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Why Animals Matter: Buddhist Quotations
Buddhists should be vegetarian or preferably vegan
Buddhists be vegetarian or vegan? This can be a very
confusing question as despite the clear cut teaching of
Buddha many Buddhists find ways to justify the taking of
the life of other sentient beings, even though the first
precept and scriptures clearly state the teachings of
Buddha in this regard.
Ambiguities arise from the account of the Buddha's
death which many believe was the result of eating
tainted pork. However rather like other religions such
accounts should not necessarily be taken at face value
and the interpretation of such events have been distorted
with the passing of so much time and the mistranslation
of ancient languages.
what actually happened to Buddha? Did he eat pork?
Buddha died from
eating a type of mushroom called a "pigs foot",
considered as a special delicacy.
When Buddha and his followers arrived at the village of
Pava, Cunda, the son of the village goldsmith invited
the group to partake of a meal called sukaramaddava, or
"boars delight". Here is where the controversy lies:
some scholars believe this was a special meal, a
speciality of mushrooms which when translated from
the language of the Brahmans is called the "pigs foot",
while others claim it was literally a meal of boar
Consider this comment from The key to immediate
Enlightenment by Supreme Master Ching Hai
If we translate directly from the language of late
Brahmans. This kind of mushroom is called the "pig's
foot". It is just like when we call a kind of fruit
Langan( in Chinese this literally means the "dragons
eye". There are many things that by name are not
vegetables but actually are vegetarian food, such as the
"dragons eye". This mushroom in the Brahmanic language
is called the "pig's foot" or pig's joy.
The key to immediate Enlightenment by Supreme Master
You can see clearly why confusion may arise, both a boar
and the mushroom have a connection with pigs; a
boar of course is a type of pig, the dead flesh of a pig
for consumption is as I am sure you are aware called
pork and the mushroom was called pigs foot. Why was the
mushroom called a pigs foot? This is a type of mushroom
that does not grow above ground, its presence
underground is difficult to locate without the aid of a
pig who enjoys eating this mushroom. The pig locates
this delicacy by his keen sense of smell and having
found one he uses his foot to dig it up.
Hence the name Pig's Foot.
This confusion is regrettable. Moreover the confusion
may well have been perpetuated by those who simply wish
to find an excuse to eat meat. There is no proof of
course but here surely one has to use some common sense.
The answer to this confusion is surely simple. Why would
Buddha teach the five precepts number one of which is to
refrain from killing all beings
if right at the
end of his life he eats meat?
Buddha and many of his principle adherents directly
forbid the eating of meat.
Below are examples from Buddhist scripture which advocate
the abstention from eating flesh and harming other
eat the flesh of living creatures, we are destroying the
seeds of compassion
Buddha as previously mentioned practiced and taught the law of Ahimsa, which means nonviolence
and which became
part of the Indian religious tradition and considered a very
important step towards spiritual awareness and
Buddha taught his followers
the sake of love of purity, the Bodhisattva should
refrain from eating flesh, which is born of semen,
blood, etc. For fear of causing terror to living beings
let the Bodhisattva, who is disciplining himself to
attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh...
It is not true that meat is proper food and permissible
when the animal was not killed by himself, when he did
not order others to kill it, when it was not specially
meant for him. Again, there may be some people in the
future who .. . being under the influence of the taste
for meat will string together in various ways sophistic
arguments to defend meat eating .
But... meat eating in any form, in any manner, and in
any place is unconditionally and once for all
prohibited... Meat eating I have not permitted to
anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit .
The above abbreviated extracts from the Lankavatara
sutra where quoted from Buddhist writings: From The
Extended Circle by Jon Wynne-Tyson.
Here you will find more quotations from Buddhist
History of Vegetarianism -Buddha (?563-483 BC) -
According to tradition, these are
the actual words of the Buddha as he entered Lanka and
conversed with a bodhisattva named Mahamati:
you would like to read the Lankavatara Sutra on Meat Eating please click the link below:
The Lankavatara Sutra composed 2,500 years ago is a
Mahayana (a sect of Buddhism) text; Mahayana Buddhists are
vegetarian. The Lankavatara sutra clearly and most
strongly condemns meat eating and states that
eating meat should be avoided as the presence of a
meat-eater causes terror in animals, who believe the
meat eater likely to kill them.
