the great vegetarian debate

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Thu Jan 09, 2014 3:50 pm

Alex123 wrote:
Spiny Norman wrote:But you are expecting him to kill. You're expecting somebody else to break the first precept and do wrong livelihood, things which as a Buddhist you would presumably not do yourself. It seems hypocritical to me.


As a Buddhists we should not expect to be able to control everyone else.


Of course not. But many of us have some choice about the kind of food we buy, and whether or not we buy meat.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Jason » Fri Jan 10, 2014 5:46 pm

I'm sure I've probably already posted this here at some point, but I thought I'd share (or reshare) some of my thoughts on this topic for whomever may be interested.

In Theravada, vegetarianism isn't a requirement. The Buddha himself rejected Devadatta's demand to institute vegetarianism as a requirement. Moreover, he never said that simply eating meat in and of itself is unwholesome (akusala). However, the underlying question that I think is being so hotly being debated here is, Does that mean that purchasing meat is the same as purchasing produce? My answer is no.

Essentially, the meat that one purchases from the grocery store must come from an animal that's been deliberately killed by someone. whereas the same cannot be said about the fruits and vegetables that one purchases from the grocery store. Fruits and vegetables aren't sentient beings, and harvesting them doesn't automatically entail the intentional killing of any sentient beings. If any sentient beings are killed in the harvesting of a fruit or vegetable, it's conceivable that it was accidental rather than deliberate.

In the case of meat, that's not the case. The animal must almost always be deliberately killed by someone. It's true that purchasing meat from the grocery store does n't ential the kamma of killing for the purchaser; however, a well-informed practitioner should be aware that an animal has to be deliberately killed at some point for that meat to be available. Abstaining from eating meat doesn't free one from the web of killing and death, but it's hard to argue against the fact that doing so would at least help by not directly contributing to the meat industry that's built around the raising and killing of animals specifically for their flesh.

The way I see it, no source of food is 100% free from harming sentient beings, but the consumer does have the power to limit the amount of harm done. This can be achieved in many ways, e.g., not buying meat or at least buying meat from farmers and companies who treat their animals more humanely, buying eggs from farmers and companies who allow their hens to roam freely, buying produce from farmers and companies who don't use any pesticides, etc. So the consumer isn't entirely powerless. They can have an effect on how many animals are killed, the manner of their deaths, and/or how they're treated in general, as well as the amount of pesticide-free produce that are sold, etc.

When going to the super market, for example, that particular store most likely keeps a record of all purchases and uses that information towards influencing store policy. Theoretically, if the the majority of consumers cease buying meat, the demand for meat will go down and less animals will need to be killed in order to meet the demand. In addition, if the majority of consumers who do purchase meat and dairy products purchase them from farmers and companies who treat and kill the animals in a more humane fashion, other companies will naturally follow suit due to the potential profit of such business practices. The same holds true for the kind of produce we buy. In a capitalist society, money is the greatest impetus for change pure and simple.

All of this ties into to the idea of personal responsibility and how far we, as individuals, wish to be socially active in regard to our Buddhist beliefs and practices. It's a personal choice that we each must make. For some, purchasing meat is perfectly acceptable to them since they know that the animal has been killed by another person. But for others, the purchasing of meat might not seem so acceptable when they consider things such as what meat is and how it gets to the store.

Therefore, while I completely agree that in regard to the first precept the Buddha taught about personal responsibility in the form of regulating our own actions of body, speech, and mind, that doesn't mean that we should simply turn a blind eye to where our food comes from. Doesn't that also fall within the realm of personal responsibility? Hence, while I agree that vegetarianism isn't a requirement, I do think that it's at least a compassionate option for Buddhists to adopt. That's why even though there's nothing in Theravada that states this lifestyle choice is necessary or even preferred, I generally try to avoid buying meat or anything with meat in it when I go to the grocery store, out to eat at a restaurant, etc.

