One City

One City

Would Sid eat meat?

Unlike Sid, Lodro’s dog Tillie is a big fan of the turkey

by Lodro Rinzler

Siddhartha Gautama attained enlightenment at age 35 he was a confused
twenty and thirty-something looking to learn how to live a spiritual
life. He had an overbearing dad, expectations for what he was supposed
to do with
his life, drinks were flowing, lutes were playing, and the women were
all about him. Some called him L.L. Cool S. I imagine close friends
just referred to him as Sid. 


Many people look to Siddhartha as an example of someone who attained nirvana, a buddha. But here we look at a younger Sid as
a confused guy struggling with his daily life. What would he do as a
young person trying to find love, cheap drinks, and fun in a city like New York? How would he combine Buddhism and dating? We all make mistakes on our spiritual journey; here is where they’re discussed.

week I’ll take on a new question and give some advice based on what I
think Sid, a confused guy working on his spiritual life in a world of
major distraction, would do. Because let’s face it, you and I are Sid. 


Have a question for this weekly column? E-mail it here and Lodro will probably get to it!


After a delicious Thanksgiving meal I saw the carnage of a leftover turkey and felt great remorse. It became very clear to me that my family had killed a living being and eaten it. Unfortunately, it was delicious. What would Sid do? Would he become a vegetarian in today’s world?


The simplest (and perhaps most satisfying) answer is yes. I believe that if he lived in today’s world Sid would be a vegetarian. When he became a buddha he was pretty clear that the first of the five
main precepts of his disciples should be “I undertake a vow to abstain
from taking life.”

The surprising thing is that the no-meat stance is not generally agreed upon, despite that precept. Theravadin schools of Buddhism say that the Buddha allowed his monastic students to eat pork, chicken and beef if the animal was not killed for the purpose of providing food specifically for them. And that was just for monastics; lay people could eat whatever sort of elephant or horse meat they could find. So to be clear: the act of eating meat was deemed karmically neutral. The act of killing or having something killed for you to eat was karmically negative.


Over time though many savvy consumers (Happy Black Friday everyone) have raised a finger and said, “But what about supply and demand?” At first it may appear that the Buddha did not buy into that particular logic when making this decision. Since alms were basically leftovers from lay households it was argued that the meat was not directly linked to the monks or nuns’ karma. It’s as if I showed up at your home yesterday and you gave me whatever leftover turkey you were putting in the fridge. By this argument I would take whatever you gave me and not be karmically responsible.

Some people may find that argument convincing. I myself think that it’s a bit of a cop out; if I eat the last of your turkey who’s to say you won’t wake up the next day, wish it were still there, and go out and get another one?


Over time different schools of Buddhism have placed differing levels of importance on vegetarianism. Certain Vajrayana practices actually call for the consumption of meat. Add this religious context to the existing cultural one (it’s incredibly hard to grow vegetables in Tibet, whereas yaks are all over the place) and you develop a certain flexibility for Tibetan monastics. Tibetan Buddhists generally respect the “three condition” rule where it’s a neutral act if the meat is not seen,
heard or suspected to have been killed for you. I’ve also heard a three hand rule where if the meat is slaughtered by one person, sold to another, and cooked by another before it reaches you your karma is not directly related to the death of the animal.


Even His Holiness the Dalai Lama continues to eat meat. While some people have taken him to task for doing so he has stated that his doctors have recommended it and continues to be a carnivore while still imploring other Buddhists to become vegetarians.

While I understand someone having to eat meat for health reasons I think that in modern Western society it’s not too hard to be a vegetarian. I think if Sid were not collecting alms but held a job and bought all his own meals he would likely choose a falafel over a Big Mac. I personally believe that Sid would hold the life of animals in such high regard that he would go out of his way to be a vegetarian.

However, I think that if he were out in the middle of nowhere at a friend’s barbecue with no vegetarian options in sight he would accept a burger if it were passed his way. He would then eat said burger with appreciation in his heart for the animal that gave his or her life to feed him and his friends.


As with everything on this spiritual path we need to determine what makes sense for us. While discussing becoming vegetarian with my girlfriend she pointed out that as I am not the best chef in the world I may find it a somewhat more expensive lifestyle than a cheap meat based diet. While I am still on the fence about going cold turkey (pun intended) I do intend to be more mindful of my meat intake, relying on meatless options more readily. For me, that is what makes sense for now. Best of luck determining what makes sense for you.