This particular admonition refutes the idea some
Buddhists often use to justify the consumption of flesh
saying that it is permissible to eat meat if you
yourself have not killed the animal or that the animal was not
purposely killed for you. Such
an idea contradicts the first precept, that of causing no harm
to any living being; actions which result in the taking of life,
or indirectly, surely contradict this basic Buddhist
Where does this notion arise?
Buddha may have under very limited circumstances allowed his
monks to eat meat. Keep in mind that monks in those
days existed by begging and at times it may not have
been possible to refuse meat if it was given.
such circumstances the Buddha may have made the
say that there are three instances in which meat may be
eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected
(that the living being has been slaughtered for the bhikkhu). I say that meat may be eaten in three
bhikkhu is a Buddhist monk)
However in the Lankavatara Sutra referred to
earlier Buddha says:
is not true, Mahamati, that meat is proper food and
permissible for the Sravaka ( a hearer, hence a pupil or
beginner) when (the victim) was not killed by himself,
when he did not order others to kill it. When it was not
specially meant for him."
Consider the following extraction and quotations from Hsu Yun Buddhist
It should be remembered that in the Buddha’s time the
monks existed solely by begging and that it was not
possible to turn away meat without offending the giver
or for that matter, the animal from which the meat came.
Further it was not always possible to have vegetables
due to climatic and soil conditions as evidenced by the
following taken from the Chapter on "The Enlightenment
of Others" / Prohibition against killing in the
Surangama Sutra, pg. 153:"Ananda, I permit the Bhikkhus
to eat only the five kinds of pure flesh which are the
product of my transcendental power of transformation and
not of animal slaughter. You, Brahman, live in a country
where vegetables do not grow because it is too damp and
hot and because of all the gravel and rock. I use my
power of compassion to provide you with illusory meat to
satisfy your appetite. How then, after my nirvana, can
you eat the flesh of living beings and so pretend to be
the Lankavatara Sutra the Buddha said; "Mahamati, in
this long course of transmigration here, there is not
one living being that, having assumed the form of a
living being, has not been your mother, or father, or
brother, or sister, or son, or daughter, or the one or
the other, in various degrees of kinship; and when
acquiring another form of life may live as a beast, as a
domestic animal, as a bird, or as a womb-born, or as
something standing in some relationship to you; (this
being so) how can the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva who desires
to approach all living beings as if they were himself
and to practice the Buddha-truths, eat the flesh of any
living being that is of the same nature as himself?
Buddha may have permitted monks to eat meat under very
limited circumstances. Would he allow monks to eat meat
today? It is very doubtful, as there are many
alternatives to meat and the Buddha clearly indicated
that not eating meat was preferable if at all possible.
Hsu Yun Buddhist Association Inc. Vegetarianism in
'not killed specifically for his benefit' excuse, says
Katherine Perlo, a doctor of philosophy and long-time
Buddhist,"comes from the Jivaka Sutta, which-whether
inserted into scripture by meat-eating monks (as
asserted by Roshi Philip Kapleau), or mistranslated (as
asserted by Dr. Tony Page)-is, as both scholars agree,
totally inconsistent with the prevailing Buddhist
values, especially the first precept of non-injury and
the principle of 'right livelihood' which proscribes the
occupations of butcher, hunter, and fisherman. Even if
one accepts the Sutta's message, it's at the very most a
concession to meat-eaters, never an encouragement."
Extract from an Article concerning the use of a monk to
Hillshire Farm Incident Indicative of Problems in
Buddhist Channel | Buddhism News, Headlines | US Midwest
| Hillshire Farm
Of course it is extremely doubtful indeed that Buddha
would allow the eating of meat produced in the hellish
cruelty of the factory farming system. In fact there is
no doubt whatsoever that he would most strongly condemn
such appalling cruelty to any animal.
Moreover today it
is not necessary for anyone to eat meat and the eating
of meat casues other human beings to starve as land is
given over to growing feed for animals which could other
wise be used to grow
crops to feed people. Commonsense must prevail here, times have changed, Buddha lived a long time ago in a
very different era. Today he would not make any
concession under any circumstances as plant food is
available to all. People starve because of greed, there
is enough land to adequately provide vegetable food for
Also one should be aware that with any religion,
teachings over time may be altered to suit the needs of
those practitioners who wish to indulge in habits that
are forbidden. The overwhelming majority of Buddha's
teachings forbids killing animals and eating meat.