Just to be clear, however, I am not trying to demonize meat eating or the meat industry because that's a pointless crusade. As I said, abstaining from eating meat doesn't free one from the web of killing and death. Killing and death are awful facts of samsara that have the potential to arise because there are sentient beings whose minds are defiled by greed, hatred, and delusion. Besides removing oneself from the cycle of birth and death altogether, there are worldly solutions to these problems, but these solutions can merely limit the potential harm to other sentient beings at best.

In essence, besides escaping samsara, there are no perfect solutions. On top of that, condemning or demonizing another for their complicity means that we should also condemn and demonize ourselves as well. If we want to, we can find reasons to demonize internet usage. I doubt that most people are aware of how many birds are killed each year by microwave towers, but one could reason that every person who surfs the web or sends out an e-mail contributes to those deaths. Shall we cease to use the internet then?

My point is that choosing to be more socially active in our respective practices is an admirable thing to do. Nevertheless, we should never forget the very nature of samsara. In his introduction to The Four Nutriments of Life: An Anthology of Buddhist Texts, Nyanaponika Thera echoes:

    If we wish to eat and live, we have to kill or tacitly accept that others do the killing for us. When speaking of the latter, we do not refer merely to the butcher or the fisherman. Also for the strict vegetarian's sake, living beings have to die under the farmer's plowshare, and his lettuce and other vegetables have to be kept free of snails and other "pests," at the expense of these living beings who, like ourselves, are in search of food. A growing population's need for more arable land deprives animals of their living space and, in the course of history, has eliminated many a species. It is a world of killing in which we live and have a part. We should face this horrible fact and remain aware of it in our Reflection on Edible Food. It will stir us to effort for getting out of this murderous world by the ending of craving for the four nutriments.

As for myself, I've ran the gamut. I used to just eat whatever. Then I became a strict vegetarian for ethical/personal reasons. Afterwards I practiced eating meat only when offered by others for much the same reasons as given in the story offered by Phra Dhammanando. Nowadays, I'm back to being a vegetarian due to ethical reasons and a promise I made to myself after my mom became ill.

I don't think my vegetarianism makes me a better Buddhist than others, but I do find that it lightens my mind whenever I reflect on the fact that I strive to practice ahimsa (harmelessness) as broadly as possible.
"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya" (AN 7.58).

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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby binocular » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:37 am

I still think that if one's intentions for eating are wholesome, then this will gradually take care of all the other aspects related to eating.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Jason » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:23 am

binocular wrote:I still think that if one's intentions for eating are wholesome, then this will gradually take care of all the other aspects related to eating.


I agree. More important than what you eat is how you eat. Not all Buddhists are vegetarian. Some are, but some aren't. The goal of the holy life is to free ourselves from greed, hatred, and delusion; it's not meant for us to cling to one particular practice over another. Our choices, no matter what they are, should be carefully guiding us towards liberation. But in my experience, that's often easier said than done.

There have been times, for example, where I'd eat whatever, thinking I was being dispassionate about food, but realizing later that I really enjoyed eating meat and I wasn't truly being dispassionate about what I was eating but simply being less strict with my vegetarianism so I could eat a steak or some sushi every now and then. At the time, of course, I thought my intentions were purely wholesome; but later I noticed my wholesome intentions were being overshadowed by my craving. It was a good lesson about how easily it is for me to deceive myself about my intentions, though, which is why I think the Buddha stressed honesty so much.

I still struggle with that kind of honesty in all aspects of my life, but I've found that it's at least gotten easier for me to notice when I'm trying to fool myself. I'm not saying everyone who eats meat or whatever is fooling themselves, only that I found my desire for meat to be a good teacher about how my own mind works.
Last edited by Jason on Sat Jan 11, 2014 3:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jan 11, 2014 9:29 am

binocular wrote:I still think that if one's intentions for eating are wholesome, then this will gradually take care of all the other aspects related to eating.


Doesn't Right Intention involve some concern for the harm done to animals which results from buying meat?
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby binocular » Sat Jan 11, 2014 5:25 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:Doesn't Right Intention involve some concern for the harm done to animals which results from buying meat?

Obviously. But how much of such concern is there depends on the individual person, at any particular time.
For example, if someone feels overwhelmed with job problems, it will be difficult to have much concern for other beings. Not that this justifies cruelty, but it points to the cruel reality that resources, including goodwill and compassion, are scarce, and thus must be protected and tended to if one is to have them ready for use regardless of circumstances.


