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Why Animal Matter: A religious/Philosophical perspective, Buddhism

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Below are quotations from leading Buddhists both past and present concerning animal rights, the humane treatment of animals and adopting a vegetarian/vegan diet. The quotations page is part of a section about animal rights and religious and philosophical belief, it is an adjunct to the in-depth article concerning animal rights and Buddhism linked above or is useful if you prefer just basic information. Also links to Buddhist Vegetarian/ Vegan societies.

Buddhist Sacred Text

In Buddhism, the term "sutra" refers mostly to canonical scriptures, many of which are regarded as records of the oral teachings of Gautama Buddha.


The Dharmapada is a versified Buddhist scripture spoken by the Buddha on various occasions

If a person does not harm any living being… and does not kill or cause others to kill- that person is a true spiritual practitioner.

All beings tremble before danger, all fear death. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill. All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill. Whosoever tries to find happiness through hurting other beings, will not find happiness.

One who, while himself seeking happiness, oppresses with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will not attain happiness hereafter. One who, while himself seeking happiness, does not oppress with violence other beings who also desire happiness, will find happiness hereafter.

To avoid terror to living beings, let the disciple refrain from eating meat... the food of the wise is that which is consumed by the Sadhus
( holy men); it does not consist of meat... There may be some foolish people in the future that will say that I permitted meat-eating and partook of meat myself, but...meat eating  I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit.. I will not permit meat eating in any form, in nay manner or in any place; it is unconditionally prohibited for all.

He who, seeking his own happiness, punishes or kills beings who also long for happiness, will not find happiness after death.

Lankavatara Sutra

The Lankavatara Sutra is a sutra of Mahayana Buddhism. The sutra are the  words of the Buddha as he entered Lanka and conversed with a bodhisattva named Mahamati. This sutra figured prominently in the development of Chinese, Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism.

For 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.

For fear of causing terror to living beings, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva who is disciplining himself to obtain compassion, refrain from eating flesh. To illustrate, Mahamati: When a dog sees, even from a distance, a hunter, a pariah, a fisherman, etc, whose desires are for meat-eating, he is terrified with fear, thinking, "They are death-dealers, they will even kill me." In the same way, Mahamati, even those minute animals that are living in the air, on earth, and in water, seeing meat-eaters at a distance, will perceive in them, by their keen sense of smell, the odour of the Rakshasa and will run away from such people as quickly as possible; for they are to them the threat of death. For this reason, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva, who is disciplining himself, to abide in great compassion, because of its terrifying living beings, refrain from eating meat. The food of the wise, Mahamati, is what is eaten by the Rishis; it does not consist of meat and blood. Therefore, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva refrain from eating meat.

Thus, Mahamati, meat-eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit.
Extracts from the Lankavatara Sutra

Read the entire Sutra on eating meat
Dharma Realm Buddhist Association - Dharma

Mahaparinirvana Sutra

This sutra is sometimes  called the Nirvana Sutra  is a major Mahayana sutra, which its English-translator, Kosho Yamamoto, has described as 'one of the three great masterpieces of Mahayana Buddhism.

Buddha's Final Teaching on Avoiding Meat and Fish

The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion."~
The Buddha

Mahaparinirvana Sutra

Surangama Sutra

The Surangama Sutra is a Mahayana sutra , Mahayana , meaning 'Great Vehicle' is one of two major divisions of Buddhism  Theravada is the other.

"If a man can (control) his body and mind and thereby refrains from eating animal flesh and wearing animal products, I say he will really be liberated."

Surangama Sutra

The reason for practicing dhyana and seeking to attain Samadhi is to escape from the suffering of life, but in seeking to escape from the suffering ourselves why should we inflict it upon others? Unless you can so control your minds that even the thought of brutal unkindness and killing is abhorrent, you will never be able to escape from the bondage of the world’s life…After my Parinirvana in the last kalpa different kinds of ghosts will be encountered everywhere deceiving people and teaching them that they can eat meat and still attain enlightenment… How can a bhikshu, who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself be living on the flesh of other sentient beings?
Surangama Sutra

If one is trying to practice meditation and it still eating meat, he would be like a man closing his ears and shouting loudly, and then asserting that he heard nothing ...Pure and earnest , when walking a narrow path, will never so much as tread on the growing grass beside the path. How can a bhikshu, who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself be living on the flesh of other sentient beings? Pure and earnest bhikshus will never wear clothing made of silk, nor wear boots made of leather for it involves the taking of life. Neither will they indulge in eating milk or cheese because thereby they are depriving the young animals of that which is rightfully belongs to them.
Surangama Sutra
A bhikshu is a Buddhist monk

The Khuddakapatha

A Buddhist scripture, the first collection of discourses in the Khuddaka Nikaya of the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism. It includes texts essential to Buddhist disciples.


