the great vegetarian debate

Where members are free to take ideas from the Theravāda Canon out of the Theravāda framework. Here you can question rebirth, kamma (and other contentious issues) as well as examine Theravāda's connection to other paths
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:55 am

Peter wrote:When you buy a product, you contribute to the measured demand, true, but at the time of your action you have no idea whether there will be enough measured demand to prompt a replenishment of supply. I have bought the last of a product only to find it never replenished; obviously the store owner was relieved to finally have the product off his hands. I have also bought a product with the very clear intention of hoping the store owner would see my purchase as significant enough to continue to supply more. I have even at times verbalized my intent to the store owner. "Please continue to carry this item." I have also chosen products based on the choices available to me; if A is available then I'll buy A, otherwise I'll by B. Clearly, to me at least, not every act of buying results in the seller feeling urged to resupply, nor is every act of buying accompanied by the intention to urge.


When someone buys meat do you really think there is even the remote possibility that the grocery store is going to give up selling meat and call it quits for the meat department? For other items that might be the case, for example some type of jeans that are no longer in fashion, but meat? I think a little common sense shows that the meat will definitely be replenished.

I see a direct causal direction from meat purchases to another animal being killed. If some others do not see that direct relationship, that is fine. Monks and nuns do not purchase meat, so there is no issue for them in my opinion. Others that may not carry any unwholesome actions in my opinion, include:

a) minors living at home in their parents house who should graciously accept what their parents provide
b) guests at a meal served who did not mention or warn of a vegetarian diet or other restrictions, preferences
c) spouses who are not vegetarian and/or Buddhist who cook meat for their Buddhist and/or vegetarian husband/wife/partner

There may be some other acceptable situations, but this is what I can think of offhand, in my opinion.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:00 am

Peter wrote:I understand the Buddha allowed the monks to follow Devadatta's suggestions if they wanted to EXCEPT for vegetarianism. The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.

Correct, but as Bhante Appicchato has shown, when the food is served in the middle of a table or buffet style, the monks choose what they want to eat. All of the food is accepted by the lay people and then each monk places the food in their bowls or plate to eat. I have seen this done at Thai temples, Sri Lankan temples, and others. I know of other vegetarian monks who do it that same way too.

On alms rounds a vegetarian monk can and should receive meat that is offered to them and then once back at the temple, the food is gathered together in the middle of the table.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:07 am

Jechbi wrote:Peter, I believe I'm answering your questions in a manner that does not fit with your expectations, but I believe I understand perfectly well what you're driving at. If you regard these comments as discourteous or off-topic or lacking in understanding, please have patience with me. You also may wish to avoid assuming that I'm saying something I'm not.

You might wish to avoid the same. You assume I am looking for the answer to the question "What should I do in this or that situation." I tried to make it clear that is not what I'm after. I am seeking to clarify a particular teaching of the Buddha and I put forth some hypothetical situations in an effort to shed light on what this teaching might mean.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:10 am

TheDhamma wrote:
Peter wrote:The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.

Correct, but as Bhante Appicchato has shown, when the food is served in the middle of a table or buffet style, the monks choose what they want to eat.

It is my understanding this method of taking food is not in accord with the Vinaya. The Buddha put forth a number of rules precisely to keep monks from choosing what they want to eat. For example, a monk is not to visit a particular house more frequently than other houses.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Mar 08, 2009 9:35 am

It would be good if this thread did not get personally contentious. I have consigned to the ether several msgs that did not further discussion of the topic, but did further personal bickering.

Peter has raised an interesting and very specific topic. Also, it is not unreasonable that he also wants to keep the discussion tightly focused. I think we can respect that request.

And for all involved please avoid personal comments.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby cooran » Sun Mar 08, 2009 10:20 am

Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
Peter wrote:The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.

Correct, but as Bhante Appicchato has shown, when the food is served in the middle of a table or buffet style, the monks choose what they want to eat.

It is my understanding this method of taking food is not in accord with the Vinaya. The Buddha put forth a number of rules precisely to keep monks from choosing what they want to eat. For example, a monk is not to visit a particular house more frequently than other houses.

Hello Peter,

This is my understanding also after discussing it with the Bhante Dhammasiha today.

