The Dhamma , Veganism and Vegetarianism

I think that the prayer of thanksgiving that Christians use - for all I know - can be a combination of joy and eating meat. Some vegans mistakenly think that eating meat is enjoyable for us.
In my case, it’s the case that I really don’t like anything meaty - I have to force myself a bit to like the smell when I eat - sardines. However, for 300g of food, I have as much as 6g of Omega 3, and it’s in the form of EPA and DHA, which will help build neurons in my brain(neurogenesis), help build endocannabinoids for better mood - which protects against SAD - seasonal depression in Poland. You know some people live in a climate where it’s sunny all the time, and here in the north, it’s dark half the year - suicide rates are very high. So I send heartfelt love to fish, for helping to strengthen the mind and be a happier Buddhist. Refusing to eat fish in our climate is not wise.

He’s referring to “wrong livelihood” for a lay person, which includes dealing in animals / meat. (See AN 5.177)

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Then that opens the way for the critism on hypocritical behaviour.

To benefit from the bad kamma done by others (non Buddhists). For they do the killing, then Buddhists gets to enjoy the taste of meat, without the guilt or bad kamma of killing. All that is required is cognitive dissonance.

If this happens like once off, like a hunter killed a yak once off, and everyone is starving in the himalayan mountains, maybe it’s more ok. However, the economic demand for it becomes an ongoing thing.

If this happens out of ignorance, never thinking where meat comes from, who gets the bad kamma for killing, etc…, there’s nothing that can be blamed. But after talking to vegans, this cannot be an excuse.

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Yes, I know that Bhante. I was referring to the Vinaya prohibition on working as a doctor and then comparing that with the advice in an5.177 for lay people. You need to read both of those sentences together.

In the first sentence I am referring to the difference between Bhante having a livelihood as a doctor, and bhante using the services of a someone who has the livelihood of a doctor.

In the second sentence I am talking about an5.177 advice concerning a lay person being a butcher and a lay person using the services of a butcher.

Bhante suggested trying to do this:

So I replaced x with weapons (as per an5.177). And so it reads:

I don’t agree that the livelihood of people selling weapons is right livelihood, but I am ok with having/making use of weapons.

And yes. That’s exactly my position. Everyone who pays their tax is allowing the government to buy weapons on their behalf to offer protection for the country. Now we might consider that we as lay Buddhists shouldn’t pay our share of the taxes that go towards weapons and the military, but then we would be breaking the law, which we are also not supposed to do as lay buddhists. So my suggestion was:

Because there would be no lay Buddhists left in that country to support the sangha, the monastics would also have to go. Presumably, all the Buddhists would end up in one Buddhist land with no military. :person_shrugging:

It might be a bit of a subtle point for a internet forum :sweat_smile:

I concluded in the last paragraph, that cutting ourselves off from the general population is not how we encouraged to practice.

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Thanks for explaining Bhante. I can see where you are coming from, but I think it’s a bit flawed. Right Livelihood is obviously a restriction that lay Buddhists take on. We won’t make and sell poisons, make and sell weapons, capture and sell slaves nor butcher animals and sell meat. That of course doesn’t mean that society at large will not do those things. The Buddha accepted those things, as facts of the world he lived in. Back then slavery was more socially acceptable than it is today, and so it seems the Buddha was aware that some of his lay followers would own slaves. To these people, he told them to treat their slaves kindly. He never said don’t own a slave, as far as I’m aware. Likewise, people will butcher animals and sell their meat. To laypeople, he never said don’t buy or consume meat. Slavery of course is not socially acceptable today, which is good, but the meat trade is. Now all of this is basic morality. Lay Buddhists can of course go further. They can decide that not only will they treat slaves kindly, but they won’t own a slave at all. They can decide that not only will they not butcher animals for meat, but they won’t buy meat at all. They can choose not to participate. They could also go further and become an activist to try to abolish said trades altogether. Nothing wrong in that. A lay Buddhist might also wish to take on the 8 precepts and practice for awakening. That of course means reducing possessions and living more contently, which would mean not owning slaves. That doesn’t quite mean though never eating meat again, if the industry is so widespread. A person can live without slaves, but a person still needs to eat. If meat is all that is available, or it is all that they can afford, then they aren’t compromising their practice by consuming it and I think the Buddha wouldn’t agree with choosing to starve oneself rather than eat meat. They also aren’t compromising their practice if non-meat options are available, and they can afford to be vegan all the time, but then consume meat when it is offered by others (say at a party or family event).

There is thought some implications to your argument here. Based on your argument then, should it not be the case that no Buddhist should work at all in hospitality since they would have to serve meat and alcohol to customers in those jobs? That seems a bit too harsh and restrictive to me. Also what about self defence? I believe monks and nuns are allowed to physically defend themselves, and so are lay Buddhists. If a lay Buddhist buys a gun, this is engaging with the arms trade, but if they only ever shoot for self defence and never to kill, is that against their Dhamma practice? Stu has also outlined some other good implications above.