The Avatamsaka-sutra - rendered in English as Flower Garland Sutra, Flower Adornment Sutra, or Flowers Ornament Scripture - is a Mahayana Buddhist sutra that explores the teachings of the Buddha . It speaks of the deeds of the Buddha and the resulting merits that blossom like a garland of flowers. It begins with the Buddha's Enlightenment attended by a chorus of bodhisattvas and divine beings. It describes an assembly in the palace of Indra, where the Buddha teaches that all beings have the Buddha nature.

I should be a hostel for all sentient beings, to let them escape from all painful things. I should be a protector for all sentient beings, to let them all be liberated from all afflictions. I should be a refuge for all sentient beings, to free them from all fears. . .

I should accept all sufferings for the sake of sentient beings, and enable them to escape from the abyss of immeasurable woes of birth and death. I should accept all suffering for the sake of all sentient beings in all worlds, in all states of misery, for ever and ever, and still always cultivate foundations of goodness for the sake of all beings. Why? I would rather take all this suffering on myself than to allow sentient beings to fall into hell. I should be a hostage to those perilous places-hells, animal realms, the nether world-as a ransom to rescue all sentient beings in states of woe and enable them to gain liberation.

May all beings be free from enmity;
May all beings be free from injury;
May all beings be free from suffering;
May all beings be happy.

Buddhist Prayer for Animals to be Free From Suffering.

As a mother even with own life protects her only child, so should one cultivate immeasurable loving-kindness towards all living beings.
The Metta Sutta

He who both day and night takes delight in harmlessness sharing love with all that live, finds enmity with none.
Samyutta Nikaya.

Quotations from noteworthy Buddhists

Thich Nath Hanh

Thich Nath Hanh born October 11, 1926 in central Vietnam is an expatriate Vietnamese Zen Buddhist monk, teacher, author, poet and peace activist. He joined a Zen monastery at the age of 16, studied Buddhism as a novice, and was fully ordained as a monk in 1949.

Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivating compassion and learning ways to protect the lives of people, animals, plants, and minerals. I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to support any act of killing in the world, in my thinking, and in my way of life.

The First Mindfulness Training of The Five Mindfulness Trainings formulated by The Buddhist master Thich Nath Hanh which are an adaptation of the first five Buddhist precepts and reflect a relevance to modern lifestyle.

"By eating meat we share the responsibility of climate change, the destruction of our forests, and the poisoning of our air and water. The simple act of becoming a vegetarian will make a difference in the health of our planet."
The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology Thich Nhat Hanh

"There are three ways of killing that we, as Buddhists, have to restrain: either by directly killing, indirectly killing, or rejoicing to see others be killed. Not only does this apply to human life, it should be also extended to all living beings."
Thich Thanh Tu
Buddhism for Beginners


Shantideva was an 8th-century Indian Buddhist scholar at Nalanda University and an adherent of the Madhyamaka (a Buddhist Mahāyāna tradition), philosophy of Nagarjuna, an Indian Philosopher.

Just as no pleasures can bring delight
To someone whose body is ablaze with fire,
Nor can the great compassionate ones be pleased
When harm is done to sentient beings.


Roshi Philip Kapleau

Philip Kapleau ,1912 – 2004,  was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in the United States, he became a teacher of Zen Buddhism in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition, a blending of Japanese Soto and Rinzai schools.

To put the flesh of an animal into one's belly makes one an accessory after the fact of its slaughter, simply because if cows, pigs, sheep, fowl, and fish, to mention the most common, were not eaten they would not be killed."
Roshi Philip Kapleau

Every individual who eats flesh food, whether an animal is killed expressely for him or not, is supporting the trade of slaughtering and contributing to the violent deaths of harmless animals."
Roshi Philip Kapleau
To Cherish All Life

Norm Phelps

Norm Phelps is an author and long-time student of Buddhism and an acquaintance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Buddhism cannot be true to itself until Buddhists resolve their ambivalence toward nonhuman animals and extend the full protection of their compassion to the most harmless and helpless of those who live at our mercy in the visible realms.