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posted November 28, 2009 at 2:00 am

I believe Sid would eat meat! He would have eaten what was in front of him. Personally I think too much is made of vegetarianism, like being a vegetarianism is not going to make you enlightened i figure its an ego thing.
I read somewhere that Ananda asked the Buddha to ban the eating of meat by monks and his reply was along the lines of that he was concerned with teaching people to escape samsara not dietary rules.
I find it interesting that humans when they search for the truth think that it can be found, in ritual, dietary laws and specific modes of dress etc
Humans evolved as a Omnivore and for our body and mind to function in a proper manner we need protein delivered in the form of meat. The thought of eating GM modified soy products in the form of tofu etc to get protein makes me feel ill.
The real issue is the one of taking life!!! Lets not get holier than thou on this though! as the death of many thousands beings in the insect world and the plant world is required to keep a human being alive. Actually one could say that each and every human sits on the mound of millions of dead beings whose demise has been necessary so that we can survive. Why is the death of an insect any less than that of a fish etc
My thoughts are that we should forget about what we eat and drink and spend our times with being concerned with our mind.

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Christopher Mohr

posted November 28, 2009 at 3:52 am

well, considering the canonical discussion of the matter, particularly as concerns Devadatta’s urging the Buddha to issue a rule that the Sangha be vegetarian, and Buddha’s refusal to do so, Buddha is scripturally seen as being NOT vegetarian-friendly. If a bhikkhu wanted to remove the meat from his alms bowl, eat only the vegetables, and the community provided him enough alms that he could choose to do so, then that was allowable. Flesh and fish are also allowable in scripture provided that the bhikkhu A)has not seen the animal being killed, B)has not heard the animal being killed, and C)does not suspect that the animal was killed for his sake. Rinzler is wise to point this out, as many forget or are unaware that this is the case.
The term bhikkhu (monk) literally means “beggar”, and as such, he must accept anything that the laity put in his alms bowl. It wasn’t until Buddhism went to China and the Mahayana began to really blossom (in places like Vietnam, Korea, and China – it never really caught on in most of the Japanese Sangha) that you start seeing vegetarian monastics and venerables.
It was eating itself that was restricted – monks are not allowed to eat between noon and dawn, all meat must be cooked, and they can’t eat meat from dogs, hyenas, tigers, snakes, bears, humans and the like (for various reasons).
Again, Middle Way. Stressing both “Middle” and “Way”. Those who suggest that Buddha would be a strict vegetarian are in danger of extremes, that is, doing that which is to be avoided.
Some useful scripture on the topic:
Amagandha Sutta

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posted November 28, 2009 at 10:39 am

A better question may be not what would Buddha do, but what do we as Buddhas think we should do. We are all Buddhas and have Buddha nature. As someone who respects animals and wants to see them free of suffering, especially suffering that would be related to anything I might choose to do, I have chosen to be a vegan and have been so for 15 years. I find it in keeping with my desire to see all beings free from suffering. It gives me peace to opt out of an industry that is rampany with cruelty to innocent beings.

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Dot luce

posted November 28, 2009 at 6:59 pm

A teaching from Suzuki Roshi: As he was being driven by a novice monk to the City Center from Tassajara, (about 5 hours), he stopped the student to drive into a McDonald’s, saying he was hungry.
The student, already stressed out about being the driver for his great teacher, sweated, trying to figure what would be most Buddhist to order. He ordered a fishburger, and, to his surprise, Roshi ordered a cheeseburger! As they were driving out, and he pondered what all this could mean, (the monastery was strictly macrobiotic vegetarian,) Roshi said, “I changed my mind, ” handed the student the cheeseburger, and ate the fishburger.
The student had 5 hours to ponder, as Roshi fell asleep after eating, all the way to their destination.
Think of the many swirls of chaotic thought in the poor student’s mind.
He ended up being a faithful and enlightened student, once he stopped pondering.