Daily - he always has a traditional alms round whereby he passes by each lay person who puts food in his bowl. He never looks at what he is getting, and never indicates pleasure or aversion to what is put in his bowl. He then chants and dedicates merits, and retires to eat his meal.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby appicchato » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:10 pm

Chris wrote:Hello Bhante,

What is your understanding of the Buddha's refusal to make a clear pronouncement that eating ANY meat is forbidden or unwholesome?
It would have been so easy for him to state this. And yet, he refused, and, as I understand it, it was a condition for a split in the Ordained Sangha.

metta and respect,
Chris

Hi Chris,

I haven't ruminated over this too much, I have to say...so, the fact that the Buddha wasn't a vegie, is, I have to think, partially due to the fact that he considered the additional strain on lay supporters (to accommodate those who were)...time, expense, inconvenience...and who knows what other factors...was more detrimental to keeping the sangha going (and together) than not eating meat...and it wouldn't have sat too well had he abstained while not prohibiting the practice...

Also, we look at things through 21st century eyes, and conditions in 5th century BC India were a universe away from what they are today...who really knows His reasoning?...I don't really find a need to dissect it...and the four conditions He laid down to allow it seems to alleviate any/most problems on the matter...

I'm not real good at writing down my thoughts, so I hope this sounds at least somewhat coherent... :smile:

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby appicchato » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:22 pm

Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
Peter wrote:The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.

Correct, but as Bhante Appicchato has shown, when the food is served in the middle of a table or buffet style, the monks choose what they want to eat.

It is my understanding this method of taking food is not in accord with the Vinaya. The Buddha put forth a number of rules precisely to keep monks from choosing what they want to eat. For example, a monk is not to visit a particular house more frequently than other houses.

Hi Peter,

By this line of reasoning, it would seem, that to be in accordance with Vinaya, a monk would have to eat some of everything...a reference please for why the Buddha put forth the rules 'precisely to keep monks from choosing...'

I'm referring here to plates on the floor, or a table, not what is put in one's bowl... :focus:

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:59 pm

appicchato wrote:By this line of reasoning, it would seem, that to be in accordance with Vinaya, a monk would have to eat some of everything...a reference please for why the Buddha put forth the rules 'precisely to keep monks from choosing...'

I'm referring here to plates on the floor, or a table, not what is put in one's bowl... :focus:

I would expect you would know the Vinaya better than I would, Bhante. My understanding, and I my be mistaken, is that there isn't supposed to be plates on the floor or table but that food is to be offered by a lay person directly into the monk's bowl. I read this in a talk by a monk... I will try to find it. The bit about not choosing... again I will have to think about where I read this.

And yes, this discussion of monks and vegetarianism, while interesting, is completely off topic for this thread. I am wishing to specifically discuss whether and how "buying meat" constitutes "urging another to kill". Monks do not buy meat.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:14 pm

TheDhamma wrote:When someone buys meat do you really think there is even the remote possibility that the grocery store is going to give up selling meat and call it quits for the meat department?

I'm not sure if it matters. If I take action A and I can be reasonable sure this will result in another person taking action B, does that make me responsible for action B? Are there any Buddhist teachings which speak to this question?

Then we would have the situation of "I suspect my action of buying meat causes the seller to kill or have killed another animal killed as a result." The seller ordering more meat is definitely a case of "urging another to kill". But the buyer? Wouldn't that be a case of urging another to urge another to kill? Does that count? But this then brings us back to my original list of questions. As more people get involved in the chain of distribution, the chain of urging becomes longer and longer. At some point we get to the level where any of our actions cause someone, somewhere to do something unwholesome. This is something no one, not even an arahant, can be free of. Thus I suspect anything outside of the most direct case of the seller also being the slaughterer, I think the link is not relevant to the issue of "urging another to kill".

I see a direct causal direction from meat purchases to another animal being killed.

Whether there is a direct causal connection is irrelevant to the topic I am trying to discuss. The question is whether a direct causal connection, no matter how long or complex, constitutes "urging another to kill". Again, I am trying to discuss this very narrow question.

Whether we find buying meat to be unwholesome or unacceptable for more general reasons is also off-topic for this thread. Please endeavor to stay on topic. I do not wish this thread to become a general debate on vegetarianism.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:17 pm

Jechbi wrote:To get all the cards on the table, I have the impression that this thread is intended to make the point that it's not unwholesome behavior to buy meat in the grocery store, or at least that the behavior is justifiable. I may be mistaken about this, but if my impression is correct, I think the intended point of this thread ought to be stated openly.

