An extensive list of Buddhist lay devotees offering or eating meat

Devadatta’s proposal wasn’t that vegetarianism should be permitted, but that it should be made mandatory for all monastics. It was this that the Buddha rejected.

Since there was never a requirement that members of the sangha eat meat or fish, there was no need to make an allowance to not eat them. They were always at liberty to abstain if they so wished.


Well , not killing is mandatory . Since Buddha himself advocate not killing and out of compassion it doesnt really make sense by allowing of eating meats because by offering of meats does not help to prevent killing instead encourages it indirectly . There is a dilemma being a buddhist when facing the publics doubt .

This is where Buddhism teachings appear contradicts themselves .


I think that may be the root of our different take on things. I very much believe that the Vinaya is not intended for lay people to use when thinking about the precepts. That it causes far more problems than it solves. I also don’t believe that, on a moral level, when it comes to the precepts, the world is any different now than it was then. Buying “already dead” meat today doesn’t have any shorter karmic connection to killing than it did then. And finally, I don’t believe that there were substantive guidelines the Buddha gave to lay people that are now missing. So the fact that we disagree about the larger issue is natural.

Well, one example from the Vinaya would be:

At one time the Buddha was staying at Sāvatthī in the Jeta Grove, Anāthapiṇḍika’s Monastery. At that time Venerable Udāyī was skilled in archery. And because he disliked crows, he shot them. He cut off their heads and then set them out in a row impaled on stakes. The monks asked him, “Who killed these crows?”

“I did. I don’t like crows.”

The monks of few desires complained and criticized him, “How can Venerable Udāyī intentionally kill living beings?” … “Is it true, Udāyī, that you do this?”

“It’s true, Sir.”

The Buddha rebuked him … “Foolish man, how can you do this? This will affect people’s confidence …” … “And, monks, this training rule should be recited like this:

Final ruling

‘If a monk intentionally kills a living being, he commits an offense entailing confession.’”

So if you shot and killed living non-human beings like crows - for no better reason than “disliking” them, and cut of their heads to decorate spikes, according to the Buddha you have done something the punishment for which is admitting you did it. That’s it. No expulsion. No suspension. You just had to admit it.

And that was if you where someone in “higher training”.

Makes sense, thanks Venerable. I agree the German is probably the best then. Still, we’re not told the reason, as you said before. It could still have been to maintain the livestock at reasonable levels.

Yes. Seems more likely than what I suggested before. Also thanks, Venerable. :slightly_smiling_face: Still quite telling, though, that they would just have a city-wide ban on slaughter. And as a result there was no meat the whole day. Shows something about society, if this is indeed a true story.

Eh, perhaps as a whole but not on the individual level. But of course social norms are also at play. What I was getting at, though, is that without industry there would have been less meat eaten generally, because it would have been much harder to produce that much.

Also, he had a whole list of demands, not just vegetarianism. He made a whole list to make sure the Buddha would reject his demands, of course. If he’d just suggested vegetarianism in isolation, who knows what the Buddha would have replied. :wink:

I do get @vijja’s points though. But perhaps we should also consider that times were different. Famines or failed harvests were quite common, and it’s quite imaginable, to me at least, that at those times people had to rely on meat. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the Buddha did allow meat.

You’ve stepped into hot waters, unfortunately, with this topic. :frowning: For what it’s worth, I think you made some good points, including some you edited later. Welcome to SuttaCentral, by the way. :wink: It’s a good crowd, give us some time. :wink:

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We do, though. We don’t have to accept everything that’s offered. To stay with the texts for now, there’s quite a few cases where mendicants rejected offerings, including the Buddha. They rejected meals if they had already eaten or already accepted an invitation from somebody else. In one case which surprised me the Buddha rejected food that had certain blessing chanted over it. They rejected items that were not allowable. And they rejected things they simply didn’t need or want, like when they already had a bowl and were offered another.

What is not allowable, unless you’re sick or were invited, is to ask for specific foods. But that is the case regardless of what you eat. It is always allowable to reject food.

As to rejecting meat, of course Mahayana traditions are generally vegetarian. But also in the Sri Lankan Theravada tradition it quite normal for monks to be vegetarian. Meat is much more rarely offered there anyways, compared to for example the Thai tradition. But when it is offered, it is okay to reject it. I was asked to hold my hand above my bowl if people offered meat to signify I didn’t want it. That was considered fine. Everybody was used to it, at least where I was.