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posted November 29, 2009 at 6:40 am

Here is the Tibetan Buddhist master,17th Karmapa’s view on Buddhism and vegetarianism stated on 3rd January 2007. I was at this teaching in Bodh Gaya and he strongly condemned meat-eating quoting great masters as well as Buddhist scriptures. He stated that there are only 3 kinds of pure meat, which are acceptable to eat. The full teaching can be read here at:
Here is a link to many different articles and quotes from the Dalai Lama and other great Tibetan Buddhist master about vegetarianism:
Let there be no doubt about this, reagrdless of your own personal opinion and taste, Buddhism and meat-eating are NOT compatible on the relative level. If you can’t stop eating it due to your own personal taste and desire then you should try and reduce it as much as possible.
How many animals are murdered worldwide each year for meat and drink?: 53 billion and that’s just in ONE year. That excludes equatic animals which are estminated to number 90 billion. These figures are from official stats. Combine that with the cruelty and suffering of mass farming methods and its an outrage, Buddhist or not. Megan’s comments are spot on about this.

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posted November 29, 2009 at 1:10 pm

‘Let there be no doubt about this’
Great, thanks for clearing that up. Buddhists have only been unclear about this subject for a few thousand years now. Thanks for correcting even what the Buddha said on the matter. I’ll make sure to tell him he didn’t know what he was talking about when he discussed the subject of banning the consumption of meat with his fellow monks.
Adele, I found this post on the topic on Thanksgiving, and I thought I’d share it with you, it seemed relevant to me. The middle ‘paragraph’ made me think of you, oh high and mighty.
The post is as follows:
Are you suggesting the life of a plant is less valid than the life of an animal? Because like it or not, the plants that vegetarians eat are very much alive. Just because they don’t live in a similar since that we do does not make them any less alive. Life must destroy life to live, it is a sad but honest part of the continuation of any life.
To think that you are better than others because of the type of life you extinguish to continue your own is ludicrous.
I myself am a vegetarian, but I don’t attack others who choose to eat meat. Unless you are a Buddha, and your ways are without fault, it would be wise to better yourself instead of assaulting the ways of others. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Steven K

posted November 29, 2009 at 1:26 pm

Adele. for the entire history of Buddhism, this subject has been debated. Every Buddhist has an opinion on the matter, and thinks that they are right. Just because you give references to a Buddhist who has a well thought out opinion on the matter doesn’t make it any more or less correct than any other Buddhist who has ever had an opinion on the matter, and believe me, they’re a dime a dozen. I’ve heard great compelling arguments on both sides of the fence, as it were, but many Buddhists take it too far. Many of them believe their opinion to be correct that they will focus all of their practice on the matter, and it will cause a divide in groups. I’ve seen it happen, wonderful meditation groups shattered because of a ‘Holier-than-thou’ Buddhist vegetarian gets into an argument with a meat-eating Buddhist, and refuses to accept that anyone who doesn’t choose to eat only vegetables can be a Buddhist.
In my opinion, it is more important to be open-minded, and focusing on your own practice, than trying to force your practice on another person. If you are a teacher and they are your student learning, it is one thing. And if you are a vegetarian and you teacher eats meat and you disagree with them and it disrupts your learning, find another teacher, simple as that.

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Anan E. Maus

posted November 30, 2009 at 12:55 am

I think the point is that the path is about spiritual practices and disciplines, not about vegetarianism one way or the other. If vegetarianism serves the spiritual path and its goals, then it is good. If it becomes an obsessive obstruction, it is bad. And to the extent it serves inculcating non-violence, love and compassion, it is excellent. If it becomes an obsessive search for perfect purity to the detriment of the rest of the spiritual life…it is bad.
Spiritual values should, ideally, flow out of our natural feelings of love and compassion. That is the real guide. If we are in a dry period and do not feel these feelings, then we have to use some kind of outer guide for our actions. And that means following an external discipline of some kind, even if we do not actually feel like it is part of us.
So, then we can turn to the scriptural references and use them to best guide our obedience to Right Action.