The intention of the thread is as I have stated it: to determine if buying meat constitutes urging another to kill. It may be that buying meat is unwholesome for other reasons, but I am not interested in exploring those reasons here in this thread. I only wish to explore this one particular teaching.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby David N. Snyder » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:30 pm

Peter wrote:The intention of the thread is as I have stated it: to determine if buying meat constitutes urging another to kill. It may be that buying meat is unwholesome for other reasons, but I am not interested in exploring those reasons here in this thread. I only wish to explore this one particular teaching.

Okay, that really narrows it to a specific point and clarifies your intent of the topic. :thanks:

That said, then my answer for now is: I don't know. :smile:

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby Jechbi » Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:18 pm

Hello Peter,
Peter wrote:You might wish to avoid the same.

I will certainly try to do so. :anjali:
Peter wrote:The intention of the thread is as I have stated it: to determine if buying meat constitutes urging another to kill. It may be that buying meat is unwholesome for other reasons, but I am not interested in exploring those reasons here in this thread. I only wish to explore this one particular teaching.
Thanks for stating an intention clearly. Within that narrowly defined parameter, I still contend that the answer is: It will depend on the particular circumstances. And further, that the very specific questions you asked are not specific enough.

Perhaps you could further clarify which teaching you wish to explore by including a canonical reference to the teaching itself.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby Jechbi » Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:56 pm

Hello Peter and everyone,

In case you have not come across it, Bhikkhu Pesala addresses this topic very directly here:

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Buddha permitted monks to eat meat, provided they have not seen, heard, nor suspected that the animal was killed specifically to offer meat to them. This applies equally to fish, fertile eggs, and other living things such as lizards or insects. In this world, the vast majority of people are not vegetarians. If monks had to be vegetarians, it would be difficult for them to propagate Buddhism. Although Buddhists should not kill living beings, they can eat the meat of animals killed by others, provided they are free from involvement on four counts:

They do not kill themselves.
They do not urge others to kill.
They do no condone killing.
They do not speak in praise of killing.
Even if Buddhists do not buy meat and fish, non-Buddhists, and even some Buddhists, will kill living beings for the sake of a livelihood. The unwholesome kamma of killing is made only by the perpetrator, unless one urges, condones, or speaks in praise of that action.

Growing vegetables also entails the deliberate killing of pests and insects that feed on crops, but by buying vegetables one is not condoning that killing. A Buddhist farmer might be able to produce organic crops without the help of insecticides and pesticides, but his products are likely to be more expensive.

Vegetarians and strict vegans are blameless if they choose not to eat meat or dairy products, but we cannot say that meat-eating is blameworthy in itself, unless one is involved in killing. Butchers who sell meat are not directly involved in the slaughter of animals. Only those who sell livestock for slaughter, and those involved in slaughtering, are guilty of killing living-beings.

The majority of Theravāda Buddhists are not vegetarians, and some are certainly guilty of condoning killing. Mahāyāna and western Buddhists are often strict vegetarians. Many Buddhists are too fond of meat and fish, they should reflect mindfully while eating to be free from excessive craving. A varied diet with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and low in fat, is best for health. Vegetables are cheaper than meat and more healthy.

A true Buddhist should be content to eat any kind of food, mindfully reflecting, “I take this food, not for enjoyment, but only for the sake of nutrition.” If vegetarians take food unmindfully with attachment to the taste, taking pride in being more virtuous than others, or have strong aversion to the smell or taste of meat, they will be making unwholesome kamma.


I believe this is what you were referring to originally, Peter:
Whatever bhikkhu should intentionally deprive a human being of life, or seek a weapon for him for taking [life], or should utter praise of death, or should urge him towards death saying, “Good man, what use to you is this miserable life? Death is better than life.” Or, having such thoughts and intentions in mind, should in several ways utter praise of death, or should urge him towards death, he too becomes defeated, is not in communion.