When we hunt or fish, we deliberately kill a defenseless being who wishes us no harm. This is a direct violation of the First Precept. It is absolutely forbidden to Buddhists. As to eating meat, we know that the only way we can obtain it is for an animal to be killed. Therefore, when we eat meat, it is our intent that an innocent animal should die to satisfy our addiction to flesh. And that underlying intention, no matter how well hidden behind a smokescreen of rationalizations will block the growth of compassion and create negative karma.

Veganism is simply letting compassion guide our choice of food. As such, it is a basic Buddhist practice that ought to be expected of everyone who takes refuge vows
Norm Phelps
Extractions from: The Great Compassion: Buddhism & Animal Rights

Buddhism has long held that all life forms are sacred and considers kindness and compassion to be the highest virtues. Moreover, Buddhism explicitly includes animals in its moral universe. The Great Compassion studies the different strains of Buddhism and the sutras that command respect for all life. Norm Phelps, a long-time student of Buddhism and acquaintance of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, answers the central questions of whether Buddhism demands vegetarianism or whether the Buddha ate meat. He is not afraid to examine anti-animal statements in Buddhist law - particularly the issues of whether Buddhists in non-historically Buddhist countries need to keep or to jettison the practices of their historical homelands.

Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights: Amazon.co.uk: Norm Phelps: Books

Please note: There is no paid advertising on this website, any advertising is for your information only, this book is also available at all the usual bookshops.

Ven. U. Vimalaramsi

Ven. U. Vimalaramsi, born 1946, is an American Buddhist Monk, he has dedicated his life to practicing meditation, researching, studying, teaching, and writing about Buddhist Meditation for over 30 years.

This precept [of non-harm] includes non-killing of beings like ants, mosquitoes, and cockroaches.
Ven. U. Vimalaramsi
Comments from his translation of the Anapanasuti Sutta


HH Kyabje Lati Rinpoche

HH Kyabje Lati Rinpoche is one of HH the Dalai Lama's spiritual advisers, he is one of the world's foremost Buddhist scholars, has been a visiting professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Virginia USA

If the number of people who consume meat is reduced, it then automatically reduces the number of people who kill the animals to meet the demand. In this way, by becoming vegetarian, we contribute, to some extent, to the reduction in the number of animals killed.
HH Kyabje Lati Rinpoche

Eating meat, at the cost of great suffering for animals, is unacceptable. If, bereft of compassion and wisdom, you eat meat, you have turned your back on liberation. There are Tibetan injunctions, however, to refrain from eating meat.

The Life of Shabkar, the Autobiography of a Tibetan Yogin, Shabkar was an 18th century Tibetan saint

King Asoka
King Asoka of India, 273-232 BC, was a convert to Buddhism. More information may be found in the main article on this website King Asoka

I have enforced the law against killing certain animals and many others, but the greatest progress of righteousness among men comes from the exhortation in favour of non-injury to life and abstention from killing all living beings.”
From Asoka's Edicts

Dalai Lama

The 14th Dalai Lama, born on 6 July 1935, Taktser, Amdo, northeastern Tibet is both the temporal and the Spiritual leader of the Tibetan people and the incarnation of Avalokiteswara; the Dalai Lamas are believed to be manifestations of Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of Compassion and patron saint of Tibet. Bodhisattvas are enlightened beings who have postponed their own nirvana and chosen to take rebirth in order to serve humanity.

Life is as dear to a mute creature as it is to a man. Compassion and living kindness are the hallmarks of achievement and happiness

People think of animals as if they were vegetables, and that is not right. We have to change the way people think about animals. I encourage the Tibetan people and all people to move toward a vegetarian diet that doesn't cause suffering.