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Jon Rubinstein

posted November 30, 2009 at 10:58 am

Hi, I am reading this while in the middle of Jonathan Safran Foer’s “Eating Animals.” It’s really well-written and offers a compelling argument for vegetarianism, much of which is in alignment with what I understand from Buddhism. And it very clearly makes the case for steering clear of food from factory farms.
Monks (as stated above) traditionally took whatever food was offered to them, and they would only refuse meat if it was expressly killed for their use. This tradition didn’t take place in a world where 99% of meat is produced in factory farms. Animals in the Buddha’s time were raised a few at a time, or in small herds. They grazed, reproduced, and breathed fresh air. Very different from thousands of hogs in cages under fluorescent light. I don’t know how the Buddha would react to factory farms but I imagine he would not want to partake of food that directly caused intense suffering to other beings. Check out Foer’s book if you can, and there are many other resources online. I’ve been a meat-eater my whole life, but reading this book is making me think twice – at very least, about eating meat from factory farms. No one wants to cause suffering to animals, right? Factory farms, according to Foer and many other sources, cause untold suffering, and wreak environmental havoc.
That said, non-factory-farmed meat isn’t an option for most. It’s expensive and not always available. So that would lead us to believe that the most compassionate option, the option most “interdependence-aware,” is to not meat eat at all. There is no option that doesn’t cause some suffering; a strictly organic vegetarian diet causes the deaths of innumerable insects and rodents during its farming, it’s typically trucked to market in a vehicle fueled by oil which causes its own damage, etc. etc.
I still eat meat. So does the Dalai Lama from time to time. I can’t say I’ve figured this out. Reading this book, though, has me thinking seriously about it all. And I do believe the Buddha would want us to be compassionate in our choices, whatever they may be.

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Jon Rubinstein

posted November 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

this is interesting – seems like they’re saying “be mindful” when they say “think about your choices.”

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posted November 30, 2009 at 2:29 pm

no one in my immediate family eats meat, so I’m always slapped upside the head when I venture into other social realms and people find my vegetarian habits exotic. my daughter is strictly vegan because of her deep feelings for animals. my son is mostly vegan because of his deep dislike of corporate farming practices (and his fondness for animals). I say mostly because he’ll eat nonvegan food that is given to him. I was a vegetarian in college, gave it up once I had to cook for myself, and went back to it a few years ago when I started studying buddhism and it made me uncomfortable to eat other beings. my husband eats meat but doesn’t cook it when I’m around. I think it’s a personal decision, but I don’t see how buddhists can reconcile it with the precepts.

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Your Name

posted November 30, 2009 at 3:48 pm

Are there any food to substitute meat instead?If there are,then why not eat the substitute for meat,something that we get the same protein
from that substitute soo we can stay healthy and strong,for the workload we do everyday,we need so much protein,don’t we?I do eat meat
but not preferably,i eat fish instead of meat if there are many choices in the dining table,but,i am a housewife who cooks and plans the meal at my household soo meat is under my meal plan once in a while,more vegetables and fruits less meat is ideal.As a believer of Christ,we can find guidance from the Bible about eating meat.

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Your Name

posted December 1, 2009 at 8:12 am

I recommend watching “Food Inc.”. If you are on the fence and feel you don’t know which way to practice this concept enlightenment may come your way.Namaste

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posted December 1, 2009 at 11:06 am

If I eat meat, whether it’s prepared specifically for me or someone’s leftovers, I’m perpetuating the cycle of animal butcher. My consumption is the “demand” portion of the supply and demand cycle. Someone paid for the meat that someone killed for someone to eat.
Mindfullness is understanding cause and effect and realizing they are one.

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posted December 1, 2009 at 11:15 am

for those that have made a commitment to ahimsa (to do no harm), meat is not an option. I saw one comment above about the Dalai Lama eating meat. From his web site: “His Holiness’s kitchen in Dharamsala is vegetarian. However, during visits outside of Dharamsala, His Holiness is not necessarily vegetarian.” This does not mean that he like most Americans loads up on meat at every meal and have heard him state on several occasions that a meat free diet is preferable.

