So how does the ethical principle underlying the 3-fold rule translate to buying meat regularly at a local butchers, for example?
Hi Gillian. I realise that you have said ‘might’ here. My question is, do you have any evidence for either of these scenarios regarding increased compassion? I know many vegetarians that are far away from displaying much compassion. Whether they were more or less compassionate beforehand I do not know.
My main (maybe only) argument here is that the connection between the total number of animals a person who works in a slaughterhouse kills and the consumption of meat by others is not proven. What I am suggesting is that even if that person did not kill within the confines of a slaughterhouse, they would kill in another way. This is my experience. If not killing for a living, then there’s always hunting and fishing instead, and quite often this involves an excess of killing and increased cruelty. Quite simply I don’t see the connection of increased compassion in the world through someone refraining from eating meat. Can you show me just one study that shows even a correlation, let alone a causal link? Just one? Better health? - yes, there are loads of studies. Better for the environment? - yes, loads of studies. More compassion? - I can’t find that study. I did mention the environment and health in my first post.
That would be a good thing, in isolation. But I don’t think that is how it works in practice. For example in the UK the number of slaughterhouses has been reduced over the last few decades. At the same time there also seems (again, I can find no study for this alternate view either) there has been an increase in killing for pleasure. Here’s an example: Millions of birds bred for shooting - Little Peckers
Really what I’m saying here is I believe standard sutta based Buddhism:
Mind precedes thoughts, mind is their chief, their quality is made by mind,
if with a base mind one speaks or acts,
through that suffering follows him like a wheel follows the ox’s foot.
To stop a killer killing, the mind of the killer needs to change to the mind of a non-killer. Maybe someone refraining from eating meat changes the mind of the killer into that of a non killer. If someone could show me how this works with a proper study, then I would be happy to accept this. If the Buddha thought this was the case, then wouldn’t be have sided with Devadatta?
Only personal experience. I’m not a social researcher. This may match your own experience?
No. Quite the opposite.
Very nicely said, Bhante.
So sorry. (I was thinking that something must have persuaded you to stop killing. But not my business.)
Thanks @UpasakaMichael! Means a lot coming from you, as you always have the most articulate responses!
Glad to hear my post wasn’t completely lost in the crosstalk.
Not at all, please ask whatever you wish. I’m happy to give a different perspective …
Yes. Indeed many things persuaded me to stop killing. But the example of other people becoming vegetarian/vegan was not amongst them.
Did I become more compassionate in general when my friends became vegetarian or vegan? On the contrary. Those friends were sidelined as ‘fussy eaters’, not invited to take meals with us, made the butt of jokes: “How do you know if you’re talking to a vegan? … They tell you.” Pretty poor behaviour right? But that is what arose for me when (in my eyes) others made themselves difficult to cater for (what might be termed ‘difficult to support’). I’m just being honest. I have a different relationship for people with special dietary needs these days.
Did I discern an increase in compassion in those friends who went vegetarian or vegan? Again, no. Often I saw a militancy and lack of compassion towards meat eaters. For example, vandalising shops by scrawling ‘meat is murder’ in red paint on the front.
For me the question is, does purchasing meat, after the fact of the killing equate with the killing itself? I answer this no, but it’s not a hard and fast no. It’s an unsettled no, like so many choice-lines made in a mass consumer society of stupendous (and violent) interconnection. I believe the more important question is my overall consumption and its relation to my overall craving/clinging. In other words, consuming moderately, in light of the eight precepts is where I put my energy and attention.
Just want to add that this post sums up my attitude and understanding of the situation.
Yes, eating meat is not wrong in the same way breaking the precepts is wrong, and one more person being veg won’t “fix samsara” or end factory farming. However, it is still a kinder and more compassionate option.
I feel like the “bare minimum” or strictly negative approach to ethics (just keep precepts, don’t do bad) misses the positive elements of the ethical teachings of the Buddha.
I would also like to remind everyone that we do not live in ancient India. The modern economic system makes the purchase of meat a different event than in the ancient world. When you go to the supermarket and buy meat, you are consciously sending a message to a corporation that signals them to slaughter more animals in their next quarter. Now, this is not the same as going to a market and telling someone to kill an animal for you so you can buy the meat, but I would say it is closer to this than buying meat from someone in the ancient world who killed whatever animals he had available before he went to the market to sell the meat. In the ancient Indian case, the killing was already done and buying the meat does not create a causal connection between the killing and your purchase. But in the modern event, there is a causal connection. However, because your purchase is aggregated into the collective purchases of everyone who bought meat for that corporation in each quarter (which is used to calculate how many animals will be killed next), the causal connection is not obvious and not as direct as telling a butcher to kill an animal for you. However, I do not think that it is so easy to wave away the moral hazard in today’s case, so the best option I think is vegetarianism or even veganism. After all, its very easy to do now and there’s no harm in it.
edit: Also, I would like to point out that this argument is directed mainly at laypersons, since they have the purchasing power to buy meat. This is not directed at monastics, since they must take whatever is given, as per the Buddha’s example.
