A Meat Eating Buddhist……. An Oxymoron?

August 17, 2008

I have always loved animals, any animals, insects too, having said that I did used to have a fear of spiders, I would never ever harm them but would quite often jump on the sofa and scream if one ran across the floor. I remember one night studying for my English G.C.S.E I opened a book and a spider ran out onto my bed somewhere, never to be seen again and my poor mum being made to search for it, unsuccessfully. Needless to say I slept on the sofa that night.  I also remember how I managed to curb my fear and get slightly more sensible around spiders. I used to be a home carer and one time while visiting one of my lovely elderly ladies she asked me if I would remove a spider for her. When she saw the horror in my face she promptly said “Oh don’t worry love, I will go and get the hairspray” At which point I had a choice, either subject the spider (which was gargantuan by the way) to death by hairspray, or pull myself together and go and get it and put it outside. I asked her for a glass and a piece of paper while wondering how the hell I was going to cope with this task. My heart was beating so fast and hard and my hands had gone so far past being clammy. Anyway I somehow managed to put the glass over the HUGE spider, slip the paper underneath, turn it upside down and run outside with it, (without really looking at it). Since that time I have not been so scared although I do have a really nifty spider catcher which means one can stay at arms length when needing to place a spider elsewhere and if its bad weather Im happy for spiders to live in one of my cupboards.  Anyway I’ve completely digressed….


One thing I initially loved about Buddhism was the kindness towards any animals. I am a vegetarian and was long before becoming a Buddhist and my naivety many years ago kind of presumed that because Buddhists view all living beings as their kind mothers, being a vegetarian would almost be a pre-requisite for being a Buddhist. However I know many NKT Buddhists and other tradition Buddhists that eat meat and I am curious about this subject. To be clear I don’t think I am  being critical or judgemental in any way, I am sincerely interested in points of view on this matter.  I am not a vegan. At present I wear leather shoes and eat organic dairy, I suppose my justification for doing this thus far has been that I only purchase leather shoes once in a blue moon and I try to be conscientious with the dairy products I buy and therefore my small contribution to the industry could be almost insignificant. Whereas buying and eating meat seems a much more regular occurrence and therefore much more directly contributing to the suffering of many animals. Of course when talking about being a vegetarian I am referring to buying organic vegetables as I am aware of the numbers killed by insecticide. That said having contemplated my own reasons for remaining a vegetarian rather than a vegan I feel that gradually moving towards a vegan lifestyle would compliment my views and be more congruent with my feelings. 


So I’m interested in peoples thoughts, especially those of NKT Buddhists who eat meat. In reference to the section in Joyful Path of Good Fortune, Going for Refuge. The outline: How To Go For Refuge By Practising Three Rounds Of Meditation (p225). In this particular mediation designed to help the development of our Renunciation we imagine rebirth as a pig, then what happens to us (courtesy of the meat industry workers). Now I appreciate this meditation could just as easily have been done with an animal in the wild. However given the meditation presented here, how do the meat eaters out there engage in this sort of meditation and continue normal regular support of the meat industry?


 Also thoughts on eating meat and the story also in Joyful Path of Good Fortune section The Sufferings of the Lower Realms. The Outline: The Sufferings of Beings in the Resembing Hells. There is a story of the Merchant –  Million Ear and Buddha (p183). I have contemplated this story and meat eating, with particular reference to the truly horrendous yet understandable effects in future lives of being a butcher. Recognising and believing fully such actions and effects, can any one tell me how they themselves reconcile this with giving their money to support many workers in the meat industry to continue their work.

Now I am led to believe that while collecting alms Buddha and followers would accept food offered to them including meat, and that with respect to this Buddha made no rule advising against eating meat offered to one whilst begging. But he did advise against having an animal killed especially for us (for food..). So I guess this immediately clearly rules out the old choose a lobster in restaurant thing (do any Buddhists partake in this kind of thing?). However we must take into account the society we live in when considering the actions to be avoided. Few of us are begging for food within an economy like the one Buddha lived in. We all know clearly that we live in a market economy that is ruled by demand and supply. Everyone accepts that in our economy supply and the rate of supply is utterly dependent upon demand. Consumer power has never had more effect in this case. When people begin to demand less and less Foie gras (goose liver) for example (as happened) in the UK then less and less is ordered by suppliers, less is produced by Foie gras farms and in fact those farms have cut backs or some have had to change business and some employees have to find other work and so on.. you get the picture.


This may seem like a lot of fuss in a un-ideal world, however I am starting to think it seems very easy these days to be a non-meat eater. One last point to consider is the scale of the suffering, namely that according to Compassion in World Farming’s 2008 latest figures the number of animals killed each year just for human consumption is roughly ten times the number of humans on the planet.


4 Responses to “A Meat Eating Buddhist……. An Oxymoron?”

  1. happynkter Says:

    Have you ever seen the videos on GoVeg.org? Whooooooooo. Those do it for me. After seeing those videos, I felt like a cannibal!

    I’ve been vegetarian since long before being a Kadampa. But back then it was about health and cutting out fats; now it’s more about compassion, and realizing that all beings have been my mother.

    That being said, I occasionally will have a bit of meat. When I say “occasionally”, I mean once or twice per year. And when I do…?

    Isn’t the only culprit ever really attachment??

  2. dragonflydm Says:

    From a purely Buddhist perspective, the Buddha did give his permission for monks to eat meat as long as they did not kill it, it was not killed specifically for the monks, they did not see the meat killed or prepared.

    In the end– it is about whether the meat is being treated as nourishment.

    This does not mean that we should eat meat, but there isn’t a “wrongness” in eating it if we need to feed our bodies from a Buddhist perspective. You will not incur dark kharma for it.

  3. happynewkadampa Says:

    I accidently deleted a comment by Nathaniel, sorry. He was saying that people take the 5 pratimoksha vows, one of which states no kiling, however they still eat meat. I think he went on to say that he knows some ordained people that go out of their way to find meat to eat. What do people think?

    Hope I haven’t misrepresented!

  4. […]     While I am on this subject, let me refer to a post on another blog – A Meat Eating  Buddhist – which I find hard to come up with reasons against thier argument. It reminded me of another thing […]

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