Vin iii 73: yo pana bhikkhu sañcicca manussa-viggahaṃ jīvitā voropeyya sattha-hārakaṃ vā ’ssa pariyeseyya maraṇa-vaṇṇaṃ vā saṃvaṇṇeyya maraṇāya vā samādapeyya, ambho purisa, kiṃ tuyh’ iminā pāpakena dujjīvitena, mataṃ te jīvitā seyyo ti, iti citta-mano citta-saṃkappo aneka-pariyāyena maraṇa-vaṇṇaṃ vā saṃvaṇṇeyya, maraṇāya vā samādapeyya, ayam pi pārājiko hoti asaṃvāso. Translation adapted from William Pruitt (ed.) and K. R. Norman (trans.), The Pātimokkha (Oxford: Pali Text Society, 2001), p. 9.

I think it also is worth remembering that this topic relates to a point of Vinaya, making it even more narrow. So is the intention of this thread actually to determine whether for a bikkhu buying meat constitutes urging another to kill? Just how tightly focused to you want this discussion to be? At what point does this discussion become applicable to any actual real-life situation for those of us who are not monks? I am asking these questions to more clearly understand the intention of this thread and avoid off-topic posts.

Metta
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:18 pm

Jechbi wrote:Within that narrowly defined parameter, I still contend that the answer is: It will depend on the particular circumstances.

Then please be so kind as to present a case wherein:
a] a person buying meat is urging the seller to kill
and
b] a person buying meat is not urging the seller to kill

In other words, if you claim it depends on the circumstances, then you should be able to illustrate exactly what sort of circumstance you are talking about.

Jechbi wrote:In case you have not come across it, Bhikkhu Pesala addresses this topic very directly here:

I have read it. He asserts that buying meat does not constitute killing. It is not clear to me if this assertion represents his own opinion, the traditional opinion of Theravadin practitioners, or a well established conclusion based on the texts. I welcome his participation in this thread.

I think it also is worth remembering that this topic relates to a point of Vinaya, making it even more narrow. So is the intention of this thread actually to determine whether for a bikkhu buying meat constitutes urging another to kill?

Monks cannot handle money and so cannot buy anything. My question, as I have said perhaps a half-dozen times already, has to do with a lay person purchasing meat. If your contention is that this teaching does not apply to lay people I would be interested in hearing your reasoning. It is quite possible that while both lay and monastics are advised to abstain from killing, only monastics need to abstain from urging another to kill. I don't know; my initial assumption was this teaching applies to both monastic and lay.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby Jechbi » Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:06 pm

Hello Peter,
Peter wrote:Monks cannot handle money and so cannot buy anything. My question, as I have said perhaps a half-dozen times already, has to do with a lay person purchasing meat. If your contention is that this teaching does not apply to lay people I would be interested in hearing your reasoning. It is quite possible that while both lay and monastics are advised to abstain from killing, only monastics need to abstain from urging another to kill. I don't know; my initial assumption was this teaching applies to both monastic and lay.
Yes, of course that's true that a monk cannot buy anything. And I'm sorry if you feel that you are needlessly repeating yourself again and again, but if you wish to drill down to this very specific teaching and define the discussion in a very focused way, then I want to be sure that I'm being responsive, because obviously this topic has broader ramifications than just those you are asking about.

In order to have the discussion within the parameters you have defined, I think an underlying issue is the degree to which Vinaya rules are a basis for determining what is kusula conduct for householders. I would say that broadly, teachings about killing and kusala and so on are applicable to both monks and lay, but I think there is danger in taking the specific Vinaya requirements and trying to extract from them any broad generalizations about what is kusala or akusala for lay followers. My reasoning is as follows: The Vinaya was intended to help the bikkhu community know how to remain in communion. The Vinaya was not intended to instruct householders in how to distinguish kusala from akusala. I understand and accept that my reasoning may be flawed, and I welcome feedback.

Is it your assumption that Vinaya codes are intended to instruct householders in how to conduct themselves? If so, can you provide your reasoning?

Peter wrote:Then please be so kind as to present a case wherein:
a] a person buying meat is urging the seller to kill
and
b] a person buying meat is not urging the seller to kill

I'm not sure I really want to be drawn into endless hypotheticals, but:
a] you go to an organic chicken farm and select your live chicken to be butchered.
b] you go to the neighborhood retail grocery store and purchase a pre-killed, CAFO-bred chicken from a grocery employee who earns minimum wage.
Frankly, for the householder, I believe an argument could be made that [a] is more kusula than [b] if choosing between these two hypothetical scenarios, all other things being equal.