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Your Name

posted December 1, 2009 at 11:59 am

This post is one of the best I have seen on the topic (except for the couple of nasty comments). Here is my take on this thorny subject.
I was lac-ovo vegetarian for 20 years, and like HH the Dalai Lama, my Chinese doctor told me to eat a small amount of fish once a week to help with some serious health problems I have. Dr. Hou was right, but it still bothers me every time I eat fish.
I think the goal of our actions should be to cultivate and improve ourselves to escape Samsara and reach the highest karmic level we can in this lifetime. The way forward on this path is performing acts of compassion and kindness toward all sentient beings, and I believe this is where meat eating gets into trouble.
As an aside, the Buddhist test for “life” rests on “sentient”; plant life exists at a lower level, and the Five Precepts do not apply to plant life, although reverence, gratitude, and non-wastefulness absolutely do apply.
I agree with everything Lodro says up to this point:
“I personally believe that Sid would hold the life of animals in such high regard that he would go out of his way to be a vegetarian. However, I think that if he were out in the middle of nowhere at a friend’s barbecue with no vegetarian options in sight he would accept a burger if it were passed his way. He would then eat said burger with appreciation in his heart for the animal that gave his or her life to feed him and his friends.”
If I were stranded on a desert island (or in the mountains of Tibet), this survival logic might apply. But in our affluent society, we are never more than a few hours away from a more healthful, less karmically toxic meal. It’s about choices, and I always seem to be able to find better things to eat than meat.
If I were out in the middle of nowhere at a friend’s barbecue with no “vegetarian options” in sight, I would pass on the burger and let my host know why (nothing personal). I would stick to the potato salad and cole slaw and bun and soda, with remorse in my heart for the animal that had his life taken from him to feed my friends.

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posted December 1, 2009 at 12:02 pm

I see that the article is prefaced by a photo and caption of a dog eating meat, yet nothing about this is mentioned in the text. It brings up for me a question that I struggle with.
I don’t eat meat, but I have dogs. Dogs are arguably carnivores, and I wholeheartedly believe that they do better on a biologically appropriate raw food (i.e. meat & bones) diet, so I do feed them meat & bones.
Much of what I feed them is old meat from other people’s freezers, which I don’t consider problematic. I believe it’s considerably more respectful to the slaughtered animals to feed it to my dogs than know that it’ll go into a landfill and be wasted.
I also purchase meat products — carcasses, organs, etc — that may otherwise have been used for human consumption, but may just as likely have gone into dog food anyway. Again, I don’t have too much of a problem with this either.
But I’ll occasionally buy some poultry from the supermarket for them that was produced for human consumption. This I find myself experiencing some angst over, especially since I know that it’s factory farmed. My budget doesn’t allow me to buy more humanely raised products, and I do try to keep it to a minimum.
Commercial dog foods are, imo, often unhealthy and contain meat that isn’t always byproducts or diseased anyway, so it doesn’t necessarily avoid the issue. I am aware that dogs can be fed vegetarian diets, but I’m not convinced that it’s really all that healthy for them, and home made versions definitely require much more physical effort and money than I’m able to expend. (I’m disabled and subsist on Social Security.)
So my question is what others think about feeding carnivorous pets a species appropriate diet.

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A vegetarian

posted December 1, 2009 at 12:19 pm

I chose to be a vegetarian for health reasons, for respect for animals who suffer from our farming methods, and because I read the small earth book. No one has mentioned how many people around the world go hungry every day and would not if people spent the resources we have on grains and such to feed people instead of cattle. Would not the Buddha want to save lives if he knew this cost?

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Norm Phelps

posted December 1, 2009 at 12:23 pm

The real question is not about eating meat; it is about taking innocent life. The first precept, Do not kill, is unequivocal, and has always been understood to include nonhuman animals. Why should we make an exception to Buddhism’s fundamental moral principle for the sake of the very appetites and cravings that Buddhism is supposed to help us overcome? Is “They taste good,” really an adequate reason to kill sentient beings who have done no harm to anyone?
In fact, the Buddha did not eat meat, as the Mahayana scriptures make clear. In this case, the distinction between lay and monastic rules does not apply. Killing represents the ultimate lack of compassion, it is wrong for both monastics and laity. And every time we purchase or eat meat, we are placing an order for an innocent sentient being to be killed.
I have discussed these and other issues related to Buddhism and animals in my book, “The Great Compassion: Buddhism and Animal Rights.”

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posted December 1, 2009 at 12:36 pm

I enjoy very much reading the close-minded statements of vegetarians who adhere to the belief that “My way is the only way; your path is invalid.” I am personally a vegetarian, but my wife is not, and we have discussed it in the past, but she she does not follow the same path I do in that regard, and I don’t blame her or attack her for it. All I’ve read in these comments is one attack after another.
You are not holier or more pure than another simply because of the form of life you choose to extinguish to further your own. Like it or not, everything you consume is living, plant and animal alike. Just because we have a different level of awareness (not better or worse, just different) than plants does not make their lives any less valid.
To attack the ‘meat-eaters’ for killing innocent life while doing the same thing yourself is hypocrisy. Plants are not “sentient” in the way that we understand, but if I don’t understand how wind works, the chill is still there. Likewise, just because you do not have the intelligence to perceive the validity of the life of a plant, does not mean it is not there. Ignorance is no excuse to attack others for their ways of life.

