Re: Buddhism and vegetarianism

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Posted by Brahm ( on October 23, 2001 at 05:18:44:

In Reply to: Buddhism and vegetarianism posted by Andres on September 02, 2001 at 12:18:54:

: Radhika das, hi! You have a very beautiful name... Jai Shri Shri Radhe!!! Are you a follower of the Sanatana Dharma, may be a Hare Krishna?

: Well, I am vegetarian buddhist and this is a subject of my interest, since many buddhist eat meat without a real reason. I have a lot of information about this at home that I could send you later if you want. What is your e-mail?

: There are many schools of buddhism: Theravada, Zen, Pure Land Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, etc. Each one with a different understanding of the teachings in some points. There are many historical and philosophical causes that explain why this happens. Shakyamuni Buddha taught the dharma according to the predispositions, capacities and other circumstances of the person which he wanted to benefit. Thus, sometimes he said something that in another oportunity was in open contradiction with what was said before. This is not a secret in buddhism, for the goal is to help, not to impose our ideas of what we understand as real. We are encouraged not to accept Buddha´s words just because he said them, but because we understand them as logical and because we find them helpful in our lives. Thus Buddha could said something but if reason and experience demonstrates the contrary, we can refute Buddha and follow what we have find as more helpful.

: There are 3 modes of teachings in buddhism that correspond with the motivation one have, that of the shravakas, the pratyekabuddhas or the bodhisattvas. The first one is the most common motivation among the Theravadas (Birmania, Thailand, Shri Lanka). This kind of buddhism is frequently known as hinayana buddhism, though this is not a correct denomination. The shravakayana has as its goal to be free from all aflictive emotions and so achieve the liberation from samsara, the painful rounds of birth and death. If you are a gaudiya vaishnava you could understand it more less as what is called dissolution in the impersonal brahman.

: The other schools of buddhism are under the denomination of Mahayana or the Great Vehicle. The enfasis is on the desire that all sensient beings attain the supreme, complete nirvana, to be free from all aflictive emotions and ideas, and to completely realize all the skillfull means that serve to help others. In order to accomplish this one takes the vow of the bodhisattva, the determination to attain complete enlightenment for the sake of other. Not enter into the lesser kind of nirvana until all sensient beings have attained the perfect enlightenment. Endless compassionate service, life after life. This is called bodhicitta.

: In the scriptures used by the theravadas (the pali canon), specifically the vinaya (ethics), there is no clear rule about being a vegetarianism. In the pali canon even Buddha appears accepting meat more than one time. It is said that perhaps Buddha died after eating pig´s meat. It is not clear in this sutra (Mahaparinibbana), but the other ocassions are quite clear. Even one time, Devadatta, the evil minded Buddha´s cousin once tried to separate the community of monks alleging that the rules were not enough strict, one of the suggestions was that all the monks should be vegetarians. Buddha reject his attempt.

: This changes in the scriptures used by the mahayanas (the Surangama sutra, f.e.), for the essence of the mahayana is infinite compassion and obviously is a little inconsistent to claim that one has bodhicitta while eating meat. In these sutras Buddha clearly admonish vegetarianism. But one is also allowed to eat meat (if it is really necessary), if one is not the first cause of death of the animal.

: But the mahayana schools also have one more division, or higher level, the vajrayana or tantrayana, especially in tibetan buddhism. In the tantras spoken by Buddha, he even ask one to eat meat in certain special circumstances if one is following some advanced practices. Of course the motivation of love and compassion is never forsaked. There are lots of explanations regarding this that make clear the purpose.

: If you are a "hinduist" you may know that this also happens. The Manava Dharma Shastra or Manu Samhita, for example, allows one to eat meat if certain conditions are fullfilled. Even Lord Rama appears eating meat in the Ramayana. Arjuna, as any other kshatriya (like Rama) used to haunt animals. There are many examples of this type. The animal is allways benefited if it is made in the proper way. Some schools, as the Hare Krishnas, say that in this Era (Kali) it is no more permissible, but others schools, mainly the shaivas, don´t agree in this point.

: Of course this delicate aspect of the teachings is used as a pretext in order to satisfy the material senses, but this is a different matter. It is neither buddhism nor hinduism.

: I would like to tell you many other things but I have no more time right now. If you speak spanish please let me know, for english is not my mother language and it would be easier for me to write you in spanish.

: Bye!

It seems that early Buddhism placed little importance on diet. The point the Buddha was always making was that the body is without self. The physical form of one who has attained nirvana still eats, sleeps, goes to the toilet, ages and dies. I applaud onyone who commits to a vegetarian way of life but to become attatched to what one does or doesn't eat is to risk getting stuck on the level of bodily identification.

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