Re: vegetarianism

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Posted by Tim ( on September 22, 2000 at 11:55:28:

In Reply to: vegetarianism posted by kasandra on September 21, 2000 at 18:34:49:

You have touched on one of those sore subjects that Buddhist forums argue about every day of the week. On one side are the "black belt" vegetarians who never tire of reminding meat-eaters that it's not particularly compassionate to kill things. On the other side are the equally belligerent carnivorous Buddhists with staunch arguments in their favor. In the middle you'll find the vast majority of us.

I used to fret over this, too, until I read an article in Tricycle some years ago that addressed this very concern. It pointed out that monks were generally expected not to eat meat, because of the need to remind the laity of compassion, and because meat was considered a luxury that might lead to other pleasures. However, because monks in that far-off day went on alms rounds and gratefully ate whatever they were given, they would often find meat in their bowls. Keep in mind that the giving of alms was considered a huge benefit to the lay giver, and that the monk would be responsible for actual damage if he did not eat whatever the householder wanted to give him. Giving alms gave the householder one of the few shots he had at accumulating good karma. The Buddha made only the stipulation that the monk could not eat meat that was killed just for him, or if he suspected that it had been.

Remember that these are monks' rules, not rules for lay life. Buddhism today is often practiced by those who aren't monks, but are more diligent than laity of the past. The rules must therefore be retooled for a modern reality.

There are two considerations for being vegetarian. First, you must decide whether you believe that you're accumulating "bad" karma by eating meat. If you are, stop eating it and learn to eat well as a vegetarian. Second, you must decide how closely you want to practice as a monastic. If you want to get very close to monastic practice, stop eating meat and take on the monastic precepts. In the case of modern monks, the proscription on eating meat is often because of its temptation value, not because it's inherently bad. Meat is expensive, so it can lead to all sorts of compromises.

This is one of the myriad personal choices that Buddhism demands. Best of good fortune making your own decisions. Your heart knows. Listen closely.


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