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posted December 1, 2009 at 2:23 pm

I have often considered this subject. I grew up on a family farm where we raised our own chickens for eggs and meat, and cattle for our own freezer and then to sell. The animals were well cared for, but nothing could drag me out of the house on ‘chicken day’. And there was no way I was helping load the steers for the slaughter house. I know how they were killed. It was quick and I don’t believe they ever saw it coming. Regardless, I still thought about that process when the meat came home wrapped in neat little green packages. I’ll never forget the day I opened the wrong can outside after ‘chicken day’ and found a pile of heads and feet and on a pile of feathers? Didn’t stop me from eating meat though.
I became a vegetarian when it was popular to do so, and because the ashram in Pomfret had grand buffets for the public Sunday evenings. It all tasted so good! But I also got sick being a bad vegetarian because I didn’t understand the late adolescent body needs the right balance of protein, etc. And it was hard to cook vegetarian because I was lazy and in a hurry! When challenged by my grandmother with whom I had come to live while attending college as to exactly why I was a vegetarian, I came up empty. Truth was, I didn’t have strong convictions because it was just a whim. Sorry, it was the truth.
I loved animals but there is a huge disconnect between the shiny wrapped package of meat in the grocery store and the animal in a pen awaiting slaughter. What we don’t see we don’t always think about. And in rural Michigan, there were no other vegetarians around at that time. I was looked on as a bit of a freak, and because it was so inconvenient, I just started eating what I was offered, and my health improved.
As time went by, I came across many people with strong opinions and compelling arguments about eating meat. There were those who wouldn’t eat anything with a face, those who wouldn’t eat meat because it’s bad for us, and those who wouldn’t eat meat because of religious teaching. None were enough to change my own habits.
I ate meat because I thought it was a natural part of the human diet for thousands of years. Man came up with all kinds of regulations supposedly ordained by God, but it became increasingly clear to me that it was much more important what came OUT of our mouths than what went INTO them.
But something began to form a more mindful approach to my own dietary habits as I encountered Buddhist practice, specifically Zen. I began to think about how we as humans came to tell others what to eat or not to eat, and sometimes how to eat it. Trichinosis in pork could have been a reason for the Jews to avoid it, and Muslims as well. That’s not to say the Jews were eating Muslims… I meant that Muslims don’t eat pork either. Catholic teaching has evolved concerning meat. There is no problem with fish in every form, yet abstaining from meat on Fridays during Lent remains. It used to be for the entire Lenten season except for the feast of St Patrick which often fell in the 40 day Lenten season. Hindis don’t eat beef but eat chicken. When I stumbled across the 5 Precepts, I had more to consider.
In the 10 Commandments, Thou shalt not kill is pretty prominent but it doesn’t say what we don’t kill, the same with the 5 Precepts, and here’s where I get confused. We will kill thousands of microorganisms to boil a pot of water for tea or soup. We kill every plant we consume, and potential life in every seed. It’s quite clear we know walking up to someone and shooting them to kill is wrong, or thumping animal’s head results in death. However, I’m confused by the Buddhist who argues passionately against eating meat because it’s killing yet advocates abortion on demand even though it’s very clear that ends a human life.
So much to consider. What to do.
I have fallen into a passive response about eating meat. I omit meat in my own diet when I can, and can say it’s because I’m more mindful about where my food comes from. If I choose to eat meat, I don’t hear that same small voice telling me I’ve veered off the path that is cyrstal clear when I have dropped a lobster into a pot of water. Same with oysters. I don’t eat those anymore because of that small voice, and when the opportunity to eat them arises, it’s the same phrase that resounds in my head…” Don’t eat an animal you kill or have killed for you”. Would I eat a fish in the wild if starving? I would.
Surely you can see how confusing this can become.
At the end of my long response, I can say I don’t take eating meat lightly. I don’t go on a guilt trip over a steak, and would consider it immoral to avoid leather as it would dishonor the animal who gave it’s life to feed us only to have it’s hide thown away to rot. Native Americans spoke to the animals they killed for food and used every part of them efficiently because anything less would dishonor the spirit of the animal.
Again, I think it’s far more important to consider what comes out of our mouths rather than what goes in. We can choose vegetarian meals when we can, and if that’s all the time, so be it. If not, at least give great consideration to the animal whose flesh you’re eating.

