The Lamp of Reasoning and Scriptures of the Sage, The Buddha

Of the Sage, The Buddha. Some discussion encouraging the abandonment of taking slain flesh as food for those desiring excellence. Extended title granted by Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche.

Written and compiled by Phurbu Tashi. Translated by Eric Triebelhorn, with helpful suggestion from Ngudop T Burkar.


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Forewords by The Dalai Lama and Karmapa Orgyen Trinle Dorje

Engaging in acts of virtue, Minyak Phurbu Tashi has compiled the book called The Lamp of Reasoning and Scriptures of the Sage, the Buddha: Some encouraging the abandonment taking slain flesh as food discussion for those desiring excellence. In doing so Phurbu Tashi has strongly encouraged many beings who enjoy meat to completely abandon it or at least to reduce consumption thus offering protection of life and shelter from fear to many living creatures. Therefore, I rejoice, offer praise and make the aspiration that this encourages virtue and the arising of vast benefit.

The Dalai Lama
August 7, 2004

It is excellent that Phurbu Tashi of Rumtek Shedra has composed this book of advice regarding the faults of eating meat and the means to abandon it. Generally, those of us who follow the doctrine of non-violence’ of the compassionate teacher, the Buddha, and in particular many Kagyu lamas of the past have not partaken of meat. As several of the great monasteries, numerous monks and other students have adhered to the tradition of vegetarianism as taught according to the life stories, beyond uttering mere empty words, may we give rise to affection for our old mother sentient beings from the depths of our hearts.

Karmapa Orgyen Trinle Dorje
Buddhist year 2458
July 31, 2004


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Homage and Expression of Intention

Striving solely to discover the means of happiness for all beings,
You benefit others by showing that the path to enlightenment is the mind that benefits others.
Great compassionate one who especially loves those tormented beings,

I bow to the feet of the lama with whom all connections are meaningful.

With loving-kindness your eyes gaze upon beings,
By compassionate means you appear as a great spiritual friend,
Lord of compassion who shows the peaceful path of non-violence’
To Chenrezig, the holder of the lotus, I respectfully prostrate.

In order that the glorious lama’s life be long and
To liberate impoverished beings from the conflicting emotions,
Thinking that this is the intention of the lama
I offer some discussion to those with interest.

With the homage and intention thus expressed, the path of excellence and virtue is broadly opened. The topic of this book is the grave actions of taking life and eating meat. It is approached from spiritual and worldly perspectives, from the view point of this and future lives, and in consideration of oneself and others. If one carefully considers this it will become self evident and easy for anyone to understand that from all perspectives, this is the greatest fault of human beings. A few people in countries of the east and west have understood this and abandoned this practice. In these beings actions I rejoice and along with that will briefly explore this topic.


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A Spiritual Perspective, Part 1

In general, regardless of the tradition, religions teach beings the means of searching for happiness and truth. Suppose, if some should teach that one should kill and eat meat, need it be said that this would be a perverted path? By this act, one only increases the severe suffering, pain and hardship of animals.

What wholesome reason could there be for doing so? Even though people feel good about their own religions and speak highly of them, on top of their not nurturing loving-kindness or a mind turned towards others benefit, they crave the taste of fellow sentient beings. Among the various types of suffering others experience, the greatest is being killed without the slightest bit of conscience.

If a discerning, intelligent person looks at this, this act can only be seen as a source of shame. In particular, for a Buddhist this contradicts the presentation of the Buddha’s teachings. Further, there is no need to mention how this contradicts the view and conduct of the Mahayana where one is to cherish others more than oneself. It also contradicts the training of the shravakas and pratekyabuddhas of the Theravada tradition.

Abandoning harm and the causes of harm is the foundational training in the Theravada, and there is no greater harm than snatching the body and life from another being. Just like oneself, all other beings also only desire happiness and the means of sustaining their lives and bodies. Even if one accepts that, one may think that the Buddha never forbids his followers to eat meat. So from the Buddha himself,

Beings of the future
Through ignorance will say,
Eating meat is not a misdeed; it is okay.
The Buddha gave us permission.

Further from the Lankavatara Sutra,

If some say that I gave permission to eat meat, that is not so.