Jason wrote:I'm not saying everyone who eats meat or whatever is fooling themselves, only that I found my desire for meat to be a good teacher about how my own mind works.

Yes ...
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby cooran » Mon Jan 13, 2014 4:55 am

13 Greatest things about being Vegetarian :tongue:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/0 ... l?ir=Taste
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby clw_uk » Fri Jan 17, 2014 4:19 pm

Isnt it a jainist argument that Buddhists are too laxed, and Buddha not fully wise, because he didnt mandate vegetarianism?
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Babadhari » Fri Jan 17, 2014 4:28 pm

has anyone discussed how much easier it is to achieve better levels of concentration and tranquility in meditation when the body is freed of expending energy to digest meat?

i believe this is also one reason why vegetarianism is promoted amonst many Dhamma followers.
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Seeing thus, the disciple of the Noble One grows disenchanted. SN 35.28
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby clw_uk » Fri Jan 17, 2014 4:54 pm

kitztack wrote:has anyone discussed how much easier it is to achieve better levels of concentration and tranquility in meditation when the body is freed of expending energy to digest meat?

i believe this is also one reason why vegetarianism is promoted amonst many Dhamma followers.



You may have a point, arent carbohydrates processed more efficiently by the body than protein (from meat)



However you could be a vegertarian and over do it on the margarita pizza's and get sluggish from that



At the end of the day humans are omnivores, hence why we have canines and molars, as well as forward facing eyes (the usual standard of a predator)

So we can survive with or without meat, as long as we get the right nutrients etc from what ever food source we choose


However as I said before, I think lab grown meat is the solution to this whole debate

No animals killed directly, all the nutrients our predator/herbivore hybrid body needs to function
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby clw_uk » Fri Jan 17, 2014 4:56 pm

I would also say that it is our predatory/hunter carnivorous side that helped make us what we are now.

Predators always tend to be more intelligent as they need to plan a hunt and co-ordinate etc, herbivorous just run

Without this aspect its much more unlikely that we would have evolved to develop science, art, literature and the self reflection that helped us to discover Dhamma
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 17, 2014 5:06 pm

clw_uk wrote:
kitztack wrote:has anyone discussed how much easier it is to achieve better levels of concentration and tranquility in meditation when the body is freed of expending energy to digest meat?

i believe this is also one reason why vegetarianism is promoted amonst many Dhamma followers.



You may have a point, arent carbohydrates processed more efficiently by the body than protein (from meat)


The thermic effect from food is differently calculated. The body doesn't care where the amino acid polymer came from: a protein is a protein, so long as it's a complete protein (what matters is if the protein was surrounded in Omega-6 fats or in trans-fats, for example). In this, plant protein is incomplete for human dietary needs and requires more cellular processing to craft into useable chains, while animal protein is ready to go from the start.

So plant protein takes a bit more work than animal protein to make fit for use; and, as it happens, it takes less energy to process carbs and fats than it does proteins. In fact, I just read a fascinating piece of research on this:

Research has found that the thermic effect of food contributes to the fact that calories may not all be equal in terms of weight gain. In one study, seventeen subjects ate, on two different days, two bread-and-cheese sandwiches that were the same in terms of calories (the subjects were free to choose either 600 or 800 kcal meals), but one was ″whole food″ (a multi-grain bread, containing whole sunflower seeds and whole-grain kernels, with cheddar cheese), while the other was ″processed food″ (white bread and a processed cheese product).

For each subject, the researchers measured the extra energy, beyond that due to the basal metabolic rate, that the subject expended in the six hours following the consumption of the meal; that energy divided by the energy content of the meal was (after multiplying by 100) reported as the percent DIT coefficient. The average percent DIT coefficient for the ″whole food″ sandwiches was (19.9±2.5)%, while for the ″processed food″ sandwiches, it was (10.7 ±1.7)%—a difference of a factor of 2. When the DIT values are subtracted from the total meal energy, it follows that the subjects obtained 9.7% more net energy from the ″processed-food″ meal than from the ″whole-food″ one.