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Your Name

posted December 1, 2009 at 3:47 pm

My doctor said im anemic,so i thought i need to eat more meat now than before.I there’s no better supplement of iron other than red meat,i would eat the meat,after all,its my body that needs nourishment,and i will not feel guity of the animal killed,they must just be serving their masters,to provide health to all creations,lol.

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posted December 1, 2009 at 5:34 pm

Norm, it is my understanding that Siddhartha died from bad pork… not so vegetarian.

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posted December 1, 2009 at 7:41 pm

this totally misses the real point of buddhism..don’t worry about what you eat find out who you really are..who am I? what is my original face? this is not about building up brownie points..when the king asked bodhidharma what merit he gained from building temples etc..he replied no also gain no merit from not eating meat..or eating who you relly are and then you will gain merit

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posted December 2, 2009 at 9:04 am

Why do people worry so much about what Siddartha ate and didn’t eat? It is your ego which is driving that question and misleading you from the truth.

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Your Name

posted December 2, 2009 at 3:31 pm

When I was a little girl I thought chickens and turkeys were fascinating creatures. It would have broken my heart if I had seen someone kill them. I would not want to see a cow, pig, sheep, fish, or whatever being killed, so I don’t want any part of eating flesh. I’ll stick to my vegetarian diet, thanks.

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posted December 2, 2009 at 7:32 pm

I love to get a load a Lod. I was just wondering. Is the ‘z’ pronounced with the original voicelessness? Or is it voiced according to the American wont? Consider this diversion in the manner of a Sid-heartful person.

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posted December 2, 2009 at 7:46 pm

I love to get a load a Lod. I was just wondering. Is the ‘z’ pronounced with the original voicelessness? Or is it said with the voicing of the American wont? Consider this diversion in the manner of a person of Sid-heartfulness. Playfully artful, as artful as Lod, I am not. But I do believe that, unless you are able to logically play with thoughts, you cannot logically work with thoughts, I think.

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posted December 3, 2009 at 1:58 am

All this guessing, were any of us there to understand what was exactly said.
Eat meat, nothing wrong, just respect what happened for that animal to be born, grow, die to nourish your body. Appreciate it and be thankful.
And do not waste one once for that creature went through a lot for you, whether directly or indirectly. To not show respect, just throw meat away.
When I kill a cockroach or mosquito, I do it appreciating that they do have a place too.

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Lodro Rinzler

posted December 3, 2009 at 10:31 am

Hello all,
I just wanted to chime in and say that I’m appreciating this debate. As has been stated above I doubt we will find a definitive answer on whether it is okay for Buddhists in today’s world to eat meat. What has been stated thus far has given me a lot to think about.
The few comments I don’t agree with are those along the lines of “Who cares about meat? Your mind is the only thing that matters!” I disagree. Yes, on an absolute level working with your mind can lead to enlightenment. On a relative level we need to eat to support our body and practice.
Conduct is important. There are too many Buddhists out there who sit everyday for 30 years but are unkind to their spouse, co-workers, or dry cleaner. If we consider our mindfulness and compassion practice only as the time we are on the cushion, ignoring the rest of our daily life, then I believe we are missing the point.
Thanks and please keep commenting,

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posted December 3, 2009 at 6:33 pm

There is a Buddhist verse “don’t comdemn the butcher if your family eats the meat.”
On the whole … wading warily past some of the icky ego, anger and judginess above … I cannot eat meat without knowing I took a life. I do think about the fact that we all die. I do think of native american cultures and their honor for the life taken and the way they used everything; but I still have guilt.
I could not personally kill an animal, I could not kill a bird, I could not kill a fish. I have seen the cows grazing on the hillsides,I have seen the birds crammed into crates on their way to market, I have stroked a fish as it swam alongside … like a friend … as I snorkeled.
In my mind, I am a hypocrite when I eat the creatures I love.
If I don’t want to live with the guilt, I don’t eat the meat. Over Thanksgiving I ate what was offered to please my parents, but I was anxious to be away from it. It no longer FEELS RIGHT.
Dawn – that is my struggle. I can easily make my own choices, but my dogs are carnivores. One has to be hyper-vigilant to choose the products that will do the least harm.