In case of meat there are even specific cases we HAVE to reject it, as somebody pointed out before. Apart from reasons to reject other foods, these are:

  1. if it is of certain animals, like horses, dogs, snakes, lions and others.
  2. if we know or suspect it has been killed for the sangha.

Some more personal thoughts outside of the texts:

As to (1), some of the unallowable meats were considered inappropriate by the general populace. So people asked the monastics not to eat them either. Now, many rules in the Vinaya are a response to society’s norms, so they can change depending on time and place. We currently live in a society where meat slowly is becoming less acceptable, especially among Buddhists, more and more of whom are vegetarian/vegan. Therefore, in my opinion, it is not unreasonable for individual monastics to consider extending the rejection of meat to other animals too, following the general example of the laity. It is definitely allowable to do so, but if people would start demanding it of the sangha, perhaps it could even be considered a duty one day. For example, a prominent lay devotee here last year gave a whole talk on vegetarianism at the temple. That’s not something which would have likely happened a number of decades ago, indicating that times have changed. Also, threads like these pop up all the time. To me, in light of the background of this rule, those are things to at least consider. Rules such as this are not just about the letter, imo. Why they are there in the first place I belief matters too.

As to (2), the background for this is not given in the texts, as far as I know. But it likely was to remove the laity from direct involvement in killing, and possibly also to reduce killing in general. (Trading in meat was also said to be wrong livelihood.) As I suggested before, without fridges in those days more meat would likely have been killed on the spot and on demand, which if done to offer to the sangha would not have been allowable. But in many places nowadays, with meat bought from supermarkets and coming from large slaughterhouses, this rule is essentially obsolete. In many places no-one kills themselves or orders animals to be killed anymore. For example, I can only remember ever expecting lobster of being killed specifically for the sangha.

Or is the rule really obsolete? Perhaps it again depends on how you look at it, whether you look at the letter or the intention behind the rule. Slaughterhouses now kill for nobody in specific, but they do determine their kill quota for the next period by their sales figures. If you buy a dead chicken for the sangha, next month (or whatever period they use) the slaughterhouse will kill one more chicken, at least on average. So although the first chicken wasn’t killed for the buyer (since it was already dead before it was bought), you could argue the buyer paid for killing the next chicken. So if the Buddha’s intention was to reduce people’s involvement in killing and meat trade, then how is that working out today? We will have different opinions on this, but one thing seems for sure: In many cases, in the Theravada tradition at least, the amount of killing is not reduced by Buddhists, and their involvement is just as (in)direct as everybody else’s.

This reflection surely won’t be enough reason for a sangha-wide rejection of all meat, but I think it’s worth considering still, for lay people, but also for monastics. Because in many situations it is no longer the case that monks and nuns arrive unannounced at a village and eat whatever leftovers there are, as it often happened in earlier days. We often don’t even eat the same things as the laity. Devotees know what monastics like to eat and often buy specifically what we desire. If we eat a lot of meat, or somehow let know we like it, they will buy more meat. If we do the opposite, they will buy less. I for one know for a fact that because of my abstinence less meat and dairy has been bought, and I think that as a result less animals got killed, or at least in the long run there will be. (Less killed both in slaughter and as a side effect in crop production.) Hence when I chant the daily food reflection and get to vihiṁsūparatiyā, ‘to reduce harm’, I reflect upon it like this: By eating no animal products I reduce harm. In that way abstinence also becomes helpful for the practice, because every day you eat out of compassion.

Anyway. I realize I’m drifting a bit. It’s no longer what the thread started out as. But I think this is an important topic now more than ever, so here’s my thoughts regardless. :slight_smile: I hope I was considerate enough and won’t trigger anybody. All was shared out of metta, not out of annoyance or to tell people off or anything like that. You do you! (I was gonna say ‘live and let live’ but then realized… maybe not the right topic! :wink: )


Can the monastics hints the attendants to give suggestion to donor to offer vegetarian foods instead of meats provided monastics doesnt refuse vegetarianism ?