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For the extreme cases of it’s either eat meat or die slowly or malnutrition, then certainly, do survive. However, it’s rarely the case in many places nowadays and as more people go vegan, the business demand and opportunities for vegan food to pop up at all sorts of places keeps on increasing. Use “happy cow” app to search worldwide for the nearest vegan/vegetarian restaurants to you.

For some of the cases, it’s more strict to be falling under the wrong livelihood categories.

First off, indeed, merely owning the things, buying meat, pets etc are not considered wrong livelihood. It’s only when one’s source of income, livelihood, payment, comes from trading in those 5 things.

So trading in meat as I interpret it, would include all the process from killing the animal to the last step of the customer buying the meat. And all the jobs which directly would involve in getting the meat to the customers would be involved in the trade. For it depends on the death of the animals being killed at the start of the chain.

Before the killing of animals would be the selling of living beings, should the slaughterhouse company be different from the farm company which (force) breed and raise the animals (with antibiotics (creating super bacterias and possibly the next pandemics), growth hormones etc).

Now onto a second topic,

Guns are too crude a weapon for self defence. It’s made to kill. In countries where people do not own guns, which is most of the world, suicide rate is not as high as the USA for guns makes it almost certain for the suicide to be successful. Thus, owning a gun is a bad idea in the sense of extra danger for accidental firing or suicide rate or immature/mentally ill family members using it to kill. Or it enables one to kill, adding to bad kamma. Especially tragic are cases where the kids are so small, but used guns to kill their parents for refusing their demands for things. Heavy evil kamma created just like that.

Of course, the advice is, don’t kill, don’t own guns. It’s strange to have Buddhists to train not to kill even mosquitos, but then ok to own guns.

For Stu, it’s a good comeback. Ideally indeed, the Buddhist world would not have militaries. Maybe we can establish some Buddhist banking system where we can have the bank only investing in right livelihood companies, and handle the tax for government spending to be on a separate account for religious objection for governmental usage for military, subsidizing the meat industry etc.

This could be a good project for some bankers or business man. Once the model spreads, maybe it can even influence other religions, as Islamic banking inspired this idea and even other banks. And maybe this can force all governments in the world to dismantle their militaries, one of the sure ways of peace is having no means to start a war.

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Thank you for your reply Bhante. It is true there is more vegan options available, but certainly where I live vegan food is generally more expensive than buying meat. This is fine if you are middle or upper class, but for someone living on state benefits its not that economically feasible to never buy meat (even more so with our increasing inflation). The same with other parts of the world too.

So trading in meat as I interpret it, would include all the process from killing the animal to the last step of the customer buying the meat. And all the jobs which directly would involve in getting the meat to the customers would be involved in the trade. For it depends on the death of the animals being killed at the start of the chain.

Before the killing of animals would be the selling of living beings, should the slaughterhouse company be different from the farm company which (force) breed and raise the animals (with antibiotics (creating super bacterias and possibly the next pandemics), growth hormones etc).

I take it from this then that, for you, all supermarket employees from cashiers to managers and stock control are engaging in wrong livelihood as are delivery drivers, ship crew, HR managers and so on? Also that everyone working in hospitality is engaging in wrong livelihood, due to serving customers meat and alcohol? As an extension to this, all laypeople and monastics should refuse all medicinal drugs since they always go through an animal testing trial before going to market, after which the animal is killed?

Guns are too crude a weapon for self defence. It’s made to kill. In countries where people do not own guns, which is most of the world, suicide rate is not as high as the USA for guns makes it almost certain for the suicide to be successful. Thus, owning a gun is a bad idea in the sense of extra danger for accidental firing or suicide rate or immature/mentally ill family members using it to kill. Or it enables one to kill, adding to bad kamma. Especially tragic are cases where the kids are so small, but used guns to kill their parents for refusing their demands for things. Heavy evil kamma created just like that.

Of course, the advice is, don’t kill, don’t own guns. It’s strange to have Buddhists to train not to kill even mosquitos, but then ok to own guns.

You can also kill someone just by a singular punch to the face. Its my understanding though that we are allowed to physically defend ourselves from attack. Punching someone in self defence, or struggling with them to disarm them, is no different to shooting someone in the leg it seems to me. If guns should be legal or not, and their effect on society, is a different question.

And maybe this can force all governments in the world to dismantle their militaries, one of the sure ways of peace is having no means to start a war.

That would be nice, but then it would take 1 dictator to rise to conquer all.

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Obviously yes

However, the use of these services is now essential. Just as buying food is essential when you want to be fully healthy-without risking your health- playing with diets that are no longer so sure about ensuring the health of the mind in northern climates.

I feel like this is the kind of topic that really reveals somebody’s lack of ability for self reflection. I’m a vegetarian and I’m not at all ethically satisfied with that. I believe my diet is unethical. Why is it so hard for people to acknowledge that what they’re doing is wrong? If you can’t do that then you have absolutely ZERO hope of making meaningful progress on the Buddhist path. That is just a fact. My excuses for not being vegan won’t be very convincing to kamma itself so that’s why I’m not ok with my current status and intend to better myself.

