SuttaCentral

The Dhamma , Veganism and Vegetarianism


#1

I am creating a new thread to contain the discussion on not eating animal/animal products in the Limitations of the EBTs thread.

As ever it is useful to conduct discussion with reference to the EBTs and not just base it on personal opinion.


Is there such mention in the Sutta about Microbes being predicted by the Buddha?
#2

I suppose a question for you to consider is whether you see zero commonalities between the context laid out in the ancient Indian situation vs the modern context? While the modern context might have changed, my personal take from reading the suttas is that human nature has largely stayed the same: the exact same defilements and delusions still persist. And cause-&-effect still persist. From these two commonalities, I find it a lot easier to apply the principles in EBT to my own daily life choices, as the ancient Indian contexts then don’t seem that different from the current context.

Re @UpasakaMichael’s comment about vegetarianism, I would add a caution that Devadatta had tried to split the sangha on this point. Personally I have found vegetarianism and veganism to be one of those topics that can lead to a feeling of “righteous anger” and indignation (which is another form of ill will), or sadness and sorrow, neither of which are really wholesome mental states, which is perhaps ultimately what really matters.

The other aspect (throwing in some systems thinking, which I find to be a useful framework in samsara) is that the causality chain for modern systems is really not that clear cut. While you could argue that individual choices matter, I wonder if the root cause for industrial husbandry and agriculture causing industrial scale suffering is really the structure of the stock market, with its focus on shareholder growth in the short term at the expense of other corporate stakeholders in the longer term. This growth pressure then causes them to fund advertising that promotes more consumption, causing harm. Because if that is the real root cause, then what should really be done is to change that system rather than to go vegetarian as an individual. Just saying as an example. :slight_smile:

with metta


Limitations of the EBTs
#3

See the Malthusian trap, it always resets itself no matter how much progress we make in technology. Basically, humans will fill up any new capacity or space created by technological advancement, thus bringing us back to square one.

Changing the system won’t do anything, as the root cause is greed, and you need the noble eightfold path to deal with that root cause, anything other than that is a superficial and temporary band-aid.

Not everyone accepts Buddhism, so, you can’t fix samsara, you can only try to save yourself and your loved ones, as if you were on a sinking Titanic. To think you can fix samsara, is to assume yourself to be wiser than the Buddha, which means you doubt the Buddha’s wisdom (fetter), as he is the wisest being in the universe. He originally inclined to seclusion like a Paecceka Buddha (which the average Buddha is, only a rare Buddha is a samma samBuddha) before Brahma begged him to teach the dhamma, which he did so very selectively by surveying the landscape for who is capable of understanding.

edit: Also I would say Aggana Sutta illustrates the Malthusian Trap perfectly: SuttaCentral - Beings are always craving more and more.


#4

I totally agree with you; I am just pointing out a different perspective to the choice of vegetarianism (due to the harms of industrial agriculture). :slight_smile:


#5

I am a lay vegetarian. And as vegetarian, I was interested to read MN55:

‘They slaughter living creatures specially for the ascetic Gotama. The ascetic Gotama knowingly eats meat prepared on purpose for him: this is a deed he caused.’

The exposition here was quite helpful in clarifying my own practice of vegetarianism. Specifically, the unwholesome pertains to intent:

They eat that alms-food untied, uninfatuated, unattached, seeing the drawback, and understanding the escape.

What do you think, Jīvaka?

At that time is that mendicant intending to hurt themselves, hurt others, or hurt both?”

This point is quite critical for lay vegetarians. It is critical because we choose our food. Going to the supermarket to purchase a steak for me is unwholesome because I go with the intent to support the hurting of others by purchasing their dead bodies. Yet if I am invited to a meal having declared my vegetarianism and my kind host has mistakenly used meat broth for the gravy, then there is absolutely no harm done. I do not need to harangue and interrogate. Nor do I need to fuss and reject. I simply need to declare my vegetarianism and eat what is offered.

That is the escape.

And this is exactly why I understand the EBTs to be unlimited. All the limitations I have found were my own. The EBTs are helping me to escape modern drawbacks.


#6

Indeed. On the Buddhism reddit forum, discussion of vegetarianism is actually banned because it’s so toxic/divisive.


#7

Oh, of course there are similarities, I did not say there were not. However, there are many differences, and this is a limitation, no matter how slight it is.

Personally I have found vegetarianism and veganism to be one of those topics that can lead to a feeling of “righteous anger” and indignation (which is another form of ill will), or sadness and sorrow, neither of which are really wholesome mental states, which is perhaps ultimately what really matters.

Well, the same can be said about a lot of topics relating to morality. The point is to discuss them mindfully, not ignore them.


#8

I wonder if topics like veganism is especially divisive, unity being a main driver in the dhamma?

