David's Book : Non-violence and Vegetarianism

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
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David's Book : Non-violence and Vegetarianism

Postby yawares » Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:07 am

Dear Members,

Non-violence and Vegetarianism
[By Dr. David N. Snyder]

Because of our close connection to animals biologically (evolution) and spiritually in the re-birth
process, the Buddha was opposed to violence towards animals. An understanding and
acceptance of the theory of evolution is important because without that acceptance there is a
perception of a great separation between humans and animals which simply is not true.
Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptic Society and Skeptic magazine has written about the
importance of the acceptance of biological evolution and ranks Darwin‘s work as the single most
important contribution in history. I concur with him that Darwin‘s research is the greatest
finding in history for its potential at changing world views. It changed (or eventually will
change) the world view that there is a complete separation between humans and animals. As
time goes on, people will realize that it is not even just a biological connection. If we are
animals as evolution shows us, then animals must also have a soul if humans do (or Buddhanature
or capacity for enlightenment or any other spiritual terminology). There is no way around
it since we all evolved from the same source.

Once we realize that animals are our relatives, albeit in the distant past to a common ancestor,
nevertheless, relatives, we do not want to inflict as much harm and violence to animals and the
environment in general. In the Eightfold Middle Path the Buddha advises us not to kill or
cause to kill and not to hold an occupation which involves killing animals or handling flesh, such
as a butcher.

There are some Buddhist writings which specifically prohibit the eating of meat and there are
others that seem to allow it. The most popular of the verses that seems to suggest meat eating as
being acceptable is a suggestion by the Buddha that monks and nuns should eat what is served
them in their alms bowls. The monks and nuns were advised to graciously accept what is served
in their food bowls from a lay person. ―Beggars can‘t be choosers‖ applies in the case of monks
and nuns, but for the vast majority of followers who are lay people, a conscious decision
must be made. Therefore, many Buddhists (but certainly not all - about half), have chosen a
vegetarian diet. (Based on surveys, including Snyder, 1986, 1987, 1989)

The following are some common questions and points Buddhists from all traditions have made
against vegetarianism. Answers are provided to each and every one of their ―points‖ to show
that the Buddha‘s path is about compassion and at least leans towards vegetarian diets.

Q. Didn’t the Buddha eat meat?
A. This is a claim sometimes made by Buddhists of all traditions. There appear to be some
references about the Buddha eating choice foods which could include meat before he was
enlightened, while he was living in the palace. This is before he made the great renunciation and
left the householder‘s life and became a recluse (monk). Even after enlightenment he may have
ate some meat as monks and nuns are expected to abide by the Threefold rule where they accept
what is offered to them.

His final meal before enlightenment is reported to be rice cooked in milk (which is vegetarian).
He ate boiled rice, grains and bread just before enlightenment (Majjhima Nikaya 36.33). The
Buddha defines delicious foods as choice hill rice with curry (Sutta 7, Majjhima Nikaya). In
another sutra, Buddha and Ananda compare the teachings to a sweet honey ball which consists of
flour, ghee, molasses, and honey (Sutta 18, Majjhima Nikaya). Here is a passage that specifically
mentions vegetarian foods:
―So the Blessed One early in the morning put on his robes and, carrying his bowl and outer
robe, went together with the community of monks to the cowherd's home. On arrival, he sat down
on a seat made ready. The cowherd, with his own hand, served and satisfied the community of
monks headed by the Blessed One with thick milk-rice porridge and fresh ghee. Then, when the
Blessed One had eaten and had removed his hand from his bowl, the cowherd took a lower seat
and sat to one side. As he was sitting there, the Blessed One, instructed, urged, roused, and
encouraged him with a talk on Dhamma, then got up from his seat and left.

