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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