Below is an extract from a publication, Taking a Stand By Ven. Abhinaya, a Buddhist monk in the Thai Theravada
People become vegetarians for different reasons, but
to abstain from eating meat because one thinks it is
better for health or for ‘making merit,’ or from the
consideration that a chicken or fish might have been
one’s relative or friend in a previous lifetime, are not
Buddhist reasons for being vegetarian. A Buddhist
abstains from eating meat because he knows it is right
to abstain, and not from what he might get, personally,
from doing so. He is a vegetarian for the sake of the
animals, not for his own sake; he considers the effects
of his actions upon others.
Mind of our own
what the Buddha may or may not have said about eating
meat; He died a long time
ago, and none of us ever met Him. We are not the slaves
of the Buddha—or are we?—but have minds of our own,
which He exhorted us to use. The animals are being
killed right now, often with
our tacit consent and approval. What do you think about
this? While it means food for many, money for others and
sport for some, for the animals themselves it means
suffering and death. Surely, this deserves some thought.
We should not be so subjective, always looking at things
from our own viewpoint, wondering how we can make use of
things for our own ends. The viewpoint we should look at
meat-eating from is that of the animals, is it not? Try
to put yourself in their position, and see how it feels.
Now, reading this, some people—monks and non-monks —will
probably fall back on the old worn-out argument: "But
Buddhist monks are not allowed to ask for anything
special for themselves, saying, ‘I like this’ or ‘I
don’t like that.’ They are supposed to eat whatever
people are kind enough to offer to them, without making
a fuss and causing inconvenience to their supporters."
Yes, it is good for monks to refrain from being fussy
and choosy, but if they were to
request people to offer them only meatless food, they
would not be asking for themselves, but for the sake of
the animals; their asking would be altruistic instead of
And it would benefit the
people who offer as well as the animals, for their
offerings would involve less suffering and so would be
more meritorious. From every point-of-view,
therefore—including health and economy — vegetarianism
is better. And, as for the lame excuse that, without
eating meat, we would not get enough nourishment and
would be weak and sickly, well, what about elephants,
buffaloes, etc.? They are herbivorous, and are not weak!
It is our minds that are weak, not our bodies! So, why
hesitate? Is it because of attachment to taste? Is it
because we might find it inconvenient to change our
diet? Do we live to eat, or eat to live? In order for us
to eat meat, the animals must be killed. Is that not a
great inconvenience for them?
is highly recommend that your read the entire
No matter what Buddha said or did not say all
animals killed in factory farms or elsewhere in today's
world are slaughtered for you to eat.
Think about it.
Again common sense should prevail here as of course if
people continue to eat meat, animals will continue to be
slaughtered. Eating meat whether directly or indirectly
causes the death of an animal, butchers kill animals to
make money, if people did not eat meat butchers would
not kill animals. It is as simple as that! If you
buy meat it has been killed for you regardless of the
fact that the employees in factory farms, slaughter
houses and butchers do not know who precisely receives
it matters not. To cite such an exception is clearly
meaningless, invalid in the modern world and simply a
play upon words, if you eat meat you are complicit.
Moreover perhaps you should also consider that by buying
meat you also cause harm to the person who killed the
animals as of course killing affects ones karma and
consequent spiritual progress and a detrimental
re-birth. Anyone of any intelligence can plainly see the
fallacy and hypocrisy of this notion, even if there
where no scripture to directly refute this idea the fact
remains: whether you kill the animal yourself or go to
your local butcher or supermarket or dine in a
restaurant, meat eating is killing by proxy.
This is a very unfortunate notion and one often
advocated even by eminent Buddhists. However this is
what the most eminent Buddhist, the 14th Dali Lama has to
say about meat eating :
" I do not see any reason why animals should be
slaughtered to serve as human diet when we there are so
many substitutes. After all, man can live without meat.
"I do not see any reason "
There are many ways that people try to mitigate the
simple fact that they are killing animals and thus
breaking the commitments of the first precept. For
rituals are used to mitigate in some kind of Karmic way
the killing of non human creatures.
Why was Buddha not more specific?
Well actually I personally think he was very specific and the
majority of his teachings prohibit meat eating either
directly or indirectly.
Also consider the general religious philosophy of the
times in which Buddha lived.
ancient India the concept of Ahimsa was well known and
understood among religions like Hinduism and Jainism.
Hindus do not substantially see as different the soul
within the body of a human from that of a nonhuman
animal. Therefore ahimsa as a rule of conduct applies to
all creatures and implies a ban on meat eating,
butchery, hunting, the use of animal products procured
by violent means or any other harmful action.
