... Then Samma Sambuddha said “then you are not guilty… if your thought was to kill then only you are guilty”
Another occasion one monk suffered a lot from a disease and other monks thought its better this monk die than suffering in such manner… then they pour some water into the sick monk and he died. Then those monks went to the Samma Sambuddha and ask whether they guilty or not guilty. Then Samma Sambuddha asked what was the “Thought” you had on the time you put water on him? Then the monks were saying “we thought its better he die than suffering like that”... Then Samma Sambuddha said “oh monks you all are guilty… and break the rules which are not allowed”
So it’s the thought matters most…
Nowadays the meat available is not for just you or me… it is coming to the shop as a normal shopping material which is common to everyone… so eating that will not cause anyone to break the first precept or do the first defilement. But still we have to be aware with few more important facts and go on with reading to know about them.
There is a common argument going on when it comes to the vegetarian subject… people say “they kill animal because we eat them so we are responsible for killing…” but that is a meaningless argument… why I say like that? Coz in that case we can’t even eat vegetables… coz farmers are killing so many animals, insects to give better vegetables for us. If the above argument is true then aren’t we responsible for killing again even though we are vegetarians?
Then think about the stealing… if that argument is correct we are responsible for stealing also… coz robbers robbed things as there are people to buy the robbed goods… when we go shopping do we know which good is robbed one which one is not? There may be some fruits available in the shop which one person sold it by stealing someone else’s places… do we know how that fruit comes there? Aren’t we buying? So are we responsible for the stealing also?
If the above argument is true, how it is possible to live in this world? How can one person live? If that argument is true then all of us are doing defilements and we never can get rid from them…
Think about a person who build the knives… he / she build them with the intention to use them for cut vegetables, bread or something else… but what if a person use that knife to kill a being? Is he or she who build the knife is guilty for killing? Are they responsible for that killing just because they build a knife?
If one says people kill animal coz we eat meat then that killer also can come up with an argument we kill animal coz we have weapons / machines to kill them so we aren’t responsible for killing tell them those who build weapons / machines…. It’s not going to end if that such argument are true and will be so difficult to live as well as to attain nirvana also. So the great Samma Sambuddha never explained such meaningless theories… the blessed one explained the truth…
There are few kinds of meat which he prohibited eating… and that also with some incidents happened on those days and there is a meaning behind to prohibit such meat. But the blessed one never asked anyone to become a vegetarian to attain nirvana.
What are the prohibited meats?
1. Human’s flesh
2. Elephant’s flesh
3. Horse’s flesh
4. Dog’s flesh
5. Snake’s flesh
6. Lion’s flesh
7. Tiger’s flesh
8. Leopard’s flesh
9. Bear’s flesh
10. Karabana Bear’s flesh (this one is not much sure which name we use at present… if anyone knows about what is the present name for “Karabana bears” please add it…)
So these are the 10 kind of meats which is prohibited by Samma Sambuddha… each one has a story behind to prohibit eating these animals.
Let me explain shortly those incidents…
Elephant’s flesh – when in a time of famine monks had to eat elephant flesh as they couldn’t find anything else to eat on that time. Then the worldly beings who didn’t bother about what they say or do or think started to say “these monks eat elephants flesh which is a royal animal… and what if our king get to know about this… etc… etc…” then monks report this issue to the Samma Sambuddha and the blessed one said shouldn’t eat the elephant flesh as the one who eat elephant flesh have to go through some seen & unseen troubles. So it was prohibited.
Horse’s flesh – the story was same as above.
Dog’s flesh – when in a time of famine people cooked dog’s flesh and served them to the monks. When some worldly people saw this and started to say “how disgusting these monks are eating meat of such a disgusting animal…etc etc”… those who have disgusting behaviors become such an animal and it’s normally we all know that dog’s flesh is so disgusting to eat even… so Samma Sambuddha prohibited eating dog’s flesh as meat.