Edit2: Another argument I am seeing a lot in this thread is “there’s a ton of messed up things happening economically and it affects many of our purchases, so its pointless and hypocritical to be vegetarian since it doesn’t fix all of it.”
But this is a bad argument, just because making a specific change regarding our purchases doesn’t fix all of the moral issues with all of our purchases does not mean that its not important to discuss and promote that specific change.
Also, regarding whether going vegetarian actually leads to less killing, I believe it does, since it reduces the demand for animal meat, and thus reduces the supply of animals bred for slaughter. See more here: Does Being Vegan Really Help Animals? : 13.7: Cosmos And Culture : NPR
For me, it’s hard to find a justification to go vegan by all Theravada or early Buddhism reasons. Just look at the diverse reasonings here.
But as a human living in this era of time of global warming, with a choice and thus power to be able to go vegan, it’s our human responsibility to do so. My motto is thus to go vegan because you are a human, not because of Buddhism.
That said, look at SuttaCentral
If anyone were to kill animals to serve the monks, it’s bad kamma. If we link this to the modern economic system of buying meat= future killing, it implies that we shouldn’t purposely prepare meat for monks. I think the only case where we are allowed to offer meat to monks is if we were happening to have meat which we intent for ourselves or others at the moment, but a monk came walking by. Having no other food, and wishing to do dana, then that meat is ok to be offered and ok to be eaten by the monk. Or if we happen to come across an animal who died by other causes and just scavenge the meat.
The sutta itself also detailed the attitude of monks when accepting food, not with greed. So monks shouldn’t complain if they are all served vegan food only.
And look at the conditions:
In three cases I say that meat may not be eaten: it’s seen, heard, or suspected. These are three cases in which meat may not be eaten.
In three cases I say that meat may be eaten: it’s not seen, heard, or suspected. These are three cases in which meat may be eaten.
If we want to be very pro vegan here, we can note that these statements may not just apply to the monks, but to lay followers as well, even if not, we can aspire to live up to that standard.
Next is that there is no meat killed for us in the statements. Although it is there in the before and after this passage. So to whom the meat is killed for is not really an escape clause to eat meat if you know it’s not killed for you. Also, factory farming meat is killed for the consumer. As long as you buy and consume meat, you are whom the meat is killed for. You can argue that it’s the faceless masses, but aren’t you part of the faceless masses? Unless you go vegan and not be part of the faceless masses.
So as most of us will not witness or hear an animal to be killed live, most of us had seen videos of factory farming like this: YouTube
So as the statements above didn’t say remote viewing and hearing are not allowed, it should count as having seen and heard. Next link is if we seen and heard other animals being killed, but not this one, does it mean we can eat this one, but not the ones we had seen and heard? The practical answer is: how are you going to keep track? Does it really matter which animals get killed, when you lose your appetite for meat after having reminded yourself of the process of slaughtering?
Last one is suspect, of which knowing is a form of suspect. Having theoretically known that meat comes from animals breed, just to be killed for consumption, that’s all that is to fulfill the suspect. So the only people who are free to eat meat are basically kids who haven’t learn of the cruelty of this world yet. Or those meat we scavenge from animals corpses we happen to stumble upon.
Remember that I am interpreting this in a very pro vegan way, the same text can be used by a very attached meat eater to argue into continuing eating meat.
On devadatta proposing vegetarianism to be compulsory, the Buddha didn’t say the monks cannot be vegans. He made it so that each could choose to uphold it for themselves. In the same spirit, the most vegan promoters can do when speaking of veganism to Buddhists is to strongly encourage Buddhists to go vegan, but stopping shy of making it compulsory. But as I said, it’s not because of you’re a Buddhist you should go vegan, it’s because you’re a human.
Lastly, we also have to come to terms with the philosophical implications of eating meat. Attack on Titans have Giant Titans eating humans only, not other animals, and they are terrifying as hell. All the people there say the world is cruel. And humans fighting back against Titans are who we are rooting for. In veganism terms, it’s animals vs meat eaters, vegan promoters are just the voices for these animals. All the possible hatred and aversion you see from vegan voices are unskillful reactions to the cruelty they witness happen to animals who gets eaten. If we can help to not make ourselves the cause of that cruelty, then why not?
YouTube This movie shows the horror of what we had done to animals is unbearable to be imagined upon humans. As most Buddhists have compassion even for mosquitoes, it’s logical to to want to avoid such cruelty upon animals.
Is there such mention in the Sutta about Microbes being predicted by the Buddha?
When I was young, I tried to kill another boy.
And in that failure I became aware of an uncompromising desire to destroy in myself, a rage that would consume and obliterate the object of its focus unrestrained. The rage passed, doubt arose and a journey began. Becoming a vegetarian was simply a milestone in that journey.
It would seem that you and I and Angulimala have all been to that killing place.
What made you stop?
Was it compassion or something else?
The eightfold path. Any little wholesomeness that resides in me at all comes from the Buddha and his teachings.
Of course other posters on this thread don’t think I have stopped.
