Oct 8, 2010

Justification of Meat Eating by Gautam Buddha

-Mahavir Sanglikar


Many western vegetarians think that Buddhism promotes the vegetarian way of life, but that is just a myth. There is a long tradition of meat eating in Buddhists and Gautam Buddha himself was a staunch supporter of non-vegetarian food.

You will find many references in ancient Buddhist literature on this issue.

Gautam Buddha Says,

“I prescribe, Oh Bhikkus, that fish is pure to you in three cases, if you don’t see, if you have not heard, if you don’t suspect that it has been caught specially to be given to you” – The Vinay Texts

“Destroying living beings, killing-cutting-binding them, stealing, speaking falsehood, fraud and deception, intercourse with another’s wife these all are sins, but not eating of flesh” – Suttanipat

“Flesh is not a living being, it does not feel pain, it has not happiness or sorrow, so eating it is not a sin” –Anguttar Nikay

These quotes are of Gautam Buddha himself, and notable thing is that the quotes are for Bhikkus (Buddhist monks). If the Buddhist ascetics are permitted to eat flesh, what to say about the lay followers? That is why we see many Buddhists eat even snakes, lizards, rats etc. in countries like China.

This teaching of meat eating by Buddha was responsible for his own death, when he ate the flesh of a pig offered by a black smith. According to some scholar, the flesh was poisoned. Whatever it should be, the habit and supporting of meat eating killed this great philosopher.

Now the question is, why in India, the Buddhists are credited for stopping animal sacrifice by Vedics. I think it is because most of the scholars, who wrote on this issue, are unaware about the difference between Jainism and Buddhism, and even today, many Vedics think that Jains and Buddhists are the same people.

By the way some exceptional scholars like Bal Gangadhar Tilak agree that the Jains are responsible for stopping animal sacrifices in Yajnas, and Brahmins became vegetarians due to the impact of Jainism.

Even in this modern era, we see that Jains are the staunch promoters of vegetarianism, while the Buddhists and neo-Buddhists have nothing to do with the vegetarian way of life.

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