Snake’s flesh – when in a time of famine monk had to eat snake flesh as they couldn’t find anything else. Believe it or not there is a kind of being like gods which belongs to the snakes too. And there are evil snakes as well as the well mannered snakes (this is something which normal people can’t see but it is exist and can experience such worlds when you improve in this eight fold path with abilities) so higher ranked snake came to Samma Sambuddha & said “my lord is not good to eat snake’s flesh as the meat coz there are evil snakes which bring evil effect to those who eat snakes flesh… please prohibit the snake’s flesh from the meat which is suitable to use as it will give no good. Samma Sambuddha knows about these things and happened to prohibit the snake’s flesh.
Lion’s flesh - Tiger’s flesh - Leopard’s flesh - Bear’s flesh - Karabana Bear’s – when one eat flesh of these animals the smell is captured by another living lions or tigers or leopards or bears or Karabana bears. When they captured the smell they come and eat the person who eats those fleshes. And also there are some unseen effects also there.
Human’s flesh - in the Samma Sambuddha’s time period as well as in the present eating meat is allowed after when someone did aperients / purgative (cleaning the digesting system by using medicines etc) one monk did such a cleaning process to his digesting system and after that he went to alms – gathering… when he went to a house with the woman who extremely devoted to the alms giving and Samma Sambuddha & his followers the monk requested if it is possible to have some meat for the alms as he had a aperients / purgative… Even though there wasn’t any meat at the home woman didn’t refuse what monk request and she sent her husband to bring some meat… but he couldn’t find any meat as it was a day which no one kill animal… and woman silently went to the kitchen and cut a pieces of flesh from her upper leg and prepared the meal. And she sent to the monk and asked her servant to not to tell anything about her and if asked tell that she is not well. When her husband arrives he knew what had happen and was thrilled by knowing how great his wife is (coz he was a person who achieved the first level Sotapanna … or else worldly beings are not normally happy to know such things) and he went to Samma Sambuddha and request him to come for the alms in next day with other bhikkus. When Samma Sambuddha went their place he requested woman to come and see him… after requesting 2 times the person carried his wife to Samma Sambuddha and as soon as she saw the blessed one her wound vanishes in a magical way. And when Samma Sambuddha returns to the temple requested all the bhikkus come around for a meeting. And asked “who requested meat from that woman?” when the monk came up the blessed one asked “did you received that meat?” And then the monk said “yes, my lord I received them” then Samma Sambuddha asked “did you eat them?” and he said yes… then the blessed one asked “Did you ask what kind of meat it is?” then the monk replied no… then Samma Sambuddha scold him and said “you empty monks you have eaten a human flesh… this is giving no good for those who don’t like this great path and this will give no good to increase the likeness for this path for those who already like this path… etc… etc…” then blessed one explained kindly that there are many kind of people who like to serve Samma Sambuddha and his followers with greatest intentions and they even ready to sacrifice their lives for us… when they get such chances they are not thinking twice to sacrifice even their own flesh as the alms… so no one should eat meat without asking what kind of meat it is… and no one should eat meat if heard that meat is prepared only for him… and no one should eat meat if it is doubtful to have it whether it is for you or not… but blessed one never prohibited eating meat. Sometimes some unseen evil effect which we call the effect of demons comes to monks who follow the path and when such times they will have to eat some kind of meat… specially pork… then blessed one allowed having pork in such occasions as it is must have thing. As we know in some countries they sell the above kind of meats. Dog’s flesh, Snake’s flesh and other dishes are quite popular in some countries. But it is now up to you to make your decision whether to eat them or not. And some shops are there where you can select the fish to cook for you… and now you know that in such occasions you are directly involve with killing… so understanding all these important fact and having meat is not a problem or not breaking the first precept or not get into the first defilements.