With metta


#9

The purpose of morality or virtue in Buddhism isn’t for fixing samsara, it’s for escaping samsara.

Hence:

“Mendicants, these four people are found in the world. What four? One person has not fulfilled ethics, immersion, or wisdom.

One person has fulfilled ethics, but not immersion or wisdom.

One person has fulfilled ethics and immersion, but not wisdom.

One person has fulfilled ethics, immersion, and wisdom.

These are the four people found in the world.”

  • AN 4.136

Ethics for the sole purpose of ethics is just as wrong view as asceticism for the sole purpose of asceticism.

Ethics is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Therefore these issues about veganism or other forms of morality are irrelevant when it comes to Ethics for the purpose of attaining Samadhi. For the sake and purpose of Samadhi it’s irrelevant what you eat as long as you didn’t kill it yourself, or it wasn’t killed specifically for you.

Otherwise if you extend your personal volition beyond your own actions, then you could consider yourself also responsible for the deaths caused by police officers and soldiers because you pay taxes. The way samsara works is that the lower the beings and positions, the more bound they are to violence and bad karma, this is why non-returners are reborn in heaven, and not the human plane or hell. Yet without soldiers and police society could not maintain order, so once again, trying to fix samsara is a futile and unnecessary view. Your purpose in the dhamma is to escape.


#10

The importance of this topic is not about “fixing samsara”, its simply about what is the most compassionate and kind action to take.

Are you saying that discussion what the most compassionate action to take regarding one’s diet is not an important topic to discuss?

Also, I would point out, the Buddha’s teachings on ethics are not just purely negative, there are also positive components. As MN 135 says regarding Ahimsa: you’re supposed to “give up killing living creatures”, “renounce the rod and the sword”, AND “be scrupulous and kind, living full of compassion for all living beings.”

That last part is not just purely negative. As Sujato mentions in his essay on vegetarianism, it can be seen as a call to moral action..

Also, not all Buddhists are practicing for nibbana in this life (in fact, most are not), so not all of Buddhism is directed to those who are strictly on the path solely for liberation. For some, living a good and moral life is the focus of their practice, and this is most definitely an important moral issue.

Finally, just because an act is not going to result in full liberation from samsara, it does not follow that it is something to be ignored. But this is not even necessarily applicable here, since following a vegan or vegetarian diet can help one develop mindfulness in regard to the food we are eating.

So the issue remains a important one, especially for Buddhists in the modern era, which have seen a major deterioration in the conditions of animals reared for food as well as a transformation of the food economy, so much so, that it is almost a totally different animal than in ancient India. It behooves us then, to look at the issue again with fresh eyes.


#11

Meat is generally consumed out of greed for taste or greed for excess mass. Having compassion for sentient beings and understanding that one’s own intentional consumption of animal products is a sign of craving, one should abandon it.

“And how is physical food to be regarded? Suppose a couple, husband & wife, taking meager provisions, were to travel through a desert. With them would be their only baby son, dear & appealing. Then the meager provisions of the couple going through the desert would be used up & depleted while there was still a stretch of the desert yet to be crossed. The thought would occur to them, ‘Our meager provisions are used up & depleted while there is still a stretch of this desert yet to be crossed. What if we were to kill this only baby son of ours, dear & appealing, and make dried meat & jerky. That way — chewing on the flesh of our son — at least the two of us would make it through this desert. Otherwise, all three of us would perish.’ So they would kill their only baby son, loved & endearing, and make dried meat & jerky. Chewing on the flesh of their son, they would make it through the desert. While eating the flesh of their only son, they would beat their breasts, [crying,] ‘Where have you gone, our only baby son? Where have you gone, our only baby son?’ Now what do you think, monks: Would that couple eat that food playfully or for intoxication, or for putting on bulk, or for beautification?”

“No, lord.”

“Wouldn’t they eat that food simply for the sake of making it through that desert?”

“Yes, lord.”

"In the same way, I tell you, is the nutriment of physical food to be regarded. When physical food is comprehended, passion for the five strings of sensuality is comprehended. When passion for the five strings of sensuality is comprehended, there is no fetter bound by which a disciple of the noble ones would come back again to this world. - Puttamansa Sutta: A Son's Flesh

:anjal:


#12

I think the reason the Buddha forbade Devadatta from having an exclusive vegetarian diet was that it meant it made Buddhism more accessible. It might not have even made it out of India. Thereby succeeding to put off people who would have made great progress in it. I believe that the Buddha’s approach to meat eating was targeted at livelihood level: people have to stop running slaughter-houses.


#13

Human existence requires greed. If you read the origin of the universe sutta I linked earlier, it’s greed that creates the universe.