From the Exalted Nirvana Sutra,

Son of noble family, from now onwards eating meat is not permitted. The killing of this land is like taking the flesh of one’s son. Having spoken thus, how have I permitted eating meat? Eating flesh destroys exalted loving-kindness.

The Buddha repeatedly and emphatically taught likewise in the Vinaya, the Sutra for the Benefit of Angulimala, The Great Cloud Sutra, The Sutra of the Strength of the Elephant, and so forth. When one becomes a follower of the Transcendent Conqueror, the Buddha one should completely abandon eating meat.

Some consider eating meat acceptable citing that it is not explicitly prohibited in the classifications of the ten non-virtuous acts, the four major infractions of the vows, the thirteen branch infractions, or in any other of the seven types of vows of individual liberation.

Using such false reasoning they think that eating meat was not prohibited in the Vinaya; this is an utter mistake. In the Vinaya it also does not state that one should not slit one’s father’s throat, that one should not disembowel people, nor does it say that one should not smash animals’ heads. Does this in turn mean that it gives permission to do so?

Regarding the first example, it is classified under and prohibited as one of the heinous non-virtuous acts, i.e. the of killing one’s father; regarding the second, it contradicts the major vow of not taking life; and regarding the third, killing is classified as one of the ten non-virtuous acts. In the Vinaya it is stated that these are principal actions to refrain from. Therefore, ceasing taking life, one should also refrain from eating meat.

From the Lankavatara Sutra,

Further Lodro Chenpo, regarding the taking of life, some desiring profit earns their living by killing. Some meat-eating fools barter goods to buy flesh. In order to realize profit, these murders kill by hooks and snares the many classes of beings that fly in space, live in water and move about on the earth, all in search of gain. Lodro Chenpo, if one does not ask for it, if one does not search for it, and if one does not think about it, this thing called meat will not have any existence as such. Therefore, one should not eat meat.

In brief taking a life and eating meat occur in dependence upon one another. When it is said that there is no greater misdeed than killing, the fault of eating meat is included within that. However, one may wonder what it says in the texts of the Vinaya regarding the customs of giving and accepting meat. Nowhere does it say that it is not a fault to eat meat. But suppose there is a person suffering from an intense sickness for whom there is no way to not eat meat, it is said that that person should do so viewing the meat as medicine, with a mind full of loving-kindness, and considering that the meat is the flesh of their child.


About such a situation the Buddha said,

Because I have always said that whatever one eats or drinks, one should consider it as the flesh of one’s child and see it as medicine. One should not eat meat [without this attitude].

If one thinks that eating meat of the three-fold purity is permitted, regarding that, the Transcendent Conqueror, the one skilled in means said,

To those who strongly desire meat, I have taught the means to gradually abandon it.

And from the Exalted Nirvana Sutra,

In order to gradually establish beings in the training, I taught about meat of the three-fold purity, but now one should leave this behind.

The Buddha continued in the Lankavatara Sutra,

With no asking for it, searching for it or thinking about it
There would be no meat of three-fold purity.
Since there is nothing without cause
One should not eat it.

Also from the Sutra of the Exalted Nirvana,

One should vow to not eat even meat of the [three-fold purity].

And from Noble Katayana,

Eating one’s father’s flesh and beating one’s mother,
Taking a sworn enemy into one’s lap,
A wife gnawing on the bones of her husband,
The phenomena of this confused existence are absurd.

It is said that these are the ways of those who eat meat. In brief, having become a Buddhist of the Theravada, it is not permissible to eat meat.


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A Spiritual Perspective, Part 2

Since as a Mahayana practitioner one should readily give ones own life, it is certainly not appropriate to inflict suffering on others and eat their cherished bodies merely in search of something delicious for oneself. On top abandoning harm and the causes of harm, at its root the foundational training of the Mahayana is accomplishing the benefit of others.

Further, the essence of all the teachings of the Mahayana is loving-kindness, compassion and bodhicitta. As the master Jampal Drakpa said, “The Mahayana practitioner should not be separated from loving-kindness and compassion for even an instant.”

Most would accept that in this world, there is not any punishment more severe one can bestow upon a criminal than taking their life. But to humble animals staying in solitude that have done no wrong, people inflict the greatest harm while still saying, “May I accomplish Buddhahood in order to benefit of all beings.”