There are some more things which you should know…
We all know about Devadatta… It was Devadatta who bring this theory to Samma Sambuddha… he came up with five rules…
1. Monk should stay in forest if they shouldn’t come to villages
2. Monk should live rest of his / her life by “alms – gathering” and they shouldn’t accept the invitations for alms.
3. “They shouldn’t eat meat… he / she should be vegetarian”
4. Monk should were only the shroud (cloth covered the dead bodies or at present rob given to the monk in a death) and shouldn’t wear the normal given robs.
5. Monk should always stay under trees and they shouldn’t allow under a roof.
So being a vegetarian to attain nirvana is the concept of Devadatta (who was the enemy to Samma Sambuddha) and not our blessed one’s teachings. As they are useless Samma Sambuddha ignored all of these rules by saying they are not necessary to attain nirvana or to become a monk. When it is not accepted by Samma Sambuddha Devadatta knew that normal villagers’ worldly beings will definitely agree with these rules as they seem to be suitable for being a monk. And that is what happens and unfortunately still some people believe in these rules and criticizing our greatest monks who lived a normal life (those who live according to the Samma Sambuddha’s teaching).
When one person strongly saying “you are responsible for killing because you eat meat” then people may agree with that person… and they come to their own vision which is they are responsible for killing because they eat meat… and that is categorize into the “Lies” and “false vision” and if that person live with it till they die it can guide them to the hell too.
What we shouldn’t eat?
If you get to know that one meat is just prepare for only you by killing the animal for your name if you got to know about it… if you heard that such a thing happened… if you are in a doubt that some meat is prepared just for your name then you shouldn’t eat the meat.
If you are clear with what you got to eat… the meat is not prepared for your name or not killed the animal for your name… or if you didn’t hear such thing happen… if you are not in doubt that the meat you got is not a killed animal just for you then you can eat such meat.
If one believes that “one’s foods are responsible for the cleanliness of his / her” then that person is with a false vision… it also we can identify as a “Seelabbatha Paramasa (believing that rules and some practices can give the liberation)
If one killed an animal to the alms giving of Samma Sambuddha that person gather many sins in 5 ways…
1. If one saying “goes & brings that animal to kill” that person gathers many sins.
2. When that animal bring to kill as much as that animal suffer with fear and death as much as that person also gather sins.
3. When one order to kill that animal that person also gather many sins
4. When the time of killing as much as that animal suffers as much as sins gathered to the persons who support it directly.
5. And finally when someone criticizes or insults the Samma Sambuddha or his followers by saying “they eat meat which is not suitable for them” then many sins gather to such people.
There is one incident well described in core Buddhism about this being vegetarian.
One Brahman call “Amagandha” use to popular with that name with a reason… he used to say “those who eat meat turn their stomach into a cemetery… dead bodies inside… and they are so disgusting…unclean… smelly… etc” and he came to the Samma Sambuddha and also said the same… then Samma Sambuddha said food is not the reason to become a smelly disgusting unclean person it is the mind with defilements…. if one person is with desire, hatred & ignorance no matter how he / she clean with outer appearance or how he eat pure clean foods or being vegetarian that person is disgusting and unclean and smelly…
Even Samma Sambuddha ate meat… meat is something already dead… eating meat is nothing to do with killing as long as it fulfill the process according to the above descriptions… we select meat in shops as normal vegetables & fruits… they are not living being but dead bodies… eating something already dead can’t break the first precept if it is not prepared for yourself only or you are not directly involve for killing etc… it is always the thought matters most…
Imagine one person goes to the killing person and kill an animal with him by saying that you have requested to do so… but you don’t know about such things at all… then you are not involve for such defilement and you may be helping an animal on such occasion without even knowing that one person is killing an animal by reminding you… it’s the thought matter most… intention to killing should be always there to involve with killing.
