The journey of a 1000 miles begins with a single step

Bodhisattvas should abstain from eating the flesh of any and all sentient beings

migrating-birds1Contributed by Vasu Murti

Oct 13 2015

“They [Bodhisattvas] should not be closely associated with… persons engaged in raising pigs, sheep, chickens or dogs, or of those who engage in hunting or fishing or other evil activities.”
(The Lotus Sutra, translation by Burton Watson, Columbia University Press, New York, 1993, p. 197)

“Also he [the Bodhisattva] must not associate with slaughterers or flesh-carvers, those who hunt animals or catch fish, or kill or do harm for profit. Those who peddle meat for a living or display women and sell their favors – all persons such as this one should never associate with.”
(Lotus Sutra, p. 199)

The Buddha Utterly Condemns Meat-Eating.
The primary objection to eating animals is that it involves the killing of those creatures. Non-killing is the minimum that can be expected of an aspirant Bodhisattva and is the very first of the Buddhist precepts or prohibitions. The Buddha states in the Brahmajala Sutra:
“Disciples of the Buddha, should you yourself kill, willfully cause another to kill, encourage someone to kill, extol killing, take pleasure seeing killing take place, deliberately wish someone dead, intentionally cause death, supply the instruments or the means for killing, cut off a life even when sanctioned by law, that is, participate in any way in killing, you are committing a serious offense warranting exclusion from the sangha (association or community).
“Pray, do not intentionally kill anything whatsoever which has life. As a Bodhisattva, awaken within yourself a heart that is unending in its mercy and compassion, respect and dutifulness, and use your skillful means to help and protect all sentient beings.”
(The Scripture of Brahma’s Net, in Buddhist Writings, translated by Reverend Hubert Nearman, OBC, Shasta Abbey, CA, 1994, pp. 127-28)

heron-3“Disciples of the Buddha, should you yourself willingly and knowingly eat flesh, you defile yourself… Pray, let us not eat any flesh or meat whatsoever coming from living beings. Anyone who eats flesh is cutting himself off from the great seed of his own merciful and compassionate nature, for which all sentient beings will reject him and flee from him when they see him acting so. This is why all Bodhisattvas should abstain from eating the flesh of any and all sentient beings. Someone who eats flesh is defiling himself beyond measure…”
(The Scripture of Brahma’s Net, in Buddhist Writings, translated by Reverend Hubert Nearman, OBC, Shasta Abbey, CA, 1994, p. 138)

The fascinating Lankavatara Sutra is perhaps the most insistent of all the Buddhist scriptures that meat-eating is to be condemned. There is a whole chapter (Chapter Eight) in the Lankavatara devoted to this subject:
“…wherever there are living beings, let people cherish the thought of kinship with them, and, thinking that all beings are [one’s] child, let them refrain from eating meat. So with Bodhisattvas whose nature is compassion, meat is to be avoided by him. Even in exceptional cases, it is not of a Bodhisattva of good standing to eat meat…
“For fear of causing terror to living beings… let the Bodhisattva who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh… let the Bodhisattva, who is disciplining himself to abide in great compassion, because of its terrifying living beings, refrain from eating meat…
“…let the Bodhisattva, whose nature is pity and who regards all beings as his only child…refrain from eating meat…”
(The Lankavatara Sutra, translated by Dr. D.T. Suzuki, Prajna Press, Boulder, CO, 1978, pp. 212-216)

zf road 4The Buddha was well aware that by sponsoring the meat-trade through eating meat we are implicated in the killing of animals. He says in the Lankavatara Sutra:
“If meat is not eaten by anybody, there will be no destroyer of life.”
(The Lankavatara Sutra, translated by Dr. D.T. Suzuki, Prajna Press, Boulder, CO, 1978, p. 217)

The Buddha firmly states that he does not permit any meat-eating, nor will he at any time in the future:
“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 specifically meant for him…there may be some unwitted people in the future time, who… under the influence of the thirst for [meat]-taste, they will string together in various ways some sophistic arguments to defend meat-eating… meat-eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit.”
(The Lankavatara Sutra, translated by Dr. D.T. Suzuki, Prajna Press, Boulder, CO, 1978, p. 217-219)

An exchange between one of the Buddha’s disciples, Kasyapa, and the Buddha found in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra:
“O World-honoured One! Why is it that the Tathagata [the Buddha] does not allow us to take flesh?”
“O good man! One who takes flesh kills the seed of great compassion.”
(The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, in Three Volumes, translated by Kosho Yamamoto, The Karinbunko, Ube City, Japan, 1973 – 1975, p. 91)

One of the pre-eminent aims of Buddhism is to purify one’s heart. It is evident from the above words that by eating or advocating meat one is forsaking what is pure and committing a crime against Dharma. From a Buddhist point of view, that is a most serious offense…when Kasyapa asks what a Buddhist should do if offered a meal which contains meat. Is it permissible to eat such a meal and yet remain pure? Kasyapa wonders. The Buddha’s reply is unambiguous:
“Use water, wash off the meat [from the plate], and then take it [the rest of the meal]… If one sees that there is much meat, one must not accept such a meal. One must never take the meat itself. One who takes it infringes the rule. I now set this rule of segregating one’s own self from taking meat.”
(The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, in Three Volumes, translated by Kosho Yamamoto, The Karinbunko, Ube City, Japan, 1973 – 1975, p. 94)

SAM_1722The Buddhist precepts for moral living include prohibitions not to slander others nor drink alcohol. The Buddha himself refers to the vinaya [monastic] rules in the sutras of Mahayana Buddhism.
Some Buddhists have argued that a monk should accept and eat whatever food is offered – but this is clearly rejected by the Buddha here, who states that if there is a lot of meat on a preferred dish, the whole meal should be refused. And if there is only a small amount of meat with the rest of the food – then the meat must be washed clean away before the other food can be touched. It could not be more apparent how defiling and impure meat was in the Buddha’s eyes.
Not only meat is prohibited by the Buddha, but likewise the keeping of animals or the attending of animal ‘shows’ or fights. Speaking of what is not permissible for his brethren (and nuns), he says:
“One does not keep the elephant, horse, vehicle, cow, sheep, camel, donkey, hen, dog, monkey, peacock, parrot… jackal, wolf, cat, raccoon, dog, wild boar, and pig… nor does he enjoy himself looking at the fights of elephants, horses, vehicles, soldiers, men, women, cows, sheep, cocks, pheasants, parrots, etc. He does not look at— the fights of lions and elephants… and all kind of amusements.”
(The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, in Three Volumes, translated by Kosho Yamamoto, The Karinbunko, Ube City, Japan, 1973 – 1975, pp. 284-85)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s