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posted December 11, 2009 at 9:57 am

I’ve been away from this site for the past two and a half weeks because of Thanksgiving and then a retreat and final-studying afterward so I’m a little late to this discussion but I do have some thoughts I’d like to add.
I’ve recently switched to a vegetarian diet for a variety of reasons, including for health and ethical considerations. I also agree that Sid would be a vegetarian in today’s world. In the West, those of us in the middle-class really have no reason to eat meat aside from pleasure and habit. We can get all of our essential nutrients from plant-based sources and there are many many meat and egg substitutes out there for those who are interested. Of course, becoming vegetarian just isn’t financially possible for many people in this country because of the food production and distribution system we have set up here, but I digress.
The reason I’d be inclined to think that Sid would prefer a plant-based diet if he lived in the West today is because of the factory farm practices that Jon mentioned in his comment. I know that I personally would like to to invest less of my money in an industry that is clearly responsible for the suffering of billions (yep, with a ‘b’ I’ve read figures of about 10 billion/year) of sentient beings every year in the US. I’d think that Sid would want to see that system reformed.
As with all things Buddhist, I agree that we should use “The Middle Way” as our guide. All that any of us can do is the best we can to reduce suffering in this world. For me, that means choosing a plant-based diet but for others that may mean eating local or volunteering or some other means. I would just encourage people to do what they can.
@Lordo, re: the cooking issue. I was a little worried about that as well when I chose to go vegetarian earlier this year but I’m finding that many of the recipes I enjoyed pre-vegetarian were easily converted and learning to cook vegetarian and vegan has actually opened me up to a whole new world of food and flavors that I’d never tried before. It’s actually made me a better cook, I think.
@Dawn: re: what to feed your dogs. I’ve personally kept my dog on his normal kibble diet but at this point I don’t have a huge problem with it. I recently heard an interesting podcast on this issue from Vegan Chef Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: Vegetarian Food for Thought episode “What do vegetarians feed their cats and dogs?”dated 3/20/07. Dogs are omnivores and essentially scavengers.. apparently, they can live on a plant-based diet if it’s planned correctly. Cats – on the other hand – are carnivores and really should have a meat-based diet. podcastalley link:
So, my bottom-line: I agree with Anan, “If vegetarianism serves the spiritual path and its goals, then it is good. If it becomes an obsessive obstruction, it is bad. And to the extent it serves inculcating non-violence, love and compassion, it is excellent. If it becomes an obsessive search for perfect purity to the detriment of the rest of the spiritual life…it is bad.”
Well said. I’ve chosen to be a vegetarian because I feel that it helps support my spiritual and physical fitness. However, if someone chooses to become a vegetarian out of some sort of guilt or pressure to try and be “perfect,” I don’t really think that would be “skillful means.”
Apologies if this was a bit rambling.. I have a lot of thoughts on this subject and I do think it is an important question for spiritual people of any ilk to explore.

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posted December 14, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Here is a good video on the subject:

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posted January 12, 2011 at 7:27 am

What is it to be buddha? buddha is all things, all action, all thought, all words. Is a killer wrong? evil? condemned for eternity? Eating meat is no sin. It is another path to buddha. What do you think when you eat meat? Do you give thanks for the substance which is life giving? Can you live with out meat eating? Where do you clothes come from? Who made the road you drive on? Do you destroy the environment by using plastic? Do animals suffer longer because of other ways you lead your life? How many animals suffered to supply you with your house?
All things in this world to which we attach our emotion is an illusion. That is the way of Mara. Buddha is a world with out that attachment to the illusion. It is being free of that opinion that this is right, this is wrong.
Did Siddhartha quit eating meat? How can we know for sure? It would only be faith if you believed he did or didn’t. Discard this thought as it is a distraction from the real truth. It is attachment, an emotional opinion.
If you eat meat, then do it with out attachment. Take it for what it is. Do not consume yourself with overeating. Do not focus on the face of the cow. In your mind think of the animal which has ceased and is one more step closer to Nirvana, if not already. Give thanks for what you are using and know that it is yet another path which will eventually lead you to non-suffering.

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