So crummy, processed food is easier to eat than non-crummy, earth-based food. "Easier to eat"/"less energy to digest" are not benefits.

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    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Jan 17, 2014 5:42 pm

clw_uk wrote:Isnt it a jainist argument that Buddhists are too laxed, and Buddha not fully wise, because he didnt mandate vegetarianism?


It depends upon how far one goes with vegetarianism. The pure Jain diet (which I heard few of them even do) is to only eat fruits and the 'tops' of the greens, thereby not killing the source plant / tree. A lacto-ovo vegetarian diet looks pretty monstrous to some hard-core vegans who eat close to the Jain diet.

clw_uk wrote:At the end of the day humans are omnivores, hence why we have canines and molars, as well as forward facing eyes (the usual standard of a predator)


In an evolutionary biology class I had at university, the professor said that primates, including chimpanzees, gorillas and humans have large canines due to a social adaptation. Males are the dominant gender among all primates and the larger teeth and canines adapted as a result of that, not diet. Even among modern humans, the males have significantly larger canines and teeth in general than females.

Mountain gorillas eat an almost exclusively fruitarian, vegan diet and have large canines, teeth and are very strong too.

However as I said before, I think lab grown meat is the solution to this whole debate


:thumbsup:

In terms of health and nutrition, I like to look at the diets of super centenarians. Their diets are all over the place, including omnivore, lacto-ovo vegetarians, whiskey drinking, etc. So it does appear that one can get good nutrition on almost any type of diet as long as there is not too much fat or junk. So my main motivation for a mostly vegan diet is more on ethical grounds.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby clw_uk » Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:28 pm

In an evolutionary biology class I had at university, the professor said that primates, including chimpanzees, gorillas and humans have large canines due to a social adaptation. Males are the dominant gender among all primates and the larger teeth and canines adapted as a result of that, not diet. Even among modern humans, the males have significantly larger canines and teeth in general than females.

Mountain gorillas eat an almost exclusively fruitarian, vegan diet and have large canines, teeth and are very strong too.



Thats interesting :)


I am a bit sceptical though because even if we ignore the teeth, we still have forward facing eyes and a digestive system that absorbs both plant and animal matter. When its all combined I think it does point to Humans being mostly predators, with a herbivore slant (omnivore)

I dont know much about the Gorrila's diet or behaviour, however I do know that Chimpanzees do kill and eat monkey (albeit on odd occasion's). It's also interesting to note that they are, with this behaviour, our closes relatives.


OF course this is all biology and not Dhamma as such. However I think Buddha, if he was alive today, would want us to take into account the biological facts as well as the circumstance of the individual.

Ideally we would not kill other beings and all be vegetarian, or grow meat in labs. However there are circumstances where a mother, for and extreme example, would have to kill a rabbit to feed her toddlers.

Sadly our planet went down the path of life feeding off life, and if there was a choice between killing a rabbit or letting a toddler starve, I would say killing the rabbit was the more ethical ... although maybe not wholesome

Maybe there are occasions where what is ethical to do is separate from what is wholesome?


Interesting though :reading:
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby daverupa » Fri Jan 17, 2014 7:28 pm

Some work on early human diets.

The first major evolutionary change in the human diet was the incorporation of meat and marrow from large animals, which occurred by at least 2.6 million years ago.


The carnivory of hominins is unique among primates in three ways: (1) use of flaked stone tools to access animal resources; (2) acquisition of resources from animals much larger than the hominins themselves (Figure 3); and (3) procurement of animal resources by scavenging. Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, routinely hunt, capture by hand, and eat meat from colobus or other smaller monkeys (e.g. Mitani and Watts 2001), but meat is a small proportion of their diet and they rarely scavenge (Watts 2008), most likely because they cannot efficiently digest carrion (Ragir et al. 2000). How this novel source of food was first recognized by hominins remains unknown.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Mkoll » Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:40 pm

daverupa wrote:Some work on early human diets.

The first major evolutionary change in the human diet was the incorporation of meat and marrow from large animals, which occurred by at least 2.6 million years ago.