To imply that eating meat is more greedy than not eating meat is a very shallow perception to make. There are videos of hundreds of thousands of fish dying due to algae blooms which are caused by ammonia entering rivers, a crop fertilizer used for growing vegetables.

So thinking you are less greedy by not eating meat is an extremely limited view to have. What about hydro dams which also kill millions of fish, have you heard about the new big chinese dams starving out villages in Asia?

As population grows (aka malthusian trap) humans will simply cause other animals to suffer and die, this is samsara.

Playing the ethics game won’t make you defeat samsara, either attain Right View and use ethics for Samadhi, or continue to fall into the samsara trap.

And by the way, one can still have compassion for others while trying to escape a trap and recognizing that some aspects of the trap are unavoidable. Thinking you’re avoiding the trap by not participating economically in buying meat is focusing on the wrong things (wrong view).


#14

Less plants would need to be grown if humans ate them directly instead of funneling them through animals. I’m not a fan of dams, I think they cause more harm than good.

As to whether participating in animal agriculture as a consumer is ethical or not, whether it is acceptable to participate or not, you have to check:

When you want to act with the body, you should check on that same deed: ‘Does this act with the body that I want to do lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both? Is it unskillful, with suffering as its outcome and result?’ If, while checking in this way, you know: ‘This act with the body that I want to do leads to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It’s unskillful, with suffering as its outcome and result.’ To the best of your ability, Rāhula, you should not do such a deed. But if, while checking in this way, you know: ‘This act with the body that I want to do doesn’t lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It’s skillful, with happiness as its outcome and result.’ Then, Rāhula, you should do such a deed.

While you are acting with the body, you should check on that same act: ‘Does this act with the body that I am doing lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both? Is it unskillful, with suffering as its outcome and result?’ If, while checking in this way, you know: ‘This act with the body that I am doing leads to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It’s unskillful, with suffering as its outcome and result.’ Then, Rāhula, you should desist from such a deed. But if, while checking in this way, you know: ‘This act with the body that I am doing doesn’t lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It’s skillful, with happiness as its outcome and result.’ Then, Rāhula, you should continue doing such a deed.

After you have acted with the body, you should check on that same act: ‘Does this act with the body that I have done lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both? Is it unskillful, with suffering as its outcome and result?’ If, while checking in this way, you know: ‘This act with the body that I have done leads to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It’s unskillful, with suffering as its outcome and result.’ Then, Rāhula, you should confess, reveal, and clarify such a deed to the Teacher or a sensible spiritual companion. And having revealed it you should restrain yourself in future. But if, while checking in this way, you know: ‘This act with the body that I have done doesn’t lead to hurting myself, hurting others, or hurting both. It’s skillful, with happiness as its outcome and result.’ Then, Rāhula, you should live in rapture and joy because of this, training day and night in skillful qualities. …

All the ascetics and brahmins of the past, future, and present who purify their physical, verbal, and mental actions do so after repeatedly checking. So Rāhula, you should train yourself like this: ‘I will purify my physical, verbal, and mental actions after repeatedly checking.’” - Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta: Instructions to Rahula at Mango Stone

May we all purify our actions, and live in rapture and joy on that account, training day and night in skillful qualities.

:anjal:


#15

The Buddha ate meat, I’m not going to assume myself to be wiser than the Buddha, so there’s no reason for me to do more asceticism than required. The middle way leading to escape is what I follow.

Besides, it’s silly to assume you’re not killing animals by not eating meat. Your clothes, your gas, batteries, your home, your power usage, your mono crop vegetables, your clean water, your desires, your every breath involves killing animals indirectly.


#16

Yeah, each person has to go through their own process of reflection or checking and make their own decision on where to draw the line. I certainly think there’s a difference between being a true alms mendicant living off whatever happens to be offered while wandering around homeless, and buying one’s own food for example. But lay Buddhists also apparently ate, and more importantly bought, meat in Buddha’s day. Some are comfortable with that as a go ahead to purchase and eat meat themselves, others when checking and reflecting on their actions perceive harm in purchasing meat, and so stop or reduce doing such.

I wish everyone luck in drawing their lines somewhere they can feel relatively good about.

:anjal:


#17

One problem I have with buying meat is that I am expecting somebody else to break the first precept and do wrong livelihood on my behalf. It feels like hypocrisy.
I also wonder how choosing to buy meat when alternatives are available is compatible with Right Intention, which includes developing harmlessness (or at least the intention to minimise harm).


#18

This reminds me of the Douglas Adams quote:

In the beginning the Universe was created.
This made a lot of people very upset and has been widely regarded as a mistake.


#19

Can it really be said that this is your intent?


#20

Unless one is unaware that their steak used to be a cow, I don’t see how it couldn’t be without some willful ignorance.