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word that means to do no harm, to
do no violence, it is a moral rule of conduct against
killing or injuring living beings, it is tied to the
belief that all such negative actions as violence accrue karmic consequence of a detrimental nature. The
admonition not to kill living beings meant both human
nonhuman and was therefore obvious and needed no
Lankavatara sutra cited earlier Buddha explicitly
prohibits the eating of meat, fish and any animal
products which are the result of harming and killing of
any sentient being.
Consider, that even if the Buddha himself did not spell it out in so
many words surely it is common sense that if you eat meat
you are breaking the first precept either directly or
Buddhism and indeed any religion should be progressive
and modern; the contemporary image of Buddhism
is one of a religion that encourages a vegetarian
or vegan diet as
the logical interpretation of the first precept.
Most people in the west simply assume that
Buddhists are vegetarian.
Consider: How can a Buddhist practice no harm towards
any being and eat meat produced in a
factory farm where
animals suffer appalling cruelty, or wear cosmetics
tested on animals and which contain animal derivatives, or
condone experiments. How can we have a spiritual
experience when we burn candles made from animal
derivatives (tallow and stearic acid) or wear shoes made from the dead
skins of slaughtered animals.
Christianity there is often posed the question what
would Christ do. Buddhists should perhaps pose a similar
question, what would Buddha do? Do you think that Buddha
wants you to eat the flesh of sentient beings who have
lived their days in terror, suffering unimaginable
pain and torment in
a factory farm, would he want you to eat the dead flesh
of a sheep who has been transported overseas in terrible
conditions standing in their own faeces and being put through a grinder
alive when they become sick, these cruelties and more happen to sheep transported from
Australia to the middle east.*7)
out how animals are treated in factory farms. Find out
where you meat comes from
modern world there is no need to eat meat as the Dalai
Lama says in the quotation above. In fact, as mentioned
consumption of meat in western countries not only
destroys the life of the animals who are
reared and slaughtered but also is of detriment to our
own species. Did you know that during the Ethiopian
famine the Ethiopian government was sending grain to western
countries to feed their factory farmed animals? Now in the modern world
the eating of meat is not only injurious to nonhuman animals
of course but also to humans, and the environment
as vast swathes of rain forest are cut down to provide
fodder for animals to satisfy the appetites of western meat eaters.
Buddha said that we
cannot live at the expense of other beings, eating meat
is done at the expensive of myriads of sentient
beings who just like you want to live.
All beings tremble before danger, all fear death.
When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to
All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all. When
a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.
From what you have read here already it is clear that
Buddha was against animal sacrifice and meat eating.
Here is another consideration to take into account. The
practice of Metta.
Not harming and indeed actively caring for animals
should be part of the practice of Metta
What is metta?
There is a concept in Buddhism called Metta, a Pali word
(Maitri in Sanskrit) translated as universal loving
friendliness, benevolence, amity, friendship,
kindness, love, sympathy, and active interest in others,
with good will free from expectation and
possessiveness. It is one of the ten pāramitās of the Theravada
school of Buddhism.
term Pāramitā means perfect or perfection and refers in
Buddhism to the cultivation or perfection of virtues as
a way of purifying Karma, the practice of Metta is a way
of helping an aspirant of Buddhism to lead a good life,
to develop universal compassion on his progression
towards the goal of Enlightenment.
Below is a quotation from the Karaniya Metta sutra,
Discourse On Loving-Kindness (Metta) given by the Buddha. Sutras are Buddhist canonical scriptures regarded as
records of the oral teachings of Buddha.
Let one contemplate and wish:
May all beings be well and safe.
May all beings be happy.
Whatever living beings there may be—
whether they are weak or strong, omitting none,
the great or the mighty, medium size, short, small, or
those seen and those unseen, those dwelling near and far
those born as well as those yet to be born—
may all beings be happy at heart.
Read the full discourse and
information about Metta:
Discourse On Loving-Kindness
Metta indicates friendship and nonviolence and most
importantly a strong desire or wish for others to be
happy, not only humans, but all beings. It is a specific
form of love, the type of caring for others independent
of self interest and has been compared to the love of a
mother for her child or conversely the child for his for
her parent, a selfless love absent of all self interest.
Metta is a boundless feeling of love not limited to one's
own family, religion or species, it is universal.