Khuddaka Nikaya, Udana 4.3

After enlightenment two merchants offered the Buddha gruel made from barley meal with honey
that is rolled into balls (Vinaya 1.4). Most of the time his food was very simple, the staple food
was rice gruel. The Buddha even made a list about the advantages of rice gruel, stating that it
dispels hunger, quenches thirst, regulates wind, cleanses the bowels, and helps digestion
(Anguttara Nikaya 5.21). Even when his food was not that simple, but rather ―choice it was
still vegetarian as at one time he ate ―choice rice, many sauces and curries (Majjhima Nikaya

There appears to be one place, and apparently only this one place, where he is described as
eating meat. At A.III,49 it mentions that the Buddha was once served sukaramamsa (Pali) with
jujube fruit. The term mamsa = meat or flesh. The sutta mentions that the Buddha ate "out of
pity" apparently suggesting that he wanted to please the layman by accepting his food.
In the Khuddaka Nikaya, Vimanavatthu (Stories of the Mansions), there are stories of
meritorious deeds done by lay people who then ascended to a deva realm. Many of the
meritorious deeds were giving alms food to the Buddha or one of his monks. Here we find
several examples of only vegetarian food either given to the Buddha or one of his chief monk
disciples, Moggallana or Sariputta.

In the book that follows the Vimanavatthu, the Petavatthu, there are stories of beings in the realm
of hungry ghosts (a lower realm, lower rebirth) and Moggallana suveys the area to find out what
made them get there. In one passage it states, ―This woman ate meat and deceived with a lying
word. (Petavatthu 3.4) In another passage from the Petavatthu, a hunter kills deer and shares
the meat with children every time he arrives back in town. In spite of the generosity (which
normally leads to good rebirth), he is reborn as a hungry ghost, apparently because of the killing
of deer and handling the flesh. (Petavatthu 3.1) The Petavatthu also contains verses showing
that the Buddha was offered vegetarian foods (abbreviated Petav. below) which he ate.
List of vegetarian foods mentioned in the Pali Canon which the Buddha ate:

Thick milk-rice porridge and fresh ghee (Udana 4.3)
Wild rice (Majjhima Nikaya I. 78)
Rice with grains (Majjhima Nikaya 247), (Majjhima Nikaya 36.33)
Barley meal honey balls (Vin. I. 4)
Choice rice with curry (Majjhima Nikaya II. 7)
Rose apple, mango, myrobalan fruits (Vin. I. 30)
Steamed barley and rice (Vinaya, Suttavibhanga 1)
Lettuce and fruit salad (Vinaya, Suttavibhanga 33.1)
Vegetables and rice (Vinaya, Cullavagga VI 4.1)
Milk (Vinaya, Mahavagga VI 34.20)
Conjey (watery rice porridge) and honey lumps (Vinaya, VI 24.3-7)
Vegetables and bread (Vinaya, VI 36.7)
Ghee, honey, sugar, rice, milk (Vim. 1.5)
Molasses (Vim. 4.2) and (Vim. 6.4) and (Vim 6.5)
Rice-crust (Vim. 2.10)
Cake (Vim. 3.1)
Sugar-cane (Vim. 3.2) and (Petav. 4.5)
Rice-crust, soups and curries (Vim. 2.3)
Mangoes (Vim. 6.3) and (Vim. 6.5) and (Vim. 4.8)
Rice custard / pudding (Vim. 6.7)
Rice gruel (Vim. 4.4) and (Vim 4.5) and (Petav. 3.5)
Rice, cane-juice, sugar cane (Vim. 5.12)
Rice gruel and mangoes (Petav. 4.12)
Beans, grains (Vim. 7.6)

The bhikkhuni (nun), Rohini offered sweet cakes to a previous Buddha and was reborn in good
families after that and eventually was reborn during the Buddha‘s time and became a nun and
attained enlightenment (Psalms of the Early Buddhists 67, Pali Text Society translation).
In one of the Buddha‘s past lives, when he was a crane, he even refused to kill to eat fish, by
eating only those fish which were already dead from natural causes. (Jataka 1.206-8) If this was
the level of his interest in not being part of the killing as a carnivorous animal, we can only
imagine how much greater the compassion would be as an enlightened human.