If one thinks about such deeds, forget about what others witnessing this would say, one will become a source of shame to oneself. As Gyalse Thokme said,

Beings that have been our relatives from beginningless time,
Even when they die naturally it is appropriate to shed tears.
Therefore it stands to reason that it is not appropriate to eat
This flesh that is killed for the purpose of meat.

If one reflects on the kindness that all beings have shown one, one’s mind will be appropriately saddened even if a being dies naturally; it will be as if one’s own parents had died. No need to mention the feeling that will arise when beings are killed for their flesh.

Thus, even if one recites all sorts of majestic sounding phrases such as, “May I accomplish Buddhahood in order to benefit all beings,” or “May all sentient beings be endowed with happiness and the causes of happiness,” but does not possess loving-kindness and compassion, then there is not even a hint of a Mahayana practitioner to be found.

There is no need for much analysis to discover whether or not one is endowed with loving-kindness and compassion. Look at the way one eats meat while not being endowed with the ability to liberate beings. When giving rise to loving-kindness and compassion, ought it not be directed towards animals?

If one engages in acts of causing pain and suffering to animals and even takes their lives while thinking, “I’m a Mahayana practitioner…I’m endowed with loving-kindness and compassion,” then it seems that this compassion must be directed towards earth, stones and sticks! And if one thinks, “I only ate the meat…I did not kill the animal,” then on top of not having compassion, is this not a sign of also not having any intelligence?

From the Lankavatara Sutra,

Killing animals for profit,
Trading goods for meat,
Those engaging in both these negative acts
Will fall into the [hell realms] upon death.

Thus, it is said that the fault of the killer and the eater are equal. However, if one wonders if the misdeed is less severe if it is meat of the three-fold purity, to expand on the earlier quoted scripture,

With no asking for it, searching for it or thinking about it
There would be no meat of three-fold purity.
Since there is nothing without cause
One should not eat it.


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A Spiritual Perspective, Part 3

Regarding the negative deeds related to eating meat even of the three-fold purity, there is still no difference from that of the killer. As a majority of the previous great beings of Tibet would not even wear clothes and shoes made with leather or skins, and as they avoided riding animals such as horses, there is no need to mention that they also did not eat meat.

By looking at the Tibetan history books and life stories one will clearly be able to see that the majority of the lineage lamas from the eight great practice lineages including the bodhisattva Asanga, Dza Patrul Rinpoche, Zhalye Tsampa Rinpoche (the first Bokar Rinpoche) and other genuine beings in addition to countless other sangha members of mountain hermitages and monasteries, as well as male and female householders did not eat meat.

That said, authentic beings who are able to lead beings from the lower realms, bodhisattvas with whom any connection whatsoever is meaningful, have eaten meat for the benefit of other beings. From the Sutra of the Exalted Nirvana, “Regarding the powerful deeds to tame others, even eating meat is undertaken.”

Mendong Tsampa Rinpoche said,

Some think, ‘if eating meat is a great negative deed, why do many lamas eat it?’ It is not that they crave and eat food under the power of the conflicting emotions. It is said that they eat with self-assured realization in order to lead beings and other exalted purposes.

So when it is said, “Compassionate people eat meat,” one needs to understand that as explained above. Thus, other than engaging in one’s own mediation on loving-kindness and compassion and giving up meat, one should not denigrate a genuine bodhisattva lama whose acts are actually for the benefit of beings. That would be a very serious fault.

In India the siddhas Shawaripa, Tilopa and others engaged in the seemingly incongruous activities of hunting and fishing. Also in Tibet there was Lama Zhang who engaged in warfare. One should keep in mind that when seeing such lama bodhisattvas’ activities it is beyond an ordinary individual’s capacity to fathom them. For a Mahayana practitioner these activities are not something that should be emulated. In particular, for us the principal objects of our meditation on compassion are the animals. We are clearly able to see that they are tormented by the intense suffering of the lower realms. We are able to abandon harming them and are even able to benefit them to some extent; therefore, we should meditate on compassion by means such as viewing them as our mother. As was said by the unequalled Gampopa,

All my mothers of this place, the sick, old and lowly, others take away their freedom and force them to work, beat and kill them. What a pity! Further as it is certain that all beings born as animals have been my mother, seeing their plight how can compassion not arise? Meditate on compassion desiring to free them from suffering.