The universal compassion of Metta is cultivated by the
practice of medication known as Mettā bhāvanā
a meditative practice to bring about the cultivation of
universal loving-kindness. Loving kindness meditation in contemporary times is
a very popular form of mediation. In this meditation the practitioner
recites specific words and phrases meant to evoke the
feeling of boundless love, compassion and warm
heartedness towards all beings. Although self interest
should never be the motivation when ones loving kindness
is directed towards all beings it is expected that one will find true
happiness in another person's happiness and wellbeing.
Mettā bhāvanā meditation is a tool if you like to direct
feelings of loving kindness towards all creatures human
and nonhuman, stranger and family, people we may not
like as well as friends, even oneself
Metta practice is
often based on a method traditionally associated with
the 5th c. CE Pali exegetical text, the Visuddhimagga,
(the path to purity)
six stages of mettā bhāvanā meditation which are most
commonly found involve cultivating loving-kindness
A good friend
A 'neutral' person
A difficult person
and then gradually the entire Universe
As a mother even with
own life protects her only child, so should
one cultivate immeasurable loving-kindness
towards all living beings.
He who both day and
night takes delight in harmlessness sharing
love with all that live, finds enmity with
who mindfully develops
Seeing the destruction of
The fetters are worn away.
an uncorrupted mind
He pervades just one being
With loving kindly thoughts,
He makes some merit thereby.
noble one produces
An abundance of merit
By having a compassionate mind
Towards all living beings.
royal seers who conquered
The earth crowded with beings
Went about performing
The horse sacrifice, the man
The water rites, the soma
And that called “the
these do not share even a
Of a well cultivated mind of
Just as the entire starry host
Is dimmed by the moon’s
does not kill
Nor cause others to kill,
Who does not conquer
Nor cause others to conquer,
Kindly towards all beings —
He has enmity for none.
I have good will
for footless beings,
good will for two-footed beings,
good will for four-footed beings,
good will for many-footed beings.
May footless beings do me no harm.
May two-footed beings do me no harm.
May four-footed beings do me no harm.
May many-footed beings do me no harm.
May all creatures,
all breathing things,
all beings — each & every one –
meet with good fortune.
May none of them come to any evil.
Anguttara Nikaya IV.67
above is a
selection of quotations from What the Buddha
said about metta
What the Buddha said about
metta | Wildmind Buddhist Meditation
Concerning Animal rights and the Obligation of a
Buddhist to his or her fellow creatures, it is surely
incongruent to practice Metta or Metta meditation whilst
involved in harmful practice to any being. Eating meat,
consuming milk or eggs, wearing, leather, wool or silk all causes
harm to other beings and cannot be part of the life of a
Buddhist. Keep in mind that this discourse, the Metta
sutra, was spoken by Buddha. I think the implication is
clear that as a practitioner of Buddhism harming animals in
any way is not in keeping with the principles of
Metta or ahimsa or any of the teachings of Buddha
More Metta quotes
gladness and in safety,
May all beings be at ease.
Even as a mother
protects with her life
Her child, her only child,
So with a boundless heart
Should one cherish
all living beings.
Being a vegetarian makes it easier for us to increase
our loving kindness and compassion.
Zen Master Thich Thanh Tu
Buddhism there is the concept of the middle way. Simply
put adherents should take the middle road avoiding
extremes. Concerning the killing of other beings it is
diffluent to avoid killing entirely. For instance the
cultivating of plants brings about harm to insects and
small creatures such as rodents. However Buddhists should be mindful of this fact and avoid harm whenever
possible and it is certainly possible to avoid meat
which as we have said not only harms animals but people
also as land is given over to feed live stock which
could go directly to feed people. Milk is easily
avoidable and people in many parts of the world are in
any case lactose intolerant and it is mostly western
cultures that drink milk. Eggs are avoidable and for
reasons of health this is highly desirable also. Honey
is a luxury which is easily avoided. Its also possible to
abstain from the use of leather, wool and silk, there are many other
alternatives in our modern society.
Modern Day Buddhism and vegetarianism/veganism
6) In Buddhism, the term "sutra" or
sutta refers mostly to canonical scriptures, many of
which are regarded as records of the oral teachings of
Important please note:
am not an animal expert of any kind just your average
person who loves animals, all animals, and feels deeply
about the plight of many of our fellow creatures.
Neither am I a writer, or any other expert. Therefore
please keep in mind that the information included in
this website has been researched to the best of my
ability and any misinformation is quite by accident but
of course possible.
Copyright, accreditations and
other matters, please read