Not sure what you mean exactly. But monastics can let know what they don’t eat. They generally can’t ask for specific foods. They can’t say, “give me beans”, for example, or “give me vegetarian food”. But if they say, “I don’t eat meat/dairy”, then that’s not a problem. It’s like saying, “I don’t drink soft drinks” or “I don’t take caffeine” or “I’m allergic to XYZ”, or whatever, so people don’t have to worry about offering those things.

However, in many cases this all isn’t even a problem, because they are allowed to let people know when asked, which in my experience often happens if they travel or stay in a smaller monasteries. And in larger monasteries there is often plenty of vegetarian food anyways. Sometimes taken in buffet style, sometimes offered one by one, in which case they can reject the meat dishes and accept the vegetarian ones.

It may be different in some places (in which case monastics can always choose to leave there), but in my experience it’s generally not a problem. Sure, there have been times I could basically only eat rice and got hungry while other monks had many dishes to choose from. But once in a while that’s not a problem. You can survive on that. I see it as renunciation.


Yeah, sure. That’s the same for the whole world though.

That’s what I don’t buy. There’s a great surplus of meat produced today in the UK, and maybe there was a great surplus then also? Who knows? There was certainly enough for animal sacrifice.

But that was eaten afterwards, so it’s not like it was excess.

Meat consumption tends to rise as we get richer. One of the strongest determinants of how much meat people eat is how rich they are. This is at least true when we make cross-country comparisons. […]

As a global average, per capita meat consumption has increased approximately 20 kilograms since 1961; the average person consumed around 43 kilograms of meat in 2014 . This increase in per capita meat trends means total meat production has been growing at a much faster than the rate of population growth.

The direction and rate of change across countries has highly variable. Growth in per capita meat consumption has been most marked in countries who have underwent a strong economic transition – per capita consumption in China has grown approximately 15-fold since 1961; rates in Brazil have nearly quadrupled.

Meat and Dairy Production - Our World in Data

As I said before, these are not small numbers. The world’s per capita consumption basically doubled in half a century. And that’s because of industrialization only. The world is not big enough to grow enough animals the traditional way.

Of course, these data don’t go back to India in the Buddha’s time. :smiley: So we could suppose India in the Buddha’s time was some sort of exception to the general patterns we see. Perhaps it was exceptionally well suited to growing animals? Doesn’t seem so to me, though. It was more a crop growing kind of environment with all the rice fields and all.

So I don’t suppose India at that time came close to the amount of per capita meat many people eat now.

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Say if a monk inclined to eat meats but then he say he dont eat vegetable !? Is that a problem ?

Technically you can say I don’t eat vegetables. But only if it’s not with the intention to get meat as an alternative, because then it’s looking for specific foods, which is not allowable. So in your example actually it would be a problem.

If he really doesn’t like vegetables, or is allergic to them or whatever, and doesn’t mind if he gets nothing extra as alternative, then I suppose it’s not a problem.

But as I said, generally it isn’t a problem because people ask. Or, otherwise you don’t have the possibility to let them know anyway! When you go on alms round for example.

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Yeah sure. That’s my point. Consumption of meat per capita may be very different from amount of meat eaten per capita. Wastage in the supply chain and in meat eaters fridges is incredibly high. Dealing with that is something everyone (apart from the meat producers) could get on board with I imagine.

I don’t know if the figures are correct (the site obviously has an agenda, but I’ve seen other stats on wastage that also make my toes curl). So the headline from the article that I linked to:

Around 380,000 tonnes of meat is discarded each year in the UK, the equivalent of over 1 million cattle, 4.4 million pigs or an incredible 165 million chickens.

Hey stu,
Wastage is another big problem. But it’s part of the modern system too, including government subsidies. Farmers often still get paid for what they can’t sell to the market. That’s another thing that wouldn’t have happened in the Buddha’s time. But the main point I’m making, perhaps too many times, is, farmers can now produce and waste so much in the first place because of industrialization. It wouldn’t be possible even a hundred years ago. I would be very surprised if in the Buddha’s India they’d have an excess of livestock running around and then decided to kill 'em all and throw them away. Although nothing is impossible, perhaps.

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Yes, and meat with fine rice is considered the best of foods (aggaṃ bhojanānaṃ). The Buddha’s contemporaries seemed to have few qualms about eating animals, and that includes Brahmins, possibly Ājīvikas, and, according to a growing scholarly consensus, the early followers of Mahāvīra.