These days when most people see butchers, hunters, fishermen, meat vendors and the like they say, “what a shame these evil doers.” Yet they themselves buy meat, enjoy it, savor the taste and even offer a little to the three jewels, boasting that they themselves are Dharma practitioners. Fearing that sickness and suffering will afflict them they invite those who appear to be Buddhist practitioners to perform prayers. They come and enact a ritual without the least bit of understanding of karma, cause and effect or emptiness and compassion. Then the patron offers the flesh of old mothers of previous lives to the monks and even overzealously enjoys the meat himself. Acting like this do they not become even a greater object of compassion than the butcher or fisherman? Butchers and fishermen do not know the Dharma. They have not taken refuge and bodhicitta vows and are not aware of karma, cause and effect. They do not have even slightest discernment to realize that like one’s own body, others’ also experience pain and suffering.


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A Spiritual Perspective, Part 4

The reasoning is established by the scriptural quotes and by logic. Particularly, these days the habit of the sangha eating meat is unsightly to most people. It disgraces the teachings and is a cause of the arising of wrong views toward the Dharma.

The Buddha said, “If one eats meat it is a serious negative act. One should not take lives. Meditation on loving kindness and compassion is the heart essence of all the genuine teachings.” But some people do not understand this, and based on the behavior of some individuals wearing Buddhist robes they think, “The compassion of the Buddhists is merely lip service. They are meat-eating, people-tricking barbarians.”

Further some call Tibetans “cow-eating fools” or say “they speak about loving kindness and compassion, but in practice they eat meat and take lives.” For similar reasons others think that Buddhist monks are inauspicious and when they see them coming they quickly close their businesses.

In brief, by proclaiming such unpleasant things, people develop wrong views towards the refuge protectors of all beings, the only source of all happiness and benefit, namely the three jewels, and accumulate measureless negative acts. The genuine lamas of the past have considered this and spoken of it.

For example, regarding the sangha’s eating of meat, the divine lama Yeshe O said,

Less compassionate than flesh-eating demons
They like meat more than hawks and wolves.


If one becomes buddha by this behavior
Then hunters, fishermen, butchers and prostitutes
Without a single exception will certainly attain enlightenment.

From Je Changkya Rinpoche,

In the middle of a pile of flesh, blood and bones of animals
Killed for the sake of an offering to one,
Some hoist knives and act wild with desire
Like a host of guardians ready to subdue enemies.
Please look on these apparent sangha with compassion.

From Dza Paltrul Rinpoche,

These days flesh-eating demons [sangha who eat meat] have become the objects of offerings.

Mendong Tsampa Rinpoche said,

One orders the killing. One does the killing. One eats the meat. It is taught that these negative acts are all similar. One has whatever food one desires, but likes only the flesh and blood of their slaughtered domestic animals that have been equally kind as one’s parents. Some not only swallow, but ravenously eat it as if it were more delicious than other foods.

There are limitless such sayings.

Regarding Buddhists in general and monks and nuns in particular, by eating meat they not only accumulate negative deeds for self and other, but they disgrace the Buddha’s teachings as well. Abandoning eating meat yourself, with folded hands I request you to encourage others to do so as well by explaining the faults of eating meat, the benefits of abandoning it, and the reasons why it is not appropriate.


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A Spiritual Perspective, Part 5

In the Secret Mantrayana or Vajrayana, these acts of taking life and eating meat become even more serious than in the Mahayana. These days many ignorant people say, “Meat and alcohol are samaya substances” and carelessly partake of them. What kind of practitioners of the vajrayana are these? They appear even viler than common, non-spiritual lay people.

Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa said,

In brief, the genuine Dharma is virtuous in the beginning, virtuous in the middle and virtuous in the end. It is taught that in the beginning one definitely needs to abandon certain actions. It is not possible that later one would need to practice contrary to that.