Some says being vegetarian is helpful to become a pure one… it is helping to increase the meditation… etc… but if being vegetarian is helping to achieve such a pure mind then cow, dears like herbivores are the first to achieve nirvana and achieve levels through meditation by having clean blood and clean mind… but being a animal is a one of the hell described in Buddhism… if food can give us nirvana or if food can make one clean & clear then we don’t have to follow any path to attain nirvana or to become a pure one… coz we just have to change our meals into vegetarian… it’s so funny when people came up with such arguments to make others vegetarian…
Being a vegetarian is so good… coz it means that person is also have the courage enough to get rid from one of the tastiest taste in the world. In fact I’m a vegetarian too but used to eat meat… In Buddhism meat is categories under the tastiest foods and for some diseases and some occasions eating meat is helpful. When one enter to the path of real liberation that person’s intention to having food is just to survive till he / she achieve what he / she want to achieve. They use food as a helpful object to living and they are not after the tastes to varieties… if one is going to die while he following the eight fold path before achieve what he want and if he / she get the chance to live by eating meat then of course that person will select that chance as a gift live to complete the path successfully. Being a vegetarian is always with the personal choice. It is not a rule or it is not the best way to attain nirvana. It is just a personal choice with understanding… being a pure vegetarian will not give any good as long as that person is not going to discipline his / her mind, body & words to get rid from desire, hatred & ignorance.
People say one can’t meditate metta meditation while having meat as their food which is can categorize to the “falsehood”… A worldly person never can able to define what metta of Samma Sambuddha or his real followers is.
A vegetarian can have jealousy, hatred, anger to the maximum… we all experience such persons in our lives… some people says “they talk dhamma but inside they have wild meat” this is a famous saying in Sri Lanka… this is say to people those who talk like sainted beings but do all the defilements secretly. So one can become a vegetarian for the society but his / her thought is no difference than a killer…
Which give the most evil effect?
Killing a human being or hurting or criticizing a human being will bring far worst evil effect than killing an animal. Coz it’s so difficult to become a human being. A normal worldly being can’t even imagine how lucky is he / she to become a human being. One get a chance to become a human being is once in a while and for that he / she must do many pure things. All the human being are effect of doing good & pure which is so difficult to be and no matter what they doing at present life they are great than all other beings. The effect is worst with the greatness. When one harm, criticize or kill an human will give far more worst effect than a killing a cow or pig… even harming to a human being with the 10 defilements is giving far worst effect than killing an animal. But people don’t understand this and they do all the evil things to other human being and protect animals. We should spread our kindness to all beings… there is no doubt at all in that kindness… but how we should define that kindness? How one can identify what is that kindness is? Some insult the people who eat meat and spread kindness to the animals but it is give far more evil effect than the good effect they get through the kindness spread on animals.
Think about the people who kill animal with the worst way… if anyone of you has seen the documentary of “Earthlings” you have notice how a human being can use his body, words, to the worst side… now when you see such incident aren’t you cursing to the person who hurt animals or human beings in such manner? Aren’t you cursing that the same way that person also should die? And the same pain he /she also should go through? Then that is what happen… they get the same results as the way they did by using their human lives… they kill animal or human by hitting continuously and in the circle they get the same effect in same manner in their next life… then again we curse to the person who do such things and he / she get the same effect according to the cause he / she did… cause & effect continue as long as we are not keen on to stop it…
Why it is so necessary to discipline your mind, body & words?
Coz if we use our mind, body & words for all these things with the intention to see a fair world for all being we should use our mind, body & words against few another side while we do good for another part… according to the cause the effect also continues… we get the good & bad effect and that’s why no one able to see a fair world in past or present or never in future also. Those who did evil get the evil effects and those who did good get the good… and those who did good chose an evil side in this life will give the effect for their next life… and those who get the evil effect if they select to be good in this life will get the best in their next life… life circle is such a worst circle which no one can predict what will happen and what is not happen… as long as human being is quick enough to make the selection to end this life circle no matter what it cost them they are the luckiest ones.
So finally understanding the value of human life is the most important. Those who have to pay their debt to this world by giving their flesh will pay as they are… when you are aware with cause & effect and when you understand cause & effect this will no longer a question for you.
The best thing is NOT to be delay to save you from this existence! May triple gem bless you all for the best for your valuable human lives! May you attain nirvana!