I used to kill lines of ants. This was as a young child, and despite my parents not discouraging me, I saw their suffering. This was enough of a reason for me to stop, and as I found myself swatting mosquitoes I realised I was killing. I learnt to knock them away and later was happy to move to UK where there were relatively fewer animals in the houses in interaction with human beings. I only had to contend with a mouse and a humane mouse trap, was used. A bee-hive only needed some patience, as they moved away during winter.
The best way to stopping the killing, is to attain enlightenment. Samsara is the killing grounds, and only stopping rebirth will end the killing, once and for all!
When I write about not fixing samsara I’m refering to something eternal not temporary or regarding factory farming.
There is a quote I read a while ago but I can’t remember from where and the exact quote, I think it’s a stoicism quote, maybe from Marcus Aurelius or Gaius Masonius but it’s something along the lines of:
If prison weren’t so sweet, freedom would not be so hard to attain.
When we make ethics the end in itself, what we’re essentially doing is making prison attractive, but this is only for right now.
Obviously I think animals should not be killed, when I oppose using Buddhism as an authority for vegetarianism it’s not because I lack compassion for animals, but beecause I have compassion for humans.
Animals do not have a chance to escape samsara since they are in a lower plane. However humans do.
Yes, we may fall into the trap of beautifying our prison (which is also greed for pleasant feelings). You may beautify your prison, but how long will that last? Not long at all. As long as the 3 poisons are found in people, the world will suffer and no amount of Modernity or technology will change that.
The only thing that can destroy the 3 poisons and thus the prison is the four noble truths (N8FP).
Now you’re perfectly fine to have compassion for animals and be vegetarian but you should be careful to not get stuck in the web of samsara and get caught in politics and the theater of samsara, all this must be left behind if you are to leave the prison behind.
This is why I believe the Buddha didn’t care for vegetarianism and more asceticism than necessary, because he surveyed the landscape for who is capable of understanding the dhamma, the middle way, and not the extremes on either side (both sides fall into the prison), and for those who are already looking beyond the prison.
Why did the Buddha go to the mass murderer Angulimala to teach the dhamma? I’m sure there were plenty of vegetarians who wouldn’t hurt a fly, why wouldn’t he teach them instead? Why waste energy on a man killer, let alone on an animal killer?
Because as the Buddha said, the dhamma is hard to understand and hard to comprehend. The middle way is the only way to not get trapped in Mara’s prison. There is a sutta about monks returning to luxury due to being too extreme in their asceticism (and thus forced into Mara’s grip once again), like a pendulum swinging between extremes. By making a training an end in itself, one misses the target. The path is a means to an end, not an end in itself.
Like I said, if you want to practice more asceticism that’s fine, just be careful not to fall into traps and take care of yourself first and foremost.
You are the source
Of all purity and impurity.
No one purifies another.
Never neglect your work
However great his need.
Your work is to discover your work
And then with all your heart
To give yourself to it.
- Dhammapada 12
(“Another” also means animals, not just humans)
My compassion for myself is greatest, then for my loved ones, then for the sangha and Buddhists, then for humans in general, and then for animals.
And when I say “for myself” I am referring to attaining freedom for myself (aka wisdom). As the suttas say, the greatest act of compassion is to teach the dhamma, and even to know the dhamma for oneself. As the Buddha says when he dwells in seclusion and tranquility, it is an act of compassion, as without him doing so, there would be no knowledge to share, and without knowledge there is no freedom.
How does one protect oneself? By protecting others.
And how does one, in protecting others, protect oneself? By patience and forbearance, by a non-violent and harmless life, by loving kindness and compassion.
… So something DID persuade you to stop killing: the N8fP.
It’s great to hear that.
I think that we have been talking at cross purposes. I can’t see anywhere that I denied that something did persuade me to stop killing. What I denied was that there was any evidence of these causal links:
Someone going vegetarian causes them to develop more compassion
Someone going vegetarian causes someone else to develop more compassion.
I was responding to this quote:
The reasons for becoming vegetarian are various. Some do it for “gaining merit”. I do not find any merit in being a vegetarian. I.e., counting the number of cows I don’t eat seems rather pointless and absurd. And counting the number of years I’ve been a vegetarian seems absolutely silly and counter-productive.
I became a vegetarian because I realized that the delight of eating meat was not worth the pain and suffering I would require of other sentient beings. According to the Oxford dictionary, I do believe that decision was born out of compassion. The decision to practice vegetarianism is a compassionate act. And my compassion developed precisely as a result of hearing the words of another vegetarian.
However I would agree that being a vegetarian doesn’t cause compassion to develop beyond that single compassionate decision. Truly, I feel no greater or lesser compassion for cows no matter how many years I’ve been a vegetarian.
Besides, cows are killers also. Cows kill people. And sometimes create arahants thereby.
Our point, Thito, is not that you are wrong in what you are saying, but that you are wrong in thinking that what you are saying is incompatible with a robust Buddhist vegetarianism/veganism.
One can do both, eat veg and practice for nibbana, as long as one is not taking up the wrong view that practicing vegetarianism/veganism will lead to nibbana. But nobody here has made that argument.