As I read them, the EBTs present vegetarianism as a fringe ascetic practice, unheard of among the laity. Indian society does change!

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After some hesitation I would like to address a little some of the off-topic discussion of industrial meat production.

Firstly I would like to reiterate that the question about the likely diet of ancient India as evidenced in the EBT’s and other legitimate sources is NOT directly related to the broader question of the ethics of contemporary meat production and consumption, it is NOT the case that those who believe on the balance of evidence that followers in the EBTs where most likely omnivores do so because they wish to justify contemporary practices. I suspect that the same cannot be said for the OP.

However I would like to make a few points about the tacit and sometimes explicit arguments I hear for veganism and vegetarianism as a response to contemporary modes of production.

The idea often implied or presented, that there is a moral responsibility for an individual to refrain from meat because their consumption makes them responsible for the production is in my opinion deeply problematic for several reasons.

  1. It shifts the responsibility from the very rich and powerful owners of the productive capital onto the very poor and powerless consumers. The idea that if I eat a sausage at a bbq then I am responsible for Don Meats abattoir is directing moral outrage at the wrong end of the stick.

  2. It creates a situation where very privileged people who benefit enormously from industrial capitalism can morally absolve themselves from responsibility by becoming vegans while many many people who are much too poor to exert that amount of control over their diet get labeled as Immoral just for doing what they can to eat.

  3. It takes one part of industrial capitalism and makes of it a scapegoat that obscures many of the other harms to living beings that different aspects of production produce. If the rice you are eating is sourced from fields that where clear felled and destroyed whole species are you really doing anything more morally upright than the meat eater?

  4. And this is sort of related to several of the above points, but if you make your morality contingent on knowledge of other peoples actions you can never really know what’s right or wrong. If the screws I buy to make my bookshelf are made from ore that comes from a mine where workers are allowed to die from silicosis, and so on with every choice of consumption, then I need to have practically infinite knowledge of every product and service to determine if it is more or less morally reprehensible and I simply don’t have the time.

Shifting responsibility away from capital and governments and onto individual consumers is the morality of the capitalist class. It renders people almost completely powerless by replacing collective political action with individual consumption choices that have almost NO EFFECT on production as guess what, that chicken you didn’t buy from the fridge will just get sold to the next person, or just thrown in a bin. The weird monstrous deontological utilitarian hybrid of “if you do it and then everyone does it then the system will change “ only works if everyone does it, in the meantime meat producers are happily funding seaweed based alternatives and plastic producers are happily funding recycling projects because they know that if they can diverts the minority with moral qualms into ineffectual individual actions they can continue to profit of the majority who don’t.

All this is to say that I agree that industrial agriculture and capitalism more broadly wreaks terrible harms on living beings (including human beings) but as for someone making the personal choice to be vegetarian being somehow an effective response to that issue we’ll I have a LOT of doubts.


Apparently, this kind of dilemma has been arisen even in Pipphali manvaka (lay name of Venerable Mahakassapa) and seems like natural.

I guess, There might have been some meritorious monks who could attain magga-phalas, only if they were given the opportunity to eat Panita Bhojanas like meat.

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I hadn’t really thought about this before, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it were the case.

In the Visuddhimagga, both the guarding of the nimitta in samatha-bhāvanā and the sharpening of the five faculties in vipassanā-bhāvanā have “suitable food” as one of their seven prerequisites. And what constitutes suitable food is said to vary from one person to another.

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To bring this closer to the EBTs, since it is seen, heard and suspected that the meat industry kills living beings for consumers – to be bought, packed in plastic, at stores and supermarkets – couldn’t it well be blamable for consumers to buy animal products?

When choosing between chickpeas and chicken at the store, the first choice is a clear win in terms of harm reduction for animals, human health and the environment.

To get around this obvious point, you seem to adopt a philosophy that denies the efficacy of individual action. On the other hand, the morality found in the EBTs is clearly one where the onus is on intention and individual action.

If someone, out of concern and compassion for the well-being of animals who endure the most cruel conditions imaginable, chooses to abstain from animal products thinking “I don’t want to give my money to an industry that causes unimaginable suffering. I don’t want to support those who profit of the commodification of living beings” – surely this should be celebrated?