Feedback : 7 Degrees of Vegetarianism : Buddhist Vegetarianism
- 29 / 02 / 2004 The Straits Times | The Sunday Times | Lifestyle
For parts prior to section below and that which follow, please click the above link.7 Degrees of Vegetarianism (extract)
The original article which was published is as below. The coloured text are my additions to further clarify the Buddhist stance on being vegetarian. -Amituofo,shian
< Of the three types of Buddhists here - Mahayana, Theravada and Vajrayana - only Mahayana Buddhists are obliged to follow a vegetarian, and essentially vegan, diet. > This statement can be misleading as all the traditions emphasize the importance of practising compassion in everyday life. Vegetarianism is actively promoted by the Mahayana tradition as one of the easiest ways to do so. Spiritual leaders and devotees of the Theravada and Vajrayana traditions are also increasingly going full vegetarian, due to the increased supply of vegetables to remote places (eg. Tibet) with climatic difficulty of growing crops. In the words of the world's most prominent Buddhist (and leader of the Vajrayana tradition), His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, "In order to satisfy one human stomach, so many lives are taken away. We must promote vegetarianism. It is extremely important." (From his book "Live in a Better Way: Reflections on Truth, Love and Happiness")Shen Shian, a website editor, has been a vegetarian for 10 years. Even then, he avoids some vegetables. These are onions, chives, leeks, shallots and garlic, or what Buddhists call the 'Five Pungent Roots'. Buddhists who meditate do not take the Five Pungents as 'they're believed to make the mind crave even more for sensual pleasures,' says Mr Shen, a Mahayana Buddhist who meditates weekly. Aside from this no-no list, he is very much a vegan.
Like other Buddhists, he believes in practising love, kindness and compassion towards all sentient beings, or beings which experience sensations and feelings. Killing is believed to generate immense negative karma, or a negative effect stemming from a negative act. Killing animals for their meat is especially wrong because it takes the lives of healthy animals. Even if one does not kill the animals one eats, demand increases supply and the anonymous meat-buyer or even eater cannot escape karmic implications entirely.
It is not entirely out of fear of creating bad karma that Buddhists go vegetarian. Buddhists believe that we have all gone through countless rebirths in the past, and have all been family members to each other at some point. Eating meat is thus akin to eating our parents and other dear ones. Being vegetarian is thus a simple practice of universal filial piety too. This completes the Buddhist rationale and the full circle of compassion to both animals and fellow human beings.
While Mr Shen notes that 'the teachings of Buddha never made it compulsory for all Buddhists to be vegetarian', Buddhists aspiring to free all sentient beings from pain and suffering - like Mahayana Buddhists - would choose to go vegetarian. It is part of the Bodhisattva (one who practises to minimise harm to others while maximising helping them) precepts.
(Vegans don't eat meat and animal by-products such as milk, eggs, cheese and even honey. This is because they believe the methods in which the products are obtained are cruel to animals. Vegans also don't wear leather, wool and silk.)
For more information on the Buddhist perspective of being vegetarian, please see: "Must Buddhists Be Vegetarian?" : http://kmspks.org/articles/vege.htm May all beings be well and happy.