The carnivory of hominins is unique among primates in three ways: (1) use of flaked stone tools to access animal resources; (2) acquisition of resources from animals much larger than the hominins themselves (Figure 3); and (3) procurement of animal resources by scavenging. Chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, routinely hunt, capture by hand, and eat meat from colobus or other smaller monkeys (e.g. Mitani and Watts 2001), but meat is a small proportion of their diet and they rarely scavenge (Watts 2008), most likely because they cannot efficiently digest carrion (Ragir et al. 2000). How this novel source of food was first recognized by hominins remains unknown.


I can imagine a band of hominins coming out of their caves during the last ice age with their flaked stone tools, finding a dead wooly mammoth or rhino or something and using those tools to quickly cut into the meat to take away as much as possible before more dangerous scavengers arrive such as sabertooth tigers!
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Alex123 » Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:50 pm

kitztack wrote:has anyone discussed how much easier it is to achieve better levels of concentration and tranquility in meditation when the body is freed of expending energy to digest meat?


And some people have difficulty to digest carbohydrates...
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby culaavuso » Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:58 pm

kitztack wrote:has anyone discussed how much easier it is to achieve better levels of concentration and tranquility in meditation when the body is freed of expending energy to digest meat?

i believe this is also one reason why vegetarianism is promoted amonst many Dhamma followers.


From Gifts He Left Behind: The Dhamma Legacy of Ajaan Dune Atulo
Ajaan Dune Atulo wrote:That's very good. The fact that you can be vegetarians is very good, and I'd like to express my admiration. As for those who still eat meat, if that meat is pure in three ways — in that they haven't seen or heard or suspected that an animal was killed to provide the food specifically for them — and they obtained it in a pure way, then eating the meat is in no way against the Dhamma and Vinaya. But when you say that your mind becomes peaceful and cool, that's the result of the strength that comes from being intent on practicing correctly in line with the Dhamma and Vinaya. It has nothing to do with the new food or old in your stomach at all.
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Aloka » Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:52 pm

From Ajahn Jagaro:

I respect people who are vegetarian. They are acting very nobly; it is a gesture of renunciation. It is a small thing but noble, and very much in keeping with the Buddha's teaching of compassion and understanding.

But don't stop there. Even if you are not vegetarian don't think there is nothing else you can do. There's a lot to be done in every area of life, in the way we speak, in the way we act, in everything. Be one who treads lightly, be one who doesn't add unnecessarily to the suffering of humanity and all other sentient beings on this planet.

Once we have the intention to at least try, to move in the right direction, we are good disciples of the Buddha. Each person has to walk at his or her own pace.

http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha151.htm



Essay in support of vegetarianism "Taking a Stand" By Ven. Abhinaya

http://www.shabkar.org/download/pdf/Taking_a_stand.pdf

vegetarianism in Buddhism

http://www.shabkar.org/vegetarianism/index.htm


:anjali:
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Re: the great vegetarian debate

Postby Mkoll » Fri Jan 31, 2014 9:59 pm

Aloka wrote:From Ajahn Jagaro:

I respect people who are vegetarian. They are acting very nobly; it is a gesture of renunciation. It is a small thing but noble, and very much in keeping with the Buddha's teaching of compassion and understanding.

But don't stop there. Even if you are not vegetarian don't think there is nothing else you can do. There's a lot to be done in every area of life, in the way we speak, in the way we act, in everything. Be one who treads lightly, be one who doesn't add unnecessarily to the suffering of humanity and all other sentient beings on this planet.

Once we have the intention to at least try, to move in the right direction, we are good disciples of the Buddha. Each person has to walk at his or her own pace.

http://www.budsas.org/ebud/ebdha151.htm



Essay in support of vegetarianism "Taking a Stand" By Ven. Abhinaya

http://www.shabkar.org/download/pdf/Taking_a_stand.pdf

vegetarianism in Buddhism

http://www.shabkar.org/vegetarianism/index.htm


:anjali:

Thanks Aloka.

I think he sums it up nicely with the phrase: "it is a gesture of renunciation".

:anjali:
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