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The Buddhist View on the Moral Dangers of Eating Meat

Updated on December 26, 2014
Would You Eat Meat if You Watched the Slaughter?
Would You Eat Meat if You Watched the Slaughter? | Source
The Buddha urged us to treat animals as we treat ourselves
The Buddha urged us to treat animals as we treat ourselves | Source

The Buddhist Concept of Rebirth

The most important precept of Buddhism is: "To refrain from taking life." This is why strict Buddhists are vegetarians or vegans. One of the reasons for this is the belief that animals have in other lives been relatives of human beings.

This might seem strange at first to the western mind, but it was Albert Einstein who called Buddhism the religion of the future. One only needs to look at modern physics that Einstein revolutionized to see that it shares with Buddhism the concept of the inter-connectedness of all things.

According to Buddhism, animals can be reborn as humans and vice versa. What's more, the animals eaten by a non-vegetarian are connected to him from previous lives, either as his relatives, or as human beings who ate him. The Venerable Master Hua, in a talk given on the Dharma, told the story of the high monk Zhi in the time of Emperor Wu. Zhi could look at an effect and tell its cause. When asked to recite sutras at a wedding, as was the custom at the time, the monk was able to discern the connection between different people in the gathering.

  • A grandson was married to his grandmother who out of attachment had been reborn as his wife.
  • A daughter was relishing a pig's foot, not knowing that it was that of her mother from a previous life.
  • A musician was beating a drum covered with the skin of his father.
  • Guests who had been pigs and sheep were preparing to eat the flesh of those who had slaughtered them in another life: "The six kinds of relatives who had eaten those pigs and sheep were now being chopped up and cooked in the pots to pay off their debts."

The monk was struck by the irony of it all: this was not celebration but "suffering."

How the Chinese Write 'Meat'

The Venerable Master Hua goes on to explain the symbolism of the Chinese character for 'meat'. It is written as one man eating another man.

There is also an animal indicated in the character, meaning that the eater of animal flesh is reborn as an animal and is eaten by the animal he ate who is reborn as a man seeking revenge. They are literally (in the character for meat) 'fenced in' together. Their mutual resentment binds them together.

The Mahayana Attitude to Animals

In the Lankavatara Sutra of the Mahayana sect (whose monks are strict vegetarians), The Buddha forbids his followers to eat the flesh of animals, fish and fowl because they can sense their violent intentions and this causes them terror. He adds that lions and wolves wait in the forests to devour the eater of flesh.

In fact, Chinese and most Korean monks and nuns (followers of the Mahayana) are strict vegetarians.

In Angulimala Sutra, The Buddha says: "In the sequence of lives during our beginningless and endless coming and going in samsara, there is no being that has not been our mother, that has not been our sister. Even dogs have been our fathers before. . . Therefore, since our own flesh and that of others is the same flesh, the buddhas do not eat meat."

Meat Eating Leads to Suffering and Rebirth
Meat Eating Leads to Suffering and Rebirth | Source

I Don't Eat My Friends (1 of 5) on Vegetarianism

Reasons to be Vegetarian

Vegetarian Diet Helps to Free one from the Wheel of Rebirth

According to The Buddha, life brings suffering. Therefore, the goal of life is to attain freedom from rebirth. Rebirth stems from a cause. If one plants the cause by eating animals, he will face the result. The animals he eats will eat him.



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    • Risha Linda profile image

      Risha Linda Mateos 3 years ago from Florida

      Living in the U.S.A. and being a follower of the Dharma I find one more very good reason to avoid meat is the now common practice of cruel "factory farms". After learning about the horrendous suffering the animals endure in these "farms" I cannot understand how anyone would want to eat meat and contribute to this senseless and disgraceful industry. These animals have been given a precious life on this planet and they are not ours to enslave, torture and kill.

    • Anita Saran profile image

      Anita Saran 3 years ago from Bangalore, India

      I really appreciate your visits and comments grand old lady - and this hub is close to my heart.

    • grand old lady profile image

      Mona Sabalones Gonzalez 3 years ago from Philippines

      Although this article is written about why Buddhists don't eat meat, it also presents a very clear picture of the Buddhist faith. I have been reading books about Buddhism but they get so confusing. In your simple article I have found something central to Buddhism which is a good beginning to understand this faith as presented in more complex articles. Wonderful hub.