At his final days in the parinibbana sutta, the food that led to his death was at one time translated
as pork. The terms have been translated as ―pig‘s truffles‖ which was originally mistranslated as
pork. Modern scholars including, Arthur Waley, K. E. Neumann, and Mrs. Rhys David have
corrected this to ―the food of pigs‖ which are mushrooms. Today, the majority of Buddhist
scholars agree that the Buddha ate mushrooms, which may have been poisonous and led to his
death at the age of 80. Or it could simply have been the size of the meal that led to his death as
there is evidence that the Buddha was already suffering from digestive problems well before
eating the final meal (from previous suttas where the Buddha was ill and then recovered).
However, the Buddha eats from the dish and requests for the remaining amount to be buried,
apparently knowing that the food was in some way tainted and not simply a large meal. This
suggests that the food was in some way not fit to eat, such as the wrong type of mushrooms.
Further evidence that the Buddha did not eat pork can be seen in the fact that Cunda was a
blacksmith, the one who offered the final meal to the Buddha. On a recent trip to India I learned
from a Hindu-Buddhist scholar that the three highest castes do not eat pork or other foods from
pig meat. As a blacksmith, he was a member of the third caste and therefore, could not have
prepared pork.

According to Buddhism, the three most important foods served to the Buddha were the final
meal (discussed above), most likely mushrooms, the meal just before enlightenment, which was
the milk rice served by Sujata, and the meal right after enlightenment, which was barley meal
honey balls. All three of these meals were vegetarian.

Q. What about the famous three-fold rule that the Buddha allowed meat eating if one did
not hear, see, or order the animal to killed for one’s consumption.
A. The main premise behind the three-fold rule is to graciously accept what one receives in your
bowl when going for alms round. This rule was meant and spoken to monks and nuns, not to lay
people. ―Beggars can‘t be choosers in modern terms. So for the vast majority of Buddhists
who are lay people, a conscious decision must be made.

In the Pali scriptures and the Sanskrit Mahayana scriptures (Buddha‘s discourses) there are many
references to the Buddha‘s compassion for animals and his wish for animals not to be killed,
including statements in the Dhammapada and other suttas about how all animals do not wish to
be killed and how we should avoid killing at all possible costs. The Buddha was most concerned
about intent. If we accidentally kill and there is no intent, then there is no negative kamma
accumulated. But, if we purchase meat at a grocery store, can we honestly say that we do not
intend for another animal to be killed?

The monks and nuns were required to go on alms rounds for their foods during the time of the
Buddha. So this apparently removed some of the ―intent. But lay people must choose and can
make a conscious decision at the grocery. The butcher and slaughter house workers are just
doing the dirty work for the demand raised from the grocery stores by the consumers.
Ven. Abhinaya, an English-born Theravada monk has said, ―To use scripture to justify the
disgusing and cruel habit of eating meat is both dishonest and unworthy. I‘ve never been able
to reconcile the preaching of Metta-Karuna (loving-kindness and compassion) with the
practice of meat eating; they contradict each other. And as to seeing, hearing, or suspecting
that the animal was killed especially for someone, well, for whom is the animal killed if not for
those who eat its flesh? No amount of twisting, juggling and verbal gymnastics can get
around that. (Shabkar.org, Taking a Stand)

--------------to be continued--------------
yawares :anjali:

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Re: David's Book : Non-violence and Vegetarianism

Postby DAWN » Sat Sep 22, 2012 3:11 pm

Very intresting to read yours topics Yawares.
Thanks you a lot. :namaste:
Sabbe dhamma anatta
We are not concurents...
I'am sorry for my english

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Re: David's Book : Non-violence and Vegetarianism

Postby yawares » Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:11 pm

DAWN wrote:Very intresting to read yours topics Yawares.
Thanks you a lot. :namaste:

Yawares :thanks: for reading ....It's David's topic :thumbsup: yawares is just a poster :tongue:

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Re: David's Book : Non-violence and Vegetarianism

Postby Hanzze » Sun Sep 23, 2012 9:12 am

Maybe it is usefull to make also some connections to non-greed and non-delusion in regard of Vegetarianism. Of course it needs a lot more effort and time to transport and to get the message for a real non-violence solution.
People love non-violence but do not like non-greed and they love -ism but aren't much interested in non-delusion.

Maybe something that needs some good extra work for the modern approach of Theravada in the "modern" world.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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