View Full Version : Buddhism and meat

20 Mar 2014, 12:01
I always did find Buddhism interesting but I am wondering that people say it's required to be vegetarian to be a Buddhist when many other Buddhists eat meat and even the Dalai Lama has eaten meat before. Is vegetarianism recommended or required? Are there any schools of Buddhism like Zen that require you to be vegetarian? And I'm talking about regular people, not monks and nuns as I know they go through initiations and have special rules and restrictions. I heard Buddhists can eat anything as long as they themselves don't kill it or ask someone to kill the animal for them? Is that true? Could a Theravada or Zen Buddhist eat anything they want? I ask because it's difficult to find real accurate sources and for some reason it's difficult to get a simple straight answer.

B. de Corbin
20 Mar 2014, 13:17
Yes, on a technicality, some do eat meat.

Because of #3 of the Eightfold Path, Perfected Speech, a Buddhist probably won't urge that criminals be executed - that would harm the dead guy. Unless he/she thought that not executing the criminal would be worse, or any of a million reasons, or maybe just a gut feeling. The thing about the logic of the Eightfold Path is that each part will support and build on the others. If you concentrate on doing any, the others all become, not only easier, but also also inevitable.

It's a cool system.

- - - Updated - - -

Three quarters of what I wrote vanished.

I'm too lazy to rewrite it right now. Try here:


B. de Corbin
21 Mar 2014, 04:00
Anyway, the short of it is that #3 might prevent one (depending on how one interprets it) from urging that an animal be killed for food (buying meat may or may not qualify - again, depending on how one interprets it) , BUT it does not prevent one from eating meat - there is no injunction against eating meat.

21 Mar 2014, 07:52
It's been a few years since I studied this so I'll impart what I remember.

In many forms of Buddhism, the monks (in the vast majority of places the order of nuns has died out and cannot be rebuilt do to the rules of initiation) make rounds with a bowl in which they accept food donations. It's their responsibility/duty in a way to eat whatever is put in the bowl and only what is donated to them. In this case, even monastics are allowed to eat meat. In general, the idea is to cause as little harm in the world as possible.

There is a story that many Buddhists use as reasoning for going to war. The Buddha in a past life was on a boat and he overheard a man planning to kill all three passengers. So he killed the man. He took on the bad karma for the death, but also the good karma for saving three lives. In other words, take the path that does the most good. What this means in relation to meat eating? Sometimes that's what's available. It's better five humans who have the potential of reaching nirvana live on the meat of one cow than for all of them to die. And in general, the meat content in many traditional Asian diets is very low anyway.

04 Jul 2014, 08:35
Many Japanese Buddhists sects have followers that eat meat. Some even amongst Zen, Nichiren, Tendai, Shingon, Pure Land and other schools. It seems meat abstinence came from some Mahayana sutras. In Theravada Buddhism there is no meat restrictions on laymen.

This has been a problem with me when searching for a path. I dont want to be vegetarian, because I also think plants have sentience. Even in paths of Shaivism (Hindu paths) do not require vegetarianism.