In the beginning the compassionate teacher skilled in means taught in a coarse way about action and result, abandoning wrong doing, embracing virtue, and presented the result of the peaceful path. Elaborating on these, the teachings gradually became more and more subtle and profound. Finally, he taught that all of these completely fall under the nature of emptiness and compassion. Since this is the defining characteristic of Buddhist teachings, actions that harm sentient beings must be completely abandoned. Even in the lower classes of the tantras of the secret mantra it is said that a mere trace of meat, alcohol, garlic, onions, etc. is not appropriate to be mixed with one’s food. Particularly, there is never a time when eating meat and killing would be permitted.

From the yoga tantra tradition,

One should not drink alcohol.
One should not eat meat and the like.
One should not harm sentient beings.
These acts should never be engaged in.


Even if one comes to die, this is easy.
The killing of living beings isn’t so.
From the Twofold Hevajra Tantra,
One should not kill.
By merely harming sentient beings
One will not be able to master the supreme siddhi.

Thus, it is also explained in all the other tantras.

The unexcelled mantra has superior means, and even though there is a need for the samaya substances of the five meats and so forth, these do not come from causing suffering for animals or by garnering flesh and blood by killing. From the teachings on the twenty-five tantric vows that vajrayanists certainly need to protect, the first is abandoning killing and the seventh is abandoning eating meat, an inadmissible food. In general, yak meat, fish, and the like are not appropriate meats for a samaya substance. Samaya substances come from animals for which there is no tradition of killing for food, such as dogs, and should come from a being that has died naturally.

Pawo Tsuklak Trengwa said,

Flesh and blood killed per one’s request and flesh and blood obtained by trading are not samaya substances. Because for these, by the mere existence an eater, there is a killer. Therefore the killed meat that you got or bought is tainted by thoughts of duality. It is therefore inadmissible meat and a tantric practitioner is not permitted to eat it as a samaya substance. Something that has died naturally in a place where such a being is never killed for the purpose of food, something that just happened to die or that which has been discarded is easy to find and admissible. Therefore, a yogi partakes of these as being equal in taste to primordial wisdom not bound by clinging to tastes of delicious or not delicious, good or bad. In the noble land of India there was no killing of the so-called five meats for the purpose of food so it was permitted to use them.

In some places if some of the five meats are killed for food, then these should be abandoned, and in their place one should use meat from an animal for which there is no custom of killing. As explained in the Kalachakra Tantra, at one time in the country of Tibet, as cattle were killed for the purpose of meat, the meat of a crow should used as a replacement. This would be in accordance with the meaning. In brief whether one is a sutrayana practitioner or a mantrayana practitioner, murdered flesh and blood is an inadmissible food and definitely needs to be abandoned.


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A Worldly Perspective

In accordance with the worldly point of view, in many places individuals who eat meat are considered to be of a lower class; they have an unclear intellect, an unpleasant complexion, an unpleasant disposition, a foul smell, greater anger, etc. They are said to possess many faults.

Elaborating on the above statements, according to Tibetan mythology, two classes of beings have developed from the union of the father, the monkey and the mother, the ogress. One race craves meat, kills, is without compassion and harms others. In order to nourish their own bodies they take the lives of others and so forth. This harmful, coarse behavior is that of the line coming from the mother, the ogress and is classified as negative and impure.

The opposite of that is those who have abandoned taking life, do not eat meat, and being endowed with compassion, they do not harm. Analogous to one’s own body, they realize that the pain and suffering of others is the same as their own. They are the refined class, those of noble conduct belonging to the family of the bodhisattva-father, the monkey. They are classified as excellent and pure. This is clearly stated in the Mani Kabum, The Clear Mirror of History and other works.

Furthermore, among all peoples of all places, those who eat meat come to be known as an inferior class. Particularly, in India and some other countries, meat eaters, butchers, hunters, fishermen, and thieves are considered the lowest class of people by those who do not eat meat. Those who are of a higher class, such as the brahmins of India, look down upon and consider impure those who do eat meat and even shun them like people who have been struck by a seriously contagious disease.

In general, after eating meat, one’s body feels heavy and the consciousness is foggy and unclear. Also, these days in schools where the students do not eat meat the pupils are more intelligent and sharper witted while the faculties of those who do eat meat are dulled, and they are more forgetful.