I do not see any reason why animals should be slaughtered to serve as human diet when there are so many substitutes. After all, man can live without meat
You can read more about the Dalai Lama and vegetarianism by clicking :
The 14th Dalai Lama and other revered Lamas have encouraged a vegetarian diet


Dr. Tony Page

Animal Rights Activist and author

In his final teachings before he physically left this earth, the Buddha foresaw that a situation would arise in the future where those speaking in his name would pervert his Doctrine and encourage meat consumption. So here, in this great Nirvana Sutra, he lays down his last will and testament on the matter: in no circumstances should one eat meat or fish " nor animal corpses, found in the jungle, for instance " nor even accept from a donor a meal which contains an abundance of flesh-foods. The very contact of other food with meat is deemed defiling and requires purification of the food by water. It is quite evident from all this that the Buddha in no way condoned the eating of meat and was keen for his monastic and lay followers to abjure the uncompassionate practice of meat eating and follow the pure path of vegetarian Mahayana. In this, we would be wise and benevolent to follow him."

Dr. Tony Page
Buddha - Self: The "Secret" Teachings of the Buddha in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Vol. 2

More from Dr Tony Page:

CLAUDETTE: You mentioned the principle of non-violence or non-harming (ahimsa) as being important in Buddhism. What does this mean in a practical everyday sense to you?

TONY: It means respecting all beings – humans and animals – as having feelings, as being sentient, and not deserving deliberately to be hurt. So a Buddhist would never swat a fly or purposefully step on an ant or spider. "Non-harming" also means that one should not work in a profession that involves harming others, for example, a butcher or soldier. The main point to remember is to try and show kindness to all creatures, including of course humans. But animals are part of it too. After all, the Buddha took birth many times as an animal – sometimes a deer, or a monkey, or a fish, or a dog etc. He knew what it was like to be an animal. He also taught that we have been animals in our past lives and in fact all the animals are related to us, quite literally. At some point in the past they have been our mothers, fathers, sisters, cousins. So if we harm animals, we are actually harming members of our own family.

Extract from an interview with

Buddhism and Animal Rights – an interview with Dr Tony Page
Dr Tony Page

The bodhisattva should adopt the same attitude toward all beings, his mind should be even toward all beings, he should not handle others with an uneven mind, but with a mind which is friendly, well-disposed, helpful, free from aversions, avoiding harm and hurt; he should handle others as if they were his mother, father, son, or daughter. As a savior of all beings should a bodhisattva behave toward all beings. So should he train himself if he wants to know full enlightenment.
Buddhism Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines 321-22

The earliest of the
 Prajñāpāramitā Sutras, a genre of Mahayana Buddhist scriptures dealing with the subject of the Perfection of Wisdom.

Patrul Rinpoche

Patrul Rinpoche was a great 19th century Tibetan yogi  born in Dzachukha, a nomadic area of Kham, Eastern Tibet in 1808,

It is said that offering to the wisdom deities the flesh and blood of a slaughtered animal is like offering to a mother her murdered child. If you invite a mother for a meal and then set before her the flesh of her own child, how would she feel? It is with the same love as a mother for her only child that the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas look on all beings of the three worlds. As the Bodhisattva Shantideva says, ‘Just as no pleasures can bring delight to someone whose body is ablaze with fire, nor can the great compassionate ones be pleased when harm is done to sentient beings.’

More comprehensive information may be found on this website by clicking the link bellow:

Why Animal Rights Matter: A religious/Philosophical perspective, Buddhism


Buddhist Vegetarian | RawVeg.info

This is an excellent webpage concerning a significant move in Buddhism towards a vegetarian or preferably a vegan diet. Quotations from eminent Buddhists advocating a vegetarian diet. Please take time to read.

semchen.org - HOME

Tibetan Volunteers for Animals
(TVA) is a registered non-government and non-profit organization registered under Karnataka Societies Act 1960. TVA is managed and run by a group of young Tibetan activists determined to make a difference.

TVA's main aims and objectives are:

1) To foster the understanding that all sentient beings on Earth have an equal right of life from the smallest of ants to the largest of animals like the elephant or whale.
2) To stop all forms of animal abuses.
3) To contribute to the protection of the environment and assist in the production of world peace.


Life as a Vegetarian Tibetan Buddhist Practitioner

It is often those who practice Tibetan Buddhism who have the greatest difficulty adopting a vegetarian diet. A western Tibetan Buddhist comments upon Tibetan Buddhism and vegetarianism.

Buddhist Resources on Vegetarianism and Animal Welfare

Important please note:

I 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.

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