If I died in the next few minutes I believe I will suffer in some kind of horrendous hell realm. Understanding whatever it is about humans that can believe that and still not IMMEDIATELY change their behavior is above my pay grade but that’s just how it is. At least I intend to correct what I consider to be incorrect. If you’re more interested in deeming what you do now to be correct than critically judging your behavior then I don’t even understand how you ended up here in the first place.

It’s very simple. If you can survive based on a diet that doesn’t require suffering, that’s obviously correct. If your diet demands suffering and you’re not a monk accepting whatever is given, you’re generating bad kamma. That’s all there is to it.

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Yey, I really sympathize. Holding so much guilt and believing in punishment, must be scary - sometimes religious veganism as you can see creates a lot of bad emotions in people and pushes them to mental hell. I’ve noticed this from the most active forms of prostest, where vegans make trays of meat or grease the sidewalks with blood, sad to have such a mind so saturated with cruelty, only that from the side of being a victim.

And one would like to say like Jesus - Do not be afraid!

One with wrong views indeed might be reborn in hell for that wrong views.

As mentioned by many here, including me, a vegan monk. There’s no bad kamma in eating meat alone. Much less milk and egg, etc.

Please, while promoting veganism, do not compromise on the dhamma. This would be repellant to those who knows the dhamma and would not be a good example to set. They would be less inclined to go vegan seeing an example of veganism twisting the dhamma.

https://suttacentral.net/snp2.2/en/sujato?layout=plain&reference=none&notes=asterisk&highlight=false&script=latin

The good eat properly obtained
millet, wild grains, broomcorn,
greens, tubers, and squashes.
They don’t lie to get what they want.

But when you eat delicious food,
nicely cooked and prepared, and offered by others, Dinnaṁ and payataṁ are synonyms.
enjoying a dish of fine rice,
Kassapa, you eat putrefaction.

‘Putrefaction is not appropriate for me’—
so you said, kinsman of Brahmā.
Yet here you are enjoying a dish of fine rice,
nicely cooked with the flesh of fowl.
I’m asking you this, Kassapa:
what do you take to be putrefaction?”

“Killing creatures, mutilation, murder, abduction;
stealing, lying, cheating and fraud,
learning crooked spells, adultery: Read kujja.
this is putrefaction, not eating meat.

People here with unbridled sensuality,
greedy for tastes, mixed up in impurity,
nihilists, immoral, intractable:
this is putrefaction, not eating meat.

Brutal and rough backbiters,
pitiless and arrogant betrayers of friends,
misers who never give anything:
this is putrefaction, not eating meat.

Anger, vanity, obstinacy, contrariness,
deceit, jealousy, boastfulness,
haughtiness, wicked associates:
this is putrefaction, not eating meat.

The ill-behaved, debt-evaders, slanderers,
business cheats and con-artists,
vile men committing depravity:
this is putrefaction, not eating meat.

People here who can’t stop harming living creatures,
taking from others, intent on hurting,
immoral, cruel, harsh, lacking regard for others:
this is putrefaction, not eating meat.

Greedy, hostile, aggressive to others,
and addicted to evil—
those beings pass into darkness,
falling headlong into hell:
this is putrefaction, not eating meat.

Not fish or flesh or fasting,
being naked or shaven, or dreadlocks or dirt,
not rough hides or serving the sacred flame,
or the many austerities in the world
aimed at immortality,
not hymns or oblations,
sacrifices or seasonal observances,
will cleanse a mortal not free of doubt.

Guarding the streams of sense impressions,
wander with faculties conquered,
standing on the teaching,
delighting in sincerity and gentleness.
The wise have escaped their chains
and given up all pain;
they don’t cling to the seen and the heard.”

The Buddha explained this matter to him
again and again,
until the master of hymns understood it.
It was illustrated with colorful verses
by the sage free of putrefaction,
unattached, hard to trace.

Having heard the fine words of the Buddha,
that are free of putrefaction,
getting rid of all suffering;
humbled, he bowed to the Realized One,
and right away begged to go forth.

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But this is an inadvertent outcome of their purchase, rather than an intended outcome, right? I mean people don’t normally go to a supermarket thinking, “I’ll buy a tin of spam and hopefully this will cause a few more pigs to be slaughtered.”

And since kamma is cetanā and people don’t purchase spam with the cetanā of causing more pigs to be killed, your kamma-based claim…

… seem to be on rather flimsy grounds.

In a blog post from ten years ago, Ven. Sujāto himself concedes that the kamma argument for vegetarianism doesn’t really work:

the standard position in Theravada Buddhism is that there is no ethical problem with eating meat. If you want to be vegetarian, that is a purely optional choice. Most Theravadins, whether lay or monastic, eat meat, and claim to be acting within the ethical guidelines of the Buddha’s teachings.

This position sits squarely within a straightforward application of the law of kamma, understood as intention. Eating meat involves no intention to do harm. As there is no intention, there is no kamma. As there is no kamma, there is no ethical problem.

He then goes on to present a case for vegetarianism that doesn’t attempt to invoke Buddhist kamma doctrine, but rather is premised on the notion that the mere avoidance of unwholesome kammas is not the totality of Buddhist ethics.

Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian

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