Peter wrote:In other words, if you claim it depends on the circumstances, then you should be able to illustrate exactly what sort of circumstance you are talking about.
I do not wish to make claims that are unsupportable, so thank you for challenging me. But please remember that anyone can build any hypothetical to support any kind of strange argument. Just because I can illustrate what sort of circumstances I'm talking about doesn't mean that my hypotheticals will be better teachers than real-life situations that you confront in the present moment.

Metta
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Last edited by Jechbi on Sun Mar 08, 2009 10:12 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby Dhammanando » Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:17 pm

Hi Peter,

Peter wrote:The Buddha taught it is unwholesome to urge another to kill, that it is a violation of the fifth precept.


First a couple of quibbles:

1. This precept is the first, not the fifth.

2. The translation "to urge another to kill" is a little too narrow, for it would imply that the unwholesome kamma in question is limited to cases where one forcefully tries to cajole someone to carry out a killing. No such thing is implied by the Pali terms for the action in question, nor in the description of what it entails. Verbs like ghāteti/ghātayati (as in Dhammapada 129-30 and 405) and mārāpeti (the commentarial gloss on ghāteti) would be better translated "to have someone kill something".

Does purchasing meat at a meat store constitute urging another to kill?


Changing the question to: "Does purchasing meat at a meat store constitute having another kill?" the answer is no.

The unwholesome kamma of having someone kill a living being entails exactly the same five factors as the unwholesome kamma of killing a living being oneself (i.e., a living being, a perception of a living being, a volition bent on killing, an effort towards that end, and the death of a being as a result). The only difference lies in the form that the effort takes.

Since people don't ordinarily purchase meat with the wish that by so doing more animals will be killed, their purchase does not amount to "having another kill something". The factors of killing volition, effort and the death of a being as a result of that effort will all be absent.

One should not give the verb "to have another kill something" a causal scope that stretches way beyond that which it is given in the Pali texts.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby Jechbi » Sun Mar 08, 2009 7:33 pm

Thank you, Bhante. :anjali:

I hope this question is not off-topic, but:
Dhammanando wrote:Since people don't ordinarily purchase meat with the wish that by so doing more animals will be killed, their purchase does not amount to "having another kill something". The factors of killing volition, effort and the death of a being as a result of that effort will all be absent.

If a person regularly buys CAFO-bred chickens in the grocery store, and if the person does so without the understanding that the net effect of this continued conduct will result in more chickens being killed, is it a case of ignorance rather than a case of urging?

Metta
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Uncover, then, what is concealed,
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Mar 08, 2009 8:26 pm

1. Pāṇātipātīsuttaṃ

264. “Catūhi, bhikkhave, dhammehi samannāgato yathābhataṃ nikkhitto evaṃ niraye. Katamehi catūhi? Attanā ca pāṇātipātī hoti, parañca pāṇātipāte samādapeti, pāṇātipāte ca samanuñño hoti, pāṇātipātassa ca vaṇṇaṃ bhāsati — imehi kho, bhikkhave, catūhi dhammehi samannāgato yathābhataṃ nikkhitto evaṃ niraye. (Book of Fours)

Endowed with four things, monks, one arises in hell as if taken and thrown there. What four?

1. One kills living beings oneself,
2. One urges (samādapeti) another to kill living beings,
3. One approves of or condones (samanuñño) killing,
4. One speaks in praise of it (vaṇṇaṃ bhāsati).
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Postby appicchato » Sun Mar 08, 2009 9:25 pm

Peter wrote:My understanding, and I my be mistaken, is that there isn't supposed to be plates on the floor or table but that food is to be offered by a lay person directly into the monk's bowl.

Hi Peter,

Well, in the strictest of senses this may be true...although I can't recall reading anything about whether the Buddha ate off of dishes when invited to a home, or ate only from his bowl even then (I'm thinking he probably did)...that said, in today's world, all monks (in Thailand) are required to reside in a wat, and to be the one monk taking his bowl to a lay persons home to be served to, and eat from, while the rest are eating off of plates just wouldn't fly...it is what it is...conceivably one could 'go it alone' (live outside the wat), but for a guy in his sixties, I'd be hard pressed to go that route at this point...although I do contemplate it sometimes...

I know this is completely unrelated to 'vegetarian questions'...I'll leave it here... :smile:


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