Further, those who eat meat have a poor, unattractive complexion. It is said in the writings of the Kangyur and Tengyur that to non-humans and animals, the appearance of those who eat meat is ugly and unattractive like that of a demon. Those who eat meat think nothing of harming and injuring others and have lesser tendency to think of others’ benefit. To gods, nagas and other humans who abstain from eating meat, meat eaters have a very bad smell and their minds do not seem to have much happiness. Even others see that they are mentally agitated and appear unsettled. These are some of the results of eating meat.


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From the Perspective of This Life

It is said that eating meat and taking others’ lives shortens one’s life and encourages illness. Since by eating meat a variety of diseases arise and as there is no difference between the negative acts of eating meat and killing, eating meat causes one’s own life to be shortened. From Paltrul Rinpoche, “Regarding craving the taste of flesh and blood and enjoying eating it while devoid of compassion, it is said that there is no difference between the evil deed of the patron and receiver. There are many consequences, but the direct result is a shortened life and being afflicted by many diseases.” The protector Nagarjuna said,

One who kill’ own life will be shortened,
One who harms will be injured even more.

From the unequalled Dakpo Rinpoche, Gampopa, “It is said that even if one is born as a human, their life will be short and they will incur many illnesses.” Paltrul Rinpoche said, “Having taken lives in the past, presently one’s life will be short and full of disease. Some small children once born immediately die. This is a result in accordance with the cause, the cause being formerly taking other’s lives. Thus, in many births they will die just after being born. From the time they are quite young until they grow old and meet with death, some people are wracked with various diseases, never able to be cured. This is the fruit that ripens from the seeds of killing and other physically abusive acts” It is said that from such actions of a previous life, one’s later lives will be short and full of many diseases. Further one should understand that this life could also be shortened and full of many diseases. Due to the specific karma of this world, the results of this life’s actions can ripen in this life. Thus one should abandon taking others’ lives.

However, if one thinks that it is still okay to eat meat, one should know that the Buddha said that there is no difference between doing so and taking beings’ lives. Therefore, one should also abandon eating meat. By doing so, one will be saving the lives of animals which will not only contribute to a long life and the elimination of diseases for oneself, but on top of that there are measureless other benefits. Even if one ransoms just one life, the benefits are said to be extraordinarily great. The Acharya Vasubandu said,

Having freed a being led to the slaughterhouse
That being’s life is thus benefited.
By completely abandoning the harming of beings
One will obtain a long life oneself.

Being a doctor, tending to the sick, and
Offering medicines – by engaging in deeds such as these,
And by abandoning harming with stones and sticks
Oneself will be without illness.

Thus if one desires to be free of illness and have long life, one should definitely abandon the greatest harm one can inflict upon others, that is killing them and eating their flesh.

In general, that which is called meat consists of various impure objects: semen, blood of the womb, veins, tendons, pus, and other bodily fluids. There are also various diseases in the bodies of the animals that are killed. Most of the animals in slaughter houses either have been beaten by hand and stick thus experiencing much physical hardship since youth, are ill, old, infected by various bacteria and germs, or are those not able to be forced to work any longer. Even at the time of their slaughter, once killed the flesh is mixed with the old blood and filth of the previous animals. Flies and insects of other sordid places deposit various impure substances, seeds of diseases on the meat. By faulty practices such as these, a variety of new diseases are appearing. Further in some countries, in order to make the animals’ fat they are given certain medicines and injections. Those who eat this type of meat can acquire a variety of related diseases. As has been said by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and as can be seen in current newspapers, in China they are making new varieties of meat by mixing chicken and pork, for example. There is really no need for these sorts of acts. Further, as a result of this, newspapers are reporting the arising of new types of diseases.

In western countries they employ a variety of means in order to fatten up their chicken, pigs, cows, and other livestock. It is said that much difficulty has arisen from people having eaten this type of meat; some have even become infected with a variety of diseases which have never been seen before. To quote Paltrul Rinpoche, “Especially these days most people have a great craving for meat. Based on carelessly enjoying flesh and blood there is almost no one who does not have some sort of illness.” Further, due to faulty behavior and diet many causes of death have arisen such as tumors, phlegm disorders, and water diseases. It is said that there are countless such afflictions. Thus those who desire to be free of illness and wish to have a long life definitely should abandon eating meat.


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